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March 11, 2008

Taking Note

Inspiration for this oh-so-abstract class could be taken from anything, literally. Here’s a list of things I came up with when I initially saw the blog post:
Movies, musicals, surveys, music performances, websites, fundraisers, blogs, photojournalism, books, pamphlets, skits, slideshows, public service announcements, the guy singing on the street corner, maps, experiments, fossils, poems, newspapers, magazines, television, documentaries.

I feel that, for me, some of the most influential documentations I am inspired by are books, newspapers, photojournalism, and movies. I feel like this is how the majority of mankind would respond to such a question—inspiration comes from the things we pay attention to. These are the things I pay attention to.


Newspapers have a clear impact on our world—they tell us the news, after all! Without them, I’d be stuck with straight up word-of-mouth news only (Sarah doesn’t own a TV). For my topic (sustainability), especially, there’s been a ton of debate about going green, sustainability, the lack of it, etc. Everyday, it seems that there’s a new gadget that is “green-certified,? or a celebrity getting on the environmental bandwagon, or a company claiming their positive impact on our environment. All these things, and more, come out of a newspaper. This documentation style will not only have tons of inspiration in its structure and form, but also in its content.
Everyone goes to the movies---we must like them, or be inspired by them, or something. Something keeps us going to them; otherwise we wouldn’t continue to spend 8 dollars to watch it on a big screen. The inspiration I feel like we could take from movies is not what the movies are about, but what keeps people drawn to them. They’re entertaining. Not too many people want to learn about sustainability and pay 8 dollars, so we must be able to some how make it apply to them. Using this baiting “trick,? as they do in the movies, we need to bring it close to home in order to captivate the seriousness of our millennium goal.


I think another documentation/presentation style which would be inspiring is a skit, musical, or play. This would remind us, regardless of the content, that we must be creative in order to find a solution to such a problem as making our world sustainable. We must love the questions, as Ozayr says. And in that love, we must also be fond with the creative process which brings about an answer. Much like the plot of a movie or play. The plot is about the process, it doesn’t just go from exposition to resolution—there has to be some conflict and a climax involved. There has to be an Aha! moment somewhere along the way, whether it be realizing just how hurtful you are to the earth, or realizing there’s a way to combat your bad history with recycling.
Photos can be incredibly inspiring—whether they are joyous like wedding photos, or heartbreaking like pictures of undernourished children.

They speak to our mind’s eye, our soul, they bring us into the situation. I could, for instance, describe an afternoon on a tropical island, but with our desensitized winter nerves, it might be hard to understand the warmth of the sun. Look at a picture, though, and it’s easier to imagine ourselves in that place, feeling the rays beam on our skin. That’s the power of photography.

March 6, 2008

At a loss

This blog prompt has me at a loss of words. The idea that the built environment affects me is so fundamental, yet for some reason I have a hard time explaining the reason behind its effectiveness and how it actually succeeds to change me in some way. For better or for worse, I get affected. That’s a crappy thing when you’re constantly surrounded by small hallways and dimly-lit classrooms whose chairs offer no emotional or back support. In terms of phenomena, I would say that me not being able to pinpoint or fully recognize the reason why I’m affected by my surroundings is in and of itself a form of phenomena, wouldn’t you agree?

I spend at least three hours of my day in this building:

Isn’t that wonderful? It has a ton of windows which flood the studios with natural light; it has awe-inspiring curves and shapes. How interesting is it that the very building that I never get to sit down in actually turns out to be the most interesting to look at. I shouldn’t completely make that a statement: there are sometimes when, in modern, we are to “take in the surroundings.? That part of class gets a little too New Age-y for me, so I usually skip over it in my mind’s eye…haha. So, in that sense, it is not the building which is detracting me from being who I am, but the person who speaks for the building. I say, let the building speak for itself; don’t stamp your own agenda on it.

