SU: Part One

Note: Having finished with Doha, I've stormed the shores of Turkey to start a Master's in Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design at Sabanci University. Part of this program is a class that aims to prepare us as artists (or designers) to research and write effectively about out work. One assignment is to produce a blog that documents our misadventures and thought process throughout discovering how and what we explore in our work. With an (albeit small) audience of artists and arts-minded folk on this platform, I decided to combine this assignment with this blog, as a way to keep in touch and share what I am doing in this program. 

Pt. 1: Pick any term vaguely relevant to your work, and google it. See where it goes. 

I begin my soft search with the term “wanderlust,” which I hate. An example of why shows in the first google result after the google definition, which included every term you would expect.

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There’s a certain caricature, especially within my generation, tied into the term, many aspects of which could be applied to me, and herein lies the root of my desire to distance myself from the term. From Google results I chose two paths; I open Urban Dictionary for continued self-flagellation, and a reasonably small Wikipedia article. The results on Urban Dictionary are surprisingly positive until number 6, which provide the biting criticism I was looking for, and some more absurdities beyond. I make note of key terms, such as “Instagram” and “show-off,” for future reference.

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Having sufficiently castigated myself for relating at all to #wanderlust, I return to answer 5, which provides etymological background I find interesting. I follow this more serious enquiry to Wikipedia, which confirms the German origin of the word, directly translating to a “love of hiking.” I like this. Here I find another German term, fernweh, which is meant to describe the opposite of homesickness. I note this as well. I find reference to a scholar (Robert E. Park) writing about the tendency as “opposition to the values of status and organisation,” which I find particularly compelling, from the perspective of progressivism and my own flirtations with anarchy. In tourism studies, the term is apparently used to distinguish culture-based desire to travel from relaxation-based motivation, termed sunlust. Have briefly studied motivation in tourism and never seen these terms used academically, I remain sceptical on this point. The psychology section of Wikipedia links the feeling with bipolar disorder and depression, which I find intriguing. I bring my search to TED Talks to see if there is more depth on any of this.

Here I find two themes. One: stories, brought up by Chimamanda Adichie, who describes the pitfalls of limiting our perceptions of a place or culture to a single story. In this, I see this wanderlust, the desire to keep moving, limiting the number of stories it’s possible to collect from any one place. There's also, however, the desire to acquire more stories, which must go hand-in-hand with wanderlust as well. It's an interesting contradiction; whether the need to keep moving shows a disinterest in deeply understanding a place, or reflects a desire for a greater global understanding. This is the classic breadth vs. depth argument which, per usual, boils down to finding a healthy balance.

The "stories" aspect of travel-related discourse also bring up connections between the mythological themes I’ve engaged with recently traveling through Greece. However, another speaker is eloquent and persuasive and grabs my attention on a different topic. Pico Iyer describes a new generation of people living outside the countries that their passports belong to, connecting to globalisation and questioning the very idea of “home.” Eventually he raises the issue of “getting your bearings,” that is, taking the space to find perspective and process the travel. Another TED Talk with Iyer goes into more detail, where he argues for finding stillness, in travel and in life, especially in contrast to advances in technology that keep us moving, keep us connected. I see my drawing in this – moments where I remove myself with pen and paper, when my brain is doing nothing but connecting hand to eye, line to shape to shadow.

The dissonance that I find is wanderlust seems to be derived from a lack, characterised by another German word, sehnsuch, a sort of longing (very loosely put) rather than an excitement for new places. Perhaps I need to look into this fernweh, because what I really want to reference is a sort of excitement or fascination for delving into the complexities of location. In my motivational studies I read about “push” and “pull” factors – those influences that cause people to want to leave where they are, and those that influence their choice on where to go. I feel that, at least etymologically, wanderlust covers the “push” factors more than the pull, and I’m especially curious about the pull.