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Groin Gazing

26.01.15
7 min
Conversation

As an aside, I wonder how the silent ‘war’ with the gazer ended. I will come back to my deliberate use of the word war. The unfortunate constellation you talked about certainly involves power and harassment. A man who openly stares, whistles or calls out sexual innuendos at a woman is not realistically trying to seduce. He is simply trying to intimidate by openly proclaiming to her that she is a sex object, and at the same time affirm and thrill himself with his masculinity. It isn’t about desire per se. To further invoke Berger, it is correct to say this arises from how a man’s presence in the world is constructed – as a potent force, powerful and able to act; a woman’s presence, on the other hand, is always about itself, about what can or cannot be done to her, never by her. So, yes, harassment involves power. It’s about taking pleasure in feeling superior over another human being.
Note that I use the word construct with reference to masculinity and femininity. It’s why I hesitate to include resentment in our constellation. To begin with my use of the word war. My refusal of the term resentment is predicated on its implication of a war of the sexes. Who are these men who resent women for the reasons you outlined? Are men all the same then? In any case, what do men want from women? Just to be desired? It seem to me that implicit in what you wrote is that violence and aggression towards women is inherent to men, with rape being a weapon used by men to oppress women. Picture them: helpless prisoners of their testosterone – insatiable and sexually aggressive towards their object of desire. This outlook necessarily boil down to the notion that all men are bastards who benefit from women’s oppression. I’ve always opposed this biological determinism that presumed men aggressive and violent by nature, while women are naturally caring.
What you say about the possibility of overturning gender hierarchy, of men being at the receiving end of the [female] gaze, as tantalising as it may seem, overlooks the fact that objectification of women is (no longer directly) male-driven. This concept takes as its starting point the notion that the objectification of women necessarily benefits the majority of men – whose own lives are actually blighted by the distortions of male and female sexuality. Men and women are shaped by society, with gender roles implanted from a very early age. The thing is that men have the legitimacy of examining women – while women examine themselves being examined (for instance, you observing yourself being observed during the train ride and being trapped by the man’s gaze). But, it is correct to say that women has internalized the objectification of themselves and now do to themselves what men are usually accused of doing to women.
So, who has the power – the one who desires or the one being desired? The thing is to refuse the question. I am for non-belligerent relationship between the sexes. I do agree that women’s desire should exist on an equal basis with men’s without them being seen as “sluts.” The paradox is that the same world where women are seen as sexual objects still traps them in a denial of their own sexual needs. A question comes to mind. When you talk of wanting to go topless in summer and a man admires your breasts, has he objectified you? Where do we draw the line between a gaze that objectifies and a look that admires? In spite of the generalized randiness exhibited by a culture of fetishism of sexuality, there’s no escaping the feeling that underneath it all is a pervasive sexual dissatisfaction; there’s no escaping the strong feeling that there’s less of a real desire for sexual liberation, as of a need to destroy men by a provocative exhibitionism that further objectifies women. My fear is that to want to walk around topless may tend unconsciously towards this fetishism of sexuality – the legitimization, by women, of themselves as sex objects under the superficial guise of affirming female sexuality.
I recognize the necessity of creating a space in which women’s sexuality could be seriously discussed by both women and men, however, the trend is to present the human person not as a sexual being but as a commodity – the sexuality is stripped from its humanity and becomes a commodity. This is the fetishism of commodities about which Marx wrote. I’m reminded of a brief polemic with a Latina concerning Beyonce’s feminism as empowering and a triumph for female sexual liberation. The irony inherent in this noisy celebration is that rather than overcoming sexism, Beyonce actually surrenders to it. On the other hand, compare how shocking and provocative Jane Birkin was in the song Je T’Aime (Moi Non Plus) where Birkin seem to be in the throes of orgasm. Whereas there’s real erotic power in Birkin, Beyonce comes across as sexism made sexy. In place of genuine eroticism you have packaged exhibitionism.
This surrender is all the more insidious because it feeds on women’s struggles for the right to assert their sexual needs and desires, to be more than mere objects for the enjoyment of others – and because it is sold as a liberated way for women to express their sexuality it perpetuates the very process of objectification it claims to negate. The mainstreaming of porn, viz., the rise of what Ariel Levy refers to as “Raunch Culture” – strip bars, pole/ lap-dancing and so on – all show the extent to which human sexuality has become fetishised. This is a most graphic expression of alienation and fetishism in decaying bourgeois society. Attention is drawn, not to the humanity but to the sexuality. And so, what we’ve ended up with is a dialectical paradox: this expression of sexuality that was supposed to reflect the final liberation of female sexuality, that was supposed to challenge objectification and the repression of women’s sexuality – this very expression of female sexuality ends up objectifying and commodifying women as mere sexual objects in more crude and vulgar ways. The attention is not in the person as a sexual being. Rather, the sexuality has become more important than the person. It is an expression, not of liberation, but of submission to a sexed-up stereotype.
We are also in agreement with some of what you say about sex-work – decriminalisation, unionisation etc. Just that, for me, prostitution is not a job like any other. The commodification and alienation of sexuality finds its sharpest expression in prostitution. A part of our humanity, our sexuality is dehumanized and transformed into something alien to us, to be bought and sold. How can genuine sexual needs be satisfied this way? You correctly pointed out that the condition under which this transaction takes place precludes an acknowledgment of the other as a person, an equal, someone who also has needs. Bourgeois society is incapable of offering satisfying (sexual) relationships. A society in which this most intimate relationship will not involve monetary transaction is one in which genuine sexual liberation, increased openness about sex and sexuality will exist. It will be one in which (even regulated) sex-work will not exist.
How do Nigerian women look at men? Among an emerging generation it is at once inviting, challenging, provocative, assessing, and it could be nothing – just holding a male look. It is mostly the second. I will tell you though that even among this layer, for all their brazenness, it is not uncommon to hear a woman say, “Before you brag about sleeping with a woman, make sure you satisfied her.” Thus, she still thinks of sex as something that’s done to her, not, to use your word, a play she actively participates in. Which brings me to the use of the term play. Why is sex not a comingling of passion, a shared intimacy? Why do you call it play?

