Dear Middle Eastern People,
I noticed the recent change on college applications indicating the Federal Government of the United States of America has welcomed you into the white category. This has some beneficial timing for the greater body of government because it will allow for the retroactive re-writing of the most recent Iraq War, not as a colonial invasion based on misinformation, but rather as an inter-familial kerfuffle. These things happen; and I promise you, white families just don’t get along well. I was surprised at the college application change and more surprised that no one has seen fit to comment on the change itself. I’m not too sure if you were consulted or not on your opinion regarding the matter. In the interest in being hospitable, I want to welcome you to being white and give some friendly advice.
PRO-TIP #1: Avoid the faux pas of any involvement with the KKK, Neo-Nazis or any other white supremacy group. The majority of us know they are an unfortunate contemporary descendant of some of the darkest chapters in history. We all just need to be patient and wait for the last of them to die out.
PRO-TIP #2: Talk to some Jews! The Jewish people have had long and complex history of inclusion / exclusion with white America / Europe and will be valuable mentors capable of providing experienced insight. They will be of particular help in sharing their experiences in schools and college environments.
PRO-TIP#3: Ditch any beards and hijabs and get really interested in cardigan sweaters. The majority of white America goes in for mainstreaming and cardigan sweaters big time. This basic change will put other whites at ease instantly.
The real lesson here is that “race” is not real; it is an artificial concept, a construct, a convenience, a contrived method of categorization. Race can mean whatever people want it to mean and has been variable in meaning throughout America’s history. Ethnicity as real: that people come from different regional, cultural and heredity origins is a scientific truth. Race is a construct like “Republican” or “Democrat”; “Conservative” or “Liberal”; any larger label for simple identification like these examples which is ultimately an imaginary, artificial creation.
Since “race” is made-up and imaginary, it is not real information, and supplying an answer regarding race on college applications is actually optional. I know filling out college applications can take up a lot of time, so save a few seconds in the process and skip supplying information on race. Furthermore, the use of race identifiers as a factor for college or university admission is illegal in certain states. Together we can all stop playing the race game and quit going along with the antiquated census concepts of prior centuries.
Multi-media artist and avid mail art trader Sher Terbush [NaughtyElf] just got a good swift kick in the teeth right before the holidays. Some little punks have been taking out car windows with ball bearings and slingshots where she lives, and these snots destroyed the windshield of the family vehicle rendering it un-drivable until is replaced. This has been a hard year for them and they live from paycheck to paycheck. People are banding together to help the family out through this rough patch and give a little extra for a nice holiday season for them and their very adorable little kids. Check out these two links and pass them forward.
I just read the registered voters list at my polling place and I am not on it. My boyfriend is not on it either. This location is one block from our front door and where we have voted in every election. I hurried home to check my voter ID card, and the precinct is correct: 47th Ward, 40th Precinct. Chicago recently gerrymandered the wards in some redistricting bullshit. This voting location I go to used to be for both the 17th and 40th precincts but it now just the 40th. That is our exact location to vote and they have neither of our names.
This is where the story gets better: there are the names of three people with the same surname linked to my address and they do not live here. There are only three apartment units to the street address, so it is easy to know all my neighbors’ names. I have been at my current residence since June 2008 and I never heard of these people. I just saw my landlord and asked him about this family; the name is unfamiliar, he says they were never tenants of his.
WTF Chicago? Rigged or incompetent, it does not look good to me. Historical fact: President Abraham Lincoln won on Chicago’s rigged votes. To be fair, both sides of the election were rigging the votes back then; the Democrats were also shooting to death Republican voters in the South en masse. The days of Capone’s mob and the rise of Cicero perfected election fraud and government control. Chicago is really special that way. We both voted for Obama and then voted against Rahm. Would that have anything to do with this? Where did the phantom family of three come from? What if I did not happen to look at the list? The custodian of the church was out front smoking and had it on him. He drew my attention to it. What if I never saw that? I would not have had a way to prove that my vote was tampered with because there is no receipt system to validate what was selected. I am going to raise a ruckus if they try to turn me away from voting. Do I seriously need to bring my pocket HD video camera to vote?
