#96: Meerkat

This week I did a series of video streams while working on mugs at the pottery studio. I used an app called Meerkat, and if you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen someone post a Meerkat link, and clicked through, and found that the stream was already over.

Meerkat is a live-only deal. Miss it and too bad, there is no replay, no archive, and this is important. Because when you do happen to catch a stream, especially an interesting one, and on Twitter no less, a space where you’re used to mild asynchrony, fuzzy real-time, to the narrow band just to the left of the playhead, well, it’s startling. Like, this is actually happening RIGHT NOW in a place that is NOT HERE. OTHER PEOPLE EXIST (I’m not exaggerating by much). At various points in the last two weeks, while I was sitting on the couch in my apartment, Adam Lisagor was deadpanning jokes on the set of a new commercial shoot. James Van Der Beek was answering questions about that R-rated Power Rangers fan film. I’ve seen a guy making a pizza at a pizza restaurant and an audience member’s angle of the Apple keynote. I’ve also seen a some of coffee-brewing. Meerkat shows the stuff that happens in between the tweets.

Video in general has been a boon to my pottery study. I see my instructor only once a week at class for three hours but YouTube is ever-present. Wheel throwing seems like the ideal thing to learn – or supplement your learning with – on YouTube. It takes a few minutes to throw a pot and is visually interesting; watching clay move through skilled hands is like watching fire, is primordial, the stuff of creation myths. And in the beginning, the Great Mother pulled up clods of earth and from it made the deer …

There are also a bunch of instructors of varying skill and taste and spirit, and from them come a bunch of hand positions, trimming tools, glazing techniques, all different ways of accomplishing the same essential thing. You have people like HobbyPotter, learning out in the open, making a new cup a day for 365 days. Then you have people like Simon Leach, a grandson of Bernard Leach, who is widely credited with being the father of studio pottery.

Leach is my favorite. The prototypical Simon Leach video starts with an empty studio, then he walks in the frame humming. Leach is a shoot-and-post man. He’s by himself, he turns on the camera, there is no editing and sometimes the battery dies. In the course of seven years he’s posted over a thousand videos, and a lot of them are repeats of the same subjects, so if there’s something I don’t understand in one of them, there’s usually a different video with, often literally, a new angle. The videos are almost always of what he happens to be working on that day. He’s simply drawing up the blinds to his life in five-to-twenty-five-minute increments.

Which brings me back to Meerkat. As live video becomes more of a thing, there will be the usual debate and controversy around privacy and intimate space. We’ll form etiquette about when and when not to stream, and it won’t be for everyone. Feelings will be hurt. But I’ll say right now that one intimate space I don’t mind an occasional window to is that of the solitary craftsman, working away in a garage, a cabin in the woods, or a studio on the third floor of a nondescript building, some place that is not here.