On Love

26.01.15
8 min
Conversation

Love as loss, because the way children love seems to be the truest love I have seen. Since this will inevitably be lost all I can do is to try to re-create this once I outgrow childhood. Maybe that is how I use Love and Memory in my novel. Re-creating a world where love made everything around us loveable just the way it is because it was distinctively ours (I remember how I once I went for a walk and passed by a really obese and rather unattractive father – he had his kid jump up and down on him, laughing at him, then kissing him, caressing him – loving him and no other father). We don´t chose as long as we are kids, somehow we just love the world surrounding us no matter how dysfunctional it seems from outside…  In my novel I use memory as the sculptor of that loss, giving shape to that hole, that we were born to love and that we later leave behind….  That abandoned hole works like a prism for our lives, every experience is reflected through it… Later in life we chose deliberately, we create consciously, though we like to use the rethorics of „You don´t chose who you love“ many of us do chose (same class, same education, same age – or at least something that favours our image of who we want to be as an adult)…. Are we to blame us therefore? Chosing – the freedom of choice – is part of our dignity as human beings, and yet it is almost humiliating to see how what we chose often seems designed by a certain zeitgeist (which is in an almost satirical way displayed when we are travelling today´s megacities and observering the same sort of coffee-nerds popping up all over the world, they even pick a similar interior design for their coffeshops). We tell ourselves all kinds of stories, all kinds of stories are being told and we believe them – but our belief gives us no hint about the truth contained in these stories… Joan Didion tried to tell herself the story of her beloved coming back even after he died… We can believe all kinds of stories which is what makes life so difficult; now that there seem to be more options for who we are (and love) available, it seems even more difficult to truly be (and love)…
Last week I strolled through Vienna, and after two days I felt part of a world that didn´t exist anymore (like in Woody Allen´s movie where he meets up with Hemingway, Fitzgerald etc in Paris), I sort of met up with Thomas Bernhard, Gustav Klimt and Mahler, Alma Mahler-Werfel, boy, have they all loved and unloved… What stories they told, and people told about them, museums and history books telling their lives and stories… (Here again: This obsessive remembering seems like some kind of love…) Interestingly, Freud, whose house I visited, the man who tried to heal neurosis by finding a coherent story for the often displaced experience that caused it, had a sort of very stable life, an oldfashioned marriage, six kids! (Though he said marriage is not the best place to live out sexuality…) In this psychoanalytical phantasizing about who we are, the cathartic experience through storytelling is considered the truth about us and our life… It seems a very interesting approach: The the fiction about who we were should provide us with information about who we are… It actually doesn´t seem to matter if the fiction is true or if it just fits into the shattered hole. (Or is healing only taking place when we find the story exactly fitting into that fraction?) The times I live in has found and lost itself in this thinking… Everybody seems to need a professional sounding board to know who he is by the very constructed narrative of who we supposedly were. How does that affect who we are and what we are? And who we love? Why was psychoanalysis so much about the past? Maybe because the intensity of our loving as children is so immense that it almost feels like in the first years of our lives rails are being laid in the lovelandscapes of our lives… And later on, all our loving is like a journey on the railways, on these paths. It´s a hell of work to create others, some encounters carry that magical gift to in iteself be able to create others…. More often adult love remains overshadowed… Like the writer Nicole Krauss once said she had always been observing her life, it was only when she gave birth to her first child, she said, that she found back to being in a moment instead of observing it (which also means that the love towards that kid´s father was not able to create that inside her)… There is a chance that parental and childhood love is the only kind of love that silences the observer inside us… Unmittelbarkeit. Maybe physical love is, too.
That book you read, the story it tells: I find these kind of narratives games of thought that I find hard believe… There is in such a plausible manner so much construction, narration, storytelling, which is fine but it´s a man´s game to own the world that in itself does not provide this kind of sedation… Life is disruptive, incoherent. Love is, since it is life. I get a little anxious when logical storytelling starts claiming real explanations about what the world is or – even worse – was like …  As long as we treat that kind of knowledge as stories in order to survive what we don´t understand, tools to master experiences, I am interested – but as academic and plausible as it seems, it is in its own way fictional… I don´t believe that we created this kind of suffering by setting up morals to our sexual desires (why was there a need to do so in the first place)… I believe that fight between desire and destruction is much older than our morals…
The „story about lost love“ to a certain extent replace that „lost love“. That is maybe why we so love therapy nowadays: it allows us to come back and back to our childhood, pretending it is only in order to become better adults… Which we in the end might well become… Memory here works as a way to keep love alive and wipe out the experience of time passing. And at the same time, by creating a coherent story, makes past out of a memory that was incoherently present inside us….
I was rarely in love while in love. I was ecstatic when people were able to move me, it rather felt like what Poe (?)  called an overalterness of senses. I fell in love – afterwards. When I felt what it was like not to be around a certain person. Not to be the person I was around that person. As selfish as it may sound, I didn´t only miss the beloved, I just as much missed the person the beloved would let me be… The adult creation of love happens in the longing, in the remembering, in the re-creation of the moments you fell in love with by placing them into the narrative of your life. The child´s creation of love happens in the arriving, being. Can you own a story by telling it? Do we really own our lives, and our psyches, do we heal them by creating coherent stories of what we think what once happened? And when we tell other people´s stories better then they could, who then owns these stories? Ownership, not in the sense of owning the story of a person but a memory of that person. Expressing love by showing that their personality was the texture of the stories you tell… The ones I love(d). I think of them. I (re)create them while I think of them. I love them this way. It might sound like a lot. But maybe, at the same time, it shows that it is not. That they are not. My phantasy needs to add to them, my love for them will only be complete if I try to express it. Will reality ever be enough?
That´s how I employed „love“ and „memory“ in my novel. My Love for people who never told their stories somehow asked of me to claim the right to remember their stories… Is that love or abuse of it? Love is also despair, cause you long to be understood. And sometimes you even dare to expect to maintain that feeling of being understood. Though tides and inreliablities are part of life and every human being. How can we be one person, when we are hardly ever the same. How can we love one person when she/he is hardly ever the same. And  if she/he ist he same, it might just as well kill someting vital inside us and them. When life (and who we are) changes in an instant, as Joan Didion put it in her Year of Magical Thinking – then how can we really love?

