Posted by pancho from host-148-244-221-67.block.alestra.net.mx (220.127.116.11) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 at 12:54PM :
I realize what with war looming and all this restlessness over "big issues" it might seem self-indulgent and petty to harp again on the Jackster and the state of affairs within our community, in The Diapers at least...but there have always been wars and there always will be. While all of these nations are rattling their swords at each other they carry on with other business, the business of culture and civilization cause there has to be an in-between times to wars. We have nothing, not in-between and nothing to do with the war...all we get to do is pay for our own destruction and cheer it or our neglect...that's all. Aside from building yet another friggin temple to your Jew god, there isn't a whole hell of a lot to being Assyrian...and there hasn't been for some time...and soon there won't be anyting to it at all...hallelujah and praise Yahwe, "we FINALLY got those damn Assyrians"! It was all that much sweeter getting us to help...
I can't help but compare the reaction I received towards the end from our own community, especially those who portray themselves as activists and lovers of Assyria for Assyrians and all of that, to what I've just experienced here in Mexico. I got away in the beginning because, as William Daniel said, "I didn't think you'd actually pull it off". When it became evident that we not only pulled it off once, but were in danger of doing it again...and maybe even again...there was a sudden rush of "concern". It wasn't concern that I would make bad sculpture and embarrass the great Assyrian Nation...hell no. Bad Art is something we encourage...we like it when the kid plays poorly and gives us the opportunity to be magnanimous and applaud anyway...like it because we can talk and chat among ourselves during the performance...I mean, what are we missing REALLY? It annoys us no end if the kid is really good...if his or her performance DEMANDS we shut up, put away the pumpkin seeds and give our undivided attention..especially if the performance approaches greatness. THAT offends us no end. Besides, the sooner we disappoint the kid the sooner he or she will give up any foolish thoughts and return to engineering or accounting...so we can REALLY be proud.
When I presented my lawyer down here with a plaster cast of Don Quixote, painted to look like bronze, she was visibly moved...AND didn't mind showing it. There was no subtle disdain because I am not Latin and so why am I doing, "Their" art? To these people it is a sign of the greatness and universal appeal of their Art when non-Latins are moved by it. There is no checking of bloodlines for purity...or just how far south of Mexico City were you born...you TRAITOR! People here are clean because they take real showers...not political BAATHS.
So yesterday I took the portrait of Emiliano Zapata, a peasant general and revolutionary hero, done in wax...in bees wax which imparts a lovely hue and depth. I showed it to my lawyer and then went round to the main square to show it to the lady with the art gallery. Now having just left our "community" I was prepared for the worst. Here I was making a portrait, not of a character from fiction, but of a real person who lived in the last century...and someone very dear to the heroic memory of the Mexican people...the number of revolutions these people have had to fight is impressive...Zapata is an almost living national hero.
As usual I'd had barely two photographs to work from...neither of them looking much like the same person....cameras, lighting, the situation back then etc. were all working against me, But then again...what could be worse than Homer Simpson Ashurian or Nimrod and Bejan and Golani? If a person can weather those twits, what CAN'T he take? I uncovered the sculpture for both ladies...ahem. To both I said something like, "this is Zapata". To which they each replied, "yes of course it is, I know Zapata, that is him".
Well of course it was gratifying...especially under the dreary circumstances recently undergone by yoors trooly. The gallery lady had three addresses of foundries in a town nearby called Celaya and I'll be going there this week to see what they are like. She is eager for a show.
What one notices right away is that people here are secure within themselves and know who they are and what they are good for. They therefore don't resent someone simply because he or she happens to be good at someting they are not. In the United States people have been having one long "Identity Crisis"...no one knows who they are or why. People actually resent anyone who seems to have a firm grip on him or herself. "Oh...so you play the guitar huh"? It's almost as if by playing the guitar at all you somehow make it impossible for that person to take up the same instrument...because it would be addmitting that you have something they do not...and by taking an interest, they would be owning up to a "lack" within themselves. Unless of course you make money and lots of it with that guitar...for then you are transported to Divine Status...you are become a God and can be worshipped safely...not so much for your talent as for your buying power.
