I generally feel like I am in a space of observation and perspective defense. I actively acknowledge my ego and aim to remove it when new information, people, and environments are introduced. In our chosen spaces, we are a part of a micro-system that is directly affected by the perpetuation of the macro-world. Because I enjoy writing, debate, and exploration, I find myself on Twitter observing and engaging. Recently, I came across a tweet that I could have ignored but decided to invest some time.
More or less, it read:
“I don’t understand how the Cosby show was so instrumental to black men... if they didn’t even try to implement that family [element] into their own families. How was y’all raised by a family show with no family values whatsoever?”
This is a moment, which was preceded by other moments and followed by more for even more to occur. I am pointing this out as perhaps to shed some insight on how I think and experience text and dialogue. First, I went online and researched when the show aired, and for how long. The Cosby show ran from 1984 to 1992. I was born in 1994 and only understand this time period through the Black experience and still deal with the effects communally, colloquially, and culturally. When blanket statements are made about specific groups of people, I feel like context always matters. In context, Ronald Reagan was in office, and the late 70’s early 80’s was the height of cocaine and crack. Crack spread throughout the Black community like gnats on fruit. Israeli guns flooded the streets, and as people feigned, their bodies turned against them and in turn, they did what they needed to do in order to survive the addiction; steal, kill, and get high. Some were afforded the opportunities to heal and get clean but most, did not.
So, the Cosby show as a timeless classic being aired on television as the cities around burned and killed- swarming in chaos- it is and was, in my opinion quite harsh to aggressively criticize how families, dismantled so quickly and communities began to flip and turn into infestations of people who were disproportionately affected, targeted, and left to fend. So for me, I understand how the Cosby Show instrumentally existed as a visual reference for those who were able to maneuver through- and I also understand how the Cosby Show cannot be the only driving force to keep communities in mass in tact when peoples’ own governments are out exterminating by intention.
This is a moment in my life where I took a hard pause for a 160 character count text to contest, consider, and critically think.
Wow. So in both works, “Librería Donceles” by Pablo Helguera and the installation at the Tate Modern curated by Tania Bruguera, although yet experienced, I feel grateful that their works exist. What impacted me first and foremost, are their desires to engage the community in a way that highlights culture and the complexities of our diverse environments. Their works are unveiling and celebratory.
In Librería Donceles, Helguera aims to present a portrait of a small society that exists specifically in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I enjoy his desire to create a space for those that share the same Spanish culture, but invites others to get a glimpse of what another culture looks like. I have not experienced a bookstore in which all of the books are in Spanish, and so it also challenges the average understanding of what literature is, what it looks like, and what it represents. Different languages are comprehended and relayed uniquely than in English, and so I assume the stories tell tales and showcase mastery differently than what is traditionally taught and held to high standards.
There are three ideas, I felt were quotable:
“If you are going to make a blanket statement about another culture, at least understand what it contains”
Here, I completely agree. Often, many people read articles and absorb so much information from points of views yet fully versed on various cultures. Some of us take in the information at face value and consider it to be truth- but, “at least understand what it contains,” if you are going to make a blanket statement so that what you speak is not violent or rooted in prejudice or unwavering bias.
“We spend time trying to baptize things as art that’s not art. I think that’s an incredible waste of time...artworks make things that do not exist. Ironically, this book store could not exist, if it were not an artwork…”
Helguera mentions the baptizing of things that are not art. I have considered this idea of the imposition of art onto items that are functional and exist to function versus art by intention- but, to baptize something that is not art, sounds so much more fluid and concisely accurate. To submerge something and bring it forth anew, as art- can be a waste, yet he then mentions the irony in his project that it could not exist if it were not an artwork. I think of this project as a scientific study that bridges a gap between commemoration and problem solving. His work stands out to me because it provokes community engagement through curiosity, reflection, and familiarity. Similarly, Tania Bruguera challenges these same concepts to bring the community closer- considering the people first and foremost.
Bruguera mentions that, “things only happen in society when you intervene in them,” translating to nothing happens if nothing happens. Communally, I feel her efforts were maximized with community involvement and intervention. Considering the space around the Tate and selecting community members to make decisions and celebrate is genius because seeing people, brings people together. Minimally executed, because each piece has a focus and is specific, grants the freedom for people to interact in the best ways they know how. For example, using body heat to unveil an image, gives people room to decide how to extend, how much of themselves to extend and for how long- the room that reinforces crying: there is no duration required, no thoughts to interject, and so, it is inner-reflection- your engagement rests on you. It is a phenomenal work.
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