Divine Intervention

My grandfather on my mother’s side of my family and my aunt on my mother’s side of the family were both hospitalized when I was four years old. My grandfather had a diabetes complication and my aunt was giving birth to her first born child. From an early age, my mom encouraged me to draw. My mom, being a single parent already at this point, found it helpful to occupy me while she dealt with adult matters like her sister and father being in the hospital. Luckily my mom kept many of these drawings.

hospital room

In this first drawing, I drew, my mom, and my grandma, and I in a hospital room and my aunt lying in a hospital bed. Everyone looks very happy because of the birth of my cousin, Shannon, which is what my mom is holding. I even drew the wallpaper or the painting in the hospital room behind my aunt. This picture is important because it sets a baseline of how I drew people as a child.

My grandfather past away shortly after my cousin’s birth and it had a tremendous impact on my mother. She was in her mid to late twenties when this was all happening. On top of being a single mother, she now had to deal with the tragic passing of her father.

My mother told me that she had intense dreams about her father after his death that she couldn’t fully comprehend. She also said that I was having issues sleeping too. I would end up having to sleep in the same bed with her at night to go to sleep. When she asked me why I was sleeping in her bed with her, I either said it was because I was afraid of something outside of my window or that I was having bad dreams. I don’t remember those dreams but I do remember there being lights outside my window and thinking I was hearing sounds of a person outside of my window. I understand that I wouldn’t be able to connect that the lights were cars passing by at the age of four. My bedtime around then was around nine o’clock at night. The sounds and the fear that someone was going to come into my room was peculiar though. My mom asked my dad if I was having issues sleeping when I was at his house and he said that I stayed in my bed every night and appeared to sleep fine.

angel drawing1

 

I continued to draw and some of my drawings became very strange to my mom. One drawing in particular is of an angel. The form of the angel differs from the form of the other people I drew. This figure has wings and lines about it that, as a child, I described as light around the angel. Shortly after that, I had a dream or a vision of this angel. In this dream, the angel and I had a conversation about my deceased grandfather where he told me that was doing great and that he was in a good place. My mother was stunned at this. I couldn’t describe the physical features of the angel well because it was just a being of light but I did get his name. His name was David. It may be a coincidence but I don’t believe that a four year old who wasn’t in a particularly religious environment at the time knew of the biblical King David and his relationship with the Angel of Death.

 

Upon hearing this, my mother was mesmerized. She was still having difficulties accepting her father’s passing but she used these events as motivation to seek healing from Christianity. To this day, she is a practicing Christian.

Dream 12/20/17

I am walking home late at night in a city that is similar to Philadelphia. I stop at a convenience store to buy some snacks for when I get home. While picking out my snacks, a robber comes rushing in and holds the clerk up at gunpoint. I don’t do anything to help as I hide in the back of the store. I end up deciding to just go home and not get anything after the robbery ends.

As I continue home, two girls ahead of me begin giggling loudly. One of them quickly turns around and points a gun in my direction and fires bullet. I dodge the bullet by diving to my left. The bullet ends up hitting someone who was walking behind me. Instead of running away, I decide to linger around to see what’s happening. I don’t know these girls so maybe they were aiming for the person behind me the whole time. I hide behind a tree nearby but one of the girls notices me, walks over, and shoots me right below my rib cage in my stomach. I blackout.

I feel no pain when I come to but I do feel an incredible stiffness from where I was shot. I’m lying on the ground by the tree where I was hiding. I locate the bullet right below my left lung and proceed to remove the bullet from the wound. Dizzy from the loss of blood, I began to try to call for help on my phone. However, once I start to dial, the two girls return and take my phone from me. The girl that shot me keeps the gun aimed at my head. I still cannot recognize the girls.

I beg for her to spare me as she smiles at me with the gun still aimed at my head. She demands me to stop pleading and I do so. I then start crying. She then tells me that I am beginning to annoy her. I ask her why she shot me and her response was simply, “why not?”

She leans over me and places the gun on my right temple. She then tells me, “if you don’t move to this next shot then I’ll let you live.” I start crying harder as I tell her that I don’t believe her. A long moment passes and I wake up.

Images Cannot Be Created Nor Destroyed

The first law of thermodynamics that states that matter cannot be created nor destroyed. As Hollis Frampton’s film nostalgia reminds us, images themselves are composed of matter. Frampton shows us in this piece repeated shots of photographs he has taken as they slowly burn on a stove grill. As they burn he tells the story of the next photo, forcing the viewer (once the viewer understands what is happening) to create a mental image of the next photo before seeing it. The viewer is left with dissonance when Frampton reveals the actual photograph is much different than what he describes.

