The Source Text: Week Four

(This is the last blog post of a one month project: finding daily source text online & making/posting artwork each 24 hours. Scroll down to the beginning or click around to find links to the original project statement, etc. – mrk)

2/22: “You’re doing it right.”
2/23: “You all offer collective support”
2/24: “I want to go back, despite differences”
2/25: “I hope she wins the race.”
2/26: “I like exchanging ideas.”
2/27: “where he belongs”
2/28:  “I try not to be like that anymore.”

The month was coming to a close. I needed to know if I was doing this right. Does that answer come from me or someone else? Is this working? So much of this project had me walking blindly, hoping that each step was the right one to follow the previous one. I relied on the collective support of real people through my own online exchanges or in real life words. I needed to keep moving forward even if there was discrepancy between my intentions and the outcome. The finish line was close. I had to remember the purpose to this. I had to know I belonged in the studio, doing what I was doing. I wanted the process to change me.

Each piece of text in the last week fit into the drive to finish this project. I simultaneously explored the last ideas on my list of topics to search out, while (it turns out) I found words to keep myself going. The first days of the last week were the hardest. One of the nights, I did say to myself I QUIT. I mostly knew I wouldn’t. But I had to say it. I had to stomp my foot and say: I’ve had enough of this. Nearly 28 days of searching, reading through exhausting online conversations and arguing, finding people who were overtly & clearly hateful along with the online spots where friends gather with supportive common interests. I wanted my internet back- the one where I knew the terrain & the people, where I came for what I wanted & left when I wanted.

The more I came to know about the many worlds on the internet, the more I began to wonder if the most terrible people among us, the ones who end up as the sole violent protagonists on heartbreaking days- did some of these people have their own mysterious community? Are they not so lone after all? Could they, would they have become so awful without prompting from an anonymous person in some remote place? Is this why a criminal would destroy their computer hard drive? Anonymous profiles & postings allow for many dubious people to come together with like-minded callousness. I barely scratched the surface of that world. I couldn’t really go into the dark tunnels that lead there. But now I know they exist. Who goes there?

In this fourth & last week of the project, I paid one more visit to YouTube: it was a fun video to start the day, something so many people do now: looking for a little lolz. I needed that break myself. I also searched out discussions over religion, and found a place where Christians prompted each other to more understanding and inclusiveness towards Muslims. I spent a day on a popular sports blog: a female athlete received persistent misogynistic comments and one person finally had something good to say. A blog popped up after the Oscars in response to Ang Lee’s treatment of people in the visual effects industry; someone took time in the debate to not only respond to divergent views, but to draw out the opposing viewpoints–something that isn’t done very often anywhere. Someone in one of my social media feeds experienced a tragic loss; she immediately received support from her online connections. I felt that one thing missing from the month was the way parents go online for community; I found a parent who welcomed their child home after a hospital stay. Since the very same day I followed several links to stories that supported the needs of gay parents, I made the piece in honor of those families. I concluded the month with a little search. Who was the most hated on the internet? I found a very distasteful rant from a self-righteous woman… and was relieved to find someone who owned up to those qualities in themselves & who hoped to be a different person. Honestly, I don’t even know if the rant was made by a real persona or if it was one that was constructed for an actress. Either way, I closed the month out focusing not on hating the hateful person, but on a comment that worked to reconcile something, anything– even if it wasn’t with the one who incited so much anger.

This blog is a record of what I found in February 2013.

I Will Find
Maritza Ruiz-Kim
Kianga Ellis Projects
February 1-28, 2013

The “I Will Find” project statement is here.

The “I Will Find” artwork is:

  • with title/size/medium/source text here.
  • or in side-by-side gallery view here.

My main artist website is www.maritzaruizkim.com. There is a tab there for my regular blog, or the direct link to the blog is www.marzkim.com.

-mrk

The Day & The Night

There are two sides to this art practice. There is the Day- the open place where my work is shown, seen, where I know what I’ve done, where I see it’s place in the world whether I like it or not. There is the Night, where I work in isolation, where things are unclear & unfinished, where there’s danger and risk.

