Week 10 blog update

As the sum of my work and research this past 10 weeks, Constant Flux is a 7 and a half minute long video that explores my identity as a human–a person, in a place–this place, our space. The subject is me, but it is not just about me, rather, it is simply about the coexistence of my physical embodiment with the embodiment of the universe. I am created…I am here as we are all here, and it is possible for me to continue the cycle of creation and make my own lifeworld. If I have the power to make my own life–draw my existence out, then I want to live a life of fluidity, of adaptability, or symbiosis with Dr. Little Bear’s notion of “my/our relations.” I recognize that there is some autonomy to my embodied self, but –ultimately–I am a being with everything, so there is a collective responsibility. I want to abolish the binaries established in our social, political and religious systems that stem from the binaries of our basic human nature (man/woman, human/nature). My video is really a story of self-awareness and self-transformation as a being as a Homo sapien as a posthuman as a phenomenal conscious. I am a posthuman because I am capable of change, of transformation, as everything is. The point of transformation is to evolve to adapt and from there we are able to see new perspectives… from there we become something more than a “human”.

Constant Flux is a video inspired from my experience as an Indigenous trans masc lesbian living in a predominantly white dominant, capitalistic heteropatriarchical society, as well as, from essays written by Donna Haraway, Katherine Hayles, Leslie Feinberg, Jack Halberstam, Dr. Leroy Little Bear, Richard Teleky, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Niklas Luhmann. Most of these essays were “posthuman” focused, but essays by Leslie Feinberg and Jack Halberstam were focused on “trans*” theory. I included some Indigenous scholarship and that came primarily from Blackfoot renown researcher Dr. Leroy Little Bear who describes clearly a “Native Paradigm” of a scientific, philosophical spirituality that is, unfortunately only, parallel to Western ideas such as quantum physics and theories of diffraction. Sebastian De Line describes Dr. Little Bear’s “Native Paradigm” as taking up “This purview in connecting the non-dualistic Indigenous paradigm of all my / our relations to diffraction as observed in the Western scientific field of quantum physics. Diffraction is seen in the two-slit experiment, in which energy waves (in light or water) pass through a barrier with two openings, creating single wave or diffraction patterns.

Energy, on a quantum level, can behave unpredictably producing contingent outcomes: electrons deviate while being monitored by a recording device during these experiments, forming irregularities in their behaviour. The irregular behaviour of quantum matter reopens a line of philosophical inquiry within phenomenology, questioning the animacy and agency of materiality. If water is made of quantum matter and therefore scientifically proven to be animate, what can be said of the rights of water and its own agency or well being? This line of inquiry is not new to Indigenous beliefs,” in his essay “All My / Our Relations Can Posthumanism Be Decolonized?” written in 2016. The research and personal inspirations culminated in the amalgam that is my final video. Donna Haraway sees the posthuman as an “amalgam” of bits and pieces working together as described in her monumental essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto” published in 1991. Ideally, this is really what I want to experience in my lifetime is some sort of middle ground we (as in all beings from every curve of the earth and from within ourselves (microbiome)) all recognize and from that point move forward together. Currently, there is only one pre-dominant desire in our human species and that is capitalism and that is the stem of what is known as the Anthropocene which should be better known as the Capitalocene as described by Donna Haraway in her essay “SYMBIOGENESIS, SYMPOIESIS, AND ART SCIENCE ACTIVISMS FOR STAYING WITH THE TROUBLE.”

The process of creating the final documentation video involved the use of multiple softwares and hardwares such as a computer, video camera, projector, microphone, zoom recorder, my cellular device, and an analog synthesizer. The softwares I relied on for image manipulation were Affinity Photo, Touchdesigner, and Final Cut ProX. It was not a linear process to get the visual and audio components of my final video; I had to get image content that would be my own and not downloaded from the Internet, and edit, then re-edit, and finally post-edit everything together.