Fishing cane my parents bought me first time I were in San Pedro in 1997
First fish I caught fishing with my uncles in La Coronilla, Rocha, Uruguay, summer 2014

Travel Logbook: San Pedro

30.12.14
19 min
Post

What I already knew about San Pedro: The first time I went to San Pedro was the weekend before starting 1st grade in 1997. My mum was pregnant with my sister, it was our last trip as a three-membered family. My dad bought me a fishing rod made of cane with no mechanism whatsoever. I didn’t catch a thing. Nobody did except for a boy who caught a tiny fish that day.

Since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to learn how to fish. Now I can do it with a little help. In Uruguay, with my uncles in Rocha’s beaches by the breakwater and here in Argentina I always ask my dad to teach me but it’s something he does with his friends.

About San Pedro I know there’s really tasty oranges (gotta buy some) and it’s located by the Parana river (I would love to just sun bath and swim during the whole stay). The guys in my shooting group reminded me the existence of the honky-tonk festival in San Pedro where they get together and dance to country songs. It was like a month ago, but we’ll research about it. Sometimes with my dad, his girlfriend and my sister we go to the movies at a shopping mall and when we come out of the movie we see all the honkies with their cowboy suits and we go to their free honky-tonk lesson. It’s really fun. A classmate told me about some guy’s yard full of sculptures. Apparently, he’s well-known in San Pedro. Later that day I went to my dressmaker’s house to try on my belly dance dress and she told me about Monica & Cesar’s farm. They are a famous news anchor couple who several years ago bought a farm in San Pedro which you can visit as a tourist attraction. My dressmaker lives two blocks from my house and her daughter used to be a dance classmate of mine. She also told me that in San Pedro was the battle of Vuelta de Obligado, where Argentinian creoles put chains in the river so the English and French navy couldn’t pass. They succeded, so now there’s a museum and a monument.The brand new November 24th national holiday is to commemorate this battle. Preparation: On Monday at university they told us we had to have edited audiovisual material by next Monday. The final project consisted in going two or more times to a small town in Buenos Aires. First time would be to have the first impressions of the place, second (and third if necessary) would be to go with a shooting plan. We had to go ASAP and apart from shooting and taking photographs and having them revealed over the weekend, which is impossible. I’m burnt out from nearly not sleeping during the past three weeks and I’ve learnt to live with a constant, never-ending headache. Partial exam. Proofread a whole 400 pages magazine and its translations in a week. Shooting. Edition. Handing over previous project. Dissolution of previous project’s  group. Get a new group and organize a trip in an afternoon. Luckily, we agreed on timing and we leave on Thursday. I leave in a charter from Panamericana y Marquez, 15 blocks from my house in the northern outskirts of Buenos Aires, they go by bus from Retiro’s terminal, near downtown. We’ll stay at the Federal Shooting Campsite because they rent tents. These days I’ve been all around the city asking for lent camping gear to friend’s who said yes, then no, then asking another one, finding solutions. Exhaustion. The hours are way too short and Buenos Aires is too damn big. – Rent a tent (call the campsite) ✓ – Get an analog camera ✓ – Get 35mm film – Go to the office ✓ – Buy water ✓ – Go to my dance class (got there awfully late) ✓ – Call a cab for tomorrow ✓ – Laundry ✓ – Pack ✓ – Ask for a sleeping bag (Dani, Leo, D ✓) – Meet T for camera – Buy a disposable camera ✓ –  Go to D’s for sleeping bag ✓ I found an analog Kodak Brownie Fiesta camera at home. I took it to Pluscolor (photography store) and they told me the 127 Kodak film hasn’t been made for years now. This broke my heart a little bit because it’s a beautiful camera and really wanted to try it. 9:40 AM Cab arrives to take me to the charter stop. 10 AM Charter that leaves me at the campsite arrives to Panamericana and Marquez. I’m going to take a shower and try to pack and sleep. I’m taking Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” because I thought it was suitable because I was going on a kind of improvised trip as well and because I’m having a hard time getting hooked with this book except for some sporadic parts that make me laugh or some really good parts or quotes but they are pretty isolated in the whole book. I’ve been reading it for a year now, forcing myself to read it right now, really. Sorta boring. I’m about to finish it by now. I really love Kerouac but maybe that thing Truman Capote said about “On the Road” not being writing but mere typing makes a little bit of sense. The lack of sleep made me to not enjoy Seinfeld during breakfast. Panamericana and Marquez. Charter half an hour late. I hop on and one of the only two other passengers was a familiar face. What are the odds of that happening on a Thursday morning of a busy month? He is an artist I met in some exhibitions that lived for a year in 2013 in San Pedro. He told me some stuff about San Pedro and places to go like bars and the night club’s monopoly and their owners. He used to look after one of those guy’s houses while he was gone. The charter left me at the Federal Shooting campsite. I told the woman at the check-in counter that I would pay when my classmates arrived. I sat down and waited for them. The pool exploded with a large group of fifteen-year-olds that were all over the place. A group of them almost get into a ramble, another group was shaking a tree. My classmates arrived and we went to pay, the check-in counter lady got mad at me because I didn’t tell her I had a tent reserved, which was already put up at the campsite. I thought it was amazing that it had been already put up and didn’t have to take care of that myself. We left our stuff in the tent. Martin didn’t have a camera but at the campsite’s grocery store they were selling a Kodak analog camera from Brazil, 35mm film and batteries included for $70 Argentinian pesos. The film wouldn’t get hooked up to the camera mechanism. Half an hour trying to make it work. The two women at the grocery store, which I figured were mother and daughter, didn’t like us because not only we didn’t buy the camera, but we also ruined the film.

