W. o’ W.: Dustin Hoffman

“It’s not intellectual. You’re mostly aware of what you don’t like. Henry Moore said something like that. You keep chipping away at what isn’t an elephant. And Miles Davis said: ‘Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there’ — I’ve put it on my wall. We think the conscious is the determining factor, and actually it’s the least reliable instrument. The knowing is the infringement. You find what is exposed.”

Color Reversal Transparencies (aka “slides”)

Kodak has announced: “Due to a steady decrease in sales and customer usage, combined with highly complex product formulation and manufacturing processes, Kodak is discontinuing three Ektachrome (color reversal) films.” This means that, after 77 years, the Great Yellow Father is no longer in the business of making slides. ‘Tis a pity: slides can’t be beat for color saturation and sharpness. Fortunately, we still have excellent Fuji films with those qualities.

Me, I’m drownin’ in slides. Carousels, boxes, plastic sheets, even food storage bagsful. Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Agfachrome, and Fujichrome, pretty much all 35mm. I also curate (i.e. have) my grandfather’s Anscochrome, some of my in-laws’ stuff, a batch depicting office culture at United Air Lines’s EXO, work shot from printed sources for delectation in class, and endless dupes of a generation’s worth of AP work. Slides are part of the reason the missus insists that if I go first she’ll have the basement bulldozed, rather than make sense of its contents.

Richard Benson wrote: “The huge amateur market that consumed 35mm slides has always been a mystery to me. Why did all those people make all those pictures? The impulse must be connected to an effort to retain memories of times gone by. It is somewhat tragic, because as we use technological devices to aid our memories we inevitably reduce our capacity to remember. We see this demonstrated in the mnemonic wonders of oral traditions, which always suffer as writing is introduced to cultures. Color slides are even more mysterious because they are almost never looked at. At least with an album of prints we can take the book off the shelf, easily leaf through it a bit, and then put it away again. The slide requires a projector, a dark room, and almost invariably other people, who have been gathered together to participate in the viewing of someone else’s visual history. For me there is no more excruciating event than looking at the family slides.”

I have only respect for Mr. Benson, so I will gently address some of these points. It’s safe to assume that marketing is what fueled the 35mm transparency (and its business in projectors) popularity, yes? Oral traditions are no parallel to easily leafing, are they? If technological devices reduce one’s capacity to remember, it’s for some sort of trade-off, n’est-pas? Peut-etre the tragedie is on a nostalgic level, within a generation or so (I recall gnashing over the proliferation of soft-cover books). Oral traditions necessitate a gathering, a ritual; hello? And they need not be family slides. (Okay, there was that one time when Jack Niemet showed us hundreds of slides of composers’ birthplaces, pianos, deathbeds, and headstones, and I went to bed while he went to the loo, but hey, the exception proves the rule.) The sharpness in transparencies can’t be beat, and lord knows there are ways to convert the images to other, um, mediums.

Bonus Karma: Colleen Plumb’s “Animals Are Outside Today”

Bonus karma: credit for effort that is over and above and aside course requirements, often referred to as “extra credit.”

This came up only sporadically in class on Thursday and Friday, so here’s a reminder to get to the March 4 reception for the exhibition at the place called Brushwood, in Riverwoods. I suspect it’s a venue not unlike the Wauconda Ansel show. Travel east on Lake-Cook Road, past Milwaukee Avenue; turn left on Portwine to its end, left on Riverwoods to the Ryerson Conservation Area.

Ms. Plumb’s artist’s statement says, in part: “…Henry Beston stated regarding animals in his book, The Outermost House: ‘They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.’

“Contradictions define our relationships with animals. We love and admire them; we are entertained and fascinated by them; we take our children to watch and learn about them. Animals are embedded within core human history—evident in our stories, rituals and symbols. At the same time, we eat, wear and cage them with seeming indifference, consuming them, and their images, in countless ways.

“Our connection to animals today is often developed through assimilation and appropriation; we absorb them into our lives, yet we no longer know of their origin…  This series moves within these contradictions, always questioning if the notion of the sacred, and the primal connection to Nature that animals convey and inspire, will survive alongside our evolution.”

In this particular case, don’t read the Reader (nor do the wind, the sun, or the rain) so you won’t witness the indignity of the review’s senseless link to an article about a good restaurant’s serving of pigtails. I may have noticed this because I may be ADHD (“Look! A bird!”).