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robertogreco : wondering   8

Language Is Migrant - South Magazine Issue #8 [documenta 14 #3] - documenta 14
"Language is migrant. Words move from language to language, from culture to culture, from mouth to mouth. Our bodies are migrants; cells and bacteria are migrants too. Even galaxies migrate.

What is then this talk against migrants? It can only be talk against ourselves, against life itself.

Twenty years ago, I opened up the word “migrant,” seeing in it a dangerous mix of Latin and Germanic roots. I imagined “migrant” was probably composed of mei, Latin for “to change or move,” and gra, “heart” from the Germanic kerd. Thus, “migrant” became “changed heart,”
a heart in pain,
changing the heart of the earth.

The word “immigrant” says, “grant me life.”

“Grant” means “to allow, to have,” and is related to an ancient Proto-Indo-European root: dhe, the mother of “deed” and “law.” So too, sacerdos, performer of sacred rites.

What is the rite performed by millions of people displaced and seeking safe haven around the world? Letting us see our own indifference, our complicity in the ongoing wars?

Is their pain powerful enough to allow us to change our hearts? To see our part in it?

I “wounder,” said Margarita, my immigrant friend, mixing up wondering and wounding, a perfect embodiment of our true condition!

Vicente Huidobro said, “Open your mouth to receive the host of the wounded word.”

The wound is an eye. Can we look into its eyes?
my specialty is not feeling, just
looking, so I say:
(the word is a hard look.)
—Rosario Castellanos

I don’t see with my eyes: words
are my eyes.
—Octavio Paz

In l980, I was in exile in Bogotá, where I was working on my “Palabrarmas” project, a way of opening words to see what they have to say. My early life as a poet was guided by a line from Novalis: “Poetry is the original religion of mankind.” Living in the violent city of Bogotá, I wanted to see if anybody shared this view, so I set out with a camera and a team of volunteers to interview people in the street. I asked everybody I met, “What is Poetry to you?” and I got great answers from beggars, prostitutes, and policemen alike. But the best was, “Que prosiga,” “That it may go on”—how can I translate the subjunctive, the most beautiful tiempo verbal (time inside the verb) of the Spanish language? “Subjunctive” means “next to” but under the power of the unknown. It is a future potential subjected to unforeseen conditions, and that matches exactly the quantum definition of emergent properties.

If you google the subjunctive you will find it described as a “mood,” as if a verbal tense could feel: “The subjunctive mood is the verb form used to express a wish, a suggestion, a command, or a condition that is contrary to fact.” Or “the ‘present’ subjunctive is the bare form of a verb (that is, a verb with no ending).”

I loved that! A never-ending image of a naked verb! The man who passed by as a shadow in my film saying “Que prosiga” was on camera only for a second, yet he expressed in two words the utter precision of Indigenous oral culture.

People watching the film today can’t believe it was not scripted, because in thirty-six years we seem to have forgotten the art of complex conversation. In the film people in the street improvise responses on the spot, displaying an awareness of language that seems to be missing today. I wounder, how did it change? And my heart says it must be fear, the ocean of lies we live in, under a continuous stream of doublespeak by the violent powers that rule us. Living under dictatorship, the first thing that disappears is playful speech, the fun and freedom of saying what you really think. Complex public conversation goes extinct, and along with it, the many species we are causing to disappear as we speak.

The word “species” comes from the Latin speciēs, “a seeing.” Maybe we are losing species and languages, our joy, because we don’t wish to see what we are doing.

Not seeing the seeing in words, we numb our senses.

I hear a “low continuous humming sound” of “unmanned aerial vehicles,” the drones we send out into the world carrying our killing thoughts.

Drones are the ultimate expression of our disconnect with words, our ability to speak without feeling the effect or consequences of our words.

“Words are acts,” said Paz.

Our words are becoming drones, flying robots. Are we becoming desensitized by not feeling them as acts? I am thinking not just of the victims but also of the perpetrators, the drone operators. Tonje Hessen Schei, director of the film Drone, speaks of how children are being trained to kill by video games: “War is made to look fun, killing is made to look cool. ... I think this ‘militainment’ has a huge cost,” not just for the young soldiers who operate them but for society as a whole. Her trailer opens with these words by a former aide to Colin Powell in the Bush/Cheney administration:
OUR POTENTIAL COLLECTIVE FUTURE. WATCH IT AND WEEP FOR US. OR WATCH IT AND DETERMINE TO CHANGE THAT FUTURE
—Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel U.S. Army (retired)


In Astro Noise, the exhibition by Laura Poitras at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the language of surveillance migrates into poetry and art. We lie in a collective bed watching the night sky crisscrossed by drones. The search for matching patterns, the algorithms used to liquidate humanity with drones, is turned around to reveal the workings of the system. And, we are being surveyed as we survey the show! A new kind of visual poetry connecting our bodies to the real fight for the soul of this Earth emerges, and we come out woundering: Are we going to dehumanize ourselves to the point where Earth itself will dream our end?

