Yeah I have some things for sale. I often do on these pages, I like to give back to the people, who I hold so dear. Dear like my prices.
Frustrated by my tiny computers inability to make a meaningful connection to a nearby wireless network connexion, I am typing these letters.
I took some software and installed it on a computer, by the Port that was updated to the point of removing the ability of the previous versions of the same software from “doing its thing”, the new versions are just fine. One of the two blobs of code was on a USB device and could only be found behind a USB1 interface. the 3GB took an hour to copy. I chatted, twittered and fretted about. The computer owner and I conversed and smoked, we ate sandwiches. He was for a portion of time, speaking to a new artist in the other room and I listened in for a bit. He gave good advice. I happilyied received payment in change, bills and bus tickets.
I was thinking of the sort of life that would probably grow here after humanity is done, wondering if it would be into the kind of stuff we have left around, all of this plastic dust, fancy chemicals, special metals, towers of glass and the giant stacks of books called 'Slow Death by Rubber Duck'.
In a discussion about Asunción, a short film about a rebellious domestic employee that he produced with Carlos Mayolo in 1975, Luis Ospina stated that it had been their intention to create paranoia, as 'domestic employees represent a class enemy under the very same roof.' And yet this 'enemy' is an integral member of the family she serves and cares for and is simultaneously appreciated and exploited, loved and pitied. She, in turn, will inevitably reciprocate in this unhealthy, co-dependent relationship by developing strong emotional ties to her employers and their children while inevitably resentful of their class privilege and the social hierarchy that has relegated her to its lowest rung. Even within her own social class, the female domestic employee is more often than not a tragic figure — a single mother who must neglect her own children in pursuit of a better life for them, particularly for the daughters she hopes will not end up like her.
The saying 'work ennobles' (el trabajo ennoblece) has a complex etymology: although sometimes associated with popular resistance and revolutionary politics, this aphorism can also be tied to the teachings of the Catholic Church and even to the Third Reich, with its Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labor Service), the function of which was to combat unemployment in Nazi Germany under the motto 'Arbeit ardelt.' A related phrase, "Arbeit macht frei" (Work Brings Freedom) was posted at the entrances to numerous concentration camps during WWII. And then there is the Dutch witticism that goes like this: 'Arbeid adelt, maar adel arbeidt niet' (Work ennobles but the nobility does not work), which is curious given that Holland is not a country one would generally associate with class conflict despite its status as an independent monarchy. (In fact, many artists, curators, and institutions in Latin America and other developing regions have benefitted from the generosity of this monarchy exercised through grants endowed by the Prince Claus Fund.)
The idea for this exhibition derived from a simple, but significant chance encounter between two very different works: Asunción, which I happened to be writing about at the time that I received images of Regina Galindo's Angelina (2002), a work that is well known to a local public in Guatemala. Once I'd decided upon curating an exhibition with works dealing with the figure of the female domestic employee, I didn't have to look very far to find additional works from a very diverse group of artists and filmmakers. In Judi Werthein's This Functional Family (Familia (dis)functional), 2007 - a mock documentary about the Sonneveld House in Rotterdam – the aristocratic Sonneveld family is portrayed by black actors and possible descendants of colonial subjects upon whose exploitation the Sonneveld family's wealth was based, while their domestic employees are played by two white, middle class young women. Phil Collin's soy mi madre, 2008 is an exquisitely made telenovela, shot on location in Mexico City with several leading television stars and loosely based on Jean Genet's The Maids, 1947. The film was conceived while Collins was pursuing an artist residence in Aspen, Colorado and responds to the presence of a massive workforce of domestic laborers from Mexico serving affluent families in the United States. Monica Ruzansky's photographic series "Dicen que los perros se parecen sus dueños" (They Say that Dogs Resemble their Owners) consists of portraits of female domestic employees walking their employers' dogs, usually expensive purebreds that typically function to assuage the racial anxieties of wealthy, 'aristocratic' Latin American families. Finally, Sebastian Silva's La Nana (The Maid), 2008 — a film that won several awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival — is a subtle portrayal of the complicated emotional dynamics that exist between a long time domestic employee and the well-intentioned family that employs her.
Lately I've become interested in anecdotes. Perhaps it's due to my gossipy nature: private lives are often so much more interesting than public ones and I don't trust secrets or people who build walls around themselves because withholding information is so often about exercising power over others. Transparency, on the other hand, implies a sense of trust between individuals or institutions interacting with one another within a non-hierarchical, egalitarian system in which information is readily available and subject to public scrutiny.
But I think there's also something to be said for the ability to simply tell a really good story. Anecdotes are so powerful because they entertain us while secretly and subtly imparting knowledge that is very often more significant than official narratives like those found in traditional (linear, patriarchal, Western Eurocentric) historiographies, media sources and, generally, the kind of writing that disguises the author's intentions behind a disembodied and objective voice, which is a construction that we should know to be false but that we continue to adhere to. (The writing of a press release in the first person, for example, is barely acceptable).
