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Is the glass half full or half empty…?

Right so I’m now half through this master I’m doing or more likely almost finished and yet soooo far from the final result. I still need to do this thesis. Now this may sound fairly straight forward and one would very much think that is the case, only I cannot help feeling a little like Sisyphus must have felt pushing that stone up the hill. The bloody thing keeps rolling down over and over and it seems as if I am getting nowhere at all (wallowing in self pity is probably not the answer to this at all it’s just so easy). This “getting nowhere” may be due to way too much ‘Friends watching’ and waaay too little reading and I’m therefore attempting to turn this around. Sometimes you just have to reach rock-bottom before you can push the stone back up the hill (or whatever it was them Greek dudes said).

I’m thinking now that maybe I should have chosen something about branding or cultural marketing or something with cultural economics… Something where there would be a lot of reading and figures and statistics and straight forward answers. Maybe there never is a straight forward answer and maybe I should just get over myself and get on with it. See I have chosen to do my thesis on photography and social networking, more specifically on iPhone App’s such as Instagram or Hipstamatic that are themselves photographic social networking. As most ideas before they become something else, before they transform into something one can actually grasp, it is a good idea…  But it is still only that. Now the outcome obviously depends on what I do with it. To elaborate, what I was thinking was throughout October and November to get in there and do a lot of Instagramming’, do different themes of pictures every week and in that way try to get to know this social network better, try to understand which pictures people like and enjoy the most and why.

To throw some theory in there with the pictures I have until now been looking (not enough) at Liz Well’s Understanding Photography and so far I gather (maybe this is obvious too) that depending on the theorist the ways in which they look at photographs are very different. I could probably do this thesis with focus on just one thinker say Susan Sontag for example, but I’m feeling that the whole discussion would then just be limited to her ideas. For this to be interesting, I’m thinking there should be a discussion about the different ways we use photographs and why. Especially in these new photographic social networks. It may not be groundbreaking news and breathtaking new ideas but hopefully it will incite discussions, conversations and maybe, hopefully, give a better understanding of these networks and why they are not a complete waste of time… Maybe it will turn out that they are, but then hopefully there will still be an explanation to why.

Now because this project is about social networking I feel it would be stupid not to blog along about it in the same time. I will therefore try to post regular blogs about the advancement of the project. The pictures will be here on the blog, on a specially created Tumblr, on Instagram and hey let’s throw in Facebook and Twitter as we go along. I’ll probably try to alternate though, let’s not be too crazy and spammy’. Any comments, thoughts, critiques or useful links are more than welcome. On Instagram I am ‘myellafyrstenberg’ and I’ll post the Tumblr link shortly.

Because it is such a nice and sunny day I think the first theme should be lights…

Stay tuned for more and thanks’ for stopping by!

Something old and something new

I have recently tried to catch up a little with technology… Just wanted to throw this out there! Hope you like it!!

http://soundcloud.com/myella

Have a good wedensday night

Happy Friday!

Today I do not have lot to say! I simply want to share a little project we were asked to do in school! Our film Band Apart, tiens tiens is that a play on words…?

The music is composed by my good friend Matthias Fuchez, with a tiny amount of my help or support rather. The song is a common project, check out our myspace!! I hope you all enjoy, Happy Friday!!

Passwoed: lcc

Epilogue on exile

After a strong reaction to my post from yesterday I feel I should elaborate my point so that no one else misunderstands.

