Field Notes, Summer of 2017 in Siberia

During this summer I spent as much time as it was possible in Siberia. I brought notes from there, that I now offer to your attention. I hope to work on the photographs that I took; some of my best shots were taken there this year.

Without further ado, Stenography of the Itinerary on the Academia.edu.

“Suddenly (and I have to fly tomorrow) I am not excited to go to “the field,” which is also “home.” The distance is never a stable measure. The distance grows. With time, it deepens. I am clinging to things: a kerchief that I have not been wearing for months, I definitely need to take it with me. All the colorful pens. All these books I have not finished. The pages of handwriting I did not have time to type; I am spending the last day before the departure trying to determine what I might be missing the next day. A futile wonder. I will miss nothing in particular and everything at once, but I probably will also be too occupied with what immediately arises in my sight to ponder over anything that I have left.

My phone is suddenly broken, of all things–my phone, which prosthetic qualities are never as evident as they are now, when it is not “here,” out of order. I suspect that I inhabit the screen: Evernote, messengers, colorful icons of familiar apps–icons and anchors of familiarity itself. To go without the phone, a false body member, is to be derived of the instrument, of techne, of the possibility of art, which is only available through technology. To have a new phone on the eve of flying from one country of another is more like changing planets. Now I will have to spend at least two hours and likely more recalling all the passwords that open myself to myself.

Derrida doubtlessly did not anticipate the development of technology which by a peculiar twist favors writing–for the first time in human history writing seems ubiquitous, everyone is writing, it is not going to last long, I think, when the advance of video will take over. Derrida issues old-fashionable laments on the death of love letters (as a genre) that he predicts tirelessly in his own love letters–little did he know. He would have been thrilled by sexting.

Itineraries deprive one of that little sense of home which one might possibly have after having moved from one hemisphere to the other. Every travel is a little bit of death, death foreshadowed, half-disclosed, hinted, promised–a rehearsal of how you’ll leave everything at once on a certain day to come. The inevitability of it is monotonous: it is not the event itself but the inescapability of it which is gruesome. To think about all the orphaned objects you will leave, and of the facelessness, the indiscernibility of these objects.”

~

read the rest here: https://www.academia.edu/34156517/Stenography_of_the_Itinerary

Perpetual Nabokov

Writer’s Change of Language: Nabokov and Others

In the journal of proceedings of the linguistic anthropology symposium in 2016 at UT, my first writing on Nabokov out there.

He is at the interception of identities, which coincides for the writer with the interception of languages and ways of writing: English as opposed to Russian but also as opposed to American (as opposed to French).

Teaching Dreams

I had an idea of organizing an innovatory course that I think might work. The professor assigns fifteen readings per one seminar, but only one of them is done by every student–all other readings are distributed among the smaller groups. The conversation in class is structured around this central reading, but with a requirement for students to bring it in connection with the readings they did specifically. It requires a greater deal of work on behalf of the (already overloaded) professor, but students get to realize that (1) people come to the very same discussion, even having a common ground, from very different perspectives, and (2) there is a much broader field of knowledge on the same issue than they could be reasonably afforded to learn in any given moment.

Selection of Photographs: Process

Today I will have the first bunch of Siberian photographs printed. Looks like I won’t be able to go through all folders, like I planned. I am getting tired from skimming photographs.

I always wanted to go through all of them and make a “final selection,” to divide good from bad. But it is impossible, it turns out. There will always be omissions, and always selection will be not final / not draconian enough.

Each carries a memory, but also photographs enigmatically record and carry memories of how one looked at them before. It’s endless layering of memories.

I have selected Siberian photos before for different websites, but in my previous selections I was greedy. I chose one photo out of each series, because I wanted to preserve the event. But photography is impressionistic media; it’s not about information, it’s about impression.

First Tooth

When I am in my fieldwork, the news reaches me that my child has lost his first tooth and checked himself twice in the mirror that day (which he usually does not).

It was a time of terror in my childhood when I was losing my teeth, and I wish I could offer him support and my presence at this difficult time. I saw nightmares; I am quite certain that everyone suffers through this time, and only later, as an adult, forgets about it. Something happens to your body that you do not control. A metamorphosis transfigures you, and it entails these painful and disturbing little losses.

My mom told me that when she or her brother or her sister lost a tooth, they ran to the room from which there was a ladder to the attic. They threw their teeth to the square entrance of the attic and said:

“Мишка, мишка, на тобi костяний зуб, а менi дай залiзний.”

(“Mouse, mouse, take my bony tooth, and give me back an iron tooth,” Ukrainian.)

“We all have iron teeth now,” She said smiling, referring to either veneered or prosthetic teeth she and her siblings have.

Speech Genres: Individual vs Social

I think Bakhtin [intentionally, for his own purposes] misreads Saussure when he says: “Therefore, the single utterance, with all its individuality and creativity, can in no way be regarded as a completely free combination of forms of language, as is supposed, for example, by Saussure (and by many other linguists after him), who juxtaposed the utterance (la parole), as a purely individual act, to the system of language as a phenomenon that is purely social and mandatory for the individual.” (Bakhtin, 1986, 81; cursive is author’s).

 

References

Bakhtin, Mikhail. (1986) “The Problem of Speech Genres.” In Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press. 60-102.

Starbucks Durée

Starbucks is a cozy nook of a paradise for a citizen. It mimics home space yet is public. Since they are robots, citizens do not eat. They only have to show from time to time that there is nothing human from which they are completely estranged. This is where paper coffee cups and sugar substitutes come.

A surge of appetite—not hunger—accurate cones, rolls, candies, slices of cinnamon or chocolate bread, chalk on the blackboard: the menu. Starbucks is a culmination of the institutionalized eating of sweets.

The urban deity inhabits the mixer. Deity ex mixer.

Starbucks is not unique: it is ubiquitous, a specially organized shared space, like other corporations: McDonald’s, Wal Mart, Whole Foods. Starbucks is not unique and therefore Starbucks unifies. Globalization is written in the sheen of its surfaces with an invisible marker.

International corporations, such as malls, or Starbucks, produce spaces that never change, know no time of the day, nor season. Interiors are designed with intention to keep the customer unaware of floating of time. Starbucks creates durée around you, affect of sorts.