Sunday, November 30, 2014

Show yourself

At the dogleg turn on Trenerry crescent near Dights Falls in Abbotsford, a group of artists have created a makeshift gallery.  As you drive into the turn you face a stretch of wall that extends the length of the road and the freeway, presumably to block out sound. 

Months ago I noticed the first small offering, a portrait in the centre of the first section of the wall, soon followed by another couple of works, a treescape, a landscape, and a splodge of colour. 

More recently the number of pictures has trebled.  

There’s one that stands out: a take on an old classic, with a view of the harbour where a dark skinned and naked aboriginal man with spear in hand looks over the water to an approaching eighteenth century vessel and curses, ‘Bloody boat people’. 

There’s also a large photograph on paper of a native tribeswoman from somewhere like Africa. 

There are more scenes of trees and water and several portraits, mostly in oils, though there’s also one that looks to be a lithograph, judging by its texture and colour and a tiny piece on tin.

Some pictures are small, most on plywood canvases and some take up more space than others, but each nestles comfortably alongside its companion, as if this gallery were planned and arranged by some thoughtful curator.  Though that’s unlikely. 

I reckon this gallery has sprung up in the wonderful way these things do when one person inspires another to add to their own inspiration, and now we have this evocative, albeit temporary, gallery on Trenerry Crescent.

Temporary only in so far as the natural elements, the rain and sun and wind, will eventually destroy the images over time but they have been standing up to the worst of the weather for several months now and maybe as one dies – certainly the photograph of the tribeswoman on paper will disappear soon – maybe others will take their place.

This type of installation gives me hope in human nature at a time when the world seems grim. 

We have a state election to vote in today and without getting too caught up in local politics, it’s suffice for me to say my world seems to be leaning in a far right direction that’s terrifying. 

I heard on the radio today that our government had turned back a boatload of some thirty seven-asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, including six children.  Sri Lankan government representatives then intercepted these asylum seekers and took them into custody while they await trial for 'falsely leaving the country' or some other such crime. 

I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it but it makes me wonder about this business of being forced to stay in an unbearable situation, because no one else wants you, and the powers that be don’t want you to leave from under their auspice. 

I have been finding it more difficult to write about my life lately.  Some internal silencer whispers in my ear, you can’t say that. You can’t talk about that.  In case someone reads and is offended, in case someone reads and decides I have violated their privacy, in case someone reads and disagrees with my version of events. 

If I listen to these voices for too long, I am paralysed into silence. 

That’s another thing that seems to happen in the things I read.  The extraordinary pressure on people to say the outrageous, write something new, give us something to get excited about, but don’t go too far.

If you do, the naysayers will be out in droves and crucify you.

Has it ever occurred to readers that the writers who dare to put their writing out there have stuck their necks out, have exposed themselves, so why not tread gently with their critiques? 

I was once friendly with a woman many years ago and I realised too late that she enjoyed listening to me speak about all the things she could not/would not say, but she did not reciprocate. 

She did not offer any self-revealing versions of her own vulnerability.  It was up to me to provide the grist, on which she could chew and then she could spit it out or do with it as she pleased. 

I know that people are different, some are more out there and others prefer to keep things close to their chests.  I don’t have a problem in either case but when the quiet ones get their rocks off listening to the noisy ones and then condemn the noisy ones for saying things they should not say then I reckon the quiet ones need to take a turn on centre stage and declare their views, so that they too can take a turn at exposure. 

The joy of the gallery lies here.  

I have never thought before to write under a pseudonym.  It has always been important to declare myself, but lately I have wondered what would it be like, to throw your words out there into the ether under a pseudonym, so that no one will know who you are, even if they believe they do.

To take up the name of a man, for instance, and see what type of response I get.  To be able to write all the things I fear I cannot say here and get away with it because the person of the writer does not exist, except as a fantasy, like those anonymous artists who put up their pictures in Trenerry Crescent.  

And how’s this for a treatise on the notion of thought, another antidote to my grim thoughts, from Brevity’s blog?