Federal Shooting campsite entrance

33 Celsius degrees going up a rift. The rustic stairs they made to go up the rift didn’t make it easier.

The view paid off, which was necessary to recover energy and air after going up. After 15 minutes of walking, some photographs and the first impressions of the town, we got to the Old Shipyard, a place the visual artist Juan De Stefano recovered and turned into a place where he permanently exhibits his iron sculptures, a place where the history of the humble neighborhood Las Canaletas is preserved and passed on, where the children learn how to make clay sculptures and a place with a 100% public access to the river (San Pedro used to have a municipal beach but now every safe, beach access to the river has a price). When we got there, Juan was at his house, in front of the Old Shipyard, working, but the place was full of kids swimming and playing in the water and jumping from the pier.

Boys swimming and playing at the Old Shipyard

Boy swimming at the Old Shipyard

Juan De Stefano’s iron sculpture by the river at the Old Shipyard

I asked a girl who was previously slacklining and was now sitting by the river with a man and a guy where was Vuelta de Obligado, how to get there and where could we get something to eat. They told me where to eat by the river and that Vuelta de Obligado was 20 Km. away and we could take a bus from the terminal. I told my classmates, we thanked them and as we left, they told us they were going to Vuelta de Obligado and they could take us in their car. After a long pause, telepathic conversation, doubt and mistrust, Majo, the woman, said to us: “So, guys, do you dare?”

I thought we might either end up starring in a B Class horror movie or that it could be really good. Paranoia made me, just in case, text my mum the Chevrolet’s plate and took a picture of it with my disposable analog camera. If everything resulted in a B class horror movie, it would be like Blair Witch Project but more vintage.

We went to the Vuelta de Obligado Battle museum. The monument is like a fountain that is a semi-circular wall of water gushing giant chains. 30 Celsius degrees. The monument’s waterjets were off.

Me, all touristy with the Vuelta de Obligado Battle monument

We smoked a bit of weed in the museum’s woods and by its pier but I didn’t smoke much because I wanted to be alert… I didn’t want us to get robbed and left in the middle of nowhere just for being the stupid stoner of the movie. We left the museum around 4 PM and we went to “A lo Cacho”, a typical town bar. We had a beer that returned me to life. After a while of interacting with the locals, Majo, who was waiting in the car, demanded that we left to “The Broken Bridge”. Ruben, “A lo Cacho”‘s manager, told us while serving a glass of Tacon (herbal beverage) to the gaucho Mario, that his bar had served as location of a film that won awards in a Berlin festival.

Colo’s Chevrolet parked at A lo Cacho

El Colo having a beer, me by the bar inside.

A lo Cacho. Inside, Nico and I having a beer at the bar.

Mario, the gaucho

We went on “El Colo”‘s (one of the guys we met with Majo, whose nickname translates as “The Redhead”) white Chevrolet listening to Colombian cumbia, salsa, reggae, looking for Majo’s ex-band in that playlist. Every once in a while “el Colo” would say that there was nobody around nor any kind of signal, something that I usually think as great, now made me think we were going to die there.”El Colo” insisted that it wasn’t like in Buenos Aires (where he is originally from), though, that you could trust people in small towns. The Broken Bridge was baptized that way last year when the stream went up so much that the water broke it leaving hanging wooden beams and enormous rocks coming out of the water. We went into a private land, past the wire fence and there, surrounded by cows and horses, we went into the water. It was something beautiful after such heat. Majo was scared and thought there might be either fishes or snakes. “El Colo” said there might be Cucumelo there and we looked for it in the cows’ shit for a while with no success.

Majo, Martin, El Colo and I

El Colo by the Broken Bridge

From left to right: Nico, me, Martin, the crew.

