PROJECTS: ORAL HISTORY
TAUGHT BY: SUZANNE SNIDER
INTERVIEW BY GHAZI SIKANDER MIRZA
OF NISHA GHANI.
Question 1. What brings you here?
-I like coming to Lawrence because it helps me clear my mind. I think the little nooks and crannies are a good place to just hide away, people watch as well and kind of step out of your own head. And just be present. I was shown up here with a lot of my friends as well so there is a certain sentimentality for the place.
Question 2. If you could be here with anyone in the world, who would it be?
-I honestly think if I could bring everyone here would just to share the experience of the space. Nothing like walking around and talking. There is certain free flow that comes with being around so much nature. Or even just sitting in silence. Right now if I could be here with anyone in the world it would be here with my ex partner because I think I would enjoy just being around each other in silence around each other and taking it all in.
Question 3. If everyone in the park could recognise you what would it be for?
-I would want them to know me for my art. And for the things that I make and create. Not necessarily because of any brilliance or intellect to but just if they could resonate with it and if they could form a connection I would want to be known for that. To have made people feel like they have been seen and heard.
Question 4. What would be a perfect day in the park for you?
-hmm, I think a perfect day would start anywhere around 11, when there is a lot of sun. Hmm, definitely not in summer but in the winter. A perfect day would look like just walking around and coming to the little hill and the gazebo there. Theres a spot where there are a lot of trees and you could see right through to the road down below. You could see people as they walk by and take pictures. You can see fruit sellers so it feels like you're almost looking in but not in an intrusive way. And you can be like kind of removed from the whole chatter and the whole noise of it. Just to sit, just to take it all in. Perhaps just talk, I think that would be my perfect day.
Question 5. What is your most memorable event in the park?
-I dont know if this counts as an event or not but I was here once with one of my friends and we were walking around the park, the sun was setting, it was starting to get dark and my friend was just playing music on her phone and walking ahead of me and just twirling around and singing. And there were spread out street lights so she would kind of move between the dark and the light and I could just hear her voice and I could see her. That had to be one of my most memorable experiences.
Question 6. Do you think of any threats being where you are?
-I do and its sad because you cant sadly escape the male gaze. I feel a certain sense of, you know, despite the fact of I do think of this space where I can kind of come and just be by my self and find some recluse and solace. Aaa, of course there are men who lear, who follow you around so, it also becomes like this weird, I don’t know if its like a battle, like a struggle to just to just run away from that while also trying to enjoy the experience. So the threat of, you know, “my life” or my body being so vulnerable to danger or to any kind of infringement, invasion is the one threat I always feel. Which kinda also does damper the experience for me as well.
Question 7. What do you think the two of us have in common?
-i dont know about you, but I think what we have in common, is that, were both here looking for some peace and quiet. I mean, again to be surrounded by nature there is a certain transcendence. A transcendental quality about it where you can just observe and just exist without necessarily feeling the burdens or the fears of your everyday life. So there is a certain sense of escapism in the air that I sense, and I feel like thats what we may have in common that we're both trying to escape something of some (form of) peace and clarity.
Question 8. Do you think there is some purpose for us being here?
-thats a tough one. I mean. Amm. I think the purpose for any person being here is to find some form of connection. And again taking this back to my desire to make people feel seen and heard. Understood in a lot of ways, I think thats in this park and in this life, that what the purpose is. To find connection, to be able to exchange, to be able to experience vulnerability and openness and to let in that influx of emotion. And to really receive and to speak and to be heard and to just listen and absorb. I think thats what were here for.
Question 9. You have 4 minutes to say whatever you want.
-i have recently been thinking a lot about life and what is means to be here, which is why I found your question about purpose so tough. Because purpose is also ever evolving and changing and it feels like sometimes its disappeared and sometimes it reappeared and, you know, our whole lives go in search of it I think we forget that it changes as you go on. And. I don’t know. If I could say anything right now I would say that I wish people would learn to love more openly and to be kinder. I think it would change a lot of thinks in the world. It opens you up to being heard a lot more. I think it could change things for the better. (thats one minute, do you want to stop it there?)
Can I have a minute to think? Aaa. Hmm. What else. You know, when someone asks you to voice your thoughts and to share, I could share, like, I could go off on so many tangents right now. Like that thing what I said about how people should love and be kinder, things would be better, its coming from a place of pure rejection right now, these days I'm just trying to figure our how one deals with that, and how one regains purpose, in the face of hope that is lost, and I don’t think I have all the answers just yet. Which is why answering questions feels like such a daunting task right now. But I think thats what human connection does, it helps you, if not finding the answers but you know, reach some new breakthrough. I don’t know, life is so confusing, you know, like you grow older and you think you have it all figured out, but you don’t. My perpetual state these days is confusion. I think thats why im here in the park as well. Just to gain some sense of clarity. Some sense of purpose. And if not that then just to be still. I think is how you deal with adversity and trouble and rejection is just to be still and let yourself feel it because everything in the world tells us not to. You know, they say like, life doesn’t wait and life is so fast, you have to keep moving, but no-one teaches you that if you just keep moving and just keep pushing things there going to come back even stronger, so I think its important to just be still and just take it all in. Sometimes and just to let yourself slow down even if the world doesn’t let you slow down. Despite the fact that people say that life does not wait for you I think that it does wait for you. The things that are meant for you actually do wait for you. And it's just about just letting yourself feel things and honestly I think we should all figure out ways to feel present. Maybe this is one of them.
