Friday, May 22, 2015

De Certeau believed that: “All that is required is that the surveys ask not about what directly attaches its “members” to the party, but about what does not attract them…” (177). In other words, people may not know who they are – but they know who they are not. Call it selective memory, wishful thinking or delusions, in the end it comes down to belief. Belief – however justified – in self identity and in affiliations (to corporations, organizations or institutions etc…) are undoubtedly social constructs that reinforce (and perhaps even created in the first place) cultural norms, and they make clear distinctions as to who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. Pursuing a fading American Dream in Werner Herzog’s “Stroszek”, Bruno is an outsider (non-English speaking, mentally challenged man) travelling with outsiders (both foreign; a prostitute & a decrepit old man) through a land that is anything but conducive to escaping outsider life (November in central Wisconsin). They stick out like a sore thumb in the fabric of conventional self-realization stories; otherwise known as the Bildungsromane – which almost exclusively follow the (often) successful journey of the protagonist’s ascent to societal acceptance. Bruno and his companions don’t fit into American society. They are ostracized because they are outsiders, through and through. Come the end of ‘Stroszek’, the trio is split up, their trailer home – foreclosed on and auctioned off – and Bruno is more than likely dead. This seems to be the inevitable end for any of those who deviate; those who were unable to indoctrinate themselves with the condoned ideals & forms of larger society. Christopher McCandless, the protagonist of “Into the Wild”, met a similar fate when he fled from the society that rejected him. Conform to societies rules or meet your demise, seems to be the form that coming of age novels teach us. Keeping this in mind, though, gives beauty to the otherwise unglamorous trio and their journey. They are realistic and raw but simply could not exist in the world that would not accept them. To all the rest, life goes on. De Certeau describes their fate: “They bet on the erosion itself of every conviction, since these vestiges indicate both the ebbing-away of what those questioned formerly believed and the absence of a stronger credibility that draws them elsewhere: “voices” do not go away; they remain there; they lie inertly where they were, but nevertheless make up the same total. The toting up becomes a tale.” (178).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

It was a very interesting experience to learn about (Wisconsin resident (!)) Dick Blau’s photography. Through his photographs, he represented emotional complexity by portraying the ritually mundane. He brings into question our pre-conceived notions of childhood and, similarly, represents the discontent of adults who may have grown up too abruptly. Each of his subjects seem evidently plagued by deeply seated existential crises; their lives falling far short of the utopian visions they envisioned for themselves as children. Their reality is less appealing than their undead childhood dreams; leaving them near-lifeless. This was one of my favorites of Blau’s. The expression of the woman speaks worlds, and yet, seems completely vacant. To me, it is the quintessential example of Blau’s work.