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The Brief Idyll of Late-Nineties Wong Kar-Wai
"In the summer of 1997 I was living in London, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I’d left college and had been in the city for a year, trying, like so many other twentysomethings, to write a novel. I’d given myself a year, but as the chapters took shape so did a curious tension about the way my life was playing out. Part of me was exhilarated and determined: I was writing about a country and people—my people—that did not exist in the pages of formal literature; I was exploring sexual and emotional boundaries, forming relationships with people who seemed mostly wrong for me, but whose unsuitability seemed so right; I was starting, I thought, to untangle the various strands of my cultural identity: Chinese, Malaysian, and above all, what it meant to be foreign, an outsider.

But the increasing clarity of all this was troubled by a growing unsettledness: I had imagined that the act of writing my country and people into existence would make me feel closer to them, but instead I felt more distant. The physical separation between me and my family in Malaysia, which had, up to then, been a source of liberation, now created a deep anxiety. All of a sudden I saw the huge gulf between the person I had been and the one I now was. In the space of just five or six years, university education had given me a different view of life, a different appreciation of its choices. My tastes had evolved, the way I used language had changed—not just in terms of syntax and grammar but the very fact that standard English was now my daily language, rather than the rich mixture of Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Malaysian slang that I had used exclusively until the age of eighteen. I was writing about the place I was from, about the people I loved (and hated), but felt a million miles from them.

All around me, the world seemed to be repositioning itself in ways that seemed to mirror this exciting/confusing tension within me. Britain was in the grip of Cool Britannia fever, and London—multicultural, newly confident after the Labour Party’s victory in the elections—seemed to be the most exciting place on the planet, a city where minority groups of all kinds suddenly found their voice and artistic expression flourished alongside capitalism. On the other side of the world, where my family and friends lived, however, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis had just erupted, bringing the previously buoyant economies of Southeast Asia to their knees. On the phone with my parents, I heard news of one friend after another who’d lost their job or business. A new anxiety lurked in the voices of all those I spoke to in Malaysia and elsewhere in the region: an unspoken fear of civil unrest, of anti-Chinese violence that inhabited the passages of our histories in times of crisis. These fears were not unfounded: less than a year later, in Jakarta, where my father worked at the time, widespread anti-Chinese riots led to the murders of over a thousand people and hundreds of incidents of rape and burning of Chinese-owned property and businesses. Stay where you are, don’t come back, various friends cautioned.

On TV, I watched the handover of Hong Kong to China after one hundred years of British colonial rule, a transition that felt at once thrilling and scary: the passing of a country from one regime to another, with no one able to predict how the future would pan out. My sister, who had recently moved to Hong Kong to find work, decided that it would change nothing for her, and that she would stay.

I sank deeper into the world of my novel. I sought refuge in a place where I was in control—but even there, things weren’t working out. My characters were all divorced from their surroundings, trying to figure out how to live in a world on the cusp of change. They fell in love with all the wrong people. They didn’t belong to the country they lived in. I wanted the novel to be an antidote to the confusion around me but it wanted to be part of that mess. I was exhausted by it and by the end of that year, abandoned the manuscript.

It was exactly at that time that Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together found its way into the art house movie theaters of Europe. That summer he had won the Best Director prize at Cannes for the film—the first non-Japanese Asian to do so—and I’d seen the movie posters in magazines: Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung sitting dreamily in the back of a car, their faces bathed in a hypnotic yellow light. I’d grown up with these actors, iconic figures in Asian pop culture. I’d seen all their movies, and like so many of my contemporaries, knew the words to all the Leslie Cheung songs, which still take up several gigabytes of memory on my iPhone. I’d seen and swooned over Wong Kar-Wai’s previous films, Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, as well as a curious early work called Days of Being Wild, set partly in the Philippines and also starring Leslie Cheung. I thought I knew what to expect from Happy Together. It turned out that I had no idea at all.

It’s impossible to describe the intense rush of blood to the head that I felt on seeing these two leading actors—young, handsome, but somehow old beyond their years—in the opening scene. They are in a small bed in a boarding house in Buenos Aires. They are far from home, wondering what to do with their lives, how to make their relationship work again. Within seconds they are making love—a boyish tussle with playful ass-slapping that morphs quickly into the kind of rough, quick sex that usually happens between strangers, not long-term partners.

It was the end of the twentieth century; I had watched countless European movies where explicit sex was so much a part of the moviemaking vocabulary that it had long since lost the ability to shock me. But the people in this film were not random French or German actors, they were familiar figures of my childhood, spitting into their hands to lubricate their fucking.