According to an article in Wikipedia (with no cited references or sources, and thus presumably unreliable) a side story is '…a form of narrative that occurs alongside established stories… where it is possible to tell many stories from many points of view.' It's like a kind of anecdote, then, that quietly and insignificantly exists alongside the 'bigger picture' but that may challenge, contradict, and ultimately destroy the veracity of those stories that are 'established' simply because they have been told from a position of power and are louder and more visible.
Javier Bosque's The Splinter from the Tree (La astilla del arbol) 2007, is a video shot by the artist's mother that shows a series of quirky conversations between Javier and his father on family related topics that all seem to perversely gravitate towards the theme of death and amnesia. The video begins with a warning to its viewers that states: 'Due to its personal nature, the context of this video is irrelevant.'
Sunset Condor (Artistas amistosos de Neükolln) 2009, documents a bizarre and seedy ten-day art event held in a shipping container in Valparaiso, Chile. Valparaiso was once an affluent and majestic cosmopolitan center, known as 'the Jewel of the Pacific,' but quickly lost its cultural and economic prestige with the opening of the Panama Canal.
In La pieza ensayo (The Rehearsal Piece) 2008, Ana María Millán and Eduardo Carvajal have re-edited original casting and rehearsal footage from Carlos Mayolo's 1985 short film Aquel 19, an adolescent love story that ends in suicide and that takes place in Cali, Colombia against the backdrop of the first national victory of the local football team América de Cali, a significant source of regional pride for a city marked by conflict and violence.
Sõprus - Дружба (Friendship) 2007, is the product of a collaboration between Anu Pennanen and a group of teenagers (of both Russian and Estonian background) in the capital city of Tallinn. Like the artist's native Finland, Estonia has been subject to regional imperialism, including Swedish and Soviet occupation, and inhabits an ambiguous (cultural and economic) position between Eastern and Western Europe. Today Estonia has the most liberal economic system of all of the former Soviet republics.
In Folklore 1 (2006) and Folklore 2 (2008), Patricia Esquivias delivers a pair of informal lectures with anecdotes ranging from Spanish real-estate speculator and football team owner Jesús Gil to post-Francoist rave culture to parallels between King Felipe II and Julio Iglesias, all of which describe certain cultural and historical formations present in contemporary Spanish culture.
Thursday 21 May 2009/ 7pm
Friday 22 May/ 5pm
Conversation between Emiliano Valdés (Visual Arts Director CCE/G) and Michèle Faguet
Saturday 23 May/ 6pm
Screening of feature film La Nana
Directed by Sebastián Silva, Chile, 2008. 98 min.
Centro Cultural de España / Guatemala
Vía 5, 1–23 zona 4, 4° Norte, Ciudad de Guatemala, 01004
The symbols used to denote pisces and cancer are wrong and obviously have been mixed up with each other at some point. This error undermines the already dubious notion that large objects off the earth can influence personal and interpersonal events on our planet and that individuals without instruments can derive from galactic motion what these events can be. Looking at stars is fun and the stories are often well meaning.
Also when are we going to fix the October, November, December problem. That has been going on for years now and is an embarrassment.
I have never been to Belgium, cannot speak any of the languages spoken there, am uninterested in the history of that land, its wars, politics and they have a dull flag. Strangely, something grows from the minds in that place which beguiles me, fastens my attention and tosses its culture to my affections, which smothers it with kisses.
It began, as many things for me did, when I was a child and I developed an annoying obsession with the animated television program, the Smurfs. The tiny, cyanotic homunculi living in mushrooms, separated by vocation were the blades on the drill of their metaphor that dug ever deeper into my affections.
In my backyard, mushrooms grew and at the school I attended, the word ‘smurfy’ propagated onto my conversation, much to my older sisters chagrin. The Smurfs demonstrated fair and equitable social interaction in opposition to greed and material acquisition, of the programs antagonists. What is not to like.
During this time, maybe before, I was wrapped into the adventures of Tintin and his dog, Snowy. Drawn with clean lines, and modern-ish adventures presented a kind of pleasure of obviousness that the noisy lines of Asterix and his bewildering, old fashioned capers could not, on real paper unlike the poorly printed comics one found in shops at the time. The comics in the store had over-blown adventures an were always interested in distortions of humanity and activity that repelled me. The Fantastic Four could be a little more human and dress better, there is nothing wrong with a good hat on a rainy day.
Belgium has a more balanced two language situation some what like Canada, without the geographic space. It is close to the latitude of where I was born; 54º, Antwerp is 51º. So there is a good chance that it is also muddy with an overcast, white sky, populated with tired, angry people who resent their neighbours they can’t understand for some reason they cannot think of.
