Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thesis 2

To live in Canada is to experience a bifurcation: on the one hand, input from your “daily life,” by which I really mean the physical world around you, the people you personally know, the city or town or area you live in; and on the other hand, input from media from often foreign origins, predominantly American but also from other countries or from the past, for example books from ancient Greece.

Of course daily life, even personal daily life, also involves a digitally-mediated activities, and Canada is not the only place for which this bifurcation exists.

But I think the bifurcation is very pronounced in the Canadian experience; or at least in mine. I grew up in the countryside, rural Ontario. Rural Ontario people were everyone I knew. However, the vast majority of the television I watched and the books I read were largely produced by Americans living in the US.

As a result of that I think a layer of abstraction was created in my consciousness that mediated a lot of those cultural experience. What I mean by that is that the concrete specifics and cultural allusions of the foreign narrative art I intook were for the most part unfamiliar to me, and so those specifics were tuned out as noise—leaving only the most general, universal messages and patterns for me to perceive and understand. This caused me to focus more on general patterns (from which perhaps I gained more than I otherwise would have) but to not have a sense of those stories really applying to me in the same way that a work of art set in the town in which I grew up, focusing on characters of the same occupations and class as that which I and the people in my world inhabited feels like it uniquely and very specifically applies to you. This can be scaled up to a national level.

Again, this may be similar to experiences citizens of other countries have, but it's not my interest to determine how unique these phenomena are nor is it possible for me, epistemically, to do that.

From my personal application essay to the MFA program at Guelph/Humber (expanded and amended):
So there's a bifurcation of experience: on the one hand, “culture and art,” and on the other, “real life.” And I think our best writing reflects that. Margaret Atwood, Sheila Heti, Yann Martel—those are the three Canadian writers I think are the best anyway, and they all exhibit a distinct turn away from realism—and I'm extremely prejudiced toward realism, so, to me anyway, that says something very significant about the possibilities for representing the mental experience of a Canadian. Martin Gottfried in Arthur Miller: His Life and Work talks about a work's "level of reality," and how it's important for an artist to know which level of reality his or her work of narrative art is operating on. It seems to me that perhaps work that operates at at least one remove from conventional realism is where Canadian narrative art wants to interface with reality.

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