The two men are partners in a turbulent relationship with extreme highs and lows. They travel to Argentina—as far away from home as possible—to try and salvage what they can of their love. Their dream is to travel to see the Iguaçu Falls, a journey which takes on totemic qualities as the movie progresses and their relationship once again falters. They break up. Tony Leung takes a lousy job as a doorman at a tango bar; Leslie Cheung—promiscuous, volatile—becomes a sort of rent boy, though the precise nature of his relationships with other men is never clearly defined. (Over the years I’ve developed a resistance to remembering the characters’ names, wanting, I guess, to imagine that Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung were actually in a relationship.) Leslie drifts in and out of Tony Leung’s life, sometimes bringing his tricks to the bar where Tony works. From time to time they appear ready to get back together again, but they always miss their chance to connect—often in a literal sense, for example when one goes looking for the other, but goes into one door just as the other emerges from an adjacent one.

Their relationship is a series of missed connections, but it is more tragic than two people simply being in the wrong frame of mind at the wrong time. It is impossible for the men to achieve intimacy because they are unable to carve out their place in the world—neither in Buenos Aires nor in Hong Kong, which is referred to often but never in comforting or nostalgic terms. Their new city is not welcoming, and neither is their home country. The same set of problems they escaped from home to avoid follow them to this strange foreign place. The Buenos Aires they inhabit is at once real and unreal, sometimes gritty, other times so dreamy it seems like an imagined city. The mesmerizing visuals that Christopher Doyle created for that film (and would carry into Wong Kar-Wai’s future works) make us feel as if the characters are floating through the city, incapable of affixing themselves to it.

Late in the film, a major new character is introduced—an innocent, uncomplicated young man from Taiwan played by Chang Chen, who works in the Chinese restaurant where Tony Leung has found employment. They form a close friendship, one that seems nourishing and stable. But Tony Leung is still preoccupied by Leslie Cheung, even though they are no longer together. Does Chang Chen feel more for Tony Leung than mere friendship? Almost certainly, he does. He goes to Ushuaia, the farthest point of the Americas, but Tony Leung chooses to remain in Buenos Aires. Those missed connections again: that impossibility, for Tony Leung at least, to figure out how he truly feels because he is too far from home, cut off from his points of reference. That intense separation should have brought him objectivity; he should have gained clarity of thought and emotion. Instead his feelings remain trapped in a place he wants to leave behind, but is unable to forget.

In the closing scenes, Tony Leung finally manages to leave Buenos Aires and travels not to Hong Kong but Taipei. He goes to the night market where Chang Chen’s family runs a food store. Chang Chen isn’t there, he is still traveling the world. “I finally understood how he could be happy running around so free,” Tony Leung says in his low, sad, matter-of-fact voice-over. “It’s because he has a place he can always return to.”

When I think of that period in 1997, when I couldn’t walk down the street or fall asleep without seeing Tony and Leslie dancing the tango in a squalid kitchen, or hearing Caetano Veloso’s featherlight voice hovering over ravishing images of the Iguaçu Falls—I can’t help but think that we were in a short era of innocence before the complicated decades that lay ahead. The Hong Kong that Wong Kar-Wai refers to in that movie no longer exists. The film’s original title is 春光乍洩, which means the first emergence of spring sunshine—or, more idiomatically, a glimpse of something intimate. But perhaps it refers also to that brief moment of openness and… [more]
wongkar-wai  tashaw  film  memories  memory  place  belonging  home  1990s  1997  2019  youth  identity  storytelling  unsettledness  separation  malaysia  education  highered  highereducation  langauge  english  malay  cantonese  mandarin  chinese  malaysian  change  innocence  london  capitalism  jakarta  southeastasia  hongkong  china  tonyleung  lesliecheung  chunkingexpress  happytogether  fallenangels  daysofbeingwild  buenosaires  relationships  intimacy  families  connection  nostalgia  comfort  cities  taiwan  changchen  taipei  vulnerability  openness  acceptance  victimization  divisiveness 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ocean Vuong on being generous in your work [The Creative Independent]
"I find a home in feeling. I feel at home in feeling. When I collaborate or talk with my friends, the place doesn’t matter. We could be on Mars and it would feel like home, because I feel free. I can be myself. I can be uber-queer, uber-strange, and we can be uber-curious with one another. That’s comforting. Perhaps it’s even harder to protect a home that doesn’t exist in a physical space, because we have to continually tend to this abstract feeling: “How do I create the parameters in which I am safe enough to be free amongst my peers?”

My whole artistic life has been in New York City—the past 11 years—and I learned that one has to work. Competition is a patriarchal structure that privileges conquest. The most pivotal thing for me as an artist was to be able to say “no” to those structures in order to say “yes” to the structures I want to create. That’s why it’s so scary."



"Take the long way home, if you can."