As I grew older I listened to a assortment of music from this nation; Front 242 and the Lords of Acid populated these days with songs of machines, corporate life and sexual transmitted disease. Things which I was drawn to, filled the newspapers and pulsing televisions. Jacques Brel is not bad either.
Later looking into the fog of culture, roiling about, I found it difficult to look away from artists who’s work could stand without discourse. Silent. The sad words which sophistically follow artwork are often broadcast by people who did not like or believe art can express what it needs to on its own. Like a seatbelt, the sensation of security can create peril and reason for its use. In this case the danger is ocular failure, blindness. The overt and obvious, self-contained work of Magritte and Broodthaers can travel through ones mind without the propulsion of text and is oblivious to the dangers of the open mind.
Belgium’s national holiday is my mothers birthday, they seems to care about art books, the most tawdry of art mediums. A nation state exporting cultural production into the sewer of my appreciation. Thank you and keep up the good work!
The 4 R's plus some wants, on this grey day of travel.
I met John outside of the ferry terminal, Berth 3. It was late in the evening, growing dark. He offered me a cigarette, said “misery loves company”, lit them for both of us off the same flame. I could not disagree. He was upset to have missed the earlier ferry by four minutes, he was astonished of the lack of internet services at the ferry terminal. I concurred with all of his points. I was carrying 2 large black bags, one rectangular, the other puffy and a slender cardboard box filled with pictures and cutlery tray.
He had very reasonable points of contempt.
We smoked. He repeated his points in a number of different ways and in the same ways. His conversation looped, as if he was forgetting and remembering. I ruminated on how I was to get from where the ferry docks’ to home. The public system was cheap but took a long time. There was another costly bus, and that company made my travels difficult previously. We discussed the various options of each.
He opened a very tall can of beer and drank it quickly. A woman near by suggested the costly bus, the public one is a “milk run”, she said.
The ferry arrived. I agreed with the woman on the Berth 3 platform. No milk runs in a bus for me. John was suggesting the public bus, but his arguments were not very compelling.
The boat people, disembarked. The Berth 3 people embarked, chatting. It was twilight.
We found a spot near the ticket sales booth and chatted some more. I told him of my hard times travelling and how I always seem to travel broke. He was still annoyed at being separated from his data in the cloud. I understood. He thought that there was a connection on the ferry and if you had a laptop you could access it. I assured his that there was nary a signal on the ferry, except maybe in some fancy lounge, where there is a charge to enter. He resigned to further data seperation.
I got a ticket for the ride home. I offered coffees as the next step, we got two and moved on to the front of the boat, cups in hand. I suppose, I was already aware that John took lots of drugs when he could and that the inelegant chemicals had harmed him, made him more like them. I could not leave. The twilight was closing, just a faint light on the horizon. I remarked how you never see anything filmed at this time because it doesn’t work well on screen and how perfect and empty it is.
John is 43.
We went back inside, trying to remember the direction of the boat,as to allow us to sit facing forward. There were empty seats ahead. We sat behind a mother and child. We all started chatting, except for the baby as he was too young for conversation. The baby boy was remarkably charismatic. The mum was also as chatting as John and I were. We spoke of her sons future political career.
John went up to the bath room.
I took out the Complete Encyclopedia of Cats by Rebo Publishers. I talked with the mum about books for a while, she asked how long I knew him. I said just today. John returned. We had a strange moment of cross talk that kinda fell into a loops about some silly topic. John went away again. I felt in a spot. The mum was beckoned to by some others sitting near by. Probably to protect her from such strange men on the ferry and then John returned. He brought with him a small cardboard box, containing a black leather wallet.
I got this for you, he said, so you will remember ol’ John when you take out your wallet. I think I must have shuddered. I need to ask you for some money and I thought I should give you something in return. Ummm lets go for another smoke, I say, worried, surprised and tense. He kept offering me the wallet, as I like a small planet with orbiting bags and a slender box, hoped to avoid the gift, with no receipt. In a open area where two hallways converge I accept, with the abomination. Could you be more subtle. He laughed and said, don’t be so paranoid.
John was so different than I.
We stand outside on the deck, lit by incandescent bulbs, in the cold wind and he tries to get a smoke from a group of young people, they turn him down, he makes one out of a butt in a nearby ashtray. I wonder if it was the same one I smoked and did not burn it down to the filter. We talk a bit more and then it is announced to board the buses and cars. I tell him good-bye, a quick handshake. John tells me he is going to try and talk his way on to the bus. I am defensive and say, ok, well good luck. We are walking together and as we near the bus, I rock back while I collect my ticket from my wallet, so that he goes first. He stops too. I start again and show the ticket and board.
The driver doesn’t accept his story, we are divided. I sit in the dark bus, blushing. John never mentioned films, a job or love.