April 27, 2011

Finding Inspiration in Dickens: David Copperfield

For a few weeks now, I've been reading Dickens' classic, "David Copperfield". David and I have some things in common. At the moment, we're both looking for opportunities to use our skills and forge new paths in the world.

In my current search for jobs and interesting projects, I've been reminded of how I was back in 1991, when I was 25 and recently released from the protective shelter of my first contract at the Emily Carr College of Art (then ECCAD, and now known as Emily Carr University). The end of my contract forced to get out there, find work on my own, and make some new associations. I figured it was all on my shoulders, and didn't consider how my past and current associations might pay me forward.

The pressure was real, but the need was more than real, and I was a very determined young man. Not unlike, I think, David Copperfield.

David Copperfield: Social Networker of Victorian England.

After David finishes his schooling under Doctor Strong in Canterbury, he takes an unpaid apprenticeship as a Proctor (a kind of lawyer) in London. He sets his sights on marrying a lovely girl named Dora, and faces the prospect of needing to get money and to support himself and Dora. David possesses an intense motivation to succeed, for his own sake, for Dora, and for the sake of his Aunt Betsy Trotwood, who has recently lost all her money. David seems bold and focused in his resolve, and he describes his new mission to chopping and hacking his way through a forest of adversity, one tree at a time.

Throughout David's story (so far, since I'm still only about two-thirds of the way through), Dickens illustrates that life can be cyclical and repetitious, bringing old friends, family, adversaries and locales back into David's life, while he grows and gains perspective from his many experiences.

David makes friends, works and/or lives with them (or at least commiserates), leaves them, meets them again, and resumes his associations, out of friendship and mutual advantage. This cycle of association seems to me to be fairly organic, natural, and true to life. The character of David Copperfield is networking, socially.

Me, C. 1991: Portrait of a Hungry Young Man.

Throughout my first job (the contract at ECCAD), I was meeting other hungry young men who were looking for projects in software development, video, and graphics. I joined local graphics clubs, socialized, read, found out what local businesses were doing in software, graphics and media, and dreamed my dreams of a glorious future. I found part-time work as an instructor of evening computer graphics courses, along-side members of the local Amiga computer enthusiasts community. Some connections helped me find one part-time opportunity, another connection helped me find another opportunity, and so on and so on...

But, David Copperfield never had our Social Media...

Over the years, the friendships and professional acquaintances that I've made have come back into my life in different ways.

The relationships I made with staff at ECCAD benefited me with part-time contract work as a computer studio technical assistant. The friends I made when I was freelancing around and volunteering my skills at BNG Design Group led to TVI and the VanCity home banking development projects. TVI led to TranDirect, and a referral to Sentry Telecom, where I met friends who would bring me back to work with them again at AirPatrol Corporation.

Looking back on my career path so far, it's not hard to see the connection between the dots, and I'm grateful for each and every one of those hard-earned dots.

Getting job referrals from friends is a two-way street too. In the past 20 years, more than a few of the friends and associates I've made I have suggested for a position to my current employer. Many of these recommendations have worked out well too, bringing qualified friends back into my work and personal life to our mutual advantage.

Not unlike Mister David Copperfield, Esq.

April 13, 2011

A Day at the Vancouver Art Gallery

Yesterday, VanCity Credit Union provided free admission to the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) to its card-carrying credit union members.
(Admission being pretty expensive for me right now, I was happy to take them up on this opportunity.)

What a great series of exhibits!

We: Vancouver: 12 Manifestos for the City

This exhibit, located on the ground floor, presents projects that demonstrate a wide variety of visions for how Vancouver can be improved and enhanced. Manifesto statements cover the walls (and parts of the floor) to introduce the theme and goal of each project. It's a diverse group, encompassing graphic design, green architecture and urban planning, innovations in education, and film and photography that documents the history of Vancouver's struggles with homelessness, land development and corporate social responsibility.

The two pieces that stand out in my mind are:
  • A display of photos that show the history and diversity of that ubiquitous housing design known as "The Vancouver Special"
  • Film and photo-documentation of the Habitat '76 Project. (I remember having one of those Habitat buttons when I was a kid. I never knew what it was all about...)
Ken Lum

Most famous recently for his "Monument to East Vancouver" (look at the corner of Clark and Great Northern Way), Ken Lum has been active locally for many years. He has a strong interest in the relationship between words and images in public spaces (i.e. advertising and public signage) and uses that as a basis for ironic, poignant and often funny social commentary.

I think my favourite section was his business signs which had messages using those sliding clear plastic letters you'd see outside of gas stations. He'd show a flashy colourful sign promoting an all-Canadian business like "Akbar's All-Canadian Maple Leaf Clothing Store", and on the board next to it, in those sliding letters, Akbar will have left this message: "Going out of Business. Drop Dead Canada". Tragic, unreal (i.e. contrived, I'm sure), and funny as hell.

The biggest piece in his show was his maze. For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to go in. Something about being in a maze or a hall of mirrors gave me the willies that day. Brr! I just couldn't do it. This became awkward when the security guard noticed my turning back from the entrance and began to encourage me ("C'mon! Go in! Go!") Well-intentioned, but kind of awkward

Walking and Falling:

A fascinating combination of artists who explore concepts of time, existence, motion and sequence, through key technologies from different eras of the past 100+ years:
  • The classic human and animal motion study photography by Eadweard Myubridge
  • Jim Campbell's haunting and mysteriously engaging LED displays
  • Chris Marker's hypnotic 1960s black and white film, "La Jetee"
Walking and Falling made me feel like an anthropologist from another planet, regarding and analyzing human motion, motives and interaction as if for the first time.

All of these exhibits seem to share themes of change and transformation: people and a city and its people in motion, and reacting to their environment.