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   c o n d u c t i n g    a n    e t h n o g r a p h y    o f    t h e    b o d y

--- R E B E K A H   G R O S S M A N

Ethnographers live with someone or something for a period of time and try to figure out what constitutes that living--on the terms of the one studied, or as close to it as possible. Well, I have been living with my body--which is, I think, as close as you can get--and trying to write about it. This is a problem of translation.

The body: designation of the object, suggesting at once a split--body and mind, body and soul, body and other things--and a larger connectedness: the body of us all.

My body: a claim of possession/all that awkward inwardness.

Other bodies: familiar, distant objects in the field.

Nota Bene: autobiography is not ethnography: one must go out into the field.

Creating a field:

Method 1: Any point can be a beginning place right where you're standing is a good one. Take a compass and circumscribe the spot. Then begin the math of the relationship of the objects in the field.

Method 2: You walk between buildings, you walk between blades of grass, dragging your little circle with you like a spotlight, illuminating the relationships, a continuous stream of motion.

My Method: At some point I began picking things up on my walks-trash/discarded objects composed of cardboard, glass, and plastic, colors and numbers, images and words, "scented" and "unscented", and all teeming with suggestions: what I could do with them, what they could do for me, how to alter (if only slightly) the station of my body, in some cases in relation to something as ephemeral as a desire. I put them on my work table.

I don't know when I began rummaging the mixed paper recycling bin in the copier room on the 4th floor of Bennett Hall. Or when I began looking at my own junk mail differently, particularly the gardening catelogues. Two work tables now and not enough room.

And I realized-- this is what people are talking about! From the academic waste: a base of theory. From the varied consumer waste: a base for pragmatic action. From there, other insights. For example:

1) in our age, words, particularly nouns, come bundled with numbers
2) the body is nuanced everywhere
3) it is something to fiddle with

From the materials I gathered, I began to condense out a poetic, starting with a theme of the garden through which an aspect of the culture speaks through me with the automatic quality of sleeptalk. From there the theme branches off and takes off. There are different riffs and eddies--an exploration of performance, for example, or of death, and perhaps in some cases: random channel--gardens giving way to bodies themselves, bodies only.

Rebekah's found objects

A Final Point The outlined shapes containing within them smaller puffy shapes in many of the books are gardening diagrams designating garden plots. I mean them to shift between representing physical domains and representing conceptual ones.

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