The fight is on everywhere, and this may be the only beauty of our times. The Quechua speakers of Peru say, “beauty is the struggle.”

Maybe darkness will become the source of light. (Life regenerates in the dark.)

I see the poet/translator as the person who goes into the dark, seeking the “other” in him/herself, what we don’t wish to see, as if this act could reveal what the world keeps hidden.

Eduardo Kohn, in his book How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human notes the creation of a new verb by the Quichua speakers of Ecuador: riparana means “darse cuenta,” “to realize or to be aware.” The verb is a Quichuan transfiguration of the Spanish reparar, “to observe, sense, and repair.” As if awareness itself, the simple act of observing, had the power to heal.

I see the invention of such verbs as true poetry, as a possible path or a way out of the destruction we are causing.

When I am asked about the role of the poet in our times, I only question: Are we a “listening post,” composing an impossible “survival guide,” as Paul Chan has said? Or are we going silent in the face of our own destruction?

Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatista guerrilla, transcribes the words of El Viejo Antonio, an Indian sage: “The gods went looking for silence to reorient themselves, but found it nowhere.” That nowhere is our place now, that’s why we need to translate language into itself so that IT sees our awareness.

Language is the translator. Could it translate us to a place within where we cease to tolerate injustice and the destruction of life?

Life is language. “When we speak, life speaks,” says the Kaushitaki Upanishad.

Awareness creates itself looking at itself.

It is transient and eternal at the same time.

Todo migra. Let’s migrate to the “wounderment” of our lives, to poetry itself."
ceciliavicuña  language  languages  words  migration  immigration  life  subcomandantemarcos  elviejoantonio  lawrencewilkerson  octaviopaz  exile  rosariocastellanos  poetry  spanish  español  subjunctive  oral  orality  conversation  complexity  seeing  species  joy  tonjehessenschei  war  colinpowell  laurapoitras  art  visual  translation  eduoardokohn  quechua  quichua  healing  repair  verbs  invention  listening  kaushitakiupanishad  awareness  noticing  wondering  vicentehuidobro  wounds  woundering  migrants  unknown  future  potential  unpredictability  emergent  drones  morethanhuman  multispecies  paulchan  destruction  displacement  refugees  extinction  others  tolerance  injustice  justice  transience  ephemerality  ephemeral  canon  eternal  surveillance  patterns  algorithms  earth  sustainability  environment  indifference  complicity  dictatorship  documenta14  2017  classideas 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
I do not recognise the stereotype of John Berger as a dour Marxist – his work embodied hope | Books | The Guardian
"John Berger had the most amazing eyes. I do not mean that in the abstract, though it is true; his way of seeing the world has become part of the way we understand visual culture. I am thinking simply of those great baby blues. He was never not looking. He was a painter and he took up photography at one point but gave it up because once you have taken a picture “you stop looking at what you’ve shot. I was more interested in looking. I think I gave my camera away.”

When I heard he’d died at the great age of 90, of course I thought of his eyes, of what it was like to have them focused on you – he did that to everyone, it was absolutely compelling. To be human for him meant always seeing, listening, exchanging.

He wrote to me out of the blue when I was a film critic. It was the most brilliant letter of warmth and encouragement that had me floating with joy. He wrote many such letters to many people. It is what he did, that old-fashioned thing: engagement.

He wrote to me about the nature of criticism. Like many, I was interested in criticism as a result of his work, because of the idea that criticism could be radical, that it was a conversation not an evaluation. Yes, that remains idealistic as we live in a world where criticism is debased to stars, to a TripAdvisor mentality that requires no thought or knowledge whatsoever, the precursor to the sneering at experts mentality.

But in 1972 Berger had shown what could be achieved. His TV series and book, Ways of Seeing, remain revelatory. He blew up everything we thought we “knew” about art and its reproduction. He said: “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled”, freeing up a space for us to wonder about meaning. This is quite beautiful to me still, this wondering.

