Ways of Seeing (1972)
This is the work of Robin F. Williams (2016). Notice the reflections, the use of vibrant colors, the texture and pop-feel. How chaotic and lewd and disturbingly confrontational every scene is. To me, Williams' work oozes "reflection." Even when a mirror or reflective surface isn't present in a scene, the artwork confronts perceptions of nudity, the homoeroticism, the "pop," the cryptic . . . one watches the eyes of her subjects, where they turn to look. Sometimes her subjects face away, or look past us. Often times they look back, unashamed, naked. But not "nude." The subjects are portrayed as people under an objectifying and conceptual cultural blacklight, a light revealing more about sexuality and cultural rules and customs. However, the work itself isn't conceptual. Perhaps Williams' work acts as a sort of artistic "foil," constrasting against the myriad "nude portraits" painted under the false-purpose of ""capturing the beautiful"" (meaning: arouse the men who painted them.) Williams' art serves to reflect the nature of the reflections we eroticize—how off-putting and dehumanizing, how strange and deluded our modern "pop" appetite for sexuality truly is.
The BBC Documentary-Miniseries Ways of Seeing (1972) with John Berger is one of the most compelling and engrossing works of film I have ever laid eyes upon. The second episode discusses and critiques the nature of the "Nude." The first episode discusses the influence of photography on works of art—how they ceased to be original, and what effect multimodalism had on art, art culture, etc. I watch Ways of Seeing with hot water, and sometimes popcorn. It often makes me feel like I want to cry, although I don't.
There are interesting things about aesthetics, and the ethics of aesthetics, and the psychology behind it. I'm more curious about its agency and meaning now that I've thought of it.
A child looks up to their father and asks "what happened before I was born?" It cannot remember. The world looked different. The child asks "how was the world created?" and struggles to understand that in an instant the universe was created. The child asks "what was it like before the world was created?" and then "what was it like before the universe was created?"
There was chaos, and then an order was brought to that chaos by some capital G God or some force or by chance or luck, and suddenly the universe had order. Perhaps the real trick here is about "agency." There's a force behind time. Imagine the universe is a flipbook, and time is the fingers quickly flipping through each slice-page of time. There's a force behind the flipbook, and if there wasn't, we wouldn't be moving through time. But then there's relativity theory, some things move faster through time than others. Some parts of the page are flipped faster. I think agency can be defined two ways: there's agency as in animation, the flipping of the flipbook. It has agency because it can move through time, it is real. But then there's freedom, meaning it's not predetermined. Or if it is, you still get to make a choice at each instant, and you just happen to choose the predetermined path. That is true agency, being able to defy the will of the universe, to flip or not flip.
So Adam and Eve were created with true agency, true freedom. And whilst many argue that A+E don't have true agency, that they only have the freedom to "obey God," others argue that even though they only have the freedom to "obey God" they are still wholly free. Adam and Eve were born without the capacity for evil or sin, but they did so anyways because of the serpent. It becomes clear that knowledge is part of this whole agency complex. Because only when they eat from the tree of knowledge are they able to sin, and be killed, and give birth.
Everything pulls me back to the notion of stimulus in today's society. The idea that everywhere around us—or I could put it this way: Imagine for every second of your life you're wearing virtual reality headgear. and a really comfortable set of headphones, and you've got really sugary breakfasts and tender red salty steak for dinner. And this is your life, every single day, until you die. But every day you keep getting a bit more sick of it, so you try to explore new places in that VR headgear and listen to weirder music and taste more potent food. And then suddenly the power goes out, and you take off the headset and the headphones and realize that you've been held captive by the equipment which has provided such luxury and sensation to you for all these years. But then here comes the power, and now you're aware of how you can't stop. And you realize you'll never be content with anything because no matter what you will get sick of your food and music and video games and need, and crave something more potent. You wish you could just stop, and be content, and what's wrong with you? The answer's right there, you have to get on your knees and beg to be content, and you have to deprive yourself of the food and the music and the games, and you have to beg and be bored and un-sated and hungry. You have to starve out the craving, starve it like it's a tapeworm. This is the world of Infinite Jest, poorly reiterated in "Ready Player One."
The agency of Adam and Eve is paradoxical. One can look at their situation as if A + E have no agency, not really, because if they did they'd be allowed to sin and do whatever they want. They'd be aware of their nakedness, and could decide for themselves whether or not to be "ashamed." But the version I choose to see is a darker tale, where Adam and Eve are free, but only free to worship capital G God, because that God is a symbol for contentment, and the tree of knowledge, sin, is temptation and stimulus and the vapid cravings and the prison of ecstasy. So they are free, until they bite the fruit, and then they're hooked.
I've been watching Ways of Seeing but I've also been looking on this website (biblioklept.org) full of strange paintings and works of literature. It keeps me sane in my life, whatever my particular version of sane means. Or perhaps it keeps me sincere, because Senior Year I've been more sane and more content but I've been less sincere. I'd like to note that this is not because I've been less sincere. And to me, sincerity means speaking one's mind truthfully, and being candid and honest with ones self, and being true to what really matters. It's the difference between a fulfilling experience talking seriously with friends over a bonfire late late at night and chatting emptily in a hallway for half a second. It's the difference between talking on the phone with someone you care about and driving without purpose, alone, for hours.
Perhaps before I've stated my disdain for the Beatles, how I associate them with negativity. There are specific people, and situations, I associate with negativity. I think a part of maturing that is often underrated is the bit where you learn to forgive and move on. What is that?
On another note, here's a poem that I interpreted seriously, literally. I thought it was a truly beautiful description of a person lost in his words about how to describe this girl.
William Carlos Williams, "Portrait of a Lady" (first published in the Dial, August 1920)
Your thighs are appletrees whose blossoms touch the sky. Which sky? The sky where Watteau hung a lady's slipper. Your knees are a southern breeze -- or a gust of snow. Agh! what sort of man was Fragonard? -- As if that answered anything. -- Ah, yes. Below the knees, since the tune drops that way, it is one of those white summer days, the tall grass of your ankles flickers upon the shore -- Which shore? -- the sand clings to my lips -- Which shore? Agh, petals maybe. How should I know? Which shore? Which shore? -- the petals from some hidden appletree -- Which shore? I said petals from an appletree.
Upon further research, I discovered the poem had no value within it, and it was constructed to mock the over-sentimental metaphors which plagued Romanticism or something like that. I guess that proves how long post-irony has existed. Or maybe it's my own mind distorting an obviously ironic poem into something genuine by mistake.
Here's another poem before I go. It is titled: 8 count.
BY CHARLES BUKOWSKI
from my bed
on a telephone
one is left,
my typewriter is
and I am
reduced to bird
just thought I'd
You know, someone told me that Charles Bukowski's wife once said that Charles Bukowski worked at a post-office, and was content in his life. He'd work at the post-office, and then come home and right poetry and love his wife. And that's how he lived.
There's also this movie I heard about:
^ "Paterson is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey--they share the name. Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, observing the city as it drifts across his windshield and overhearing fragments of conversation swirling around him; he writes poetry into a notebook; he walks his dog; he stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer; he goes home to his wife, Laura. By contrast, Laura's world is ever changing. New dreams come to her almost daily. Paterson loves Laura and she loves him. He supports her newfound ambitions; she champions his gift for poetry. The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details."