The Most Unorganized Imperfect Thing

Good morning. It’s Friday, January 13th, 2017. I started writing at 9am and it’s 12:30pm now. (Now it’s almost 1:30 as I fix to upload this after re-reading and minor editing. It takes me a long time to write/post.)

This might be the most unorganized set of thoughts I’ve ever posted on my blog. Ever since my minor brain injury thing that happened… what was it… Spring 2015?… it’s taken a lot more energy to edit my writing into cohesive flowing thoughts. I don’t even know how to start this, which is why I’m beginning by mentioning how hard it is to write with clarity and purpose. It takes me at least twice as long as it used to, to get (what I think is) the kind of writing I used to put together (was it ever that good anyway?). It used to be so much easier. Which is one reason I don’t blog as much (I have long blog posts in draft form that are over 1.5 years old!) It’s also why I occasionally choose instead to put lengthy-for-social-media emo posts on Facebook rather than really sit with all the many many things on my mind, trying to coherently express all the connections between what I’m experiencing and thinking, how it relates to my art making and my life.

But here goes this! I have so many things to write that I’d be (even more) embarrassed to put them all on FB. Too much! (CLEARLY. As I prepare to post this, I ask myself, Really? Was this necessary, Self? Yes, Self, it was necessary.) Probably not that many people will click from there to here to read this, but that’s OK. I’m writing this at least as much for myself as for others. I need to get these things said. I need to know I said it publicly somewhere. That if someone really wanted to know, that I said it. And writing this and posting it does something good for me. It’s like, I’m doing the thing I’m supposed to do. Somehow.

Home Life

In last week’s emo FB posts :) I alluded to the toll that having a special needs child can have on a marriage (copying to here): “In which we get back up again… Only other parents of special needs kids can understand the strain… how hard it is to not stay knocked down… to figure out how to face it together.” Maybe it is true that he and I are superlatively blessed to have each other, to have found each other despite ourselves. So yes, we are lucky aka blessed. We met when we were still so young (I didn’t realize how young until I look back now!) and I did not give my heart easily; several friends had to help me get past not wanting to trust my heart to anyone at all. I’d seen how much the wrong person could devastate a person. So we’ve been together since I was 21, and married since I was 22. And I love him. He’s very very different from me, and here we are, still together. There are so many things about him that exceed other men. I’m married to someone who is strong in so many of the areas where I’m weak, and I’m lucky to have that. I say all this to get to the point I’m actually trying to make: no matter how lucky a person is to find a person who is right for them, it’s still really really hard in the real world, where real losses and real heartache and real failures can and do happen. True love truly hurts sometimes. We keep working to help each other get back up, and sometimes we don’t feel very good at that. But I guess the thing is, the fact that we are doing our best and still here, that’s a big something to celebrate. Because sometimes the hits keep coming.

Sometimes honestly, it’s the cumulative of the small hits that seem to get us (by us, I mean- you, me, everyone) the most. The big hits- we brace for them. We fight back. The little ones, they just wear us down. Something that’s helping us (this time I mean my husband and I) in our shared parenting is admitting the pain of the small hits. We ride these out with our little one (not so little anymore! ten years old and taller than over 99% of kids his age!) as he faces the real anxieties that co-exist with his autism. He is so high-functioning in lots of areas. He’s so verbal that I can’t keep up with the number of things he talks about, he is so social that engaging/connecting/talking with others is a primary need for his mental health well-being (did I mention I am super introverted?!), he is bright bright bright and has wide ranging interests. Lots of these being why he wasn’t diagnosed till age 9. But he has the anxiety of a child that’s a fraction of his age, a toddler even. The only place he can (usually) go without being accompanied by a parent is school, and even that is hard for him after weekends, after vacations (which are themselves stressful due to the break in routine), or if there are any changes expected for that school day (fieldtrip), or if it’s raining hard, or… any number of unexpecteds. And speaking of places he can go… even with a parent, that list of places he’ll tolerate going to (emphasis on the “barely handle” aspect of “tolerate”) is short enough to count on one hand. He is rigid in his understanding of things, and it takes great internal rallying for him to handle stresses that those of us who are “neuro-typical” would call a bump in the road. This morning he was refusing to take the bus to school (if I take him, it’s a 45 minute round trip for me), but several things he said this morning and last night clued my husband and I in on the fact that he must’ve had a good conversation with his teacher yesterday. See, yesterday morning we had our annual IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting. Positives: his teacher and all the staff are incredible, they love him, a review showed our son’s amazing progress since he first came to the school, and wow wow wow it’s beyond what we could’ve imagined at this point. Negatives: just talking about all his needs etc is hard, mentally draining. Also… he only goes to his current school till June. Then, BAM, middle school. (gulp?)