When someone asked Nimrod if they could borrow some of the Assyrian king portraits for a cultural display at a university...the answer at first was, "No, they are wrong portraits...they all look like Fred". No one knows what those kings actually looked like and yet they ALL looked like me and were "wrong". Others said the jewelry was wrong, the headress was wrong, the boots were wrong, the dress was wrong, the weapons were wrong, the price paid too much...how did that get in there? You'd think we were committed to NON-culture. I never said I was the best or much good...I said I was, "good enough" considering the dire straits we're in. Let me run the gaunlet and maybe better ones will come along to satisfy all these "grave concerns" about accuracy and truth and exactitude. On the one hand we haven't cared at all that we're a "no show" in the cultural heritage of America or any other country we inhabit...and yet we get out calipers and tweasers and microscopes and pour over textbooks when one of us manages a thing...and at that we don't get involved in the beginning, to help out...no, we wait until AFTER the thng is done when all that be accomplished is the tearing down...and THEN we "care" and are "dilligent" and are "concerned" etc.
When I went to see Youel Baaba, a venerable pillar of our community (one that is visibly tottering I must add, the community not Pillar Baaba), at the very beginning of the Ashurbanipal project...actually he WAS the first person...his response was, "it will never happen". And why did he feel so certain? Because he himself had tried it...he'd gone to New York some years earlier with ten whole thousand dollars to get a sculptor there to make a monument of Agha Petrous. With TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! When no one took him seriously...he left and decided that since he couldn't get it done cut-rate, it COULDN'T be done, or shouldn't be done. And here I was now...saying it would cost $150,000 to make Ashurbanipal...which only confirmed in his mind that I, and New York sculptors, are all crooks only interested in money.
The really weird part of that story is that Youel himself forked over the last $5,000 for the last maquette of Ashurbanipal. How come? What changed? What changed was that now it was a sure thing...others with more courage and foresight had pitched in to make the thing happen, to bring it close to being a sure thing, and Youel, who could easily afford the money...didn't want to be left out...how would it "look". Never mind what we are...how do we LOOK. It takes all kinds to make a community...and while it's good to have Youels to bring up your rear, to get involved when the coast has been cleared for them by others...it is far better to have those who will jump in at the beginning...when there is almost no reason to believe someting can be done. And the greatest leaper we had, or at least that I've met in my travels through Assyrialand, has been Narsai...with Helen following next behind.
Those are the people on the plus side. On the other side we have Jackie Bejan, a whore in whore's clothing(Shawn...you BETTER get us that trial...no "dismissed" if you please or you will have served your client very poorly indeed and don't forget, there's more money where the rest came from)...Nimrod and Golani. Golani runs a close second to being about as despicable a human bean as it was my pleasure to meet. Envy fairly runs down his thighs and puddles in his socks, (not that far a distance). I should have known there would be trouble when he addmitted that on first seeing the Ashurbanipal Monument in San Francisco, he'd fallen to his knees (not that far a distance) and wept...right there in Civic Center. I should have known that he would never forgive me for having moved him so...that's the way we're built, especially when we're built so low-down to the ground.
This community of ours is afflicted with amatuer and part-time statesmen and Great Leaders and Politicians...all of them punching a clock somewhere else...people who HAVE to keep "Assyria" someting that can be easily dealt with in their spare time, between work, shopping and soccer practise. These people live in mortal dread of anything coming along that conflicts with their pension plans and investment portfolios...for given the choice between serving "Assyria" and overtime...they'll choose the "real" thing...the "important" thing. It's only their own families and children they are willing to "sacrifice" for Assyria...another 25 cents an hour is SERIOUS business.
Nipping young artists in the bud is what these people are best at...like removing Rabel Shmoels painting because it contained a "wrong" color...a color that "belongs" to ZOWAA. If there is anything that stands a chance of lifting the level of performance in our communty...of lifting the entire community...you can bet these leaders would labor mightily to thwart it. They are in it for themselves...they do NOT want to see it get away from them...if they have to break the knees of our capable and talented young people, they will do it, and "benign neglect" is the best way. They got pissed at me because they had to come all of the way out of hiding, drop that pious mask they wear and show us what they are really capable of (Jackie's considerable Pooter is at the "service" of Assyria...should Assyria find any use for it). Of course they'll have pageants and awards for citizenship or engineering or medical school marvels...but no other culture considers these types of professions as "beacons"...hells bells it's just a JOB people! But they are THEIR own kinds of jobs so in honoring them they really only honor themselves....by awarding those sorts of things they merely confirm for us all that THESE are things to be cherished....a JOB???
Oh what's the use...if you can't see a Hebrew Hornswaggle when you fall to your knees...how are you gong to tell the difference when you go down on Jackie Bejan and why wouldn't you do the one if you'll do the other?
Anyway...I am here, safe and sound among civilized people who know what Art and Culture is. They also pray, but they removed their Church's claws and put a muzzle on it long ago...Oh when will we do the same?
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