Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bits and bobs

The Hound is having trouble locating texts...meanwhile an intriguing and lucid interview with Christian Bok in postmodern culture (thanks for the link Mairead).

By the way, the Hound is NOT a fan of polls that suggest Trudeau was the worst Canadian...come on...here is a shot of the smooth one with the Hound's equally smooth and favorite uncle, Don Ross, all around great guy, former CFL player and longtime Mayor of that most historied Vancouver suburb, Surrey.

Don Ross, Pierre Trudeau, originally uploaded by lemon hound, photographer unknown.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Two poems from Margaret Christakos

Crisp Edge


Nothing softer more blunt

than edges. I want clarity

or consternation. I require

finity if we’ve hit a single

brick. Earth spherical

and rotative what do you

know about anything human

us so brittle, each, delineated by

skin.


I’m edging toward a calculation.


Clues show you in the candlelight.


Wait—your iris shines

a portrait of my unformed

idea about humans being

resigned to separateness—how

dare you!



Absurd picture show


That I trouble the waters of

your pretty face with my slow

finger drawing down for a strand

of lily stem.

Fish go, floral tails.


You sway and dip your crown,

flat pad, under the edge of a second

world.


I’m still kneeling on one rippled calf

broken like sound waves filling

a data screen, etched in magenta.


Yep, I dyed my hair orange the

orange of the dusk sky left the stuff on

an extra half hour.


What are you doing moon in

my friend’s mirroring

look at me, it’s not midnight the

news hasn’t even started!


Margaret Christakos lives in Toronto. Her poetry collections are Sooner (Coach House, 2005), Excessive Love Prostheses (Coach House, 2002), winner of the ReLit Award, Wipe Under a Love (Mansfield, 2000), The Moment Coming (ECW Press, 1998), Other Words for Grace (Mercury, 1994) and Not Egypt (Coach House, 1989). Her novel Charisma (Pedlar Press, 2000) was shortlisted for the Ontario Trillium Award. In 2004–2005 she held a Canada Council writer's residency at the University of Windsor. A new chapbook, Adult Video, has been published by Nomados Editions. In her recent collection, Sooner, a wide range of short poetic fragments and longer, narrative poems, Christakos negotiates the sonars of expectation, desire, arousal, sequentiality, and perception.

Christakos says of her recent work: “through the writing of my last two collections of poetry I became enamoured of using recombination and numerical constraints to build poems as narrative structures in which multiple intersecting storylines reside, much as they do in bustling urban, techno-mediated culture.”

The result condenses and manipulates narratives of worlds that might not always intersect. While resisting conventional narratives or poetic expectations,
Christakos offers a kind of lyric integrity that then dissolves and morphs into a variety of often unnameable experiences…the familiar re-fabricated in textural, sculptural forms.

As a reader of Christakos work this reader is always surprised by the sense of order and logic that appears, even visually on the page, and find the tension between my expectations and the performance of language a satisfying leap. Narrative is frustrated in a variety of ways, as is the sense of a stable self, privelaging instead polyvocality and compositional integrity.

The "leap" becomes increasingly important when encountering recombinant texts. This reader wants to trace evidence of human presence in the extremes of formal strategies. Christakos work always offers adequate footing just before she turns one's expectations upside down. And now, wading further into lyric's foment and fracture, we find in this new work even more twists.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Woolf to Sackville-West

[52 Tavistock Square, W.C.1]: Monday [4 February 1929]: A woman writes that she has to stop and kiss the page when she reads O:—Your race I imagine. The percentage of Lesbians is rising in the States, all because of you. And did you yield to the red haired woman? Please be explicit and honest. I shall be so lively when I get over this that I shall run amok at the least provocation.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Random posts & thoughts

Anne Carson translates a poem from the French for Gulf Coast Review...which will also publish a lengthy piece by the Hound on contemporary Canadian poetry.

Still musing about Juliana Spahr.

Because someone steps forward. Lyric breaks out of description, out of dialogue, conflict even, Lyric brings a voice to the front of the poem and peers into the dustiest soul.

Sometimes in a poem you find a poet, notebook in hand, thinking.

