Megan Cullen – Untitled (2016)
I am the type of girl who sees something and pretty much immediately feels something about it. It’s a great skill for someone who is–ostensibly–an art commentator. (Honestly, it’s effing exhausting af in the here and now of day-to-day exigencies.)
Usually, I’m pretty good at pointing in the direction of why I feel the way I do about what I see. However, there are times when I know that I like something but I am not immediately able to convey any sense of the why of my feelings.
This is one such image.
The pace of keeping up with running this blog, on top of holding down a FT job and also trying to focus on my own various creative efforts–I am not always able to dig in long enough to suss out the whys.
Typically, I either append relevant quotes which expand, compound or complicate the photo/image in a way that feels like it points in the direction of what I feel but have no idea how to articulate. (Same with my #follow_the_thread and #juxtaposition tagged posts; #palette posts were originally similar but increasingly it’s just proven to be a much more clearheaded and coherent–therefore less abstract–way of “speaking” about color.)
Present, I am–after much weeping and gnashing of teeth–finally operating with a bit of a queue buffer. So I’ve had a little bit of time to sit with this image and work to untangle some of what appeals to me about it.
At first blush, I have mixed feelings about the composition. Either the camera or the bus is not level and the camera has not been especially reoriented to compensate. The mass of black in the upper left corner renders the frame top heavy and cumbersome.
The immediacy of what’s depicted diminishes the impetus on getting a perfect frame in favor of baseline visual legibility requirements.
And I’m cheating a bit and putting the cart before the horse here. My initial reaction to this was bus (public), boob (’private’). (I am and will forever be a sucker for things that transgress on entrenched notions of what constitutes public and what constitutes private.)
The next thing I notice is that there’s two people in the frame. The anonymous young woman flashing people on the street (?) and another woman cracking the fuck up inside the bus–presumably aware of what’s happening. (The initial immediacy of the image expands by placing the image maker and by dint the viewer in a relationship of both see and seen, in a way which self-referentially indicts the voyeurism of seeing with an empathy of an awareness of the political and absurdist facets of being seen given discontinuous overlapping contexts.)
This immediate sends my brain scurrying to make connections with other examples of similar charged visual depictions. In this case, I immediate remembered oan-adn – The passenger (2015) and k.flight’s 2008 self-portrait titled in the back of the bus.
After a bit more contemplation I noticed that there’s what is without question the symbol for an eighth note on the side of the bus directly below the boob peeping through the open window. This adds a narrative implication to the image. (I think anyone who attended a quotidian American middle or high school has experiences of the abject tedium of being stuck with a bunch of classmates on an interminable bus ride. It’s not difficult to image that boredom inspiring the students to see if they can begin a process of brinksmanship where you do things in such a way as to be seen by your classmates but not noticed by chaperones. I am very taken with narrative potentiality–always.)
Really, though in this case I’m all about that eighth note, or as the British refer to it a quaver. Consider the definition of quaver:
verb (used without object)
- to shake tremulously; quiver or tremble:
- to sound, speak, or sing tremulously:
- to perform trills in singing or on a musical instrument
verb (used with object)
- to utter, say, or sing with a quavering or tremulous voice
- a quavering or tremulous shake, especially in the voice
- a quavering tone or utterance
- Music (chiefly British). an eighth note
Quaver is actually the pitch perfect word-concept to accompany this image. And it pushes my brain even further because although it’s been years since I’ve studied music theory it strikes me that generally eighth notes are more a function of time signatures with an integer divisible by 3 in the numerator–as opposed to the more standard numerator divisible by 2.
When I was a child my mother referred to this as the difference between march time (2s in the numerator) and waltz time (3s in the numerator). She explained that all you had to do was pay attention to the way your body wanted to move with the music. If you want to march in a straight line it’s two based; if you want to turn in circles it’s three based.
This image is absolutely in waltz time.