Saturday, November 15, 2008

amor a puerto rico

These past couple of months I have been involved in several projects concerning art and exhibitions and each has always been a unique experience. You never know what kind of crowd you are going to get an any given event but most certainly you will get a mix people but almost always, especially with group shows, you will not who the artists are and even the artists themselves will not know one another. Usually the only common point of interaction is through the curator(s) or the organizers. There is no moment in time, as in other forms of art such as poetry, theatre, etc., were the face of the performer is known or is presented to a captivated audience. The actual work usually is the only form of direct communication that the audience will have with the artist. 

Of course, this little fact allows me to have fun with the people looking at my art. Often I will stand behind them and eavesdrop on their conversation or even ask them questions like: what do you think this means? or even make general pointed critical comments about the work and see if people will agree or perhaps even argue that they like the work. This allows me to see how successful I am in conveying the intended message to a particular audience as well as getting a different perspective of certain aspects of the work. On the other hand, listening in on conversations also allows me to overhear people who just don't know what they hell they are talking about as well.

Before going to any museum exhibit, gallery show, etc. is helps to know the theme of the particular show. For example, if you are going to see a show advertising the late works of Picasso don't be surprised if a painting such as Guernica is not displayed. So at the art show Borimix 2008, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Juan Antonio Corretjer, is was interesting to receive criticism over the amount of 'nationalist' symbols within my painting (namely flags) and how these symbols drove people apart rather than 'uniting' them. Now it once noted by painter Rafeal Tufiño that some of the most nationalistic painters were French, such as Ingres and Géricault, and Spanish, such as Velásquez and Picasso. In reality, all cultural productions add to the nationalist dialogues in varying degrees. More importantly, Juan Antonio Corretjer was active in the Nationalist Party, a cause that people are still dying for, and being persecuted for, on the island of Puerto Rico as I know on a personal level.

What this individual was touching upon was the lack of social and political capital of the Puerto Rican people and a notion that somehow the right of self-determination does not apply to them. Am sure that the Queen of England thought George Washington to be a terrorist during the late 1700s in the same way that France thought little of Houari Boumédienne in Algeria during the wars for independence in the 1950s. If it were Revolutionary War soldiers carrying the American flag rather than the British Union Jack. Though Puerto Ricans are citizens of this country, this great bastion of democracy, people on the island do not vote in elections and are not represented in Congress. The U.N. still officially considers the island a 'colony' and a ruling by the Supreme Court in 1920 determined that though citizens, Puerto Ricans on the island were not afforded the same rights as mainland citizens. Such much for that whole Bill of Rights 'equality' thing. 

Creating unity amongst people should never come at the subjugation of one group in order not to 'stir trouble'. It's like telling the slaves back in the 1800s, hey "take one for the team", "just do your work and everything will take care of itself". This concept that agency is the exclusive domain of the "Other" springs from doctrines such as "Manifest Destiny", first/third word hierarchies, and colonial legacies. In this age of globalization, people have varying loyalties and varying allegiances and this world is not about making others comfortable or conforming. Normally, having people critic your work without them knowing you are the artist is fun but not when you are battling ignorance. 

I have travelled to places such as Finland, Paris, Egypt, Tokyo, Thailand and everyone in their respective countries has this one thing in common: they are fiercely proud of their culture and their heritage and (surprise) they believe theirs to be the most prominent and superior. And nothing is wrong with that but not at the expense of other cultures...I mean it was only a painting...only colors...representing flags and people who have died in exile or killed by CIA radiation experiments. Perhaps next time, a canvas or papier-mache of dismembered limbs of innocent victims from U.S. Navy bombs in Vieques, P.R. would be more a more unifying and appropriate gesture.

"Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious"

~Oscar Wilde

Monday, November 10, 2008

a note on the week hence...

The victory of Obama was met with much jubilation and celebration here in Harlem, in the rest of the country and indeed in many other countries, and for good reason. Despite persistent attack ads and the strange appeal of Sarah Palin to a greater number of individuals in quintessential red states, Obama scored an electoral vote landslide and will be the new president come January 20th. How refreshing to see that the course of history in this country has been irrevocably altered, forever.

However, while it may have taken over 220 years for the election of the first African-American president steps must be taken to ensure that the same amount of time does not elapse until there is another colored person ascends to the seat of such power against in this country. How will these events affect the course of everyday events of the average colored person in this country. No longer is there any excuse to aspire to anything less than the highest positions of power and social, culture, and political power in any facet of life. It also lay waste the ability to make excuses and succumb to any sort of inferiority complexes or societal obstacles.

That being said it must be noted that Obama was not elected based solely upon the merits of his race or the country dying for change from the b.s. job that Bush has done overall during these last eight years. He was from a broken family, as many minorities are, but his parents were educated. His mother had her PhD and his father was an economist for the Kenyan government. Obama himself was educated in Occidental College (in L.A.), then Columbia, then Harvard. His wife went to Princeton and then Harvard Law School. She too was from humble economic means growing up on the southside of Chicago. Despite being lawyers they both were community activists and they were educated but not merely for the sake of having degrees but in order to achieve certain objectives.

The point is that too many people of color will get caught up in the jubilation of his victory without realizing the path it took to get there. Too often, our role models had been actors, athletes, and entertainers...bullshit poisonous movies like Soul Plane, images of neo-Samboism. Rappers and music impresarios rapping about nonsense, fully knowing that the path to success was not facilitated or paved with monosyllabic vocabulary and "nome sane" at the end of every sentence. Michael Jordan didn't pave the way for Obama, he only encouraged people to shoot a damn ball, not to go to school or help the community. In fact, there were times when I was in junior high school that I would cut class just to be one of the first people to buy jordans on the day they were released. And neither did 50 cent, puffy, or Russell Simmons. All those a$$holes with reality shows yelling at people on tv and humiliating assistants and making them walk to juniors to get cheesecake didn't pave the way for a man like Obama. The others only showed people how being a persistent jackass works when you are rich.

So next time a child is tempted to watch Kobe play against Boston I hope he chooses to watch MSNBC or youtube Obama at his democratic convention speech and simply listens...take the battery out of his tv remote...and listens. Listens to an inspiring voice, a man who made a difference, a man of the same hue and physical characteristics as the child who they see standing before them when they pass by a mirror. Or next time a woman's good for nothing boyfriend tells her that he is trying to make a demo tape (for the 1000th time), I hope she decides to date the one who is shooting to be the CEO or maybe the broke ass law students from the city university. The one with a lack of a social life, bags under his eyes, book under his arms and coffee in hand. May every child see within themselves a Michelle or a Barack Obama...

Monday, November 03, 2008

empty spaces...

So I was recently at an event in downtown Manhattan that was marketed through Facebook and was dismayed at the actual turnout. Although over 1,200 individuals were invited to the event and nearly 95 had confirmed there were only 3 individuals actually there. Now this is not the first time this had occurred but I was wondering whether this was simply a phenomenon amongst my 'cyber-friend' social group or whether people were simply apathetic or disinterested in meeting up in real life. However, this question was answered the other day as I was flipping through the NY Times Magazine from 10.26.08 and came upon this article:

i guess a .25% turnout isn't that bad...

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved”

~Mother Teresa