"Competition, prizes and awards are part of a patriarchal construct that destroys love and creativity by creating and protecting a singular hierarchical commodification of quality that does not, ever, represent the myriad successful expressions of art and art making. If you must use that construct, you use it the way one uses public transport. Get on, then get off at your stop and find your people. Don’t live on the bus, and most importantly, don’t get trapped on it."



"The agency for joy is safety—and vice versa. It is not a place, but a feeling. But you can see it, even in the dark."
oceanvuong  competition  prizes  awards  patriarchy  hierarchy  love  creativity  art  poetry  conquest  2019  commodification  canon  capitalism  neoliberalism  freedom  artmaking  making  privilege  joy  safety  slow  small  meaning  purpose  beauty  relationships  identity  expression  home  comfort  collaboration 
april 2019 by robertogreco
An Official Welcome - The New York Times [California Today]
"I’m a California native — born at U.C.L.A. Medical Center. But when I was 2, my dad got a good job in Kansas City, so my parents packed up and left the place where they grew up for the Midwest.

Now, I understand it for the smart career move that it was. For the 10 years we lived outside the Golden State, though, I only ever wanted to go back.

Whenever we’d fly into LAX to visit my grandparents and my cousins, it felt like coming home for reasons I couldn’t really articulate.

Part of it was that in Kansas, I never quite forgot that I looked different from my tawny-headed classmates, who sometimes asked if I was Chinese. That was hurtful only because it underscored that I’d never be like them at an age when I just wanted to fit in.

My mom is Japanese-American and my dad is of Russian Jewish descent. And in California, I felt like I could be just another face in the crowd — whether we were at an udon restaurant with my mom’s parents in Gardena or the West Hollywood comedy club where my paternal grandmother worked.

I share this because it captures the peculiar magic of California for me.

[image: "Out on one of my favorite assignments: Squid fishing off the Orange County coast in 2013. [photo by] Don Leach"]

We eventually moved back, to the Mission Viejo area. Then I went to college at U.C. Berkeley and worked in Bakersfield, Orange County and Los Angeles as a reporter. During that time, I learned California is a place that’s impossible to explain, to encapsulate in any one way.

But it’s a place where almost anyone can feel at home.

And that’s what I want California Today to help you feel. I want you to look forward to opening the newsletter every morning, knowing that you’ll start the day understanding your state a little better, even if it’s boundless.

To achieve this, we’ll be rethinking the newsletter from greeting to kicker. You’ll notice us trying different formats and features."
california  multiculturalism  identity  kansas  orangecounty  californiatoday  2018  jillcowan  missionviejo  experience  home  place  ethnicity  inclusivity  acceptance 
december 2018 by robertogreco
BBC Four - John Berger: The Art of Looking
[video currently available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3VhbsXk9Ds ]

"Art, politics and motorcycles - on the occasion of his 90th birthday John Berger or the Art of Looking is an intimate portrait of the writer and art critic whose ground-breaking work on seeing has shaped our understanding of the concept for over five decades. The film explores how paintings become narratives and stories turn into images, and rarely does anybody demonstrate this as poignantly as Berger.

Berger lived and worked for decades in a small mountain village in the French Alps, where the nearness to nature, the world of the peasants and his motorcycle, which for him deals so much with presence, inspired his drawing and writing.

The film introduces Berger's art of looking with theatre wizard Simon McBurney, film-director Michael Dibb, visual artist John Christie, cartoonist Selçuk Demiral, photographer Jean Mohr as well as two of his children, film-critic Katya Berger and the painter Yves Berger.

The prelude and starting point is Berger's mind-boggling experience of restored vision following a successful cataract removal surgery. There, in the cusp of his clouding eyesight, Berger re-discovers the irredeemable wonder of seeing.

Realised as a portrait in works and collaborations, this creative documentary takes a different approach to biography, with John Berger leading in his favourite role of the storyteller."
2016  johnberger  documentary  towatch  simonmcburney  michaeldibb  johnchristie  selçukdemiral  jeanmohr  katyaberger  yvesberger  waysofseeing  seeing  looking  noticing  biography  storytelling  skepticism  photography  rebellion  writing  howwewrite  collaboration  canon  conspirators  rebels  friendship  community  migration  motorcycles  presence  being  living  life  interestedness  interested  painting  art  history  france  belonging  place  labor  home  identity  work  peasants  craft  craftsmanship  aesthetics  design  vision  cataracts  sight  teaching  howweteach  attention  focus  agriculture  memory  memories  shit  pigs  humans  animals  childhood  perception  freedom  independence  storytellers  travelers  nomads  trickster  dead  death  meaning  meaningmaking  companionship  listening  discovery  understanding  sfsh  srg  books  publishing  television  tv  communication  engagement  certainly  uncertainty 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Pragmatic Shopping — Medium
"I resented shopping until I got good at it. I got good at it by overthinking it. This is the story of how that happened and what I learned from it."
dianakimball  shopping  furniture  home  clothing  2016  howto  advice 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Zócalo Public Square :: For Refugees, Home Is a Place Called Never
"Having Fled Sarajevo as a Child, I Find It Hard Telling Syrians There Is No Going Back"



