It is with a bittersweet feeling in my heart that I must announce I have moved my office out of Mid City Zen. I will greatly miss working in that house, however I still live and practice there, so I am not too worried. Perhaps, also, this will help create some separate work from life. I am and have been uncomfortable with that idea; any separation between the two largely illusory. Your work is a part of your life, and your life is your greatest project. However, when an opportunity knocks on your door it is best to embrace it. Furthermore, this will likely aid me in the practice of doing one thing at a time, which I have made mention of in some previous posts.
Which brings me to the news that I have signed on to collaborate with Glen Pitre and Michelle Benoit of Cote Blanche Inc on a massive project. Until the project wraps up in October, they have agreed to host my office in their amazing facility, The Old Firehouse in The Marigny. It’s a welcome change from my heretofore solitary working rhythms. I believe that simply being set up in that atmosphere will be conducive to establishing working relationships with my fellow tenants (mostly other filmmakers and videographers), and plus I get to feel like I’m going to work at the Ghostbusters station every day.
I’ll hold off on spilling any details about the project for now, but it is worth mentioning to any of my other clients that I am still open for your business. Part of my arrangement with Cote Blanche is that I am retaining the right to take other work.
Another thing that went quick: my trip to Scotland to see and hear the world premiere of Thomas LaVoy’s Endless (see prior post) and visit my step brother Alex. I’ll have pictures of that trip coming soon to social media, and loads of personal stories to tell any of you that I see face to face.
However, with regards to work and practice, perhaps the most relevant tidbit to report would be an experience I had at The Royal Gallery in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. The place is filled with classic paintings and famous expressionists’ work. It’s funny what sticks with you, though. There were a number of paintings there that were mostly of crowds of humans going about daily life that really opened up something in me; some kind of acceptance of my own part in humanity. I can’t recall the name of the painting that really busted it loose, or even who painted it. It was something like one of these:
Not particularly eye catching at first glance; it was just a landscape in which humans are featured as a sprawling group, ice skating and milling about in a winter setting as a sort of chaotic crowd. As a solitary sort of fellow, I have always been drawn to a certain type of landscape imagery. It’s these lonesome solitary odes to the grandeur of nature that perhaps feature one or two small characters hidden somewhere, dwarfed by the magnitude of the natural world around them. (This is also a similar theme in Asian watercolors, of which I am also I huge fan). The images that stuck with me from that gallery, however, were different in that humans were presented as a crowd. The particular painting in question had them all ambling about in the lower third of the image – the sky above them huge and magnanimous. So, the human subjects were still presented with humility in the face of our natural world, but were all together in numbers, socializing, playing and living their lives. Compare, then, that imagery to this shot I snapped on the bus nearby to that same gallery:
Ok, the buildings are a bit more dominant in the frame (I wasn't thinking about this parallel as I took the picture) but what remains is the swarm of upright apelike figures ambling about the face of the earth. These crowds and noise often stress me the hell out. It's so overwhelming; the sheer impossibility of comprehending all the different perspectives and narratives, and when you think about how unsustainable our current lifestyles are in such numbers, the scene becomes honestly a bit terrifying. Yet, I can look at any one of these figures in the paintings or out there in the world around me and appreciate their existence and their own particular story.
This creates an awful cognitive dissonance that I am sure many can relate to. I have struggled often with my own humanity, particularly as an American, and even more specifically as a white male in the age of Trump. We can be such a destructive force on this world, covering it out to the horizon with our contraptions and systems and injustices. Even with regards to my own family, I was so happy to spend time with them during that trip, but I felt very distant and oddly alienated by my own white guilt and climate-change angst.
Somehow, though, I came out of that time in the Art Museum with a sense of hope and acceptance. Just the simple composition of those images, with crowds of humans all coexisting together along the flat earth with the enormity of creation towering above them, reminded me that we can still have humility about our place in the world without disassociating from the people around us. This painting of a bunch of working class people ice skating on a pretty winter’s day somehow snapped that all in to focus for me. This story stretches back for eons, and we are all a part of it.
Suddenly stepping out of that museum, I found myself more open and receptive to the people around me in my family, in crowds, lines and on the street. I found myself less ashamed of my own humanity and more in awe of the beauty not only of the world we live in, but of our place within it, along with all the struggle and paradox contained therein. To see it all with a painter's eye at least makes it all real, and puts you back in the picture with your fellow beings rather than hidden away behind a shield of your own judgments.
Appropriately enough, this new job at The Old Firehouse all revolves around an art installation at a new museum going up in New Orleans this fall. It feels like a good wrap around to me. Here's a picture of the new office (the exterior anyways), complete with yet another crowd of humans along the bottom of the frame, milling about and dancing to folk tunes at the monthly Balkan Fais Do Do. I will miss working at MCZ, of course, but I do believe my workstation has landed somewhere special.