19 January 2009

Happy Revolution #9!

I've been working in a web agency as a project director for almost a year now. Almost a year of a monday to friday, 10 am to 7pm job. And so with that kind of schedule, I get to live "my life" in the evenings and during the week-ends. Except of course, I couldn't really enjoy my free time fully, as I'm usually exhausted or stressed and my mind is too empty to be able to think, move or act upon what I'd love to do.
It's the first time in a long time that I feel a huge gap between my work life and the rest of it. Usually my work life is blended with everything else. And even though some of the project I'm working on are gratifying and interesting, I can't really make them my own.
So it's been a fragile balance all this time, a silent fight to keep on doing things even though my deep soul is not into it. Cooking feels like a small victory, and so are spending time with my boyfriend, keeping my home tidy, going swimming, climbing, running, strolling in Paris, shopping, meeting friends, going to restaurants or movies.. I don't know when was the last time I could enjoy an exhibition in Paris.
Answering my friends emails is painful because I like to take my time to do that, so my inbox tells me I have emails that are few months old...
Blogging, well... if you're a regular reader, you might have noticed my poor frequence..
I feel out of the loop on so many things, starting with my own field, hard to catch up with everything that's been going on. The more I feel isolated, the more I resent distant communications and the Internet becomes at the same time my main way of keeping in touch and my main source of frustration for not being able to keep up the pace.
I have so many projects I'd like to take care of, bringing Superficiel up to date for one, making it a real organization..
Preparing events for Dorkbot Paris is always a rush, a last minute thing but thankfully there at least there are other people who are running things too..
And my art projects: I have two exhibitions to prepare in the next 2 months and I'm finding myself stealing minutes here and there to actually just think or conceive but there's no way I can make something meaningful like that.
So at the end of the day, I smoke my frustration in few cigarettes, sometimes with a glass of wine, in front of my computer screen, reading the news or watching some entertaining shows, hoping that the solution will come that can tell me how I can balance things right.
For a glimpse at the enormous website that has sucked the life out of me in the last months, you can log on 6 milliards d'Autres, a very successful project of the French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, that is also running as an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris. As I started working on it, I felt some resonance with the RAW project because it aims at bringing awareness on lives of strangers around the world, and I think it achieves that quite well, although it's strongly mediated and edited which of course was the one thing we wanted to avoid in our work. But you should have a look at it, if only because it holds really interesting participative tools like collaborative translation.

-- Joëlle

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01 August 2008

2 weeks

Tomorrow, I'm leaving for London and then Sardinia. 2 weeks of vacations to empty my brain, and do nothing. The concept of vacations takes an all new meaning for the salarywoman. Up until now, except for brief periods in my life where I had been previously contract-tied to the business world, I was mixing vacations and work somehow. I wasn't really aware of that specific rhythm where you look forward to a break, as I was defining when and how I would manage my own time. Now it's imposed upon me, but I don't resent it really, at least for now. It's a different experience of pace, leisure and energy.
I have to come up with a concept for an interactive art piece in the next few weeks. I'm the artist-in-residency for the Siana festival next year, taking place in Evry, France. Of course, in the last months, my work as a designer and project director took up all my brain activity. But soon, I'll have to add to the mix artlife. For me, it's a way to get back into research mode. But after this time away from it, I'm completely out of the blue. I hear here and there sounds of what's going on, through my friends who are still in the loop but I feel like I have a lot to catch up.
The theme that I'm starting to approach for this new piece is unsurprisingly: work. And it might actually be a good lead. The festival conference has chosen to center around the subject of my DEA thesis: the imaginary of technologies. I developed in my study the subject within the context of 19th century industrial revolution, when the new technologies of that time were related to early mechanization and the transformation of the world through mass production as we know it. So it might make sense as my current life is deeply influenced at the moment by the rhythm imposed by the structure of a working day that I reflect upon this in my next project. As I empty my brain during this summer break, inspiration might come to take me further into that path or into something completely different.


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23 July 2008

Empty dumpty

I'm exhausted. I still haven't found the right balance between my work life and the rest.
My work is great but it's sucking up all my energy. I spend around 9 hours a day at my work place - 9 hours in a fast track of a Tresor compilation, not quite the Buddy Holly deal: no time to stand back, no time to stay still, no time to do anything else but to focus on my daily tasks.
Thankfully, I can walk home at the end of the day - I don't have to take the nasty subway. But by 7pm, I'm more often than not brain dead. I manage every week to go to a yoga class, to the swimming-pool or to see people but I'm in fact secretly tempted to just do nothing, to sleep.
Week-ends are always too short to get a life back. Last Saturday, I went shopping for Japanese ingredients. That's how I get my fun. And it's a lot of fun because it means cooking. So Sunday, after the market, I spent most of my day cooking. We got a dozen of cute red peppers for €1,50 and as we were wondering what to do with all that, I decided to make some sort of relish/chutney that turned out to be quite amazing. I also cooked some tofu panned in kuzu, with carrots in a sweet shôyu-pine nut sauce. But my final treat was the most playful of all: making my own seaweed gomasio with the Muji mortar and pestle I bought in Japan 2 years ago. All it took was sesame seeds, some Nori shreds and a pinch of salt but the smell, the taste, the look make it one of the most delicious ingredient to have at hand, one that can turn your out-of-the-box fried tofu into a first class meal.

