Repetition

I think in this class key terms kept coming over again and again, which is why I chose repetition. Even though we constantly had different professors talking about wildly different angles and viewpoints on Mr. Prince’s work, the Veil kept reappearing, as well as “process”, jazz, the Dirge, different ways of thinking about time, downbeat dancing et cetera. It very much seemed like everything converged back to the theme of repetition, as if, as Snead wrote in “On Repetition in Black Culture”, “Narrative repetition tends to defuse the belief that any other meaning resides in a repeated signifier than the fact that it is being repeated.” The cut back to original principles meant that no matter what topic our discussion meandered to, there was something familiar to go back, which strengthened the original idea.

This INTD class was unlike anything I’ve ever taken before, and I didn’t expect the rotating crew of professors. I didn’t expect to dance in public. The course jutted out in so many different directions, like the spokes of a wheel.

At the beginning of the semester when I looked at the courses I registered for, I felt excited at the connections between the subjects. This Steve Prince class about art and activism overlapped with another project based course centered on environmental art, and then my other class was about the experience of immigrants, which can connect to the environmental class and this Prince class through the idea of the veil. The subjects harmonized into a semester about the collaboration in art and structures of power. This year suddenly three out of four my classes constantly asked me to write reflectively, which I had not had much experience doing before, but the skills were transferable between them, and I mostly learned how to do reflective writing from the pocketbook guide in this class.

I think the most mind blowing I took away from this course in relation to repetition is alternate ways of experiencing and conceptualizing time. The Medieval times had this circular idea of time that is different than our linear model, which is cool because at any where you are is bound to happen again, as opposed to this sense that time is a river rushing by that is lost forever as soon as it is experienced. The Medieval European way of thinking and the African Kongo Cosmograph which illustrates many circular patterns in life, such as day/night, death/life, peak strength/weakness. James A. Snead describes this conception of time in his essay as “Always already here, rather than not yet there.” Rather than a sense of constant striving and linear progress, there is a sense that one can simply be, right where you are supposed to. This is reflected in rounds of dancing.

I told Professor McCoy at the beginning of the class that I am a chronic procrastinator. One of the most important skills for success that the course tried to impart through its structure is the ability to meet self-imposed deadline. She reached out, and we said I would post every Monday, and I just did not follow through. At the end of the day the last thing I want to do is write a blog post reflecting on my failure to write a blog post. I found a good explanation of procrastination here that described the pattern that I and many other people have written for ourselves; I found it useful in combating it to some extent. But that pattern is also a repetition, which can slowly be shifted, and I did make progress in outlining bogs early and gathering notes, just not posting. It may not show in this class but I have made a lot of progress in this area over the years, for instance I pulled zero all nighters this exam period. I will just have to keep working on this possibly for the rest of my life. The funny thing is no matter how many times you succeed in starting a project, as soon as you do something different you have to go back to square one and fight the same monster again. But I try to keep in mind that if you focus on the day to day process, which is what it is within your power to control, the results will come. There are many good repetitive behaviors I have developed this year, like meditation and exercise, and this course has made me aware of how repetition can be powerful.

My successes in this course in relation to repetition is that towards the end of the semester I found out about areas of art that I will practice outside of school, and I did dedicate a lot of time to writing blogs. I found the process that works for me is a cycle of working and breaks. The Souls of Black Folk is one of my favorite books I have read in college, and I’m going to read it cover to cover this summer. The edition I have will always evoke many memories of this year. I started to listen to jazz, which uses a specific call and response rhythm, as well as musically cutting back to an earlier refrain. Garth Freeman’s lecture really did get me to start painting again. The main thing I learned this year is that failure is not failure, it’s just learning. Repetition is the basis of all learning. Malcolm Gladwell’s idea of the 10,000 hour rule to be an expert at something certainly applies. Prince repeats visual elements like the handkerchief or the Horsemen so that his audience can learn to read his painting more deeply. Repetition is how habits are formed. As we do things repeatedly, our brain forms synapses (pathways in the brain) that grow stronger with each repetition. Like jazz musician going back to the cut, the old pathways can assert themselves during challenging moments.

I feel there was tension between the repetition of civic struggles that I saw in Prince’s work, which could be traced all the way back to Du Bois’ life around the Civil War, and the belief in art to enact change. I know in so many personal lives art makes such a difference, but I fight to keep my faith sometimes that art can really reach the hearts of those in power. That’s a major tension, to spend so much time analyzing art and learning about it, but still wonder (I know McCoy believes extremely strongly about this, please have mercy on this in process pessimist) if it can stop climate change or free black people. Change won’t happen without art, at the very least, and humans need it to be happy.

 

 

One Reply to “Repetition”

  1. I appreciate and admire your self-reflection and your willingness to share your personal growth. I think your connections to the course material are thoughtful and meaningful.

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