Quinn Norton writes:
There is more than one kind of thought. There are thoughts you cannot complete within a month, or a fiscal quarter, just as there are thoughts that can occupy less than a vacation period, a weekend, or a smoke break. Like the spectrum of photonic behavior, thoughts come in a nearly infinite range of lengths and frequencies, and always move at the exact pace of human life, wherever they are in the universe. Some thoughts are long, they can take years to think, or a lifetime. Some thoughts take many lifetimes, and we hand them off to the next generation like the batons in a relay race. Some of these are the best of thoughts, even if they can be the least productive. Lifetimes along, they shift the whole world, like a secret lever built and placed by the loving imaginations of thousands of unproductive stargazers.


Unknown said...

Love the Norton quote and I've just copied it down. It's so true—I used to believe I had to understand what I was thinking or feeling at any one time, and be able to articulate it. But there are many thoughts that evolve with time, and can't be articulated for years. I've recently started journalling, which has helped. In my journal, I don't have to write a fully realised thought complete with conclusion, but I can pick up where I left off next time, or even weeks later. It's helping me to discover the truth of what I'm thinking and feeling.

Jim Murdoch said...

I wonder if what you’re on about here is responsibility, the responsibility to speak out and the need to take responsibility for what you’ve said. I’ve wondered a few times about anonymity. There are levels to it and I actually consider myself fairly anonymous online. I post little about my life that would make anyone sit up. I hint, I say I’ve done bad things, things to be ashamed about but then haven’t we all and we all understand why we don’t talk about these things; we must keep up the illusion. Once I put some of my poems in books in a library but I can’t remember if I appended my name. I don’t think I did. I wonder if they’ve all been found and read yet. I picked some odd places to hide them.

There is, of course, nothing stopping you writing about anything you damn well want to. That’s not the problem, is it? It’s publishing what you’ve written. My fear in delaying would be that by the time it was safe to write—i.e. when everyone who might conceivably be offended by what I was going to say was dead—I’d no longer be capable of having my say. So, strike when the iron’s hot and stick the stuff in a folder: ‘To be published after my death’ or something of that ilk. You could publish under a pseudonym but who would read it? We all have far too much to read as it is and so we stick to what (and who) we know. How would we know where to find this new writing?

I’ve known people like the one you mention, people who never open up. I’ve always wanted to be one of them but’ve never managed it. The closest I’ve come is online by setting limits on what I will and will not blog about. I had a boss once who never talked about anything but work and yet it was obvious that his private life was a mess—I stumbled across his bank statement once on his desk and it was a mess—but he held it all in and you could see he was holding it all in and that he was bursting to open up but he never did. I felt sad for him and a little hurt that he couldn’t trust me but then there’ve been others who’ve been happy to open up and let me in. I recall a young girl once buttonholing me in a filing range and asking me if she should get married. I’d be about twenty-one at the time so not much older than she must’ve been. What could I tell her? All I could say was why I got married. And within three years I wasn’t any more.

As far as politics goes I imagine you’ve read my last McVoices blog. That’s as political as I’m ever likely to get in public. For years I took absolutely no interest in the subject. Now I pay a bit more attention although I’d be stretching a point to say I was really interested. What does worry me about how politics is moving in the 21st century is that it’s all about giving the people what they think they want in order to hang on to popularity. Which is why here in the UK all the focus is on immigration because the UK Independence Party has made it THE big issue. It probably isn’t. We probably have much bigger problems. But that’s what the government’s being forced to deal with first. If I’d hired a maths teacher for my kid I’d be disappointed to walk in on them discussing football just because that was what the kid was more interested in.

Jim Murdoch said...

I came across a quote the other day and thought I’d share it with you (I had this post in mind):

She will be leaving soon, the intruder, the dramatic star of ennui with catlike eyes. She has come with no more force than a hand offering a delivery at the door. All the time she has been in the house I was planning to think of my mother. To think, that is to wonder what I would be forgiven for remembering or imagining. What do those of my flesh and blood deem suitable, not a betrayal? Why didn’t you change your name? Then you could make up anything you like, without it seeming to be true when all of it is not. I do not know the answer. – Sleepless Nights, Elizabeth Hardwick