A protest against our own worst nature

I went to Washington DC to the Women’s march.

In the preceding days, I asked myself: why people protests? and if my presence in such event will make any difference at all.

Protest is a space for expression of emotions. A space for release. However, they do not necessarily resemble a viable and tangible change. If we circle back in time, we can identify countless occasions and instances of protest. The news are very good at documenting inconformity. However, I still did not feel I had a big underlying reason to go.   The political deception sparked all sorts of positions and actions, but still, I found myself without the inner fire to be enthusiastic about a protest in which there was a reference to a different group in society and, on top, did not see any derivable tangible action

My motivation, instead, came from the words of Václav Havel. In one of his books he states that our biggest enemy is ourselves. Our indifference to the challenges that we face and other humans experience. That indifference to the common good, he declares it to be our own worst nature.

So I got rid of my worst nature, indifference, and went.

In all earnest, we have continuously ignored the woman’s role in society and its potential to soothe conflict. I’ll bet you, if in that march there were equal amount of men, the likelihood of an aggressive act will be a certainty. The vibrations and emotions emanated from a confluence of evident discriminatory traces and oppressing ideas was hard to bear. For a more detail description of large group dynamics I recommend the book Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti. It is an interesting case to see how well woman respond to such dynamics.

Additionally, the call (in the march) was to not only present ourselves physically in the march as a discreet event in time but also present ourselves continously in the challenging aspects of everyday life. And that is the message that is actually going to make a difference. I agree. The battle is in our day to day decisions. I am very glad I got to be there and be reminded that, although the march will not create an immediate change, daily action, devotion to a cause, in our day to day becoming, will ultimately create the environment for change.

I have a lot of reasons to keep working day to day on myself. And protest against my own worst nature, everyday.

As a final remark, at some point the stream of people swarming the streets pushed me to a large crowd in front of a hotel tower owned by a business men, who now runs one of the largest enterprises in the world, and we exclaimed at full power, at full vocal, lung, and human capacity: Shame!!! Shame!!! Shame!!! Shame!!! Shame!!!

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Nieuw Amsterdam

Every time I go to the Dali’s museum at Saint Petersburg, FL I leave fascinated. It is the same museum. I have been there four times. Each time I highlight either a new perspective, piece, interactions that I have not seen before or become more fascinated about a painting previously examined.  The Dali’s pieces portrayed are monumental in scope and ambition .

The museum of Dali at Figures, Spain, also has some remarkable features. It has Dali’s essence in terms of the bast collection of earlier works, it has his signature since he allowed the space himself and it has his grave. I can not compare both museum’s. They have different works and structures.  The  Mae West Lips Sofa exhibit submerges completely the viewer in his surrealist piece.

This time, the one that struck me is Nieuw Amsterdam. This a very symbolic criticism to the way merchants valued what today is Manhattan – a string of beads. That is XVII century and heaps of unimaginable events and conditions lead to this transaction. From this perspective it was one of the first valuation attempts made from the Colonist. The lowest price. And for the natives, who knows what kind of confusing thought pattern ( confusing for me, clear for them) led them to give away land. Maybe they thought it they were welcoming good spirits, who knows? who really knows? What we do know is what remains today. And if we look at the landscape of New York and compared it to the one 400 years ago. Have we taken any good care of the land?  What have we produced?

When the world was at war Dali escaped from  Spain and came to the US and settle for a while in NY. There he painted some of the monumental paintings that are now exhibited in St. Petersburg, FL. It is all interconnected. White Eagle a spiritual leader of the Poncas represents one of the last leaders of Native American to oppose the Bureau of Indians Affairs dictamen to move to all tribes into confinement in reservations. It is all interconnected.

From the beginning to the end the intervention in the bust fills with critique the passage of time and the actions of those represented in them. The first valuation of the land, and the last persona fighting into and against confinement. A very interesting message.

