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2 Public Pedagogy of Everyday Objects & Spaces Encounter

January 23, 2011

The minute I saw the drawing of table.png, I knew exactly where it was from.  During my first year in undergrad in Pennsylvania, I took a part-time job at the back of the university library mounting images, laminating, and making prints for professors and university workers.  This table was in my room.

table.png

It’s a drafting table, with the surface being propped at a maybe a 35° angle, with storage drawers underneath, nicks on the table surface from years of X-acto knife use, and large picture windows in front of it.  My room was cluttered with old projectors, broken overheads, and other ambiguous machinery lying around and piled onto shelves.  To my right was a much-used gigantic vent hood where I used spray mount.  Behind me was a large worn wooden table with a roll cutter on it, and blood stains from one of my previous accidents.  I can still smell melting laminant from the laminator where I would warm my hands on the colder days.  From the other room, I could hear Enya playing where my boss has dosed off.

After my work was complete for the day, my table was used sometimes for reading, other times for doing homework, but most often for watching my fellow college students walking to and from their classes.  From my invisible roost, I could observe them, critique them, and monitor their actions and mannerisms without them seeing me or knowing I was there.  After a time, I would recognize patterns emerging.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I would see the same people, and Tuesdays and Thursdays different ones.  Certain people with similar clothing, backpacks and other accoutrements would flock together.  There would be loners and cyclists, much older college students, and people carrying art portfolios or musical instruments, joggers and dog walkers.  The same person would be eating a sandwich each day, while another person would have a new cup of Starbuck’s.  An older woman would be dragging a backpack on wheels behind her, and one of my fellow library workers would be bringing back lunch from Tom’s Pizza.  They were creatures of habit.

Next, I found myself grouping them into people I would and would not get along with solely based on looks.  Did they wear a certain brand of clothing that I did not approve?  Were they eating certain foods that I did not like?  How did they present themselves?  For example, if I saw a guy wearing Abercrombie & Fitch eating Taco Bell, I would know instantly that we would not be friends (no offense to owners of A&F clothing or eaters of Taco Bell).  On the other hand, if I saw someone wearing comfortable brandless clothing drinking coffee, there was a better chance we would get along.  I did the same thing with women.  If they were wearing clothing I had deemed too revealing and they wore too much makeup, I thought there would be no chance of having a romantic interest.  But if they were dressed conservatively and were not trying to draw attention to themselves, there was a chance we would get along (not that we would ever meet outside of the library).  My table served as a judge’s seat.

From my table, I could also see the large brick wall that sided my university’s Fisher Auditorium.  When classes were in session and foot traffic had dwindled, I found myself staring at the building.  I could see (and still can) three sets of doors, exiting the auditorium each with broken pediments above them, and a fourth set of doors toward the front of the building.  They’re painted white, and the roof was lined with a cornice and dentils.  As I took more art history classes, and learned more architectural terminology, I could better appreciate this building’s style.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Fisher Auditorium

Although homework was often the purpose of my table, its primary function was that of a place for me to be an objective observer, watching my college world unknown to the observees, free from their counter judgement, invisible.

Table As a Metaphor

To me tables are a place to be nourished.  Literally, we eat and are fed at the table in our culture receiving nourishment from our food.  But figuratively what takes place at the table is nourishment too.  When I think of sitting at the table, I envision family dinners from my formative years.  Discussions about our days, our future plans, and reminiscing about past pleasantries all come to mind when thinking about family dinners at the table.  I think of holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, and Easter when we are reunited with extended family and nourished through each other’s presence.  Dining out with family and friends, most often is a time to relax and delight in the company through good conversation.  These times often seem to revitalize and provide strength to work through whatever stressors may be present.  We give each other encouragement and hopefully guidance, share stories, and make each other laugh.  These are cherished memories, that I believe have positively shaped me into the kind of person that I am today.

House as a Metaphor

House represents the place where our inhibitions can disappear.  When in the solitude of our house, we are free to act as we truly are and not in the calculated manner that we do when we are around our colleagues, our friends, our family, and total strangers.  We act and express things that are usually kept in our subconscious out of sight of all others.  When in our house, there’s no more reason for these thoughts to be in repression.  The acting can stop.  We can be as we truly are.

Good Guide & Skin Deep

I opened my cabinets and searched goodguide.com for Minute Brown Rice and Bertolli olive oil, the first two packages that caught my eye.  Minute Brown Rice scored high marks earning an 8.7 in health, a 6.7 in environment, and 6.4 in society.  The higher the number, the better the product according to the site.  Bertolli olive oil was not present on the site; however, another product for Bertolli was.  Bertolli Skillet Meal showed the company at 6.9 points scored in the environment category, and 5.6 in the society category.  These lower numbers in the society category were reported for the poor conditions of the company’s workers and for the dissatisfaction among customers.

On cosmeticdatabase.com, I entered my Gillette Foamy Shaving Cream for sensitive skin.  The product earned a 5 out of 10 points meaning that it is moderately hazardous, 1 being not hazardous and 10 being extremely hazardous.  The ingredient in the cream that scored the highest for being the most hazardous was the fragrance which seems like it’s not even a necessary ingredient.  It scored an 8 out of 10.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephen Izzo permalink
    January 27, 2011 4:55 am

    James,
    Your house metaphors is great. I couldn’t agree more with that one. I find that I don’t act differently, but talk differently in my house than I do at work or in other places. I dress differently too. I don’t get dressed up to watch the game or write a paper. I don’t have a problem wearing that old t-shirt with the mystery food and paint stains on the front that my wife should have thrown out along time ago. I can be myself in my house and that’s the way it should be.

  2. January 28, 2011 3:50 am

    I really enjoyed your people-watching descriptions. It seems as if we learn a lot about ourselves by defining what we are (and are not) in relation to other people. I also enjoy the metaphor of your table as a “judge’s seat” combined with the classical architecture of the IUP building.

    Question: Have you ever met someone who was completely different from your immediate (visual) impression of them?
    -March

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