We have these things called final exam juries at my university and yesterday I was present during the evaluation of my friend and colleague (and cousin, I might add) Murat‘s advanced photography course output. The final assignment he gave to his class was one in which they were to create a diptych image, one side representing the exact opposite of who/what they thought they were. Then they had to take that image and working back from there had to come to a definition of who they actually thought they were and take a photograph representing that definition of “self” which had been derived at from the converse image. The assignment was loosely based on one of Roy‘s Groundcourse assignments and so I was very interested indeed to see the results. The idea behind this is that a definition of what you are not will raise the awareness of what you are, thus raising self-recognition and so on…
Well.. Saying that the outcome wasn’t quite like what I would have expected it to be, would be putting it mildly, I suppose… The amount of self adulation that our young brood managed to come up with was really something to behold, you know. I sat there dizzied by the self propagated back patting manifested in definitions such as “I am a creatively charged free spirit. So my converse image would have to be a firmly bolted down object such as a doorknob, or an inanimate doll, or… or…” (We had an awful lot of creatively charged free spirits in there for one afternoon, I must say. Just about as many as I can take in one sitting in fact). Or how about, “I am highly individuated. My diametric opposite would be something robbed of its individual identity – like a sack maybe?…”. “I am totally in control… So my diametric opposite would have to be an object I control. How about my car?…”. Oh and, here’s a really good one: “I am the soul of discretion… As a diametric opposite I think I would be a peeper…”. And on and on and on we went, working our way through some 20 projects of total and unabashed self worship!
And then… and then… He came last and put up this image.
Now, I happen to like this class a lot – all of them. And Ufuk is so one of them. I have been observing his hair covered face and have been marvelling at the visual talent that he so patently displays in the face of the fact that the poor kid obviously cannot see the beam or the whiteboard through his bangs (they just about reach his chin – he’s brushed them sideways here, trust me, normally they do!). Ergo, he would really not be able to follow any of the lectures that I or anyone else might be inflicting upon him, would he now? So, where is he getting the visual information from; enabling him to come up with the brilliant projects that he manages to turn in, I have always wondered to myself.
And this was the context of the image, the text: “I am fascinated by forbidden content, by the dark and the ominous. However, given that I am a total whimp and a coward I have never dared to go anywhere near it, even when it has been offered to me on a silver plate. My diametric opposite would be the guy who is actually in a postion to offer me that which I do not have the courage to go after”. WOW, right?
And now for the moral of the tale – and a bit of a sobering experience for me this one has turned out to be… I have been sitting here, pointing a really nasty finger at our students, making evil fun of them and their narcissistic little predicaments just a minute ago, haven’t I? Truth is, I have actually been ruminating since yesterday as to how I would go about it, if this assignment were given to me. And you know what? I cannot do it. With the best will and intention in the world I cannot seem to formulate this in such a way that I would actually accomplish what Ufuk has. I cannot walk up to the mirror and identify the thing in there that is the huge big pimple – the wart. And I guess, my inability to do just that, is the wart. Would have to be that, right? Don’t tell me it could be anything worse than that – please!
Ufuk: You are so not a whimp and a coward. Your instructor here could not hold a candle to your self-recognition and your gutsiness. So hat off to you my old son and I hope life brings you all of the very best and then some…
Oh, and your classmates? hhhhh… Well, I am sharing their predicament, aren’t I? Which doesn’t mean that we all need to perish just because you’re doing so fabulously well over there, does it now? I hope they too (and I and everyone else that is even vaguely deserving of such a thing) get all the best that life has to offer and then some…
Goodbye VACD class of 2009, I shall miss you all when I am on my sabbatical leave next year! (And if you guyz believe that you really need to go and take a good careful look in that mirror over there…)
(but I will)