Lastly, a note on various social occasions by one V.Woolf.
Mrs. Manresa half-way down the Barn had gulped her cup of tea. How can I rid myself, she asked, of Mrs. Parker? If they were of her own class, how they bored her—her own sex! Not the class below— cooks, shopkeepers, farmers’ wives; nor the class above—peeresses, countesses; it was the women of her own class that bored her. So she left Mrs. Parker, abruptly.
--Between The Acts
So little time, so much social anxiety.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gentle, Juliana Spahr

Nature, what is nature? What is eco? What is eco-poetics? What is nature-eco-poetics? How does feminism fit into nature eco poetics? What would a Vendana Shiva/Donna Haraway hybrid look like? Tim Lilburn and Juliana Spahr? I can’t help but wonder what, how, nature, or what we think of nature differs east, west, developed, undeveloped, with and without money, never mind north or south of our border, and more locally here, block by block, pulse by pulse, how we describe the leaf fluttering on our buffed shoulders as we raise our lattes and our poetic expectations. Obviously yes, it differs, it's the how that interests me, the exact quantity of more and less that depends on so many things: perspective, location, geography, the reading (and coffee drinking) tastes of the poet in question. Oh, didn’t I mention poetry? Yes, what is nature poetry...

Of course every time I think I have a sense of what "it" is something reveals itself to me, challenges me to rethink my position. Not a bad thing, but not always easy, this habit of keeping one’s perspective loose…and if one feels too smug in one’s opinions, well then, a self-boot is good. But I go on, missing the mark which today is Juliana Spahr’s Gentle, published in the Subpoetics, Self-Publish or Perish initiative, Fall 2004. It may well be my favorite Spahr publication to date. I’ve talked about This Connection of Everyone With Lungs, and her earlier text, Fuck you Aloha I Love You (both of which are packed in boxes in storage and I can’t consult my notes). Suffice to say that Spahr is one of a breed of contemporary American women poets writing, teaching, and editing, who may well change the face of poetry as we know it. Certainly together they form a formidable force, mouthwatering, staggering, absolutely determined in a political/conceptual strand that can claim foremothers as diverse as Susan Howe, Tina Darragh, Joan Retallack, Cole Swenson, Rae Armantrout, Lyn Hejinian…and so on, and on. And as co-editor of Where Lyric Meets Language, Spahr (along with Claudia Rankine) has cemented that moment.

Gentle is not Spahr’s most recent book, as I said, but it's the newest to me. Part catalogue, part prayer—a word that seems sorely out of place in this context but in fact that is why I want to use it. Taking back the idea of prayer, which is after all, everyone and anyone’s business. As is nature. And now that "nature" is on everyone's mind, what are we thinking of? “We come into the world,” Spahr begins, “We come into the world and there it is./The sun is there.” The sun is there, and already the rhythm is there, already the lines like small springs, or coils ready to move through the poem’s machinations. “The brown of the river leading to the blue and the/brown of the ocean is there./ Salmon and eels are there moving between the brown/and the brown and the blue.”

How does one see? A thing in movement, a pail attached to a tall spiky wood, snow, spring, light. What is the beetle carrying? How banana a slug? What temperature mist? How glisten the leaf tremble? Who tells us nature has a tone, a note, and that tone is reverent and that note “sincere?” Who says nature poetry has a certain straightforward language? Who says what is accessible? How is accessible described by a given group of individuals encountering poetry? I suspect the average reader is more prepared to have his or her mind blown than we know.

Reminiscent of Robertson’s The Weather and Dionne Brand’s Thirsty, and No Language is Neutral, and others--Lilburn, Joshua Beckman, the poems in Gentle go in waves, carry the reader, summer day, lake, lying on an air mattress, or better yet, rock, spring, head tilted up, out, look:
Gentle now warmouth, mayfly nymph, don’t add to heartache.

Gentle now willow, freshwater drum, ohio pigtoe, don’t add to heartache.

Gentle now walnut, gold fish, butterfly, striped fly larva, don’t add to heartache.

Gentle now black fly larva, redside dace, tree-of-heaven, orange-foot pimpleback, dragonfly larva, don’t add to heartache.

Gentle now purple wartyback, narrow-winged damselfly, spruce, pirate perch, threehorn wartyback, sumac, don’t add to heartache.
And doesn’t that seem a valuable poetic?