Why am I going on and on about this? I’m not sure. I know I have a point. I think I have a point. … Ahhh… the small hits. See, it was a good meeting, a very good meeting. But even a good meeting can be a kind of small hit for a parent of a special needs child. And even the positive of seeing that meeting help his teacher have a convo with our son that helped him to own making responsible choices this morning… all the work that goes into our son following through even with that thing he wants to follow through on… he started out by aiming super high last night making personal goals that honestly were asking way too much of himself, and having to guide him to make the more immediately important choices like taking the bus… these are small hits because of all the work it takes to get to the small victories. I’m getting to the point where I’m getting OK with identifying the ways even these small things wear me down, wear us down. I think it’s a good step. (btw, I have a feeling that the last two paragraphs are hard to follow, but I can’t fix it because I know what I’m saying and can’t tell if it’s confusing to others. But i have a feeling it might be. Oh well!)

It’s Just Life

How about the big hits lately?

  • Our oldest son our well son, had a health scare in November. He’s recovering & doing rather well now.
  • But it really sucked when the specialist said: “If: _________, then: Hospitalization.”
  • I don’t remember a spike in emotions when the specialist said that, not afraid, not sad, but… but so much happened in that one moment that I can remember it clearly and it’s like time stopped. I remember: Startle. Full stop. Eyes widening. Quick breath in. Shock. What. p.s. he’s doing much better now, and that’s all I want to say about it here. And guess what date it was when we were at the well-check appointment with his primary care physician, realizing he needed more medical care? The afternoon of November 8th. Seriously. THAT NIGHT. Punched in the gut, even if I felt it coming. Because:
  • Trump.
  • Knowing that people I care about voted for him. If you’re reading this and you voted for him, know that it broke my heart a little bit (which I can say little because, look at all the big heartaches?) I still love you. But know that it hurts me that you voted for someone who 1.) mocked a disabled journalist, 2.) who talked about immigrants from Mexico, the place where my mom was born, calling them rapists and murderers at his announcement to run for president…. need I go on? Actually, one more thing: 3.) his hard hearted unrepentant callous actions and bragging about of women as playthings for his rich ugly mind. I. Can’t. Those three things are just the deeply personal ways he’s offended me, my own life. So many other things, the list too long to list, of ways he is not NOT qualified to lead our awesome country… I can’t. If you voted for him, I’m not saying you are racist or those other things, but you voted for a man who used those kinds of hatred to get elected. I can talk healthcare policy and hacking and foreign interference and fake news and freedom of press and conflicts of interest and oligarchies and the dominance of state run oil companies around the world and white working class and realities of the electoral college vs how the majority of Americans actually voted and gerrymandering and what is real America and what real Americans think and what it means to live in the bubble and what is elitism and so much more. I can tell the difference between what a normal transfer of power to conservative leadership is and what THIS is. I can tell the difference between “normal” far-right nominees and appointees, and complete breakdowns in democracy.
  • There is more that’s happened in life, “big” things, but I’ll stop here for now
  • Ima gonna go ahead an re-post a video I made a while back, since below I talk about a piece I made that has the US flag in it. Since it’s not the first time I’ve worked with the flag in my artwork, I want to post this, because I think it’s a strong piece and it also holds my heart in it…
  • Title: It’s Still, 2 minutes 20 seconds, and has audio. First exhibited in Provincetown, MA, June 2014. I shot the first part of this footage on the 7th of October, 2013 at the National September 11th Memorial in NYC. It was the 12th anniversary of the start of the US war in Afghanistan.

Faith Life

Another reason why I wanted to write this very-long-wander-where-ever post (I have a couple other reasons, starting with…)

If it hasn’t been clear from how my friends and family reply on my FB posts, I am a Christian. I was raised in a protestant faith since I was around 7, and my family was Catholic before that. But I really made my own faith decisions when I was 17. And this sort of feels risky to be very clear about for a couple reasons. 1.) I don’t personally know another visual artist who practices art in the way I do who is also a Christian, and very few who are a practitioner of any faith. 2.) My political views (which I consider not political, but life/human)… they are at odds with a lot of other religious people I know. There aren’t many in my own spiritual sphere who differ starkly from me, I mean, I do live in a fairly liberal area but also, my congregation is super diverse. Still obviously, there are people I know from other types of Christian walks who either hold much more conservative views from me or who even might have voted for Trump (I haven’t asked if they voted for him and honestly don’t want to know. Unless they are sorry they voted for him, then they can tell me & I will forgive them.) So I feel compelled to list out my spiritual credentials. Or some thoughts. Etcetera.

