Thursday, April 5, 2007

everyone loves a big fat lie

"It's a lie. It's a bunch of sad strangers photographed beautifully, and... all the glittering assholes who appreciate art say it's beautiful 'cause that's what they wanna see. But the people in the photos are sad, and alone... But the pictures make the world seem beautiful, so... the exhibition is reassuring which makes it a lie, and everyone loves a big fat lie."

Bright and shiny on the surface, no matter how dark and twisty on the inside, the cliché may actually hold--a picture is worth a thousand words. Or more, sometimes. In an age obsessed with photographs, from digital cameras and photo sharing sites to glossy magazines and gossip websites, we make every effort to "capture the moment" perfectly.

Regardless of how imperfect the moment in question is. We smile at the lens, hoping it won't see through our thin veneer, leaving our unhappiness on hold for a second. Oh wait, let's take it again--we give it a second chance.

Our own pictures, all happy and smiley on the surface, hide the truth. We smile for the camera, giving it our best angle, hoping to have nothing lodged between our teeth. And what about those sly shots, taken by someone when they think we are unaware, when we are in fact highly aware of having our picture taken. We portray the persona of who we want to appear to be to the photographer, deceptive through our false candidacy. We pretend we didn't realise we were having our picture taken; but secretly ecstatic in the knowledge that someone wants to capture us.

Our pictures are misleading, only pretending to tell the truth, yet, they remain strangely reassuring. Lonely and terribly afraid of being alone, we hold onto every fleeting moment of feeling desired.

How can a photograph of something so tragic turn into a work of art and beauty? The only explanation is that it doesn't. It exposes a certain humanity, an aspect of humanity that makes us uncomfortable. So we react in the only way we know how; we transpose it into "art", masking the tragedy in the photograph with a supposedly beautifully captured scene. And at the end of the day, that is all it is, merely a scene. The photograph places a barrier between us and its subject, keeping us a safe distance away and freeing us from any guilt as we sashay into pretentious galleries displaying a façade of beautiful art at the expense of deep sadness.

Beauty emerges from tragedy. But does it really, or are we selfishly just looking for one saving grace in hopes that it will make us feel better?

Broken Glass

(written by guest blogger HB)

I'm storming off. He's following. Why bother? What's done can't be undone. What's known won't be forgotten. but still, he insists. I reach the corner when he grabs my arm. "Let go of me." I tell him with such strength that he does. "It was a mistake" he says. He seems sincere but I don't care. "How can you sleep with someone by mistake?" I turn around. I'm storming off.

I'm tapping my foot. The seat in front of me is empty so I don't think I'm bothering anyone. "Can you please stop that?" she says in a tone that suggests we're just strangers, sharing a bench when the bus is half empty. I obediently stop and mutter "I'm sorry". After 15 years of marriage I'm weakened and don't bother with replies. I just output what's been programmed. The bus stops and picks up a young man wearing headphones. He sits somewhere behind us. I look out of the window and lose myself watching some pigeons. I'm tapping my foot.

He’s still following me. What could he possibly be thinking? I’m not going to take him back. It’s been two weeks, is it really worth it? Why would he care so much? I turn another corner and he’s still behind me, pleading. “Why are you still following me?” I say. “Because I think it’s worth it. I think we have something worth fighting for.” I’m about to say something but decide not to. I turn and walk off and he’s still following me.

She’s yelling at me. Why is she yelling so much? Does my tapping really bother her so much to make such a scene on a bus? Is she doing it to teach me a lesson? To subdue me? I haven’t retaliated to her attacks in about five years why would she feel the need to shout so loudly and so continuously. She’s bringing up things that happened years ago. I spilt coffee on the sofa seven years ago. I lost my job three years ago. She says it’s my fault we’re riding the bus. I'm jealous of that lucky young man wearing headphones who can listen to whatever he wants. I’m about to say something but decide not to. I shut my mouth and she’s yelling at me.

I cross the street. I’m afraid to hear him talk anymore. So I walk faster. But he still keeps up. “Sorry,” he says. “I don’t want this to end.” I don’t want it to end either but I can’t let him know that. I can’t allow someone to treat me like that and get away with it. If I do, it’ll just get worse and worse. But I can’t help it. “What we had was so good,” he says “we can’t just let it go to waste. Please.” He’s getting to me. So I start to slow down as I cross the street.

I look at her face, trying to ignore her constant screaming. I think about other things. How did it get to this? We were happy once. A long time ago, but still, we were happy. Was it really me as she claims? Could it have been my fault? I’m thinking about all the events that she’s talking about. One by one I can visualize them. They all feel very similar. I’m staring at her thinking of other things while she screams at me. The variable is what lies between us. A coffee machine. A toilet. A toothbrush. Some groceries. It’s her fault; she exaggerates, every time. She just wants to have control over me. It’s starting to get to me and I’m getting angrier. I’m glowering now as I look at her face.

“We can work it out,” he says. I stop now and turn around to look at him. I’m almost in tears but I’m holding them back. I’m sure it shows though. “Just give me another chance.” I’m looking in his eyes and it’s getting harder and harder to resist. “How do I know I can trust you?” He comes face to face with me and holds my hands in his. “Look at me and tell me you can’t trust me.” He squeezes my hands. I look into his eyes then across the street. The little man shows green. I could turn and leave him forever or I can stay with him. He looks me in the eyes. “We can work it out.”

“I’m sick and tired of you!” I scream back. An unfamiliar voice; a voice I’m certain she’s never heard. “I’ve taken enough of your shit. Stop blaming it on me. Not everything in the world is my fault and not everything is worth it.” She’s looking back at me, shocked. I know the guy with his headphones on would cheer me on if he had any idea what was going on. “I may have ruined your sheets but you’ve destroyed my life.” I stand up and walk to the front of the bus. She stays in her seat in complete silence but for the first time in our marriage, she looks genuinely apologetic. “I’m sick and tired of you.”

I let go of him in one more act of rebellion and turn to cross the street. The little man is blinking green now. As I cross the street I can picture his face. His apologetic face. I’m trying to let him go. I don’t want to be trapped. I’m trying to just cross this street. As long as I don’t look back I can leave him I can be free. Half way through my willpower collapses and I turn to look at him again.

I turn and look at her again. With that puppy dog look on her face. I’m standing at the door, I want to get off at the next stop; I don’t care where it takes me. I’m holding the handle and looking in front of me. I can picture her face in my head. For the first time I feel free. I feel alive. I want to turn and savor my first and only victory. I look at her and as I turn I let go of the handle.

I don’t see the bus in time but when I do the only thing I can think of is how weak I am. I’m glass.

As the bus brakes sharply and I hit the windshield I can think of only one thing. I’m strong. I’m iron.

I’m crystal.

I’m stone.