In Vis-à-Vis Don McKay, who won the 2007 Griffin Prize for poetry, talks about the wild, that poetry comes from a place of wild seeing (or pre-language sensing?). Lilburn too in both his essays, and his poetry. I think they recognize that seeing doesn’t imply a singular way of viewing, or of recording. Does nature insist on line breaks, for instance? How does form fit in nature poetry? “Our hearts took on the shape of the stream,” Spahr writes, they “took on the shape of whirligigs swirling across the water,” our “hearts took on many things.” And poetry is perhaps how we carry that.

And maybe language poetry, whatever or however one might try to contain that, is a similar place of wild, a place of things not immediately named, a place of remaining open. And when the lyric impulse, that honest voice, that vulnerable stretto meshes with language, with intention, with procedure—then whatever side of the border or gender, or political spectrum the project may originate, it knocks this reader out.

Download your own copy of Gentle, here.

On the table: Lilyfoil, Elizabeth Treadwell.

Estrellita Karsh with Yousuf Karsh Portrait of Barbara Ann Scott

Another great portrait from Ottawa photographer John McDonald.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Two poems from Eugene Ostashevsky

Now the Lord said to DJ Spinoza

Now the Lord said to DJ Spinoza,
Get out of your country!

And DJ Spinoza said to the Lord,
What country are you talking about, Lord?

And the Lord said to DJ Spinoza,
Good start, good start, for I shall make you lost among nations.

And DJ Spinoza said to the Lord,
Make me lost among nations, Lord, for I am already lost among myself.

And the Lord said to DJ Spinoza,
Why do you bring up personal problems? Hire a therapist—you who made the schools ring with Sic probo!

And DJ Spinoza said to the Lord,
Lord, is not the set of things in your apprehension infinite?

And the Lord said to DJ Spinoza,
All things are one thing but the irrationals are something else. Haven’t you heard of the diagonal proof?

And DJ Spinoza said to the Lord,
So there is another God above you?

And the Lord said to DJ Spinoza,
Read my lips: get out of your country!

And DJ Spinoza said to the Lord,
But surely just the fact that you’re talking in language means you admit of emotions.

And the Lord said to DJ Spinoza,
Do you want to be numbered on the tip of my boot?

And DJ Spinoza made himself scarce. He lived among the deaf and became as one blind. He lived among the blind and became as one deaf. He saw never the sea. He awoke in a room with four walls.

The room moved. He heard the voice of a child but what it said he ignored. He awoke from awaking. He was aged, wrinkled, hairless, toothless. He remembered nothing of what had happened to him.

DJ Spinoza Does Not Fight the Begriffon

Said DJ Spinoza to his friend MC Squared:
Let us go slay the Begriffon!
Frightful is the Begriffon and sharp are his claws,
He disobeys rules and cares nothing for laws,
He is full of effects but do they have a cause?
Let us go slay the Begriffon!
Said MC Squared to his friend DJ Spinoza:
Why should we add to the misery of the world?
Even the wicked have feelings!
They shout and they quarrel
Cause they’re anal and oral,
Problems make them immoral—
They’re wicked because they have feelings!
DJ Spinoza:
Well, what do you want to do then?
Do you want to watch TV? No!
Do you want to play cards? No!
Do you want to go get a beer? “I’m sick of beer, it’s so fattening!”
Let us go slay the Begriffon!
MC Squared:
Are you always so restless because you’re reckless
Or are you so reckless because you are restless?
Can’t you even for a moment
Think of how it’ll make you feel in the morning?
Tell me you won’t be a) whining; b) kvetching; c) moaning!
And besides—even the wicked have feelings!
So the two friends went off to slay the Begriffon. But when they were halfway to the House of Mostly Unlike, DJ Spinoza realized he forgot his sword at home—and you can’t slay the Begriffon with no sword! They had to return for the sword but by the time they did, it was already too late to do anything. They put slaying the Begriffon off for tomorrow and went to sleep extremely content with themselves.
__________________________________________________
From the chapbook "DJ Spinoza's Dozen" by Octopus Books and forthcoming in The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza by Ugly Duckling Presse.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but raised in New York City, Ostashevsky is a poet, scholar and reckless metaphysician. His books of poetry include Iterature and Infinite Recursor Or The Bride of DJ Spinoza, both available through Ugly Duckling Presse. He is also the editor and main translator of OBERIU: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism published by Northwestern University Press, and containing Russia underground literature of the 1930s. He teaches at NYU.
You can find Ostashevsky reading his work online at Fishouse and at Berkeley.

