So…what was that?
After almost three months abroad, I am about to return to U.S. soil this afternoon. Taking time to reflect is fairly unavoidable.
I began this blog in Spain; it has followed me from Barcelona to Switzerland, France, Germany, Denmark — and now both The Semioptician and I are returning home, as it were. It seems a little strange to think of a blog as having a corporeal ability to return to a physical home, but so many of the ideas and curiosities that underlie this project were sparked on the Carleton campus, where I will be arriving roughly 12 hours from now, give or take some time difference. So if this blog has any home, it may be Carleton.
But of course, part of the beauty of the internet is its lack of fixity — some may argue for it as a ‘non-place’, but there must be a point at which the growing proliferance of non-places in the world simply results in a newer sense of place, such as an online place that is hypertextual and expansive and yes, largely virtual. But the thoughts in these virtual statements are no different than any thoughts that I might set to physical paper with a real-life pen.
‘Real life’. An interesting concept. I was recently discussing (via the ‘virtual’ means of Facebook chat, no less) this established dichotomy between the lives of college students and this nebulous outer world of adults and jobs which is somehow more ‘real’. Obviously there are inherent contradictions in asserting that any aspect of life is more real than any other, but this invites all kinds of complications about how one perceives ‘reality’ and whether we can ever be certain about our perceptions of it, and other things that keep angsty pseudo-philosophers like myself lying awake late at night. But in returning to the ‘real world’, as I will undoubtedly slip up and term it in the next few days, after these three months of such foreign and varied and exhilarating experiences in Europe, this is something I am thinking about, in spite of logical fallacies (which I have a habit of pushing past in many of my lines of reason). My return to the ‘real world’, where that means America and the life I knew before I left in March, corresponds with a departure from ‘real life’, that is, back into the Carleton Bubble, as we term the insulated space in which we academiate, incubated. Ironic? Perhaps. Totally thrilling and daunting? Yes, very much so.
But am I going back to the same life? The goal of study abroad, we are so often told, is to change us. Through academics and language, through experience, through culture shock, through the opening of doors we didn’t know were there. My study abroad has been more than dynamic, all told. It has certainly changed my trajectory in the immediate and possibly long-term future. I have new scars, literal and metaphorical.
At the risk of sounding cliched, my way of looking at the world has changed — quite literally. As a student of visual culture, I have come in contact with a dizzying array of art and artists (and a bit of academics and academia) over these months. You know how so many authors tell young aspiring writers to simply read (and read and read some more)? I think this applies more broadly to the arts (and life) in general, and so much exposure to a billion new ways of visualizing meaning and emotion and experience cannot help but sensitize me to what I as an artist and theorist can and ought and want to be doing.
And on a completely practical level, I have put in the long hours of work that are the foundation of being a photographer — shooting every day, over 10,000 pictures later, I have failed enough to begin to find a style that speaks to me. There may even be a couple hundred photos among those thousands and thousands that are actually good, and of those couple hundred, several dozen GREAT photographs. In practice, photography is chance married to concept, and an understanding of why you are shooting.
Conclusions: I really dig concept art. I still dig modern and contemporary art (already knew that, but good to get some confirmation). I will probably not ever been in the mainstream film industry in a productive capacity. I will never be a commercial photographer, but I have learned to love photographs for themselves and, I think, understand a bit the many things they can do and mean. I may be an experimental filmmaker. I will live in New York City for at least 3 months of my life. And I really need to sit down and read, completely, everything that Jacques Derrida has ever written.
I am not the same person who flew out of MSP almost three months ago; life has been happening, in various shades of reality. And life is about to continue to happen, for all of the new incarnations of my Self encountering all of the visual worlds there are to see.