"Like Basel from Damascus, even after fleeing the terror of war, we still were not safe. I remember the danger we faced as I see scenes of refugees like Basel desperately making their way across Europe. We had to deal with the legions of those eager to take advantage of our vulnerability—the smugglers, the criminals, the traffickers, and the violent xenophobes. Countries like Hungary also closed their borders to us, as they are doing now to Syrians. Others humiliated us to deter more refugees from coming. One of my cousins fled to Denmark, where she was denied freedom of movement and kept in a barracks for a year. Another two were held in long quarantine after they arrived in the Czech Republic, as if they might contaminate the population with their sense of loss. Even those who welcomed us did so only to a point. When the refugee population swelled, when we overstayed our welcome, we were blamed for everything from overcrowded schools to currency inflation.

At some point, refugees must make a definitive choice regarding their identity. Some adopt an Anglicized nickname, a new persona, a new history to be proud of, a new flag to pledge allegiance to, a new city to love. Others, like myself, continued to identify as a Sarajevan and a refugee, clinging to memories. I had to remember where I sat in my classroom, the name of the boy I liked, the lady at the newspaper stand downstairs. If I forgot, that meant giving up hope that we would go back one day. I would have given anything on this earth to wake up at home in Sarajevo on a dull day, watch my parents rush around getting ready for work, and run downstairs to get the paper and a pack of Walter Wolf cigarettes for my mother. Just one more time.

The most important part of being a refugee is being a good loser; it’s the only way to survive this. You learn to lose your nationality, your home to strangers with bigger guns, your father to mental illness, one aunt to genocide, and another to nationalism and ignorance. You learn to lose your kids, friends, dreams, neighbors, loves, diplomas, careers, photo albums, home movies, schools, museums, histories, landmarks, limbs, teeth, eyesight, sense of safety, sanity, and your sense of belonging in the world.

Basel, and all Syrian refugees, must master living with whatever is left of a person after everything is stripped away. Once he arrives where he’s going and sets his bags down, that’s when Basel will have to process everything, when he will count everything he’s had to leave behind. He will reflect on the past four years and wonder how the world watched and did nothing.

In 2014, I went back to Damascus as part of a UNICEF mission. Crossing the Lebanese border into Syria, in a sea of women carrying children and bags of clothes, I saw my mother everywhere. It was profoundly disturbing to put on a blue helmet every day before going out, and I struggled greatly to reconcile my U.N., refugee and survivor identities.

One morning in April 2014, I put on that blue helmet to tour the schools with a colleague in Damascus. We were about 30 meters from the school entrance when the mortar hit in front of us, and I fell to the ground. A guard shouted at me to get up and run inside before the next one hit, but I was too scared to move. That’s when I remembered Zinka and the balcony shooting. There is a low, soft whistle that is heard before a mortar hits very close. It happens just a fraction of a second before it hits, and somewhere deep inside, I had buried that sound and that memory.

The most difficult part of my journey as a refugee is the coming to terms with the fact that I can’t prevent this from happening to someone else. In Damascus, I often found myself telling displaced children whom I worked with that “schools and houses can be rebuilt when the war is over.” Perhaps I should have said something more pragmatic, told them they would never go home again, at least not to the place where they left their toys and friends, where they felt safe and loved. But instead, I said things like, “You’ll go back home when the war is over.” It’s obvious now that I not only lied to them, but also to myself. I only stopped identifying as a refugee when I stopped fighting, and I acknowledged that nothing will ever put my family and my life back together the way it was.

Despite these dark recollections, it’s generally not war that refugees choose to remember, but the people who help you. My mother’s colleague who snuck us out of Serbia, French volunteers who took refugee kids camping, and those who came to welcome us at the airport when we were resettled in Ohio; those are the people I think of daily. I hope Basel finds such people on his path too."
refugees  syria  2016  draganakaurin  home  identity  war  terror  migration  memory 
january 2016 by robertogreco
ruby amanze
"ruby onyinyechi amanze is a Brooklyn based artist of Nigerian birth 
and British upbringing. her drawings and works on paper have been influenced greatly by this cultural hybridity, as well as textile design, photography, print-making and architecture.
 amanze graduated Summa Cum Laude from Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia. she then went on to pursue a M.F.A at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.



amanze has exhibited her work in numerous exhibitions in New York,
 London, Ghana, Lagos, Philadelphia and Amsterdam. most recently, amanze was
 awarded a 2012-13 Fulbright Scholars Award, to join the 
Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, 
Nsukka. she currently resides in Brooklyn where she maintains a full time studio practice."



