starting and stopping

n. pl. theses (-sz)
1. A proposition that is maintained by argument.

2. A dissertation advancing an original point of view as a result of research, especially as a requirement for an academic degree.

3. A hypothetical proposition, especially one put forth without proof.

4. The first stage of the Hegelian dialectic process.

5. The long or accented part of a metrical foot, especially in quantitative verse.

6. The unaccented or short part of a metrical foot, especially in accentual verse.

i have begun to commit to the reality of (starting) finishing my thesis. the thesis is the final requirement for me to officially be conferred my m.f.a from columbia college of chicago. so far, even though i’ve completed course work, had an m.f.a thesis show, and walked the stage to accept an imaginary diploma (again: not conferred until thesis accepted) and an m.f.a “cowl” (the hoodie you get for advancing along the educational ladder), i am not technically a master until i write this goddamn paper.

it’s not as if i haven’t tried writing this. or that i necessarily have anything against writing it, per se.* or that the topic hasn’t transmuted from one worthy, insightful, groundbreaking topic to another. it’s just that i have yet to finish and complete. to commit to one train of thought. to ready myself for the discipline required to think about, flesh out, and write something that i’m proud of, that is relevant to things i will continue to think about, and that will hopefully dovetail into whatever i plan on doing next.

it’s this “next” that’s been holding me up.

whatever i chose to write about, i’ve wanted it to be something that could be used for whatever this nebulous “next” is for me. will it be a doctoral program focusing on art history and southeast asian studies? will i try to publish this somewhere? am i trying to break ground in a field of study-discussion-application that has not been much explored (yes)? can this be a stepping stone to there? can i still write cogently after being out of an academic enviornment for two years, after culling together a life after grad school that consists mostly of subsisting?

and so. these are questions and anxieties i’ve let hold me down and let me procrastinate further. fortunately, i do have at my disposal a fairly decent art library (at least it’s a start) at SCAD (where i currently work) and have embarked on merry photocopying of dozens of articles (to the dismay of the student staff that has to reshelve the oversized bound periodicals i’ve been manically pulling from the stacks), organizing my ranges of thought and rants, and ordering stuff via interlibrary loan. i want to write about japanese photography and eastern aesthetics in general, and use it as a springbroad for discussion about a wholly alternative method for making, valuing and thinking about images. i don’t want to put japanese photography up on a pedastel (thankfully, there’s nobuyoshi araki to keep me from doing that), or come out and say something simple minded and relativist like, “gee, the japanese sure do have a different way of doing things than us.” i do believe that the notion of making and the diligence of how to think about making while making is something that is different from a western/western european model. and i also don’t believe that consumer commodification has infilitrated the way images are made (though it is often commented upon), at least not wholly and not yet. and there have been some really radical and amazing things to come out of the photographer’s lens in the last twenty or so years. things that to my eyes are truly other, and i’d like to write about that, too. not just a tired, post-post modern discussion of “othering”, but instead a careful look at a western pre/misconception about eastern aesthetics, eastern culture, sex and gender reflect back–what? a lack? a wish-fulfillment?–i’m still thinking about that, actually. the hegelian dialectic as one definition of thesis? yeah, that too.

so anyway, while i’m reading and thinking and, hopefully, writing, i’ll be posting some of it here. but i’ll be sure to post lots of pictures so that you don’t blink out through all my pre-thesis, unmediated, photographic free-for-allness.

bought the following books today, because i remembered that reading good books is a good way to be good to yourself:

The Optical Unconscious, by Rosalind Krauss
Ghost Image, by Herve Guibert (who i first read about on consumptive’s site a long time ago)
Crisis of the Real, by Andy Grundberg (who used to be a NYT art critic)
On Being Blue, by William H. Gass

and two fiction adventure picks:

Eight Million Gods and Demons, by Hiroko Shawin (the title refers to the number of dieities in the japanese pantheon, and is about the space of time between the reign of the last emperor and the end of WWII–something i’m reading alot about now).

and Dear Mr. Kawabata, by Rashid Daif. The most adventurous adventure pick of all, this one depicts a mortally wounded lebanese soldier mentally reviewing his life while dying, and in the course of this mentally writes letters to yasunari kawabata, the japanese author–whom he remembered reading while at university.

i just finished kawabata’s the master of go, and his snow country is next. after the caravaggio book. and the million and one photocopied articles i have to read.


begin the beguine.
* oh, okay, i do get annoyed that it clearly isn’t anything that any faculty at columbia care about. there are no committee meetings, no fleshing out of written thesis ideas, no agonizing or rejection of thought. it’s just: turn something in, 40-100 pages long. no one reads it. no one cares. i know no one read my undergraduate thesis that i wrote (on margureite duras, incidentally), but at least i had to bother my committee on a semi-regular basis and had to defend it in a room full of intelligent, engaging mentors. in most m.f.a visual programs, your visual thesis is this: the thing you meet every week or every other week about. the thing you are told is wonderful one moment, crap the next. the thing you tweak and love and abandon and destroy, over and over again. and finally, you hope, the thing that reaches some sort of resolution (if for a moment) and which gets shown to people. that, to me, is the culminating moment of completing a thesis.

Leave a Reply