In times of public deception, creativity and pieces of art that make evident what is forgotten are valuable. It is a call to enact dialog in terms of what we are truly pursuing with our thoughts, arguments, positions and in general, way of life. This perspective of making evident with expressive techniques the complexities, paradigms and contrarieties of our world is a peaceful, creative and beautiful position to cherish.
What else is there left for us?
But to create

Without indifference
Without vanity
A new world

A peaceful eve
Ushers warm nights
Befriends cool days

Create a new one
A new expression
An old story
An old lesson

A new lesson

Bring value to life
To our world
Learn
Create

Release the tension
Unify the colors
Shed some light
Jump into darkness

Let in the rain
Let in the wind
They left
We have not

 

 

 

Public Sculpture & Energy: The Role of Artists in Energy Transition Times

Pragmatic is the approach that is entitled to engineers and their profession. Subjective and philosophical is the role that is attributed to artist and their profession. An exploration of the merge of the two characteristics is encouraged to evidence, promote, and highlight the role of the artist, if possible, unify them into examining present environmental challenges of our time.

There is a concurrent and present dialog about nature, environment and the exploration of the resources that encompass us. This jargon, as a collection of interventions, was constructed over several years of social mobilization. From the late 1960’s several socio political movements raised to open the space for environmental groups among other voices that were ignored at the time. This opening created a cultural vocabulary in which words such as, green, environment, resources, sustainability gained social value. That is, they became part of the culture that used them to refer to the events that were important to address as a social collective. Around the same time, and as a result of the movements, the practice of public art and installation was also born. It was one of the many tools among protest, manifestation, political liberation, insurrection used to construct such dialog [1].

The role of artist and engineers in the environmental dialog has merged into disperse and conflicting identities and spaces. From that historical perspective, artist had the leading role of shaping aesthetic symbols to nurture ideas of change. The role of the engineer was to become aware of the new realm opened to explore his pragmatic interaction with the environment. Such roles were not static, the evolved in differentiated shapes and have become what we see today. The engineer now is aware that his practices create environmental unbalances, and further explores his sets of techniques to diminish them. The artists, obliterated by the passage of time without sensible change has isolated itself in spaces of abstraction. Those spaces of abstraction led to the creation of public art installations that ushers confusion.

With their public abstractions, artist’s behavior is further described by Malcolm Miles as;

“keeping a secret from the world, creating the effect of knowing something it does not and will never know that is so central to avant-garde art, is not only a paranoid withdrawal from the worlds indifference, but also a vicious, however, sublimated attack on it.” [2]

From the pedestrian perspective the landscape has been inundated with buildings (product) structures. In cities such as Pittsburgh, Sydney, New York. Pedestrians find themselves into a hunt, to dig up and find meaning in cities public expressions among the vast sea of buildings and living spaces. From such interactions, the public feels as an aesthetic incompetent, the authorities that manage public resources confirm that same public disguise, and the public at large reflects on the interaction as an active source of a joke [2]. There is a lack of representation. There is no shared identity in the work of the artists.

The artist retreat into movements and specialized contemporary abstract practices led him isolated and heavily influenced by the same society it tried to alienate. “Most of public sculpture does not have aesthetic value in the eyes of the public it is supposed to serve.” [2] How can it be another way? The colossal machinery of commodification that surrounds us permeates every single corner of the western world. I felt deeply disappointed to sense this reality. I sought in the class Sculptures’ Expanded Field of Installation/Site art a space for liberation of the commodification intrusivness experienced as an engineer.  What a disturbing impression is to find, that the artist, in aims to find legitimation of its work, turned out to be a bureaucrat. Creating novelty within restricting settings to then replicate it oversee it, institutionalize it and at the end of the day, manage it, distribute it, and sell it. Continuously I sensed that this ideology of the new and mass consumption also permeated the art world. The continual new, the same attitude that created present environmental challenges. Even if the reader is not a believer on climate change, the continual new has the characteristics that it displaces streams of harmony for temporary alibis, reinforcing short attentions spans, momentary pleasures, as described by Kown [5] “A compensatory fantasy in response of the intensification of fragmentation and alienation wrought by a mobilized market economy (following the dictates of capital)” A temporary antidote, for the anxiety boredom, for humans that are caged, in the jail of consumerism. The beauty appreciation of our actions, that is providentially given by gifted artists, is set aside for production.