I’ve been working in both the actual day & night. Sometimes I start right after the morning routine. I go online, following a trail of conversations & curiosities. The sun hits the curtains. I’ve noticed a slight shift in the light patterns as the month has gone on. Sometimes I start later, and I still finish the work reasonably within the day. Other times, I’ve started later and worked later, or started & stopped throughout the day, only to finish near midnight. I keep the studio windows open. The cold air drifts in. I zip up in bundled layers to stay warm. The electric light is insufficient. At night, I work a little from memory of what the colors are in the daytime. Sometimes I just put the work down, I walk away. The next day is when I’ll photograph & post, the next day is when I’ll do that last tiny fix. My weariness shows.

The Night. It’s the loneliness of just me & the work. I face what I’m making; I scratch at that surface and wrestle with it. I only half know what I’m doing and the image doesn’t always respond. Even when there is the most possible clarity, there are still shadows. I move intuitively, adding & taking away from the surface of the idea, the panel, the sculpture. So much happens at Night. There is no audience. I quiet the dictatorial voices. This place of lonely studio work is the place I need to be, the only place I can hear the voice that matters. The ghosts come out & retreat. Emptiness. Hunger rises. Working in the Night.

The Daytime. I can’t go into the Day without the Night. I don’t go out empty-handed. And once I go out, I have to let go. I want to see what happens to the work in the light of day. I present it (as-is) and it settles into its own weighted spot. Each piece has its own life. The online world has been a matrix for seeing its place in the world. Posting work has been a daily venture of pushing it (ready or not ready) into the daylight. I see how it lives as it’s posted. I observe the space it occupies, how the work behaves. Does it have a voice? And if there is silence, what do I do? It’s something to question, it’s part of the life of the work to see how & where it comfortably or uncomfortably lands. I make notes and I develop my understanding of what it’s doing. I see things. Then, I return to the Night.

I go back to the making and isolation of working. I remember how the work is living out in the world, and I refine what I’m listening for and saying. A crisp line of understanding comes from examining contradictions, either resolving them or letting them purposefully remain. I make peace with what I’ve done. I try to rest.

Daily risk, daily failure, daily up, daily down, Day, Night, Day.

Just a few more to go.

-mrk

The “I Will Find” project statement is here.

The “I Will Find” artwork is:

  • with title/size/medium/source text here.
  • or in side-by-side gallery view here.

The Source Text: Week Three

2/15: “I hope so.”
2/16: “Everything takes time.”
2/17: “Oh, so sorry to hear that.”
2/18: “I needed that so badly.”
2/19: “I feel the exact same way.”
2/20: “Let this be your healing.”
2/21:  “What were you thinking the focus should be on?”

Breathe. Here’s a run down of the third week of source text.

Twice, I focused on places where people navigated controversial political themes. One was an article discussing liberal vs. conservative ideology, and someone expressed a weak optimism that the opposition could have clear & intelligent thinking. Since I am a member of that opposition, it was a tricky sentiment to digest. The second was regarding mental illness & gun ownership. I scrolled through over 7000 comments of arguing. I finally found one woman who showed kindness & concern towards the people she interacted with. I didn’t find the right couple words to use from her in that particular comment, so I continued to scroll, looking for her interactions specifically. This has worked before: find the person who delivers the kindness, and you will find a trail of it… . Not this time though. I saw the breakdown in her exchanges, from kind to broken, angry. Her kindness really didn’t last very long. By the end, she sounded like everyone else. And the pattern, no matter the viewpoint, was the same: Your grammar! Your spelling! Have you learned critical thinking! Go back to school! Check your facts! Stop picking this apart! You didn’t answer my question! I’m an expert! If you were an expert, then! When I finally found the source text I’d use, I was almost too tired to recognize it. But there it was. And I snapped my tablet shut. Finally.

The rest of the days, I found people looking for and receiving support over painful topics: suicide, murder, depression. The online community is where they found the support they needed. One mother took to Facebook to find help for her isolated & bullied young son. Tell him he matters! Words of concern & understanding came in minute by minute, from around the country & world. An anonymous blogger writes posts about her daily goings on, and she finds connection with people who respond online on her dark days. I also found a simple exchange between Twitter friends, ones I don’t personally “know.” A little- how’ve you been, I haven’t heard from you in a while, an update with family matters, and a response.

