When you bite into a ripe tomato, have you ever wondered where it came from? That tomato on your kitchen table has most likely traveled all the way from California’s Central Valley, plucked from the vine by the hands of a migrant farmer. This is the valley where painter and printmaker Michele Ramirez and her family have called home for at least three generations. “I have flashbacks every time I smell a ripe tomato,” says Ramirez, who spent a summer with her uncle harvesting tomatoes. “A really good tomato has this really earthy, beautiful smell. I smell it and boom, I’m back in the fields for just that nanosecond.”
The Central Valley has long captivated the imagination of artists and novelists for whom the beauty of its topography, with expansive pale skies and farmhouses speckling the horizon, has proven irresistible. For Ramirez, the Central Valley is both a beautiful and “distant, unknowable place” whose solitude she captures eloquently in her paintings. “You have this beautiful landscape [with] nobody in it… this giant sky and this slate horizon and all these grids.” Part of the appeal for Ramirez is the emptiness of the Central Valley, along with its blunt geometry, created by the rows and fields of its massive farms.
The world has seen some ugly battles fought recently over religion-related buildings. From the destruction of the Buddhist monastery at Bamiyan to the conflict over the so-called ground zero mosque, going back to Kristalnacht, the attempt at dehumanization of adherents to a religion frequently begins with a strike against the buildings associated with that faith. On the other hand, some of the most important architectural achievements of humanity across the globe, from Wat Phra Khao to Notre Dame, are a result of spiritual ardor manifested in stone. It would appear that religious structures can provide solace or evoke resistance. What does the Jewish tradition teach us about the role of buildings in spiritual life?
We will see that from the very start, from the Torah text itself, a conflicted reading of the importance or challenge of religious buildings per se is presented. The Torah text provides very lengthy and detailed descriptions for the building of the Mishkan, the portable temple carried by the freed Israelites in their journey through the desert. These details, with instructions regarding the building of the temple walls, roof, altars, ark, and other items related to the sacrificial service, are spread out over five perashiyot (Torah sections, as divided for weekly communal reading). We will see that this organization of the text itself teaches rather surprising and profound lessons about the values of sacred space and its rituals.
I feel my artworks, to a great degree, they are desires that will never be fulfilled. But that doesn’t impact on what we do manage to do. Just as I feel that the great part of the demand for freedom lies in fighting for it, and not just in it being a goal. I feel that the process of striving is where value lies in life. In the process of living our life, whether it’s an artist’s, a theoretician’s or a philosopher’s, we’re doing something very difficult.
The Chinese government took away Ai Weiwei’s passport more than a thousand days ago. Each morning as he begins work in his Beijing studio, the artist places a bunch of fresh flowers in the basket of a bicycle chained outside. The bike belonged to a young German man working in China who was also arrested; upon release, before he returned to Germany, he arranged for it to be given to Ai, who has made it a symbol of freedom. Ai has said the flowers will stop when he gets his passport back.
This morning before I began to work, I listened to a meditation tape.The teacher’s soothing voice instructed the meditator to notice thoughts and feelings with interest but without effort, always returning awareness to “a natural state of ease and contentment.” The underlying idea is that ease and contentment are indeed our natural state, that resistance, discomfort, and anxiety are merely fleeting interruptions. If we can learn to experience them without attachment, we can remain at ease.
It’s not unheard of to fight against an invented enemy.
In his novel The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje cites Herodotus’ description of a nation so enraged by an evil wind – the simoon – that “they declared war on it and marched out in full battle array, only to be rapidly and completely interred.”
And, in the twentieth century, long after Emperor Hirohito surrendered on August 15th, 1945, Japanese soldiers in remote locations continued to gather intelligence and to ‘fight’ in attempt to vanquish the American enemy, unaware that the war had ended. For some of these soldiers, it took years, even decades to convince them to give up their imagined battle positions.
Though separated by millennia, these two examples speak to the power of collective delusions, and the way in which not just individuals, but entire nations may make truly frightening, or tragic sacrifices in the name of an idea, which may not be borne up by reality.
Making this very point about America’s disproportionate use of resources in the so-called war on terror is what creative agency Incitement Design hopes to do with its recently launched campaign, The War on Irrational Fear.
Joseph Epstein is a conservative writer, mid-70s, who has spent much of his literary life pissing off readers with liberal or left values. His newest piece in the Wall Street Journal—“The Late, Great American WASP”—is a case in point, worshipping a bygone American WASP-ocracy that supposedly sacrificed the pleasures of mere domination in favor of power-wielding packaged with a sense of responsibility. While Epstein’s literary output has been polished to a smudgeless sheen, it still reeks of brownnosing, reminding me of the Francophone notion I borrowed for today’s title: nostalgie de la boue. Literally this is: nostalgia—homesickness—for the mud. It is meant to indicate an attraction to whatever is low, crude, degraded, to the romance of the wallow in our sensual nature without the trappings of civilization.
