Your neighbors are not just meatbags…
Capturing our exhibit contributors with his camera, Jacques-Jean Tiziou is a major artistic presence at the new First Person Museum. He has provided portraits for five of the story-tellers and their objects as well as participating in the object selection process and early planning of the museum.
Jacques-Jean, or JJ, has been involved with FPA since 2005 when he won the photo contest associated with our festival. The theme was “lifting the veil” for which he avoided the more literal interpretation and instead submitted this image ( http://tinyurl.com/25azg8e) which depicts the incision in the skin made while removing an ovarian cyst. In 2007, a friend who was working for FPA encouraged him to sign up as a subject for the “Objects of my affection” video project, where filmmaker and photo archivist John Pettit made a short documentary about his photo archive. http://www.viddler.com/explore/FirstPersonArts/videos/25/ )
When I asked JJ what he hoped would come from the show, he said “I think that there’s tremendous value in listening to our neighbor’s stories. The people on the street aren’t just bags of meat in your way… they’re potential storytellers, dance partners, friends and collaborators. We live in a world where it’s easy to be caught up in celebrity gossip and cultures of competition; in order to fix some of the things that are wrong with our world, we need to foster a culture of collaboration, and work in community. That starts with listening to each other.”
Museums are about telling a meta-story, and so I’ve been asking people what connections they see between the objects. JJ made an interesting observation- that many people have submitted objects that they associate with an important in their life. He said “I think that to really get to the most interesting stories, these objects need another layer of questions to draw out the particular stories about these individuals that exemplify their impacts… these are the things that other people will most be interested in and able to relate to.”
Placing our everyday objects under a bright light forces our attention. JJ hopes that with that focus we might begin to reevaluate how we assign value to the things in our life. He mentioned the role of story teller that the media plays, often establishing our conventions for us, dictating what is and is not worth noticing or holding value.
JJ wants us to question what the media dictates is important: “Are there things that we are valuing maybe more than we should?” and “Are there other stories that are going untold that maybe we should make an extra effort to seek out? As my friends at the Media Mobilizing Project (http://mediamobilizing.org) like to say, “Movements begin with the telling of untold stories.”
“In all of my work, I’ve never encountered anyone that wasn’t photogenic
, and everyone has an interesting story if you take the time to listen. But it’s great when this kind of work can help you discover another facet of someone that you already thought that you knew. I think that that’s where there’s real value in the work that First Person Arts does… we are surrounded by people that we may have simplified preconceptions about, or of whom we only see one angle… but when you take the time to listen to their stories, you discover a wealth of extra fascinating complexity. That’s the beauty of humanity…”
Take a moment to vote for JJ’s amazing project, How Philly Moves. It’s eligible for $50,000!
– Morgan Berman