Log 2 - Rolling Stone update, teaching, rest, going to the library

To give an update on what I was writing about in my last (first) log, I did end up finishing the Rolling stone gallery– at least, a demo version. I cut myself off from messing with the lighting for longer than a day, so it’s just lit using realtime lighting. Which, honestly, is fine for now– next time I’ll try building that into my considerations for the project at the beginning.

Here’s a little demo video I made to fit into my application portfolio:

A rolling stone gathering moss (short gallery walkthrough) from Katherine Diemert on Vimeo.


…I haven’t been working on anything other than teaching work. Which — and I keep telling myself this because I feel like guilt and a sense of urgency creeps up often — is okay! Applying to Masters programs is a lot of labour; I applied to 3, though I had 8 on my ‘shortlist’. At a certain point in the process, I had a ‘fuck it’ moment and left the remaining 5. I understand why the process is so rigorous– when I actually had to pay the $125 fee, or write a whole new document specific to that school, or consider trying to cram work in before the deadline, decisions that I had been hm-ing and ha-ing over for months were finally made. But that, on top of the start of term, meant that I’ve been in recovery/rest mode, in my free time.

I’ve been coming back to this idea of rest, and I’m not the only one. As part of a larger discussion on ‘time’ with my students, we talked about the merits of scheduling time to do ‘nothing’– but then, of course, everyone’s definitions of ‘doing nothing’ were different. Some common themes however, were: being horizontal (lying down), listening or watching something ambiently, but without multitasking; and sleep, though this last one was debatable as dreaming was still doing something. Which I kind of agree with: sometimes it feels like sleep is also a task on my ‘to do’ list for the day. Some students shared that even if they do schedule in time to do nothing, they’re unable to truly experience it because they’re already thinking of what’s coming next, and the work they need to do. Relatable.

And while we’re on the topic, I am honestly so impressed with how much students do (those that do actually do what’s asked of them). My words and actions may not quite align: I do assign them homework that I think is fair but still rigorous, but I also see just how full their schedules are, and the cumulative load of homework they have to balance each week. My experience was similar if not the same, and I can’t really remember how I managed it, either. You just do it. Like in 2016 when I had just started my first full time job and I was illustrating a kids book, too, and decided to go to on a trip the same month — what was I thinking?? But the book got done, and I still did my 35-40 hour work weeks.

I was going to say that perhaps cats are the best rolemodels for how to do nothing — but as I write this Isis is trying to woo me into giving her bongos, for the tenth time today, and being very insistent about it.

Mind you — fitting in more time for work or responsibilities inevitably means pushing other things out, and almost always those are things that I do that impact me, but no one else; see: self care. My self care recently has been: going to sleep early (like, 9:30, so that I can get up at 5:30am for my commute), eating a lot, watching a lot of kdramas. (for laughs: Gaus Electronics, for feels: Do you like Brahms?)

But I don’t think this is quite ‘doing nothing’.

I also came across a video titled “The REAL REASON Why You Aren’t PAINTING”, about how we’re never really bored anymore– there’s always another episode to watch, or email to check, or something to respond to. The YouTuber quotes from a couple books, which essentially say that it’s what we end up doing in response to our boredom that reveals who we are. Have you been bored recently? Or to rephrase, when have you experience no stimulation?

Not so coincidentally, I picked up Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing off my bookshelf/radiator again, because I was looking for a quote to include in an application statement (so that I sounded smart). Rather than share a quote here — though there’s a lot of highlighted bits in that one — I wanted to share the thesis of the book: contemporary culture, in particular social media and news cycles, is monopolizing our attention and therefor our time, emotions, and agency, so much so that ‘doing nothing’ is a radical act. Jenny makes the case for stopping and getting out of the overwhelming current of urgency and doom, but also that by reconnecting with nature and our surroundings through bioregional awareness, we can change the way we live. Flipping through the book again was a reality check for me: where was my attention going?