Benjamin’s concept of the aura of an object and how that becomes lost in the photograph as an outcome of mechanical reproduction comes into question here. Benjamin’s definition of the aura is a loose one but is best defined when he writes, “The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history it has experienced” (Benjamin 221). In this way, the aura deals with sensory experience and personal perception of the object itself as well as the historical context of the object.

Benjamin then also believes that the aura is lost in the reproduction of the object as an image. He writes, “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be” (Benjamin 220).

In the last photograph shown in nostalgia, Frampton describes a moment in the photo where a truck drives into the shot of a photograph he has taken and creates an interesting glare in a window of the truck. He then explains that he blew up this moment extremely large to the point where all that is visible is the photographic grain of the photo. He then describes an overwhelming fear that accompanied this process and then continues to not show us the photograph that he is describing. In a way, this last photo resembles what happens as each photo burns on the stove. As each slowly burns, there is a moment where the photograph remains a photograph until it reaches a threshold where it then just becomes ash. The materiality of the photograph overtakes the contents of the photograph. This moment of seeing the grain of the last photo is where Frampton realizes the materiality of the photograph and that that is ultimately what the photograph is since the described aura doesn’t translate through the photographic reproduction.

Hito Stereyl’s continues the conversation of the loss of the aura through reproduction in her essay In Defense of The Poor Image where digital technology allows for mass reproduction to occur. The Internet creates a circulation of images that contain little to none of the aural information of the subject of the picture. This dissociation of the aura of these images and the speed at which they are circulated creates new methods of interpreting these images. Stereyl writes, “The poor image is no longer about the real thing—the originary original. Instead, it is about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities. It is about defiance and appropriation just as it is about conformism and exploitation” (Stereyl). There are both positive and negative consequences from the aura being displaced. The positive being that the reproduction facilitates an easy means of rapid dispersion of information. For example, local music scenes have started using cassette tapes again to share their music. Though the music quality is worse, more people can listen to the music because it’s easier to produce more copies of cassette tapes. The negative, however, is the swarm mentality that Stereyl describes where the image becomes a rally point for shared social and political views. An example of this is the Pepe the Frog meme where an innocent cartoon frog character in a 2005 comic called “Boy’s Life” made by artist and illustrator Matt Furie became a declared hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League because of its circulation on the Internet and its overuse in relation to neo-Nazi mentalities and racist remarks.

There are those that feel, because of the mass circulation of images from technology, that there is an overload of imagery now. In a way, this is true but in a way it is also false. In the section of Susan Sontag’s On Photography, entitled “The Heroism of Vision”, she talks about the effects photography has on how we view the world and ourselves. She writes, “Instead of just recording reality, photographs have become the norm for the way things appear to us, thereby changing the very idea of reality, and of realism” (Sontag 87). It’s through the invention of the camera and its mass circulation that the world has become a photograph waiting to be taken. There is now a potential for anything one sees visually to be rendered mentally and literally as a photograph. There aren’t more images being visually consumed by the viewer’s eye, but there are different images being consumed. Instead of having a mental library of multiple images of real world experiences, they are replaced by the images of the screen. It merely seems like more images are flooding our brains when in actuality it is more variety of images that are flooding our brains. The world is still a photograph waiting to be taken. It is just our world that is being replaced by reproductions.

Run For Your Life

On November 19, 2017, I ran and finished my second full marathon. I finished with a time around 4 hours 15 minutes.

I began distance running when I was 16 years old with my old buddy Mike Habak. We would get up early every other day over the summer and go run up at Blacklick Metro Park in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. The dirt path trail up at the park was four miles long. We began just running the trail once but over time we slowly increased the distance until we were doing two laps, or eight miles, every other day. Our runs were peculiar though in that they went the same way every time. We’d run a mile in together and then we’d turn it into a race. Almost every time it was me who would take off running faster at this point and he would play catch-up. This dynamic was almost every run we ran together but it worked at making us stronger runners. The competition made me stronger to stay in front while the competition made him stronger in trying to catch up.

After graduating high school, we went our separate ways and I was left running on my own. That next summer I increased my every other day distance to twelve miles. I would run on and off again for the next couple of years, taking time off for school.

This was generally the distance I would run until three year ago I decided to run the Columbus Marathon. The training for this kind of run is much more intense than what I was normally doing. Below was my schedule I followed.
(Image of running schedule to be added later)
I wasn’t able to follow this strictly but it was a solid framework to base my schedule around. I would run 6 days a week with one rest day. Five of those six days are shorter runs and one of those six days was a longer run. The schedule slowly increases in intensity and distance until a couple of weeks before the marathon where I would then taper out to avoid exhaustion and injury before the race. I also tried to include at least two strength days, usually on Mondays and Thursdays, as well.

For me, running has many benefits besides staying in shape. I believe in the connection and balance of mind, body, and soul so if I let my body go then I too bring down my mind and soul. The repetition of running allows me to sometimes enter into a meditative state of mind where I can focus and approach issues that I am dealing with more clearity than when I don’t run.

