Friday, April 29, 2011

It's alright

A month ago I was in Chile, anxious because finally, after a long time waiting, the Apexart secret and the enigma New York represented would unveil, questions that had me dreaming for months, living with the city and the residence through the distance the computer screen creates. Even though movies show us a universal city, part of the imagination of every world citizen, and showcases the reality of a wonderful project and the vision of each of its residents through their blog, it’s very different to live it oneself, with one’s own sensibility, own vision, from a unique cultural parallel: where one cannot do anything but smell, listen or feel every step taken in the city that completely surrounds you.

Today, with only a bit left before departing to Santiago, with the revealed mysteries and with more questions and appetite than ever, I feel an enormous satisfactions for the time I’ve lived here, for having known from such a close place and being witness to a reality so different to the one lived by all of us who work in Art and Culture in Chile. I realize that every question I have will be answered in time, and surely not in a direct way, without knowing if I have to find the answers, search for them or when new ones will appear from this process. I feel that after this experience a new stage begins for me, where the way of seeing the world, my work, our local artistic scene, opens a new form of hard work, where the only possible formula is to go ahead and not stopping, never giving up, even if all says to do so. A new appetite to experiment this kind of situation has arisen, to learn from other realities and models, opening my eyes to the world, for we are all in it and we can only live in it today, without fear but with courage.

Every step I took in this city, every person I met, every morning I woke up anxious to go out and very entry I wrote are part of a fast adaptation process, of knowing and assimilating that I enjoyed the most I could, filling me with renewable energy every day: and I cannot do more but thank this crazy human group of people that work in this strange and generous project.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


With few days left and a touch of nostalgia, I’m walking down every street possible. Today, after a heated walk to China Town, a place that congregates thousands of tourists and that through them an oriental world in North America is dressed in fashion, you are able to superficially introduce yourself in this culture, that little by little turns occidental, through souvenirs sold at half the market price, t-shirts, tea cups, magnets, stickers, hats, umbrellas; everything you can imagine with the traditional logo that Milton Glaser (North American) designed in 1976, with that phrase stolen from the mouths of everyone who has ever come to this city: “I Love New York”. There were also many miniature Lady Liberties, Chinese luck cats, and dragons and musical instruments from their oriental culture as well, that unsuccessfully ask to be taken by the enormous amount of tourists that pillage every store looking for their dream t-shirt. It must be the price of keeping up a business and having to live from it, to adapt to all the demands of the public in a world where the Free Market satisfies every temporal need we can invent. Now, this occurs only in the commercial part, because like in every neighborhood, there is also a more marginal part: by far the most Chinese part of the Town, where only oriental people walk, where languages don’t mix because you only hear Chinese, and where everything seems to happen in another rhythm, with different smells and other customs.

In the middle of this oriental world is where one can strangely encounter the Eldrige Street Synagogue Museum: a reflexive space that has transformed during the years into a place of encounter for the millions of Jewish immigrants in the US. This beautiful temple, full of detail and wonderful stained glass windows, keeps Jewish culture well alive, showing through different educational devices, how their traditions and faith has been kept during the years, in a universe so easy to corrupt or where one’s own culture can get lost, in a world where they will always be seen as foreigners, showing that with constant work you can live your nation far from its land.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One it's enough!

Prejudice against Americans is a historical matter, it’s part of the information inside one’s head without knowing why it’s there, like political or sportive options, always in that historical contradiction travelling from one pole to the other, from love to hate.

Being here I’ve crossed out many myths and internal prejudices regarding this nation, believing that it has many good and even admirable things, because I’ve been happy in a context that can feel hostile, because I’ve felt generosity in the people I’ve met. I’ve learnt a lot, and even though I do not dominate the language, I’ve been able to communicate and feel a constant feedback from the people and the city, enjoying every space, feeling it a bit mine as well.