I have found the easy places to find the voice of kindness. It’s among friends, when one voices a need and others respond, when there’s a time of crisis and people pull together resources. We gather to hold up the community we’re a part of. The places where people venture out to cross paths with opposing voices: the question is, why are they venturing out? If it’s for understanding, it will show. If it’s for grandstanding or hostility, it’s obvious and fruitless. It’s not easy to find kindness where people only gather to shout- it’s rare that a listening person even goes to those spots, so finding the kind voice takes endurance. I had wondered if it makes a difference when that voice makes an appearance in the angry places. So far, it doesn’t seem like shouting people take the time to notice.

The rhythm of looking for text & responding with artwork has gotten easier in some ways: I look look look, then find, next I make make make, then finish. I have familiar colors, shapes. I have a familiar relationship with the words and the sense of timing. Still, after being in this process for this long, I feel every day like I’m getting on the same carousel, and I’m compelled to have a different ride every time. I push myself to keep looking into the work & take it further. That’s another place the weariness has really settled in: the commitment to take it farther. Where at first I was admitting my exhaustion (over the search, the making), now I’m maybe too tired to see or talk about how tired I am. I have four more days to go.

I’ve completed days 22, 23, and 24. I’ll discuss those texts (through day 28) in “The Source Text: Week Four.”  

I’ll continue posting a picture of the work the day after it’s made (that’s been my usual habit, due to the lighting I use for photographing the work). I will post the remaining blog posts (the fourth week of source text, more notes on process, etc) by early next week. This Friday (March 1st), I’m having the work professionally photographed, and I will update with those images. I hope to get a great install shot of all the work as well. I’m really looking forward to that.

-mrk

The “I Will Find” project statement is here.

The “I Will Find” artwork is:

  • with title/size/medium/source text here.
  • or in side-by-side gallery view here.

The Source Text: Week Two

2/8: “You seem to be angry, why so?”
2/9: “its ok weve all been there” (sic)
2/10: “Nailed it.”
2/11: “Rest well”
2/12: “I WILL BE THERE”
2/13: “I hope it continues to increase.”
2/14: “You are both truly angels”

Week Two brought exhaustion, daily exhaustion. Life exhaustion. Going to keep this thing going no matter what exhaustion. Descending into hostile places exhaustion, the kind where I lose oxygen, where things become confusing, where I forget where I am. I pushed myself into unfamiliar places, and I stayed long enough to know I never want to go back. Some days I retreated to the local places, ones populated by the familiar supportive voices I knew I could trust. The foreign places: an anxiety board (I got kicked off- ouch!), a weapons chat room, and a white supremacist support forum. The local places for respite in my own social media feed: get well comments to a friend from a friend, a thumbs up on someone’s work, the comments on the posting for the funeral of a friend (last week), and the acknowledgement of two incredible people I’ve “known” online over the years.

Is it kindness? It’s the question I ask myself as I search. I usually don’t use the first kind interaction I see, so I do come across kind words among the noise as I go. I’m looking for the personal and succinct thought that captures an expression of kindness, for what I can respond to with artwork. I’m listening for maybe something I’d say, or maybe something I need to hear. Finding what I need is the favor I’m doing myself as I go through the 28 days of this project. Life really didn’t stop for me during these days, and I’m not stopping either. One of the hardest things to do has been visiting the most hostile communities, where they gather with the intention of shutting others out. And I did find kindness there (if you can call it that.) Completely anonymous people were discussing their cache of weapons, and one person took time to be concerned for another’s state of mind. And I also saw the genuine & repeated concern between one white supremacist and another regarding deteriorating health, diet, and “how did your day go today? I’m thinking of you.” Heartbreak. That these places could be so very dark in one regard, and yet so warm in another. So mixed up, so upside-down. I recognized the care & concern in the voices, the sound of people who connected over social media, who over time became concerned about one another’s wellbeing. I really did momentarily forget where I was, the kind of forum that brought the people together. The darkness. And I was disoriented. Is it kindness, when it’s between people like this?

I can’t visit those places every day. I pictured myself diving into the farthest reaches of the internet by now, every single day. I just don’t have the stamina. I do find my home base in social media with people I know and “know.” I pictured myself intensely researching, finding, in places I never knew existed. I still hope to go there. I’ve realized I need internal & external strength to do this daily. And just the bit I’m doing, along with the retreats into the places I know, this is all I have in me right now.

