4 flights and 40 hours later (after having missed Japan Week), I am back in New York in the modern and technological Delta terminal (C, not D) at Laguardia Airport, with its tablets and card readers on all tables and bars at all bars and restaurants.What a difference from the Delta Terminal 4 at JFK! Luckily the new one will be finished in May, because the old one is falling apart.
Even the fastest business trips can be full of anecdotes. This time they were not all fun or nice ones, though.
Wednesday, in Phoenix I learned how technology is put together and delivered via a very interesting “back stage” tour of one of Avnet‘s largest integration facilities. It really makes you understand the technology delivery process much better.
The next day, in Albuquerque I received a very different tour: probably the largest and best equipped medical examiner’s office in the world, where I had the “privilege” of seeing restricted areas like the evidence room, the refrigeration unit full of corpses (where we will all, one day or another, end up), and one of the hardest things I have seen in my life (and I have seen very very rough things): the autopsy of a baby and an adult.
The baby, which looked completely like a realistic doll, easily handled with one hand by one of the examiners, sitting there dead, arms down to his sides, while his skull was sawn open. His skin, pale yellow, in sharp contrast with abundant dark hair, made his eyelashes and eyebrows quite prominent. As if hanging on to a last resource of identity before an inevitable decomposition.
The adult, with the thorax already completely open, exposing lungs, heart, and the rest of the inner organs, skin apart like a book.
Amazing how extremely graphical TV shows, video games and movies have made us assimilate those images. But it is still fairly hard. As one of the examiners told me, many police officers faint when they see that.
After that I took a taxi back to the airport. And the taxi driver told me how his brother had just committed suicide.
I probably do think about death and the fragility of life more often than most people. But still, and overdose of extreme stimuli left me a little bit numbed for a while. Luckily the airport’s free wifi allowed me to concentrate on a very dehumanizing task: work.
On the air, over Minneapolis Saint Paul, I saw the snow, blanketing everything and everywhere. It reminded me of the Siberian tundra, and brought back memories. Many memories.
Now I am finishing this little post on the plane approaching New York. Back to life. Back to reality?
December 2nd I flew to Montevideo. I stayed at the Radisson Hotel, Plaza de la Independencia. Very conveniently located with some impressive views from the top floor. Good thing it had a pool, because it is not easy to keep my exercise regime when traveling so much.
Besides very productive meetings with IBM (very nice, professional, and friendly executives, by the way) and presentation to several hospital groups (one of the meetings at the Presidential Building, another one at the country’s largest hospital, and a presentation at the Solis Theater), I enjoyed the promenade by the river which seems like a sea, the old town, and a weird Ice Bar.
December 6th I flew to Lima for a day trip of intense meetings and negotiations. My friend Jose Carlos made an extra effort to make sure I ate some Peruvian food and fruit juices, which I really like, even though the trip was really short on time. Thanks!
The odd episode was in the airport: although I did have a boarding pass, since the machine did not scan it (later on I saw it was broken, but of course the idiot operating it kept saying it was not a machine problem), I had to get a new boarding pass and pay airport tax! No time to argue, had to catch a flight, and I did.
Martin Hägglund (associate professor of comparative literature and humanities at Yale University) and Adrian Johnston (professor in the department of philosophy at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque and a faculty member at the Emory Psychoanalytic Institute in Atlanta) both read legthy and endogamic discourses about Heidegger, classic philosophical concepts, and stubbornly narrow minded “canons”. You can not make philosophy (then again, they were reading and regurgitating, not creating or philosophizing) and begin by taking for granted Kant, Heidegger, Hegel, Lacan… We are in the XXI century! Of course those were great philosophers, and their contributions are extremely significant, but that does not mean they are unquestionable. As a matter of fact, that’s what philosophy is about!
Isn’t it about time we look beyond the fatality of cause-and-effect, the linearity of time, the etnocentric and anthropocentric view of philosophy?
On the contrary Žižek, in his well known flamboyant manner (his tics have gotten much worse, I wonder about his health), and making a few, but not too many (which was a welcomed change) pop-culture references, did not read, questioned his colleagues, and went on about seemingly disparate subjects that eventually tied in together quite well.
I may not agree with all Žižek says, but one has to respect such a risk taker in a world dominated by idolatrous worshipping ass kissing experts and their endogamic and excluding entourage.
Beyond the anecdotal post/pre hispter crowd, the exhibition itself is a sad celebration of noise. Which, in itself is as valid, or invalid, as any other starting point in the endless debate about art (more so in regards with contemporary, electronic, net, etc).