Majo, El Colo, me sun bathing at the Broken Bridge

We went back to “A lo Cacho”. I was wrecked. We haven’t eaten anything all day. Majo and “El Colo” played pool. Ruben told me the ravioli with stew was $95 Argentinian pesos. “El Colo” had recently told me that San Pedro’s restaurants were expensive as if we were in Las Cañitas (posh Buenos Aires neighborhood) even if it was just a small lousy canteen. When I heard that price my eyebrows spontaneously went up in awe and said: “What?!”. Ruben then answered: I can make it $90 for you, with that face, you can do whatever you want…” I felt flattered till I realized my beauty was worth $5 pesos. “El Colo” asked for a Pappo’s song, another one asked later for a Rolling Stone’s song and afterwards was Amy Winehouse’s turn. I decided to pay that much for the ravioli because I needed to regain strength and if I needed to run or escape I was going to need it (I wasn’t really trusting yet… especially after hearing one of the locals say: “The guys keep on shooting?” and some stuff that were unintelligible and “El Colo” said: “Yeah… The perfect crime.”).

El Colo and Majo playing pool at A lo Cacho

Nico, Pedro, Ruben and I

The stars in the road looked amazingly beautiful and bright. Either lying by the water stream with my face all covered in mud (great clay facial mask for free) or sunbathing in the field or on the car looking at the stars, I was so relaxed that I thought that it didn’t matter if “El Colo” grabbed an axe and cut me in two or some kind of exaggerated, dramatic, bloody death like that because in that moment, I was happy. “El Colo” and Majo talked about stopping by the road at night to have Mate (Argentinian infusion). I wanted to take a shower (and live) so I said no. They took us to the campsite and we agreed on going to a bar called Viento Sur at night. The shower had an amazing water pressure so it felt like a massage session. Martin forgot the adaptor to charge the camera’s battery. I went to the check-in counter, a bungalow next to the campsite, the restaurant int front of the campsite called “Riviera”, and to the Howard Johnson hotel next to the restaurant. Nobody had an adaptor. We called “El Colo” At Viento Sur we were able to charge the battery for a while. It was 11 PM of a Thursday night so there were a few groups of young people and a group of thirty-somethings with a baby. My classmates ate fries. Majo came by and we had a beer. I wanted to sleep, we had to wake up early to return the tent at 9 AM. Day 2 We arranged with Juan De Stefano that we would meet at the Old Shipyard at 12:30 because it was closed the day before. We took a different way, Martin bought his disposable camera at last and we arrived, followed by three beautiful dogs that came along with us in our adventure to a ship that was at the Malvinas (Falklands for English speakers) war, now a museum. One of the dogs got to the ship with a hurt leg because getting there, a big dog came out of a house and bit it. It broke my heart to watch everything not being able of doing anything because I’m super scared of big dogs, especially when they are barking and biting, and everybody in San Pedro leave their dogs out, so this things happen. I was scared of some dog every two blocks. The other two dogs jumped into the river when we got to the ship, the hurt one couldn’t. We went to take a look at the ship. I love ships so I really enjoyed it. When we came out, only one dog remained waiting for us.

One of the dogs about to go into the water.

The ship, once at the Malvinas war, now a museum.

I’m on a boat

Cartography and window reflex

After the ship we finally went to the Old Shipyard to talk to Juan. He told us about his neighborhood, Las Canaletas, the Old Shipyard, the river, the gutters that give the name to the neighborhood (Las Canaletas means “The Gutters” in English…It’s a bit funny that this is an under-priviledged neighborhood and it’s named like that, but it doesn’t sound as bad in Spanish), the children and drugs, he also talked to us about the sculptor Fernando García Curten and another artist, Yayo Altoaguirre that was born just hours away from Juan and he thinks it’s curious that both of them are artists.There were kids making clay sculptures: a pipe, a parrot, etc.

Juan De Stefano

One of Juan’s sculpture

Juan De Stefano’s sculpture

Iron sculptures outside of the Old Shipyard

Typical house of Las Canaletas neighborhood

Typical house of the humble neighborhood Las Canaletas

Then Juan left and we went to swim in the river. There were many families with kids by the river, I covered myself in clay from the bottom of the river once again and the guys rested by the river for a while. I couldn’t sit because of the clay. A group of boys asked us to take a picture of them jumping from the pier.

Boy jumping off the pier

We decided to go to García Curten’s. His house works as a museum as well. We arrived 10 minutes early so I sat on the threshold and waited.

Above: “Arts Workshop” Below: “Museum House Fernando García Curten”

A few minutes later I heard the door and see a bare-chested old man putting his shirt on and surprised to see me sitting there. He told me to wait and he left to put his t-shirt on.

Fernando García Curten, going inside to put his shirt on.

He then made us come in.

Fernando García Curten, still surprised after finding me by chance sitting on his threshold and inviting us in after putting his shirt on.

In the garden, under the shade of the trees, his 3-year-old grand daughter, newly arrived with her mum from Buenos Aires, was cooling herself off in a pink-plastic-baby bathtub. We walked past the garden towards the workshop where the sculptures and collages were exhibited.

Fernando García Curten’s grand daughter

Flyer

García Curten’s sculptures exhibited permanently at his workshop.

