What is Art? Part 1

People often ask me, after some time, for my definition or understanding of art. What is more important: to define or to understand? Art cannot be defined so it’s better to try and explain how it can be understood. The way I understand art is not definitive. Different kinds of artworks demand different standards and criteria, if not values. It is true for every discipline: how can you judge ballroom dancing the same way as hiphop? How can you judge a novel on the same terms as a poem? How could you compare techno to bluegrass? You can and you can’t; it is both true and unjust. Continue reading “What is Art? Part 1”

Uncompromising: the Bilingual Mind

It’s always been difficult for me, as a teacher mostly, but as a person, to say no, absolutely not, I’m putting my foot down and won’t budge. I find it so unhealthy in the latter and necessary in the former. Definitely, this has caused some conflict at work and I’m beginning to wonder, for personal matters, if it is really the right way (at least I should lax or slacken my pace on my way to “perfection”)

I tend to associate unwillingness to poor communication skills externally and immaturity internally. I value the ability to listen to someone from ta place of empathy, receptivity, and openness; it is immature to always have your way and worse, throw a tantrum if you don’t get it. Apparently, to grow up means to convert this tantrum into violence or threat of violence. Unwillingness and stubbornness stall peace and understanding.

However, in Cisneros’ 1992 interview, in which she explains her bilingual style, she makes comments that are righteously uncompromising, in a way I admire and hold to great esteem. When the interview suggested that she translated her work internally, she corrected him: “Sometimes.” The interview agreed: “Not all of it.” She reaffirms: “No, I don’t have to.” Continue reading “Uncompromising: the Bilingual Mind”

Minimalism, Art as the Process of Simplification

I’ve always yearned for a minimalistic approach to art in which I use the fewest words or lines to produce a final creation. There is a famous story of Picasso scribbling on a napkin in a cafe. A woman hurries to him and says, “Please, how much for the napkin?” “Excuse me,” he replied. “I want to buy the sketch on the napkin.” “Twenty thousand” “What!?” “Twenty thousand,” he repeated. “But it only took you two minutes,” she said. “No, ma’am, this took me 65 years.”

It will take time and sacrifice. T his story illustrates a message I fail to communicate to anyone,  though I try: somehow it just feels like I’m always learning even if I’m not trying. The more I do it, the more I understand, the more focus and attention and analysis I put in, the better I become, even if it’s a simple line. It’s as if every inch of that line held a year each. That line couldn’t have been drawn without those years and an intensity of concentration (years alone guarantee nothing but decomposition). Continue reading “Minimalism, Art as the Process of Simplification”

If “The Sun Also Rises” Were Written by a Woman

I open my eyes. 6 am. I close my eyes. I open my eyes. 8 am. I’m almost late. I leave at 8:20. I get on the wrong train. There are also delays. I arrive late at 9:10. The old man stole my chair. I got him another one. He gave me my chair back. All is right in the world.

I’m in a detention center. A place for criminals. A place where hearsay is rampant. Mundane but I keep busy. In the world of internet, how can anyone be bored?

Except for the old man. He has no phone, no computer, no internet. He sits. He stalks. He paces. But mostly talks shit. He’s a mystery. Continue reading “If “The Sun Also Rises” Were Written by a Woman”

Colton: A Hologram of Sound

I know a boy who is trying to keep himself together, trying to make a man of himself, trying to keep his band together, but I already said that: I said he was trying to keep himself together. When I say keep his band together, you should’ve read “he’s trying to keep himself together” for the second time. It’s a rock band, and he’s jazz, the best you’ve ever heard because it’s so desperate (don’t misconstrue: he isn’t desperate, his music is).

This one is a martyr, like all artists are, not the triers, the doers, the ones on pursuit, the ones with no Plan B, the ones whose core is not a heart, and lungs, and liver, but everyone’s suffering and you wonder: “How can his body endure it; how can one body store so much suffering?”

