Tuesday, August 30, 2011
A Strange Day, Indeed
Today was odd.
After my classes, I was conversing with some fellow students in our studio space (which holds all 34 of the Level II Graduate Students) when a middle-aged fellow and a thirty-something fellow came into the studio. The thirty-something demanded to know whose studio we were in.
"Uh, Dirk's, Vicky's, and John's," my studio-mate replied (I was standing right next to him).
"Who told you-" he said, thrusting his finger at a table we'd brought down the day before from the 4th floor "-that it was acceptable to steal other people's things?"
The three of us being addressed looked at each other quizzically. "Um, Dirk told us it was ours and to go upstairs to get it," I replied. I could feel my hackles rising. Stealing? What the heck?
"And you just do whatever he says, do you?" he shot back. I could see my studio-mate's muscles bunch up in his forearms: not a good sign. "If he told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that?"
Apples and oranges. There's a big difference between relocating a table and committing suicide, and my studio-mate pointed this fact out to him. It didn't go over well.
"Look, Dirk told us it was ours and to go get it since we didn't have a crit space. We did," another class-mate said, obviously aware that large studio-mate (as in, imposingly tall and somewhat terrifying) was not going to be able to keep his cool much longer if he bore the brunt of the unwarranted criticism.
The irate guy finally left when we told him we didn't care about his table, he could take it, we had work to do, thankyouverymuch. We proceeded to loudly criticize him within earshot in none too flattering tones.
One of our studio professors, John, heard us and came to see what was going on. We explained, not holding back with the criticism and calling our berater "incredibly unprofessional", and he asked for a description of the fellow. We gave it. He frowned. "That was Bill Pruitt," he said, "He's one of the assistant professors."
"That jacka** is a professor?" I asked. I received a surprised look from John, mostly because I usually keep it civil and ladylike, insofar as language is concerned.
"Yeah. If he really upset y'all and was as bad as you say, go report him to the dean." He paused. "It probably didn't help that you told him Dirk told you to go get the table: they hate each other. That's not something that you need to get involved in."
Ah, the politics of higher education.
I had an assignment to document someplace that was either a utopia or a heterotopia (someplace describable as "other": either a place where "others" are kept, like an insane asylum or a jail, or a place that is out of place within its context, i.e. a Chinese temple in the middle of the barrio).
I decided to document a "utopia": Sugarland, TX.
If you've never been to Sugarland, you're not missing much. So-called because Imperial Sugar was (is?) located there, it's a bedroom community like no other. For instance, in one part of town, all the signs are the same dimensions, mounted at the same height, and constructed out of the same dark brown metal.
The Mercedes-Benz dealer's sign is the same size and quality as the McDonald's across the highway.
So I drove to Sugarland to document this "utopian" American community. En route, I was almost run off the road by a guy with dealer plates who was weaving in and out of traffic like he was involved in a high-speed chase.
I snapped some photos, returned to my apartment, and created a montage including crepe-myrtles and images from 1950s female-targeted advertising along with screen shots from The Stepford Wives. Because the place just has that kind of quality to it: Stepfordian.
Look out, Paula Prentiss: Sugarland is gunning for you.