Hey, election judges! You better start your morning with a cup of coffee and be alert by the time you get in to the polling places. If my reasonably orderly, quiet neighborhood is messed up, I can only imagine how bad wards and precincts with a higher population density and more transient residents will be.
Forwarned is forearmed, but it’s too late when they have cashed your check and you find yourself stuck at a total waste of time show. Try to Google search information about shows in advance and talk to other artists before you sign up for one; make the investment less of a gamble. I generally avoid outdoor vending yet one event was not a festival show. Here are three Chicago events every artist should avoid and why:
Lincoln Square Art Walk. This is not a community event; it is something wrangled up by Allaina the owner of Granville Picture Framing at 4757 N. Lincoln Avenue. Allaina ignored the neighborhood association and the local chamber of commerce, skipped the businesses she felt like and I told her to her face I felt the whole event was concocted to rustle up business for her store. I gave them my CD of works, application and a $20 check August 27th, just ahead of the deadline for the show. On October 10th Allaina sends me a kick in the ass email to get my paintings to a store location before October 18th. I did not even know I was in the show! I book shows months in advance and I have no professional relationship with this woman. No prior contact, rude, terrible organization and no apologies either. If you argue with her, she will escalate. I with-held my art from the one night event at Dank Haus German American Cultural Center in protest but brought it to the shop that I was partnered with in order to not screw them over. This was not an art walk, this was a train wreck.
Portage Park Art & Antiques Show. Make a permanent mental note, anything hosted by a school or religious organization is pandering for donations and not a good venue to go to, ever. The Knights of Columbus oddly upped the fee to this event; I think it is $80 or more now for two days. The Knights have a broad view of what is allowed under the term “collectibles”. No fine artist sells anything much here and I hope you like squirrels, because you are going to be looking at them for a long time. If you want to set your paintings next to a guy hawking a box of old VHS tapes, faded packaged toys and aged kitchen utensils, go ahead. This is not an art fair; it is a flea market.
Rockwell Crossing Art Walk. This event was dead and gone for years. I had the misfortune to sign on for an attempt at resurrection the last time it was held. There were only a few bored locals roaming around. I had small, framed paintings and large color silkscreen prints under $20 and did not sell one single thing in the whole eight hour day. I am still fuzzy on what they did for promotions besides cash my check. The event is gone again but if it does a boomerang and someone tries to re-start it again, take a pass. This is my neighborhood and the locals are spending their money on craft beer, events at Old Town School of Folk Music and tattoos.
Your Stupid Pet Card by Shellie Lewis, collage on illustration board, 11″ x 17″
I seriously relate to why Takashi Murikami has angst. I wish people would stop the anthropomorphism of animals and our food, and the anthropomorphism food is particularly ridiculous. At least animals are alive. We have a gecko selling us car insurance, hamsters selling us cars and a duck selling us bridge insurance simultaneously on television. Screw the cute animals; I’m holding out for something being sold by a rattlesnake or ferocious predator. If a talking wolf pitches a brand of vodka, I’m going out to buy it.
I’m not sure if the advertising world thinks we are all children or if I am stuck in an Aesop story. At least I figured out how to get rid of the dopey cards I get in the mail. The macaw was particularly annoying for yelling at me with a word balloon that I was overdue to make an appointment for an eye exam. Hey stupid bird, I don’t have money or insurance right now, so get off my back!
A new, technologically-based form of protest has arrived in Chicago. It is quiet, moving and makes for powerful images. The new group is called the Overpass Light Brigade. This is the best thing to come out of Wisconsin since cheese curds.
From their Facebook feed:
Powerful Bridge Party last night – Chicago style! And yes, we brought out a “heroes” message on 9/11. We honor the fallen by embracing life and respecting each other. We honor the fallen by making a better world through education. There are many forms of heroism, and the quiet daily struggles of hard working people do not diminish the dramatic sacrifice that 9/11 signifies.