The discipline to force myself to get up every morning and run also benefits my studio practice. I definitely don’t feel like running everyday and every run isn’t great but I can only get better at running if I run every day. The same can be said about making art in the studio. That level of mental toughness can be hard to maintain all the time and running helps me keep that muscle in shape.

From Waaaay Downtown

Artist Gabriel Orozco comments on games on Art21 by saying, “What I like about games is that a game is a thing on its own. So you have a little world, in this board or in this table, design to perfection so you can play in a landscape and when it is a good game it’s so passionate that you can really get into this world and just live in it.” I do agree with his statement, but what happens when that game becomes so large that it begins to also impact the larger world around it?

In contemporary basketball, there has been a large shift in how the game is played. The use of analytics now dominates where teams shoot more three point baskets and layups than ever before (basically because, statistically, shooting 33.3% from the three-point line is just as effective as shooting 50% from right under the basketball hoop). The polarizing large markets that dominated the league also no longer reign supreme due to the rise of social mobility increasing player mobility.

The rise of the use of analytics in sports is used by managers of teams to create the most efficient team consisting of the most efficient players based on statistics generated by those players and the rest of the league. The theory here being that by using analytics, you can get the most out of your roster, ultimately allowing your team to win the most games it can for spending the least amount of money. Analytics however is not perfect because humans are not perfect. For example, regular season numbers don’t always translate to playoff numbers. Game pressure also has an impact on how players perform. Injuries and fatigue are also an unpredictable factors that influence player performance. Analytics also doesn’t account for the fact that basketball is a team game where teammate chemistry plays an important role to winning.

The current championship team in the NBA is the Golden State Warriors of Oakland, California. They are the first NBA team to win multiple championships as a “primarily” three point shooting team. I say primarily three point shooting team not just because their three best players (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant) are three of the best three point shooting players in the league, but also because they use this to their advantage to get easier shots closer to the basket. Their shooters are so good at shooting that the defense often overcompensates in their positioning and this allows another player to slip to the basket for an easy layup.

The larger markets such as New York and Los Angeles used to have a greater ability to attract players to play in these cities. Besides the salary the player earned from the team, these cities offered other means of financial gain for the players because these cities are where the endorsements and exposure reside. That has all changed now with social media. Now the power of exposure is in the athlete’s hands. The allure of the large market no longer attracts the athlete like it used too because the athlete can now gain exposure and endorsements using their social media accounts. This dramatically changes how NBA rosters form now because players aren’t weighing that option as heavily as they used to. A player might decide to play, or stay, in Oklahmoa City or Milwaukee because they can engage with their fans online. With online streaming, fans can also watch their favorite teams play even if they live in a different city. Fans of the Golden State Warriers can now watch their games online even though they live in Philadelphia.

Artist Paul Pfieffer’s series of digital prints titled Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse engages with these issues and then some. In this series, he digitally manipulates photographs from the NBA’s vault of imagery by removing all but one player (usually a player being slam dunked on) on court and by removing that player’s name and number on their jersey. All that is left in the image is the player and the audience.

The removal of the players name and number suggests a removal of identity of the player as seen through the lens of analytics. Under the lens of analytics, the person the player is doesn’t matter as much as the statistics that player has. Pfieffer says in an interview with Art21, “It looks like his head is chopped off; all of his limbs look awkward. To me, it almost resembles the figure in a photograph of a lynching. At any rate, there’s a strange kind of inconsistency to the composition of the image. At the same time, this awkwardly composed person is standing dead center in an arena, surrounded by thousands of people who are watching—and there is no ball, no basket, no reason for him to be jumping or floating in this way” (Pfieffer). His reference to the resemblance of a lynching is haunting because sports are very violent occupations that take a toll on the players both physically and mentally just so the team owner can make money off the athlete. This is the danger of viewing individuals as merely numbers and data because it reinforces that the athlete is just an object to sell.

Dream 12/6/17

I am either walking or running in a natural setting that is similar to Iuka Park Ravine located in the main off campus neighborhood near The Ohio State University’s main campus. I feel completely at home and in my natural setting. After exploring some, the dream cuts to my father’s house. This version of my father’s house isn’t my father’s house that I am familiar with though. I don’t have a bedroom here but all of my stuff is piled up on the living room floor.

Extended family is over for dinner. I’m trying to dress correctly for the occasion but all I can find are graphic t-shirts with my political beliefs that are contradictory to my family’s political beliefs. I feel very uneasy.

I finally decide on an outfit and then make my way towards the kitchen to join the party and eat some food. There is no food out though. I open the fridge and also find no evidence of recently prepared food to eat. Discouraged, I begin to sift through containers of leftovers for something to consume but fail to find anything appealing. The setting then slowly morphs from a kitchen to a restaurant and I find myself sitting in a booth with my father and extended family. Conversation continues though I’m not sure what’s being discussed. My dad then turns to me and asks if we could could go to the park from before and go for a run together after dinner. I am torn because I want to go run with him but I already ran earlier that day and I haven’t recovered yet.