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26 May 2008

Before June or a remake

Time... time... time... such a true cliché..
Today i read Madjid's blog and it made me think of my current situation, it's not completely similar but we've taken up a new job at about the same time and we both disappeared from our blogs around then as well. Recently, he wrote that he was reading Balzac and so I was as well. It's an interesting way of keeping in touch, of keeping a social link, it's very ambient, very backgroundish. I'm aware of what he's up to, I can relate to episodes of his life, without even voicing it to him, without active friendshiping. Same as when I read Cati's blog. It's all done in some strange silence, echoing in a common memory.
Some weeks ago, I got a Facebook request from a high-school friend - we haven't been in touch for 15 years or so. But we didn't send each other any specific messages. We're on each other friends' list and somehow that's enough. We know we're "there".
On my AIM list, I see people everyday, I don't talk to them but they're there. It's soothing and frustrating at the same time. Or rather, it's soothing some times and frustrating at others.
I thought for a while that I could do art, research, design, earn money, have a rich and diverse social life, travel, live with my sweetheart, learn how to sing, practice yoga, take care of my home, be there for my family and friends, cook, blog, go to exhibitions, keep on learning, have kids, stay fit, keep my promise of putting up a website for the records I got for my 33rd birthday, volunteering for the Dorkbot, read, sleep at night, altogether in a harmonious and successful way. Instead, when I feel this is not possible, I surf for HOURS on the web, or I watch delightfully tons of movies and Buffy episodes because it's the easiest and quickest way to relax.
Of course, this is my modern Western privilege to have. My job isn't in any way breaking me as a human being, and I just have to work more or less 8 hours per day, for the right pay. In another time and place, I could be working just to survive, to support my family, to hope that it would take my kids further up the social scale. Something about misery my grandparents and, on a smaller scale, my parents did experience. Something that makes me think our president hasn't got the closest clue to what is work.
Then of course, that's when you wonder about progress, hope, existence, purpose.

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23 November 2007


Today marked the end of the strike, the subway runs pretty much as usual, nobody is complaining anymore. It's as if nothing happened. During the last 10 days, the TV news kept on showing us how unhappy people were that they couldn't go to work and how angry they were that a minority would go on strike to keep their privileges, namely an early retirement.
Contrary to common beliefs, a long strike like this one is pretty unusual in France. The last one of a similar importance was in december 1995, 12 years ago. It lasted 3 weeks and ended just in time for the Christmas shopping. Because if there's something that French people love to do more than to go to work is to go shopping. I was last Saturday at the Galeries Lafayette gourmet, full as ever, at the heart of strike period and somewhat people managed to come all the way down there, with all the nearby subway and train lines down, and there were no TV cameras to show that the strike was after all not so constraining for the French economy.
I can understand the arguments of the train workers, they're right - why would they want to keep doing after 50 such a tedious job? And also, I can understand that in the configuration of our economy maintaining early retirements is not really possible anymore. So why not using this opportunity to question the relationship to work itself? With the current president "work more to earn more" Sarkozy, the notion of work as the ultimate modern value is statufied. But the real revolution is to be able to choose a job that makes you happy or at least that you wouldn't want to leave "early" in your career or that maybe is not getting you at the end of the day to burn your life with alcohol, and anti-depressants and cocaine. The leaders of the economy are exploiting the need for people to get a job that will at least sustain basic expenses - all they care for is to make sure they are profitable, and that in a nice convenient loop, they can spend the small money they earn in a desperate gesture cynically called "pouvoir d'achat" (consuming power) which is the only power they will ever feel in their life: because when you've been spending your day feeling "you're nothing" at work, all you can do is buy and buy more at your turn to feel "you're something".
This actually puts the act of consumption at the heart of the next revolution, between ecological, political and economical awareness: what you buy, how you buy it, where you buy it, why, etc... More and more, I'm interested in alternative theories like "décroissance" or "degrowth". It's fascinating because it puts the problem upside down and for that only, I like it.
And finally, as it was the case in 1995, this strike was very valuable if only for one thing: rediscovering the relationship to the city, to the ways you move in it, to the ways you get from one point to another, and to time (for instance, instead of making sure I want the shortest time spent between the place where I am and where I should be, I have to think of what I'm going to do in the time that I wait - mainly walk - and through what part of the cities).

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