I have a very good friend in Denmark, we’ve known each other probably since we were six years old. She always knew she wanted to do law school so after she finished college she went traveling for a year or two and then she started studying law. She met her boyfriend to years ago and they’re now getting married in the fall. We are very different her and I. She was always more considered than me and went I went off doing something truly random she stayed put. Sometimes I could get annoyed I was always the one making mistakes and she was able to stay on track. This doesn’t mean she didn’t make mistakes but she was better at considering her actions before doing. I, the other hand, have always been good at doing before thinking. The difference maybe between leading a more aesthetic than ethical life, even if I would like to be more the other way around I guess it is always a choice. No matter how big my mess she stayed like a fly on a sticky insect strap, and today we are still close friends. She lives in a house her boyfriend bought for them and when I go visit her I can’t help but feel a little out of place. It is as if she lives in a world of grown-ups and I’m still crawling around on the floor like a toddler… I envy her life sometimes, but when I leave her house I cannot help but feel I still made the right choices although some of them were wrong. Thus when I said “I sometimes wish I was one of these people who have it all figured out”, I meant her. She probably doesn’t have everything figured out, but I only say that (and any so called insults that I unconsciously made, may be because of this) because I don’t feel like I have anything figured out. I may have made bad choices and some of them I regret but I made them anyway and I would make them again because they brought me where I am today. I don’t have it all figured out and I’m living comfortably with that thought which can actually, if you can learn to let it, also be quite comforting. I think what some people might have taken as an insult yesterday may simply have been my own insecurity. When we envy or when we feel insecure we judge and maybe more severely than we should, I know I do… I completely and entirely admit that one day, one day, I do want steak knives and a little red cottage by a lake in Sweden (or a town house in London or a loft in Paris) with a fluffy puppy pissing on my floors. I am just not there yet and this thought is such a stranger to me that it seems almost impossible. So instead I envy the people who are already there even though I know this feeling is unnecessary because I am just not ready for settling down yet. Maybe this getting ready is just something you think about when the ‘settling down’ part hasn’t happened yet. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and realize my settling down happened over three moths… Every person should walk the down the road of settling down at his own pace, I guess, is the morale of this blog post. I didn’t mean to offend anyone and I certainly didn’t mean to belittle or denigrate anyone’s life choices. If I did something it was probably to reveal a little piece of my own weakness.

Thoughts on exile part 2

When I decided to move to London everything was planned beforehand. This was a professional choice, I came to finish my degree, I spoke the language, I had a room before I arrived and I knew a couple of people… Still it seemed much harder than going to Paris with only a thousand euros in my pocket knowing nothing at all. Maybe it’s easier to leave home to live in a new country when you’re nineteen considering it’s probably the first time you leave and apart from your family you don’t have a lot of attachments. You leave to begin something, the commencement of your adult life or some other phrase with a lot of ethos. When you’re twenty-five (even though that is not that old) you leave things behind, people, places, moments… But maybe it’s not a question of age, maybe it just depends on how attached you become to what you leave behind. Maybe it depends on your reason for leaving, if it’s a personal choice or a professional one. I spent a lot of time figuring out why I actually left Denmark behind, and why it’s so difficult for me today, to imagine a life back there. Was I running to something or running from something, and am I still running?

Maybe this would be a good time to bring up the question of freedom. If one were to agree with Vilém Flusser then freedom for the expelled is not a theoretical question but a practical one: We are prone to habit, to the ‘nostalgie de la bue’ the comfortable mud bath where it is nice to wallow, the fact that we will try to make it comfortable for ourselves wherever we are, roots or no roots. When we are expelled, or as in my case, when we expel ourselves we will feel estranged, different from others, we become outsiders. We will then try to create new roots in the new environment to fit in, to be like the others. The question is, is that ever possible and maybe as Flusser says freedom for the expelled is exactly that, to be able to remain a stranger. If you follow his argument; to continually be a stranger also means that you will be able to experience the freedom of changing yourself and others… Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s just trying to find some release from the fact that continually being a stranger is hard.

I sometimes wish I was one of those people who has it all figured out. They finish college then they start university, they find a mate, they buy a house in a nice suburb, they get married maybe they have kids or buy a fluffy golden retriever and then they commute to work everyday… Sometimes I wish I was like that, taking the easy way, settling down. Sometimes I even find myself being a little jealous of my friends who have always been like that. I’m jealous for a split second, but then when I imagine myself in that little cute house, following all the rules, putting steak knives on my wishing list for Christmas, I just see a huge angry bull in a china-shop. Maybe some people need to expel themselves, need to feel expelled, to feel different. But then when does being expelled becomes habit, when does your estrangement evolve into your nostalgie de la boue…? Maybe it is never that simple, or maybe this is just a passing feeling. It is certain however that when we feel like ‘the other’ we try our best to blend in with the crowd.