Having wanted to go back to Times Square, after seeing it from the distance and passing through there once, I hadn’t because I didn’t really feel like it, thinking it uninteresting among the “Things to do in New York” context. But today, after a trip around my neighborhoods, I decided to go, taking advantage of the heat in the humid Spring that’s coming along, as well as the few days left to go back to Santiago. As expected, it was full of people fighting over the same thing: taking the exact photograph everyone else wanted to, beside every icon of consumerism and corporative superficiality. If it may be fun and full of lights, I believe this is the worst face in this city and this country, though it is the perfect example to the idea that to live in a world where we all can fit, we need a balance from both sides. This neighborhood that has always been admired for its lights, pop icons, music and integration, is all that without really being it. I’m not sure if there was too many people or if I didn’t see right, or if the M of McDonalds has me very tired, or if the Coca Cola wave versus the Pepsi wave seemed an distasteful competition, or if the Hard Rock Café was a cool project 20 years ago and is now just a business-making machine with guitars and records: but I didn’t last very long there. I prefer that sensation of silence created by the masses in museums, or by those who fill parks the first day of sun the Spring has to offer.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Commercial art exhibition circuits are usually looked at with untrustworthy eyes and with discrimination from the alternative young or underground crowd, and without doubt there are many motives for this, because they showcase under their spotlight the best and the worst of the art world. Commercial circuits represent a world full of contradiction, a bit intangible for the artist and far from his reality: it’s strange that two universes that need each other so much have such a hard time getting to a sane equilibrium of mutual subsistence. In any case, though one can notice the imbalance, it is not something that particularly stands out. The active existence of alternative circuits that try to function commercially permits artists to live in tranquility, without needing to cross any kind of compromising borders, though both worlds should cross this imaginary line and work together: I believe that it is there where the public, the artists and art curators can find the big true benefit. Would it be possible to do so?

Going through the art galleries in Chelsea I felt very contradictory things. I went to incredible galleries, with very good work and, in the context of “looking around Chelsea”, very simple: where the work made the space, generating a sensation of respect towards the artist and his composition. I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence; maybe not profoundly knowing the system leads to distorting information or the reception of it, but the smaller spaces, less ostentatious, where those where contemporary art was privileged, work from younger and more experimental artists. There also galleries showcasing pieces that are part of the collective imaginary, nor good nor bad, though in ostentatious places. It is there where you inevitably ask yourself what is more important: that the place exists, which is in no doubt important, or the exposition, the work of curators exposing artists? I wondered because I did not want to see a Picasso showing there, o keep on watching pieces from the founding fathers of Pop Art: I’ve seen too much of them in this journey and though I won’t get tired of them, I feel that they are better shown in museums than in what these galleries represent to me, all the reprehensible of the private and commercial art circuits, at least in this city, where one expects that the commercial spaces would work with artists that aren’t in museum, with more creativity, being able to support themselves without trying to be the envious brother of the institutions.

Friday, April 22, 2011


After taking line 7 to Queens and getting off in 103, I began to feel a Latino flavor. Being there was like being in no one’s land, as like no frontiers between countries existed, all united for the same cause and paying the same price for it. I could only hear Sanish around me, in different accents and slang; my Latino ego grew with every step I took towards the place of destination. It’s just that we Latinos have that hot thing that the North American doesn’t have, that gallant and seductive spirit that those born in this northern hemisphere lack. It’s as if we had conquest and seduction incorporated in our organism.

I got to the place with an overflowing feedback: the museum house of Louis Armstrong. Since it was lunchtime, I was the only person in the 2pm tour, which was a good thing. Every tour to important homes I had taken in the area were with groups of Londoners or North Americans touring New York, making the guide’s English fast and fluent, leaving me with moments of not understanding details, decorative decisions and the how the distribution of the house’s inhabitants worked, the protagonists of the story. Because of this I was lost in the best parts, at least in the one were the group would laugh, and my face of not understanding the situation would make the guide reject my presence. This tour wasn’t like this. With a personalized guide, Paul, an elderly man that, though it was hard for him to walk and breathe at the same time, loved his job so much, as well as the Musician’s life. He wanted me to comprehend every detail of the house, of its life and the way that he and his beloved fourth wife had turned this house in Queens into a home for themselves and for all the children that went to their garden for music lessons, filling the parental necessity they could never concretize. Among the houses I’ve visited through this system, it’s by far the coziest, comfortable and human. Now, in some places, like the bathroom, there was an excess of golden colors, but the mirrors on the walls and the roof forgave the ostentatious details, though visually multiplying them. Every corner and every detail were full of joy and good humor. Maybe that’s why his music has been transmitted through generations, laying out groundbreaking work for present day music, because he lived, breathed and felt musical chords.

Enjoying intímate spaces and personal universes, of important icons, entering unexplored worlds in a didactic way, helps understanding, from the intimacy of a home, whe so many people chose to live o leave cities, in this case NY; opening our eyes to history from the place of its protagonists, of the old Newyorkers. Maybe that’s why every time I leave this homes I believe in giving a chance to every corner, park, and avenue in this city.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Staten Island.

All was going well, I had taken the subway to the Ferry; a situation that lead to me a dialogue with a Newyorker, who would go talking to me, all the way, about how the Ferry is different during the day than during the night. The scene for me was very family friendly and touristic; at night it must be rougher, dark and scary.

