Saturday, August 08, 2009

Home and Place

"A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image."

"There are as many intimate places as there are occasions when human beings truly connect. What are such places like? They are elusive and personal. They may be etched in the deep recesses of memory and yield intense satisfaction with each recall, but they are not recorded like snapshots in the family album, nor received as general symbols like fireplace, chair, bed, and living room that invite intricate explanation. One can no more deliberately design such places than one can plan, with any guarantee of success, the occasions of genuine human exchange."

-Yi-Fu Tuan

Been way too overwhelmed with ideas of late though barely the time to see any of them through. Video stuff mostly. I'm happily going into
pre-production mode and preparing to finally film the documentary I've been wanting to make for a few years now exploring some of the inchoate ideas I've had about "home" and "place." My focus is going to be Bay Village, the suburb I grew up in. My parents still live in the same house I grew up in, a place that I feel great affection for. I'm still intimately and intensely attached to it. It's my favorite archive. I feel a kind of loyalty to it that I don't with many if any other places. It's a symbol of my early self and in some ways, especially as Cathy and I are searching for a new home, its influence still deeply resonates. So there's that. How to creatively document how my current ideals of what constitutes "home" were indelibly shaped by the formative years of adolescence I spent residing in this house. What's the character of this sentiment? Yi-Fu Tuan wrote, "Space is transformed into place as it acquires definition and meaning." So I look forward to exploring concentrically, from my first home, to the block I lived on, to the the relatively small radius where I spent the most time and the places that have gone on to exist most powerfully in my imagination. What are its intimate places, and how are they shared, amongst peers or even across generations, down through time?

And how to tell a story about home and place that's indicative of a certain Midwestern upbringing?
A short documentary that might be of interest to more folks then just my family, friends and those who grew up in Bay Village. What's the best way to frame that and tell this story in a little under 10 minutes? Right now I like the idea of exploring these ideas concentrically, moving from the home I grew up in, extending to the block my home was on (and the woods behind it), extending to my hometown (at least the portions that I spent the most time in and so have taken on the most significance), eventually radiating outward to encompass a little of both Cleveland and Chicago. (I think it's important to explore, too, how these places, as Yi-Fu Tuan writes, "can acquire deep meaning for adults through the steady accretion of sentiment over the years." Attachment to place as a function of time. 10 years of time as a child are very different then 10 years spent as an adult. (This, according to Yi-Fu Tuan, is one reason why we can't go home again).

So begin with the house. You hear my parents talking about buying the house. I'll interview them over a couple bottles of red wine. I'll include some old photographs. Pictures on the stairs of the kids at Christmas. Birthdays. Graduations. Holding old photographs up and framing/ blending them into their current appearance. The mesh of the past with the present. What inanimate objects do my parents still have that reverberate with the most meaning? The grandfather clock, certain Christmas ornaments, the curve of the stairs? Then I'll extend to the block I lived on. What are its landmarks? Dover and Douglas. The old public-library. My elementary school. The small patch of woods running behind our house. How violent summer storms seemed to me as a child with all those tall old trees hovering over my parents house (you can't see the roof of their house using Google Earth it's so obscured by trees) precariously bending and violently rustling their leaves! Scared the shit out of me. Chicago's thunderstorms have always felt meek in comparison.

Yi-Fu Tuan is the guru of place. So, we'll end with with the quote that probably best encapsulates what I want to convey:

"A homeland has its landmarks, which may be features of high visibility and public significance, such as monuments, shrines, a hallowed battlefield or cemetery. These visible signs serve to enhance a people's sense of identity; they encourage awareness of and loyalty to place. But a strong attachment to the homeland can emerge quite apart from any explicit concept of sacredness; it can form without the memory of heroic battles vis-a-vis other people. Attachment of a deep though subconscious sort may come simply with familiarity and east, with the assurance of nurture and security, with the memory of sounds and smells, of communal activities and homely pleasures accumulated over time. It is difficult to articulate quiet attachments of this type."

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