I distinctly remember one night in Paris, one of the first times when I thought I started to blend in with the population. This was probably in my second year as a bachelor student so I already spoke and wrote fluent French. A friend was doing a theater piece, a mix between theater and stand-up comedy and I really found it funny. Just that seemingly insignificant detail, I laughed because I understood, and the jokes were all in French. Now there is a thing about humor, it is probably the thing that is most difficult to understand when you switch over to another culture. Humor depends on the language, on the collective history of the given culture and sometimes also of the political history. To be able to understand jokes and insider jokes in another language is hard. For me that night was the first time I really thought I was getting a hang of it, a great victory in my small world, and this just because of a couple of jokes. Because it is not easy to fit in, in a new world. My first two years in Paris were great but I deliberately remained a stranger to an everyday life any other French person would have had in the same time, and I was happy like that. Then people moved and all the international people I used to know were suddenly gone and I realized that even though I knew people all around the world, nothing stable, no roots tied me to that new place, where suddenly again I was all alone. I learned to sift through my friendships and ended up having mostly French friends, they weren’t going anywhere and I could thus start building new roots.

I don’t know if one can ever really fit in, in another culture. After seven years in Paris I still had days where I felt apart, and now in London everything is just getting started. Or take Vilém Flusser who lived most of his life in Brazil but always remained the old European. When he writes about exile you can feel that his text comes from someone who desperately tried to fit it, because that’s what we do whatever the reason for our exile. It is almost as if he tries to give exile a purpose, to make it more bearable. Maybe to him, to myself, maybe to some people estrangement is a necessary part of one day being able to settle down, maybe some people never settle down. I am slowly starting to find foothold in my new place, after now almost a year in London things are slowly shifting. Aircrafts have become London to me, they make me feel at home now. I don’t expect to blend in with Brits any time soon and I don’t think I want to. For the moment I am an outsider and I am holding on to that for a little while longer. I am not sure choosing your own exile, or expelling yourself necessarily gives you more freedom than someone who will do the opposite, but I do think that if you can learn how to, you can turn your own expulsion into your greatest strength.

Thoughts on exile part 1

Write a personal essay about exile… Easier said than done, I’m spending a long time contemplating starting the personal essay, it seems fairly straight forward, but then when I start thinking I complicate things more than necessary. I have therefore not written even just one word yet. See I do feel I have something to say about the subject though, If you think of exile in the traditional meaning of the word, then I might not live in exile, but if you think of it as Vilém Flusser does, as someone being expelled from their usual or habitual environment then I guess I have been living in exile for 8 years.

London will always remind me of aircrafts, the noise, the lights and the dirty tails like snails passing through the sky leaving their slimy trails in a long tail behind them. Up until recently this thought about aircrafts was something I hadn’t noticed, a thought floating around somewhere in between conscious and unconsciousness and then one day when I finally acknowledged it, it’s been roaming around in my head ever since. Such a simple thing that I didn’t even notice it and yet so meaningful. Everyone who lives in London, even those who have been here on holiday will know that I’m right when I point out that every time you look up, if the sky isn’t a complete wall of gray, you will be able to notice a plane or even hear the vague sound of jet engines. When I look out my window at night, I see the lights from planes, when I walk around in my own thoughts and I look up, they’re there, or just the sound without the visual, a gentle reminder. They have become such an intrinsic part of my life that I almost don’t notice them anymore. What is it then about aircrafts that keeps my mind locked in thought for so long?