The artist is then in a position of using and reinforcing present ideologies to manifest its abstract position, a circumscribed mechanism that must be challenged. There is no use in denying it. Yes, it is rooted in our ideology of capital. While the engineer has found support of public policies to pursue his methods, due to the increase of revenue that it generates, the artist has no support from the policy arena. Its concepts are not valued by the system so the economic structure has turned his back on the artist and sees them as mere form of entertainment, not as an active ingredient of developing a society[1]. “The cultural turn in public policy mirrors the artist oversight of the agency of members of society to imagine its future for itself.” [4] I like the remark made by Malcom Miles about how to enact change we need to look for new methods “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” he says. An ideology of capital is so enmeshed and permeated into the world that it has become who we are. Again, it manifests itself as a conflict between social schemes with no representation and a set of continuing streams of materials. An artist in the cloud of abstraction finds no motivation what so ever to represent the dormant public. More art commodification will not create an inclusive society, it will just create more stuff, and distractions to let time pass by. Artist, if you are to become a bureaucrat anyway; why not play the role of a useful bureaucrat? As a whimsical attempt to reclaim art’s seriousness in face of a mass culture of absurdity and deception, let us venture in to the promethean task of negotiating aesthetic values with the public. A task that will surely seek to transform our present ideology of the new.

The promises of the artist potential are examined by negotiating and giving new meaning of the public space. “Perhaps it is away to pursue a negotiation of values through work which occupies an axis between resistance and complicity, but does not resolve the tension, but rather makes it evident” With responsive stances artist create forms with social meaning, meaning that work as “ideological tokens” [1] to drive change. A systematic creation in public spaces of personal encounters. Creating mental lapsus in which the public experiences glimpses of liberation. There is an interstitial place in society that is calling to filled up. It is urgent to test concepts, assumptions, and boundaries, risk and uncertainties of the present world. When the artist is called to address and give value to present aesthetic annoyances of the world, he faces the challenge and temptation to decline to be involved in the valuation of aesthetics (on moral grounds) and turn into a commodification business. Nevertheless, it also has the social responsibility almost duty to value the aesthetic circumstances that we have enmeshed ourselves. By depositing ideological tokens into the public’s mind, the artist positions in the void interstices of our collective minds a new set of lexical connotations; harmony, dignity, understanding, uncontestable values that would expand our vocabulary and push us into new forms of ideologies and dialogs.

To bring tangible action artist can find in engineers, their solid expertise on developing concepts and getting public policy resources, a support to develop and take to completion their projects. This is an integrative challenge to unify the concepts of prosperity and beauty in an eternal dance of pragmatic features and philosophical stances. “If a society believes that it will benefit from a population in which delight results from attention and reflection given to certain intrinsic features, it will attempt to provide opportunities for aesthetic experiences …  all that is needed is shared traditions and readiness and ability to stop an indulge” [4] A promise of representations that it will be so attractive that the public finds pleasure in it. Don’t artists make a promise with the beautiful by default? Keep that promise, and put it at the service of our interactions with our surroundings.

The artist cannot enjoy the position of endless critic and abstractor. It is opted to do, create tools, ideologies that challenge the present. Create consensual pieces as ideological tokens that make sense to all of us involved in the context of the piece. Additionally, enhance awareness of people who are delighted and not confused; in order to construct a new set of terminology that sparks dialog with a dormant society.

Those who are in the pursuit of social change ought to consider the public spaces as enabling arena where social change is enacted. As time has passed we take a look around and we observe cities, spaces, and people living their hectic life. The installation of objects in public spaces instead of resonating with the dogmas of the past, have the enormous opportunity to facilitate the ideological transition to awareness with our surrounding and resources. We don’t need to seclude inbounds or scape the places we inhabit. We have the great occasion to let artist come in, speak and give appreciation to our daily environments. Their appreciation is to increasingly take part of our daily interactions and relate us, speak to and transform our public spaces.

