Thesis Zone Ahead!
I will not begin my thesis seminar until the Spring 2008 semester. Here I will keep my notes regarding the research I am currently doing around a couple of crazy ideas I have for thesis.
Today is Columbus day in United States. Here we observe Columbus Day on the second Monday in October. In Canada, the second Monday in October is their Thanksgiving Day. In Berkeley, California, a group of native Americans celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day on Saturday, October 6. Celebrating indigenous people instead of Christopher Columbus started in 1990 at the first intercontinental gathering of indigenous people in Quito, Ecuador. The purpose of the conference was to mobilize against the quincentennial celebration of Columbus Day, which was October 12th, 1992. They declared that day as International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People.
I went to Columbus Circle today and spent a few hours taking pictures and video. Interestingly, the monument at the southwest entrance to Central Park facing Christopher Columbus is called the USS Maine National Monument. The USS Maine was a battleship constructed at the Brooklyn Navy Yards in 1888. The Maine spent her active career in the Caribbean between Key West and Cuba, to protect US interests. In 1898 an explosion aboard the Maine led to the death of 260 men. This explosion was the precipitating cause of the Spanish-American War. The exact cause of the explosion remains a mystery to this day.
Christopher Columbus' expedition to the Americas was funded by the great Catholic Monarchs, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas on October 12, 1492. October 12 in Spain is called Hispanic Day. In most of Latin America except for Venezuela, it is called Día de la Raza, or "day of the race." In Venezuela it is called Day of Indigenous Peoples' Resistance. Domestically, there is resistance to Columbus Day. In the state of South Dakota, Columbus Day is known official as Native American Day. Also, this past weekend the police arrested 80 protesters at a Columbus Day parade in Denver, Colorado. (AP Article) Colorado in 1905 became the first state to officially observe Columbus Day before it became a federal holiday.
Ideas to share in class today
The Tools Around Us
An examination of popular, available, and accessible technologies that can be used tactically to effect social change.
Statues in New York
According to the NYC Parks Department, there are an estimated 1,200 monuments, about which 300 are sculptures. The Parks Department has a searchable database of all the permanent art and monuments in the city parks. Searching the keyword “columbus” will return 10 results.
Questions on my mind right now
How public is art? How much do citizens own public art? When does a sculpture or monument cease being art? How much are we responsible for it? Can popular will change public art? Can we change the meaning of it and how?
Terms that are popping into my head, they will need defining if definitions do not already exist:
Does Columbus Circle suffer from psychogeographic disorder? Does it need psychogeographic therapy?
Agency and Art in a Hyper-Consumerist Culture:
The Agent as Artist, as Consumer, and as Citizen
9/25/07 at the New School
There are many things that I have always felt were wrong with the world but have never been able to articulate exactly why or how they were wrong. Benjamin Barber was able to verbalize exactly what is wrong with our country right now. Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld and Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, covered a lot of ground in his talk. He started by defining “agency” and how the concept of “consumer” pushes against the idea of agency. That is, an agent actively makes something, a consumer is a passive recipient. Consumers do not make anything. He also talked about the life of the public as the life of a civilized society, and the dangers of inverting the public/private life of society. That is, it is dangerous to the life of society to talk about freedom and liberty in terms of consumer-citizens.
It’s a lot, I know. But there’s more. He described how the market system indentures young people to private consumerism by effectively destroying their agency and turning citizens into consumers. Producers now busy themselves not with the manufacture of goods but with the manufacture of needs. Personal choice is seen as the only definition of freedom, which Barber traced back to Reagan and Thatcher but really have their roots in the work of Milton Friedman.
Barber sees cause for concern about a major economic collapse in the U.S. However, he also was optimistic about revolutionary change. He believes the revolutionary change needs to happen in the government. I agree, our government does need revolutionary change. Hopefully with revolution will bring with it better taste and style. I was in Washington DC for a week over the summer, what a dull place. Monumental buildings, red, white and blue everywhere, and complete lack of imagination.
James Powderly, an ITP alumn, gave a talk about his work with the Graffiti Research Lab (GRL). After ITP and before starting the GRL, he worked for a while at a robotics firm where he was involved with projects for NASA. But it is his work with GRL that is most interesting to me, I see a connection between what they are doing and one of my thesis ideas (the one that involves statue modification.)
GRL is about hacking urban systems. James talked about the simple things that can and have been done with LEDs, magnetic/conductive paint and tape. Two things during his talk caught my attention. The first was the simplicity of the projects described. For example, taping stenciled foamcore to one of those horrible flashing billboards you sometimes see above subway entrances— a very low-tech and effective project. James says, “Technology scares people. Crafts don’t.” The other thing that struck me was how GRL concerns itself with a sort of urban camouflage. James asked, “How do you get people to ignore you?”
Also, the projection bombing was amazing and really inspiring. Toward the end of his talk he also mentioned documentation in other languages, and some artists who are documenting projects in Spanish only. I would like to find out more about this. Perhaps I should start documenting my work in Spanish, heaven knows I could use the practice.
Ok, enough writing for now. You know too much already…