fourteen30

December notes: A world apart

Reality and fantasy mingle and pull apart and mingle on a Portland stage and Portland galleries

It is late afternoon on Monday, December 9, and the TriMet bus is packed when you board it. Packed largely with 14 or 15-ish teenagers, cleancut, perhaps from a private or a special school as one or two get off at every other stop for the length of the southbound bus route. The teens jabber back and forth all around you, the whole extent of your ride. Even the busdriver seems infatuated by the joyful atmosphere, telling two jokes. One you don’t catch, but the other goes something like this:

What do you call a cat that you find at the beach at Christmas?

The kids are quick, and call out a couple possibilities. When these die by the wayside, the driver milks the moment a little longer then answers.

Sandy claws.

This answer gets a general laugh and a couple groans, then a chorus of thank-you’s to the busdriver. The kids almost immediately returning to their contrapuntal, back-and-forth jabber, which streams like vapor trails above and around you.

No, I can’t access that site on my phone anymore.

The girl in the seat next to you calls to the boy seated just behind the busdriver. The boy wonders aloud at where the problem is.

My parents changed the password.

She explains.

Set your phone’s clock back to before when they changed it.

He tells her, logically.

I tried.

She says. She’s no idiot.

They blocked that.

The boy nods, pondering.

Talk to Philip. He knows how to get around this.

He advises her.

Which Philip? Philip Teemiter? . . .

And on to other jabber, flying in from some other direction.

The teen world is a world apart from that of their parents. A cozy reality providing a natural-seeming and idyllic sense of belonging.

Laura Berger, “Find Yourself Here”/Image courtesy of Stephanie Chefas Projects

Your mother’s cousin is married to a University of Minnesota professor, Ernest Bormann—a major figure in the fields of Communication Theory and the Theory of Rhetoric (see The Force of Fantasy: Restoring the American Dream). When Sigmund Freud talks about a “fantasy,” he is talking about how the psyche talks to itself. Bormann applies this idea of fantasy instead to cohesive groups of people, who construct between them an effective group-lingua which highlights values and ideas important to them. He describes this group private-language as a symbolic convergence or a fantasy. Everyone on the same wavelength, singing the same tune.

But is this self-assured sense of belonging a luxury everyone shares in?

Continues…

Flower(s) in Concrete at Fourteen30: Why we write about art

The art most difficult to describe with words and to contextualize by the intellect makes writing about art worthwhile

Recently, I’ve had conversations with writers of other disciplines who’ve questioned the point of writing about art. As an activity in an atmosphere of limited nerves and resources and an overabundance of literature, images, noise, and every reason to seek what’s “fact-based,” it’s not that hard to imagine why some might look askance at this kind of thing. Why not write about ecological ills or politics, human/animal rights, or even celebs for a little entertainment? Otherwise, why not bake some bread (a writer friend of mine likes to suggest that) or whatever.

Why we do what we do is something that ought to be pondered often, or as often as is tolerable. I keep asking myself these questions and, to some relief, I come up with an answer every time I see a show like the group show on view at Fourteen30 Contemporary, Flower(s) in Concrete. The show features works by Léonie Guyer, Wayne Smith, and Lynne Woods Turner and was co-organized by Stephanie Snyder (the director of Reed College’s Cooley Gallery), and Fourteen30’s Jeanine Jablonski.

Installation view of “Flower(s) in Concrete,
art by Léonie Guyer, Wayne Smith, and Lynne Woods Turner/Courtesy of Fourteen30 Contemporary

I write about shows like this because art often has the supreme capacity to change me —my mind, perception, but also my physical state of being. It’s often the subtlest thing —say, the rhythm or sensuousness of shapes in Turner’s work; the repetition of trim lines that evoke great music, in Smith’s; or the symbol you feel you’ve always known but have never seen, can’t place with a single word, in Guyer’s—that has this transformative power. This seems consequential here and now, when complications abound, vex, prohibit.

Continues…