The Boston Review just finished a series on the future of learning inspired by a letter the San José State University...
Wayne Levin, Filming Akule
On Tuesday at the Hawaii State Art Museum’s Art Lunch series, Frank Stewart argued that Wayne Levin’s photographs of akule echo synchronized movements we see on land and in the air: starlings flocking, clouds hurrying. That these self-organizing patterns of nature are what bring our eyes to paintings by Mondrian (abstracted trees morphing into blocks of color as his patterns simplify) or Pollack, and what makes the akule series not just documentary but art. I remain convinced that everything moves differently underwater, even if birds share kinship with fish in their abilities to circle and school.
His comment about how the clarity of Levin’s photographs make it “seem like we are looking at [the fish] through air not water” put to words what seems so familiar/unfamiliar about these landscapes. For a moment I forget the underwater setting and envision schools of akule taking to the streets of Honolulu, like a Critical Mass for fish.
This marine incomprehension is paired with fascination…maybe repeated viewings of The Little Mermaid had a greater impact beyond the ability to produce an intonation-identical rendition of “Part of Your World”.
The one time I went scuba diving was just off the beach in Batangas, a two hour Scorpions-soundtracked bus ride south of Manila. I love snorkeling as it is, even if I may splutter in panic when I realize how far from shore I’ve gotten. But scuba diving sinks me past my fear.
Plunging beneath the thrum and thrust of surface mechanics to become submerged within the vocabulary of waving fronds and the grammar of darting fish. Sometimes modern dancers speak snippets of this sea language: a bare, slicing arm, like a silvery back jack-knifing. This is nothing like the plodding of pedestrian life. Goggle-eyed but hopefully not open-mouthed, I try to learn how to dance like I had fins.
I live a 15 minute walk from the Pacific. I am also terrified of the ocean. Just think of all the tentacles and all the teeth. Though I grew up a 15 minute bike ride from a lake wide enough to simulate a sea, I never saw anything but sea glass on the shore. Later encounters made it plain how unaccustomed I am to a living ocean. Seaweed slipping past my calves becomes barracudas in my mind, and sends me splashing back to sand. Box jellyfish on an Atlantic shore scared me away from beaches for months.