"In a once conflicted space of neither here not there, ada the Alien and her cohort of kindred creatures [including audre the Leopard, Pidgin, Twin, Oyibo the Merman, ofunne & the Ghosts…] now find solace and empowerment in their self constructed, chimeric universe of hybridity and freedom. Exhibiting human, alien and animal characteristics, they navigate effortlessly through an intergalactic space and time. Ranging in size from hand held to immersive, these drawings reflect the layered experiences of a growing population of “in-betweeners” and global citizens, whose fluid identity is not grounded in a monolithic geography or permanence based, notion of home. Aliens, hybrids and ghosts is a non-linear narrative that celebrates the labyrinth of national, ethnic and sexual identities that exist somewhere between constructed reality, fantasy, memory and imagination. In this world, creatures find authenticity and wholeness in their ability to simultaneously belong nowhere and everywhere."

[See also:
http://www.okayafrica.com/news/no-such-place-edward-tyler-nahem-fine-art-new-york-city/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvhZLbdjRvQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RexNXjrzrKI
https://vimeo.com/70056081 ]
rubyonyinyechiamanze  art  artists  africa  nigeria  nyc  brooklyn  space  aliens  in-betweeners  permanence  geography  home  hybrids  authenticity  wholeness  belonging  identity  memory  fantasy  globalcitizens  ghosts  rubyamanze 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Why I'm Moving Back To South Africa
"I am not a person prone to smugness. When I say that my life is the sanest and gentlest a person in our times can hope to live, it is with gratitude, not self-satisfaction. My house is near the center of Oxford, a famously old and beautiful city, and I commute to work each morning on a bicycle alongside a quiet canal. The journey takes no more than seven minutes — eight or nine if I stop to admire the swans; I hardly remember what it is like to sit in traffic or to grind against a stranger on public transport.

I teach at Oxford University where I have a tenured job — a rare privilege in this day and age. The students are clever and hardworking, my colleagues considerate and sane, my days never less than interesting.

Work seldom ends after 7 p.m. On summer evenings, my partner and I often stroll along the Thames into Port Meadow, cross its 300 acres of ancient pasture, and eat in the village on the other side. The light in the meadow is gorgeous from May through September, turning the grass a luminous green I last saw in childhood dreams.

I have just resigned from this job and am giving up this life. In a couple of months, my partner and I will be moving to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I was born. It is a city that heaves with umbrage. “There is a daily, low-grade civil war at every stop street,” the artist, William Kentridge, recently remarked. Sometimes, the war moves up a grade; many friends and family members have stared down a gun barrel over the years, and each act of violence is relived in conversation a hundred times over. It is a city where being white or well-heeled attracts some to beg from you and others to insult you, where life is so palpably unfair that the rich live in a state of astonishing denial while among the poor antipathy runs so deep that if you listen you can hear it hum.

Make no mistake: I am not going to a life of hardship. I will have another tenured job at an institute staffed by some of the smartest people I know; the work is bound to be fulfilling. Labour in South Africa being cheap, we will employ somebody to dust our furniture and polish our floors. And, yet, what we are doing goes against the grain. Between my siblings and my first cousins, there are 11 of us in my generation and nine live abroad, all in rock-solid places like Canada and Australia. I am a Jew. My kind tends to sniff out trouble generations in advance. We like the foundations beneath our feet to run deep. While my move is by no means crazy, I am swimming in the opposite direction.

None of us understands ourselves especially well. We are dark inside and were we to light the whole place up we would go mad. My reflections on my move are no doubt riddled with self-justifications of which I’m barely aware.

There is nonetheless something for which I know I ache, and it is only to be found in my native land. When I lock eyes with a stranger on Johannesburg’s streets, there is a flicker, a flash communication, so fast it is invisible, yet so laden that no words might describe it. This stranger may be a man in a coat and tie, or a woman who wears the cotton uniform of a maid, or a construction worker stripped to the waist. Whoever he is, he clocks me as I pass, and reads me and my parents and my grandparents; and I, too, conjure, in an instant, the past from which he came. As we brush shoulders the world we share rumbles around us, its echoes resounding through generations. He may look at me with resentment, or longing, or with the twistedness that comes with hating; he may catch me smiling to myself and grin. I am left with a feeling, both sweet and sore, that I am not in control of who I am. I am defined by the eyes that see me on the street. I cannot escape them. I cannot change what they see. We may one day fight one another or even kill one another, yet our souls are entwined because we have made another.

I cannot get that on Port Meadow. I can take in the washed-out light and the expanse of green and I can feel melancholy or light or get lost in private thoughts. But the people who pass are wafer thin. I cannot imagine who they are. It doesn’t matter enough. There is too little at stake. I am in essence alone.