This is an instructional video on how to make your own light up letters on their site from the OLB website.
The creators of Buckyballs is asking for fans to write to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and politely ask they not ban the sales of the popular magnetic toy. Buckyballs recently funded another invention as a way to give back and my friend Will McShane was the first person to buy a set. As I hear it, there is a concern that small children have or may eat the small magnetic balls. The toy was never meant for small children, and anyone whose kid has access to and is eating small magnets definitely needs better parental supervision.
Guest post by Jessica Lyn Howard
I submitted this design for consideration in the 49th Ward’s Underpass Competition.
It’s called City Orange, in homage to Chicago’s old sodium vapor lamps. They are slowly being replaced with the more energy-efficient ceramic metal-halide lamps. While I admire Chicago’s dedication to being green, I will miss the pervasiveness of the old orange glow. I feel I truly captured the essence of Chicago’s streetlights with this piece.
Sadly, my mural submission was not chosen as a winner.
I’m okay with that, for the most part. Firstly, I’m not entirely sure I wanted to actually paint the side of an underpass… it would be a LOT of work, and I’ve never done it before. Secondly, while the general concept and design were good, I’m disappointed with the execution of the rendering. I rushed it a bit, and upon review, I can see a few flaws that I’d like to fix before I try submitting this again or executing it full scale.
So given that I have no background in murals, and my submission was not even up to the snuff that I myself would like it to be, I’m not surprised that I was rejected.
However, on behalf of others who submitted some very nice designs indeed, I am EXTREMELY disappointed with the way that this competition was handled.
In 2010, the ward hosted another underpass competition. A panel chose from over 200 submissions and selected 24 finalists. Those 24 were brought to public vote, and 13 were accepted to grace the walls of the ward’s underpasses – to my mind, a very fair process!
This year, the panel received 122 submissions. The panel chose 20 winners, and did not offer the public a chance to vote (despite the wording in the original rfp). The panel consisted of three people, and they were the only ones given a say in selecting this array of public art.
My ward prides itself on Participatory Budgeting, a process by which the constituents of the ward can vote on what happens with funding that is earmarked for infrastructure improvements. The residents of the ward chose to have murals installed, and it’s disappointing that they were not given a say in choosing the art that will surround their daily lives.
Tourist Season in downtown Chicago gets weird some times. I try to be nice. I try to be courteous. I once guided some Montrealers to the Red Line subway. I’ll give directions or restaurant recommendations as best I can. Sometimes I flip on people who are too garish or rude to deal with. Two map hugging gawkers once asked me in Chinatown where to find all the good bootleg purses and I told them “try Manhattan.” I try not to facepalm when people in a museum want to get photographs of themselves next to decades or centuries old art works like they found a juggler at the beach, especially when they are doing things like “bunny ears for the Buddha statue” or “thumbs up” in front of the Renoir. I grit my teeth and move on.
Then, I sometimes encounter some straight up out-of-town weirdness.
I was walking toward the Art Institute and was talking to a guy pushing a little boy in a stroller. We were stopped at the light at the intersection of Michigan & Adams. I asked if he was going to the museum. There is a ramp at the entry way, but it is off to the side of the main stairs and I didn’t want him to have to haul the stroller up the stairs if he did not have to. We were right on path towards the museum. Also, it takes that light what feels like ten minutes to change so people can cross. He said he was going over to The Bean, then he asked me how long I was in town. I didn’t know what to say, so I said “I live here.” Do people think Chicago is a theme park? Does this look like Disneyland? I have no idea where that question came from. Do I need to scrounge up more of an Old Town accent? I’m usually identified fine by the way I pronounce CHICK-Caw-Gohhh. Or do people traveling think others in the area they are going through are there for the same reasons?
Guest post by Pam Batista, Chicago
This is a rant about art, creativity, and the current state of things in America. I don’t like to get on a soap box, or even address politics, but I feel this needs to be said, and I don’t think I’m alone in my sentiment.