Why is Epstein so impelled to glorify a caste that could never include himself? He was born in Chicago, but if his parents weren’t born abroad, surely his grandparents immigrated here. He was brought up in a Jewish-American milieu he described a decade ago in an interview, seemingly completely unaware of his words’ embedded self-disgust:
[N]one of the positive stereotypes of Judaism adhere. We were not kids who had political idealism. Our parents did not talk about Trotsky and Stalin and the Party. I knew no one who took violin lessons. A few kids were forced to take piano and they hated every minute of it. We went to Hebrew school because were instructed to and we were bar mitzvahed. The only culture that was ever mentioned among the Jews of my parent’s generation was musical comedy. And you’d get these guys; these terrific brutes working in the scrap iron business and borax salesmen and they would go and sit there meekly with their wives and listening to Pajama Game. They’d come back and say “Gee we saw it in New York and the cast was better.” But there was no real culture. They were nice men, and I don’t mean to belittle them for not having culture. I’m glad to grow up without culture.
There’s been an art-blogworld swirl lately about need versus want. You can find a summary with links to relevant posts by half a dozen bloggers in this entry in Barry Hessenius’s blog.
In this context, I find the distinction nearly meaningless. Need how? To sustain life, we need air, water, nourishment, sleep, and shelter. To thrive, most of us need caring, connection, pleasure, meaning – the myriad things that account for the difference between mere survival and a life lived fully into our capacities. To keep up with the Joneses, one’s home needs a new car in the driveway or a new coat of paint. The further from survival’s necessities we get, the more we use the word need to signal intense wanting or intense obligation: I really need that pair of shoes; I really need to kiss you right now; I really need to wash my car; I really need to see the dentist. Sometimes want elides into need without noticing. The archetypal experience my young self shared with many other artists jumps an arc from the spark of awakening interest to the strong current of desire-drenched need: I needed to paint, and now I need to write.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) met the week of December 3 in Bali, Indonesia, where anti-WTO demonstrators took over the streets. On the first day of the talks, demonstrations were held around the world to mark the Global Day of Action Against Toxic Trade Agreements. A particular focus for protesters here in the United States and in other Pacific Rim nations was the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a so-called “free-trade agreement” that would consolidate corporate power over member nations. The TPP has been called “NAFTA on steroids.” It has also been called “a corporate coup” and a “corporate power tool of the 1%.” This week, at the Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministerial in Singapore, where negotiations were to be finalized, TPP negotiators failed to meet the end-of-year deadline promoted by the United States.
Why are the WTO, NAFTA, and free-trade agreements such as the TPP “toxic?” Because they put trade (or rather, the free flow of capital) above all else, because they cover far more than trade, and because they give corporations the power to determine what laws a country can or cannot have. They are vehicles through which corporations make and enforce rules for governments to follow.
by: Jack Gabriel on December 3rd, 2013 | Comments Off
You can usually tell if a recording is inspired from the opening twenty seconds. There is a certain energy, a certain élan, that takes you from the ordinary to the special, from genesis to realization, quite quickly, perhaps in two dozen heartbeats.
There are many such songs on the new CD ,”The Human Project”, the first solo release by Gabriel Meyer Halevy. There are striking anthems, which celebrate the diversity and harmony of humanity. There are delicate ballads, and gracefully rhythmic pieces, that mesh South American, Arabic, Mizrachi and Far Eastern nuances. Their fusion sounds organic and natural. Paul Simon’s Afro-Gospel-Doo Wop and Idan Raichel’s Ethiopean-Spanish-Israeli pieces come to mind. The lyrics very much support the music. It is as if the words and melodies are passed from voice to voice, in Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic, effortlessly enriching songs with multiple translations. It draws you into a sweet and exciting space. That’s no easy feat, and that’s what makes this recording so successful and special.
Nato Thompson: I said to you, ‘Rick, what are you going to do? Because now there are all these social practice programs where a lot of white kids are graduating and they’re going to go into communities of color and try to help everybody.’ And then you said, ‘Well, it sounds like they’re finally going to get an education.’
Rick Lowe: When you think about the field of social practice, I’m kind of in-between. I come out somewhat of the community arts era and now straddling into the social practice side. It was really funny to me today, I was thinking, ‘Man, is social practice gentrifying community arts out?’
This exchange between Rick Lowe, the founder and director of Project Row Houses in Houston and brand-new appointee to the National Council on the Arts (see Third Ward TX, my friend Andrew Garrison’s wonderful 2007 film on this work if you can) and Nato Thompson, Chief Curator of Creative Time, was part of the Creative Time Summit, a much-livestreamed late October 2013 New York conference on “Art, Place & Dislocation in The 21st Century City.”
As Hanukkah approaches this week, earlier and more turkey-filled than ever, it’s important to ask that age-old question: What’s really Jewish?
Rabbis and poets and the atheist uncles at my family’s Seder table have debated the question for generations. Forget the scholars and drunks, I say. The best answer I’ve ever heard came from a comedian. His name was Lenny Bruce.
Our greatest comic and patron saint of profanity, I remember the first time I heard Lenny Bruce’s classic take on the issue. Being Jewish, he taught us, simply meant being…not goyish. And if you didn’t know what goyish was, all that meant was…not Jewish. Pretty simple, right?
The difference between the two, however, can sometimes be very subtle. Lenny explained what it meant back in the 1960s, but I wondered: how can we explain this critical, vitally important issue to the Youtube generation?
So, with my friends over at 3200stories.org, I decided to make an updated version for 2013. I studied the ancient texts, examined every pop culture trend, and came up with some surprising results. Here they are, for your viewing pleasure. Buckle your online seat belts, this is a comedic trip from Mos Def to masturbation to God himself to see who comes out ahead in that age-old battle: Jewish vs. Goyish.