But it is its legitimization attempt, with research project, curator, catalogue, and international tour, which brings the debate to a whole different level. Again, struggling with the Institutional Theory of Art. Again, falling in the trap of the spoon fed.
Again under the false impression that art, time, space, and the like are limited resources. They are not! And they are not because we, ourselves, our time, our space, our bodies, our mids, are indeed limited, and therefore, when put into context and perspective all those other subjective concepts upon which scarcity we base our interactions on, do become unlimited in the light of our own finitude.
So don’t celebrate noise as an abandonment to the vastness of the unreachable. Don’t hide behind noise as a way to escape the unavoidable void. Embrace your own limits and work to expand them. Thrive in uncertainty, certain that the external shall not define you.
On Friday I went to NY Comic Con, like everyone else, I guess, with the idea of having fun, of experiencing first hand one of the “major events” that a true nerdy geek can attend. I also wanted to meet Cory Doctorow (although we actually ended up not meeting). It has been years since I last met him, and it was the perfect “excuse” to attend the conference.
When I arrived, I was really surprised to see the size of it. I knew the Jakowitz Center was big, I had been there before several times. But I was not expecting a Comic Con to have such size and be attended by so many people. The waves of attendees kept coming in hours after the doors opened.
Of course, the most readily noticeable aspect of the conference is the customs many people wear. I started taking photographs, only to understand it was a waste of time, since so many people were taking the same photographs, and they would be shared online.
But the phenomenological metaphysics philosopher / cultural anthropologist / developmental psychologist that I carry inside (oh, yeah, it does get crowded in my brain sometimes could not just “let go and have fun”. Had I been socially sharing the event with someone with whom to “just enjoy”, I know I would have done just that. But she was not there. So I let my mind have all the fun.
Many were the traits and inter dynamics to be observed and analyzed. This post could turn into a large essay or a book if I went into detail. So I’ll just make a quick note and keep the longer analysis in my “to-do” list:
Unlike many cos players I spent hours observing at YoYoGi Park in Tokyo, who were expressing themselves, as a personal need to experience the union and self-identification with the chosen character, the American counterparts seemed a bit more interested in the attention, the show, the “cred”, the social aspect of it.
Those who were “capturing the odd images” as I first had the impulse to do, re-enforce the permeable boundaries of social spheres by doing so.
Pre-made identities are quite tempting, for they represent an effortless way to achieve a “persona” without the need to work on the issues and more importantly accept the responsibilities and pain that goes into actually choosing one’s own. Because, although somehow restricted by experiences, circumstances, and neurological structures, we DO have a choice. And over identification with fictional characters is the psychological equivalent of fast food: quick, effortless, filling… but it keeps us from healthier choices if it is not balanced.
The naïveté with which some fans approach story lines, characters, and authors, starkly contrasts the ruthless business interest that go on behind the scenes most of the time.
Most characters and comics draw (no pun intended) from the very same sources Western cultural tradition has been doing over millennia: the classic Greek drama, full of linearity, polarization, violence, tension, determinism, simplification… On the other hand, there are many sketched Western influences in Japanese comic (manga/anime) works, but they are mainly exaggerated aesthetic clichés rather than an structural narrative influence.
Of course there are many more aspects to analyze, and a lot of fun to be had. So I guess it would be a good idea to return next year, but hopefully in good company
There are many seemingly “small events” in history to which we do not pay much attention, when actually they provide very important lessons. I always talk about historical examples of perfectly successful cooperatives and anarchist self government. But this time I want to comment on a very different historical event: the Norse attempt to colonize Greenland.
When the Norse tried to colonize Greenland, the Inuit already lived there. They did not fight. There was enough space for everyone. But they had very different societal structures. The Inuit were natives, living in small groups, usually just one family, migratory (like the seals) and hunting seals individually, using kayaks and harpoons.
The Norse, coming from (somehow) less extreme conditions, were communal settlers, hunting in groups.
What is very interesting is the Norse arrogance. They were Medieval Christians, quite superstitious, but also with the false belief that God was on their side, and the Inuits were just primitive savages (skraelings as they called them). So even though the Inuits had been living-surviving there for very long, the Norse did not even try to learn anything from the Inuit. And that led them to absolute failure.
Have we learned anything? It seems that over 600 years later, we haven’t.
Your usual suspects were there. Besides the panelist (Pattie Astor, Fab Five Freddy, Lady Pink, and Lee Quinones), there were many old glories and a couple of aspiring bomber kids in the audience that I am sure were tagging walls late that night.
What started as a celebration, a remembrance, and a comunion, as the liturgy advanced ended up becoming a hurtful vindication and even a flat out purist attack. And that is exactly how “high culture” (market and marketing, generating artificial scarcity) assimilates art and expression forms.