Darwish back in Haifa.

"The world's most recognized Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, delivered a stinging tirade against Palestinian infighting on Sunday in his first public appearance in decades in the Israeli city of Haifa."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The CBC takes a look at Winnipeg's Royal Art Lodge drawing collective--which some of you New Yorkers might remember from their show at The Drawing Center a while back. Love these guys.

Sharon Harris, Avatar

There are a number of younger Canadian poets who are doing exciting, innovative work: Sonnet L'Abbe, Elizabeth Bachinksy, Sarah Dowling, a.rawlings and Sandra Alland spring to mind, but few poets--actually not just in Canada but anywhere--few female poets are doing concrete/visual work. Enter Sharon Harris who recently published Avatar, a pataphysical exploration of I Love You, springing from bp Nichol's concrete I Love You poems and blending her visual and poetic arts.

There are I believe, 26 versions of the I Love You poem, which many Canadians will recognize from bp Nichol (and if you don't then we need go and pounce on Gary Geddes and everyone who is tampering with Canadian poetry/literature text books!). In the age of the aloof it's refreshing to see a poet explore positivity (a further Nichol echo: his incredible energy--much of it seemingly positive and endlessly innovative.) I love the fact that this is a book that collects ways of creating "I love You." Screw Oprah and Dr. Phil and the eerie weirdos who have perpetrated The Secret on us. Why can't poets do something fun with positive? Positive thinking is such a taboo in the poetry/academic world, and yes, I know it's more about the simplistic representations. Still, I'm all for taking back the positive from the school of self-help.

Here is a quote from Harris in a recent interview on a site I had never heard of until today called Lucid Forge:
I intentionally set out to make art and write about altruistic love. It’s a topic not often discussed outside of religious contexts; for better AND for worse, we’re quickly losing our religions. For example: I would love to take my kids to a church where their souls would be nurtured and they would learn to nurture the souls of others, but the doctrine gets in the way.

My ideal religion would teach its flock to “Be Excellent to Each Other” (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), and to celebrate the universe. But that’s how I try to live life anyway. When I was photographing the ILY’s in an alley one glorious Sunday morning, a man asked why I was not in church. “I am,” I said.
Indeed.

There is also a wonderful series of poems exploring where poems come from--fun, visual and prose poems that are surreal, quirky, and satisfying. Buy the book. Check out her online gallery and blog.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

In conversation with Stephanie Fysh

(all photographs by Stephanie Fysh)

SQ: You recently had your first juried show at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto in conjunction with Contact 2007. Can you tell me how that came about?

SF: I hadn't planned to show at all this year - I had other things I wanted to focus on, including financially - but when the theme for CONTACT 2007 came out, "The Constructed Image," it was irresistible - it might as well have been written for me. I had showed previously at the Gladstone, and was fortunate enough first that their call for submissions also fit a strand of my work that I very much wanted to show, and second that I was accepted.

SQ: How did it feel to see your show hung for the first time?

SF: Some of the work had more of an impact on me, to hang, than other parts of it. One piece had never existed except in my imagination and in fragmented form. Seeing it actually exist made the entire thing worthwhile, was the cake. Everything else was icing.

SQ: I first came across your photographs on Flickr, and my earliest memory of your work has to be the series of modernist Ontario architecture, photographs of Waterloo, and the gorgeous “theoretical abstraction.” Were these part of the group exhibition at Contact 2006? Where and how did your architectural photography begin? I’ve heard you say it grew out of your scholarly interests. Can you talk about the moment when literary and scholarly thought collided with visual stimulus, and further, how that intersected with your photographic calling.

SF: My 2006 CONTACT pieces were all of Toronto, five images in all. I don't think they were chosen coherently beyond that, and I would do it differently now. But the pieces - Victorian detail, a piece of classic brutalism, some decay, etc. - were among what I considered some of my best work at the time. I was still in the process of understanding why it was that I photographed architecture, and I didn't particularly apply what I'd learned.

