Wednesday, September 20, 2006

in which I wax philosophical...

I intended this blog to be about art and life – thus the name. The term tesserae comes from the artform of mosaics but also makes a nice metaphor for fragments of thought that may appear random but with a little verbal grout can be made to seem cohesive, meaningful even. At least that’s the theory.

But so far the blog is about… well…itself. It’s a meta-blog.

It all started with the (mistaken) assumption that: a) I have something to say and b) someone wants to read what I have to say. Now I’ve clearly moved on to c) someone wants to hear me philosophize about saying it. I promise to get on with the art references soon because I’m starting to bore myself.

A new blog is created every 5.8 seconds. I confess this depresses the heck out of me. Who wants to be that trendy? But it also intrigues me and made me go digging for my copy of Susan Sontag's essay on photography -- one of my favorite philosophical essays ever written. Here’s what she said about photography in 1973:


Recently, photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power. . .

It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along. Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had.

A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs…

Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter. Unsure of other responses, they take a picture. This gives shape to experience: stop, take a photograph, and move on.


I think of Sontag’s theories every time I get out the camera on trips or on holidays or at soccer games.


Holding a camera to my face both limits what I see and gives it value. The act of recording an event shapes it and makes it seem worthy of recording but also in the process keeps me from experiencing it fully.

I remember standing in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and watching a group of tourists walk up to the painting, pose for each other in front of it, snap lots of pictures and then walk away. They hardly even glanced at the painting itself. It’s the Mona Lisa. It’s a masterpiece. Nope, it's a photo op.


Aha. So this blog is about art after all.

Thus I’m beginning to wonder if the bloggers I read – mostly mothers amused by the antics of their own children – are so busy writing blogs and reading other people’s blogs that their lives are becoming shaped by the process. Is the value of an event measured by its blogability? I must admit when my 4 year old decided yesterday that the best way to make his own batch of Krispy Kreme doughnuts involved lining up bagels on the floor and dumping sugar over them, I did not respond with the usual “Aaarrrgggghhh!” Instead I thought, “Aha! Maybe I can write about this in my blog….”

And now I have.

Tags: parenting, art, photography, blog

6 comments:

allysha said...

I love your posts. I love art and humanities etc., etc. I'm excited to see what else you post about.
Blogging is a funny thing, isn't it. I hope that blogging doesn't shape my existence, but it has helped me to have a more humorous perspective on some of the things my kids do! Also it gives me a creative outlet!

Alison Moore Smith said...

So, do I reply to the first post that had me doing a hearty laugh? Or do I reply to the second that is causing my head to hang in shame?

I haven't been to the Louvre. My only stop in France was at the airport between Portugal and England. (Boy, they had the coolest toilets! Anyway...) But I lived in England for a while and...well...how do I say this? I learned I am not a connoisseur of the arts.

I believe I went to every worthy museum on the continent and I believe I could be described as the photo op tourist. OK, not even that. I didn't even bother to take pictures. Same thing happened at Huntington Library and everywhere on the east coast. "Can we go ride the roller coasters now?"

Truth is, I love some valuable artwork--although I find none of it to be "priceless" by any stretch--but some of the artwork I love most has relatively little monetary value. And I really just don't "get" lots of it...like the Mona Lisa, for example. I don't like the painting at all and I wouldn't even want to put it up in my house. Although this one is kind of cute!

So, now that I realize I'll be shunned, I'll quickly tell you what I do like and then I'll run off with the other "unclean."

I have a few limited edition prints by Willie Holdman. I could fill my whole house with his work. (Julie, I'd frame your Butterfly Lake photo as well. Gorgeous.)

I do like Starry Night and Irises (and Wheat Field with Crows a bit--probably because of the strong yellow and blue theme, which always seems to grab me) but not much else of Van Gogh.

Can't think of a single Picasso that I care for. (My folks had a print of Three Musicians in an office as a child. Perhaps that's the reason.)

The work I like rarely includes people unless they are mostly unidentifiable, and never nude people. (I can look in the mirror after my shower if I need to see that--and it ain't pretty.) Nothing modern. Most of the things that I am drawn to are still life with more vivid colors. You can probably guess that I do like a lot of Monet.

Suffice it to say that I am not likely to have a valued opinion here, but I do like Julie's writing. You go, Julie!

The Daring One said...

As a documentary film guy, and now someone who documents her life online, I completely identify with this post. I'm always struggling with whether to live my life or document it. For a while I was completely disillusioned with photographing or documenting anything. For the first couple of years of our marriage, I stopped writing, filming or photographing anything. I just wanted to EXPERIENCE! Now the pendulum is swinging the other way and I sometimes have to stop myself from classifying everything in life as either bloggable or not.

The Lazy Organizer said...

I have the same problem. Do I live to organize or do I organize to live? I guess it doesn't matter as long as it's bloggable.

Do you allow short uneducated comments around here? What are you doing reading my blog? I am so not worthy.

scribbit said...

Could be, I worry about the same thing. But you said it better than I could have.

meno said...

Yes, but a blog is abandoned every 5.7 seconds.

Ok, i made that up, but you get the idea. Many people don't follow through with their commitments.