Sunday, January 11, 2009

Instant Relatives

At Really Good Stuff, the estate sale store I worked at in Portland, there was a drawer full of photographs (one of many) that had been labeled, "instant relatives." I thought this label was so transparent, almost mocking. It made me think about what I was doing there, that my collection was made possible by other peoples loneliness and fueled by my own desire for the feeling of family. I like pictures of people because they feel like people. Certainly this is why markets like porn are successful, because pictures stand in for something real, and certainly have the ability to quench some real desires. Last week I was showing Georgia how I've been trying to catalogue photographs by subject, for example, babies, still-lives, landscapes, homes, young women, women, old women, etc... She laughed at how creepy it would be to come across these albums and boxes and told me that if it was almost anyone else but me she would think the owner was ill-intentioned. I'm not completely sure if what I'm doing is not creepy, but it's at least a good thing to have in mind as I continue doing what I've already been doing.

I'm thinking about putting together a show proposal called Instant Relatives for Playspace (the CCA graduate gallery), or maybe somewhere else if they wont have me. I asked Brigid if she would put some of her drawings and paintings in-- she works from family photographs with a nice tweak of nostalgic gunfire and I think her work is awesome. I think that it would be interesting to have some sort of participation-- where people could bring in photographs to put up, maybe leaving with others (trading relatives). I think it would also be nice to make some sort of store situation, where visitors could acquire instant relatives for $3-$5 (buying relatives). I think in this way I could get a supplier like The Apartment, The Magazine, or maybe the photo booth guy at the Bernal Heights Flea Market involved.

I keep retelling the story about the drawing that got destroyed (missing still, perhaps somewhere flattened in the streets of San Francisco). I still feel so dumb about it, but the story is turning into something mythological. This sense of loss is certainly a soapbox to talk about how objects and images and words are critical to our sense of being. When I think of that drawing, most of all, I think about the week I spent making it, and the dissatisfaction of being reminded that there is nothing to be shown for that small but important duration of my time. We are a culture where worth has to be proved-- if you don't have something to show for your time, how can you believe or be believed? I've been thinking about this a lot recently, especially in the context of my friend Adrienne's writing about New Orleans and home-space, and my recent conversations with a few queer mothers and soon-to-be-mothers in Portland about how their queerness stirs the pot of what family, heredity, and mattering mean.

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