  • As I write this, I’m aware of how many atheist and agnostic friends I have, who probably think I believe in fairy tales and myths. Who might even consider my beliefs a part of a larger narrative of how people subjugate one another. Bill Maher’s opinions on Christianity ring in my ear.
  • I’m also aware that some religious friends might find my political beliefs at odds with my faith (they aren’t, they are at odds with their faith.)
  •  I read the bible every day. Almost every day. But pretty much every day. If there’s an off day I don’t read it, I’m still thinking about it.
  • I base my decisions on things I read in the bible. Or I try to. The conscious ones at least.
  • I do see paradoxes in the bible. There are things I don’t understand. There are things written in there that make me angry. I will keep questioning.
  • There’s so much in there that makes sense to me by living it, doing it. Like art making, the practice of it is what brings it to life. Just reading it as a text is barely barely scratching the surface. Without faith, it’s meaningless.
  • I’ve read the entire bible at least five times. Probably more, but I stopped keeping track. I do skip around a lot more than I used to, though, and narrow in on specific subjects more often than not.
  • I believe in the dignity and autonomy and beauty and rights of people even as I believe in the truths of the Word. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
  • I pray every day. I seek truth. I seek truth about my own failings. I don’t feel better by not calling my failings Failure. Prayer is asking for help from God, asking for understanding, getting internal strength.
  • I’m a whole person even when I fail. Maybe because I fail.
  • It is, in fact, hard to be a person of faith in a secular community. Just being a believer is hard among intellectual people, so imagine the difficulty of being a practitioner.
  • Everyone judges each other, outright or secretly, whether believers or atheists. I try to choose mercy. I wish I had more of it from some specific people.
  • I go to church weekly. I am a part of a congregation of people who gather and mostly believe like me, in that we are made a family by our shared faith, not our shared (untrue) betterness over other people.
  • I can’t stand hearing sermons from people who don’t talk about their own failings, or the failings of the people gathered, not so that the failings are the focus, but the kind of sermons that talk about the evil “out there” or the evils in “society” but not the evils in ourselves, us religious people. I don’t even like sermons that are about our “general” failings. We don’t fail “in general”. We fail specifically. Lack of specificity is a lie. If not bold-faced, then subtle, but still a lie.
  • I hate lies.
  • I also lie sometimes. To myself and others. I try to catch myself. I try to right wrongs.
  • I can’t stand going to churches that do not reflect the diversity of the places where they are located. Sunday morning, the most segregated part of American life. Even when there is a touch of diversity, they are all still middle class. Or upper middle. I want a place with diversity. Don’t tell me that my east bay suburb is the kind of mostly white that some of these churches are. It’s not that white. Don’t think that the one Asian couple over there, or that one mixed-couple here, equals diversity. I’ve been in places that are so white but don’t know how white they are. I’m not saying this negates all the good those groups of people work to do. But that’s a kind of bubble. They see other peoples bubbles but not their own.
  • I like that where I go, my husband and I are not the only ones who bring the color. Yeah, I’m 100% Mexican descent. My husband is 100% Korean descent. But I love the deep diversity of where I practice my faith. And I love that it’s not all led by men. No offense, men. I love that that the truth is, we don’t always get along in my group, because families don’t always get along. And it’s inevitable. We have so much diversity of life and thought among us. I’m good with that.
  • I didn’t mean to go on and on about my spiritual community or what I think of how people of faith group together.
  • Some people in my group are more religious than others. More religious than me. Meaning, they speak a more in-group type of language than I do, or speak in a religious in-group way more than I do. I get embarrassed by it sometimes. Sort of like one gets embarrassed by a sibling’s funny way of dressing when out together in public. I think I need to get over it.
  • I do, however, feel like maybe I should say something about the in-group language they use when they’re out and about. In-group language makes me feel weird, like, people who don’t “get” the in-group language are not in the group and should stay out. Exclusionary.
  • I’ve always been a bit different in different environments. I listened to the recent Freakonomics podcast with Trevor Noah (host of the Daily Show.) Being mixed-race from South Africa, he was able to articulate it in a way that helped me conceive of how to manage my own multiple identities. He talked about being a chameleon who changes based on the environment. And how it can change it’s skin but it’s still a chameleon, that he’s not inauthentic when adapting to the environment. That rings true for me.
  • So I will bring to the forefront that I am an intellectual person of faith who is a visual artist in a very secular field, who not only believes but practices her faith very, um… faithfully.