Later, we talked to him for a while. He had a black tee-shirt which sleeves he had cut off, black sunglasses and he was smoking his pipe. He told us his daughter and grand daughter had arrived earlier that day and they put the girl in the bathtub because it was too hot. While I was taking a look at his art in the workshop, I heard in the background, as I was writting in the guestbook:

– Dad! – No, grandpa… He then told us that he stopped making sculptures ten years ago because he doesn´t have enough energy for that anymore, so now he just draws and makes collages, that he doesn’t sell his work because nobody goes to San Pedro to buy art, that a lot of people doesn’t give him a good feedback about his work because he says they don’t like the obscurity and dramatism of it: “They don’t want to take a look in the mirror”. That the problem is old age as he discovered five years ago when the doctor found something serious that, as he repeated it several times I wanted to ask but I didn’t dare. He also told us that small towns are cruel to artists, personages, freaks, that he had only sold at a good price when he’s lives in Belgium and in Europe in general, that Ernesto Sábato told him: “They are going to kill you here (San Pedro)” and that he now feels it’s true. Last but not least, he said that to the young people that visit him he tells them to persist, and that more than bravery, they must have courage. That art is something that is not done for pleasure but for necessity and that he is really tired.

Fernando García Curten smoking his pipe with his sunglasses on. What not to love about this man?

Old Geezah

After we left García Curten’s house, we had an ensaimada, a pasty from Mallorca, now typical from San Pedro as well due to a large colony from there in San Pedro, filled with party cream (the original) or dulce de leche.

World’s biggest ensaimada, June 22nd, 2003.

I walked the guys to the bus terminal and then walked by the shore to the campsite. I’ve got 40 minutes left till the charter came to pick me up. I enjoyed for the first time the so well advertised pool of the campsite. Five lengths of the 10 Mt. pool that costed me a lot of effort and air as ever before. I talked a little bit to the manager and the lifeguard. I took a shower and 15 minutes later the charter arrived. Never such better timing. I always love to look out the window during a roadtrip but it was so hard not to fall asleep. A really attractive woman hopped on the charter that, due to her looks, I supposed she wasn’t from here. Later someone called her on the phone and I confirmed she was, in fact, Colombian and I enjoyed the accent coming from the seat behind mine while looking at the road and falling asleep from time to time. The charter left me on Thames street by the highway and I walked three blocks towards the Subway that’s near my house for the first time and ordered the 30 Cm. sandwich. I have hardly eaten during the trip. I walked with my huge backpack on my shoulders the six blocks that separated me from home, I was happy to be back. At last, I lied down in front of the telly to die and enjoy an unsavory meatball Subway with tomato, lettuce, onion, jalapeño pepper, green bell pepper, sweet onion sauce, spicy sauce, and yet, still unsavory.

Katti Jisuk Seo
People

One day Katti asked me if I did grow up in a strawberry cake, describing an obviously chuffed tone of felicity in my voice (and maybe in my daydream influenced face). What just was a playful saying, come and gone, is in fact one of a billion ways in which she can make sense of the world. According to Katti life itself is not only a bakery ready to take over, where you can bake and eat chocolate cookies, apple pies, and fancy cakes all by yourself. You also can – and should – be a conquistadora of your own state of mind, meaning: bake and sugarcoat yourself to be what you want to be. Finding that recipe of change is the most great endeavour she wants to undertake. So if you ever launch your spirit starship heading to ‘Destination: Honeypot’ best take Katti with you on the ride. She will explore all the oceans of space offside your skillfully calculated bearing to find the candy wonders of life, that wait for you left and right.

Mark Wachholz
People

I met Mark nine years ago at filmArche, a place where they call him God or nerd or both. He paints the insides of your sunglasses with colours you never saw before. He replaces your headphones by a deaf-aid, he cuts your brain open, puts three cogwheels and a cuckoo clock in and then closes it gently. From then on you can turn your marital crisis into the thrill of a burning helicopter, your postnatal depression into the joy of a jumping jackhammer and your lovesickness into the excitement of stealing silver spoons from your neighbors. You start living inside the fantastic trailer of your own life that you are not living. And you never want to get rid of that feeling again.

A Test of Character

by
Katti Jisuk Seo
Mark Wachholz
22.12.14
60 min
Longread
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Ralph Martin
People