I initially began shooting architecture simply because it gave me pleasure. I saw something that I liked seeing and recorded that. At first - thinking back to some photographs from the early 90s (I avoided cameras before then) - it was the building I was thinking of myself as recording. At some point that came to be the emotion that I sought to record. And at some point, I realized that what I was in the realmwhich I had been thinking when I left academic life. I never did publish any of that work, but I was, at the time, working on something that had crystallized as a study of the cultural and artistic delineation of physical space in descriptions of late-seventeenth- and early- to mid-eighteenth-century London, and turning that back onto physical space again. I'm not sure if I would have got to the understanding I currently have of that interaction if I hadn't moved outside of language, though. Language has a habit of understanding everything in terms (recognized or not) of language. Outside of language, I could come to an erotics of physical space, and then come back to language to articulate that.

My interest in the surface of the photograph and in the visibility of the technology also has academic roots, or at least continues an academic interest - I had written in my doctoral dissertation about the materiality of the book as a moment of interplay between the conceptual text and the surrounding culture, though in more stilted ways than that. The ideology of the photograph as a direct representation of reality is not all that different from that of the purely linguistic literary text. I enjoy the games that can result from being aware of that general understanding, and using it.

SQ: You say, "At some point that came to be the emotion that I sought to record," and that this coincided with your academic exit. I'm very intrigued by your noting a difference between architecture (or space) versus emotion. Do you think there was an unleashing of a sort, a parallel between academic thought and creative thought, and what you were allowing yourself to see? Is that part of moving outside of language?

SF: I do think that leaving academic life permitted me - eventually - to stop trying to analyze everything. It was an "eventually" though. When I first took up photography, during and just after my last years in the university, I really was analytical. I saw the photograph as a document, in a purist sort of way, and - not thinking of myself as a creative person -that appealed to me. I still analyze everything, but at the same time somewhere along the line I stopped living in my head. I still think the photograph is fundamentally a document, but it's not always a document in a purist way, an understanding I arrived at after I had experienced it.

SQ: To my mind, the Rooms With Woman series continues your architectural exploration, further complicating it by including a female figure—yourself—engaging with both the space, and the photographic technology. In a review of that show, Bryan Partington notes that “constraint breeds creativity.” I would say that it also creates freedom. There is great clarity in the gestures of these photos, and great energy in the series. Does this series represent a moment of artistic self-discovery?

SF: It does, yes. In part it was a moment in which I fully permitted myself - without resistance - to follow the ideas my imagination foisted on me, and to let them supersede other ideas, such as that I had to present myself as attractive or even desirable, that I had to be the main subject of a self-portrait, that I was too much an amateur to attempt something on a larger scale. In retrospect, one thing I wish is it had been possible for me to shoot that piece with a male subject, or that I had liked the title rooms with person: it's very hard to move photographs of women outside the question of gender, particularly when domestic space is involved, and to me gender was never the subject of the work. Indeed, it's very much, in my own intent, about the mutuality of the shaping of architectural space and the shaping of selves; gender can enter into that, of course, but it happens outside of gender as well.

SQ: Yes, interiority is scripted "feminine." Deborah Bright talks about landscape as being a "preserve of American myths about Nature, Culture and Beauty," and it seems to me a good point historically, but why are women still so concerned with "self" and "interior?" I love Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills, and I love your series, and I'm not even sure that I think women need to shift their gaze "outside," but I do wonder how conscious we are of what we choose to focus on.

On the other hand, I don't think we've actually investigated these questions nearly enough, and it seems to me that your investigation takes an angle that I haven't seen--that architectural shaping of selves as you say. Can you say a little more about that? You photograph your own children, for example, but there too I get a sense of form rather than say Sally Mann, who seems much more interested in documenting domesticity or perhaps we come back to emotion/confession.
SF: The feminist in me says that we as women are trained to see ourselves in an interior mode. I'm not very good at that (a close friend once told me I was actually born a post-operative transsexual, and that didn't feel wrong). I live domesticity of course, like any other woman with children, but when I photograph it I'm not thinking domesticity (except, occasionally, ironically or overdeliberately). I'm currently working on a set of material with my children as subjects, and we've talked about how to construct the photographs so that they have the potential to not be about them as children. Photographs of men are not always about masculinity; I knock my head all the time against the idea of photographs of women being fundamentally about them as women etc. I don't want to have to photograph men in order to say something that isn't gender-specific. So I won't. Maybe eventually I'll be able to be seen that way.

