Austin Old-Timer and Newcomer

It is probably advisable that I reblog it

The End of Austin

Vasilina Orlova Austin 68 photo

I.

Austin is the capital of the American Renaissance of the beginning of the twenty-first century. The explosive construction of bridges, ramps, roads, buildings; the flow of creative, inventive, and resourceful people from all over the world—it all creates a space like no other.

When you live in a city like Austin for five years, it still feels longer than it does elsewhere because Austin in the 2010s grows faster than it is possible to comprehend. The projects, places, ideas, and people come and go. The city rapidly devours its empty spaces (parking lots in the center are suffering) and demolishes the small old enterprises, restaurants and stores, as it constructs in their place new, mirror-like skyscrapers for offices and apartments. By no means a veteran in Austin, I still remember the shining absence of the newest multistory buildings in the downtown area; now they are ingrained in the landscape…

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Thing in Work

I put Late Soviet Childhood, which I presented on the Futures and Ruins Workshop in Duke University, on ResearchGate in some version. It’s a part of a bigger project on affect, recollection and forgetting, space, materiality of memory, and ruination.

First Writing of the Semester, Expressive Culture (Professor Elizabeth Lewis)

The students were asked to write a mini-ethnography, engaging with the theory they were forced through, and based on their own choices of site and method.

They produced writings on:

sorority gatherings
laundromat Sunday attending
Super Smash Bros. tournament
church sermons of different kinds
Black Lives Matter event (a disruption of continuity; written by a black student)
baby shower
softball game
soccer game
wedding
gym
YMCA
library
cemetery with an occasional funeral
Student Activity Center (slumbering on the pillows, mostly)
classroom
ballroom
coffee shops of all shapes and sizes
immigrant gatherings
homeless on Guadalupe
biology laboratory
Mexican restaurant (always a great site for observations)
the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (the only instance I advised an outside writing, namely Agamben “On Security and Terror”)
UT street market
pool
comedy open mic

And so forth, some 250 pages total. In short, all the colorful kaleidoscope of Texas [mostly blissful middle-class] life, or at least written from the positionalities of people endowed with such a life.

I read it with a great interest; it was full of curious observations, and some of this writing was reflective and reflexive. I was particularly glad to read on UT street market and Guadalupe homeless gathering; had passing thoughts about writing on both. Another particular excitement is the sorority gatherings, but I could not entertain a hope of once writing about them. Now that I finished grading, the landscape of UT is somewhat more densely inhabited.

Photographer and Ethnographer: Experience of the Collaborative Work

Preliminary Notes

The photographer’s view, reconstructed (based on the photographer’s insight)

Photographer: presses the button of the camera (to use Cartier-Bresson’s expression, a finger of the photographer is a “great masturbator”)
enjoys gazing (colorful ethnic objects, people)
photographer is a soloist
offers new approaches that surprise the ethnographer
teaches the ethnographer how to be laconic, to speak about important, to think differently
insists on the non-academism of the project

Ethnographer: consults
thinks about the possible routes and trajectories of the travel
does the preparation, preliminary work
gives directions but within these directions the photographer discovers his own paths
offers the theme
helps the photographer
is the photographer’s assistant, his additional eyes and ears (“этнограф – ассистент фотографа, его подсказчик, его дополнительные глаза и уши”)
advises on the new angles
should be photographically educated
studies from the photographer

Together:
planning and preparation of the travel
field work
selection of the photographs
developing of the stories for the blog and multimedia

The ethnographer and the photographer grow into each other (“прорастание этнографа в фотографе и наоборот”). A decisively symbiotic image.

The similarities between the photographer and the ethnographer:

both look
both look in depth

The results:
Synthetic product
“Cinematic truth” (“киноправда”)

Genre: unknown
Visual essay, scientific poetry, photo-prose, ethno-photo-fairy tales? (“визуальная эссеистика, научная лирика, фото-литература, этно-фото-притчи?”)
Absolute document (“документ-абсолют”).

_________

I expected the photographer would be a submissive figure in regard to the ethnographer/anthropologist in the field. However, the photographer perceives himself as the leading figure of the tandem.