#vulnerabilityinthetimeofcovid-19

ZT:  Currently where are you located?  

WE: I'm living in the neighborhood that I grew up in between roughly 1996 and 2005. In the house I lived in back then.

It looks different now; several old trees are gone on the block replaced by a more wide variety of young trees in people's yards.

But every house is still recognizable to me, even through the alterations and trends of the past three decades. 

I guess that's what happens when you spend so much time in one place, walking the same blocks over and over.

 

Having to shelter in place earlier this year led me to rediscover these blocks. Like changing the way you say a line after the 20th rehearsal of your role in a play.

Or gathering up the energy to speak to someone you haven't seen in years. 

One specific thing that strikes me is how long the walk to elementary school seemed to me versus now, when I skip past it on the way to the corner store for wine.

Also, joyfully, all the old tricks I know that are still of use, like the specific way you can lightly break your bike and still make it safely through on the Columbia Blvd path.

Or knowing the 35 bus is a much faster route downtown than the 4 - if you catch it on time. 

There's also lots of esoteric knowledge. The closest mailbox - eh, not so useful anymore. Street names; who keeps their curtains open; little landmarks like cheap shitty statues; places where the lamp light doesn't penetrate; where cats tend to hang out; the house that burned with the owner inside, and was rebuilt.

History is too long. I'm still in it though. Shaping my home in small ways, until I can't anymore

ZT: Could you describe this space in one word?

WE: Periphery.

ZT: How does "Periphery"  relate to this current seasons new Covid19 lock-down? When we met you explained this word beautifully. 

It landed for me as a photographer in a very picturesque way as a response.

WE:  Our awareness of boundaries has fundamentally changed in 2020. Periphery is an alternate way of talking about "limits," and we have experienced the reduction of our horizon to the extent of our house, our apartment, our bedroom even. Perhaps even more fundamental in the reversal of our perspective is the inward turn many have experienced in this new space, deprived of entertainment, dining and bar-hopping, and other outward socializing. Inner space after all has its own horizon line, its own periphery in terms of what we can know ("see") in ourselves; our memories, thinking processes, traumas and histories, blind spots, biases, fears, repressions. As we go back into lockdown now, I'm reminded of my own limits: loneliness, aka the kind at the heart of wanting to be with someone, is something you can fight off or fool temporarily but not forever. Stubbornness and the old myths of stoic, western masculinity have very easily dissipated in the face of global catastrophe. I finally wish I could share my horizon with someone else, but the wish is met with a stony, firm reality: not just anyone else, someone specific. Perhaps even wildly someone who could see both inside and beyond the limits of my understanding, a sky view. Drone me. Put me on a map. Trace the outline of my brain. Find my GPS coordinates, I can be found. Perhaps lockdown gives me permission to be seen again, and this is the first step towards all that desire to be met. We shall see. 

#vulnerabilityinthetimeofcovid-19

Interview with Will Elder 

by Zell Thomas 

Continued...

loneliness, aka the kind at the heart of wanting to be with someone, is something you can fight off or fool temporarily but not forever. Stubbornness and the old myths of stoic, western masculinity have very easily dissipated in the face of global catastrophe. I finally wish I could share my horizon with someone else, but the wish is met with a stony, firm reality: not just anyone else, someone specific. Perhaps even wildly someone who could see both inside and beyond the limits of my understanding, a sky view. Drone me. Put me on a map. Trace the outline of my brain. Find my GPS coordinates, I can be found. Perhaps lockdown gives me permission to be seen again, and this is the first step towards all that desire to be met. We shall see. 

ZT: Lock down is traumatizing is it not? There is this sort of forced and manufactured denial of man's innate social being that leads to loneliness but also creates this feeling of vulnerability while amidst safety in one's personal space. I think of a covid-19 mask as a mask that increases the aesthetics of stoicism and  yet at the same time saves lives all while limiting expressions of vulnerability. 

 

Maybe I'm saying the same thing over again with that sort of wording in hopes of hammering in what one might deem a boundary. 

What are the limits of Vulnerability? Can Vulnerability be released in a space and still not be seen or heard? As if affected by a blind spot on the outskirts of the periphery? 

WE: We're all prone to the seeming logic around rules of expression. What we see in each other's faces, our hand gestures, our posture, is interpreted as an inward emotion. Conversation between friends becomes almost a form of investigative journalism, moving past all the guards and filters we put up. So, can you make vulnerability legible to another person to begin with? Or is it only innately felt, intuited, observed? A mere outline of the thing and not the thing itself? Perhaps not tangible or measurable at all.

 

Being vulnerable as an act implies someone is also receiving or viewing it, making sense of an otherwise private being, thus fulfilling the ontological meaning. Following this, we might assume vulnerability only occurs, or is fulfilled, in a public sense. You are EXPOSED. You are nakedly read. In this way, it is in fact frightening to be finally beheld by someone...IF we let them, let ourselves become visible. And even then, I'm not talking about a full reading of self, because ultimately experience tells me this is impossible even for the most driven couple. To behold someone is a kind of action - and we call it recognition. You bear witness, because you respect the weight of this acknowledgement of self from another, the parting of curtains, the (temporary) opening of the gates, until their brain closes ranks again and pushes you out, as it must. 

 

Which brings me to my answer: you can only sustain being vulnerable with someone for a brief amount of time. Before the guard seizes control again.

Before other concerns take the place of the need to be seen and held. Some forces can prolong the inevitable but not ever stop it from taking place. A counterbalance that can briefly halt this process is something called a third place - where we give each other permission to enact things outside of view of society - of the public - but fully within us. Where interior is transformed briefly to exterior. These spaces are still very much out in the world, but largely ignored, desolate, closer on a spectrum to the bedroom than the town plaza.