Friday, June 24, 2011

To Paris

So . . . . . . . I’m in Paris.
Rodin's bust of Dalou.
I am here to study that guy at the left:  Jules Dalou.  More on him later. Specifically, I will be going to work on this.

If you take a minute to scroll on down, there you will find my name, the name of my artist, an overly lengthy title complete with an academically approbated colon, and finally, the incontrovertible proof that I first put this thing on the books, officially, in 2009.

This is therefore evidence that I haven’t done this academic thing in awhile.  Back around when I first declared the dissertation, I started the process of walking away from the whole thing.  Some of it was really awful, but some of it was really great.  Most importantly, I found Global Gallery, which was, without exaggeration, a miracle in my life.  There I found a home, a cause, an amazing set of friends, and, eventually, a job.  And that was how I spent a year waking up at the crack of dawn to make lattes in the morning and teach art history at night.  All in all, it has been a very nice way to live, even if it means that my bedtime is before everybody else that I know.

But.  In the way that life sometimes works, I found myself with the means to go to Paris.  And then I found myself with the means to spend a year doing nothing but write the dissertation.  I found myself without the means to say no to either of those things, and so, with that, I find myself in Paris. 

I have never done the blog thing before.  I begin it now out of a variety of motivations. I begin it partially out of my own desire to record my experiences both in Paris and while working on the dissertation, partially out of my friends’ insistence that I do so, and partially out of some impulse towards reflection and self-actualization during what I can’t help but think will be a significant chunk of my life.

I have great fondness for the title of the blog, despite its pretension.  The pretension, of course, derives from both its Frenchiness and my assignations of multiple and nuanced meanings to an otherwise simple word.  But, as I suppose I have found, you can take a girl out of academia, but you can’t take the academia out of the girl.  Or something like that.

At any rate, socle is French for pedestal.  Since I study French sculpture, it is a word that has a particular frequency and resonance and weight for me.  Allow me to pick apart its weightiness.

Academically, the pedestal figures largely in my analyses of late 19th century sculpture. One of my most loved art history professors is wont to say that various things and ideas are “ . . . interesting.”  The ellipses signify a pregnant pause, which this professor somehow manages to imbue with a contemplative significance that actually makes you believe it is interesting, even if you are completely unsure as to why.  So pedestals in 19th-century sculpture are . . . interesting.

Through some less academic free associative type of thinking, one might, when thinking of a pedestal, think of putting someone on a pedestal (thereby idealizing or [falsely] elevating their importance), or perhaps one might think of a pedestal as akin to a podium, and therefore somewhere from which to speak.  Both of these seem fairly relevant for the practice of blog-writing.

Finally, a socle can also suggest the idea of a foundation. While I’m here, I will hopefully establish the foundation for what will become a dissertation--the culmination of my work on Dalou.  I’m also, in many ways, rediscovering the foundation of my art historical studies--here in Paris I will be able to see, in the paint, the marble, the bronze--the actual things that I have spent over ten years studying.  Then there is the life stuff.  Travel changes you, and when you come back, you are forced to reimagine and recreate how you live, based on how this forced stepping outside of yourself has transformed you.  Your foundations, so to speak, are shaken, and you are forced to create them anew.

It is a nice, but pretentious title, n’est-ce pas?

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