Archive | 2015

Call For Submissions: The biographies of things!

geraldine

This sweater was knit for me by my paternal grandmother, Geraldine. I call her Nana. She is 90 years old, 4’7” inches tall, and she wears a strawberry red wig on special occasions. Her hands are riddled with arthritis and her vision is fading, yet she didn’t drop a single stitch while constructing this garment. She knits while she watches football and baseball and pauses every once in a while to shout at the screen. She’s a Pats and a Sox fan of course. The sweater is made from muted green acrylic yarn. Both the front and back are cabled. It still smells like her rose perfume. When I put the sweater on it looks like I forgot to take the hanger out because the shoulders come to a point. This must have something to do with the way she seamed it, and maybe something to do with the fact that my shoulders are narrow. And so, I don’t wear it. I have written about my effort to purge (donate or sell) the things I don’t use. The thought of squirreling my belongings away and having them fall into “dormancy” makes me feel sad and a little anxious. Ideally, I want to adore the things I keep and use them for their intended purpose. In most cases, I’m ruthless about donating garments I know I won’t wear because I would rather these items recirculate so that someone else who might love them better can find them. And I can imagine that there is someone out there with broad and pointy shoulders who would look fantastic in this moss green cardigan. But my Nana knit it for me. And she didn’t drop a single stitch. So I keep it.

The finish line of my studies is in sight. For my thesis, I have been exploring issues of object attachment as they relate to the ways we consume and discard. It seems that at every turn, we are met with proof of the impermanence of things. Seasons change, landscapes shift, artifacts materialize and decay, and vibrant life grows, withers, then eventually expires. Psychologists, sociologists, cognitive scientists, theologians, and philosophers have long studied the ways in which our perception of this constant flux governs our behavior for better or worse. Because of the nature of the impermanent world around us, we form emotional attachments to people, places, and things. In many ways, attachment demonstrates one’s ability to recognize the preciousness, uniqueness, or thisness of entities. The bonds we form render us better caregivers and stewards of our surroundings and influence how we place value. We celebrate birth, admire growth, and commemorate transitions. But our attachments may also lead us to fear loss and death. Cases can be made for positioning oneself at either end of a spectrum of emotional attachment. Most of us experience tides of attachment and detachment throughout the course of our lives. Equipped with the ability to feel both in the face of impermanence, we can navigate complex human experiences. If we can examine the ways in which we form attachments, we may better understand how to use objects to remind ourselves of what is most meaningful and highlight the exquisitely beautiful and painful instances of life.

This is a call for submissions. I am collecting the stories of stuff. Please email me a description of any item you might feel inspired to write about. Describe one possession you feel attached to. It may be something you use everyday, or it may be void of utilitarian or aesthetic value to you, yet something prevents you from letting it go. It could be an item reminds you of a loved one or a love lost. Or maybe the initial cost of acquiring the item was too great to part with it. Perhaps it’s something you save ‘just in case’ you find a need for it in the future. Tell me the biography of this object you keep and describe your relationship to it. I will share your stories on this blog. I am curious to see what discoveries might come of lining these objects of attachment up next to each other.

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Red Hook Trading Post

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Today I’m hosting an event in my hood with my dear friend Natalie at her creative workspace, Supersmith. If you live in NYC and you’re looking for an excuse to visit Red Hook this evening, come join us. Bring underused items of value such as books, apparel, kitchen stuffs, art/office supplies, holiday gifts that missed the mark, and more to swap for new-to-you items. Or just bring yourself! We’ll have a fire burning, snacks and libations, a sweet dog named Bones, and an 9-week-old kitten named Julio at the Trading Post.

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Experience gift cards

ExperienceGiftCardsOpera

Happy 2015! I have never put a lot of stock in making New Years’ resolutions. This is partly because I would like to believe that I’m capable of finding the resolve to make changes in my life—however large or small, on ordinary days throughout the year. Also, momentous occasions can be weighted by a kind of pressure that for better or worse, I tend to shy away from. But this year I have a few personal goals that I’m moving toward. One is to follow through on the gift “proposals” I made this year. In place of object presents, I gave “experience gift cards” to my loved ones. I made them from recycled, compostable rag paper, give to me by my friend Pam while I was visiting her Shotwell Paper Mill. On the front of each card I drew an image that corresponds with the activity described inside the card. In my remaining time at Parsons, I want to take advantage of the discounted student tickets available at institutions across New York City. These ticket deals often come in pairs, so I realized that this was something I could offer to my friends and family this holiday season and beyond. While coming up with experiences, I chose some individualized adventures and other “wildcard” activities that be enjoyed by anyone in my family.

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Experience gifts are my favorite kind to give. Selfishly, I love sharing in the activities. In the context of this blog, I have come to really prefer this kind of expression of love, which aims at making memories rather than waste. Because nostalgia is a mechanism that operates strongly in me, the experience gifts I’ve given and received are throughout my life are the most meaningful and memorable. Certainly, objects can be imbued with nostalgia too… but more on that in an upcoming post.

ExperienceGistCards

I was curious to see what would happen if I let everyone draw from the pile, so in a Christmas day experiment, I laid the cards on the dining room table and asked each member of my family to choose the images they were most drawn to. The specifically curated activities were each picked by the person they were intended for. I smiled ear-to-ear watching that unfold.  Then the wildcards were selected and all the holiday date gifts were set.

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ExperienceCardMom

This first date I made good on was with my mom. I took her to the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln center to see La Traviata. The student discount is significant so check it out if you’re eligible. The show was beautiful. Growing up, my mother filled our home and our station wagon with the music of her favorite composers, bands, and folk singers. Like sponges, my brother, sister, and I learned the lyrics and melodies of everything she played for us. We’d sing along, dance around the living room, and perform impromptu concerts for her (many of them recorded on our video camera). To this day, when I’m sad, my mom will tell me to put on some music. Now, whenever I wonder what to give my mom, the resounding answer is to give back music.

I will post the rest of the experiences as they are shared. Here’s to many wonderful adventures in 2015.

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