OK, onto other topics I have on my mind.

My mom (center) with her dad and then 4 siblings, later over 7.

My mom (center) with her dad and then four siblings, later over seven.

Death Life

  • My uncle died two days ago.
  • Pause.
  • And… .
  • Tio George.
  • Pause again.
  • Life.
  • My surviving cousins. What will they do now?
  • Remember that time? It’s the last time I remember my cousin George Jr. I think he was 19 when he died? Brain aneurism? I was like 13? or 14? But remember that time? We were sitting in his room, and he was like “get out of my room” and us cousins, we didn’t get out of his room. He was the very oldest boy cousin. Around the same age as my mom’s youngest brother.
  • Anyway.
  • What song was it on the radio? or on tape? When we were in his room?
  • I think I remember a stack of records? Ones with covers that had roughened white paper edges?
  • No one else will remember this. There’s nothing significant about this memory.
  • It was a song, an english song? About school?
  • “We don’t need no education/ We don’t need no thought control/ No dark sarcasm in the classroom/ Teachers leave them kids alone/ Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone/ All in all it’s just another brick in the wall/ All in all you’re just another brick in the wall”
  • Giggling.
  • That’s it. And maybe also we talked about MTV.
  • I remember warm colors, the color of the room, was it the paint? And summer?
  • And- “hey! Get out of my room!” And we got out.
  • That was when I was around seven?
  • And he died when I was a freshman in high school?
  • And so my mom’s brother and my aunt, they lost their son. And my cousins lost their brother. And last year that aunt passed. And two days ago, my uncle died. Their little family.
  • So, in my mom’s side of the family we’ve lost (and I won’t remember them all):
    • my mom’s mom, 1964, in childbirth; Harvey was born
    • Lalena, my aunt’s toddler daughter, a year after I was born, 1976
    • George Jr (cousin above), son of my eldest uncle, 1989?
    • Harvey (born the day his mom died; AIDS), my youngest uncle, he was 31 years old? 1995?
    • Grandma Alicia (mom’s stepmom) 1996?
    • now more recently…
    • my nephew (not my mom’s side but still, obviously must be incl. here), my eldest brother’s son, 2012, lost him in afghanistan, army
    • my dad, 2013? 2014?
    • my grandpa at age 98ish, passed in 2014? 2015?
    • was last year 2015? oh. 2016. Now it’s 2017. really?
    • my eldest aunt’s husband, last year
    • my eldest uncle’s wife, last year
    • now, my eldest uncle himself.
    • There are many (7?) aunts and uncles left, born of my grandpa and grandma, one more aunt & one more uncle born of my grandpa and his second wife, my grandma Alicia… that’s a whole story in itself, a first family vs. second family narrative, it still plays out at funerals, that will be hard in a couple weeks. Heartbreaking how families break apart.
  • This is getting older, saying a lot of goodbyes. We don’t get used to the loss, but maybe we learn to get back up again because we know it will happen again. And again. I think of this reddit post about being old and handling repeated grief.
  • I think about learning from my friends and family members, the ones a little older than me, the ones a lot older than me, and even my best friends my age, who lost their daughter 5 years ago. I learn from them.

Also on my mind….

We Are Home_WEB

We Are Home, 16″ x 20″ (I think?), stonehenge paper, partly spray painted, partly painted, partly written on, partly drawn with pen/ink… a poster. $25 at venues linked below.

Art Life

I made a poster for a show and one of the receptions is tonight. I’ll be at the early part of it. (Maple Street Denim, 465 9th Street, Oakland, 5-8pm.) $25 each for most posters showing! As organizer Alison O.K. Frost wrote: ridiculously affordable incredible locally-made art! I’m lucky to have seen Alison’s call for work and to have been able to work on posters to add to the sale, proceeds benefitting causes to resist the incoming white house administration. I made my posters with this true story in mind: My grandfather made rafts at the Rio Grande to bring my mom (and her siblings) across into the United States, YES illegally, he swam them all across. My mom felt safe, though she couldn’t swim. I want to celebrate that my story is American in whole and in part. That is part of my protest. By the way, did you catch that President Obama specifically called out those who came here via the Rio Grande in his farewell address? My mom and I caught that. We told each other, he’s talking about us!