The images I used were taken from things I already own (projector, lights) and from a trip with my mother to New Mexico. I had to travel to New Mexico, to the place my mother was raised–outside of Gallup, NM which is a small town stop on the legendary Route 66 only a few miles outside of the Navajo (Diné) reservation. The only place to buy alcohol before entering the reservation from NM. I do not know my father and he was not directly an influence to my life. Since this is a story from my perspective, I decided that learning from my mother would be the way for me to learn more about myself; so, I talked to her about where she grew up. Also, this aligns with the matrilineal nature of Diné culture. This is why I have used the landscape that is shown in my video which is of dirt, tumbleweeds, low red plateaus, blue skies, and wispy clouds. It was captured at the watering hole very close to the location of my mother’s family home in Iyanbito, New Mexico. Iyanbito is a tiny community (christian-church-based) 17 miles south of Gallup, NM and “Iyanbito” means “buffalo’s spring” in my native Diné language. My mother says there used to be a large spring here and buffalo drank from the spring during her lifetime. Quickly though, the buffalo were non-existent and now, only the spring remains as a very small pond created by the never-ending, but dwindling flow of water spouting out from the natural spring–now through a water pump–which is polluted with algae, broken beer bottles, plastic trash, and more liquor bottles. I find it difficult to imagine my mother with her siblings playing and splashing around in this polluted little pond in the high desert of New Mexico, but that is something the local kids just did. 

The audio and words for my narration were other components that I wanted to be original and thoughtfully considered. I used a Roland JU-06 analog synthesizer to create the sounds in my video. These sounds were inspired by the high desert landscape of Iyanbito, NM and NM in general with its hot deserts and cold casinos. Due to NM being the home of many native tribes, there has been some sort of deal between the federal government and native tribes that only native tribes can have casinos in which people can gamble in NM. Casinos have become a part of the capitalism forced upon Indigenous people and thus have become a large part of NM culture. My mother has worked in the casino industry for nearly 30 years and has worked at many different casinos throughout NM including the largest casino known as Sandia Casino located in Albuquerque, NM. The words for my narration took the longest to form. It was not until the end of week 9 that I realized what exactly I wanted to say. I realize my final video is text heavy, but that is because all of my life I have felt silenced as a “woman” and as a brown person. I really wanted to be as vulnerable as possible because then maybe some truth would be revealed. The words I say are inspired from the quotes I read in my midpoint video prototype which is based on the essays I have read. 

The final documentation video is a lot darker than the video I used to project and that is because the video is completely a recording of the visual projections onto my wall and self. I had to find a balance of not using a high ISO and aperture and shutter. I did not want a lot of noise in the video recording so I tolerated the darker-ness. Also, it gives the feeling of an old TV which I did not mind without using digital aging effects.. I kind of regret not using the picture of my bro, myself, and our dad watching an old television which is an image I used in my midpoint prototype video. In future iterations, that image I am going to include again.    

The final video did vary from my initial design. My initial design was very ambitious because I wanted multiple angles and projection designs. This was impossible for me, who was working solo. If I had one more person to assist me, then I could have achieved this more ambitious vision of my final video. In my final video, there is only one camera view because I could only map and curate video for only one design… Doing anymore would have caused a massive panic attack of frustration and anxiety which I do not need more of. 

My most unexpected discovery was when I was mapping or drawing out my existence using the Kantan mapper in Touchdesigner and my Wacom tablet. The Wacom tablet proved not useful because of its finicky nature so I found out that when self projection mapping it is best to use a wireless mouse to set the points. But I fell in love with this idea that I am ultimately the creator of my life. I am a creation of life, but also I am a continuer of life somehow. I am capable of choosing or mapping out my own destiny and that is a revelation for someone whose culture and community has been extinguished and forced to assimilate and believe something other than we know as truth. This falls in line with my statement of praxis as well as the use of the projector, itself. Through my process, I realize I am capable of transformation and my final video is a story of a continuous self-transformation.

As a photographer, as a videographer, as an artist, I am obsessed with light and the absence of light. With light we are and everything is. I am not light-biased though, I have a true and deep appreciation for darkness for it is the canvas, the surface, the support, for light. I really am in awe of the idea and phenomena of light being projected so I wanted to explore projection mapping onto myself with a standard home projector. This was the first time I had projection mapped onto myself and it was not easy, but it is something I want to continue to use as part of my medium. I want to make the projector a character in my video. I did not realize this until my professor gave the critical feedback of actually giving the projector a voice, somehow, as a spiritual guide and this is something I am going to edit into my video to make it more of dialogue between myself, a human, and this spiritual guide. Also, I am going to give my voice more of a  break and add silence to my video. Because I have an experience of being silenced, I might better be able to incorporate it, critically, into my video in future iterations. Phenomenally, I see the projector as I also see the technology of the camera. I have the ability to project into the future (projecting light photons onto..) and to remember the past (taking a picture with a camera). Mixing the past and future while in the present creates something unknown and this makes me happy and curious. These basic tools are what I have used to explore the human condition as they are tools made by humans but also serve as something phenomenal. I want to continue using the projector as a medium and as a philosophical point for furthering my art. I really value my time and work on this project because I know that remnants of my discoveries from this project will surface in my art throughout my life and career.