Sunday, September 6, 2009

Inkhat Considers the Topography of Memory!

Yesterday I took a trip to Columbus with my roommate Dania, and another graduate student, Ryan. I’m not sure why I decided that this was important, but I was sure I needed a day off. I was fascinated by Columbus, in a way that my two companions probably were not. At one point I stopped them and pointed to an ornate building. The red stone work curled like flowers and parchment around the top and over the corners, but did not extend all the way around the building.

“Look at that!” I said. “It’s so, when they build another large building next door it will look like the design goes all the way around.”

They nodded politely, insisting that, no really, that was very interesting. I smiled appreciatively. I’m weird. I get it. But I think that it was important, that building. We were, in a matter of days, about to attempt the same sort of chameleon act. We would have to stand in front of the class and put on our best, professional face, saying, “Pay no attention to the lack of depth; the cheat of time and experience. Pay no attention to the fact that we are new and untested. We have been made in the old style, and have skyscrapers at our backs.”

We attended the Greek Festival, which was unfortunately small, but lovely. There were overpriced tourist items, and a vast variety of food, and awkward kindergarteners forced to dance around in a circle in tiny, colorful costumes. Occasionally a parent swept in to scoop up

one in tears. The problem, I told the other two, was that Greek dancing was not made for performance. It was made for celebration. Dania theorized that this is why they danced in a circle, but it was never closed. In this way, people could always join. A few moments passed in silence. The children shuffled off the stage and were replaced by adults, more colorfully dressed, jumping spinning. It was interesting that, unlike American dancing, the movements were not necessarily on a beat, but seemed to be contained within them. For instance, sometimes in a chord there would be three movements, sometimes two, sometimes only one. Being used to movements directly coordinating with a sound, I found this beautiful.

“I’m glad we did this.” Dania said, “It’s important to build a geographical memory of a place.” I thought about this sentence the rest of the day. It was a wonderful thought. I imagined standing on the street years in the future, remembering me imagining me.

Wandering through the stalls, I came to a printmaker who worked in an iconic style used extensively in the church where I grew up. The images were familiar, and I wasn’t sure I could buy a print along that vein, though I loved the style. “Fine,” I said to myself, “Look through her

work, and if she has something different and affordable, buy that one.” So I started looking, and chatting with the artist and her husband, who, predictably, were lovely people. Finally I looked down at the print I had picked up. It was three women, placed among gears. Smoke stacks rose in the past. They looked strong, somber, and brave, staring off into the sky, just beyond the edge of the paper. They reminded me, forcefully, of Diego Rivera’s work in the DIA, another cathedral of my youth. It reminded me of Flint; the battles they had fought and I had left behind. I remembered standing in my mother’s studio, looking over the heads of the stone lions to the etched line of the Flint River. We had moved her paintings up and down stairs all day. It reminded me of home.

“That,” she interrupted my thoughts, “was my first one. I’ve always liked it. You can have it for 20. The corner’s bent.”

I nodded. I’d take it.