Last thing to get into before I close out this rambling story? Another rambling thing. Making this poster was so so so so … add in some more SO’s… hard for me! Not the initial design, that was straight from my heart. But the screen printing process broke down (access to certain necessary items), then spray painting stencils as inspired from watching W. Kamau Bell’s United Shades of America, Episode 3, Latino USA, then that failed too, and stress in my life adding one after another after another and I missed the deadline for handing over my 10 posters even as I continued to labor and labor on them as well as travel out of town for my little sister’s impromptu beautiful beach wedding and standing for her as she made her vows, and still fail after fail when I got back to the studio. And I handed my posters in on Tuesday this week. And honestly, I’ve kept working all week to make (what are in my mind) better ones. But again, fail after fail. And more loss on Wednesday. Every time I thought I had it, the solution to make the posters what I thought they should be, I messed it up. I think about what I completed and handed over, certain pieces of it I’m like, no no it’s messed up. But these posters are my heart, from my heart. Maybe the reasons for my angst over them is only in my head. Maybe not. I don’t want to put anyone in the position of defending them for me. In a perfect world, I would have had more time with them. I would only send them out of my studio in the exact condition I wanted. But this is not a perfect world. And this show of posters, and I am sure to love this show, I’m glad I’m a part of it, thankful that Alison O.K. Frost conceived of this show, and put this call for art out, and that it got me to tell this story in this way in this poster. An imperfect an expression of the experience as it is, I want to embrace it in its entirety, embrace the flaws I perceive, not knowing how real or imagined they are. I want to embrace the action of going out into the world just as i am, even if un-organized, un-formed, un-edited, un-fixed up. What else is life but getting back up again?

PS, if you have read this far and OMG who are you? and you want to read another thing I wrote recently, there’s this: Studio Visit, posted at ProWax Journal.com

“The Interview” (the script in entirety from #rank)

“The Interview: In Which I Ask Myself All The Questions You Didn’t Care to Ask, Along Also With the Answers You Didn’t Care About.”
Script by Maritza Ruiz-Kim; Read by William Powhida at #Rank, Winkleman Gallery,
Seven Art Fair in Miami 12/2/2010

© Maritza Ruiz-Kim 2010

Questioner: Thank you for taking time to answer my questions.

Answerer: I kind of feel like I have to.

Q: Well, thanks anyway.

A: (smile)

Q: So, you’ve been doing a piece involving Twitter.

A: That’s right.

Q: How did it play out?

A: I spent time reading through the streams on Twitter accounts I follow, around 300 actually. I especially looked for the personal… the original… the universal story to emerge from these varied communities. Some groups have little to no connection to each other. It was disconcerting. I made choices about what to highlight for myself out of the content I saw from my account on Twitter. I wanted to extract all this information & arrange it in a way that made sense to me, so I could handle it.

Q: And how did you sort these tweets?

A: I first culled the ones that were irrelevant to the story I wanted to tell. I glued them on a panel so I could disappear them under other tweets. I categorized the rest with my made-up systems so I could layer them appropriately.

Q: So you picked & chose what you wanted, ranking them according to your own criteria?

A: Yes. Don’t people always do that? On a daily basis?

Q: So what did you do after you sorted and separated these people’s words?

A: I arranged them next to each other, creating relationships between people’s statements that didn’t exist before. You can only read the top tweets; the rest are blurry underneath. And remember, I only worked with the tweets of people I chose to follow on Twitter.

Q: So the only people you see in your information stream are those you follow?

A: Correct. If you don’t follow someone, they don’t “exist” to you because they don’t show up in your information feed. People come to Twitter for different reasons. Some people come to be seen. They are here for appearances; the interactions they have are built around that. For some, it’s about business, and maybe it’s just another revenue stream. Others use what they see to contribute, and some are here to connect. And some come mainly because there is so much to see here… it’s a place where all these voices collect in one place, like an overview of the national or international conversation. And then there are those who are really just here for the party chatting atmosphere, so the bar is pretty low on what they want out of it. So you have to make choices on who to have in your information stream.

Q: So, how do you choose which people to follow?

A: Everyone has to make deliberate choices on who is in or out of their information streams, to organize it so it’s not cluttered with distractions.  People also mirror the choices of those around them and it creates an effect, a groupthink of sorts that tells the outside world who is important and who is not. However, choosing to follow a person can be just a matter of being interested in what a person has to say. I try to follow any individuals that are art related.

Q: It’s as simple as that?

