Monday, May 4, 2009

Of Monkeys and Man

In January I was struggling to fill the class schedule for my final semester at Columbia and I was in desperate need for a class which not only gave me new material to work with but that also challenged me to move forward with my practice. The Fine Art department already thought I was crazy for not only having taken on a Marketing minor but now I wanted to finish a second minor in Art History in one semester and I wanted to take, say what?, a class in the photo department with Grad students? Well I had no real idea what I was in for. The most I knew about the course was having seen Greg lecture at the University of Chicago for the Black is Black Ain't show, and though he'd assured me the course was not related to Identity Politics when I had sent him a request to be in the course, I was ready for not only the challenge but a fresh experience within Columbia were I could benefit from engaging with new faces and new minds. I can say with great joy that I am super happy I embarked in taking the Human Nature Photo Seminar course.

In the beginning of course the readings kept reminding me slightly to a Gender and Culture course I had taken in a previous semester. I was intrigued at how many things kept popping in my head in regards to connection within my already existent interest in culture and "nature" inspired support for them. There was a quote in the first reading Snyder's The Etiquette of Freedom that said " We can give up hoping to be eternal and quit fighting dirt". This quote set my alert level to excited on learning more and more. I had remembered in the Gender and Culture course there was a lot of discussion on the construction of culture and the city and the attempt to move beyond the natural due to imminent things such as mortality within human beings.

Perhaps one of my biggest desires within being both a an artist and an having an interest in art history is for art to exist within conversations beyond that of just art itself. there are many things that shape our world and I have always felt that there needs to be a visual contribution to any given important discourse which is of great importance. It is within this position that I began to appreciate how invested art work brought up within the this course was in current issues of such magnitude. This began to help me think on my final essay presentation. When I read the Terra Antarctica by William L. Fox I had a bit of an Aha! moment. I had been struggling recently with developing a thesis on a holistic practice that addresses things from an all inclusive perspective. In my particular case it is identity politics beyond the inundated approaches of the past. But Fox's approach to the importance of collaboration within the exploration of something as the continent of Antarctica was an eye opening thing. I realized that what I was calling for was an art practice that could produce thought and activity potent enough to contribute to society beyond that of aesthetics. Ill save a little more of this for my final essay however I do think its fascinating to ask whether this approach to creating visual work be effective at all or even solution oriented. I recall Mr. Kevin Fuller , the coordinator for the Human Nature Critical Encounters theme which is what this course follows, bringing up the question of whether art can save lives and in this particular case, can art save the Earth? I'm not sure on my answer to that just yet. But I'm beginning to think that to have a "say" be it visual or not is an added voice that can only help any cause.