During spring break, I made my first visit to London. While there, I went to the Gilbert & George exhibit at the Tate Modern. (I first became acquainted with their art in the early 90's when I saw one of their pieces at MOMA in New York. I even have a funny photograph in which it appears that my friend Tom is holding hands with Gilbert & George--who always include their own images in their art. The exhibit has ended but you can still experience it virtually at the Tate Modern's website.)

In one of the first rooms, one of the "sculptures" (they call their pieces sculptures and label themselves as performance artists) contains the caption: "We believe that love is the path for a better world of art in which good & bad give way for Gilbert and George to be." This idea intrigues me--it points towards the relationship of the couple Gilbert & George with the artists Gilbert & George. And it positions them as outside of attempts to evaluate what is good and bad art.
What seems to matter here is the creation. the collaboration, not any specific finished product.

I've been thinking a lot about collaboration lately.  I'm amazed that Gilbert & George could have such an intense personal and professional relationship for so many years--that, at least to the general public, they seem to have worked and grown together. I realize that what they present in their art doesn't necessarily include the fissures and challenges of their relationship, but the fact that any difficulties can be overcome to produce something so fascinating . . . well, that's remarkable.

Recently, in my own work with the Writing Project, I've been beginning (finally) to understand the joys of collaboration. Yesterday, we had our second meeting--this year, it feels like no one in particular is in charge. As a control freak, that has been a little difficult for me.  But yesterday, I had many moments in which I really loved that we were collaborating effectively.  Everyone in the leadership team contributes--we're all willing to do what needs to be done in order to create a good workshop.
What I realized yesterday is that I don't have to do it all. I'm working with smart, hard working people who will do their part. And that's what I've been experiencing for the last year.

3

Tonight, I celebrated the 40th birthday of my friend Captain Whiffle. The party was fun--lots of good conversation both with old friends and new.  One of the themes of my conversations was my new found (dare I say it) love for blogging.  Several months ago, I was seriously considering becoming a Luddite.  In particular, I hated the ways that cell phones cause impolite behavior and the seeming inability to be in touch with one's inner life. On campus I noticed how people got on their cell phones as soon as they stepped out of class.  In airports, I overheard conversations in which people had nothing more interesting to say than "I'm sitting in the airport waiting for my flight." Sometimes when I was with friends in public places, conversations on their cell phones took precedence over conversations with me or a larger group.  I swore to never get a cell phone.

So what does this have to do with blogging? Now that I've been a blogger for all of two weeks, I find myself thinking a lot about how this medium makes me feel.  I really like that I can write a short piece and feel pleased with the outcome.  I like the thought of my friends checking in on my blog to see how I'm doing and what I'm thinking about.  I like that blogging gives me time to formulate thoughts as slowly (or as quickly) as I need.  I even like the thought of connecting with people
I don't know yet through my blog. Feeling this way about blogging has made me rethink my relationship with technology.  I still don't have a cell phone, but I'm thinking of getting one--all this time, I've been overlooking the ways that a cell phone could allow me to connect with others. If blogging can be this satisfying, perhaps there are other technologies that can enrich my life.

As I type this, I imagine friends smiling--some of my friends will be smiling because of the huge shift this post represents, other friends will be smiling because they know that they've influenced my thinking.  That's okay with me--blogging helps me understand that a new post today will just be replaced by another post tomorrow or sometime in the future. What I say represents how I think now, but it doesn't represent how I'll always think. Blogging reminds me that the feeling of being alive is heightened when we learn new things.  Excitement, energy, passion--all of these things increase as we explore new worlds, new ideas, new technologies.

What are your thoughts on blogging?

2

Two years ago as the pile of final projects and finals grew, my desire to grade plummeted.  My friends Rick and Karen knew that I sometimes daydreamed about buying a new house.  One night, they told me about an open house they'd just attended and encouraged me to look at the house.  When they first suggested it, I didn't really consider looking at the house. After all, I lived in a perfectly fine home.  It had its limitations, true, but there was a lot to love about
the house. With the help of family and friends, I'd managed to transform it into a more than livable space. The mint green shag carpet was gone.  The walls were painted with colors I liked. The bathroom had new tile. I'd even grown fond of the quirky chandeliers in the breakfast nook and kitchen.  Sure, I shared a driveway with my neighbors (which I hated) and my kitchen was small. Yes, the roof worried me . . . but I loved the sago palm (that someone once tried to steal, planning
to make off carrying a 6 ft. tall plant on his bike until my neighbor busted him), the plants, the location.