A: Almost. There’s also the consideration of announcing publicly that you follow a person, a statement of sorts that you are interested in this person.

Q: Do you ever hold out on this public statement?

A: Well, everyone can see all the people I follow by looking at my Twitter account. However, there is a method in which people can use private lists to follow people.

Q: Is that bad?

A: It depends on how you look at it. It’s bad if you’re the one looking for acknowledgement. But it’s not bad for the one who wants to follow a wide variety of voices without making a public commitment. So for them, it’s not bad, it’s useful.

Q: Is this how people do things all over Twitter? Is this how they sort people?

A: Well, some people use the list feature and make it available for everyone to see. So they put people into different categories. Celebrities- they tend to follow back more discriminately. Anyway, when you follow someone & they don’t follow you back, you wonder, am I insignificant? Or maybe its worse. Maybe it’s about being annoying. But that’s fine.

Q: Is it fine with you?

A: Well, what’s really important to me? Just being acknowledged in this place? Not at all. Yet, acting like rejection is nothing takes away from the humanness of it. I’m not going to act like it’s nothing because it happens online. Whether people interact using online interfaces or interact in real life, there’s a real experience that happens. For both people. Whether they acknowledge it or not. I’m rarely sure what’s happening on the other end of an internet connection, and I’m not sure about what I send over, if it’s received in the same way I sent it. I’m not going to act like it’s nothing just because it happens online.

Q: Isn’t this whining?

A: It sounds like it. But that’s not what I mean. I’m fine in the end. Big deal. Move on. But I mean, I don’t want to act like I’m going to buy into this, thinking nothing’s a big deal. It’s important how we treat people. Even if we have to sort out where they stand with us.

Q: So you follow back anyone who follows you?

A: No.

Q: Do you respond to everyone every time they say something to you online?

A: No. I can’t. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out logistically, there’s so much information coming at me, I don’t have it in me to address everything that comes up. Who wants to be expected to always have something to say? Can’t I just live my life without worrying about everyone?

Q: What does that say about you?

A: That like anyone else, I have to decide who to listen to or talk to or how to talk to them. We all make judgments on the content people offer, even in daily life. Like everyone else, I decide what’s interesting to me. I unfollowed someone on Twitter, and she unfollowed me back and announced it to the world. Whatever.

Q: What do you do with that kind of thing?

A: Nothing.

Q: What do you think about that in relation to what you said before… rejection?

A: So, I make judgments about people.  I’m not going to pretend I don’t. If I don’t respond to someone deliberately, I do think there’s a consequence to it. I have to own it. I guess some people view this following & unfollowing, listing & unlisting–these online connections & disconnections– as just a matter of sorting information. I wish it were that simple. There are people behind those online accounts.

Q: It sounds exhausting.

A: It is. But I let myself experience this on purpose. Because I’m exploring what this means.

Q: And it informs what you’re doing?

A: Yes. Most people say not to take things like this to heart. But at some point, if we all decide not to take things online to heart, doesn’t it remove some of what makes this great? We are not machines. We do care how we are sorted and organized when we don’t have any say. We don’t want to be put here when we deserve to be there. But sometimes that’s not our call to make. Even when we feel like it legitimately should be. Sometimes, other forces are at work.

Q: You sound like you’re being over-dramatic about something.

A: Am I over-emphasizing something that should be under-emphasized? I don’t think so. I think people want to say it doesn’t hurt when someone doesn’t reply to a message that they invested a lot in. People want to say it’s fine if they get overlooked or put in the wrong place. But I say- yes it does affect a person. I’m not saying that for my sake.

Q: It sounds like you are.

A: No, I’m saying it for the sake of keeping the humanity in how we do things. We all sort & rank people, we all decide who can get into our inner circle and who we keep at some distance. We put evaluators in place to be able to process the huge amount of information that comes at us when groups of people are connected together.

Q: So you’re saying it’s good when people get classified and processed by a set of criteria?

A: I’m just saying it’s what people do. It’s what people have done to each other for a very long time. We make these calls based on place, taste, values, & shared interests. We also sort based on assumptions and perceptions. At worst, people make them based on the usual long list which includes: race, gender, religion, socio-economics, culture, money… .

Q: The list could go on.

A: Of course.

Q: And it’s obvious that it’s bad?

A: It’s obvious if you’re the one being kept out. Especially if you think you belong. But we don’t get to call the shots for how other people define their inner circles. And why do we want to be there anyway?

Q: So just accept it?

