Border towns are places were abstract political and cultural boundaries become concrete and particular. The Ferghana Valley contains one patchwork of national en- and exclaves superimposed on another patchwork of cultural enclaves; Bir Tawil is claimed by no one; Osinów Dolny, just on the Polish side of the border with Germany, consists almost entirely of hairdressers. These places “
throw the abstractions of governance into sharp physical relief.”
In Stephen Millhauser’s anthology Dangerous Laughter, under the subheading Impossible Architectures, is a story called The Other Town:
The other town, the one that exactly resembles our town, lies just beyond the north woods. (…) Although we’re drawn to the other town because of its startling resemblance to ours—the morning papers lying at the same angles on the same porches, the doors and drawers opened to the identical distances, the same dishes in the dish racks and the same clothes in the laundry baskets—it’s also true that we’re struck by certain differences. (…) Apart from the large differences, which none of us can help noticing, there are many small discrepancies, usually detectable in one’s own duplicated house, as when the crowded kitchen drawer contains the very can opener missing from the drawer in one’s own kitchen, or when the tomato plant, tied to a stick with string at the side of the house, bears a tomato of a different size, on a different stem.
Other impossible architectures revolve around a series of progressively larger domes, enclosing first individual houses and finally an entire country; a miniaturist whose work becomes so small it is no longer visible; and a Tower of Babel that succeeds in piercing Heaven. Millhauser’s stories are explorations of ideas. His impossible architectures have no characters to speak of. Millhauser is also a champion both of and for the short story: “
The short story is always ducking for cover. The novel buys up the land, cuts down the trees, puts up the condos. The short story scampers across a lawn, squeezes under a fence.”
NYC, 1989, by Michael Cinque.
Funded by a mandatory tax, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK can afford to take risks. So they have. Bergensbanen minutt for minutt broadcast all seven and a half hours of the train ride between Bergen and Oslo. Drunk off that unexpected success, they decided that broadcasting all 5 days of Hurtigruten’s journey along the coast of Norway live was a smashing idea. Owing to scenic vistas and national romanticism, this latest venture was a huge success: more than 50 % of Norwegians saw some part of the broadcast. They briefly landed in my hometown at 4:00 am last Sunday morning. Of all the crowds that met the tv crew, this was probably the drunkest. I’m proud.
Is modern art hopelessly meta? “
Their art turns in on itself, becoming nothing more than coded language. It empties their work of content, becoming a way to avoid interior chaos.” Should there maybe be a rule, you can’t add one level of reference until you’ve removed two? Jerry Saltz seems to be calling for something like a New Sincerity. (Recall that DFW quote about the next real literary rebels.)
The great thing about working in a documentary mode—as what might be tentatively called my “art” is doing—is that you’re automatically working with reality. Reality doesn’t contain references. All that stuff is something you can optionally add on top of reality, but the underlying themes are automatically about something real. Even ironic documentary work can’t help but be sincere.
Las Vegas, NV, by Alec Soth.
Japan’s forgotten first astronaut. “
Once the program started in earnest, Soviet flight doctors winnowed down a pool of hundreds of applicants from the broadcaster’s employees to two final candidates: Kikuchi Ryoko, a 26 year-old camerawoman whose hobbies included mountain climbing, cycling, and skiing, and Akiyama, a 48 year-old senior editor whose hobbies appeared limited to chronic overtime and a four-pack-a-day cigarette habit. Given the era, the final decision shouldn’t come as any surprise.”
How many words do the Inuits have for snow? Not all that many, actually. So why does this myth persist?
In 1993, William Gibson visited Singapore for Wired. He proclaimed it a Disneyland with the death penalty. “
The sensation of trying to connect psychically with the old Singapore is rather painful, as though Disneyland’s New Orleans Square had been erected on the site of the actual French Quarter, obliterating it in the process but leaving in its place a glassy simulacrum.”
Derek, by Bryan Schutmaat, from Grays the Mountain Sends.
The technology behind the Lytro camera, plenoptic photography, is insanely cool. Using microlenses in front of a digital sensor, the can record the entire 4D light field that enters a camera. Processing the captured light field, you can do things like computationally refocusing the image or extending depth of field after exposure. “
… the light field provides pictures of the scene from an array of viewpoints spread over the extent of the lens aperture. Since the lens aperture has a finite area, these different views provide some parallax information about the world. This leads to the third property of the light field—it provides information about the depth of objects in the scene.” I think the limitations will outweigh the benefits this time around, but imagine where this technology could be in 10 or 20 years.
Meanwhile, war photographers—who use conventional cameras—describe the shots that nearly killed them.Jun 26, 2011