A letter from Berger was an invitation to be somehow involved in one of his myriad projects – a film, a novel, an idea – so I did meet him, but more often we talked on the phone. Not about geopolitics, though of course he was one of the first people to grasp that migration, “forced or chosen, across national frontiers or from village to metropolis”, was “the quintessential experience of our time”. Instead, he might call to ask how best to describe dreadlocks (dreads or locks?), or about my children, or what colour I was painting the kitchen. This amuses me now, this chatting about the details, but he always wanted the details. The everyday was not trivial to him.

That may be why I simply do not recognise him in some of the snippy obits in which he has been reduced to the stereotype of the dour Marxist. He was the complete opposite. I guess the challenge he presented still stands. Nor is he reducible to a methodology of decoding. This is to miss all his stories, poems and thinking that were so grounded in the material. One does not have to like all his work or agree with his various political stances (many could not stomach his stance on Rushdie) to see his significance is huge.

In any situation where political power was in play, his very instinct was to side with the powerless. He was undeniably a romantic. But everything went back to experience in the end.

Episode two of Ways of Seeing remains seared on my mind. Remarkable television, so far from how the 70s is now often envisioned. Here, Berger talks about the difference between being naked and nude, explaining who owns the gaze – men. Men act and women appear. He talks of how women always survey themselves, even in moments of grief. Then, halfway through the programme, he says that he has shown images of women but not heard their voices so hands over the discussion to a group of women, while he listens and smokes.

Here then are the beginnings of understanding how visual culture – art, TV, film, advertising – depicts women for the presumed male spectator/owner’s pleasure. Feminists took this much further and still use these insights. No wonder Kenneth Clark, Auberon Waugh, Stephen Spender et al – the old elite – did not like Berger. This was an oppositional reading of “their” culture.

Berger’s way of seeing, I came to understand, was a way of being. Here was a public intellectual who never divvied up the world into “politics” and “culture”, a learned man who shied away from academia but could talk to anyone. He knew observation has consequences. He knew that not from theory but because he rode a motorbike.

As he trained his eyes and his ears on whoever he was with, this intense listening meant he was a wonderful storyteller of searing moral clarity. He always seemed to know, implicitly, that protest and anger derive from hope. His work embodies the hope involved in our everyday human exchanges, whatever the circumstances. His very being radiated it.

“Hope,” he once said, “is a contraband passed from hand to hand and story to story.” What contraband. What treasure. I am for ever grateful for it."
johnberger  suzannemoore  2017  hope  marxism  storytelling  listening  seeing  power  powerlessness  politics  waysofseeing  wonder  wondering  engagement  criticism  feminism  kennethclark  auberonwaugh  stephenspender 
january 2017 by robertogreco
dy/dan » Blog Archive » Testify
"Karim Ani, the founder of Mathalicious, hassles me because I design problems about water tanks while Mathalicious tackles issues of greater sociological importance. Traditionalists like Barry Garelick see my 3-Act Math project as superficial multimedia whizbangery and wonder why we don’t just stick with thirty spiraled practice problems every night when that’s worked pretty well for the world so far. Basically everybody I follow on Twitter cast a disapproving eye at posts trying to turn Pokémon Go into the future of education, posts which no one will admit to having written in three months, once Pokémon Go has fallen farther out of the public eye than Angry Birds.

So this 3-Act math task is bound to disappoint everybody above. It’s a trivial question about a piece of pop culture ephemera wrapped up in multimedia whizbangery.

But I had to testify. That’s what this has always been – a testimonial – where by “this” I mean this blog, these tasks, and my career in math education to date.

I don’t care about Pokémon Go. I don’t care about multimedia. I don’t care about the sociological importance of a question.

I care about math’s power to puzzle a person and then help that person unpuzzle herself. I want my work always to testify to that power.

So when I read this article about how people were tricking their smartphones into thinking they were walking (for the sake of achievements in Pokémon Go), I was puzzled. I was curious about other objects that spin, and then about ceiling fans, and then I wondered how long a ceiling fan would have to spin before it had “walked” a necessary number of kilometers. I couldn’t resist the question.

That doesn’t mean you’ll find the question irresistible, or that I think you should. But I feel an enormous burden to testify to my curiosity. That isn’t simple.

“Math is fun,” argues mathematics professor Robert Craigen. “It takes effort to make it otherwise.” But nothing is actually like that – intrinsically interesting or uninteresting. Every last thing – pure math, applied math, your favorite movie, everything – requires humans like ourselves to testify on its behalf.

In one kind of testimonial, I’d stand in front of a class and read the article word-for-word. Then I’d work out all of this math in front of students on the board. I would circle the answer and step back.

