Keywords from class: public, anonymity, ephemerality, boundaries, aesthetic

There’s been a lot to think about these last few weeks. It’s been exciting starting from basically zero to simply being able to write this post on this blog right now. I mean, ya I used to edit my own MySpace code - though I’m very far from the once super cool pre-teen I was in high school - and I’ve even worked with Arduino in the past. But, I still feel like an outsider in this world. And it’s still a little scary for me, to be honest. I don’t know the language, and I don’t know the community, and imposter syndrome has never been so real.

But the clock is ticking.

I’ve been thinking about what kind of project I’d like to attempt within the scope of this course, and I still don’t really know. I’m not sure what I want to say or break or work through. I have until Thursday to come up with at least the platform I want to be working on. So, in the next few days, I’m going to figure this out - - at least, for now. And I’ll do this in a way that’s comfortable to me, familiar. Like when I stay up with my sketchbook, drawing, collaging, watercolouring, embroidering – this is the same. This is about process. Trying, failing, sweating, swearing, losing everything, starting over. I know this world. And, for me, it all starts with words.

It was interesting that we kept coming back to text in our conversation and in our ideas. Maybe Dumbledore was right, words are our most inexhaustible source of magic. Words are powerful - -

“The audience reaction or æsthetic-shock produced by [Poetic Terrorism] ought to be at least as strong as the emotion of terror …” Hakim Bey

Even Bey’s own words provoked this emotion in us at times. Just words. Words are also hard. Just writing this post is taking me hours. Words make our thoughts tangible, words make our ideas known. Words make us vulnerable. Do they allow anonymity? Because even when they’re not attached to my name, I’m self-conscious when my words are made public. But of course, I know that there is power beyond words. And I’ve created magic without them. I just know that, for me, it all starts with words.

This week, I’m thinking about the above keywords from class, what they mean for me within and beyond the context of our conversation, and what they could mean for my work. As a public history student, thinking about “the public” is fundamental. Is it true that in public history, the “public” is never one person? While we always conceive of “the public” as a single entity, we understand it to be made up of multiple people. How many? - - it depends. But what happens when it’s just one person? Would I make something different if I had one person in mind, rather than “the public” of Ottawa? To be honest, I think I’m also feeling a little lost because I still don’t feel like I know Ottawa. I don’t really know where to begin, or which stories I want to tell. And that’s why I’m starting with these words. So maybe if I narrow down to one person, just one person, I can figure out what I’d like to tell them. That makes me think of ephemerality; there’s something about the one-on-one, the personal, that seems more ephemeral than creating something for “the public.” Maybe because it will remain a private experience - not necessarily anonymous - but like a secret, almost. And while it’s a story that could be passed from person to person, it would be different each time. And not necessarily anonymous, because it’s intimate, it’s about sharing, even when it’s over. There’s a certain anonymity to “the public” that you just feel as you work on or view a project. There are stakes involved when you identify who they are. I think this plays in to our concerns over these projects, as well. We keep asking: “how do we make sure people see our work? Open the file? Play our game? Care?” We want those stakes.

In the end I’m left worrying about doing those stakes justice. We don’t have a whole lot of time. While we don’t need permission, and the projects don’t have to succeed, if I want to make some connection to this city and even one person, I have a lot of work to do.

“Later they will come to realize that for a few moments they believed in something extraordinary…” Bey

I love this. But I recognize the danger in it. But I want my project to screw with time, to be deep in the imaginary. I’m not talking about “alternative facts” or fake news. Because those have nothing to do with the truth. What I’m envisioning (and right now, it’s really just a feeling and not actually a concrete idea of what this project will be - - which is why this whole post has just been a collection of abstract thoughts) has very much to do with the truth, only maybe in a roundabout way. Ghosts screw with time. How can I work with ghosts? How can I rearrange a timeline? How can I break the ticking hands of a clock - even just for one person?

Do I need words to do this, or can it be done through actions, decisions, emotions?

Written on January 25, 2018