skeptical, cynical, optimistic

The neighborhood I’ve lived in for the last two years has changed right before my eyes. When I arrived here, the ‘cool’ was concentrated at Spy House Coffee on the northeast corner of 25th and Nicollet, the Bad Waitress on the northeast corner of 26th and Nicollet, and mid-block on the opposite side of the street at Ice something or other. In between was pretty… unbranded. Now, however, between ethnic restaurants and grocery stores, pretty typefaces and eye-catchingly dressed young/ish (mostly white) urbanites line both sides of Nicollet between 25th and 26th.

There’s an impulse inside me to recoil and run in the other direction; I don’t feel safer now that it’s safer. ‘Cause that’s what this all means, right? The Copper Hen and Move and Vertical Endeavors and that new stationary store and that posh-looking restaurant next to Dunn Brothers mean that this reclaimed territory is safe. I’m skeptical of the undeniably attractive surface of this block-length drag these days because what, exactly, has changed for the people on its (expanding) periphery? I don’t claim to know, but thinking about that question fills me with dread. Have you seen the Neverending Story? It’s like the nothing.

I would argue that, opposite to S. Florida where we know that the ‘cool’ is paint/plaster/plastic surgery (and therefore isn’t terribly cool at all) and EVERYONE knows that EVERYONE’s shit is up for grabs ALL the time (right? like that house there in the nethers is just as likely to be foreclosed as this one here in Palm Beach), here things are solid, stable, and meant to last. Even the poverty.

I am absolutely terrified of the undeniably attractive surface of this block-length drag because its rigor, its hardness comes at what cost, exactly, to whom, and why? And yet, I see shades of myself walking down that street. Heck, I am walking down THIS street! One of the first Minnesotans I ever met (Nate, who came to visit Anthony back when Anthony and I were at Howard), said to me – and this was the first time I’d heard the saying -, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I knew exactly what he meant.

I know exactly what that means. And I don’t want it to creep into my life, my work. Stability is necessary, but it can’t be ruthless, and this drag is ruthless.

But all is not lost. I saw this work by Adrian Piper in NYC:

Installation view, ‘Adrian Piper: The Probable Trust Registry’ at Elizabeth Dee (photo by Etienne Frossard, © Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin)
Installation view, ‘Adrian Piper: The Probable Trust Registry’ at Elizabeth Dee (photo by Etienne Frossard, © Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin)

My favorite part of my thesis installation was this:

Charlie Brown/Our Town, MFA Thesis Exhibition, 2014
Charlie Brown/Our Town, MFA Thesis Exhibition, 2014

To me, it gets right to the heart of things. Sit in this chair. Put on these headphones. Listen to this work. The next time I install a sound piece like this (not this one, though, I have other plans for the next iteration of this work), I won’t try to hide the outlet, cables, or the hooks that anchor the chair close to the wall and mount the headphones.