But everything I’ve read and experienced has taught me that this would be a lousy testimonial. My curiosity wouldn’t become anybody else’s.

Meanwhile, multimedia allows me to develop a question with students as I experienced it, to postpone helpful tools, information, and resources until they’re necessary, and to show the resolution of that question as it exists in the world itself.

I don’t care about the multimedia. I care about the testimonial. Curiosity is my project. Multimedia lets me testify on its behalf.

So why are you here? What is your project? I care much less about the specifics of your project than I care how you testify on its behalf.

I care about Talking Points much less than Elizabeth Statmore. I care about math mistakes much less than Michael Pershan. I care about elementary math education much less than Tracy Zager and Joe Schwartz. I care about equity much less than Danny Brown and identity much less than Ilana Horn. I care about pure mathematics much less than Sam Shah and Gordi Hamilton. I care about sociological importance much less than Mathalicious. I care about applications of math to art and creativity much less than Anna Weltman.

But I love how each one of them testifies on behalf of their project. When any of them takes the stand to testify, I’m locked in. They make their project my own.

Again:

Why are you here? What is your project? How do you testify on its behalf?"
danmeyer  2016  math  mathematics  teaching  interestedness  pokémongo  curiosity  mathalicious  testament  multimedia  howweteach  interest  wonder  wondering  askingquestions  questionasking  modeling  education  howwelearn  engagement 
august 2016 by robertogreco
xkcd: Where Do Birds Go
""Where do birds go when it rains?" is my new favorite Google search. It gives the answer, but also shows you an endless torrent of other people asking the same question. Pages and pages of them across regions and cultures. I love the idea that somehow this is the universal question, the thing that unites us. When it rains, we wonder where the birds go. And hope they're staying dry."
birds  xkcd  beauty  humanity  humanism  2014  twitter  search  online  internet  wonder  wondering  posthumanism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Towards Fantastic Ethnography and Speculative Design | Ethnography Matters
"So how do I teach ethnography to design students? First, I tell them that if they’ve ever wondered why people do things, or how things got to be the way they are, then they’re already part ethnographer. I say that my job is to help them get better at asking and answering social and cultural questions, because understanding and building entire worlds is a huge challenge that no single discipline can accomplish on its own. And I tell them that I believe the best designers are those who understand that what they’re doing is cultural innovation, which requires them to move beyond both personal impression and expression, as well as any self-righteous desire to ‘fix’ the world. My approach to design ethnography binds us to others, and I place a lot of emphasis on the need to develop a social ethics, rather than relying solely on personal interests and beliefs.

Over the years I’ve observed that design students often have much better observation and documentation skills than sociology and anthropology students do, but they appear to struggle greatly with how to interpret the information and represent this knowledge to other people. On the other hand, anthropology and sociology students often have superior analytical skills but are terribly limited in their desire or ability to communicate in anything other than the written word—even when their topic is visual or material culture. Consequently, I’ve come to think that ethnography makes design better as much as design makes ethnography better, and in that sense I believe we can serve each other equally.

Design ethnography, in the context of our classroom, is about trying to understand how people use words, images and objects to build worlds—and creating new combinations of words, images and objects that help us, and others, understand these worlds in different ways. All of our projects involve empirical fieldwork and analysis, along with the production of creative works that critically engage the subject of fieldwork. Because so many students attempt to do the creative work first, and use their ethnographic work to justify their ‘solution’ to a perceived (but rarely demonstrated!) ‘problem,’ I tend to be a bit more dogmatic about doing the ethnographic work first than I would otherwise advocate. The important thing I’ve learned, though, is that the best work always treats design and ethnography as complementary activities that are done in an iterative fashion that actually makes them difficult to separate in the end.

In teaching design courses, particular ethnographic methods became unappealing to me. Take auto-ethnography, for example: at its best the students continued to privilege their own thoughts and experiences; at worst it became a self-serving exercise in psychoanalysis or confession. And although performance ethnography can be interesting, I lack the expertise to assess it and worried that the students would again turn design into a form of privileged self-expression that could be difficult for others to understand. I needed something more accessible, that could more effectively trouble the opposition between subjective experience and objective fact—and I found it in fiction, which I think is rather beautifully both and neither."