While trying to explain this to him, the restaurant shifts back into the park but it’s much later in the day and I am either walking or running again. I notice that my dad is not with me. As I reach a top of a cliff, the weight of the dark night intensifies and I realize that I need to get home. I ascend the mountain and then climb down on the other side of it. The other side was not nearly as high up as the other side made it out to be. The other side also exposed that the mountain wasn’t a natural formed mountain but more like a stage prop where the inner structure was a series two by fours supports. Next to the exposed supports was a road that led into a small neighbor hood of about eight to ten houses. Two other people accompany me at this point but I do not know who they are.

We walk down the road until we reach a house that I assume is my father’s new house and we enter it. I can’t make out the specifics of the people here but I do see my sisters Paige and Molly having a discussion as to why Paige and her last boyfriend broke up. The interior of the house never completely sets in which makes me to feel very disconnected in this environment so I decide to leave. On my way out, my stepmother confronts me and tells me something that I cannot understand. From what I can read of her body language, she is yelling at me and telling me negative things as if to verify that that setting was not suited for me. I don’t argue back as I keep walking out of the house. With nowhere to go, I notice that my cousin Kayla was living just down the street. As I walk by her house, she yells out and offers me a place to stay. As I enter her house, I wake up.

Virtual Projections

The definition of the term virtual existed long before associations with technological simulations or immaterial spaces. The word comes from the Latin virtualis meaning possessed of certain physical virtues or capacities; effective in respect of inherent natural powers; capable of exerting influence by means of such qualities. Under this definition, the virtual is not the opposite of the real. Describing something as being virtual is to say that it has qualities that make it practically indistinguishable from what it is similar to.

Henri Bergson describes the virtual as being, “the intertwining of the past and memory, the future and imagination, and present-tense perceptions that drop out of our viewfinders” (King 102). To Bergson, this is what persists and accompanies our perception of the world around us. Though Bergson doesn’t believe that our interpretations of the world around us are necessarily repressed material of our unconscious, what he does seem to hint at is that it’s the “intertwining” of the past, future, and present that is then projected onto the experience and is given context for the viewer.

Though Bergson rejects a psychoanalytical approach about the virtual, he actually further solidifies both Lacan and Jung. In Steven Z. Levine’s Lacan Reframed, he discusses how the gaze of the other attempts to appear through the act of art making by writing, “The eye made desperate by the gaze seeks relaxation from its duress by making still more art, by showing still more art, by viewing still more art, again and again and again. And that is why we have an endlessly changing yet repeating history of art” (Levine 90). Through this act of making and seeing repeatedly we build up our past and present language of what the other is saying through the art and it in turn influences our perception of the art.

Jung argues that only the contents of our consciousness can be stored into our subconscious such as our desires, impulses, intentions, affections, observations, and intuitions. However, there are times where we either forget or cannot recall where specific stored information comes from. Jung called this cryptomnesia. The past memory aspect of our interactions with the world around us could very well be built off these cryptomnesiac moments from our childhood. It’s these memories that Bergson himself states to be an aspect of virtuality, which in fact interacts with our present perceptions and future imaginings.

The most common contemporary use of the virtual is to describe a space that is acknowledged as not being real. Even virtual reality is being described as something different than the original definition would depict. VR is proposed as a different reality from the one we normally experience. It’s a space to escape to when the normal reality is not what we would have hoped for. This desire to escape the physical plane is troublesome. King writes about Hannah Arendt’s parable about the launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite in her book Virtual Memory. She writes, “Arendt noted a collective sigh of relief from Earth’s inhabitants at the satellite’s dispatch: a general sense of optimism in the face of this ‘first step toward escape from men’s imprisonment to the earth’” (King 1). The imprisonment on the earth implies that people want to escape, but escape what? King then writes, “The longing to escape the planet and the idea that earth’s inhabitants were imprisoned or shackled to its surface went hand in hand with the degradation of tangible, incarnate, sensory experience, along with the kinds of thought, speech, and action that are made possible by embodied perception” (King 1).

The decline in sensory experience and embodied perception alters our relationship to virtuality and is probably where the definition has changed. The definition no longer refers to something being completely similar and related to something that actually exists but now refers to something being completely similar but is in no way related to something that actually exists. The search for other inhabitable planets is just like this. We hope to find a planet that is completely similar to that of earth but is not related to this planet whatsoever. It is in this phenomenon that virtual reality is also a similar yet not connected experience. Both are modes of dissociation as ways to fix our problems instead of confronting them and learning to accept our limits as individuals and as a species.