The usually rambunctious TALONS gang turned their sights towards observation and research during our recent trip to Simon Fraser University, a trip with the broad goal to earn some insight on ourselves and our chosen eminent person. Within that goal however, I chose to focus on a few key points: to document my experiences in a way that could allow me to reflect and share with others, to gain some reading material on Frida Kahlo, and to fully immerse myself in the visual aspects of the university campus. Littered throughout this post you will find some photos of the TALONS group on the campus grounds, (eating, wandering, researching, or something of the like), which were taken with the camera on my mobile phone, one that I have been challenging myself to produce some decent results with. I am happy with the product, believing that it quite nicely conveys the grey and rainy atmosphere of the concrete city that is SFU, dotted with the brightness of autumn leaves or the obligatory Goretex rain jacket.
I mentioned earlier the notion of ‘visual immersion’ in terms of viewing and exploring the university’s grounds, and the reason for this has to do with my eminent person, Frida Kahlo. As what I would consider a master visualist, Frida had a unique, hauntingly poetic perspective of her world that flourished in her paintings and artistic works. Although some might consider some of her art tragic, I can imagine that she too was a woman of observation, of herself, her relationships, upbringing, and surroundings. Filtered through her creative yet radical mind, we can see her interpretations of these components come to life in her paintings, and my goal was to put myself in the place of the observer, as Frida might have done.
I took time throughout the day to note the architecture and landscape of SFU, as well as how people interacted with their environment, whether it was an exhausted student napping on a study room couch, or the hooded heads of rushing crowds floating on overhead walkways. I found it interesting during lunch at an Indian restaurant, or during my urban solo spot, to find nuances in both the natural or industrial-looking parts of the campus that were reminiscent of Kahlo’s work. Looking through the artifacts of the university’s anthropology museum, I was reminded of Kahlo’s use of the traditionally bold Mexican colours and patterns in some of the First Nation and Aztec art, and I was struck by the idea that there is so much in our environment to relate ourselves to if we are simply looking for it. Frida Kahlo became a vessel of motivation in which I could experience this immersion of my surroundings as they changed throughout the day, from the museum, to campus gardens, to our restaurant, and to the library. I figure that if Frida Kahlo, someone so attuned visual stimulation, sought inspiration in relating what she saw around her and what she saw inside her, I could in a way replicate her methods of viewing and reflecting.
Addressing my second goal of finding material on Ms. Kahlo, I found myself tasked with the job of locating the few relevant books I had searched online beforehand, and with seven floors and amongst the rows of meticulously organized spines, I was quite impressed when I found the Frida Kahlo a section: a collection of about six books. I decided to pick out two that appeared the most useful for research intentions, the first being an extensive overview of her life and works. The second strayed a bit more from the general Wikipedia-type information and focussed on more interviews and psychological assessments of Frida herself, as well as personal accounts of people who knew her directly. The kind of information found in these respective books are notably different, but for the intentions of my project, I believe that they are equally important. As much as I would like to have a firm understanding of important events that took place in Frida Kahlo’s life, I am intrigued by how she functioned as a real, breathing human being, how she ticked, if you will. Often in the study of eminent topics or people such as Kahlo, it becomes easy to become wrapped up in the factual stuff, the date and time stuff, whereas my interest lies in humanizing her. If she is not a person who has flaws and idiosyncrasies, who copes with failure and all other human downfalls, how am I to relate to her? Throughout the rest of this project, I hope to build a well-rounded idea of who Frida Kahlo was, and in order do this, I will also have to dig deep into the sources that explore the emotional and psychological aspects of what made Kahlo the way she was.
The trip to SFU offered more than just a time for reflection and research, I also found myself really enjoying the company of my classmates and teachers. The rain never seemed to dampen our academic adventures, and as always, the notion of being out of the classroom yielded enthusiastic results. After reading the introductory posts of other TALONS students, it has been interesting observing the processes of my peers as they too begin to unravel their own eminent person. Whether that meant leaving the library holding a book with a renewed purpose for the project, or by simply discussing our plans for Night of the Notables, this trip offered every person a different opportunity. At this point, I look forward to reading and hearing about how everyone is doing with their respective eminent persons, and it looks like I have some considerable reading ahead of me. Time to hit the books.