As of today, I’ve also completed days 15, 16, 17, and 18. I’ll discuss those texts (and 19, 20, 21) in “The Source Text: Week Three.”

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
– Emily Dickinson

-mrk

The “I Will Find” project statement is here.

The “I Will Find” artwork is:

  • with title/size/medium/source text here.
  • or in side-by-side gallery view here.

The Starting & The Finishing

Every day, I start all over again. I don’t have the text to work with, and I don’t have a clear picture of what I’ll be making. I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours looking for the source text I will use. The words must have a story, and they have to be taken in whole. I adopt the words and make them my own. The very moment I choose the words, I don’t look back. I don’t have the time. I begin to think about what I will make. I know I have to finish by midnight.

I go into the studio. I repeat the words over & over to myself. I write them down. With over a week of images to look back on, I refer to the entire set frequently. I re-read those source texts, I re-read the titles. I look into the pieces. What are they saying? I find connections between each of them. I ask myself- why is that there, or this here? I see repeated components in the visual work, and I turn the ideas over in my head, lining them up against the selected source text for the day, seeing what locks in. Which of these visual elements is relevant to these words? I remind myself of the original context of the words. Who said them, and to whom? I’m looking for clarity in an image, one that says “Go, now!!!” so I can push (shove) myself in that direction, so I can make that piece I’m starting to see in my head.  I start mostly from scratch, but a few times I’ve re-worked discarded panels after covering them in a layer of paint.  I start working.

The questioning, the answering, the listening– I have to continue these even as I work a piece. I have to look for the essential components of the words, and I have to make the image. I have to keep the image in line with the words. I have to keep moving. Moving in the right direction. If the conversation with the piece shows me that I have gone off course, I have to be willing to say: No. Back track. Start over. Now. Regardless of how far along I am, I have to know when to retreat, to change direction. I can’t come back tomorrow. Whatever happens with the words must happen today. What were the words again? Am I listening? 

Then there’s the finishing. I can see it coming. Sometimes the finish is just at the horizon, and it’s that tricky hazy mirage thing that eludes me. Other times it’s like I’m working, then I look up, and there it is. Whether it comes up slowly or suddenly, the act of finishing is like walking at a steady pace, straight off a cliff, closing my eyes & saying Done!— every night. I have to forcibly quiet the fear. I let go. It is what it is. I catch my breath. Tomorrow, begin again.

-mrk

The “I Will Find” project statement is here.

The “I Will Find” artwork is:

  • with title/size/medium/source text here
  • or in side-by-side gallery view here.

The Images & The Words

These are the images that keep circling back. Although I find new source text every day, there are images & lines that have been with me for a while, and they seem to have found their match in these words. Stones. Dark corners. Empty movement. Captured, covered & carved spaces. I can feel the weight of the stones in the palm of my hand, the pit of my stomach, and the heart of my heart. Things rest in corners, or hide in them. Some things never land, just move round and round. There is weight, there is movement, there are flares, then there’s absence.

These are the images that hold the words of what I’ve found online. I’ve chosen fleeting words, origins unknown, connections made over the internet: useful, meaningful, temporary, now gone. I’ve lifted out the words that have life & a story of their own, even if they tell only half. I’ve found the sarcastic but genuine expression of sadness. The offer of help that was turned down. A patient moment in a heated debate. A brief connection over grief, one that won’t be made again. An assurance that everything would be fine from one anonymous person to another. Most of these exchanges were between people who don’t know each other in real life, or who aren’t even in fixed online communities. The good nature of these comments really did stand out among the volume of one-sided conversations and platitudes. Still, even in the best of exchanges, here I am looking at the space that’s missing between one person and another.

Nineteen days to go (incl. today) of sourcing text from online exchanges. Nineteen days more of finishing new work every day based on those found words. Nine artworks posted, nineteen to go.

-mrk

The “I Will Find” project statement is here.

The “I Will Find” artwork is:

  • with title/size/medium/source text here
  • or in side-by-side gallery view here.

 

The Source Text: Week One

2/1: “I don’t think you read my comment, or you are responding to someone else.”
2/2: “My tiny blackened heart breaks.”
2/3: “Ha! Good point.”
2/4: “Do you need my help?”
2/5: “Yeah I understand, some has faded for me, but a lot is still there”
2/6: “First off, everything is going to be fine.”
2/7: “Good luck with this.”

