Recently, due to events too complicated to go into here, my son has been relegated to a sans internet, sans texting, and sans phone call lifestyle. At 18 years old, he is at a complete loss.
“How will I look up words in the thesaurus?” “Use the book.” “I don’t know how.”
This is the same son who explained passing notes in class like this: “It’s like texting Mom, except you write on paper.”
Getting him off screens has been a blessing for our connection. He is somehow more accessible, more available to meet my eyes. The energy flow is much different.
I’m the kind of girl that prefers stoves to microwaves, books to kindles, letters to emails, pencils to keyboards, and even (theoretically) typewriters to computers. I prefer mechanical clocks to binary clocks. I keep a journal. I have records and I think that hand-made gifts are the best.
I think the thing I love the most about artwork is when I can sense and see that it was hand-crafted. I remember standing in front of a Frida Kahlo painting at a special exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum in the late 90s. They have some of her pieces in their permanent collection, and I saw them this weekend. I could very clearly imagine and see Frida painting it, her body placed exactly where mine was. I followed her tiny brush strokes and had a kind of psychic thrill and celebrity connection with her. In general, I always know when someone else’s hands touched the piece before my eyes witnessed it, or my curator-hands touched it. I know that someone with soul interpreted their vision into an art piece. And it’s imperfect. It has room and space for hidden meanings, for interpretation, pockets for dreams to hide in. The best pieces of artwork, in my opinion, are like humans walking through a field. The seeds, pods, and brambles get caught on the piece as if it were a cotton pant leg, inviting them to journey along. The artwork becomes a carrier for grains of experience and emotion to fall in new places.
I’m sure we have all heard this kind of art or experience referred to as “analog”. But when looking up the word, it is mostly defined as “something having analogy (or features, similarities of two things, on which a comparison may be based) with something else.” I think this means that “analogue” artwork is closest to the human experience; it is flawed, mysterious and imperfectly perfect just like humans. The process isn’t controllable and sometimes wonderful, unexpected things are carried through the human process of creation.
Pinhole photography seems to be the most analog of photography. You work with a simple box and a mechanical shutter–you have to develop the film. Focusing, adjusting, manipulating are not parts of the process. There is much room for error, for imperfections. Nancy Spencer understands this. She writes, in the Pinhole Photography exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of History in Santa Fe, “Pinhole photography is the closest medium I know to record both “things seen” and “things unseen.” Sometimes the “things unseen” are intuitively known. The knowledge that “things seen” and “things unseen” might be recorded on film maintains my interest in this type of image making.” (1985)
Analog leaves room for the “unseen.” It is not Pure Science with a direct hypothesis; it is not black and white. There is room for interpretation, for the holistic zeitgeist of the experience, for touch and intuition to shine forth. I like this world. It makes my feel like I am surrounded by things that are analogous to me and my imperfect human experience. It seems that the effort of a handwritten poem will carry the reader past the ambiguity of words or turns of phrase. In the case of my son, I feel like I know him a little bit better, as he communicates with his eyes, gestures and words. All of this simple technology leaves more room for the human touch.
Because we understand the analogy of each others human creation process, we can go deeper. Analog picks up these magic pebbles and seedpods and carries our stories further.