Hi. You guys might have noticed things disappearing around here… Like my portfolio, or cv, or all the other things that got deleted. NEVER FEAR! I’ve finally set up a website, and all of that professional-like stuff is now at courtneyethayer.com. So you can wander over there at your leisure and check it out. I’ll still be posting studio updates and all of my random tangent-y goodness over here, but since it’s about time for me to be professional and respectable, I needed to split the blog from the portfolio. Hopefully you all hang around anyway!
Holy cow. I have no idea why, but man did people blow up my blog last weekend! My phone was literally buzzing and beeping every 5 minutes for about 12 hours. That’s never been a thing before… So thanks to you all who came and checked me out here, and for everyone who also started following me as a result. It’s nice to feel special every once in awhile. I apologize if I don’t follow you in return, but I can’t keep up with everything anymore. Rest assured you are noted.
I’ve been terribly absent recently, and for that I apologize. A lot of things went very wrong back in August, and then my marriage kind of started to… unravel. And I went into survival mode. Which means I was functioning on a day to day, minute to minute basis, just trying to keep my head above water. Seriously. My brain was elsewhere. But now I’m back on track, and that’s happy! I’ve been digging through my “sketch books” (in quotes because I don’t actually ever sketch… EVER), and pulling out all the random ideas I wrote down but forgot about. Then through a very scientific process I am calling The Whiteboard, I’ve been sorting them out, making connections, and basically trying to understand what my thesis is actually going to be. You see, I’ve been theising hardcore. I’ve also been working on a professional website, job applications, teaching, and drinking copious amounts of coffee…Well, copious for me anyway.
Back to the theising… As it stands right now, the written paper will probably revolve around my failure/success research as well as my interest in the way that photography mediates and fails as a tool for documentation. I’ve been reading a really great book about Performance art and archive, Perform, Repeat, Record: Live Art in Historywhich has helped me to clarify my thoughts as they relate to performance and photography, as well as introduced me to the idea of a viral ontology of performance art. The essay this idea comes from (The Viral Ontology of Performance), was written by Christopher Bedford. He contends that a performance cannot be limited to it’s “originary” event. Rather, he says it “[S]plinters, mutates, and multiplies over time in the hands of various critical constituencies in a variety of media, to yield a body of critical work that extends the primary act of the performance into the indefinite future of reproduction.” I’m really drawn to this idea for two main reasons. The first is that it implies that any document made during the originating performance, cannot and should not define the work. As I feel that photographs fail to capture the performance fully anyway, this makes perfect sense to me. Secondly, the idea of a viral ontology extends the ephemeral nature of the performance. The performance happened within a certain time and space, which cannot be recreated or made concrete outside of documentation. Since these documents are all that exist, and not the thing itself (unlike say a painting), they move forward in time, being constantly re-contextualized, re-interpreted, but never concrete. I’m not sure that makes sense…. It does to me though. In any event, I’m excited about that.
The work itself is 99% likely to be performance and installation based. I’m playing around with some ideas involving playing telephone (almost literally…) and mediating the viewer’s experience of the performance in order to address both the ideas of failure and the primacy of my viewer’s experience in the context of my work. I was considering doing something with handing out fake awards to my fellow MFAs that constantly moved around all night…. Buuuuut maybe not. In any case… This shit is real. It’s happening. In like less 6 months. Crap. I’ve now given myself an anxiety attack.
That Whiteboard thing I mentioned earlier? Yeah… Not joking, it is my scientific process. This is what’s been happing in the studio lately:
There is just something about writing that helps me focus. It is so way better than sketching. 😉 Hopefully I’ll be back on track with the blog posting now, but I make no promises! Have a peachy keen evening… I’m off to eat some dinner and check out a visiting artist lecture here at FSU.
It’s obviously been quite some time since I’ve been around here. I can’t even say that it’s been time well spent doing things to post on here. So instead, I’m going to pretend like I was never even gone… Yeah.
Anyway. I (finally) did a performance last weekend at SMALLS here in town. The idea for the performance sort of came to me randomly, and as a bit of a joke. Recently I’ve been contemplating the reasons why I love photography (the process, but not the product) as well as the way our culture depends upon photography to record our memories. The thing however, is that most of us, with our super smart phones and the dozens of photos it takes every day, NEVER LOOK AT THOSE PICTURES AGAIN. We literally mediate our experiences in order to create these photos, and then forget them. Oh, sure, maybe we might see them when we flip through quickly to find pictures to delete to make room for more pictures, or we might see them briefly when we look at their comments on Facebook, but we certainly never print them, or cherish them in a photo album. So then, to me, the question is, do we even need the photograph to remember that moment? No, I don’t think so…
So I set up a mini photography studio at this local alternative space, and invited people in to have their photograph done. Using a 4×5 camera, I created portraits by working with each individual, asking them how they wished to be photographed. I then issued them a number and told them I would get them their image before they left. Additionally I took copious notes on a post-it with their number on it, about what they were wearing and what happened during our abbreviated session. What my subjects didn’t know, was that my film holders were empty, and that when I went in to the “darkroom” to process their images, I was simply pulling out a sheet of undeveloped film from a box and placing it in an envelope along with a hand written note from me. The note was a summation of our experience together, culminating in the phrase, “You do not need a photograph to remember this experience.” I then signed and dated it. Each participant was given a sealed envelope with “their picture” in it to open at their leisure. At first people were confused, but in the end, I think a lot of people really enjoyed it, even got a kick out of it.
I chose a large format camera for a couple of reasons. First of all, this allowed me an individual negative for each person I photographed. Secondly, it never fails to impress visually, and people automatically take it seriously. Along with this, using a view camera is somewhat more time intensive. You can’t simply point and shoot. Finally, and this is a piece that really only I knew about, but am amused by nonetheless… I used Kodak Ektachrome slide film. A totally obsolete technology. I only happened to have some (which was outdated), because a professor of mine donated a couple of boxes to me in undergrad. I’ve been hanging on to it for years, thinking I would find some really good reason to use it… But never have. I think this was a perfect use. 🙂 This amuses me because people were so excited when they found out they would be getting a picture very quickly. We most certainly live in a culture of instant gratification… and I gave them not that.
A lot of this plays on the importance of the experience I try to emphasize with in my work. I think that as a whole, people have forgotten to live in the present. We live in the future, we live in the past, and we live our lives digitally mediated through various devices. We put those devices between ourselves and the experiences around us. For me, this performance was just a way of reminding those present that they don’t really need a photograph, or to make a photograph, to experience or remember a given moment in time. All they have to do is live it.
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