If you want to know where my favourite place on the internet is, well it's here:
Ginkgo was a woman is Wisconsin who kept an online journal. She was a happy woman who put up heaps of photos of herself. Before I found this web-site,
I wouldn't have believed that a happy person could write a
journal as interesting as this. I used to be only interested
in the really depressing journals, the ones that spill
their pain and suffering out onto the net. But this Ginkgo had the
best online journal I'd ever seen, and it's not because her life
was ultra exciting or anything, but just because of her attitude
and her charm and the way she expressed herself.
Instead of having a 'real' job, Ginkgo was happy to spend
her days staring into a computer monitor and tending to her
cats and sitting by the pond and taking photos. She also
had a fairytale marriage I guess. Supported by her
husband's income, she could to devote her life to leisure
activities. And that, to me, is very admirable. When I was
reading her journal, some of her happiness was transferred
she started doing this art project where she took a photo of
herself every day and put the photos online -- and the photos
were like, incredibly good. I think the most important
thing that people can learn from this
journal is to look on
the bright side and appreciate the little things that
make life worthwhile, and be content with what we have.
(Ginkgo committed suicide in October 2000. Guess she wasn't so happy after all).
In 1996 I did a six-month full-time course for unemployed
youths, called the Cross Arts Course. It was called that because it
offered a combination of modules from visual and performing arts courses.
It was a free course, funded by the government. I wasn't really
expecting it to be good or anything -- I just did it because my
life was empty and devoid of meaning and there was nothing else to
do. But the course changed my life and made me happier than I
could have possibly imagined.
There were fourteen other students in my
class, all under 22 years old, six boys and eight girls, and
I liked them all a lot. They had special creative minds which
seemed to appreciate fine art and culture more than most
people. I felt a sort of sense of belonging -- everyone seemed
very friendly and they regarded me as one of the more
talented artists among them. But as time went by, something
began to go askew. While I continued to enjoy the course and
get respect, it seemed that the other students weren't
enjoying it so much. There were more and more absences as
people didn't think it was important to show up. They seemed
frustrated by the limitations that the course's structure
imposed on them. The absences proved to be a problem because
at the end of the course we were expected to pull together as
a group and create a major project together. There was some
argument and internal divisions about what the project would
be. Some bitterness resulted, but, to be fair, the end result
was quite a success and most of the students participated in
The Cross Arts Course struck me as a course that was not
suited to everyone, but rather it was specially designed for
me, in order to pull me out of the emotional void I had
fallen into and show me the way to a better future. This was one
of the things that semi-convinced me that God exists -- I felt like
someone was controlling my life, pulling the strings, organising
happy coincidences to save me from self-destruction. And ever since
the Cross Arts Course, I have taken the view that nothing bad
ever happens (in my life) without a purpose, and thus
everything is for the best.
You enter the arts building and soak up the arty atmosphere.
Go through that courtyard and to the left -- don't be scared, go right into that room full of easels. It's a big, cold, well-lit room and the floor is covered with a thin layer of charcoal-dust. Behind every easel is a student, and each one is working on his or her own artistic creation. The teacher is over in the corner somewhere, helping someone -- don't worry about being spotted. No one has even glanced at you. You begin to wander around the room, looking at the students' work.
Here's one painting on cardboard -- it looks like a large truck flying over a barren landscape with ant-hills.
You ask her, "What does the flying truck represent?"
She says, "It represents a flying truck."
Here's another student doing a painting -- this one's on masonite and it looks like a landscape dominated by brick buildings.
You ask him, "What's the symbolism behind the dark blue rectangles in the sky?"
He replies, "I put them there because I like dark blue rectangles."
Wandering further along, you see someone painting on canvas. It's a picture of an old man with a tree growing out of his shoulder-blade.
You comment, "I guess this old man must feel like a part of the landscape, right?"
The student says, "What do you mean?"
You say, "Well, the way the tree's growing out of him."
___The student squints at her work and mutters "Dang it!" She grabs some burnt sienna and starts erasing the tree.
___You move along and see some more work -- this student is taking a rest next to the chalk picture he has been drawing on paper. It looks like a picture a girl sitting in a tram, and parts of the tram are missing so that you can see a section of freeway underneath.
You say to him, "Is this some kind of statement about the contrast between different methods of transport?"
___He looks at the picture, then he looks at you, then he looks back at the picture, and he says, "yep."
___Over by the window you see something a little bit different. It's a girl throwing some sort of thick white liquid at a clay head on a table. She's throwing it with force and passion.
___You ask her, "Are you trying to destroy your sculpture because it didn't turn out the way you hoped?"
___She laughs and says, "No, I'm just covering the clay head with plaster. I have to throw it hard to get it into all the narrow crevices of the face and make sure there's no air bubbles. When it sets it will be a plaster mold and I'll be able to pour latex into it and make it into a flexible puppet. Why?"
___"Oh, I'm just curious."
___"Are you in this class?", she asks. "I've never seen you before."
___You look at the floor and say, "Well... I've missed a few days."
___She looks at your dirty face and ragged clothes, and says "You don't look like a student. You look like some homeless person who just wandered in off the street."
___Looks like the jig is up. You mumble, "Yeah all right", and turn to go.
___But then she exclaims, "Wait! You look like you're starving -- sorry, I don't mean to offend you but your cheekbones are showing and your skin is stretched tight over your face -- that's just the kind of fragility and despair I've been trying to achieve in my sculpture. I don't want to throw plaster at this clay head anymore -- I want to throw plaster at you and make a plaster mold of your head. You can be my new artwork. Can I do that?"
___Say yes. Say yes. Say yes. Say yes. Say yes.
___"Yes", you say.
___"Good! Thankyou, I'll be eternally grateful. You have such a picturesque face -- I'll get an 'A' for this... just stand there with your back to the plastic."
___You do as she says, wondering why you agreed to this.
___"Don't worry, it doesn't hurt. I'd just have to throw some of this plaster at you until your whole head is completely covered, and then you'd have to stand still for a few hours while it hardens. It's really very easy. No objections? Good. Let's begin."
___You want to object, you want to say you've changed your mind, but some force from outside is keeping your mouth firmly shut. You want to run away. You want to shield your face. But your body is not responding.
___She takes a handful of plaster from the bucket and throws it at your head. It lands with a wet 'splat' She continues to cover your head with plaster by this throwing method, handful after handful after handful.
___"I hope you don't mind not having air-holes."
___You've lost whatever control you had over this body. This body is not yours anymore -- but you're a prisoner inside it, looking out at impending doom.
___After thirty seconds your open eyes have been covered by the plaster and your only perception is darkness. A cold, clammy, suffocating darkness. With your nose and mouth blocked up, the seconds tick by as your oxygen-deprived brain shuts down.