Translation, the not-ta-da (books, craft, and ashtanga yoga)

toleap001 toleap003Inspired by Don and Colin and books about books, I’ve been thinking about translation: from feeling to language to object (or feeling to object, or object to language, or object to object, etc). In this book, I combined images of an earlier book with text from a different book. I really liked those previous books, and I thought they were resolved, but I am surprised to find that this new iteration is more interesting. I’m having fun translating past work and material to make more. Not new things, but translations of other things; the recent works build upon and translate the previous things.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the “ta-da!” moment (or lack thereof). More and more I realize that while I can appreciate the ta-da!, it’s not the only thing of interest; in craft it is easy to get caught up in making the ultimate book, the ultimate pot, the ultimate painting, the cleanest perfectly registered print with a zillion color runs, the superlative, or what Karl refers to as expensive wedding presents (“ta-da!”). In yoga it is easy to get caught up in the perfect pose; I would like to hold my ankles in urdhva dhanurasana (“ta-da!”) even though maybe I don’t need to do that at this particular moment in life, or maybe not ever. Do you know Kino MacGregor? I find her online presence endlessly curious. My interpretation of ashtanga yoga and craft right now is that they both teach the value of the not-ta-da. Kino is curious because she writes about the not-ta-da, daily practice, patience and slowness, and surrendering oneself to God/love/the universe/etc, but the images she presents are all ta-da!: a beautiful lady in beautiful scenery performing beautiful, difficult poses. I actually have no problem with Kino (she looks like she has fun, and too many people find it too easy to criticize a polished yoga lady in tiny pants) because she is a reflection of contemporary culture. She’s giving the people what they want, because the message is tailored to the platform of delivery. This is actually really interesting: what happens when ashtanga yoga, internet yoga celebrity (???), internet DIY, and a culture that privileges instant gratification collide? These things are in contradiction with each other in a lot of ways, but here we get Kino, who in turn provides a really interesting set of contradictions to consider and accept and reject.

Glenn Adamson (everyone in craft seems to be talking about Glenn Adamson, sorry) writes about craft as a verb. I see the act of of bookmaking as a verb, and practicing ashtanga too. I think this is an emphasis on process, a long-term commitment to refinement, in contrast to the more outcome-based fields of art and design. This commitment to refinement (the verb of Adamson’s metaphor, something fluid and variable) is not to be confused with a commitment to the refined (the noun, something static). Sometimes craft forgets itself, or doesn’t forget itself at all, and expensive wedding presents suspiciously termed craft are born, or Kino posts photos of advanced poses on beautiful beaches around the world as her representation of “practice and all is coming.” This presents only one facet of many.

To return to the not-ta-da and translation, I want to make and act with a neutral attitude to the ta-da moment. Why not practice a wide urdhva dhanurasana one day, and reach for the ankles another day? Why not make an ephemeral zine (I’m thinking about a particular zine pointing out the visual similarity between a specific rock and a slice of pizza) because that form best suits that content? Why not make a panel book housed in a double-walled clamshell box just to see if I can? I’m realizing that it’s possible to deliberately choose to not choose any part of the spectrum, but instead choose to respond with careful individualized attention to each idea, each action, each day. In this way it is possible to translate experience in many ways, sometimes finding a ta-da and sometimes not, oh well, ok, while retaining the ability to be surprised.

Translation, the not-ta-da (books, craft, and ashtanga yoga)

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