Each morning since February 1st, I’ve combed through a broad sampling of online commentary looking for kindness. I’ve done a lot of reading. People have a lot of things to say, and they go to great lengths to find the places to say them. I recently read an article about a German study that referred to Facebook envy, and it said one in three people feel worse after visiting the site. And then I read the comment section. (The original post on Reuters has closed its comments, so I’ve linked to Huffington Post.) If you scroll through, you’ll find people spending time composing & posting comments to an article, so that they can ridicule people who compose & post updates on Facebook.

When I scrolled through my personal social media newsfeeds, I’d see people interacting supportively with people they knew. However, with the adage that it’s easy to be kind to people who are kind to you, I turned my attention to finding kindness in the controversial conversations & political picture memes that populate my online experience. In social media, I tried to dig up the semi-anonymous interactions of real-name people who don’t know each other. In newsgroup comment sections, anonymity was the norm. Each was mixed with lists of singular opinions, churning words, and soapboxes. Talking to no one, talking to everyone. Anonymous dialogue started with one post would burst into back & forth fact throwing. Serial commenters, trolls, and lengthy windbags were interspersed with innocuous notemakers. The one-to-one connection was rare. These weren’t discussions after all. How did people interact with people they disagreed with? When they finally interacted, kindness was hard to find. Would there be a place for understanding in forums where people felt compelled to hold their ground? While kindness does not equal conceding a point, kindness is a necessary part of the dialogue between two distinct positions. The easiest interactions to find where those that pushed individuals further into their own original tribe of thinking. I asked myself: what does kindness look like anyway? The virtues of kindness seem to be the quietest of them all. It’s the thing that calmly places one person next to another, soothing jagged edges and connecting disparate voices. I wondered if I would recognize it when I saw it. Would kindness be simple or would it be a grand gesture? Sometimes kindness ended up being the act of looking outside oneself, and it was a demonstration that one was listening, that the other was heard. I started to look for the small sentence that said one person really paused & saw another individual. Each time I found kindness, it was a small gem of relief from the discord of so many loud voices.

-mrk

The “I Will Find” project statement is here.

The “I Will Find” artwork is:

  • with title/size/medium/source text here
  • or in side-by-side gallery view here.

 

 

Still looking

Day 1

I’m hopscotching my way through articles & comments this morning, starting at the Opinion page on the online New York Times, through to websites that are mentioned, then from there to linked articles… . At the end of the line, it’s people shouting into the wind: either they’re declaring how much their viewpoints are bolstered by the story, or they’ve come to argue. There isn’t any real discussion, mostly pointing fingers (“you idiot!”) about facts they dispute. So far, no one is there to learn anything from anyone else. But they have a lot to say. The biggest thing worth noting is that in just this one article I’m reading, there are almost 1500 comments since it originally published 24 hours ago.

I’ll complete a piece by midnight tonight, and post a photo of it tomorrow morning, February 2.

These are the blank slates

IMG_2083_a

This Line of Questioning
9.5″ x 11″
encaustic & oil on panels placed into a boxed painted panel.

At the beginning of this project, all I see is blank slates.

Where I will find what I’m looking for, what I will have to look through before I find it… I have ideas of these but I won’t know until the day I start, February 1st. I’ve made a couple trial attempts. I’ve searched locally (my own social media sites) and I’ve searched far (the places I’d never look if it wasn’t for this project: chat rooms in the dark corners of the internet.) For This Line of Questioning I scrolled through days’ worth of comments on a very active YouTube video. People gathered there to argue, name call, yell their ideas to no one in particular. I finally found three small comments from one user, one after another. I’d searched back through hundreds of comments before I found the only ones that calmly stated little things that tried to bridge the gap between opposing points of view. “This line of questioning easily works for you too. All you need is to switch seats with the person you are asking. :)” Something generous from someone anonymous. From here to there, one person to others, searching for understanding. It was the perfect place to rest myself before launching into 28 days of daily searching, finding, and responding with artwork.

Two blank slates with layers of buried color. One floating, one boxed in. Letters pressed into permanence from transitory comments that scroll away and almost disappear.

This search is the line of questioning that I’m making.