Ralph Martin and I met on a Berlin balcony roughly the size of my New York living room. This was in the fall of 2007; it was Thanksgiving. Most of the apartments we haunted back then were, as Ralph describes, a particular kind of Berlin-nice. They were not the coal-moted blocks of the nineties. They were roomy to the point of cavernous and well-lit and, typically, underfurnished, because furniture, like food, existed for us on a strictly need-to-know basis, and we did not need to know the credenza. In any case, this apartment was not Berlin-nice in that particular way. This apartment was New York–nice; it spoke bluntly and eloquently of the unattainable luxury most of us preferred to have out of sight. In any case, there it was, and we were on the balcony. Somebody introduced us and Ralph asked how long I’d been in Berlin. I’d been there three or four months then.
Ralph said something along the lines of, “With all due respect, I don’t think I want to be your friend.”
“Why?”
“Well, you’ll see – or you won’t. It’s just not worth it. People show up and they hang around for an academic year and then they’re gone. You go back to New York or wherever and we’re still here. We’ve learned not to invest ourselves in the new arrivals.”
Ralph has no particular memory of this conversation, though he concedes it may very well have happened, and that it accurately reflected his (generally unvoiced) feelings on the matter of new arrivals. For what it’s worth here, less than a year later I learned what Ralph was talking about. Many of my friends were moving on, when it felt as though we’d barely gotten there. Ralph describes pretty well what that feels like. The main thing Berlin had had going for it was that it was practically impossible to stay too long at the party, because by the time one party ended another had begun in its place. But then all of a sudden your particular cohort has moved on, and the new people are intolerable because they so accurately reflect your own pretentious naivete. In any case, by the time that happened, Ralph had gotten over his initial reservations and we’d become friends. We’d become friends mostly because I’d been third-hand invited to a birthday party Ralph was having in the Tiergarten. The party, I’d been told, had a dandy theme, but because it was Berlin nobody bothered with the effort of a costume. Because Ralph had treated me with such disdain, however, I was nervous to show up in my civilian clothes. I wore a rather silly thin-waled corduroy suit I hoped Ralph might admire. I can’t imagine he liked the suit but he appreciated the effort as a personal gesture.
The following Thanksgiving was at Ralph’s house. My mother was in town to visit and we went. There were probably sixty or seventy bottles of nice wine for maybe twenty people. I’m pretty sure all the wine was consumed. There was the only goose-liver paté I can recall having consumed in my time in Berlin. Ralph had a rather imperious orange cat, and an adorable daughter who thought English was the secret code only her father new. Back then, like now, Ralph’s attitude toward his own bourgeois comforts was self-effacing. He wrote two drily hilarious collections of satirical essays on the cliche of his Prenzlauer Berg existence. (Frankly, they stand with anything David Sedaris has ever written, but for now they remain available only in German.) But what made those books so terrific wasn’t their satire – though that was always sharp – but their warmth, and their generosity. They were funny and moving not because Ralph despised his life in the bezirk of Swabian yoga-mütter but because, despite himself, he loved it. Ralph always worried that more fun things might be happening in dirtier, darker corners, but in reality it was the gaiety and liveliness of his hearth that felt much realer to me, in those years in Berlin, than another night of vaguely fun self-loathing at Berghain.
When Ralph’s son was born, sometime later, our mutual friend David said we should go visit. I was in no particular hurry; none of my friends, at that point, had kids to speak of, and the whole concept seemed retrograde and a little gauche. David said to me, “It’s very important to people that you go meet their children as soon as possible.” We went, and sat around with Ralph and his family until almost dawn. Everything was the same for Ralph, but just a little bit different. A few weeks later Ralph was allowed out of the house for the first time since his son was born, and we went to some Halloween parties in Neukölln and then the old Polish bar on Schlesische Strasse, its Halloween floor littered with broken glass, and ended up spending that dawn on the Oberbaumbrücke. At the time, it seemed to me that it was those nights I’d gone to Berlin for. It feels odd to say now, but I remember the nights at Ralph’s house much more fondly.
So take all of this as a kind of caveat. Ralph has written a very clever, wide-ranging, intelligent, witty, and poignant piece about real estate and speculation and the ambitions of youth. But it should be noted that he should not be taken strictly at his word. His written metier may be bristly self-satisfaction, but his lived metier is, from the outside at least, the adult model to which we might all aspire. It is, after all, that tension that makes his essay feel so vital, and so relevant. Have fun with this essay. But keep in mind it was written by a wonderfully unreliable narrator.

Zombies of Berlin

by
Ralph Martin
29.11.14
60 min
Longread
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On Love

20.11.14
3 min
Conversation

Love as memory, maybe this is what I mean, maybe this is what you mean. This is, at least as I read it, how you employ love in your novel “Restaurant Dalmatia”. The past is the past, but what we take from it or what takes us back or what helps us bridge this gap is the idea of a story that connects us with others. Is this then exile? Is this being lost? Or being found? We tell ourselves stories in order to survive, this is what Joan Didion said. There is nothing wrong with love being such a story. This does not mean that love is exactly that story. The power of storytelling is essentially that it creates a reality by describing it. Or by describing another reality that is not even similiar to the one it creates. This poetic leap is what love makes possible. Creating is an act of loving, of sharing, of giving something to the world. Does it have to do with John Lennon and Joko Ono? I would think not. I remember a book that I did or did not read a while ago, it was called “From Shame to Sin” and describes how in late antiquity the early Christians used morality to create around the dangerous force of sex something that was inflated with morality. Guilt arose and with it order. And suppression. And anger. And loneliness. This does not mean that a different society would have less suffering. It only means that this society has the suffering it signed up for, a long time ago. It is the very foundation, the agreement that holds us together. It is not even bourgeois. This is a conceit of the present to think that everything has to do with something that happened in the last 200 years. The book by Kyle Harper was exciting exactly for that reason: There was a moment of creation or destruction, there was a decision made that had consequences. Everything could be different. Again, not to say without suffering, longing, fear, loneliness. Happiness, fulfillment, everything that love can bring, the sparkle in the everyday, a look, a gaze, warmth, belonging, all these things that are so hard to hold on to and so easy to destroy and so valuable. They are still the feelings that love is made off. But in a different setting they might play out differently. It would be worth a try at least.