When I first moved to Paris I knew no one, nothing was familiar not even the language… Nothing looked the same, nothing smelled the same everything was new. I wasn’t picky and I got lucky, I found the cheapest flat share, moved in to the same (very small) room with another Danish girl, with whom I quickly became best friends and found a job rather easily. The flat share was obviously illegally sub let and we shared it with out quite random landlord, Yann, who collected old cork bottle stoppers, lived in a room filled with plants, had half long greasy gray hair and wore old dusty pullovers. The flat was situated in the middle of China town and it constantly smelled like fried duck even when no one were frying, but we didn’t care. It was on the 31st floor and we had a panoramic view over the rooftops of Paris, we drank wine and ate chocolate and cheese whilst smoking Vogue mistrals and Daviduff’s looking out on the blinking Eiffel Tower. We didn’t speak a word of French, well maybe three, but it didn’t matter, we would end up discussing French politics after a few beers anyway. We found crappy jobs in restaurants, jobs a lot of blue eyed, blond haired Scandinavians must have done before us, they screamed exploitation and we were payed a lousy salary but we didn’t care. I got really sick not long after I got there, for a reason that to this date is still unclear. I was pretty much hovering between life and death and spent four days in intensive care and three in recovery, I couldn’t really tell the doctors how I felt, they even tried to communicate in German at one point. I could have gone home, that would have been the easiest thing to do but I didn’t. We wanted to be in Paris, we wanted to blend in, we wanted so badly to be a part of it, that when I look back on that time now, I only have good memories. We were so young and carefree and as much as we wanted to blend in, those two first years we really didn’t.

When you choose to leave a life behind, when you choose to travel to a new country, to a new language and to a new culture you don’t necessarily think about all the things you leave behind. I know I didn’t and I know that I didn’t notice the change until it had already happened. You might not even think you leave something behind, but down the road you will. I’m not the sort of person who will complain so I didn’t and these first couple of years in Paris, in spite of all the things that could have made it hell, they were magical. That is at least the memory of it as it is in my head. When I think about it now I can see that I probably cut myself off from my roots. It was sort of a bubble in the beginning and when the bubble popped I found that I had left a lot of my old friends behind and that I didn’t really speak to my family that much. With my family, luckily, I was able to turn that around and I guess with your friends only the truly good ones stays through your mess. My life in Paris, in the beginning, happened as I went along, nothing was planned. One year became two, became three, became I did my degree in a French university alongside French students and ended up staying for seven years.

To be continued…

“It is better to be beautiful than to be good, but it is better to be good than to be ugly.” – Oscar Wilde

 

Whilst walking home through the streets of South London, and through the everlasting smell of every possible thing fried (sometimes mixed with a slight hint of urine), I was contemplating how to approach this next blog-post. I have for a while now taken more buses than tubes, and I am slowly beginning to realize the power a bus ride can have on your psyche and on your mood, this is what I shall do my best to relate.

See, riding the bus in London can (if you let it) be an extremely enjoyable experience or (if you don’t concentrate hard enough) a delightfully disgusting pleasure. If you are so lucky as to catch a free ride with nr 12 from Elephant & Castle towards Oxford Circus you’ll find yourself happily surprised to be contemplating the architecture of one of Europe’s finest capitals. This bus (even though it is not a double-decker and thus deprived of a sky view) takes you from the regenerating and urban south bank up across the river into touristy London and you suddenly remember that you really do live in the same city as Big Ben. If the sky happens to be blue (which truly is rare) this ride can be exceptional, and it won’t cost you a dime (or a dollar or a penny or a pound… Or any other kind of money! Isn’t there a song like that?). If you, as me, live further out, you might find yourself on the G1 (around Tooting Broadway) now you have to be aware and ready for a ride on this bus, be prepared psychologically.

