Standing on Walls
I was certain that I wanted to make a zine about privilege in institutions of higher learning as my final project since we read Delpit, probably because I was so affected by my conflicting desires to have a developed, very specific theoretical vocabulary (and use it) and then my recognition that ideas should be accessible, and that there is incredible value in speaking as simply as possible (more people will understand you!).
I keep coming back to Linda Susan Beard’s brief comments on children -- or on being a child and knowing what you want from life. She told us that she felt drawn to Christianity as a child so strongly that her mother thought she was fanatical. Her desire to be alone with Christ as often as possible caused her to want to join a Convent when she was only nine. However, her mother would not allow her to.
Are we better at listening to ourselves as children? Professor Beard attributed the accuracy of her early calling to the order to the contemplative nature of children, and she told us that many of her friends who are now monks, nuns, or priests knew that they wanted to be just that when they were five or six years old.
In Chapter 7 of the Little Book of Contemplative Photography, “Making Meaning”, Zehr talks the active nature of “receiving” in photography. He calls the still, non-contextualized image of a photo, chaos, and the photographer/interpreter is responsible for creating order/coherence. It is we who, frame, organize, and make meaning of the images we choose to photograph. This, of course, is a metaphor for our experience of the world. The objective world, although it does have its own functional order, does not have “meaning” without the imposition of human perspective. Is it an empowering concept—that people can decide what meaning they will derive from the world? We all do it, but we don’t all consciously or actively do it. It echoes this speech by David Foster Wallace called This Is Water, in which Wallace says that the value – the real value -- of our liberal arts educations is that we are given the tools to escape our crippling solipsism and – our lens of selfishness, and apply new, healthier, more productive lenses. Thus, in situations which inconvenience us, we can choose how to interpret them, and thus, how to react.
The troubling thing is, not everyone can have a liberal arts education. Now everyone can take photos or make art. So how do you teach someone to feel empowered, independent, and autonomous about their lives and their ability to control and interpret their experiences? Especially when they are so systemically degraded…
I started this paper with Christine Kim’s work in mind. What she displays about ownership of sound has become very visible to me; hearing people uncritically, unthoughtfully claim ownership of sound and then subject non-hearing people to the rules we establish without realizing it.
Rosemarie Garland Thomson explores how staring can be a generative experience.
She explained to us why we feel inclined to stare. Although there is a symbolic order to sight—our mothers teach us as children not to stare, and we are aware of how much eye contact is too much eye contact -- we stare when we are incredibly curious about something new/novel. Our eyes linger or get stuck because we are desperate to make sense of a thing. We are looking for clues and explanations about why this sight – this person, does not conform to or appear the way we understand that people should. Thus, it’s a natural desire resulting from interest/desire to know.
In our class journey, we have recognized, outlined, and named several different types of silence. Our daily silent practices display this especially. We’ve been led through guided meditations, during which the conflicting dialogues in our minds cleared but the room was still full of Anne’s voice. We watched a silent pianist for 4 minutes, who aimed to prove that there is no silence, as the world consists of layers of sound, many of which we can only hear when we’re both quiet and listening. We had one class during which we were mindful, placing all of our attention in our feet, and we walked around without speaking or communicating in any form with others. Sarina led an exercise which was about communicating silently, with our bodies, in an action game. I led a blind contour drawing exercise. We’ve made collaboratively written short stories and engaged in soundless free-writes on our assumptions and what has been unspoken between us.
Most of the exercise facilitators have taken the “silence” requirement to mean the absence of sound. This brings me back to the first question I wrote about in this class – which was inspired by the image of the empty library; I wondered if a library is silent, or a book. Although it has the capacity to be a noiseless space, it is full of symbols and dormant meaning -- meaning that must be read to be heard.
I am really interested in Christine Kim's work.
She explains her work as examining the physicality of sound. The Physicality of Sound seems unheard of (pun intended) – but it isn’t, or it shouldn’t be. We are physical beings and everything we perceive with our bodies is physical. But she reminds us that sound does not simply exist in one form, and does not have to be experienced in a singular way –through our ears.
Hearing people understand sound waves through the mediation of our ears; it seems abstract and bodiless, and we have developed a vocabulary for it that includes ideas applicable to sound alone, such as tone, pitch, notes, etc., and as Kim says, those of us with the ability to hear with our ears, claim ownership of sound. We can hear, and therefore we assert that our experience of sound should be prioritized. "Don't make loud noises, don't burp, don't drag your feet" etc. – but, Kim, who does not hear the way I do, explores the mediation through our other perceptual faculties, reminding us that sound does not belong to hearing people. Sound has or can have a physical form, a body in the world. It can vibrate. Or mediated through an amplifier, can create shapes – can move a paintbrush and therefore decide the composition of paint on paper. Sound can have texture.