Thursday, April 29, 2010

individual v. community

Where have I been?

Making a bunch of studies, most of which I'm not happy with, and generally feeling discouraged about what I'm doing. The last month of my studio practice can be summarized by unrealized goals.


Already this week I'm feeling more encouraged about what is going on. I'm still plugging away on a few paintings. Patterns have taken over my life. But I'm also exploring other mediums--I have started working on an installation with thousands of wax hexagons, began research for an audio (maybe video?) piece, and am continuing to refine my ideas.

I feel constantly inspired. I feels like everything relates to my ideas about connection and ancestry; the weightiness of being connected to humanity through a family.

I'm taking a contemporary literature class. After two days I already love it. In fact, when I left class today I was sad that I had to wait until Monday to attend again. It's that good. Seriously. Our professor is inspiring and brilliant. A girl turned to me the first day and said she had her class last semester and now wants to be our professor she grows up. Now I feel the same way.

We read an essay about universalism, how post-moderns view the ideal of universality or absolute truth as hard to swallow. I'm right there with them to some degree. Aside from beliefs that are directly tied to my religion, I find very few things that have a sense of universal truth. Regardless, this is a tangent...

The essay talked about how we as American's can't fully understand African literature even if we speak the language, know the history etc (and vice versa). It mentioned a story about a girl who was born into a family that worked as servants/slaves/maids to the French (imperialists, but that's my word). The family she worked for moved to France, so logically, she went with them as their hired help. She found herself disenfranchised by two cultures, she wasn't African, she wasn't French. Eventually she committed suicide to release herself from the slavery her family helped to perpetuate by essentially enslaving themselves.

The American sees this as a tragedy because she ended her life. Yes. True. But this is only part of the problem. To the culture in which the story was written, she has only temporarily released herself. She has trapped her ancestors, broken the cycle of life, and, if she is an only child, she has ended the family lineage. She has, in short, committed a terrible abomination, and the African reading is horrified by what she has done. the religious overtone relating to ancestral worship is completely missed by the Western reader.

After reading this essay I realized that my work is in part about this. We are connected in a community. The modern American society so much emphasizes the individual, the freedom of choice. But what it overlooks is the consequences on family, on community, on ancestry and lineage. We are connected deeply. Our choices affect those before and after us.

There are ideas about individual verses community at play in my head.