Archive for February, 2013

Save the Date

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Happening: The 9a Bienal do Mercosul takes place in Porto Alegre, Brazil from September 13 to November 10, 2013. The Biennial’s website will be launched in May 2013. In the meantime, you can follow its developments on Twitter and Facebook.

Condition: The title of the Biennial, which will be used less as a name than as a phrase, is an invitation to ponder on when and how, by whom and why, are certain ideas and work made visible or not at a given state of time. The title in Portuguese is: Se o clima for favorável. In Spanish: Si el tiempo lo permite. In English: Weather Permitting.

Point: Each language version of the title brings forth a slightly distinct emphasis, highlighting climate, time, as well as weather as crucial elements in the featured artworks and in the Biennial’s conception. How are atmospheric disturbances that affect, and that have effect, experienced?

Fact: The graphic design studio Project Projects created “Porto Alegre,” a bespoke typographic system for the 9a Bienal do Mercosul. The symbol set adapts glyphs from several scientific contexts, including meteorological charts, condition maps, and early prototype versions of the Periodic Table.

Event: Pictured above is one of the design applications, the “Save the Date” email announcement sent last week, which publicly introduced the typographic system. Click links here to see the title typeset variations on the English, Portuguese and Spanish announcements.

Second Person

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

For you, the common cold is simply uncommon; influenza is far from influencing; a stomachache is more an urban myth than a sharp pain; infection is a synonym of inspiration; virus is something that attacks computers; disease, an invention of antiquity somewhat controlled by modernity; epidemics, a subgenre of apocalyptic fiction; depression and its variations, barometers of cultural tolerance and measure of institutional mores at a given place and time.

Not that you fully embrace these conjectures. These just happen to be the ways that you’ve experienced these maladies.

Sickness is a rarity, your very-seldom visitor. And as you take a drag of your cigarette, you recognize that its paucity is not exactly because you’re a health nut. Wellbeing has simply been around. Most probably, the blessed absence of sickness is a matter of luck. Okay, maybe it’s also because you were raised in a polluted part of the World, where you came naturally into touch and no later immune to most germs.

Ay, but when sickness does strike, its visit is pitiless and dwelling bizarre. It afflicts your major senses.

Something happens in an eye, momentarily blinding you. A next to nothing upsets an ear, briefly leaving you deaf. A thing grows in your vocal cords, provisionally muting you. Exhaustion the plausible source of these ailments, your body goes on strike—telling you it’s seen enough, heard enough, talked enough. Your senses literally shut down. Keep you still. That makes you ill. Handicapped. Guarded yet defenseless. Surrendered to surgeons, their treatments, operations and machines.

This is when an absolute faith in abstract-Others and a strong belief in technology take over your body. Prayers are implored. Antibiotics welcomed. Holistic cures practiced. Witchcraft performed. You’ve tried it all. It’s worked. However, none of this remedies what’s currently affecting you.

This time, for the first time, it’s your sense of intuition that’s uneasy. You get seasick at the sight of a fountain. You’ve often forgotten to wear your Teflon suit. You’re vulnerable. Suspicion is a breath away from awareness. Feeling more than enough. And, you’re overdoing it, the sense of intuition tells you, making it work extra time in that very insinuation.

For once, you’ve fortunately identified the signs before the crash. Some symptoms are evident. The right side of your head spools white hair. A fault line deepens between the eyebrows. The upper part of an ear blushes. Some other symptoms are invisible. The muscle behind the breastbone pulsates unsteadily. Blood heats. A certain aspect of the metabolism accelerates.

You point these indicators to others, to see if they notice, to brainstorm causes, to recommend antidotes. People tell you not to worry. Your friends say we’re only getting older. Your family says that it’s life, intensely lived. Your colleagues say that it’s stress. They all suggest vacationing. Your stylist advises dyeing your hair; your yoga instructor to hold your pose longer; your psychoanalyst to increase the frequency of meetings. Your doctor gives you probiotics and creams.

You truly find all this hackneyed. You feel you didn’t explain your debility just right or that they simply, palpably made a wrong diagnosis. You wonder if this is because pain doesn’t ensue with this sickness (and if it does, you’re body is too tolerant to acknowledge it, externalize it), and without that apparent sign, whatever noticeable proof of your condition goes undermined.

Ugh, for that very thought, your instincts were beseeched. Yet again, your sense of intuition put to work.

