I've been thinking about writing this for weeks now, or maybe months, as well as years. I probably started writing this post in my head when I was still in high school, but had no way of putting in words something that I was just starting to experience, and had no distance to evaluate with the serenity years gave me as a gift.
"Unfortunately it is necessary to be ahead of the years to conquer youth, to free it from obstacles, to live according to its initial momentum" writes the poet Victor-Emile Michelet (quoted by Bachelard in The Poetics Of Space) and I guess it is this kind of momentum which is encouraging me to finally put on paper what I constantly live and discuss with like-minded colleagues , friends, partners.
A lovely former partner often said to me I suffered from a "wallflower complex" and could never be out of it. Of course he spoke from the perspective of a high school charismatic leader, but this is another story for another post. Truth is, I've never been part of fancy gangs, never been popular , always been some kind of dreamy loner whose tendency was connecting with similar dreamers, and yet not stepping totally out of "others", and keeping up a good relationship with everybody who was embracing what we could call here "the norm", not without hurting the concepts of both normality and abnormality that, needles (?) to say, don't exist in the end. Anyway.
This long introduction to say I never fitted, I still don't fit. Always felt and, let's be honest, chose to be, out of groups. And I underline again that mutual esteem never failed any of the two parts of this dialogue. But still. I have the feeling there's a huge hangout out there, a never ending high-school with all the dynamics perfectly intact: parties where you need to be, people you need to know, styles you need to wear. I won't go further using the metaphor, but we can now change the element "pupils" with "photographers" and the equation will still work. Remember, a wallflower's speaking here!
Since "high" and "low" inputs constantly mix up in my mind, I can't help thinking about a parallel with the popular series Sex Education, and it is probably one of the triggers that urged me to finally try to put down these thoughts. I was commenting with friends that one thing I found completely fascinating in that series was that, for instance, being gay was no longer a issue - while in my high-school years (I was born 1976...yes...mentioning the seventies sounds vertiginous, ha?) it really was, and I remember how difficult it was for gay teenagers (if they ever had the freedom to come out) and I thank god and time for the changes - I am slipping away again, this is not the main topic and I know we're still far from social justice, yes.
Back to not fitting. I don't fit. I've been back to school several times after high school (university, photography school, workshops, trainings) and every time I said to myself: this is my chance to change the game, I won't be in my own world anymore, this is time for popularity! Of course, it never was the case.
Here's a thing: I was mistaken by thinking that my "wallflowerness" was caused by all the insecurities and issues that the decades gone by and a good shrink managed somehow to manage (they never go away, but learning to manage them is the magic). No, no, no! This is simply who I am. Being there -and, by the way, I love flowered wallpaper- was exactly my place, and this was confirmed by numberless exchanges in my starting-to-be-of-a-certain-length life. You have a unique perspective from the sides of the party. Time will teach you to join the dances when you like the music.
And I finally found myself totally fit when I joined a class in a french art school to learn how to build art projects with different publics.
I also had the luck to find a close circle of friends that's been there for 30 years now. And this brings on another enlightenment I was blessed with, thanks to fruitful exchange. One of my friends forwarded to us this beautiful NYTimes artcle on Thoreau. I won't go there, I think any of you who had the patience to follow my flight all the way through here is also capable of flying with any Thoreau's inspiring bit of life, and, besides that, I also try to treat this man with the awe he deserves since photography (and not only) seem to have squeezed so much out of his myth.
What really struck me in the article was the part where he says “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.” and the article goes on with his listing of what he felt there was inside that more "I am a Schoolmaster — a Private Tutor, a Surveyor — a Gardener, a Farmer — a Painter, I mean a House Painter, a Carpenter, a Mason, a Day-Laborer, a Pencil-Maker, a Writer, and sometimes a Poetaster.”
Oh, what a sudden joy to read this list!
Not even trying to compare myself to the summus of course, but yes comparing myself to someone who freely searches, and settles, and moves, and makes, and settles.
I was writing to a curator the other day that I am forever in an awkward position, since french people consider me italian and Italians french (scene wise) , artists tend to think I'm a photographer and photographers I am an artist (and I think myself as such, with no guilt or shame: that, I really needed to learn! Being an artist is a work, t is hard hard work. Enough with the "blessed artist" but that's material for another post) and so on under so many aspects of my life. Well, paraphrasing the summus I am so relieved to say I am a Teacheraster - an Artist, an Intervenante - a Technician - a Friend , a Girlfriend - a Daughter - a Reader - a Gardener - a Pet Owner - a Listener, a Talker- a Good Fourchette, a Wine Drinker- a Sportsperson - a bad Dancer - a Wallflower and who knows how many other things.