That’s one way of explaining my move. There are others. Each way leads to its own conclusion."



"I have just given my best explanation for why I am going home. I am quite unlike Asad. My life is moored to weighty institutions like universities. I have good medical insurance. I don’t take extreme risks. Yet I have imagined the world through Asad’s eyes as fiercely as I can, and have thus been under the skin of a human being I am not. The importance of this experience is ineffable. It is to watch oneself from a distance and imbibe the contingency of who one is and what one feels. This is a secular incarnation of the oldest religious experience.

That is what going home means for me. It is to stand outside myself and watch my bourgeois life prodded and pushed and buffeted around by lives quite unlike my own. It is to surrender myself to a world so much bigger than I am and to the destiny of a nation I cannot control. In this surrender is an expansion, a flowering, of what it means to be alive."
jonnysteinberg  southafrica  home  2015  melancholy  place 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and the Importance of the Interior « Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities
"
“The French have become masters in the art of being happy among ‘small things,’ within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot, extending to these things a care and tenderness which, in a world where rapid industrialization constantly kills off the things of yesterday to produce today’s objects, may even appear to be the world’s last, purely humane corner.”


-- Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

During my first reading of Arendt’s The Human Condition, this particular quote attracted my attention, probably since I’m trained as an architect and sensible to these kind of imaginable, tangible examples. (I must also mention the very nice and almost poetic rhythm in the ‘construction’ of the sentences quoted above). The passage immediately reminded me of the famous text “Paris: Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” in which Walter Benjamin, among other things, links the importance of the domestic interior to the emerging impact of industrialization on the working people. Through the mutability of modernity, as symbolised by the arcades with their cast-iron constructions, Benjamin argues that the interior comes into conscious being to the extent that our life, work, and surroundings change. The interior of domestic life originates in the need for a place of one’s own: a small but personal haven in a turbulent world that is subject to constant change.

Acknowledging this development, the modern individual found himself confronting a new separation between living and working, between the (domestic) interior and the workplace. Here Benjamin stresses that in the workplace one deals with “real” life, (Although work is increasingly being carried out in bigger, virtual spheres.) whereas within the dwelling’s interior one harbours illusions. The interior is a safe haven, a familiar domain, in which one can cherish one’s personal history in an otherwise cold and threatening environment. “The interior is not just the universe but also the étui of the private individual,” Benjamin writes. The interior is so close to man that it is like a second skin – a perfect fit. It is geared to our rhythm (of life), and vice versa.

But there is more to it. Benjamin observes that the interior also offers meaning through living; it accommodates a story of personal remembrances. “To live means to leave traces. In the interior, these are accentuated.” In other words, there is no escape from life in the interior. Whereas in the public space those traces inevitably fade, in the interior they remain visible and tangible for the occupant. And that is crucial: people hold the interior close precisely because of the memories that attach to it. To be at home is more than to merely eat, sleep and work somewhere – it is to inhabit the house. That is to say, to make it your own, to leave traces.

It is possible to describe the interior in this perspective as a flight from the “real” world “out there,” but this overlooks the importance of the interior for this “reality.” Arendt’s quotation cited at the beginning of this article – which might be invoked alongside the same Parisian experience Benjamin analyzes – is part of her emphasis on the importance of the private realm vis-à-vis the public realm. A life lived exclusively in the bright glare of the public realm will fade, she states. It will lose depth, that is, its ability to appear into the world. It needs the private realm to recover, to reform, in order to reappear and once again participate in public. Although it may sound negative, darkness means first and foremost that something has been hidden from view. It is therefore shielded from the continuous maelstrom of public life.

Set against this backdrop, Arendt stresses the importance of one’s own household – or more to the point, one’s own home – as a necessary condition. This assertion is supported by the respect with which city-states once treated private property. The boundaries that separated each person’s space were observed most reverently, with the property inside treated as sacred spaces and things.

The darkness of the house and the blinding glare of the outside depend on each other. Indeed, they are inextricably linked. Distinct from family life with its protective and educational aspects, Arendt also takes this to mean that the private realm accommodates those things in life that cannot appear in public. She believes that the distinction between the public and private realms has to do with that which must be made visible on the one hand and that which must remain invisible on the other. What appears in public acquires maximum visibility and hence reality. However, there are some things in life that need to remain hidden: the intimacy of love and friendship, the experiences of birth and death. Both the physical and the romantic belong to the realm of necessity, Arendt claims. They are too closely tied up with the needs of the individual to be made a public matter. Put differently, the private realm provides space for the ineffable, the issues we cannot discuss or negotiate, or indeed the ones we cannot stop talking about. Those issues need a safe place, one among personal “things” and their memories.