A: I didn’t say that either. People have to figure out what to do. When it’s appropriate to say something. When it’s important enough, to enough people, to take action. Especially if you see the system getting out of control. We don’t have to pretend it’s not a big deal. That somehow we’re beyond caring. That it has to happen this way, or that if it’s just part of the system, it doesn’t matter. The way people treat each other always matters. I don’t want us to be beyond being human.

Q: We were talking about how people interact online, but it seems like we’re talking about something else.

A: Maybe we are.

Q: So what now?

A: It’s about having a conversation. Even though sometimes people have to shout. If someone hears, hopefully they really listen. Oftentimes, they won’t. What do we do with that? They return to what they were doing, forgetting the momentary distraction. There’s no mutual interest, and there’s no conversation. So, people have to figure out how to be heard even when they’re telling the truth someone doesn’t want to hear. Then there are times when listening seems to be happening, and it seems like there’s some connection, but both still walk away with wrong assumptions. And, if a conversation never happens- each is left with her own experience, with what she saw from her own place in the world. And who knows who’s right. Well, we tend to think we know who’s right: We are.

Q: Do you have this preoccupation with being heard?

A: Yes, I do. I like to explore that process. Why does one talk to another? What’s the purpose? What’s really going on? Why am I on Twitter? Am I really going to insert myself into someone’s system that serves the purposes of something I don’t believe in? What do I get in return? Are they using me? Am I using them? Sometimes this whole thing hurts.

Q: You mean it hurts feelings? I hate that saying: “hurt feelings.”

A: Yeah, me too. It’s so whine-y.

Q: And yet these feelings add to our humanity.

A: Exactly. That’s what I’m saying.

Q: And how does that fit into these tweets back & forth with people you don’t know? Are you obligating them to respond to everything you say? Are you obligating yourself to build an online relationship with everyone who wants to build one with you?

A: It’s complicated, isn’t it?

Q: I’m starting to see that.

A: The truth is, it’s not possible to let everyone into your sphere of influence. It’s just not. By necessity, we sort each other.  People have to figure out for themselves the way that works- both parties do.

Q: Both parties?

A: The people reaching out, and those being reached out to. At different times, we play each role. And there can be power in being the one who’s wanted, the one someone wants to interact with. And that doesn’t mean it feels good, either. It can be hard to know what someone really wants from you. So, one can hesitate to respond. One can want to protect the status-quo.

Q: I see.

A: In either position, it’s not always easy, but that doesn’t mean I feel sorry for people (or myself) when in positions of power.  Hard conflicts come when someone doesn’t agree with the values used to sort & rank who gets in the place that’s wanted. When those values prevent people from getting in who should get in, or someone who we think doesn’t deserve to get in does because of favoritism or some other invisible purpose, it feels especially wrong.

Q: Do you think everyone is sensitive to these separations?

A: Well, the one doing the separating is usually less aware of it. Because the sorting serves their values & purposes, which are often unconscious, buried under layers of supposed correctness. And maybe there’s a person out there–or maybe lots of people– who can completely separate themselves from these subtle social layers that can happen. Maybe I’d like a conversation with one of those people.

Q: Really?

A: Well, maybe not. Maybe I don’t want exposure to their convoluted value system. Maybe I want no part in it. …… I’ve been told I’m embarrassing myself when I have explored these connections online.

Q: And did you?

A: Sure, it was sort of embarrassing. Like, asking for the 3rd time for a response when I had received none, when I thought that the content I offered would be specifically interesting to that particular person. Initially, I hadn’t been looking for anything more than something like “thanks for sharing.” But… nothing happened, and I wasn’t sure why.

Q: Why did you push it?

A: Well, I didn’t at first. But then the experience just kind of added to this discussion I was having with myself.

Q: And then?

A: There was kind of an opportunity. An “in.” So I jumped on it. I mean, why not? I wanted to force the issue & see what would happen. I wanted to see what conversation or lack of conversation would take place, to explore how we interact with each other. If it’s possible to shift the structures that other people put in place. And maybe I like to cause trouble.

Q: Did it work?

A: Some people made assumptions about what I was looking for with that interaction. I’m not sure that means it didn’t work. I think I got what I wanted. Something did happen. It was different from the previous time. But on the level of anyone really getting what I was doing, then no, I don’t think so. It just looked like I was desperate for attention and feedback.

Q: Were you?

A: Everyone loves some kind of attention. But that was the smallest part of what I wanted. What I do want is to insist on one person seeing another and doing something with that. I believe in engaging people. Insisting that the recognized system of evaluating gets evaluated, blown apart as needed. So many people don’t want to deal with the truth of what happens and why it’s happening. I want to break it apart.

