Filed under: Ritual and Repetition
Clean Slate, 2006
Michael Sherwin – Ellensburg Washington
After my first year of full-time teaching as a Professor of Photography at Central Washington University I was exhausted. I walked around the empty classroom sifting through all the ups and downs of the past year. I had thought four courses a term, including six sections of Beginning Photography alone. So many students, so many faces, and so many questions crisscrossed my muddled mind. I was burnout, beaten, and numb. The repetition of courses and endless stream of students only seemed to gain intensity with each subsequent term. How does a teacher handle the constant process of renewal?
As I reflected on the challenges of my new chosen profession, I looked around the classroom hoping to find some symbol of my effort. My eyes fell on the old slate chalkboard sitting in the corner of the classroom. A reservoir and device for the transmission of information, my chalkboard had not been cleaned in an entire year. Like a cumulus cloud drifting slowly overhead I stood and stared at this abstract representation of time passed. Embedded in the thick dust lied the signs and hazy reminders of my mechanical reiteration.
In an act of determination and restoration, I decided to document myself cleaning the chalk-dust off the board with a big wet sponge. Condensing 30 minutes of repeated attempts to cleanse the board just into 5, each of the infinite patterns formed in the drying dust trace the residue of my rapid actions, resembling a temporal abstract expressionist painting. The piece serves as a process of mental cleansing and as a simple symbol for repetition, ritual and renewal.
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