Saturday, March 26, 2011

photo show

Recently, some Northern Studies friends here at the University in Yakutsk put together a little photo show at a gallery here in town, in order to promote their department and display all the lovely images collected by students while studying and exploring northern places. They invited me to include some photos of Northern Canada. I gave them a selection that I chose quite quickly, with some of Alberta and some of the Yukon, and they decided to display the following four... Interestingly, all of the chosen ones ended up not being truly 'arctic' latitude-wise, but are from the Rockies & the northern Alberta boreal forest... Nevertheless, here they are:

I am happy one of my hungry waxwings was selected...
(my neighbourhood, Edmonton, Jan. 2009)

Sunset on the Lesser Slave River, Alberta, August 2010.
Magic hour! I love the little luminous cloud in the top left.

The canonical Lake Louise view; I was surprised this one was selected because I didn't think it was the most interesting. However, I like the effect of the forest-fire smoke making the background hazy... (August 2010)

Bent sedge-grass at the edge of Lawrence Lake
(near Athabasca, Alberta. March 2009.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

paper cravings

river-breath frozen to a branch, Athabasca River, Jasper, January 2011

In the midst of doing research here, & living rather simply (as in, my collage-box is precisely 6046km away from me, & I have pretty much no access to art supplies here), I am finding pretty much all I want to do is make things. Particularly things that involve the cutting & gluing of paper to accent the theme of words on a page, i.e. poetry chapbooks.

I have been knitting madly, which fills a certain need to do things with my hands, and this is good, and I have been trying to do more photographing, but I also have all these poems that want to be on paper. Paper in books that I can give to people! I haven't made a chapbook in years (I was about to manufacture one in Fall 2009, but then I left for Scotland, again without the collage-box) & there is one all ready & waiting to be made, & I think another one is starting to come into being. I also had another idea for a little book I want to make, about all the lovely people I know who make stuff with words & pictures & cloth & yarn & sounds & such.

I also want to make prints of so many photos, & put them in wooden frames. I want to make collage posters of poems... I want to go to an art store & feel all the fancy book-papers, the ones with thready textures, & the soft-rough edges, & the filmy Nepalese lokta leaves... I want to watch ink from the fountain pen my mother gave me absorb into the fibres... & then I will glue wool and buttons and cut-up photographs everywhere amongst the words! And rejoice!

Oy, such a longing... When I get home in the summer, one of my first plans is to make and eat a grilled sandwich with avocado, smoked tofu, & spinach with hummus on the side. Then I will sit on the floor somewhere & cut & glue things until I am sated.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

habitus, part two.

me in jasper, inhabiting the snowy woods. january 2011, photo by jason.

The word 'habitus' is a lot like 'habitat', and it always makes me think of a place -- the coziest, most natural little nest-niche of a place where you feel utterly at ease, at home. However, as early anthropologists and sociologists developed the term, it came to encompass all of one's cultural practices that are part of the body, the daily practices -- the non-discursive knowledge we absorb through socialization (our family upbringing, often tempered by formal education), which is then rooted to a place, of course. It is everything from tastes and bodily positions and styles and habits and routines; basically, it is all of those things that never need explanation, and perhaps evade explanation. And so we never think of them, but we always know when they are absent, when our habitus does not align well with those of others, & we realize when our own habitus has been thrown off its centre.

This is because, according to Bourdieu, the habitus is our schema, a bare skeleton that fleshes out with all our lasting perceptions, thoughts and actions. And this is how we relate to a field, a social structure or space -- through this inhabited body, this habitus.

Since arriving here in the Sakha Republic last September, I have been observing the little changes I have adapted to life here fairly well under the circumstances, I think, but I still feel off-kilter, and decentred. Of course I miss the people I love, the people to whom I can truly reveal myself, to whom I am not--when all is said & done--the foreigner, the fieldworker, the academic (even if we get along well)... I miss certain foods, as well, everything from green vegetables to the taste of tapwater in my hometown , the usual things that travelers and expatriates miss.

But I also notice more subtle things, these aspects of the habitus that are difficult to isolate. They are all tied up in how I walk differently here, much more tensely and apprehensively. How I interact with people differently (I am less assertive but far more outgoing and enthusiastic), I miss the sort of polite friendliness you can show to passing strangers and workers in Canada, but is out of place here in Yakutsk. I miss feeling a balance of power within an interaction, of feeling like I am being asked instead of told. It tires me to have to always have to fight and repeat myself to express my needs, to untangle these nuances that no one ever explains to me--never even thinks to explain-- because to them, they are part of the habitus of this culture, this place.

It's the knowing that I will always fit out, on the deepest level, even if I fit in superficially, even if I am certainly adapting, often subconsciously, to this new habitus. How I dress, how I talk and interact (requests, questions, everything), how I walk, how I approach someone. I just miss my own habitus, because all these little things add up to a larger incongruency, & I don't feel real sometimes, just not quite like myself.

And maybe I think too much, instead of just trying to be, but thinking too much is really my job right now, & so is noticing all of these things, I suppose, because in subjectively understanding the changes in my own behaviors, I can better identify what it is that characterizes the habitus (especially as it relates to communicative practice). And maybe this is different, what makes me stand slightly apart from someone moving to another country to live, to make a life, rather than to study it in minute detail -- do they notice it quite like this, beyond the initial, more overt symptoms of culture shock? I don't know. It just makes me tired, sometimes, this creeping sense of d├ępaysement (another lovely French word that describes how things in another country, another place, never seem quite right), which I think links well the nostalgia for a place with the longing for how you feel when you are there, when you inhabit it, you dwell within it -- a sense of (in)habitus.