What do I want to learn / know / do, and how can I get there?

The thing is… this is such a broad, deep topic that I don’t really know what I don’t know. My overall educational goal is to become a better curator so I suppose today’s desire to learn falls somewhere between “knowing nothing” and “being excellent”. So that narrows it down.

(Somewhat ironically) I think the best path to that is a blog. Not a uni one – although it’s alright – but a personal one where I can discuss anything that interests me and seems vaguely relevant to my professional interests. And to find that content, I need to read more, watch more, absorb more. I cleaned out my crap and excavated a stack of unread books nearly as tall as I am (so not really very tall). Maybe I should read through all those and blog about them. I should read other blogs. I should watch those YouTube videos. I already listen to a heap of podcasts but sure, I could listen to more. I’m too much of a passive spectator of media, which can’t continue if I’m serious about being a media practitioner.

That’s all a bit grim and harsh but unfortunately I also think it’s very true. I’m good at fudging my way through and talking nice-sounding nonsense but I can’t maintain that forever.

Ah, I meant this to be a nice clean list, and without even noticing it’s turned into a word swamp. I have a lot of thoughts to detangle on this topic, evidently. Also I have to pick up that prescription and get my earrings mended and buy new tights and write that essay for cinema and keep working full time and sort out my enrolment and cook and clean and tidy and also maybe get a massage but who has the time but also remember your career and keep your marks up gotta get into your master’s and how are the travel plans and buy new socks.

I need to learn how to meditate.

Think; blog; meditate.

W7: Reality Hunger

Full disclosure: I liked this reading so much I went and bought the damn book. The author comes across as a bit tedious — really, you really read a book back to front when you’re enjoying it? — but there was a lot to take from it.

Here are some things I don’t know or want to ponder.

  • What do these numbers mean? Why start at 312?
  • What is the “march of consciousness across the stage” meant to mean? Can’t I witness my own consciousness?
  • Can multiple parts ever create a whole? Should they even try?
  • Does nothing have a simple cause/effect relationship? Is it always “bright splinters”?
  • Who / what are the “compositionally disabled”?
  • Can anything have meaning on its own, or is it derived 100% from context?
  • How do you give the “apparent form” of a narrative without creating one accidentally?
  • Will a collage end up saying more about its creator than itself?
  • And I quote: “I hate quotations”.
  • What’s Goethe’s involvement?
  • Can you plan a collage?
  • How can something be “both real and imagined”?
  • Why is non-fiction less limiting than fiction?
  • How can you sustain a work made entirely of “pinnacles”?

W7: Sei Shōnagon, my best friend

I couldn’t resist getting the Pillow BookI didn’t really know what to expect from it, but what struck me first and has stayed with me is the way it expresses Sei Shōnagon’s personality. The things that she includes in her lists, the anecdotes she chooses to tell, express so much about her. It’s an interesting way of telling people about yourself; by filtering her world view through her book, we understand what she cares about. (It’s paper. That woman loved paper.)

It’s fascinating too that the book’s gone down as such an important historical text. The dual purpose of the text — as an almost-diary and a collection of data — is an interesting way of thinking about recording a time and place. So personal and yet very impersonal.

What I’ve discovered accidentally is that I also love her and want to hang out. What a sass queen, my god. I want to go back to Japan circa 1000 and judgementally appraise people’s outfits and letter-writing. She even tells people off for sneaking incorrectly. She’s a dream.

W4: participation

Thoughts in class:

  • I’m posing / discovering lots of questions, but I’m not creading a forum to ask them in. Screaming into the void won’t get me anywhere (even if it feels really good)
  •  I bought these little list-format sticky notes from Muji (my spiritual home). They’re really useful and keeping me on track –  which isn’t a specific Media 5 goal, but more of an existential life goal. It’s not flawless and I still haven’t been to the optometrist like I meant to, but it’s going relatively well. I remembered to blog about those books, and also to cut my fringe
  • How’re those problems and fears going? They’re not overwhelming, at least. That’s a bit vaguer than most of my participation criteria, and I need to think about how to set goals around it more clearly. But in the meantime, I’m keeping control of it (actually, mostly through staying organised – thanks Muji!) which makes it a lot easier to deal with. The devil you know, etc

W4: reassessing PB1

Bogost’s second chapter was illuminating and it’s helped me understand just a little more about what we’re trying to achieve with this studio. That’s always difficult to apply at the time, but at least I can go back and reassess. On that note:

Aw, it’s not that bad. I just wanted an excuse to ping Clueless, which is going to be my fun film of the week.

What I realise, though, listening back to my work, it that it’s so so so narrative-heavy. It would’ve been so easy to strip it down, if I’d known at the time. There are some good little elements to it, and my thinking is there at least, but Ellie of a fortnight ago really needed to put that into a story.