What reactions members of society in public spaces are emanating? Are we isolating ourselves and as Merlin said it, seeing at a distance how the world is burn by evil lunatics? Or are we vibrating with the harmony and beauty that artist has shared with us and opening the doors for their appreciation of nature? If we take into consideration the psychological, physical and ideological responses to public art and how we can shape the mindset of society by addressing such encounters, then, we can certainly state that a positive response in terms of peace, harmony and dignity to those spaces reflects a confirmation that we are doing a decent evaluation of our environment and ultimately echo that human energy emanated alone is a piece of art [6].

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This piece in Pittsburgh downtown it is amazing, very few people can see it though.

[1] The Practice of Public Art – Edited by Cameron Cartiere and Shelly Willis

[2] Critical Spaces: Monuments and Changes – Malcolm Miles

[3] Art, Space and the City Public art and urban futures – Malcolm Miles

[4] Basic Issues in Aesthetics Marcia Muelder Eaton- Waveland Press

[5] One Place After Another: Notes on Site specificity – Miwon Kwon October

[6] ‘Human energy alone is a work of art’: Nancy Spector on the role of artists in society

[1] In the case of the U.S., Can we compare the budget for the National Endowment of the Arts, with the budget for the military (Defense budget)? Let us thrown some numbers. A federal budget for the National Endowment of the arts od $146 million with reduction of 13% over the last three federal budgets versus and increasing $601 billion for defense.

The visual and the non-visual

And yes! As little kids we read stories at night before going to bed. In those stories we found meaning to our existence. We compare our art of living with other stories. It was easy to believe them. I still believe some of them.

I particularly believed, from those childhood stories, that I could do anything that I want. And it has been proven to be really difficult. It is too much. But I believed in them. I believe that could contribute by being active in the development of renewables and, it happened.

Some other possibilities I did not see them because I did not believe in those stories. I did not believe I was going to stay long in Colombia. So I am not there.

I had to see to believe. But what are those things that we can’t see and we must believe.

Bah! If I am only visual for example I will be condemned to a life of visual impositions from external agents. There must be more.

The visual aspects are there. We sometimes create barriers to visual stimuli. But then the stimuli becomes larger, and then we make grater barriers, and the the stimuli becomes larger. And you may think were this is going, I have no idea.

The non visual is fundamentally developed by sense expansion and meditation. I understand that we are limited on the perceptual input from our senses. And that limitation has been explored for centuries. Our present tools, which are nothing but extension of the mind, help us invade new sensorial worlds. Some times expanded, some times contracted, it is all a marvel.

In those environments we don’t know what to believe in because we don’t understand what we sense. So for the moment let us keep it simple.

I believe I can contribute. I trust those tales. I believe in water turbines, fresh mornings and tea. I believe in bicycles, wind turbines and electric cars. I believe on the purpose of my ideals and that they are genuine.  I made mistakes very frequently but that is the way I learn.

Art, and society please wake up. There is visual, we have seen it all. And if we continue we will see it. We will see it all. But what about those non visual aspects. Those things we can not see.

And here are some words from Nancy Spector about her museum of human conversation:

“The key, the connection you talked about, and something I think is very important for us to think about in the art world, is that this came from a deep conviction about sustainability. That the world, perhaps, does not need any more objects. Now, we can contest that and I don’t want to throw out every wonderful artwork that hasn’t been made, but at that time it felt really important. It was a very moving artwork that relied on oral tradition and the museum actually bought that artwork and it now exists as an idea that can be restaged. It’s the notion of not using the world’s resources—human energy alone is a work of art.”

Those are the things we can not see. The ideas.

 

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Gyroscopic Regulator

Society witnesses in perplexity the downfall of moral values. In perplexity.

This is not a quote from me. It is a quote that I found while scavenging some old books. It was a tear from a newspaper in the late seventies. A premonition of what would be 30 to 40 years of social struggle that only lead to the divisions we see today in Colombia’s peace treaty (plebiscite).

It is surprising to me to see time and time again how social change takes extensive amounts of time. We are talking decades and decades to meddle slight, slight nuances of change. It is a sprout of a dwarf and delicate mutative flower searching to rise in an amalgamated forest of millennial growth.