As a creative person, and also not well-to-do, I tire of the talking heads and politicians vomiting up the idea that the arts are “frivolous”, or unimportant; that the idea of investing in something that is not neatly packaged into a commodity is unworthy of attention or respect. (This idea extends to things besides art, which makes it even more poignant to me.)
I shouldn’t have to draw attention to the fact that art and imagination is an integral part of human existence, nor that half the reason we know anything about those who have come before us is because they managed to leave behind an abundance of creative works. Making art is part of human nature. Using our imaginations keeps our minds from becoming stagnant and rigid. Creative expression is what keeps us moving forward and growing. There are those who would argue that it is unnecessary for survival. What folks who think along those lines fail to recognize, is the depth of the human psyche.
If mere survival is the main aim, and life is made up of eating, collecting resources, reproducing and trying not to die or get eaten by something else, it becomes a very two dimensional, and frankly “lifeless” activity. If you cut out all the things except those that are only essential for survival, then you wind up with next to nothing to truly survive for. Existence becomes ascetic, bleak, and meaningless. You could argue that people would find meaning anyway even in a circumstance that is bleak, and you’d be right because this is the very space where imagination and creativity are born. These things exist because we find ourselves in a precarious position, seemingly against our will, in a world that while we can adapt to it, is still often very hostile to us. It’s a way to cope. Art exists because we need more than just survival. We need meaning, and connection. You can say that this is also the grounds for spirituality, and you would not be wrong.
The human brain is wired to see patterns and meaning in life. It is constantly processing our surroundings, our feelings, our interactions. We tell ourselves internal stories about our world and how we see it, and the beauty is that everyone has a different story. The ancient hunters told stories in caves by painting on the walls long before they could imagine the idea of writing. Why? Because it brought meaning to the routine of their lives. It also connected and bonded them as families and as people. Art and imagination are as much about connection to others outside of us, as it is about our own stories and meanings. We could not survive in this world without a sense of connection. People who are depressed, suicidal, and self hating most often feel alone, disconnected from others, unwanted and unable to truly express themselves.
A piece of art or music, or a written story is not a static thing. Creative acts self perpetuate. The moment you see a painting, or listen to your favorite song, or get absorbed in the characters of a book, you are connecting to the person who created it. You don’t have to know them, you can be miles away and never even meet them, but you are sharing their window of meaning in that moment. You are also connecting to parts of yourself that you aren’t normally aware of, and deepening the understanding of yourself through whatever message or symbolism you take away from the experience. Whether you love or hate a piece of art makes no difference- whatever you feel or think is an automatic response within you that is not necessarily conscious. Thoughts and feelings are fluid, dynamic things that can inspire change, action, generate ideas, and continue the flow of new thoughts and feelings.
People need art, and need creativity to survive, to heal, to connect, to express what is within them, to build ways to make this rock we’re on a better place, even if only in a small way. Everyone is an artist as a child, everyone has the capacity to be creative until they let the world beat it out of them. A world that lacks imagination and that values its creatives less than others, or thinks them unimportant and doesn’t want to foster or support them and that strives to restrict human expression, is a hollow, dark, sad, and unhealthy place. There is no survival in a world like that.
I’m weary of all the crap cropping up in the media, and those who continue to let opinions be treated like facts. I am sorely fed up with the binary thinking, the pointed words used to belittle others and blame the victims, to try and divide, disconnect, control us and make us feel unworthy of ourselves. The people who insist on behaving in this manner are not concerned with humanity, they are concerned only with themselves. Their own greed, their ignorance, their fear is what feeds this. I tire of politicians who greasily pretend to connect with us, when they don’t know the first thing about how we really live and don’t care to try. I’m sick of the talking heads who desire attention. I’ve had it with people in any realm, who insist that extremism and polarization is the right behavior and that compromise with someone different than you is to be feared and hated. They are all behaving like whiny preschoolers having a massive tantrum.