But that’s okay. It’s alright to not have a handle on complex and confusing theory by the second week. I’ve learnt from it, and that’s propelling me forward. The work I did in the group is already so far removed from PB1, and it’s been two-odd weeks. That’s something to be proud of.

This whole degree’s been great on a whole to teach me that it really, really is the only way to learn well. Fucking up gets me to a better place, and it’s very liberating. That freedom is diminished by the 70%-average qualifier for entry into my master’s hanging over my head, but whatever.

(Not whatever. I’m terrified. Let’s not talk about it.)

W4: books

Here are some books I’ve picked up recently that might be relevant to what we’re working on. I’ve only cracked 100 Objects so far, so we’ll see, but I have high hopes.

I’m just barely able to resist making that terrible meta-cliche of “yes, I did judge a book by its cover”. Pretty bloody ontographic though, in its own way. The guts are all kinds of different essays, but there seem to be a few that address different ways of communication, of breaking it up and reassessing how we tell people things. As a writer, I think it could be good external reading.

Excellent mug aside. I’ve been at this book for well over a month I’m not even into the CE, but I’m having a wonderful time. If it was an ontography (which it has not pretended to be) it would be flawed, particularly since it loves linking objects in isolated communities to the grander human condition. I think the explanations of meaning are very fair, though, particularly when there’s no way to assume knowledge. Perhaps with the more contemporary objects (listlings??? – no, they’re firmly objects) there’ll be less need to explain what they mean.

That’s got me thinking – there’s a lot of assumed knowledge in understanding ontography, at least from what I’ve read so far. Putting these listlings together without explication is all good and well if I understand what’s going on with them, but what if I don’t? To take an example from MacGregor’s work: the Basse-Yutz Flagons. I don’t know anything about early Celtic rituals, social hierarchy and culture; frankly, I’m hazy on what a flagon is, especially since these apparently aren’t anything like modern flagons / Tolkien flagons. I suppose we’ve only been introduced to simplistic ontography so far, but it’s something I’d like to keep an eye on. Can an ontography be a good or useful thing if it requires the audience to go out and research?

Love a good cultural / visual history. Curious to see the way it’s formatted, particularly given its subject. What can I learn from this about representing history?

Not strictly relevant, but trust me to go to a book fair and find a ceramic. This sweetness by Ena Ninkovic

W4: listlings

I made up a word – everybody else seems to be doing it. A “listling” is one object within a list. Object wasn’t feeling right as a word, though, and seems to cramp the potential of listlings. Is love an object? Is the feeling of melancholy when you’re traveling home from work on a warm summer night? A worm? By calling them listlings, I’m not asking them to force themselves into a category. They’re simply bullet points underneath a heading, doing and being what they want.

W4: Bogost ch 2

• 1988 Kitchener: “Ontology is the theory of the nature of existence, and ontography is its description”. A “descriptive element to its grand-theoretical counterpart”. Perhaps “the casual relation between humans are their earth”? No
• An “interest in diversity and specificity”
• A universal thing, like IKEA instructions
• Latour (the litany guy): “If you are mixed up with trees, how do you know they are not using you to achieve their dark designs?” (How wonderful!)
o The point: remove the binary of nature and culture
• Bogost’s ontography: “the revelation of object relationships without necessarily offering clarification or description” – a “compendium”, “things juxtaposed to demonstrate their overlap and imply interaction through collocation*”
o *related to frequency and what that repetition might therefore mean
o So we are finding the meanings through relationships, and finding relationships by simply stating what things are and do?
o Isn’t this statement somewhat contradictory? Or is it as simple as ‘here are the things, figure it out for yourself’?
• Avoid the “abstraction of example without exemplification*”
o *showing or illustrating by example
• Incompatibility! It still tells us a lot, maybe more than the smooth compatibility and shoehorned logic of prose
o To remind us: no matter how smooth a system flows, it is always made up of alien elements
• “The prison of representation” – let a thing just be a thing
• Lists as a filter for the world that respects the autonomy of its listlings – cataloging
• Now this – what’s the difference between an ontography and a typology?
o I suppose ontographies can be broader but even so… they also need constraints, even just arbitrary ones, to work… just like a typology
• Memento mori
• Must it be words? Oh, no
• Use ontography to consider how something will work in a context, eg: an architect creates an ontography of a space they want to build and realises that the sun (a facet) will be blocked by the potential building (another facet) and leave the neighbours (yet another facet) in perpetual shade
• Brainstorming – dump it all on the paper, see what you can learn from the juxtaposition of the words. Chop them up, scatter them, see where they fall
• Photography as a tool for capturing objects in the wild, much like a national geographic photographer snaps a watering hole
• Various forms of ontography – drawing things together and finding relationships, or exploding a cohesive scene into universes of alien objects
• What does meanwhile mean in this context? What power does it hold? I don’t understand
• Cataloging can show the way things exist but also the way in which they operate, and how that can change in context
• “An ontograph is a crowd… a landfill”