Q: That’s what you really want?

A: What I want is to always try to reach for answers and find truth. I’ve said it to you before…  I’m exploring what it means to be human these days. I am here, you are there, and what’s in-between?

Q: Thank you for talking to me today.­

A: You’re welcome. Anytime.

© Maritza Ruiz Kim 2010

Main website: www.maritzaruizkim.com

“Artifact of an Anthropologic Experience” (on Twitter)

Artifact from an Anthropological Experience
2010
vellum, acrylic, watercolor, aluminum, inkjet on panel
16″ x 20″
(Click on above ☝ image once, and then click one more time for closer look)

UPDATED WITH NOTES MARCH 2011 here

Description of the experience for Artifact from an Anthropological Experience (a.k.a. You had to be there)…

In early September, I spent time reading through the streams on Twitter accounts I followed (over 300.) I had criteria for what information I wanted to include–for example, I didn’t want to include Twitter accounts from institutions or organizations. I noticed that some people only re-tweeted other people’s links or content. If a person’s account was particularly fatuous, I unfollowed them from my information stream, but I did this very infrequently (maybe 5 total) and I really had to justify it to myself. I read through people’s Twitter content, and I was surprised how a real sense of the person could be developed over these bursts of short communication. I observed how & what people communicated back & forth to each other, who talked to who, and what they said. I observed who people follow & don’t follow. I saw how they organized each other. I got a closer look at how my interactions worked (or didn’t work.) It was exhausting to get to know people this way, but it was valuable. The sense of voyeurism was acute for me, even though all this information is public. (I didn’t include tweets from anyone who has a protected/private account.) There is a sense that once a tweet is sent out, and then another 20 come afterwards, that the older tweets go unread. They are there, though, if anyone scrolls back far enough.

Mainly, I follow two communities on Twitter: art and pediatric cancer. In fact, it is because of advocacy work for my friend’s daughter that I bothered with Twitter in the first place. When I used Twitter to network & get an important message out, I experienced this amazing instant connection with advocates & cancer organizations all over the country. When the main advocacy work ended for me, I took a break from Twitter. (I was tired.) In August, I came back to it to find an art community. I had looked for the arts previously, but hadn’t been able to locate valuable conversations. When I found one artist frequently tweeting, I searched out from his list of those he followed (to add to my Twitter information stream) and I finally connected with an art community that was meaningful. So, by late August, I had two communities populating my information stream: pediatric cancer & the arts. It was disconcerting to see them right next to each other, with no connection, and I sensed it was a good stand-in for basically what we experience daily in the physical communities we are a part of. So, for the mixed media piece I envisioned, I made choices about what to highlight for myself out of the content I saw from my account on Twitter. I wanted to extract all this information & arrange it in a way that made sense to me, so I could handle it, because the visual experience on my computer screen was frankly overwhelming.

I especially looked for the personal & original in the stories people were telling 140 characters at time. I made myself choose 2-3 tweets from every “person” account (every!).  This process took a good week or two of reading deeply. It got tedious, but I continued. I told myself I was looking for a universal story to emerge, but actually I knew what I wanted that story to look like. And I did find it. Then the sorting began.

I culled the ones that were irrelevant to the story I wanted to tell. I didn’t trash them, I buried them on the panel under the others by gluing them down first so I could disappear them under the other tweets. I categorized the rest with my made-up systems so I could layer them appropriately. I can’t remember them all, but they made sense at the time. They seemed to be natural categories.

During the selection, sorting, and arrangement of these tweets, a simultaneous narrative developed. At first it was just a conversation with myself. Then I wrote it down. And it became a script. The Interview: In Which I Ask Myself All The Questions You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Care to Ask, Along Also With the Answers You Didn’t Care About. It will be read at #rank, an event organized by Jen Dalton & William Powhida with Winkleman Gallery at the SEVEN Art Fair at 2214 N.Miami Av (Wynwood District) Miami, FL: 11am on Thursday, Dec 2.

I will post the script after the event. UPDATE: Click here for the script

Description of the Script:

The Interview: In Which I Ask Myself All The Questions You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Care to Ask, Along Also With the Answers You Didn’t Care About, is a short performance in which art world roles (institutions, curators, influencers, art fairs, the marginalized, and the artist as first-person) are examined using one artist’s experience with twitter. What seems to be an imaginary conversation on the surface, ends up being something else entirely.