Open for Discussion

After reading Man Barlett‘s essay “On Coffee Houses, salons, and the Post Arts” that is featured on Hyperallergic, I started wondering on real and cyber people’s openness to discussion in public.

As I wrote in a comment there, in Portugal there’s a deep coffee culture: even the concept of bakery means coffee. You go with an excuse to meet someone, as an excuse to take a coffee and you eat a cake. Bakeries have several tables for 2, and everybody meets everybody around the table, with 2 coffees and 2 glasses of water, most of the times with 2 fresh cakes. For small talk or for deeper conversations. I just spent 1 year in Lisbon, my studio was in the centre and had around 20 people: our meeting place was always at the coffee/bakery around the corner (or at my desk where people use to come often to talk).
This tradition, the old famous “tertulias” and the wonderful short “Coffee and Cigarettes” directed by Jim Jarmusch with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, was what inspired the series of photography “Conversations Around the Table“.

The post is quite interesting, however, I find internet posts/forum etc not to be a place of dialogue as it could be, but more as sharing or even imposing the blogger’s truth, mostly not open to discussion. People start not taking part, and when they want to, they open their own blog to express their thoughts. Internet is too individual/personal to leave space for other thoughts in our own “cyber-coffee-room”, maybe because with the lack of facial expression talking about something it can lead to misunderstandings. So if you agree, you click on “like”, if you don’t, you just leave. Or you just leave even if you agree, to not leave track. We all became voyeurs on other’s opinions, not part of them. And once people have the need of being accepted, they don’t disagree expressing their own personal point of view. This leads to individuality and loneliness, as I’ve been witness with my project “B Shot by a Stranger“. I have lots of private emails with people’s (deep and great) opinions on my work and articles: most of them don’t do that in public comments.

Conversations Around the Table #8, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Conversations Around the Table #8, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Conversations Around the Table #11, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Conversations Around the Table #11, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Discussion doesn’t mean fully agreeing nor fully disagreeing, or even attack to impose other’s ideas. Discussion, a healthy one as I know and enjoy, is when you have something else to add, and this is what usually doesn’t happen on internet. Especially in culture, or art blogs once people are living in a fast world, they like or not the image they see and go forward, not taking time to enjoy or go deep in anything. People don’t live in Internet: they pass by. People are mere observers of what’s going on in their own flat screens.

There’s also another important point: Internet is a wonderful source of information: but it doesn’t give your own cultural bases, which you must have by yourself. You can even find quotes from Socrates about networking if you search for it. With this I mean that there’s too much information, and most people take for granted everything they read. Even if it’s completely wrong. The bible is wikipedia, in which you can find wrong information too. People always loved to believe in dogmas, so they don’t go deeper, maybe afraid of finding something they don’t like, or just because they prefer to live in superficiality/mental laziness. So you pass by. Including in real life.

by J

by J

by ©Tom Margol

by ©Tom Margol

by ©Chen Wei

by ©Chen Wei

Or you just stay at the window(s), instead of going out and feel. Internet can give you a glimpse of the world, but it can’t give you the feeling of being there. You can’t stay home saying that you already saw the artist’s works on internet as an excuse to not see it in loco, in the museum or art gallery. But people do this. And they live happily thinking that they know all about everything because they have internet. And windows to see through.

People are seeing art in a cyber dimension while sit down eating donuts gazed in their own farts.

People are now watchers of a flat screen that doesn’t ask you to take part. Like when you’re watching a movie at home, there’s one way, you don’t talk with the actors, you observe them acting and you see the movie without interaction. This is what is becoming internet. People interacts by clicking on like. With a bit of effort they write comments saying “nice”. If they’re in bad mood or even with a frustrating sex life, they attack you so they can feel better. They are the so-called haters. They’re just hating themselves for not being useful or even intelligent: in fact they don’t hate you.  Maybe they only envy you. But this is a way of interacting.

It has been also curious to see students approach when I give a lecture. When I’m physically present there’s a much wider empathy and so discussion happens naturally with all of them participating as in a friend’s meeting. When the lecture is given through webcam/Skype on universities far from where I am, it’s curious to see the not so much reaction: they listen to me. They wonder and question themselves not loudly expressing though. There’s the flat screen with a guy talking as if it was a video. The master is there talking for them to listen. And they don’t participate in a discussion as in a real meeting.  If I want them to talk, I have to ask them directly a question.

Internet is still brand new and even the new generation who were born being breast fed by an ipad, are not yet fully aware of the whole possibilities and advantages. But hey, we are here since ages and most of people aren’t still aware of the possibilities of their own brain.

by ©Derek Tokar

by ©Derek Tokar

by @Helena Almeida
by @Helena Almeida

Internet can be an impressive platform for certain people, like Asperger people who are not the masters in socialization. If you’re not too centred in yourself, you can have wonderful and deep conversations… but once again, most are private and not public in a forum or in a comment sequence from an article.  And a good discussion can be the best gym for your brains.

So is it shyness that makes you not participating in a deeper or cultural discussion? Insecurity? Or as I said, is it just mental laziness by existing in a pass-by way of life? Does the image or text just fulfils you so you have nothing else to add?

Open for Discussion: take a seat and raise your hand.

text by ©Gonzalo Bénard for 2HeadS
March, 2013
@GBenard on twitter – FacebookPortfolio Reviews

For any other contact about 2HeadS or my Photographic Work, from Art Galleries, Curators, Art Collectors, etc, please use the GBénard/2HeadS email. Thank you.

Feel free to comment, ask, follow or share in your networks any article on 2HeadS everytime you feel that you can add something interesting and positive to the articles.