Cold men destroy women,” my mother wrote me years later. “They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a fake greenhouse, lead you in, and you think you see life and vitality and sun and greenness, and then when you love them, they lead you out into their real soul, a drafty, cavernous, empty ballroom, inexorably arched and vaulted and mocking you with its echoes— you hear all you have sacrificed, all you have given, landing with a loud clunk.
Red dyes sky and “sea”, as they call it, as the sun sets over the Rio de la Plata. The promenade fills up with Montevideans with their mates. They smile, oblivious to, or despite of, life’s drama.
This intense red bursts, invades, dyes and covers like a curtain. I must share it with you. It’s ephemeral, I know it will pass, but now it feels as if nothing can escape its spillover, which drags along my attention, my sensibility, my pain, my life.
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.
I turn to the canvas, but it’s not color I want to smear your whiteness with. I face the white screen, but it’s not light that I seek. I confront the blank page, but words will not bring solace. Then my skin falls on the piano ivory.
Fingers sliding down each key. Caresses that the air won’t keep.
The music was already playing in my head. The beat was already being followed by my heart. But it was my skin that needed the touch. The touch that turns into music, color, light, words… and none of that.
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:
Lying on the carpet, poetry book and pencil in hand, U2 in the background.
October And the trees are stripped bare Of all they wear What do I care
October And kingdoms rise And kingdoms fall But you go on…and on…
So many literal meanings: the fear of wearing-out (The Edge was considering leaving the band like his brother did before they were even called U2), the false sense of security arising from self-defeat (“What do I care”), moving on after a loss (both Bono and Larry had just lost their mothers), the high hopes and expectations arising from new democracies in Eastern Europe only to become despair and dissapointment, and eventually resilience, surviving, going on…
Add that to the fact that Bono’s suitcase with the complete lyrics were stolen, he could only remember these lines, and decided to leave it like this, which is in fact quite poetic and coherently illustrative.
And then the personal meanings. This song speaks to me, with its haunting piano (the one song that motivated me to learn a little bit of piano when I was a kid), as I am sure it speaks to you. Today. In October. My October.
Poured, as a quick one-sided conversation, the messages kept coming in.
On the background, music by an unknown artist. Unknown even to himself. Adding a reggae-folk soundtrack that sounded unintendedly tragic. The guitar riffs camouflaging the “new-message” tones.
But the desperation kept building up. With every superficial message, a poignant indication that the truth was, still, being concealed. Or worse: never revealed. Each new line, a ticker tape reminder of how little he matter, how opaque and transparent he had become at once. Or perhaps he had always been invisible.
As he walked out the door, trying to leave the pain behind, the messages kept coming in…