The Weather Diaries: Stormy weather, robots and the will to create

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With my ritual of coffee and Sunday New York Times in full swing, I texted a photograph of a playful mention of robots to my dear friend Scott McCarney, brilliant visual book artist in Rochester New York who shares my quirky sense of humor that balances precariously with the reality of life and love of all things robot.  His response resonated with a quip “I think robot and space alien themes will be big this year”, in an oblique reference to the Presidential election outcome and our collective dismay.

Teju Cole sums up my feelings beautifully in his “On Photography” column of Taryn Simon’s recent photographs about how power works. He states:

“The shock of that morning’s election result was not mine alone. I lay in bed in grief and confusion. I was not merely ‘sad’. I was derailed. All of my work suddenly seemed pointless. It was so difficult for me to organize thoughts into language that I felt as if I’d had a stroke…The return of the ability to write felt like resistance,the reclamation of an insight: Even at the worst of times, there is nothing pointless about the work we do as critics or artists.”

04mag-04onphoto-t_CA0-master1050.jpgFrom the series Paperwork and the Will of Capital by photographer Taryn Simon 2016

Simon’s photographs seemed perfectly and poignantly funerary. Her powerful use of color paired with the utmost minimalism and simplicity of the backgrounds allow us to contemplate the flowers as metaphors of both beauty and mortality in the same fraction of a second.

Cole states “Powerful men (it is usually men) meet to sign some papers. Afterward, the world is not the same. And yet few of those whole lives are altered by whatever was signed could conceivably trace their circumstances to that event. All they know – all most of us know – is that there are powerful forces in the world that shape our day to day realities. Simon’s project brings the scattered light of those forces to clear point of attention.”

I am grateful for Cole’s insistence and clarity. Getting on with it, making art that matters, that touches lives, that reveals fundamental truths; Cole reminds me to just get on with it after weeks of paralysis.  Back to work despite predictions of stormy weather.

 

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Clouds of Uncertainty

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Much like weather systems that move around the globe, the ripple effects of the events of the past couple weeks will be felt around the world.

Most of the people in my everyday world – students, friends, colleagues, family, and professions working in the arts – I’ve been stunned and saddened by the events in the last few weeks. I don’t and can’t presume to know what and how the ripple effects of the election will play out, but I can  try to understand the ever widening impact will be touched by America’s choice to undo the check and balances that have historically defined our democracy.

James R. DeLisle writes “Hurricane Katrina forever changed the lives of individuals and the way we think about natural disasters. As the recovery efforts continue – 10 years post-Katrina – so do the debates over what went wrong, what went right, and what to do about it. These debates have several dimensions. First, there is the national security issue and what we need to do to improve our hazard-response systems. Second, there is the issue of how to deal with the people and businesses whose lives have been shattered or disrupted. Third is the question of what, where, when, and how we rebuild public and private infrastructure and facilities in the devastated regions. Finally, there is the debate over the question of how much this will cost, how it will be financed, and who will bear the costs.”

What is particularly numbing is when I contemplate the ripple effects that the choices that will be made in the next 4 years will wrought.

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