If the importance of the interior is manifest anywhere, it is in the appearance of homeless people living like ghosts on the streets. Being homeless not only means living unprotected from wind and rain. It also means first and foremost not having a safe place where you can be more or less secure and sheltered, a place to which you can withdraw in order to recharge before re-entering the domain of uncertainty and danger.
These four walls, within which people’s private life is lived, constitute a shield against the world and specifically against the public aspect of the world. They enclose a secure place, without which no living thing can thrive. This holds good (…) for human life in general. Wherever the latter is consistently exposed to the world without the protection of privacy and security its vital quality is destroyed. (Arendt, The Human Condition)
"
hannaharendt  home  walterbenjamin  interiors  interior  uncertainty  certainty  refuge  hansteerds  privacy  visibility  invisibility  household  homeless  homelessness  security  danger  consistency  modernity  workplace 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Futures Project | Centre for the Living Arts
Futures Project (May—January 2014) is a nine-month program that will examine  future possibilities for the Gulf Coast, with focus areas that are both expected and unexpected.

Futures Project will feature a group exhibition of emerging and established visual artists from around the world in our 16,000 square ft. gallery. In addition to the exhibition, the CLA will organize an extensive slate of educational and public programming to compliment and amplify Futures Project.

Artists’ projects are considered a springboard for new conversations, and the CLA welcomes their input and ideas for all public programs and activities. A different topic relating to the future will be examined each month through film screenings, public forums and conversations, studio classes and workshops for all ages, plus special programming for teens and seniors.

Topics under consideration for monthly programming include:
Future of:

Childhood & aging
Home, place & immigration
Race, class & ethics
Communication, information, knowledge & wisdom
Education & learning, success & failure
Health, wellness & spirituality
Environment, climate change, prediction & politics
Art & cultural organizations
Mobile & downtown economic development
centerforthelivingarts  art  futures  childhood  aging  home  place  immigration  race  class  ethics  communication  information  knowledge  wisdom  education  learning  success  failure  health  wellness  spirituality  environment  climatechange  prediction  politics  culture  mobile  economics  development  2013  2014  2x4  candychang  dawndedeaux  tomleeser  kennyscharf  artpark  xavierderichemont 
june 2013 by robertogreco
How Do You Run Away from Home?
"For some people, psychological home has clearly moved online. I recall an op-ed somewhere several years ago, comparing cellphones to pacifiers. Appropriate, if they represent a connection to psychological ‘home.’ Putting your phone away is like suddenly being teleported away from home to a strange new place.

For others, the three R’s still dominate the idea of home. Online life is not satisfying for these people. I think this segment will shrink, just as the number of people who are attached to paper books is shrinking.

For a speculative third category, we have the sitcom-ish idea of interchangeable people in roles. I am not sure this category is real yet. I see some evidence for it in my own life, but it is not compelling.

But for a fourth category of people, the need for a psychological home itself is reduced. A utilitarian home is enough. The getting away drive has irreversibly altered psychology."
psychogeography  2012  davidgraeber  gettingaway  thirdculture  runningaway  interchangability  offline  internet  web  digital  online  belonging  culture  anarchism  existentialism  libertarianism  francisfukuyama  robertsapolsky  psychology  history  place  homes  home  rootedness  identity  individualism  venkateshrao 
april 2012 by robertogreco
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE
"There's no place like home. It's where we live, work and dream. It's our sanctuary and our refuge. We can love them or hate them. It can be just for the night or for the rest of our lives. But whoever we may be, we all have a place we call home.

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE is a series of short films that explore the idea of home; what makes them, how they represent us, why we need them.

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE is produced and directed by Ben Wu and David Usui, of Lost & Found Films."
place  refuge  sanctuary  wherewework  wherewelive  workplace  homes  thismustbetheplace  films  documentary  home 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Tortoise General Store
"When we visited one of the islands in Hawaii, we came across a "general store".

It was very local and community-based, which we rarely saw in Los Angeles. Nowadays with big chain stores spread in the cities, you can get decent variety of products with decent service anywhere you go.

But when we walked into the small "general store" we felt a very friendly, established presence in its local community.
In the "general store", their products were what was minimum required in daily life. Less variety of what big chain stores carried. But we felt that was just enough.

At "TGS / Tortoise General Store", based on Tortoise' basic philosophy, we would like to introduce wider, more "general" service, not just products.

We like to create a "General Store" that may not be "cool" but a place where it feels familiar, or be unique in its own way."