SQ: Where do images such as “Door” fit in to your series work? It was one of the first photographs I recall seeing where you entered the scene. Does this represent a kind of bridge from Rooms with Woman, to Eros? The latter series represents a larger leap in terms of your specific interest in the body, but it seems to me that some of the images predate the Rooms series. I’m interested in this simply because I find the evolution of your work particularly intriguing, and some of my favorite works—such as the piece below seem somehow to refuse category. Of course that unruliness intrigues.

Stephanie Fysh, “door”
SF: "Door" was, in the creation, partly an exploration of technique and partly an exercise in compulsion (I very rarely actually feel any need to photograph myself, but I did that day; that doesn't, however, mean that I actually consider this or its companion pieces to be self-portraits - I don't). In the end I found a release in them in accepting the outer limits of digital technology, though I've gone farther that was since then. There's a strong school of thought that digital noise is ugly; I think it's just new to us - there is no inherent reason for the preference of prominent film grain (as from an ISO 3200 film) over the equivalent extremes of digital noise. Both are the technology showing themselves.

My erotica is less an interest in the body than an interest in the experience of erotica: I am interested in the line between erotica and pornography, in how we see and respond to erotic imagery. I would like to find ways of controlling that response that push the viewer from the comfortable into the uncomfortable, without drawing upon the standard tropes of S&M and the like - fetishes, taboos, etc. There are more interesting lines than subject matter. In the meantime, I'm sure I'll end up showing work that's meant just to help me better understand how to light bare flesh. I'm a compulsive exhibitionist in the sense of not being very good at keeping photographs to myself.
“North bay, room #2
SQ: Now that you have produced more than one successful series of photographs do you imagine being able to think of a single photograph? I'm thinking of your portraits, the abstract series, and the new series, A Very Commonplace Gesture.
Stephanie Fysh, "A Very Commonplace Gesture"
SF: That's an interesting question. I think I may have let something loose that's hard to hold back. I learned that sometimes I can tell a bigger story - not in narrative, but conceptually - with more than one photograph, and also that I can break some of our viewing habits that way. We are accomplished, as viewers, in creating narratives around single images, sometimes too much so.

"A Very Commonplace Gesture" - the title is not mine but a project direction (the collective Utata has one project series in which the project-originator provides the title for images yet unmade) - could only be a set of multiple images because there is no other way to break the desire to see gesture as inherently real, particularly in a colour photograph. I have always - going back to my days in theatre classes - been interested in the ability of gesture to create reality. I want the viewer, in the end, to stop seeing the photographed gesture as genuine.

SQ: Recently I saw a major exhibition of Jeff Wall's work at Moma. I am always impressed by the amount of narrative he condenses in his work. One Wall image can seem like a series. And also, I think Wall is working with gesture in a similar way. Can you expand on this idea of the gesture and why it might be interesting to problematize our assumptions of reality?

SF: I really hope that Jeff Wall exhibition comes here! I'd love to be able to see everything that's going on in his work. Gesture is one of the key methods we have of self-presentation, along with how we shape and dress our bodies - gesture at the level of posture, of gait, as well as the more usual meaning of hand position and movement. To me it's one of many things I would like to bring to a conscious level. And this is where I think my work gets really old-fashioned. Because if we can be aware of something, we can take control of it; and if we can take control of our exteriority and alter it, then we can also alter our interiority - our selves - which are essentially the same thing. It's another tracing of the material world–culture–self triangle that's fascinated me for years. It's old-fashioned because, I like to think, art could maybe - just maybe - sometimes teach us to see something anew, and thus give us the potential for change.

SQ: What was the last art show you saw that blew your mind?

SF: The Girodet exhibition at the Chicago Art Institute in 2006. I'd have been happy to have seen nothing but Girodet's Danaë; there is an erotic play in it that was fascinating to trace - to do with touch and touchability, with the gaze of the subject on herself, with a repeated refusal of our desires as viewers. It is tempting to move from there to the idea that Girodet could do all this in 1798 but we have lost that ability because of more hard-core options, but I know better as a cultural historian - they had those too. We just don't see the forest in retrospect, only the best of the trees.

SQ: Thank you for pointing Girodet out, I hadn't heard of him before. You make an intriguing point about touchability, and I wonder if your idea of "hard-core options," refers to our ability to recreate or acquire much of what we might desire. It seems to me that without restraint our imagination suffers, and when our imagination suffers, so does our desire.