The thing one must contemplate before I move on to relating my own experience is that on the bus everywhere in London you can find every imaginable character alive (sometimes seemingly dead). You’ll realize how many different (and sometimes very weird) people actually (and daily) take the bus. When you start contemplating this idea and when you start looking around you will also notice more and more different people and you will start thinking “well if I look around this much then imagine what they must see when they see me”. And then as it happens you will notice one particular person, maybe you will see them twice or several times and then you find yourself wondering “well if I notice them maybe somewhere out there is someone random remembering my face”.

I met beard-lady, her son and her mother on the G1 and apart from pigeons; this has been one of the most unsettling experiences of my time in London. I met them twice; the first time the blond kid in the VERY large stroller didn’t make a sound and seemed rather harmless, but on the second ride he was kicking the other passengers whilst screaming (very screechy noise not making my ears happy) and eating a dirty baby-wipe… Why do children put everything into their mouths, am I missing something, are you actually suppose to let them eat paper and dirt? Anyway the mother of the beard-lady is dirty and greasy but she doesn’t have a beard, she makes me feel sad but she doesn’t inspire any other (compassionate or not) feelings whatsoever. Beard-lady on the other hand, well first of all she has a beard.

Now let’s dwell on that for a moment. Cause’ I took the G1 on another day and met a very cool Indian (I want to say priest…) man, and he had a beard. It went all the way down to the chest and was majestically divided in two, in different shades of black and grey. On top of this highly impressive hair growing from his chin he had a white turban (for a moment I did think this was the bus to Aladdin and flying carpets) and not only was it a white turban, it was also a mobile-telephone-holder. He thus answered his phone, stuffing it in between his ear and the turban and was talking free handed. A perfect hand-set solution, the turban. Comes in different colours. Now this Indian man priest made a big impression, and that day I was secretly sad I would never be able to grow a fancy pants beard like that. But then I met the beard-lady, she did not exactly make me feel the same way. The beard-lady has greasy hair, greasy skin, dirty clothes, dirty bare feet in sandals, a son that eats dirty baby-wipes whilst kicking and screeching and she has a beard. Now I am not trying to offend women with heavy hair growth, but this beard seemed to have a life on its own. It wasn’t even and it wasn’t just a shade of darkness on her chin. It was a beard, like having eaten too much chocolate or liquorice or other dark coloured food that gets stuck on your face and chin… This beard was a proper untrimmed woman beard, and beard-lady didn’t seem to be aware of any of this. Not the screeching, kicking child, not the greasy mother, not her greasy self and definitely not the beard. And I felt bad, partly because I vomited a little bit in my mouth, partly because I felt pity and because I knew, on both those rides, that even though I would like to be able to say the opposite, I was judging them. I was also contemplating how much a pocket mirror would tear up this woman’s budget, but then maybe the prize on pocket mirrors has boomed through the roof, or she comes from a world where mirrors are made by the devil… So what does it say about me that I had to concentrate very hard doing yoga breathings focusing on the beauty of life (because that’s what you focus on when you try to focus on something else) to take my mind off beard-lady? That I am a shallow cold-hearted existence, judging people on a set of rules predefined by a society where (sadly) it is the exterior that counts? And it does, yes it does. Even though I do know people whom I find unattractive at a first glance, but when I get to know them better they blossom into beautiful creatures. Or the other way around, a dirty personality can take away what you thought at a first glance to be incredibly pretty. We don’t really want to admit it, but it does matter! So yes I did judge and you are free to judge me for judging, but I honestly think that everyone even the most giving and loving and good-hearted person would end up with a tiny amount of vomit in their mouth at the sight of beard-lady (and that tyrant of a child). I’m trying to think of something positive to through in now in the end to make me look a tiny bit better after all this judgment but I cannot seem to grasp any ideas apart from the fact that ugliness can also make you feel extremely good about yourself, so it was definitely not a wasted bus ride!

All this to emphasize the awareness a bus ride can cause, it can be most unsettling but it can also be an extremely enjoyable pleasure. Therefore, next time you get on a bus (and please do), look around you, oh and buy the hand-set turban, I heard in hipster world that they’re on their way back.