The social change that I am referring to it is simple. It is called spirituality. We live in an spiritual denial in the western world. Tired of the tales of fear telling us what is right or wrong, in external frameworks and perceptual impositions. What is evident is, disconnection. Disconnection to the meaning beyond material requisitions and momentary pleasures, visual distractions.

For the present detachment I propose a gyroscopic regulator. In which we have many axis, we can position ourselves in degrees of freedom and move within forces that permeate the world, while not being indifferent to induced tilting . Free to assume our personal position. This regulator is made of simple embracing mechanisms that allow movement and more important, orientation. The direction of orientation is spiritual.

It will take time until we understand the importance of ourselves in the larger circle of life.  The world is full of magical stories. The ones that manage to resonate, historically, are about those humans that in their discipline, found awaking from the material nightmare. Examples, are there. Why do we have to explain everything we do? Scientific reasoning without addressing the spiritual value of life has its present downfalls. Why aren’t Newtons theological and ontological essays disclosed?. Fear, fear, fear.

It is extremely easy to fall for the minimum energy level and picture gloomy days and somber futures.  Stories that won’t work. Failure scenarios. Do nothing, think nothing, cope. The world it is how it is and has always been like that. WHAT! The world has never been like it is now. On the other hand, it takes courage and  substantial amount of energy to make change.

Consider the following sources of change:

  • Children  [ and what we instill in them ]
  • Art  [ not the bureaucratic, transactional one ]
  • Social discontent  [ beyond social platforms ]
  • Revolution  [ the imposed one ]
  • Rebellion  [ the inner one ]

The combination that lures my attention: Art, children and rebellion. Action, energy and inner change.

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Art flyer – Michael Quinn is work: touching, raw, and inspiring
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Another Place by Catherine Zao – It is fun to see adults play as we call; children
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So many words, unreachable and blown by the wind, keep coding , keep coding

 

Meshing with a city

BOOM!!!!!

Here I am again for along month of absences. Here is what happened with my life since I left the West Coast.

No more adventures like the ones before. I am back at Pittsburgh dealing with papers and books and papers and books. Occasionally one or two interesting ideas come to mind.  This is a period that I enjoy a lot because I can be secluded and in isolation to read and think.

So what have you been thinking, big thinker!

I feel that schools pushes really hard for people to get jobs. And that is a bad idea. And you have to pay to get skills to get jobs. You know where this post might be going but no. This is not a post about education. I dread them since they mostly debate the same issues.  This is about the mindset of the people.

And this is the question that I ask myself sometimes. What is the mindset of the people?  I have seen that, the mind set, since I took my body off the bike, for people is to work and have a life. And a life means anything that keeps you busy so you can say your busy having a life.

I was busy having a life in my bike and it was quite a different one. It has not been easy to transition from the adventure to the stoic stationarity of a city. In the first days I wanted to ride, to go to the library or to the park. Slowly, very slowly I started riding less until now I ride only to school.  The first weekend I felt anxious from being in a closed space and with some of my friends we went to a river and we explored a bit.

It was an abnormal sensation to go back into a house. “What is this place? ” I thought as I came back into the house I live ” I live in a box!!!” And yes, having been in the outdoors for a summer made me realize that we have confined ourselves to small places.

When I was in the really small town of Jackson – Montana, I met a woman. She was doing the Pacific Trail and she looked seasoned from walking not only that present journey but others she had done in the past. We shared conversations and I remembered two things in particular from her. First, she is from a LA and she said she should not go back there because people live like rats. I thought it was a harsh comment. However, in order to keep open any type of idea I kept listening. She said how we live in small boxes and we have no conscious of what we consume. And she kept going and going. And my mind diverted into the idea of … really? humans with rats?. I would say that there is an incoherence in the way we see the world. We do not have a sense of what it means to live in a city and the amount of resources it consumes. We do not have a sense of what we consume and what it takes to produce it. Cities detach that aspect from our interactions. What  cities produce is an infinitive interaction of ideas. To run the ideal city every single individual in it would have to produce its resources and deal with its own trash. Hmm… pretty ideal. However , there is a detachment and, to make it more diplomatic, to not acknowledge it would make us look like baser animals, like rats. ( funny how the majority of the experiments carried out to test if some drug, signal, strategy should be applied to humans is done first, with rats, ha! like rats)

