| 8 Apr 2008 @ 16:40, by David Bartholomew|
[excerpted from DoingIt!, September, 2005]
As I was working this morning on a freelance article for another magazine I really found myself loving what I get to do in this life. I get to visit, talk to people, see them in their environments, hear their stories, and be a professional buttinski!
As a writer, photographer, maker of documentaries, scribe of many past lives, etc.-- all of which boil down in my mind as coming from the same perspective of observer, appreciator and librarian of sorts-- I get to not only record the peak moments of my own and those of others … but I really get to get in there and dissect and experience them in microscopic detail.
Like the angels in the Wim Wenders film “Wings of Desire”-- who note moments of life in their journals… moments of sadness, doubt, joy, peace… all of human experience as relayed through the running monologues of the earthbound --I have somehow always been fascinated with it all; the highs and lows, and especially, what facilitates lows into highs, less light into more light. Like those angels I, too, feel pangs of something missing when the scales are out of balance between too heavy on my observing and too light on my participating (without ruining the film-- which also got remade by Hollywood, in color, in English, as “City of Angels” with Nicholas Cage-- one of the angels decides to “fall from grace”, with the mindset that feeling anything-- pain included if need be-- is better than not feeling at all).
Beyond the normal experience of picking snippets out of life and savoring them, I really get to get in there, and see and hear things that might have otherwise escaped me, repetition after repetition after repetition.
This morning I have been transcribing an interview with a well-known L.A. graffiti artist and muralist named Nuke. Nuke honored me by sharing two-and-a-half-hours of his time, and many intimate stories of his life. He had me in his home and workspace. He, like all of my interviewees, entrusted me with his insights; and in listening I had a number of preconceived notions broken wide open… truly.
The transcription process, like the editing process in video, or the retouching/manipulation end of photography (digital or traditional), has me replaying bits over and over, and sensing them basically, microscopically. Here I am hearing parts of sentences over and over as I play, transcribe, rewind to catch missed phrases, and move back and forth, back and forth through these stories.
You end up tuning up your senses and zooming in on pauses, inflections… really beginning to hear beyond the words to the deeper levels behind apparent communication, the emotions underlying these words, the effects these instances in his life had upon him back in the day, bringing to the table the man I was visiting just two days ago.
Playing, playing these tapes over and over-- on any given project-- I get a sense that I am experiencing an aspect of this person that no one has known, perhaps not even himself. My duty in this work then becomes-- to be able to relate this back to the person, and to all who might read the finished article, view the pictures, what have you. This is the sacred nature of documenting people and their stories. This is the space I feel formulating around me as I dive into the middle phase of this particular assignment.
This process, while often laborious--necessitating the writer/editor to play the same sections over and over ad nauseum-- yields ongoing levels of exhilaration as that piece you “couldn’t bear to look at one more time” pushes through to some hearing/seeing/understanding beyond which you might have otherwise achieved. Kind of like those driving directions you get out in the country—“Go until you think you’ve gone too far, and it’s about ten minutes further.”
In video editing and the digital manipulation or printing process of still photography you zoom in on pores. You see flecks and sparkles in the eye perhaps not otherwise apparent. Shuttling back and forth, shaving frames off of video or film, you magnify the breath, the pauses between words that color their meanings perhaps beyond intent. As you shuttle you even hear words backwards (no, I have never heard a Satanic message masked behind the words of a subject… yet). If you are willing to remove yourself from the equation, you can move beyond the non-verbal into almost extra-sensory, intuitive, energetic communication and understanding between two people… with all of this pointing to abilities that might be honed, or might develop by way of evolution for all of us over time.
It’s a heady process. I found myself taking breaks this morning—not because my eyes were tired or I was afraid of burnout; rather because at various junctures I achieved a realization about this person: how and where a particular situation shifted who he was at his core, how a light got switched on. I now see that such breaks were necessary for me to assimilate what such transformations contributed to in this wise, relatively young man. These moments of understanding each other, I believe, are the gold we receive from each other.
Working in this way conveys to me yet another possibility of how we may come to communicate with and experience each other, with practice. I find this thrilling and something worthy to strive for. I find that this eye-opening process equals a heart-opening process.
As I come more and more to understand the artist’s perspective—from those I have spoken to, and little by little on my own—I believe this is what all art is about: to witness and experience and process any given thing up to the point you have seen it, heard it, sensed it, and come to know it intimately. Beyond the naming of it. Beyond what someone else told you it was. Beyond what you thought you knew about it. Under this definition any conscious act, undertaken with the goal of experiencing completely… becomes art. That is-- life lived in such a way can be an artful (successfully lived) life.
You are DoingIt! as you step into the role of the artist, creating the piece of art that is you!