It was beautilful to hear from the very people that were there and made it happen how the ’77 NY BlackOut allowed kids to “borrow” musical equipment that they would not have had access to any other way, which in turn sparked a wave of wild and pure self expression from kids that did not have the influence of traditional art education, which led to rap/hip-hop, break dance, and graffiti. It was empowerment from an accidental redistribution of artistic production means. Forced expression socialism.
The voyage went throught the highs (Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura2000, Keith Haring…) and lows (the LA show, threats, stigmatization…). It could have ended there if those were scholars talking about art history. But they were not. They were the alive and active protagonist of a movement that is very present today. It was a great opportunity to talk about the present and future after the past had been cheerfully celebrated with endogamic enthusiasm.
So I asked Freddy, Lee and Lady Pink about their opinion about it. “How graffiti, street-art, posters, stickers, stencils, LED throwies, etc incluence one another, and where is it going?”
Pattie took the microphone with her worn-out trucker voice and started ranting about how Graffiti was a style, a movement, that had nothig to do with stencils, posters, and all that. She explained how those sitting there were all Post-Graffiti Artist (I heard her capitalize the “A”, which sent goosebumps down my spine) with studios, not “street-artist” (again a chilling reaction to her despective tone).
Jumping on her angry bandwagon the rest affirmed her views. “It has been many years since I painted on a wall”, “I have a studio, I exhibit around the world, my paintings are in many museums”… It was SO sad to see them react. Still feeling the pain, still feeling they needed to defend themselves and their expression means from others (even though that same panel met at that same museum in ’98, ’02, and ’04). That was understandable. What was unbereable was to see how The System, embodied by The Art World, had yet again, once more, engulfed and prevailed, not just assimilating art, expression, freedom, rebellion, and spontaneity, but also being assimilated by those very same people that once laughed at it.
And they fell with full force, with enclosing reductionist force. Up to the point that when Banksy was mentioned, Lee said “sorry Banksy, we beat you to it”.
So, heroes of the past, I salute you for your bravery and contribution of the past. But that does not earn my respect for the present, nor my enthusiasm for the future. I’ll keep on looking, and more convinced than ever that the energy of the present and the light of the future might be anywhere, come from anywhere, but definitely not a Museum.
PS: I do take a wonderful inspiration from the event, and some recent conversations and messages I’ve had to endure. Finally an art definition that leaves me satisfied. Mine. To me:
September 5th (I know, I have really fallen behind my posts; bear with me, there is just too much going on to keep up) I attended a very interesting and enlightening round table at the New York City Bar Association titled “How Will Recent Developments in the Law Influence the 2012 Elections”?
Moderated by Nan Aron (lecturer, author, and President of Alliance for Justice), the panel consisted of:
Angelo Falcón: President and Founder of the National Institute for Latino Policy
Keesha Gaskins: Senior Counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program
John Samples: Director of the Cato Institute Center for Representative Government
The discussion was quite interesting. Leaving aside, which does not mean they are unimportant, US centric details of Campaign Law, the main points I took from the event were:
Mr. Falcón focused so much on “Latino” that his words fall into the “leaving aside” zone.
The debate between Mr. Lessig and Mr. Samples was simply striking: Mr. Lessig explained, in his characteristic accesible and charming style, how inequalities and concentration are hurting true democracy in the US. Mr. Samples, on the other hand, absolutely irreverent with data and facts, kept repeating a sort of right-wing ultra-capitalist mantra of “hands-off government”, “money is all that matters”, “freedom comes before justice”…
While I have never been completely in favour of Mr. Lessig’s mild approach to admirable well-meaning reform, which in my view only leads to system assimilation, the false perception that “something is improving”, and eventual perpetuation of a stale, corrupt, and dying system, after seeing what he is against (irrational fanatism disguised behind manipulated classic theories), I understand why he does not try to aim higher.
The discreet surprise of the night were the dead-on remarks by Mrs. Gaskins: we need to address even more fundamental problems, like education or identity, before we can even talk about economy, laws, or political campaigns. Otherwise, its a loud and busy debate that will lead nowhere.
I have no clue about physics or philosophy. But just like, when thinking theoretical physics, I can’t help but reach the conclusion that time is a form of energy, when I think of epistemology, I can’t help but to think of it in a multidimensional matrix, of which we can usually only grasp part, because the interconnexions we trace are linear an unidirectional.
It’s a well known fact that our brain is not built to comprehend reality, but “to make sense” of it. And this is my attempt.