All the while, the sense of intuition’s boycott seems impending, and you’ve decided to pre-empt that. You’ll come to terms. The sense of intuition is your dearest. You need it more than anything. Want it. You trust it. You know it’s irreplaceable. There’s no natural prosthesis for it, and artificial intelligence is not significantly advanced to rely on. Besides, you know your body best. You must act, and you have a hunch that resistance is an essential characteristic of that very action.

The self-prescribed, preventive cure you’ve concocted: to shift decision making from the right to the left side of the brain. Better for melanin to decrease from that part of the head, you think, and just like that, you deduce that it’s best to logically address certain matters. Most. If only transitorily. You want your sense of intuition at the forefront, except you deem it’s vital to leave it resting and healing for a bit. You’ve rationalized this. It agrees. Finds ease.

The challenge of the treatment will be how to avoid the wrought belief of common sense supplanting the sense of intuition. And you prepare to tackle this.

You purchase Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor. Download all Lispector’s novels. Dive in Laguna’s poems. You frequent cafés named Barbarella, Alto Astral, and the cosmic like. You even make time for solitude at the ever-barest Everest. You take up a new language, and in that infantilizing learning-process you cling onto basic words, forget complexity, and disregard enunciation, that is, intent, because, fact is, you’re unable to fully grasp it… for now. You think.

You study Cancer, not your horoscope, but the disease that has assaulted close friends, that tough course on empathy that you’ve skipped. You address the signs of aging in loved ones, that stage of filtering memories, that questionable argument for deskilling, the hardest class on compassion. These sicknesses that have (up to this point) only presented themselves as lessons in life, some of which you’ve clearly flunked before, will be tried again.

Image: “I’s for the Cubies’ Immense Intuition” from The Cubies’ A B C by Mary Mills Lyall and Earl Harvey Lyall (USA: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1913), drawn from after Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, and landing here via Mario Garcia Torres.

Emeralds, Album Records, and Turkish Delight

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

In the past six months, I’ve had a handful of experiences that I’ve come to consider gems. These are passing instances that are small relative to world events; that are mostly brief and light, unlike the span and weight that comes with life; that are ephemeral as the second that just passed by. Yet, these are significantly shining, valuable moments to treasure. So when artists Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson invited me to participate in their new project with and about gems, I accepted with no hesitation.

I wore one of the four precious-stone artworks created by the artists. It was a work in the form of a pendant. This was a roving, intimate display of sorts preceding the artist’s current exhibition, Making a Record (Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald). My then pendant has three emeralds: the larger one is the raw, natural mineral; the thinner one is sculpted as a sharp spine, and was used as the stylus to record an album about emeralds; a rounder piece is a cut crystal, like those more commonly seen in jewelry.

Emerald was the color of the tunic I was dressed in the day I met Caetano Veloso. That sunny morning, I learned about a song he dedicated to his friend, the artist Lygia Clark. Apparently I gifted that musical theme to someone with whom I didn’t exactly want a friendship. (Where did I go wrong?) Emerald the present’s ribbon. Emerald also the color of the box of pistachio Turkish Delight, those candies savored on the afternoon of farewell to such affair. Hexagon the shape of that little candy box, as the form of the pendant’s largest, natural stone.

The gemologist and jewelry designer Karen L. Davidson, who was interviewed by the artists, her words recorded onto the album with the stylus on the pendant, tells that emeralds are a gem considered both fragile but hard; that these have a longer history than most stones; that they are great for one’s vision. It’s been hard not to associate my temporary pendant with other comings and goings that have, at best, arrived and ended because of some misinterpretation, at worst, because of finding indistinguishable the differences between possession and comprehension.

Now with the pendant’s physical absence yet its luminosity’s presence, I keep on reconsidering the assumed but most probable fragility of this hard, long-history stone. And so, I recognize that emerald is indeed the color, the mineral, the hexagonal crystal that has accompanied me lately in learning about what bonds, on how intimacy or complicity binds. Emerald is my gemstone. It’s the brilliant companion that keeps me lit even when it’s hard to shine.

Pictured above is the emerald pendant of Making a Record (Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald) by Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson, an exhibition on view at Audio Visual Arts in New York City from January 18 to February 17, 2013. Pierre Huyghe, Marina Warner, and Jamieson Webster wore and wrote about the three other pendants.