Cool, last question;
Question 10. Do you think we’ve learned something?
-i think we have learned that in trying to answer questions one really finds themselves even more confused. Because again, you don’t have all the answers even if you think you do. We can intellectualise however much we want but at the core of it there is still a lot of confusion and a lot disturbance and a lot of turbulence. What I think we have learned today is that sometimes you just don’t have the answers. Or you have too many answers.
Question 11. Can you speak a little bit more to what your practice in art is?
-So I am primarily a print maker. I also do hand drawn illustrations. A lot of my focus has been looking at mark making and looking at texture and how that can be translated. Most of my drawing practice, the physical technique of it comes from, I don’t know if you’ve heard this but in surrealism theres this practice of like “automative” drawing where you kind of step out of your body and step out of your mind and you just let your hand move in a certain motion in a certain amount of time. I think thats why I love being here so much cause (i can) just step out of my mind and my body and just find the seaway of respiration with something other than permanent people. (other) things in my life. Amm so yeah, im really inspired by surrealism and nature comes into play in that a lot as well because, especially being here, because there are a lot of old trees and plant fusing with each other and trees growing into each other. Whenever you walk around you can see, not just like plants and trees taking and changing physical form and forms you would not see but even when you’re observing, you know like, a bark of a tree with a little opening in it, or the pattern of the dust on the gazebo table. Or little things that people have written, you know, M loves N, Ayesha please call me, and little like remainders, little things that you feel like are part of something bigger, and just the pure variety of texture here, that is why I like being here as well, how this actually has a huge part in my art practise. And, amm, I remember one of my friends actually introduced me to this where she would, every time she would see a tree, because before this it was sort of very distant or just like an observer, but every time she would see it, every time she would see a tree she would go and meet the tree and she would, you know, let her fingers run over it, she would go hug the plant, she would go sit in the little openings and just stay there. She’s the one who taught me about respiration and how by being still and being present you experience something that you’re so detached from because again, such a fast paced life, you’re digital all the time. I think thats what ever tried to capture in most of my practice as well because a lot of the drawings are of these fictional, animal human hybrids, distorted form and characters. A lot of them come from these forms and shapes that I see. Even in that it's a way of tapping into your unconscious. Figuring out those emotions and how they would appear. So my practise is very informed by that. Things that you see but you don’t see. Things that are familiar but are not familiar. That comes from a certain interaction or an existence within a space.
Question and final exchange; so this is where we are lending the conversation in the direction where we have addressed our surroundings. About who you are and what your possible relationship to it has been, how you have over the years seen it, your practice is addressed by it and why you choose to have a sentimental attachment to it.
Response; I think the sentimentality also comes from how I’ve shared this place with a lot of people, from friends, to lovers, to people I’ve recently met. Cause of course there is a certain communal aspect to it. Also parks are free! Most parks are free! And it's a cheap date if nothing else. So the sentimental aspect comes from that. I think just because I've been here with so many people and every time im here I get to see someone else’s view of it. That person interacts with the park, what they like about it, what they don’t like about it. The last time I was here with someone I, we found this spot at the opposite end, its a small park, but surprisingly I’ve never been there considering how frequently I am here. I just choose to go to my one spot but we discovered this little clearing on top of hill there was a huge tree with a bench under neath it. It was 3 or 4, very golden hour light, it was on a Sunday with a park full of people, kids playing cricket, 4 5 feet away from us below of the ground, there was absolute silence. All you could hear was the wind and the rustling of the leaves and a crow screaming its head off but thats all you could hear. It felt so surreal. To find this new space and to share it with someone. Experience a sentimentality that was mine and also ours in that moment. So its also interesting how spaces surprise you. In that way you can also find something new even though you’ve experienced it so many times. Even the familiarity of it just brings you joy in a lot of ways. If that makes sense. Im excited to bring someone new here and see how they react to this space. What their observations are on it. I think thats what my next visit is going to look like. I there is a certain, I hate using the word too many times, but there is a certain joy to sharing things and sharing spaces. That’s what I enjoy about this place that you can share it with so many people. So I'm excited about sharing it with someone new.
Its been real! Thank you so much.