SF: Well, in a strict sense, I'm just thinking hardcore porn. But hardcore porn doesn't leave us with actual desire left, only a sense that there was desire there. To maintain a state of desire we need to not be given everything we want, and yet be left still wanting. Erotica can beg us to touch but at the same time remind us that we can't touch, we can't see that other angle or light that shadow, remove this veil.

SQ: What role has Flickr played in the development of yourself as a photographer?

SF: One I can't possibly understate. Pre-Flickr, I had studied photography in community college, though I never completed the program I was in. At the time I saw myself as potentially a documentary photographer; I admired (and still do admire) Eugène Atget, the FDA photographers and the like. But most of my actual photography was documenting my own everyday life, my children.

I joined Flickr to share photographs from a family reunion with relatives. And when I discovered there was a whole community there, I uploaded some older photographs as well - and people responded. There was nothing, I discovered, quite like having someone actually see your work, and even to know what they thought about it. It gave me confidence I hadn't had. And seeing other people with other everyday lives making wonderful things sparked a desire to go back myself, and to pick up my camera for more than documentation. It was akin to permission: permission to think of myself as a photographer, permission to be an artist, permission to try things new to me.

I did find that I got hooked on the feedback. At one point, I know, I was photographing for that audience, and I deliberately unlearned that habit. And for my exhibition this year I found that it was important to me to show work that I had shown to no audience, in no virtual venue, before. That's not to slag those virtual communities in any way, but for myself I needed to keep a foot there and to place a foot firmly in the traditional bricks-and-mortar art world, the one in which they raise one eyebrow when you acknowledge you participate artistically in Flickr (or DeviantArt or wherever else people are, I suppose some would say, playing 'artist' now).

SQ: I'm glad you brought up the addictive quality of instant feedback because I think it is stimulating, but as you say, it's also problematic in that it makes one want to perform, or shoot a particular subject. I think the question of how one strikes a balance between connecting with "an audience," and going deeply into oneself to direct the work is an important one. Can you tell me about that moment of understanding?

SF: It's nice to be liked, isn't it! I do find that I have to remind myself, often, that if I only seek to please an audience I may miss my other goals. You can please an audience - even a large one - by giving them what they know they want. But you can inspire an audience, or touch them deeply - move them, in the medieval sense of movere - by giving them what they didn't know they could want. Every once in a while you might get both, but I've learned that I get more satisfaction, personally, from the harder pleasure. Moving away from my established audience was a gesture to myself, both as a more concrete reminder that it wasn't that easy pleasure that mattered and as an act of faith in myself. If I could believe in the work enough not to test-drive it, then I might be able to do even more.

SQ: Who are your influences? Do you find inspiration in other forms of art?

SF: I'm not really sure who my photographic influences are right now. When I realized I would never be a social documentary photographer - taking pictures of strangers makes me quite anxious - I didn't replace those photographers I wanted to emulate with others. I love Nan Goldin's work, though, more for personal than for artistic reasons, and, since someone pointed me his way, William Eggleston's. I love the Victorian pictorialists (they're currently wending their way into my work), and Berenice Abbott's sublime, and good cinematography as well. There is at least as much to inspire in a Wim Wenders movie, to name just one, as in anything in the still visual arts today.

I suppose I find much of my inspiration outside the visual entirely. Architecture, obviously: inhabited art. A phrase in a novel or in a song, even the music in a song or in a work of philosophy, will sometimes send me somewhere that is ultimately visual.

SQ: Would you say then that you respond to other arts as much as visual arts?

SF: Very much so, but in different ways. I still love a good novel, one that can reach imaginative places I've not been to before. And music can move me in a very visceral way; I really don't understand music, though - visceral is everything there. But that's not at all a bad thing, not at all.

SQ: What is next for you? Where do you see your work in five years?

SF: It's really hard to say. In the nearer future, I do need to find time to build a proper print portfolio and the like - you can't be seen if you don't do something about it, and what's the point if nobody sees it? I'm not one for art-as-personal-therapy. I do hope, in that more medium term, to have found ways, aesthetically and technically, to communicate more of what I want to than I've been able to do so far, and to have built that into a more coherent body of work. Realistically, it's a slow path: there's work, and family, and though I can't honestly say that art always comes third, it can be hard to carve out the right kind of time and space to make it happen. That Virginia Woolf thing, you know. She had that right.