Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Powers That Be

There was something relatively monumental about our last session. I haven't yet decided if it is something of great defeat or one of the more challenging, but ultimately beneficial, obstacles that we have faced as graduate students.

It was an incredibly hard session for me. I watched as my project became stagnant and stopped getting the reactions that spurred me into creative flurry. I suffered as Rin became popular with my classmates where I felt as though she was the opposite of everything that I yearn to do. I struggled as I lulled along in a plateau of stagnation, fear, doubt, and pain. All of this while trying to indoctrinate six new minds into our way of working, exploring a new seminar class, and hearing the ticking of the clock run down on our final projects.

Since the end of the session I have been standing on a precipice. On one side, I fall back into a life of quality auditing. It is a fall, but it is measured. I know where the bottom of the hill lies. I know what the lifestyle entails. I wouldn't be entirely happy, but I know how content I would be, and I would be able to pay the bills.

On the other side is darkness. A blackness so deep I can't even fathom its reach. It is not illuminated because I have no reference frame there. I don't know what could happen. I don't know what the life would be like. The fall could be much, much greater than the other side. But only this side has the potential to climb. Only this side has the potential for true happiness, for that highly sought after place of creative sustenance, happiness, success, and satisfaction.

This is where heroes are made. This precipice is not mine alone. It has the footprints of many souls before me, those brave enough to spurn the status quo, to try to embrace their artistic potential despite the trials and tribulations. But from here I can see those that turned back more clearly, and though I know that many have gone forth into the darkness, I cannot see their path. It wouldn't matter anyway. Their path is not my path. In the darkness you have to feel your way around on your own. There is no tried and true climb with trail markers, lined with stones.

But there is something I can see in the darkness. There are hands extended, glimpses of faces nodding and smiling, the slightest of encouragement that sends a momentary glimmer of hope to illuminate the next step. For the last two and a half years I have continued to take those steps. Sometimes I have fallen. Sometimes I climbed up. Sometimes I stayed level. And sometimes I was carried.

The perseverance to continue is no small feat. It is not something that can be chided and diminished and demeaned. It is the courage to face that thing you are most afraid of head on, to take a step in the unnerving dark. Some of those hands and faces are the ones that utter words of comfort and strength, but there are others, too. Claws that grip and pull and shred what remains of your strength, of your confidence. The darkness has as much evil as good. Sometimes the little blades of discouraging words, arrogant exclamations, and even the shocking pain of silence from a necessary voice make you bleed and stumble.

It is times like these that it is hard to see the progress up the mountain, hard to see just how steep the incline, just how rocky the terrain, just how far you have come. The next step seems so painful and foreboding. The fall back into a life of mediocre contentment seems so comforting, despite the fall, which has been rationalized to be not so bad, not so far, not so painful.

But there are still those good faces, those outstretched hands. In so many ways, the only way to live is to take a deep breath and lean into the fall. If I embrace the dark I am at least trying. If I trust that there is something out there, I will find the next foothold, feel my way to the next ridge. Even the pain of the fall is at least a real pain, at least not the numbness of defeat. I want to live. And if I reach for the outstretched hands they may be friends and they may be foes, but if I am very, very lucky, they may have the wings I need to soar beyond the dark and into the light.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rin

I have been neglecting blogging about Rin because she and I don't see eye to eye. But, after lots of consideration of the current stall on my original project and the reaction that Rin got from my classmates and instructor when she was introduced, I feel as though I owe it to her, possibly owe it to myself, to at least give her some credence in the blogosphere. One of my classmates declared, upon seeing Rin, "You're done. There's your show right there." And my instructor encouraged me to try and find a way to bring Rin into my current work. My reaction, three times in a row, was, "But they are polar opposites." His response was that they ultimately both came from me, so they have that in common.

Ah, Rin. I sort of hate her. That is why I created her. Because I was angry at my lack of progress, angry to not be working on my project, angry that everything seems to go right for everyone else but for some reason never for me. I felt cheated and badgered and hurt by the universe, and Rin was my "Fuck You!" in response. She was supposed to be a demonstration of everything that is wrong in my life, the culmination of everything that I hate in one awful, vacuous, despicable, narcissistic, adorable character.

