Waste Land (2010) dir. L. Walker, J. Jardim & K. Harley
Waste Land (2010) dir. L. Walker, J. Jardim & K. Harley
On Wednesday, July 27 I conducted another iteration of my Foolish Journeys project at El Museo del Barrio, as part of the museum’s ongoing biennial, The (S) Files 2011. The intervention was developed in collaboration with my friend Juan Betancurth, a New York-based performance and installation artist whose work is featured in the biennial. (Juan and I met when he received a tarot reading as a participant in my first performance of Foolish Journeys). Juan’s installation at El Museo, entitled Chamber of Delights, is a re-creation, from childhood memories, of his aunt’s living room in Colombia composed using elements of his studio space in New York.
Appearing to be a lived-in space, filled with used personal objects, family photos, and well-worn furniture made of smooth dark woods, and augmented with soft animal skins and lace doilies, the piece defines an almost oppositional place within the museum’s crisp and colorful modern interior. The Chamber of Delights works neither for nor against the spatial structure of El Museo. Instead, it demands a different form of engagement. The visitor is asked to enter, sit down and touch, and they do–initially with hesitation and eventually with delight.
To add to the interactivity of the space, Juan is inviting various friends to perform in the space, creating situations to engage viewers. In this capacity, we worked together to re-create Foolish Journeys for the space of El Museo.
Visitors to the museum were invited to enter the Chamber of Delights and receive a three-card reading. As part of the reading, each visitor was asked to select a destination within East Harlem (El Barrio), towards which to take a stroll, immediately after the reading. Each destination was a former site of El Museo del Barrio (see map). Each visitor was asked to return from the trip with an “offering”–an object found along the walk–to leave in the installation, as part of the ongoing exhibit. He or she then marked a master map with the location of encounter with the offering. This location, at which the participant is struck by the significance of a discarded object, marks a moment of becoming strange in the city.
Another New York City cop is under arrest for accosting a woman at gunpoint on Friday morning and raping her in a backyard near her apartment. The 25 year old teacher was on her way to work. The plainclothes cop stopped her to “ask directions,” then showed his gun, put his arm around her and said, “You’re coming with me.” Jesus Christ, when are we going to disarm this band of bloodthirsty thugs roaming our city streets and preying on us? Read the whole story here.
Then a miracle occurred. One of the last angels lingered, turned, and quietly approached me. I caught sight of his cavernous, staring, diamond eyes under the imposing arches of his brows. On the ribs of his outspread wings glistened what seemed like frost. The wings themselves were gray, an ineffable tint of gray, and each feather ended in a silvery sickle. His visage, the faintly smiling outline of his lips, and his straight clear forehead reminded me of features I had seen on earth. The curves, the gleaming, the charm of all the faces I had ever loved—the features of people who had long since departed from me—seemed to merge into one wondrous countenance. All the familiar sounds that came separately into contact with…
This past April, Machado went back to Shanghai for the first time since 1946, accompanied by her husband, her daughters, and her grandsons. She’d avoided the visit for five decades, thinking it would be “too painful,” that she’d be reminded of the war or, worse, of how all her close family members had either passed on or been scattered around the world without her ever seeing them again. “Tears were running down my face,” she says, when she visited her old apartment in a beautiful Art Deco building fallen to ruin. The Catholic church she’d attended was just a façade; the nave had been gutted and turned into offices for the Communist Party. Still, she loved the life and spirit of the new Shanghai and returned home to Long Island inspired enough to paint a guest room in the theme of what she’d seen and to redo one of her gardens in the Chinese style, complete with manicured dwarf maples and custom-made moon doors. And the pain, well, it didn’t feel like pain, exactly. “In Portuguese you call it saudade,” she says. “It means a kind of longing and a love that still remains, that every once in a while when you think about it, it is with nice memories. It’s a missing. The other word in Portuguese that is similar is lembranças. Memories. They’re both beautiful words.”
“I didn’t think of myself as good-looking at all: China Machado’s many beginnings,” by Jada Yuan, New York Magazine, Aug 14, 2011
George, Madrid 2004 Walking on a Friday night with John the Nigerian and George from Sierra Leone. Jaunty, bouncing down the bright slope lit in the glare of numerous headlights. There are no shadows. It seems Madrid is a city without shadows, whether violently over-exposed in the long sharp daylight or blanketed in electric night, even the darkeness is bright, composed of overlapping rays of light. What is normally intimate, is here public. Nigerian, Camerounian, Benin ladies line the “great way” calling to potential clients, in several languages offering blowjobs. John is steely, silent as we pass each small group, but George is perenially jocular, waving as a few of the ladies call him by name: My brodda, I no see you long time,…
Jana Leo, My Neighbor, 2002 – 2011
She used to live across the hallway and was the first person I related to when I moved to Chinatown in 2002. She came into my apartment when assembling furniture She pushed the door, smile and look around talking in Chinese and sit in a chair while I was cleaning; for years she knock at my door and gave me “food stamps canned food”: salmon, green beans, carrots and evaporated milk. I used to storage the goods in a closet, took pictures of the labels, and open a can once in while, when I was too busy to get any other food. She lived by herself and spend most her day in and out from the apartment to the park in front of the building. Years passed like that; she smiled when sees me happy and recognized it was because of the person I have around, who took this picture.In 2008, I expend the whole winter in Spain and when I come back I realized she wasn’t going to the park anymore and that she have caretakers all day long. I asked what happened, (she spoke to me in Chinese and I in Spanish) I realized by the amount of pills and diapers that something serious have happened. She walked along the hallways during the day but never go anymore to the park. I start walking holding her in the hallway. I looked at her feet wearing just sleepers. She looked so frail to me. I imagine carrying her in my back but then asked myself what if she falls. I called social services to find out about the care takers and if they can take her down through complains so I wouldn’t have to do it. A few times, I tried to make her going down the stairs; but she would stop right before the first step. We spent the summer walking in the hallway.I have a ticket to go back to Spain with no return for a long while. I signed myself a date for crossing the limit; the limit between the hallway and the staircase; the limit between her apartment and the door; the limits between the building door and the park with a street in the middle. I practiced the walk mentally. A Saturday in late August 2009, I knocked at her door and take it to the hallway walk, one step down, she hesitated, I hold her tight, letting her know we were going to make it. She stopped. I indicated that we were going to make it, I don’t know how but was clear to her. I hold her very tied, and her weigh went to the first step and then the other and the other, her fragile body, the feet on sleepers… I put one of her hand on the stair rail and hold her body, one and two and three and four and five and six, and seven…. And one and two and three and four and five and six, and seven and one and two and three and four and five and six, and seven eight we were by the door. She stopped again as if she didn’t want to open the door to life anymore. I opened the door and blocked the way back with my body. She stepped out. She laughed at the sun. Her face illuminated and she talked to me. We crossed the street and find a bench in the park and sit. She was in her park. She was alive. I tried to create a pattern for her so she has to ask the caretaker to do when I am not there.The amount of times I pictured in my mind the trip from her apartment into the park sound silly to say because were so many and we only did it once. We were not just going downstairs, I was crossing my own limits with her and she was defeating death.
I didn’t know her name. We never have any reason to like each other but we did.
This picture in the fire stair in between mine and her apartment to honor her and to recognize that I missed her. Also this picture in the fire stair, that has became my gallery is a piece of art. It recognizes that affinities to people are made beyond age, positions, education, language, or origin.This picture was taken by Simon Lund a Saturday afternoon, sometime in August 2009.Jana Leo
August 5 2011