No person is better than another. No person is less deserving of life than another. No person deserves to be devalued, pigeonholed, labeled, abused, or killed because someone else finds them different or is so misguided as to think that they are better than them. The politicians, the radio hosts, and the like who continue to behave like bullies don’t want people to connect. People are easier to control if you pit them against each other, if you make them believe that they are alone, or you tell them that something about them is dirty, or shameful, or unacceptable. You can’t control and use people who are unafraid to express themselves, who aren’t willing to swallow propaganda whole, who can see through the language of fear being used against them.
Those who try to control others via the means of such negativity are indeed bullies, and while I am angry at their behavior, I am also sad for them because they themselves are not whole and don’t even know it. I will never be rich, I will never be in power. I will, like many other artists, likely never be valued in the outside world as I think I should. I will probably always have to struggle to get by, but my vulnerability is not weakness so do not mistake it for such. To be willing to express oneself honestly, whether with words or pictures is to be vulnerable, and it takes courage to do so in this world. One thing that can never be taken is my creativity and imagination, along with my willingness to express it.
Making art does not make people less valuable. “Productive” and “profitable” and two different things. A productive member of society contributes their talents and skills to change things for the better of everyone as well as himself. Profitable is a word that should only be applied to commodities, which are objects- things- not people. A human is not to be measured by perceived monetary value, the same way they are not to be measured by race or gender or any other quality. Humans are not objects or numbers, they are not to be controlled, bought or sold, and to treat them as such is downright cruel. Humans devalue themselves when they continue to treat other people as objects.
Denying the importance of human creativity is to deny a great portion of oneself. The folks who cling so desperately to their rigid mindsets, who feel the need to put others down so they can deflect their own bad behavior, who think somehow they can fill the gnawing gap inside of them with attention, or things, are afraid of their own reflection. The world is not some simplistic place where one point of view is always right, where one book tells you all you need to know, and where everyone has to be the same. I feel sorry for people who are so afraid of this world, that their best means of coping is to deny parts of themselves that are there for the very purpose of helping us bond together and get through it all.
Artists hold up a mirror, constantly to reflect “us” back at ourselves. Sometimes, we see things we don’t like, and we run from them. We are better served by acknowledging the reflections, and accepting them because we all share the same problems and fears, whether or not we are willing to admit them. Creative people are purposeful mischief makers, because we are willing to show the ugliness of the world as much as we are to represent the beauty. Our messages are complicated, nuanced, and deadly personal. And this is why people who crave and have power fear us.
I feel sorry for them for having such narrow views, for thinking that power lies outside of them and that by controlling or manipulating those who are less fortunate, have the “wrong” skin color or religion or sexuality, they can fill the gaping maw where their own personal power and worth should be. For denying in themselves the very things that make them human and whole. The more someone pushes something away, the more telling it is that what they are running from on the outside is hunting them down on the inside. The dearth can’t be filled with money, or trappings, or fame and accolades.
There was a time that I felt so down about being an artist, that I stopped making anything for several months. I was miserable, and felt empty. It was like I had cut off an arm or gouged my eyes out. I would say it was a mistake, but I learned too much from that. I know what empty and unhealthy feels like. I stopped making art because I felt like the world didn’t care, didn’t want what I did, and that my voice didn’t matter. I was wrong. Denying part of who I was, just because I perceived it as having less value because it wasn’t “profitable” or a “necessity” was deeply wounding. It was cruel to do to myself, but it made me realize later that the part of me that imagines ridiculous things, tells silly stories, and makes collages is a piece of my soul, and there is no “living” without that piece.
Making art, like any form of self expression is an act of courage. Devaluing self expression and the people who are brave enough to be honest about themselves, is base cowardice. So the next time I hear someone suggest that the arts are frivolous and must be cut out of schools, I will suggest to them that they try to cut their still beating heart from their own chest and tell me it doesn’t hurt. Or, if I hear that someone was being bullied simply for being who they were, or hear that because someone is poor it’s automatically their fault, I will turn my mirror on them. And they will not like what they see.