Still, as my grading loomed, I started looking at the MLS listings, noticing all the other cute homes in the neighborhood.  It was a beautiful day, and the last thing I wanted to do was stay indoors with my grading.  In a moment of weakness, I called a realtor and . . . to make a long story short, I put a bid on a house.  Just like that.  I didn't end up buying that particular house, but a week later I put a bid on another house . . . the house I live in today.  I don't remember if I'd finished grading by that time . . . or if that decision, too, was influenced by grading avoidance.  All I know is that every semester when the projects come in, I think about where I live.

And to my students who are reading this . . . this semester, I'm actually too busy to avoid grading.  You shouldn't interpret this blog entry as being in any way influenced by grading avoidance. It has taken me all of 20 minutes to write this. And I'm returning to my pile of grading right now. Really.

3

Yesterday I attended my last performance for this season's subscription to the San Francisco Ballet. It was a full-length piece, Don Quixote. Although I enjoyed it, I couldn't help but reflect on some of the other, more experimental pieces we've seen this season. The first program ended with Artifact Suite, choreographed by William Forsythe. Before I go further, I should admit from the outset that I'm relatively ignorant about ballet--my friends Toni and Brynn (with whom I attend these performances) are much more knowledgeable about choreographers, movement, and dance history. In any event, before Artifact Suite, there had been some problems with the curtain falling midway down in the midst of a performance. When the curtain fell to the stage with a loud boom in the midst of Artifact Suite, we all assumed that the curtain problems continued. When this happened repeatedly and the dancers were in perfect form and a new configuration every time the curtain went up, we began to suspect that perhaps this was part of the choreography. Still, I wasn't willing to trust that idea until it was verified by an usher after the performance. And in the midst of the piece when I still thought the curtain problems were accidental, I remember thinking, "What a great idea. A choreographer should use the curtain as part of the performance." I was and still am intrigued by the element of the surprise--how an audience, even an informed one, can be suspicious of what is happening, wondering what is choreographed and what is accidental. I'm also intrigued by the idea of re-conceiving traditional elements in choreography--the set, the costumes, the music, the movements have been mainstays of ballet for decades. But the curtain has, as well. It signals the beginning and the end of a performance, it sometimes descends in mid performance to signal breaks between segments (as it did in Don Quixote yesterday)--how brilliant to use the curtain to defamiliarize the audience and move it towards a new relationship with the performance.

Even more stunning to me was the piece Eden/Eden which we saw in March. This piece, choreographed by Wayne McGregor, was a multi-media combination of music/video/audio/dance elements. It began with clips which emphasized the main idea of the piece, cloning specifically, but more broadly what it means to be alive in an increasingly technological era. When the main dancer, the amazing Muriel Maffre, appeared, her gender was obscured by a flesh colored bodysuit and cap. Her movements were jerky, uneven, awkward, communicating an alien relationship to one's body. As other dancers, dressed and moving similarly, joined her, the effect was a disjointed, fragmented world in which harmony isn't possible. Or perhaps the point was that the offspring of technology and human intellect is at present in a developmental stage, and, like toddlers, we stumble about precariously trying to learn how to move, be, and function in a new world.

One audio clip during the piece was striking "We and all other animals are machines created by our genes." That statement still reverberates with me. We not only construct selves, our bodies, too, are constructed. Machines aren't foreign/outside of human existence, they are congruent with what (who?) we are. In an insightful review, Allan Ulrich (see URL below) comments: "The mixed vocabulary doesn’t propose a solution, but it does dare to suggest that the distinction between life as we know it and life as we manufacture it grows ever slimmer."

I didn't expect to be intellectually stimulated by ballet. I expected to enjoy the beautiful movements of impeccably trained dancers. This season has taught me that ballet is much more than this. In fact, seeing Don Quixote yesterday was anti-climatic after such an intellectually challenging season. My friend Brynn is working to establish a connection between philosophy and dance theory. Thanks, Brynn, for sharing your ideas about the "Dance of the Cyborg."

Works Cited

Alan Ulrich, Review of "Eden/Eden." Accessed May 6, 2007.