Now take a look at the University of Minnesota mall area. This area is the epitome of university, academic architecture. Columns and bricks in every building, huge doors, very intimidating and collegiate. northrop.jpg

At first, these places psych me out. After having classes in them, however, I feel as though they help me to distinguish between class types. At the Barker, I understand the moral code and laws. At Tate Hall, for example, I understand that the laws of Barker don’t apply. So, the buildings are used as a reference point for me to understand the placement of my behavior. For example, if I were to do an arabesque in the Barker, people would perhaps try and help my technique or applaud its beauty. In the physics building, they would be thinking, “that girl is crazy, what the heck is she doin’, get out of my way…? so on and so forth. So, in this sense, I’m thankful for these buildings’ surroundings and basic natures, because they guide me in my daily behavior.

Another example using the same buildings: Tate Hall and Barbara Barker Center for Dance. In terms of clockwork, this time. In Tate, time stops. In BBCD, it flies. This is a phenomenon all by itself. How does time feel differently in two different buildings? I don’t think this is something that can be fully comprehended. I just need to accept it as fact. Once I realize that this is true, how does it shape me? That’s a good question. I feel like it shapes me to become aware of my priorities in life; it shapes me to understand relativity better. I now understand that the professor is going to go on and on about the velocity of a cart down an incline, and it probably won’t change my life. But, I may finally understand how a movement fits into my body in that time which feels so short. So for me, I feel like I need to pay special attention to soak it all up. No matter fast or slow, these things are all important.

Opposition: physics and dance. If I understand the physics of a movement, does that better equip me to understand and absorb it into my dancing? Of course. Now moving back to buildings: I feel like the opposition between my home in Waseca and my dorm room in Middlebrook creates this super sense of inferiority. I have come to terms with the idea that I am the small fish in the big pond. middlebrook.jpg
The small, shared bathrooms. The fluorescent lighting. The hair on the rug that isn’t mine. The alarm clock that goes off in the morning that my roommate doesn’t turn off.

This is my life, folks.

This is my environment. I’m not complaining, I did choose to leave out the good stuff—like a bunch of new friends, growing in my faith, finding a great church…these are all positive things which contribute to my ability to withstand the bad. Parts of my environment change me so much..for the better. I believe that the dorm room is one of those things. Yeah, it sucks to live there sometimes. But, through this environment I’m living in, I am better enabled to appreciate the environment I dwell in thereafter (which has to be better!). I am, ultimately, affected in the best way possible by the buildings by which I’m surrounded. I think this is, in part, due to the building. I also think there’s a certain amount of willpower used that allows me to take the best out of every situation. No matter what.
So, in asking how I’m affected, it’s really a tough thing to pinpoint. I don’t know where that line begins and where it ends. I’m only human! I don’t have the ability to pick apart an environment and determine its affect. Yes, I can derive minute details—like the overall feeling of the room, or how a wall's color changes my mood. I know that, in the end, I will never be able to fully grasp my environment’s affects. That’s alright by me, because I also know that I have the decision, and someday the ability, to eventually be the one who is doing the affecting.
This is a scary thing, I better understand how things affect me before I start affecting them. Maybe that's where bad architecture comes from...

March 5, 2008

Common Bond

I've only volunteered at my location twice, but already I've experienced something interesting. The environment at CommonBond is really awesome, the people were very helpful when I got lost in the tower. The layout of that building is messed up. My first experience as a homework center tutor was good: my supervisor said not to be discouraged if people didn't come to me the first night. He said sometimes it took a while for people to recognize you and ask for help. Seemed normal to me, trust takes time sometimes. My experience was exactly the opposite, though! I was ready to kinda kick back and relax, thinking that people wouldn't want/need my help. Little did I know!
It was so amazing how I felt like I fit in there. Right at six o'clock, a man was asking me for help with his sentence structure. How cool is that...
The second night was a little different, though. I didn't help anyone! The two women who needed help were learning English, and could not understand a word I said, and vice versa. Thankfully, another tutor who is Somali by descent came and helped. In turn, I ended up sitting for two hours. I hadn't brought any homework, because I thought it'd be swamped like the week previously! Haha..I guess I'll need to be ready for whatever comes.