The second part of her story was that, as she looked at me, she said: “you know Nico, you know that this is not your last trip, you know that, you can not stop now”. We spoke very briefly about the sense of freedom that one develops in those long journeys and I must agree, it is an amazing sensation of freedom. She said that she does her walking because she feels free and that she can do what ever she wants and no one is there to tell her what to do, what or when to eat, which direction to walk. Yes, it is all some how true.

I partially agree with the freedom truth. Partially, because the idea that we came to this world only to have fun and to recreate doing whatever activity we do is a distorted message.  I believe the world is a very large enterprise and we are all in this. Our contribution to the human development should not be small or tiny. I believe the contribution should encompass using our full capacity. And sometimes, by just being a free fairy in the woods we might not deal or address the thick morality issues we face today. All the big questions of who we are? and what are we really pursuing here? are not going to come from proving that we all can be free. Actually that might be our jail to think we can live in a wonder world full of rainbows, scaping and protecting our short life from other humans when at the same time there are billions of people leading their lives under tales of fear, tyrannic governments, slavering ideals (study, work, reproduce, die). If she tells me, “Nico, I am freeing souls of their mental slavery so people can see, pursue, and contribute to the earthly happiness project as I am doing, just walking” I agree with that. But she didn’t, so I don’t believe we all should be walkers.  At the end, the ACTION is the same. And I just projected two wordy scenarios over the same outcome: “A lady walks on the woods, and believes in freedom” Is up to me to decide what to do about it. Rebel, believe in freedom, scorn that useless idea or just don’t believe in anything this post says. Isn’t that the small freedom that we have left?; to decide. Other than that, it is all and illusion.

A while a go I decided. “That’s it!!! Life is way too cool to don’t ride bicycles like crazy” So I did it.

Recently,  I felt like writing a post. I decided. So I did it. This post is over.

 

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Portland! (And the sea)

I read the blog post before in which I highlighted (very proudly) that “I have camped seven days in a row.” That, my friends, is nothing compared to the last leg of the trip. From Joseph, OR, to Portland it was a camping adventure. 525 miles of camping.

In Portland I did a trip to the ocean with Maddie, she is good! She also said I should make her look good, there is no need for that; she made it to the ocean and kept the pace of camping in unknown places and riding fast in the downhill 🙂

I arrived to the ocean and that’s it. Done.

Well, for those who like accounting, overall in the lapse of 81 days or so I did over 3710 miles on the bicycle, (I am not counting small detours on campsites and stores etc.) That is almost the same distance to center of the earth but as you may know that distance is an approximation, nobody has reached it. As a kid, I read Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. I like to wonder about the adventure of Axel down there. I climbed 112,830 feet- that is, approximately four times the altitude at the top of mount Everest. Also, I descended an estimated three and half times to the deepest point in the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. Humans are awesome.

Those stats are just numbers. The real accounting does not exist, and there is no medal or reward at the end of the journey as one of my fellow bicyclist remarked. So what it is all this for? The 81 days “off the grid” with me promoting “solar energy” and “solar” changes and behaviors with a solar panel and a bike.

At the beginning of the journey I made some remarks on motivation, on emotions and wishes taking into consideration emotive words from Dr. Carl Lewis from CMU’s graduation ceremony saying that “I will change the world, responsibly.” I guess I took it the wrong way. No single man on a bike, even if he goes to Jupiter with his bike (I know there is no road, yet) can change the world by himself.  My message for myself is then: “Nico: change yourself – the world, your world, your created perspective will follow- just change yourself.”

I am again on the path to do so. I hope the readers join in their own way.

“Every human around us is a story teller, every single one of them distorts the truth.”

-Don Miguel Ruiz

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Boom!
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Reporting from the ocean
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On my birthday, I was fortunate to do the things I like the most: Dipped myself in the ocean, had tea, got some plants and  dinner with the best of ‘Merica.