The inherent problem with this is that she is also, undeniably, me. Quite literally in one sense, and certainly there are elements of myself, my inner demons if you will, that I pulled from to create her. The assignment was to create an "Alter Ego" and to shoot as that individual for two weeks. What I didn't realize until I went to class is that I seemed to be the only one who's alter ego was created to be their opposite. I shoot film, Rin is digital. I believe in organic, natural flaws and evolution, Rin is plastic perfection. I can't speak another language, Rin does so without effort. I struggle for every penny I earn, Rin has everything given to her. Those are the characteristics that I created. The ones where she is my opposite. What I did not intend are the elements where she is closer to me than I would really like. She is a perfectionist. She shoots self portraits ad nauseum. She commits to her vision completely. These are the undeniable truths that shock me when I think about them. She is too close to me. She is revealing too much about me, when she was just supposed to be a caricature.

And so I cannot deny that Rin has importance to me and my work, though I have yet to truly understand and be able to assimilate that information into a working version of the new direction of my project. None the less, however, I have no choice but to give you
R I N.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Rin Hachaturi was born Miranda Glazer. Her birth parents were poor and uninterested in her. When they died, Miranda was adopted by a phenomenally wealthy Japanese aristocrat because she had a charming smile and large, sparkling eyes. Miranda understood this to mean that she was destined for positive outcomes in life as, even at the tender age of six, she knew that her parents did not care for her and she did not particularly care for them. Under the care and tutelage of Hachaturisan, Miranda became Rin and soon forgot not only her American heritage, but her originally given name. She quickly became fluent in Japanese and English as her benefactor was highly concerned that she retain some of her roots while simultaneously conforming to his.

Rin was afforded the best education in Tokyo. She did not use it to its full advantage. While the uniforms were intended to homogenize the students into students with muted identity, for Rin they merely accentuated her differences. Her adorable, smile, bat your eyes, and get anything you want differences. She was a huge success with teachers and students alike. Again, Rin attributed this to her predetermined positive outcomes. Some believe that she is the ideal optimist. In reality, unfortunately, she has an as of yet undiagnosed personality disorder that makes her chronically perky.

Rin has been exposed to great literature, extensive travels, burgeoning beauty, and incisive wit. Her favorite band is "Pop," which, sadly, is not actually a band, but a genre. Rin does not understand this. When she is confused about something, she smiles and giggles not as a distractionary technique, but because she finds it legitimately amusing that anyone would care about something she did not care about. She does not know what the word legitimately means. Rin, believing, due to her unfortunate condition, that she is actually a gift to the world, has been modeling since her youth in uninspiring self portraits that vary only in the backdrops provided and the level of Rin's adorableness. When photographers stopped wanting to shoot the same images ad nauseum, Rin learned one lighting set up and determined to shoot herself instead of hiring someone to do it for her. She believes she is a great artist as a result.

Rin is relatively vacuous, but is treated with respect partially because of the inherent respect found in her benefactor's nation and partially because of the wealth found in her benefactor. She is not particularly charming, though very perky. She is not tremendously interesting, though full of self confidence. She is not often right, though very often convinced she is. Although fluent in Japanese and English, Rin wishes to know (mind you, not learn) Portuguese because she heard a tourist once mention that it was a romance language. Rin believes it would suit her more than Japanese or English, so des ne.

Rin believes she looks best in curls, though she will straighten her hair when she is "quite moody." She has only one mood, so in most images her hair is curly. She has no concerns in the world. She is content to exist by the means of others, though she is convinced that most others exist for the means of her. She believes that the world will be an honestly better, and perkier, place because she is providing a prodigious amount of self portraits to lighten the hearts of those that see them. She takes blank stares as compliments. She chooses not to hear discouraging things, like rain or buses, which has been nearly the death of her on several occasions.