On Love

03.11.14
7 min
Conversation

I have never felt safe on any ground. Not on band names. Not on the eighties. Not on Games. „Love is the absence in the present”, let me take this line of yours as the starting point of inquiry, the underlying question towards whose answer I´m heading to. Do questions love answers – or the other way round?
I loved to watch Schnitzler´s Reigen on stage. But it scared every cell inside of me to be part of that play off stage. Maybe ´cause I saw Reigen when I was in my early twenties and in a way it retold the story that women would turn tender after having sex whereas men would turn cold. I saw the play only a few days after a guy I was almost impressed by had let me know: Women have sex for relationships and men have relationships for sex. How the hell did all these men from Schnitzler to Freud to that guy so precisely know what women wanted sex for and how they would feel afterwards? I really, in those times, couldn´t understand what kept the two sexes so interested in each other, and if it worked out: what was the missing link, that glue that tacked two independent circles to an eight of eternity. Judging by Reigen and Schnitzler and so many others, that one moment of closeness we long for can´t but destroy anything between us because in the end it is all about the power play of „ getting someone“. And behind so many stories representing that power play there was always that one cliché being reproduced: a man trying to get sex and a woman trying to get love. Not to speak of the repetitive motif of the exploitative nature of older men in their lust for inexperienced young women/girls, this little young nothings as an instrument of masculine aging self-love. I live(d) in a little town. Imagine Schnitzlers Reigen there. Is this all there is about the sexes that we pass each other on from one to another – not much of an attractive idea, particularly in a little place, to be honest. What about exclusiveness? Or is the dream of exclusiveness already a self-deceit in utter need of therapy? It would scare the shit out of me to sit on Freud´s couch. Not that I mind inquisition and deep talk. But much of what I have read about him and from him has to be treated with a lot of suspicion. In the ways it is so absolute. So intrusive. So Original Sin and thus religious in its claim for the darkest corners of our Selves. I prefer to be misled by Love than by a bad Freudian therapist. Or Freud himself. Love has to be questioned, you wrote. But so has lust. In the way we live it it might be as invented as love. We are maybe directed into lust in the same way we are directed into a certain image of what love is nowadays. You say the song by Foreigner could be addressed to any kind of girl or boy or… Reigen… you make it sound easy and like a reminiscent of a time where hormones were not so heavily loaded with romanticism and concepts of love as they are today – whereas i think the play was written in that way because it was a way to release the lust from the normative load that was then the hormone´s daily christian and societal rule. Sure there must have been a secret night-life, but: I believe we are nowadays physically and emotionally more able to express love and lust „freely“. We are on so many levels invited to live our sexuality/ies in a daily routine just like eating Corn Flakes in the morning or jogging along a river. Simply add the ingredient sex to your daily routine if you like or seem to need it. Today´s times make sure you know where you can get it – and I don´t mean for money, i rather mean sexploitation of your own sexlife. Whereas sex could have been a refuge it has turned into a hunter itself since it supposedly doesn´t have to have to do with love.
The other day some news ticked into my account: Young people these days don´t seem to know when a relationship starts. Now that everything is just an expression of oneself, from a kiss to a night to whatever – people don´t need to clear up what this means any longer. Is this still the Reigen? Is that still a dance, a song? Or is it mechanical love? Mechanical lust? Is anyone listening? You don´t dare to ask a machine how it feels, do you? Narcissim hasnt´t replaced anything but taken the role of a shield against that vulnerability that competitiveness and replaceability cause. Where is the difference between lust and love? Why do we often speak of love when we speak of contexts you pay for physical activities? Why do some in turn speak of duties when they speak of the same activities in marital contexts? This whole love-lust-life-marriage-whorehouse-thing seems to be upside down. We are afraid we are not gonna find love in marriages, or lust in marriages, we believe you can´t have it all and yet architect our lives exactly around that have-it-all-theory as if that knowledge wasn´t around.
I do agree that love is a dangerous force. Self-destructive in times. It can unleash all sorts of feelings, pure want being the one among them I consider the least harmful. I don´t know about innocence, Georg. I think innocence is that in a person that does not know what an experience will cause inside her. Or around her. That inside us that doesn´t even know there is a possible experience. I don´t know about the innocence of the scene I told you about. We stood in front of each other in awe. Admiration. Wonder. Experience – and hence a threat to innocence – begins when you reach out. Desire is the beginning of the loss of innocence because you sense or know that there is an experience to be made. The two of us knew no desire, we just wanted to be where we are. Maybe a kind of love the gods would have shattered in a Greek Comedy for the Human´s Happiness was unbearable to our Divinities. The complexity of that encounter was limited, that is why it was innocent – and joyful. Complexity raises tension and thoughts and thus reduces that childlike joy we feel about each other. The girl became an actress. The last time she wrote to me she was in Germany, precisely in Berlin, because she had fallen in love with a German. I don´t know what became of her. I don´t even know what became of me – in terms of love. There was always this question of safety when I felt love could be around. It was not the Reigen that made me catch glimpses of Love. Not that wanting to know what love is, as Foreigner put it, but knowing. Calm. I remember watching „The Making of Imagine“. There was this scene in which Yoko Ono and John Lennon talked about Love. And this sentence: So, what is love then? I really think that love is something to do with relaxation, you know? When you’re guarded with somebody, you know, then you’re not relaxed. And when you’re guarded with somebody, you can’t love that person, you know? Love is when you understand it so well that you relax for it, you know. And we have that kind of relaxation between us, a lot.
–Yoko Ono Lennon
I know that people hated her for that. I know that I had little to say about that since I have always rather been the Annie-Hall-kind-of-girl-with-more-of-a-J-Lo-Shape-and-dresses. I never knew much about relaxation. Maybe, just like Lennon´s fans, I was afraid it would kill creativity. But maybe this is why I often wonder if this is exactly what love is about.

Groin Gazing

26.01.15
7 min

On Love

26.01.15
8 min

Travel Logbook: San Pedro

30.12.14
19 min

A Test of Character

by
Katti Jisuk Seo
Mark Wachholz
22.12.14
60 min

Zombies of Berlin

by
Ralph Martin
29.11.14
60 min

On Love

20.11.14
3 min

On Love

03.11.14
7 min