People! If you’ve ever seen one of these:
…and wondered what it is, you need to see Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. It’s streaming on Netflix, and it’s popped up in my queue before, only to have me ignore it because I thought it had something to do with, you know, resurrecting the dead.
But no! It’s actually about this amazing outsider art that I grew up seeing all over the place in NYC, Philly, DC, and so forth. And about the prophetic theories of the person who made all of them, and the super cute punk rock guy who spends years tracking him down. (Bonus: super cute punk rock guy has lots of tattoos and used to live in a Philly squat!! LOVE!)
Anyway, it’s seriously fascinating. Ten thumbs up!
Ok, so… there’s a lot of crafters out there who have figured out how to spin plastic bags into yarn (aka, “plarn”). I decided to go one step further and spin it down so far that it can be used as embroidery thread, or crocheted with a 2.10mm (US size 3) crochet needle. It involves an extra step in treating the plastic, in order to make it strong enough to work with (and it is super strong).
Is this actually interesting? I can’t tell. I’m not sure if I’m just so smitten with having learned how to spin things that I think that it’s interesting, or if it actually has applications in the real world that are maybe good. Does anyone care about this? I’m not convinced…
Last night I had this dream:
I’m about 18, and I’m going to go print up some black and white photos at school. I head to this tiny darkroom that few people know is actually there, and start getting my supplies together. There are other people also working in this darkroom, but since it’s not marked on the outside (thus, few people know about it), it’s prone to accidents, like someone stumbling into the room and flicking on all the lights, which happens just moments after I arrive. The other people in the room see their work and paper all get immediately exposed, and they yell at the person who flicked on the lights.
I go over to the enlarger and start setting it up. I can see everything so clearly: there are marks on the base of it that tell you where to line up your paper; I can see the brand of paper I bought, the logo, the package design, and feel the stiff cardboard box it comes in and the plastic that holds the paper inside. I go through every step of printing a photo, including such relatively throw-away details as adjusting and focusing the enlarger, bit by bit in what feels like real time.
When I’m finally done with the process, I pin up my photo to allow it to dry. It’s a very detailed, finely printed shot of a guy on a bicycle – he looks a little like Tom Waits, but not really. I look through the rest of my negatives and decide not to print anymore. I leave the darkroom.
Here’s what blows me away about this dream: it’s a combination of memory and also fabrication (which dreams often are), in a way that I’ve never had a dream before. There is no secret tiny darkroom at SVA (if there is, I don’t know about it). I don’t think I’ve ever been in a darkroom where someone flicked on the lights and everyone started yelling. Did I ever take a picture of a guy on a bicycle? Maybe? But probably not.
I haven’t printed a photo since I was about 18, the age in my dream, which was 20 years ago. I’d bet if you lead me to a darkroom with negatives in hand and everything set up to print, I wouldn’t remember exactly how to do it. And yet, in that moment, I did – or at least I think I did (because I wasn’t actually printing a photo, we’ll never know for sure if I did it as right as I think I did) and did it with total confidence.
But here’s what really gets me: are tasks that we learn to do by rote (like, printing a photo) never actually forgotten? There’s certain things that we assume we can do forever once we’ve learned it, like riding a bicycle. But what about stuff like this? Or, for instance, I’ve been crocheting some patterns I recently made up, making and remaking them over and over… will I suddenly, with no prodding, have the experience of working one of these patterns puked up by my unconscious while I sleep, 20 years from now?