I seem to have tremendous luck with watching documentaries on the most seemingly bland subjects. (My previous luck was with a documentary on a font, “Helvetica.”) I watched “Between The Folds” on netflix last night with friends and was blown away. This film beautifully shows the intense and focused world of origami. I was particularly please with how often they referenced the world of music, with one paper folder going so far as to mark his creations by opus number. But I think the thing that intrigued me the most was the fact that origami has a fairly short history as a “legitimate” art form, and it set me off thinking about the wonderful prospects for art as the result of globalization. The hyper-connected age we now live in allows people to from all corners of the world to build what might otherwise have been a niche area. And for that, our culture is enriched.
Given my post on reading, I have been doing some thinking on watching. Not seeing, watching. There is a very significant difference.
Seeing is something I do late at night when I’m bored and I’m staring at the television screen. If I’m lucky I transition to watching if something like “The Colbert Report” is on.
Seeing is a mindless absorption of visual information and we do too damn much of it. We need to stop seeing and do more watching. We need to think about what we see. Why is that child crying? What does that mean? Do I care? Is there anything I can do for him? We are only here for so long, and if we aren’t careful watchers life may pass us by, us having only seen it.
This is something I feel very strongly about and is something I am trying to incorporate into my daily life. Look around and watch. Observe. Listen. See the unobvious beauty in the scene that lay before me. Feel as the cool milk runs down my throat and really enjoy it.
What got me thinking about this was two-fold. One fold was reminiscing about reading “Our Town.” (A brilliant play about using the time that we have and a punch in the gut and a half. Go, read. My website will wait.) The second fold was television.
The idiot box is only that if you let it. I look around and see many wonderful television shows. It’s an exciting arena of serialized drama and there’s something thrilling about really engaging a show. Looking back it’s so much more fulfilling that randomly flipping through channels hoping for something to catch my eye.
I think that the advent of things like Hulu and shows coming out on DVD is huge boon to the world of television. A whole new culture of people who see it as a birthplace of art and treat as such is steadily growing. Watching a good television show discerningly is just as artistically valuable as watching a classic film or reading a book, and I treasure the hours I am spending this summer diving into such wonderful stories. But the only reason I can feel that immersion is because I’m watching, trying to do more than just see.
Whether it’s our daily lives or visual art, I really feel it’s imperative that we (you know, as a society and junk) take what we take in more seriously.
Observation is a preliminary step to action, and without action we might as well be rocks.
Don’t just see the forest and the trees, know what they mean!
Watching, always watching,