06 May 2008

Trying to clip the creek to the bank with a clothes pin

Two Early Morning Views of the "Smart" Bridge, Ellett Valley, VA

I woke up around 7 this morning, grabbed my camera, and walked down to the creek behind my trailer. Around 7:30, I took these two shots: the top one looking at the bridge through my neighbor's yard, the bottom one a reflection of the bridge in my landlady's pond. I took several other shots, most of which looked good on the camera, but not on the computer screen (admittedly, these aren't great either). The bridge in the shots is operated by Virginia Tech and The Virginia Department of Transportation; it's part of the "smart road," a 2 mile stretch of asphalt dubbed "smart" because of its weather making capabilities (it can produce rain, snow, and fog) and other high-tech features (can a road be "smart"?). The bridge/road are eventually supposed to connect Blacksburg to Interstate 81 and Roanoke, but presently the bridge merges with the ridge behind my trailer. There is no road beyond the bridge, just small rolling mountains and hollows. I was thinking about this connection between the bridge/mountain when I took the photos, and it brought to mind Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden. Several years back, I wrote a few essays attempting to illustrate Heidegger's ideas of "enframing," a technological revealing of being, and "poiesis," a sort of poetic unfolding or revealing. In any case, I read several books by the likes of Marx, Jacques Ellul, and William Barrett back when I was writing those essays, and as I walked around my landlady's pond staring at the "smart" bridge in the distance (with a camera; how can a camera as an instance of technology be read into this?), some of those ideas were floating around. A line from Vic Chesnutt's "Vesuvius" also kept going through my head: "trying to clip the creek to the bank with a clothes pin" seems like a pretty good definition of photography or--even more so--language. As Robert Rauschenberg said in an interview I was reading last night, "too much information is an obstacle to seeing." So I'll stop writing, get away from the computer, and make my way back to the creek.

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