Earlier this week it was either going towards my teaching prep, or anticipating another episode. Which doesn’t make me feel great, but that’s how it was. But as the week went on, it felt like I was finding more of my attention available to me once again. Perhaps it was simply because the preparation for classes turns into actually doing the classes, and there’s less on my plate afterwards. But I also think that what we did in class actually helped me:

Going to the library

I haven’t written about teaching very much, but I’d like to: it really does feel like a part of my practise, and it certainly takes up a big part of my brain during the school year. This term one of my two courses is a completely new class that I’m helping develop alongside another professor, Marco. We’re trying things that are very new and very different for both of us, and I’m excited and hopeful because of it. It’s only week 2, but we’ve introduced two activites that will be repeating throughout the semester: journal responses, and library visits.

This is already too long and it’s past my bedtime (10:20 oh my!) so I’ll save the journal responses, but yesterday for half of class we all went to Sheridan’s school library.

There were rules around it:

  1. No digital devices are allowed during the library visit.
  2. No recording devices except for pen, pencil, etc. and paper.
  3. Once you physically enter the library, there will be no verbal communication with other students or faculty for the duration of the visit. You may communicate with library staff only, if necessary.
  4. Exiting and re-entering the library is permitted — spend the bulk of the allotted time in the library.
  5. Take out two books before the end of the visit, no more, no less.
  6. Keep the two books for two weeks.
  7. Bring the two books that you took out to the following week’s class.
  8. Create a journal response based on the two books that you took out.
  9. Consider the relationship between the two books when creating a response.
  10. The library visit will conclude when participants return to the classroom.

I printed out these as part of a ‘contract’ and passed it around for everyone to sign. The wording is deliberately severe/serious. Not that I went around ‘shushing’ them or took away their phones, but rather these were the rules of the game. As Marco said, the game is meant to be fun and enjoyable, but part of that is creating structure around how to play, and agreeing to the rules. It also reminded me of the magic circle… I would love to dive more into that.

But really, the library itself has inbuilt rules for how to play: quiet. No food. No ringtones, music, or chatter. I somehow forgot that these were already in place, both literally on the way and socially conditioned.

Anyways, the whole point of the assignment was to spend time looking, noticing what catches your attention, and giving time to the items you choose. And what’s great, is that the pool of options is limited, unlike the web. There’s hundreds of books to choose from, but you can walk through the shelves and see them. And there’s an element of chance; I love browsing a topic on one row, and then glancing over to find a completely different topic on another. And Sheridan’s library has a wealth of books that are perhaps less common, some that piqued my interest were: symbols in myths and fairytales, kinetic architecture, sculpture, sooo much animation and illustration, immersive experiences, and others.

The stacks were quiet as the students wandered up and down. Some disappeared and then later I saw them cozied up in an armchair, reading. Some kept browsing right up until the last minute. I let them break rule #5, and many of them took out more than two items. And it was nice to participate, myself. My experience of the class has always been divided from the students, as I’m facilitating or leading or monitoring. In this case, I was also limited by the rules, and I could take a bit of time to make my own selections, and flip through.

When we got back, people said it was fun, peaceful, calming. Some people had chosen similar books (both graphic novels, or both behind-the-scenes style books about movies), while others were quite different in both planned and unplanned ways. I shared that I noticed once I had picked up the first book, considering what next to choose felt like a collage: I was considering how the two related to each other, if there was enough contrast or connection.

Today I took some time to do nothing — to flip through one of the books. Yes, I was doing something, but without any real end-goal in mind. That’s another element to the assignment: there may not be anything in the books chosen that ends up being that interesting after all, but the possibility is being created through acting on your curiosity. Often it really doesn’t take much; so quickly, there were lots of ideas and connections that came to surface. And that’s what made me start writing this log– what I actually meant to write about, was the book.

What I want to end with is that perhaps when we ‘do nothing’ or experience boredom, it allows us to visit the library of our mind.

Rather than responding to external stimulus, the lack of stimulus allows us to turn inwards. Turning inwards in a way that’s less about searching in our mind for a specific thought or memory, or imagining the future or the past, and more about letting things bubble to top. Like the library and unlike my phone, there’s a limited — though a lot! — of things in my brain at any given time. I think the library visit gave us limitations that were helpful, in the form of a definitive timespan, a space, and rules of engagement. It’s much harder when there’s always things that need doing, pulling you away. But taking the time to walk through the halls of our mind, and furthermore being curious about what we may find there, may be a very worthy way to spend time doing nothing, indeed.

Up next Log 1 - progress on Rolling Stone gallery in Unity Log 3 - Noguchi and I’s letters
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