"I think that the research environment for exploring these ideas has been crucial to their development. For the past few years, I’ve been working on a project that re-imagines NZ merino sheep in the (imagined) context of an Internet of Things. Note that I’ve not been tasked with designing possible software applications, but rather to imagine how different technologies could shift relations between livestock production and animal-product consumption. For this research I’ve combined traditional ethnographic methods of participant observation and qualitative interviews, with speculative design practices including fictional object and image-making—and I’ve given them both ‘life’ through creative writing. We’re about to launch these design scenarios, and will spend the next six months following up with more participant observation, interviews and online surveys to see how different audiences interact—or do not interact—with them.

For me, creating ethnographic fiction and speculative design has most often been a matter of material choice: both literally and figuratively. When the research subject matter is wool and meat-producing livestock, it was easy to start by imagining weird and wonderful things made of wool and meat! All the contexts for these fictional things (a government ministry and public programme, a host of consumer products and services) are plausible because they’ve been based on ethnographic research of people’s actual interests and concerns—but none of them are possible or even particularly realistic. To be honest, I really felt I was on the right track when I started talking about getting inspiration from contemporary urban fantasy novels—especially favourites by Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs—and both my design and ethnography colleagues just laughed. (It was like Joanna Russ had never written How To Suppress Women’s Writing!) But the important bit is that I came to understand that although fantastic ethnography and speculative design don’t have to derive their plausibility from realism or rationality, they should move people—because the space of the fantastic and the speculative is, after all, affective space, or the space of potential."

[Related (lined within): http://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/2011/08/28/why-you-need-read-designing-culture-anne-balsamo
and http://www.designculturelab.org/2012/08/17/on-fantasys-green-country-and-the-place-of-the-nonhuman/ ]
annegalloway  2013  ethnography  designethnography  fiction  designfiction  writing  speculativedesign  design  ursulaleguin  margaretatwood  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  ilonaandrews  patriciabriggs  plausibility  rationality  realism  research  speculativefiction  worldbuilding  imagery  words  images  objects  fieldwork  noticing  observation  listening  wondering  ethics  documentation  interpretation  autoethnography 
september 2013 by robertogreco
Luke's Commonplace Book
"America is, and always has been, undecided about whether it will be the United States of Tom or the United States of Huck. The United States of Tom looks at misery and says: Hey, I didn’t do it. It looks at inequity and says: All my life I busted my butt to get where I am, so don’t come crying to me. Tom likes kings, codified nobility, unquestioned privilege. Huck likes people, fair play, spreading the truck around. Whereas Tom knows, Huck wonders. Whereas Huck hopes, Tom presumes. Whereas Huck cares, Tom denies. These two parts of the American Psyche have been at war since the beginning of the nation, and come to think of it, these two parts of the World Psyche have been at war since the beginning of the world, and the hope of the nation and of the world is to embrace the Huck part and send the Tom part back up the river, where it belongs."

— George Saunders in The Braindead Megaphone
georgesaunders  2013  huckleberryfinn  tomsawyer  marktwain  us  misery  inequity  nobility  privilege  fairness  fairplay  wondering  wonder  knowing  knowledge  hope  caring  care  worldpsyche  politics  society  social  liberalism  libertarianism 
may 2013 by robertogreco
In Praise of Not Knowing - NYTimes.com
"I hope kids are still finding some way, despite Google and Wikipedia, of not knowing things. Learning how to transform mere ignorance into mystery, simple not knowing into wonder, is a useful skill. Because it turns out that the most important things in this life — why the universe is here instead of not, what happens to us when we die, how the people we love really feel about us — are things we’re never going to know."
learning  internet  web  google  knowledge  notknowing  wonder  wonderdeficit  wondering  mystery  timkreider  wikipedia  unschooling  deschooling  unlearning 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Be less productive… | Blogush
"I “change” more after long periods of unproductive time than I do when I am productive. When I am unproductive my mind wanders, I explore, dream, wonder. When I am productive I am accomplishing predetermined goals…leads to stronger beliefs, or simply changes in beliefs I already had...After all of the talk of changing education, & after all of the actions based on the talk, at its core the education system will still remain the same because we will have based the changes & reforms on the existing core ideas...Next time you are in a conversation about “changing” education offer up ideas that don’t exist and prepare for the looks…how about if we removed grades completely…how about if there were no assessments…how about if there was no homework…how about if there were no classrooms, no discipline plans, no administrators, no books, no scheduled school hours, no set classes, no curriculum, no required skills to master. How about…if there were no schools."
change  reform  gamechanging  unschooling  deschooling  learning  stasis  lcproject  tcsnmy  schools  schooling  tunnelvision  productivity  thinking  wondering  homework  grades  grading  curriculum 
april 2010 by robertogreco

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