Yesterday I went to the National Gallery of Victoria to see their current special exhibition, Escher X nendo | Between Two Worlds, before it closes next week. First off, if you live in Melbourne and you have the time between now and 7 April, please do try to give it a visit. The fantastic show creates a dialogue between the work of Dutch artist M.C. Escher, most known for his fantastical optical illusion creations, and Japanese design house nendo, who drew inspiration from Escher’s art to create a series of interactive displays and installations that guide you through the exhibition and into a dreamy, yet high-contrast world of black and white geometry.
I brought my camera intending to take a few photos of works in the exhibition, but instead I found myself captivated by other people’s photos. Everywhere I looked, folks had their phones out, cameras on, capturing their own photos of the lithographs, prints, and installations. I was fascinated to get this glimpse into everyone else’s experiences of the show. It’s so rare that we get to see through someone else’s eyes in real time, our windows into their perspective coloured after the fact by the pictures they choose to share, the filters they use.
As I walked through the exhibit, I spent as much time looking at the other visitors as I did looking at the works of art. I loved seeing which pieces they connected with, which ones they wanted to remember. I liked seeing the way they chose to document the art they saw: did they faithfully capture the full work or try to put their own artistic spin on their photo by cropping a detail or including a companion? Did they photograph the information card as well, or were they content to divorce the image from its title and history?
With apologies to the people through whose viewfinders I creepily photographed, seeing the exhibit through multiple points of view added a new layer to my understanding and enjoyment of the art. Escher’s work is all about reflections and twisted perspectives, and looking at the photos that others took brought that fascinatingly distorted outlook to my own experience of the exhibit. I definitely recommend seeing Escher x nendo | Between Two Worlds at the NGV if you can, but whether you go to this exhibit or any art show in the future, look around at the other visitors and see what they see for a moment or two.
If you’ve got a creative bone in your body, you know how hard it is to make a living from your craft. And if you don’t know, someone will tell you. Unsolicited and often. Most of us will only ever write our novels, take our photos, play our instruments for fun, and we accept that our passion will probably have to be an evening pursuit after our time spent at the workplace. But for some, making a living from doing the creative work they love isn’t just a pipe dream.
There’s a certain feeling of pride and jealousy combined that comes up every time I read about a friend’s book deal or see their byline on one of my favourite websites. It’s amazing to see people achieving their dreams, especially if they can actually pay the bills with it. While I’ve been lucky enough (or, sometimes I think, unlucky enough) to incorporate my love of writing into my work, it’s definitely not easy or lucrative.
The more I learn about history, the more I learn how much I thought I knew was wrong. I’m lucky in that I’ve had a number of history teachers throughout my education who taught us about more than the America-rah-rah, white-upper-class-Christian-European-male-centric stories, but even so I’ve come to learn that there are so many stories I was never told, and so many stories that were so much more interesting and in-depth than I ever knew. So many of these stories are about women, either women whose accomplishments have been undeservedly forgotten in history, or women who are remembered in a too-superficial way, not celebrating the complexity of their lives and achievements. Here, for International Women’s Day, are five women you probably learned about in history class, but not the way you should have.
I remember reading The Miracle Worker in middle school. The story of how Anne Sullivan helped Helen Keller learn to communicate is one of the most inspiring tales of perseverance and triumph I can think of. But that’s pretty much where things ended; we got a brief summary of Keller’s work as an adult, but as far as our education was concerned, she was forever a little girl learning to spell out words on her teacher’s palm .
But if Helen Keller’s childhood is an incredible story of determination, her adulthood is even moreso. Of course, she was a staunch advocate for people with disabilities (a cause that still often goes unrecognized in feminism today), but she was also a feminist, a pacifist, an anti-racist activist, and a socialist. Her writings on workers’ rights and equality are as powerful as her ability to overcome her physical obstacles, and tend to be overlooked in favour of telling her “miracle” story.
When I was younger, there were a couple of career goals I had to give up pretty early in the game. My first dream of being Thomas the Tank Engine when I grew up was hardly practical. Becoming an architect was a more serious aspiration before I realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in such a mathematical occupation. Then it, too, fell by the wayside along with critic, teacher, and eventually journalist. All of these jobs occasionally show up in my life as hobbies (with the exception of talking cartoon train). And all of them are pretty normal answers to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (again, with the exception of Thomas). But there is another job I’ve always dreamed about, and though I’m fine with the fact that it’s a career goal I’ll probably never realise, it’s something I’ve always kept in the back of my mind as something rare about me, something most people don’t aspire to do.
This past weekend, while half of the students in my program were in Granada (I’m going this upcoming weekend!), and my roommate was in Paris, I took off on my own for the north: to Bilbao and San Sebastián. After deciding that Vueling is definitely my favourite low-cost airline (they let you have a carry-on and a purse! Anyone who has ever flown Ryanair knows what a big deal this is), I took a bus to San Sebastián and I immediately fell in love with the city! The walk from the bus station to the hostel was along a river and crossed a bridge just before it reached the ocean. The hostel I stayed in, Olga’s Place (highly recommended!) was just a block from the ocean. After I checked in, I decided to take a walk along the beach. La Playa de la Concha stretches in a curve around the edge of the city. Even though it was foggy and not particularly warm (a nice change from the heat in Sevilla, I must admit), that didn’t stop people from going to the beach. I saw so many people walking, playing with their dogs, even kayaking and surfing in the (freezing) water.
Last week, for our third required visit during the intensive period (the first three weeks of classes), we went to the city of Itálica, a Roman ruin from the third century, B.C. It was the birthplace of the emperor Trajan, and it has the remains of public buildings, residences, and a 25,000-seat ampitheatre. I visited Rome last year during spring break, so I’ve seen Roman ruins before, but these were still quite interesting.
(click to enlarge photos or check some photos out on tumblr)