When I got off in Staten Island it was very easy to get to my first stop: the museum, a local cultural space, quite special and miscellaneous, where you travel through the history of the Ferry, the Island and its environment, in a very educational and didactic way on the first floor, where there was also a temporary exhibition of art by Andrea Phillips. On the second floor, the artwork was interesting. The first impression was of naïf and decorative pieces, but once you got close you could see perfect collages, fun ones, that invited you to travel through the story behind each piece. Characters and scenes created only with pieces of paper and some paint, interesting yet not fabulous.

I left the museum wanting to continue the excursion around this island that was completely unknown to me. But then I thought, that since the first day, everything has been unknown at the beginning, making me feel a special confidence regarding the adventure of this new place: without prejudice, without fear.

I took the bus that would take me to the Buddhist temple: The Staten Island Buddhist Vihara. After talking with the bus driver we managed to agree on which would be my stop, and he promised to tell me when the time came. I sat on a strategic position that would not allow him to forget about me; the rear-view mirror connected us.

When the bus began its transit around the island, I inevitably began observing the characters that surrounded me. Buses here have a different distribution than the ones in Chile, making it impossible not to look at some people in the face, and my strategic position would make me look at two characters that seemed to be extracted from a movie, or even from the criminal pages in a newspaper. He, a small man whose feet didn’t reach the floor, with a big shaved head, fat short hands and an unhappy/psychotic look, reminded me of America’s 10 Most Wanted, or of one of the real evil characters from Prison Break: with a madman’s face and a guttural voice emerging from his messy teeth. With him: She, very strange as well and with an unhappy look, playing with her phone without paying attention to her companion. I began to feel a strange kind of fear, to experiment sensations I had never had, not even here, where no human being is more powerful than the city he’s in: except for them, more powerful than any of us, breathing a halo of evilness, making them stronger, crazy and strong.

Near them it didn’t take long for me to feel a strange nausea, where my stomach was seemingly about to devour me and my throat avoided letting a fearful cry of help out of it. A small while later, a woman got on the bus with here three small children, who generated a smile and excessive happiness on this man. The woman he was with turned her back on him, while he seductively invited the small girl, four years old or so, to sit with him. As she sat, charmed by this smiling monster, he’d caress her leg. A woman that was seeing what I was, got up and gave the mother her seat, taking the girls hand in a subtle way, leading her to the place she should be seating.

As if that wasn’t enough, and trying to stand the present situation, a woman of about 40 (she probably was around 35, looking worn out from life, a hard one for sure) got on the bus accompanied by a young man, who also had a shaved head and a scar that went all around his head. She cried as he took her to the far end of the bed, grabbing her arm tight. Suddenly I began hearing violent sounds, without any cry for help: he’d beat her and no one would do anything. I felt that I had to do something, every single minute, but the language and the fear stopped me. Then I looked at my paradoxical situation from a distance: sitting in a bus surrounded by people extracted from a strange world on the way to a Buddhist temple.

This lead me to get off the bus, trying to take a deep breath and standing straight again: I had been curved as part of a defense mechanism. I crossed the street and waited for the bus that would take me back to the ferry and the Manhattan I knew.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Transmitter / Receiver

I’ve realized that there are situations where it’s really not that important to understand what is being said, because the context and the message are universal, and the way the message comes is a pleasure to the senses, leaving details underneath, making comprehension something that exclusively depends on the speed of the transmitter’s interpretation and of the receiver’s attention.

In Theater 80 a play is currently shown, entitled “The Church of Earthalujah”, where 3 musicians, 1 choir director, 35 excellent singers and 1 reverend, during two fast paced hours, send a Gospel-style message, saying no to consumerism, no to the big corporate machine, no to the misuse of our natural resources and yes to reutilization, to simple living as to stop natural disasters. In this part of the planet they speak of tornados and fires; I remembered our earthquake and the miners, for example, where a group of businessmen wanted to make more money by reduced safety measures, which translated into 33 men trapped 800 meters underground. What I intend to say is that the local problems may be part of the structure of this play, but the message is universal and can adapt to every corner of our planet.

Back in New York I was once again surprised, full of admiration, of the big amount of spaces, voices and public you can find for each different message and for each way of transmitting them. Though the theatre wasn’t full, everyone there was part of the spectacle in a magical way. What is finally important is not the amount of people going to see a show, the amount of people reading a newspaper, a pamphlet or a blog, or the people visiting an art exhibit. What matters it the existence of this space, so that anyone who wants to make the most of it can.