As we discussed in class, the Fieldwork Journal instructions have been revised.
I. Go to the assigned neighborhood. Explore it for at least two hours.
II. Find a spot to sit. Now observe all that is happening around you. Note the built space, the sounds, the smells, the people. “Sketch” the space using vivid, descriptive language. You do not have to write in grammatical sentences. The purpose of this activity is to portray the enviroment in a creative, spontaneous and incisive manner. Perhaps you’ll focus on a particular person, a storefront, the flow of pedestrian traffic. You are painting, and your pigments consist of adjectives, verbs, and nouns. Try to capture the character of the space. The best way to do this is with a small notebook and pen or pencil.
III. Go home. Type it up. Add comments that situate your sketching into a social-cultural context. If Part II privileges spontaneity of perception, Part III emphasizes reflecting on those perceptions.
“Nothing I had experienced in my life led me to expect what would happen to me in my loneliness. One day in the middle of the summer as I was walking down 125th Street, I suddenly stopped and stared around me in amazement. It was as if I had awakened from a long dream that I’d walked around in all my life. I threw over all my preoccupations with ideas and felt so free that I didn’t know who I was or where I was The whole appearance of the world changed in a minute when I realized what had happened, and I began to look at people walking past me. They all had incredible sleepy, bestial expressions on their faces, yet no different from what they usually looked like. I suddenly understood everything vague and troubled in my mind that had been caused by the expression of people around me. Everybody I saw had something wrong with them. The apparition of an evil, sick, unconscious wild city rose before me in visible semblance, and about the dead buildings in the barren air, the bodies of the soul that built the wonderland shuffled and stalked and lurched in attitudes of immemorial nightmare all around. When I saw people conversing around me, all their conversation, all their bodily movements, all their signs, the thoughts reflected on their faces were of fear of recognition and anguished fear that someone would take the initiative and discover their masks and lies. Therefore every tone of voice, movement of the hand, carried a negative overtone: this in the world is called coyness and shyness and politeness, or frigidity and hostility when the awareness becomes too overpowering. I felt that I would be crucified if I alluded with any insistence to the divine nature of ourselves and the physical universe. Therefore I did not speak but only stared in dumb silence.”
— Allen Ginsberg, quoted in I Celebrate Myself by Bill Morgan (102-03)
A Klee painting named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. (Benjamin 1941, 257–8)
While thir hearts were jocund and sublime,
Drunk with Idolatry, drunk with Wine,
And fat regorg’d of Bulls and Goats,
Chaunting thir Idol…
Among them he a spirit of phrenzy sent,
Who hurt thir minds,
And urg’d them on with mad desire
To call in hast for thir destroyer;