It becomes transformed, maybe, in its expulsion into sonic sorrow, and when the sound fades, sorrow with it. Remember the dying note. Remember its final axis: the very exact second sound meets silence. I want to live there; I’ve never known so much peace as the peace of that exact moment. Continue reading “Colton: A Hologram of Sound”

Interior Ocean

In the yoga studio, the fifteen of us lie still, at the end, and our breaths are in unison; our breaths resemble the sound of waves. I’m rocked back into my memories.

The darkness behind my eyelids is softened by the low lit screens all around us. Though I’m perfectly still on the ground, my body lightens and begins to feel as if it is swaying.

My breathing channels through my body like waves and I feel layers of me shifting surfaces, moving forward and backward, forward and backward, swinging. The breaths of others around me are the waves gently lapping the coast, the distant waves folding into themselves; they are the waves molding over my skin, like an aqueous shield, but soon breaking in foam all around me. Continue reading “Interior Ocean”

Home Thoughts

When I see your pale face and black hair I ask myself if you could be Hispanic. In fact, I think of my childhood doctor Dr.Bengochea.

I see a woman’s printed pants: black, white, and blue, and it reminds me of the tiles in Sevilla, Spain.

It makes me yearn for home and I wonder why I’m not home. But then I remember I don’t belong there. I don’t belong here either.

I’m in between and never really comfortable anywhere .

I thought of the essay “Elsewhere”, by Kundera. I thought about self-exiles and displacement: it isn’t very much a tragedy, so much as an acceptance that nowhere will ever be just right.

Some people are born with their homes on their back

Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Tattoos

My best friend Basak is getting a tattoo, of a skull, on her right ankle. I said I’d get a matching one. Surprised and touched, she yelled in excitement and curiosity “Baby!” . She didn’t question me “Are you sure?” She already knew that there was something deeper. I’m not the type of woman to follow just to follow. I’m not silly enough to get a permanent mark on my body just to fit in. I’m not that whimsical. So…. why?

Life is surprising, that is why. Unpack that: Continue reading “Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Tattoos”

Watching Ballet

For a moment, I saw my humanity lying on the floor on a stage during a ballet performance. He laid there with his eyes dutifully glued to the ceiling. I could see him because my ticket said A24. Only once he tried to roll his eyes back to see his colleague dancing. How difficult it must be to lay there with everyone dancing behind you, just out of reach. Right now, it’s not my turn dance but to quiet catch my breath, looking dutifully where I’m supposed to, because it’s a part of my performance.

I started to cry and directed all my concentration on him. I hope he could feel it: the human extension.

The second time I felt my worth, was during the duet. This time I felt myself on Earth, as a part of a whole. I felt all the tenderness of touch . Most importantly, it reminded me that I was full of love and emotion. It seemed that there (in that moment), I had no more hate to give. How could I let this (my will) expire? No, this (feeling) could not be wrong. No, this should not be snuffed. There was no man, no woman, no black, no what; there wasn’t a thing as power. It was me, the world, the world within and without me.

How beautiful a thing that as humans, we dance for each other. We play music for each other. We give each other these gifts. It made me feel very hopeful and glad to be alive.

If art is not your most valuable currency, then I am a pauper. 

Watching 21st Century Choreographers at the New York City Ballet, May 1, 2018.
                   Dance Odyssey 
                   Pictures at an Exhibition
                   Year of the Rabbit 

Plato: Euthyphro

Euthyphro takes his father to court for killing a man. Socrates is not jealous of his position. Euthyphro judges the law to be above paternal love or obligation. They argue what is pious and impious.

Socrates begs Euthyphro for generalization: “Remember that I did not ask you to give me two or three examples of piety, but to explain the general idea which makes all pious things to be pious….tell me wh at is the nature of this idea, and then I shall have a standard to which I may look.” (41)

It is pious to pursue justice.

