Contained Abundance

October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Trish Kandik rents out a room in her Eugene, Oregon downtown bungalow to travelers coming through town. I stayed in her home last weekend while visiting my daughter who goes to the University of Oregon.

Her home is small and modest. The first thing I noticed though, when I walked in was a sense of spaciousness and calm.

It is completely lacking clutter. I found out later that Trish has a business helping people get rid of stuff and organize the environments they live in. I was really drawn to this domestic space she’s created, and each day I would marvel at how I enjoyed being there and taking pleasure in the minimalist aesthetic. It was not severe or deprived, just serene, and imbued with a spirit of intentional reduction.

Contained Abundance

My room was simple and tidy. A bed with a quilted cover, a bookcase with six books clustered in a corner, a closet holding four hangers, two towels and an extra blanket. Every object is in a place, where it seems it is supposed to be.

There was a house key, loaf of pumpkin bread and a bunch of bananas on the dining room table. It might have been the dark, rainy November day, the multi-colored leaves scattering outside in the park across the street, but I thought this is contained abundance.

To focus and pay attention to keeping things simple takes a huge amount of care and discipline. And to keep it up day after day. Not letting the proliferation of stuff happen. I’m not sure if it requires an obsessive-compulsive personality to create this kind of atmosphere. Perhaps the lessons of less can be learned and internalized.

My experience at Trish’s has me thinking about the Lunch Love Community Project – exploring how a ‘story’ or a ‘proposition’ can be conjured out of cascades of recorded material from the river of life and arranged into a five minute film that tries to imply much more than it shows. What is not there, or there between the edit points, is as important as what is there.

For me, the Lunch Love Community webisode will do well to have, upon clicking the Play button, an infused spirit like the one I found at Trish Kandik’s bungalow in Eugene. Small, contained and spacious, with a subtle power that only becomes apparent as you tune in and pay close attention.

Is this possible to create an oasis like this in our media-cluttered environments?

I am trying.

It really is like writing a poem where every word, and how it sits, and is linked to the next, is making the experience work.

I say this because it requires a fearless and confident relationship to language, design, and visual culture. To be able to pick and choose, remove more than you add, and contain the abundance.

Lessons from less, so that people can see more.

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Finding Water

October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Persisting and concentrating, I make non-fiction films shaped from images, sounds and voices caught from the waters of life. In order to create energy for this long and arduous process, my devotion to a subject needs to match my devotion to images and sounds moving on a screen, so the two can merge and create a stronger alternative reality.

It used to be that a track record of success might help you attract funding institutions to back a new film. You would be in a dialogue with your funders, your producers, and your technical and editorial team. When the film was completed, you would show it to close friends and supporters, distributors, and begin offering it to venues and festivals. It might be bought for broadcast, either public or cable.It would be sent in for awards consideration. If more money came through, you would design an outreach effort to get the word out about the film and its subject. Your website would be promotional and you would meet your audiences at screenings.

If you have the capacity and the resources, this model could still work.

But now, I wanted a new experience, with different results.

Lunch Love Community is evolving into an outcome rather than a completed object.It is a network of intentional relationships and dialogues among people who are passionate about the subject.

It is an experimental laboratory within fluid platforms and formats. And it is a visual conversation about what constitutes authorship of the project.

It is also touching an expanding web of collaborators and supporters who see it, and its spirit, as a way to activate and participate in an expressive field larger than any of us individually.

I am learning to see the work I do in media as liquid, a permeable substance that moves across and through networks or clusters of activity. The film will no longer be an object that is solid, and completed. It will come together momentarily in one space, only to be dispersed and re-formed in another.Yet, the context I give it, as the artist, infuses it with my human intention, and keeps it from dispersing only as disappearing fragments across the media stream.

This image reminds me of a moment one summer, standing on a bridge looking over the small but rushing Onion River in northern Minnesota.

Sparkling and hypnotic, the stream moved over and around rocks, being pulled down towards the wise expansive lake. The waters at the river’s edges would wind back to the larger stream, regardless of apparent force or laziness, adding to the growing momentum.

And that mainstream changed its position, depending on my vantage point and where I was in relationship to the water flowing.

We inhabit many image and media cultures moving together, but at different strengths, and always changing, assuming different shapes, just like the summertime water in the feisty Onion River.

Eating with My Eyes

October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

I enjoy slipping away from my desk, my screen, my thoughts and worries at noon, on an occasional Tuesday, to walk over to King Middle School in Berkeley and buy a five dollar school lunch.I will stop by the Chefs’ office to check in and see what activities or events they’ve posted on the calendar, and where I might be able to shoot next. I am drawn to unpredictability and surprise when making a documentary.

I am also fond of the Berkeley School Lunch’s Mexican coleslaw, a recipe Executive Chef Bonnie Christensen and her team perfected before the start of this school year. I ask the server at the burrito station for a slice of quesadilla, a small scoop of rice, another of pinto beans, and a lot more of the fresh Mexican slaw.I make a mental note to get the ingredients for the slaw so I can copy it at home.

The 6th,7th and 8th graders pour in to eat in 20 minute intervals. The noise and energy levels reach peak levels in the uncommonly beautiful dining commons, the centerpiece building space of the school. Teachers on duty keep the kids contained and almostfocused on their plates of food. For many, this is the only hot meal of their day.

A few hours later, some of these kids will have been in Ms. Sonnenberg’s or Ms. Tanner’s “What’s On Your Plate” science class, and after school they will also hang out with friends at the corner store across from Fat Apple’s restaurant on MLK Street, buying and eating hefty bags of Red Hot Cheetos.

I would never want to stop them. Watching the clusters of young teenagers laughing talking and jumping up and down with sheer hormonal excitement after seven hours in class, it is impossible not to see again in so real a way, how food – even these naughty dayglo snacks — is the powerful force that binds us together.

The love and care that the school district cooks and servers, dishwashers and cleaners put into each meal infuses every molecule of the salad bar, today’s Mexican plate station, the milk tap and the compost bins. It’s like what one of the teachers explained, “it’s OK to hold both realities—hot lunch and hot cheetos in your mouth, that’s what kids can do.”

The school lunch cooks are planting seeds for future memories. At some point later in their lives, the kids who have gone through these lunch lines will remember the fine smell of delicately seasoned pinto beans, the crunch of the fresh Mexican slaw, and the ceiling light in the Commons rooms, and that moment when they were twelve years old and peeling a perfect Clementine orange to taste.

This is how we make change on a daily level, one plate at a time.

We are so grateful to all of you — the community backing this project, this important movement, working for it, and communicating through LUNCH LOVE COMMUNITY what we can collectively achieve.

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