James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

24: Widening the Scope

Last week we chatted about how it feels to embrace things that are a little outside of the interests of our shared “social circle” (such as my love for trains). I was really excited to see plenty of responses on the things that you find interesting and why you find those interesting in others. Below are some of my favorite responses—hopefully they will get you in the spirit of “getting weird” this week!

Nick Lacke shared with me a few of his interests:

"I'm really into a lot of stereotypical geeky stuff that has sort of become cool in recent years—comics, sci-fi, cartoons…except maybe my secret love of Bollywood music and movies."

Meanwhile Cher Vincent told me a story about how she got into her love of science:

"As most of my friends know, I'm a bit of a science nerd. By age 8, I had memorized the Periodic Table of Elements and conducted experiments with my chemistry set my father gave me, along with a microscope, studying insects I would collect. But what still thrills me is a gift I was given years later, my telescope. From studying amateur constellations to researching and writing extensively on quantum mechanics, the study of the Cosmos is something that comforts me when this world gets a little overwhelming. It gives me true perspective that no matter how great the circumstance, there's something out there bigger."

But these interests don’t have to always be stereotypically “weird”, as Jessica Jacobs showed. I loved her response below:

"This isn't a weird interest in many contexts, but it is definitely weird when I am hanging out with academic/art/design folks. I am totally into the NBA, as in basketball. Have been since I was little (my family is into it)…People assume I must be working or reading a book, and I don't tell them it's because basketball is always on in our house...we should embrace the moments when we don't fit a particular mold or demographic. Rather than think someone is odd for an unusual interest, we need to remember that life would be horribly boring if we could always predict what someone else is going to say."

Jayson Shenk had a couple of shared interests below:

"I loved airplanes as a kid before I knew anything about design or fine art. Driving to airshows was our family vacation…This year, after reading Ernest Gann’s “Fate Is The Hunter” I realized how much immersing myself in this world and getting my pilot’s license as a young man profoundly influenced my worldview.”

But wait, there’s more!
 
“Pro Wrestling. This is the “stupid, embarrassing” one. Couple of things to say about this. I’ve drifted in and out of being interested in this. It being derided as being stupid, immature, and of course, fake. At this point in my life, I say “so what.” Even if that’s true, it’s important to acknowledge that we enjoy visceral thrills too. If I want to intellectualize it, I’d day pro wrestling is one of the truly original, great American artforms, but you can take or leave that as you will. At some point I realized that as adults, we’re only supposed to enjoy tragedies, look at all the Oscar winners. I’m ok partially rejecting that.”

Spending all of last week reading your different responses on your interests was truly inspiring. It was great to see the things that make you tick. Especially in art and design, it’s easy to only look towards other art and design for inspiration, when in fact it comes from things that are outside of those fields. This reminds me of this talk from Alonzo Felix at WMC Fest 2013 called “Fieldwork” in which he mentions the importance in having wide interests to influence and shape your work.

I’ll leave you with this last response from Justin Siddons. I feel it really sums up why it’s important to open up your mind to a lot of different interests.

"I love meeting people with different passions/interests in subjects that are different than my own. I love asking them questions about these passions and learning what it is about these things that really attracts them to it. I love learning what they geeked out about in their specific interest, and sometimes in these conversations they are so passionate I'm convinced I should love what they do just as much!"

Have a great Monday and see you next week,

-James


What did I find interesting this week?

1) Who Gets to Graduate? : A very beautiful report on how the college experience is different for low income students and students of color. Set aside some time to read this.

2) 20 Day Stranger: An interesting project where you share your world’s experience with an anonymous person across the globe, kind of like a digital pen pal. It was created by the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT.

3) The Roast in the Fridge: Through a touching story of being a part of a home invasion as as child, Erika Hall describes her power of speaking her mind, feminism, and living “life without being fucked with”.

4) Ten Thousand Years (A podcast episode of 99% Invisible): The latest episode blew my mind about a group that is trying to design signage to protect people from digging up radioactive waste, ten thousand years in the future. In the episode, they discuss what goes into making something readable by generations in the future, especially since language and symbolism is fluid and changes ever couple thousand years.

James T. Green