Plato: Lysis

Lysis: Old man wishes he was young again. A man Hippothales, feels slighted by not acquiring the attention of a popular young man. Socrates says that he will show Hippothales how to talk to young popular men. “I may perhaps be able to show you how to converse with him, instead of singing and reciting in the fashion of which you are accused.” (7) Socrates insists:

“If he slips away from you, the more you have praised him, the more ridiculous you will look at having lost this fairest and best of blessings; and therefore the wise lover does not praise his beloved until he has won him, because he is afraid of accidents. There is also another danger: the fair, when any one praises or magnifies them, are filled with the spirit of pride and vainglory. Do you not agree with me?” (6)

Then, Socrates makes brief statements about “lover” and “beloved in confusing terms that are grammatically and semantically outdated.

But two things are concretely salvageable within the dialogue:

  1. That the common notion of “birds of a feather flock together” or in his terms “like goes with like” is false in the sense that there needs to be completion rather than complement. He enlists the following: “The try desires the moist, the cold the hot, the bitter the sweet, the sharp the blunt, the voice the full, and the full the void, and so of all other things.” (20-21) He argues that “opposite is the food of the opposite, whereas like receives nothing from like.”
  2. There is such thing as good, evil, and not good or evil. Health is good, disease is evil and the body is neutral.


I attempted, felt prompted to define boredom. The description given, especially the continuing of nothingnness made me recall “Nausea”. In fact, it was not boredom but anxiety that was the continuation of nothingness. It produces angst! It produced a special suffering. I wouldn’t consider this real imprint of horror, angst, existential crush and dissociation. Boredom, I would consider this impression quite active. This untraceable worry and immersion into nothingness is not boredom.

Boredom is commonly understood as lack of activity or action. Most would say that the subject is bored when they are not DOING something. But I argue rather that boredom is when the subject is not ACTED UPON; that is what causes boredom.I argue that it is the external not internal force that determines boredom. Internal force is insufficient to determine boredom. Why? Because it is insufficiently challenging, perhaps because it is already known. I’m not sure.

What is this exterior force that determines boredom? Is it not desirable? Do we not appreciate that which separates us from the angst of existence?

Infinite Value

It might be argued that I am trying to talk about the thing itself, that in attempting to attain purity. Maybe I am. I like specificity and I believe in one thing contrasting another, to an extent. While there may not be a definitive beginning or end–in this way, things take on an infiinte quality (and we can perhaps say that things which are infinite have no and all value, and if all things have no beginning or end, all things are infinite. If all infinite things have no and all meaning, all things have no/all meaning.

I’ll choose concrete things to illustrate this idea, as most people are bound to turn to seemingly concrete things such as buildings and chairs for examples of permanence. Buildings are easier to explain. Everyone knows that buildings are erected and demolished and buildings only last between these two states (decisions really) for the meantime, yes building has a beginning or end but 1. not many have access to that knowledge and 2. the building is not destroyed but transformed.

In meantime, a building has a beginning and end but it would be ridiculous to determine its duration ahead of time (“We will construct this building to stand 2 years and 20 days). While we’ve been analyzing its physical alpha and omega, we haven’t yet discussed its internal alpha and omega. Meaning, buildings typically serve a purpose to live, to work, to exhibit, to park, to please aesthetically (but is this not then, sculpture? I digress) and who can say for certain when the interior will begin/end permanently– think of butcher shops converted into restaurants for instances, homes turned into museums, warehouses into clubs. As such, buildings are infinite things and therefore have no/all value.

Chairs are more difficult because they are not so fluid. It c an also be said that its beginning and end is marked by construction and destruction. Similarly, its construction rarely has its end in mind. The only addition I’ll note is its movement. Its ease of movement is worthy of remarking upon in the curious sense that people draw chairs farther or close to accommodate intimacy. Or, we can observe that chairs are used to stand upon for reaching high things. So while the primary function is to sit, we can’t se we won’t need to stand on it, and we can’t say that if we’ll be entertaining two or three guests at a time… in this senses, the chair is infinite and again, it has no/all value/meaning.


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