perceptions | reflections
P R O X I M I T Y
I'm pacing in a Vegas hotel room, rehearsing my speech, my "story". An incredibly personal moment in my life, on verbal display for thousands to witness.
I mentally struggle with a truth: I can't give the story, only the telling of it.
The constraints of the competition spur creative destruction, as I sculpt a life-changing friendship down to a few core moments.
Start timer, start speech. Mess up a line, reset timer. Repeat.
Start timer, start speech. Finish speech, timer says 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Over on time. Reset timer. Repeat.
Start timer, start speech. Pace to the window...my words trail off.
Open the photos app on my phone, look through the newest photos of my son, uploaded by my wife after their daily adventures. Their smiles remind me of my truths.
Switch back to the timer. Reset.
Start timer, start speech.
S I M I L A R I T Y
Abandoned projects haunt the desktop on my screen like the ghost towns of westerns. In a year where I'm literally in hiding, inspiration feels in short supply.
This isn't some equivalent to writer's block, it's fatigue made manifest. Memory and concentration cracked and shifted, and so crumbled the foundation on which my creativity stood.
I open a new browser tab, and my bookmarks menu, and navigate toward a silent social interaction: perusing the projects of my peers. What new design techniques are they exploring? What statements are they making? Where have our conversations gone in my absence?
A piece catches my attention: Kanye loves Kanye, by Judit Bekker. The soft design contrasts the bold persona, and this contrast encourages me to set aside whatever associations I might bring to the topic. Instead, I'm presented with a simple visual highlighting not only the tragedy of mental illness, but also the voyeuristic delight of millions searching google to witness mental illness.
I carefully investigate Judit's delicate design choices. How do her colors compliment one another? How does she play with shapes and movement? How does she skew the weight across the screen? Where is there heaviness, and where is there lightness?
Questions morph into ideas, and when I feel saturated I return to my own project. A blank canvas meets density of inspiration, of connected ideas and patterns.
C O N T I N U I T Y
With a bit of anticipatory disappointment, I click on the link to the 2020 Tableau Public Viz Gallery. The Tableau Public team always creates brilliant ways to celebrate the works of the community, but the excitement of the Viz Gallery is seeing our digital art take on a physical form. But this is a virtual conference — how do you translate the excitement of a digital work take physical form back into a virtual experience?
The page loads and I'm greeted with an audio track so gentle it stands in opposition to everything that's happened in 2020.
I'm staring into what feels like a real gallery, with printed visualizations hanging in an expertly curated exhibit.
I dissociatively pace this gallery with my fingertips, clicking to navigate moments. In my periphery, I'm still trapped in the same office I've barely left for 8 months — but somehow my mind feels immersed in the world inside my screen.
I find myself engaging each piece far more deeply than I would on Tableau Public or on Twitter, and asking how each piece contributes to the gallery experience. What is Judit Bekker's work saying to Yobanny Samano's?
What conversation is happening between the three darker palettes in the works of Satoshi Ganeko, Kate Schaub, and Pradeep Kumar G, versus the lighter palettes of the nearby works of Harry Cooney and Bo McCready?
How do Anjushree B V's repetitive circles speak to Robert Janezic's streams?
Then, turning around, my eyes fixate on a detail: sunlight, filtered through leaves, splashing unevenly across the art.
S Y M M E T R Y
I sit at our small office desk. My wife's laptop is in the center: I close it, and shuffle it to the left underneath her books and papers. I slide my laptop from the right, opening it center. I adjust the chair and the lamp.
Our shared office seems to represent something far more meaningful than work. It represents the compartmentalization of unique lives alternating roles. Left, center, left. Right, center, right.
Denial: for the first few months of the pandemic, our office was the thoughtless storage room. Our desk was a tower of boxes, or our laptops rested in their namesake. We resisted acknowledging the longevity of a pandemic mishandled by leaders and the people they led.
Acceptance: a bizarre hope went into cleaning and furnishing a space for work. My wife was beginning her own journey and starting her own business, and assembling and organizing furniture became my way of celebrating a foundational moment on her path to better the world.
Over a year, the same small space has housed many energies, caging creativity but also echoing exciting conversations. The walls proudly display canvas prints of our son's silly faces, ambiguous expressions that function as a Rorschach test: which emotions do I see today?
The green plant life on our walls doesn't grow. It's artificial, because our porch roof blocks the room from getting enough sunlight.
Our windowsill succulents cling to their green.
C O M M O N
F A T E
P A S T
E X P E R I E N C E
I'm sitting motionless in January rush hour traffic, just barely not shouting at one of my mentors so I'm heard over the other idling engines.
"I've got double your years behind me, I hope that would give me something special besides Medicare." Humor, an often unacknowledged-but-critical element of good mentoring.
B A L A N C E
C L O S U R E