It wipes out, erases, sweeps clean, an eclipse of the moon clears the deck and often brings break, sadness, and loss as well as a new beginning, a fresh start. Woe or want, it has symbolic significance to those who believe in its power.
A very bright thesis student and I had a good conversation about Hopper last week. How can anyone who lives in the Northeast fail to make the connection between that unnamed feeling of alienation and discomfort that seems part of our national blood and his haunting images? He is everywhere here in the Hudson Valley and I am reminded of Robert Hughes in a lecture series at the Met saying Hopper was the most significant American artist of the 20th Century because Hollywood absorbed his idea of what America looked and felt like. There were audible gasps in the audience.
The conflict in our culture between consuming and being remains central to ideas of pop culture. Art students are still talking about being influenced by pop culture as if that is something new, particular to their youth, freshness and feeling fully contemporary, unlike generations before. I don’t know why this is still dished up as a new observation since contemporary culture has effected every art movement throughout time. It wasn’t called Pop, but something else equally cool, but it was contemporary nonetheless to those living at the time.
The blizzard of visuals on all citizens, except the few who live off the grid, it can be argued, has changed our very sense of who we are. Is this a momentary garb, like putting on a new coat? Or is this condition deeply digested and already part of our internal, organic self? Each time I lose my connection to mass media, I pause to wonder about this. Up here the phones don’t work very well because the utility companies didn’t see it as profitable to build enough towers. Most of my calls are dropped or the caller receives a message that my phone number is no longer in service. Only when I reach Poughkeepsie, an hour south on the train, can I make a successful call. The satellite internet service isn’t much better. It doesn’t connect after seven pm because there are too many other users and I am informed I best watch Netflix or send an email from the hours of two – five am. Sure.
So observing this, it has set me to thinking about who we are and how much of what/who we are is media added since I am closer to being ex-media, or amedia living here.
The erotics of destruction prevalent in the last twenty years in films and tv series comprised of narratives of dread, reveal and create the fear of what happens once it all goes awry and technology turns on us or even worse, turns off. This lives side by side with a deluge of beautiful people, rail skinny women with legs longer than stilts, and flawless parts finely machined by PhotoShop, handsome buff men who are also wealthy and clever, spawning perfectly groomed perfect children and all living outrageously exciting lives. We partake in this because we are watchers and eaters of media. I wonder if some of this blooms from our national fear of Nature, long held by our forebears who arrived to the shores of the virgin continent peopled by unChristian native people they called savages. Against Nature, terrified by nature, needing to tame Nature still exists. None of what I’m writing is woven together, only observations but which I posit are connected.
Officially anyway. Gone, done, no more. Good-bye Summer and all that. No more white shoes properly worn. Now to a different seasonal cycle as it’s Back to School, onto Halloween with Thanksgiving and Christmas upon us before we have blinked. And the New Year.
Yet it implies nothing of what the future will be for each of us. We cannot know the experiences around the corner, the new shocking disasters we weren’t creative enough to have dreamed up or the acts of touching kindness and humanity that will unfold as we go around the Sun one more time. The stage is set but we never know what will transpire once the curtain rises and the first characters come on stage.
The question is the same: are we in the audience or on the stage?
It has been a full and happy two weeks back at Pratt being with colleagues and students. I take the train in two days a week and go from the truly paradisal country to the heart of New York and home in fourteen hours. It is the best of both worlds.
The ride along the Hudson changes each day. This shot is as the camera saw it, no filters or fussing. Manipulation is unnecessary in a natural world as sublime as ours.