A few years back I was in a video store looking for a rental. Drama? SciFi? The latest release? Something classical perhaps? Many of the movies I had seen already, some I had heard from friends were “must see”. I had a few free hours and wanted to fill them with some entertainment.
I had a desire than needed to be met. As the amount of time I spent walking around the store gradually increased, however, it became increasingly clear that I wasn’t finding what I wanted. Despite a world of films spanning decades, costing bazillions of dollars to produce, I couldn’t find a single film I wanted to watch.
Actually, this isn’t exactly true. The problem was that I couldn’t choose a single film from among all of the ones available. After what must have been an hour walking through the rows of shelves browsing, I left empty-handed and fatigued.
Museum designers are aware that the longer visitors spend in a museum, the more fatigued they become. If, however, a visitor comes to a museum with background knowledge or purpose, fatigue doesn’t set in as quickly or as intensely. Just looking becomes tiring without context. Humans need a context for understanding what they observe–a narrative or an interpretation.
Somewhere between professionally published work and my teaching in the classroom I realized that I wanted a place to write and share some of my observations and interpretations of things that I observe in the world around me. I have been considering a blog for years, but never seemed to get around to setting one up. This spring, just before setting off on my annual trip to China, I decided to give it a go.
When it came to naming my blog, I reflected on the curious feeling of excitement, awe, and frustration that I feel when I encounter new things. Social life entices me, but it is aggravating when when meaningful interpretation is elusive. Then, the memory of the trip to the video store came to mind.
I’m hoping this blog might be part of the cure for museum fatigue.
June 2010, Nanjing.