[See also: http://www.tortoiselife.com/ AND http://www.tortoiselife.com/trts/ ]

[Reminds me of Yuzu, once a favorite place in Pasadena]
losangeles  gifts  home  japanese  japan  shopping 
january 2012 by robertogreco
Space and place: the perspective of ... - Yi-Fu Tuan - Google Books
"In the 25 years since its original publication, Space and Place has not only established the discipline of human geography, but it has proven influential in such diverse fields as theater, literature, anthropology, psychology, and theology. Eminent geographer Yi-Fu Tuan considers the ways in which people feel and think about space, how they form attachments to home, neighborhood, and nation, and how feelings about space and place are affected by the sense of time. He suggests that place is security and space is freedom: we are attached to the one and long for the other. Whether he is considering sacred versus "biased" space, mythical space and place, time in experiential space, or cultural attachments to space, Tuan's analysis is thoughtful and insightful."
yi-futuan  space  place  humangeography  human  geography  books  toread  anthropology  psychology  home 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Notes from a Literary Apprenticeship : The New Yorker
"My reading was my mirror, & my material; I saw no other part of myself…

For though they had created me, & reared me, & lived w/ me day after day, I knew that I was a stranger to them, an American child…

Even after I received the Pulitzer, my father reminded me that writing stories was not something to count on…I listen to him, & at the same time I have learned not to listen, to wander to the edge of the precipice & to leap. & so, though a writer’s job is to look and listen, in order to become a writer I had to be deaf & blind.

I see now that my father, for all his practicality, gravitated toward a precipice of his own, leaving his country and his family, stripping himself of the reassurance of belonging. In reaction, for much of my life, I wanted to belong to a place, either the one my parents came from or to America, spread out before us. When I became a writer my desk became home; there was no need for another…Born of my inability to belong, it is my refusal to let go."
writing  literature  narrative  identity  thirdculture  jhumpalahiri  risk  glvo  art  craft  residence  place  belonging  2011  libraries  books  home  life  reading  classideas  india  parenting  schools  memory  experience  childhood 
june 2011 by robertogreco
12 Things Really Educated People Know
"1. Establish an individual set of values but recognize those of the surrounding community and of the various cultures of the world.

2. Explore their own ancestry, culture, and place.

3. Are comfortable being alone, yet understand dynamics between people and form healthy relationships.

4. Accept mortality, knowing that every choice affects the generations to come.

5. Create new things and find new experiences.

6. Think for themselves; observe, analyze, and discover truth without relying on the opinions of others.

7. Favor love, curiosity, reverence, and empathy rather than material wealth.

8. Choose a vocation that contributes to the common good.

9. Enjoy a variety of new places and experiences but identify and cherish a place to call home.

10. Express their own voice with confidence.

11. Add value to every encounter and every group of which they are a part.

12. Always ask: “Who am I? Where are my limits? What are my possibilities?”"
johntaylorgatto  education  learning  unschooling  deschooling  tcsnmy  lcproject  community  self  identity  purpose  glvo  values  culture  personhood  relationships  mortality  creativity  make  making  experience  wisdom  criticalthinking  truth  curiosity  love  reverance  empathy  wealth  well-being  vocation  selflessness  homes  home  confidence  voice  participation  teaching  principles  philosophy  knowledge  life  advice 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Anne Galloway | Connecting material, spatial and cultural practices
"Growing up overseas taught me that home is where you live. I remember quite vividly that the people who were always comparing where we lived to some far-away (and often idealised) "home," or who were always waiting to "go home," were never actually happy where we were."
glvo  moving  home  homes  cities  life  travel  living 
october 2009 by robertogreco
Make: Online: Make: Science Room Home
"Greetings citizen scientists, budding biohackers, and backyard explorers! We think you'll find the Make: Science Room a fun and useful resource. We hope you'll use it as your DIY science classroom, virtual laboratory, and a place to share your projects, hacks, and laboratory tips with other amateur scientists. Your Make: Science Room host is Robert Bruce Thompson, author of Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture. (Make: Books, 2008) and Illustrated Guide to Forensics Investigations: Uncover Evidence in Your Home, Lab, or Basement (not yet published). We'll be drawing material from these titles first, but will soon branch out into biology, astrononmy, Earth sciences, and other disciplines. We'll be adding lots of material on a regular basis, so check back often. For more info on the site, see Introducing the Make: Science Room."
science  make  tcsnmy  howto  diy  microscope  projects  physics  education  chemistry  forensics  glvo  kids  learning  home  lab 
september 2009 by robertogreco
Lyrics for David Byrne's "In the Future"
"In the future everyone will only get to go home once a year. In the future everyone will stay home all the time. In the future we will not have time for leisure activities. In the future we will only 'work' one day a week."
future  home  place  identity  ubicomp  ambientintimacy  work  play  leisure  music  davidbyrne 
october 2007 by robertogreco
BLDGBLOG: Greater Los Angeles
"LA is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing...Every mode of living is appropriate for LA You can do what you want...Who cares if you can't identify with LA? It doesn't need to be made human. It's better than that."
losangeles  cities  urban  identity  us  local  home  human  self  life  society 
october 2007 by robertogreco

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