1 Way to Consider Time

100ways

Photo property of the MFA

 

With only about three and a half hours left, I’m seated on the floor of the Museum of Fine Art scrawling words on page. I hadn’t planned to do my assignment so early. I didn’t even have anything planned originally. The MFA sports a price tag of “optional donation” on Wednesdays and my boyfriend’s only in town for a week, so off to the museum we went. What I didn’t expect to find here was my story.

The MFA currently has a performance art piece in session in the middle of the contemporary art section. Marilyn Arsem presents “100 Ways to Consider Time.” It’s a performance art piece in which the artist, Marilyn, sits in a stark white room for 6 hours a day for one hundred days straight. The MFA’s website explain performance art stating “Like time itself, performance art is ephemeral. All that remains following a performance is how it is subsequently recalled through memory and retellings.” So here is my retelling of experiencing “100 Ways to Consider Time.”

Marilyn sits in a chair across from and to the left of the entrance. The room has also white benches lining two of the four walls. There is a desk in the corner adjacent to the entrance. Another chair sits next to her, empty except for a black cloth that I assumed was for cushioning. The only other fixations in the room are a rock (centered) and an odd clock, and Marilyn herself.

room layout

2/17/2016 – Day 98 – Room Layout

For the past ninety eight days the artist has spent six hours a day in this bleak room. The performance is meant to explore time. It’s meant to make the audience personally consider time and how they spend their own time. The description outside the room makes clear that the piece is not meant to answer any questions, but it certainly raises a lot. Why is she doing this? What is she thinking? What has she been thinking for all this time? Does she hear the tick and the tock of every second? Does she hear anything at all or is her conscious contained within her own head? Is she glad it’s day ninety eight? The description outside the room is similarly ambiguous and question raising. It touches upon how audience and artist can interact to create and morph the art. Does she speak? Can you speak to her? It’s unclear; the description doesn’t clarify. But she sits with an empty seat next to her. This raises even more questions for me.

People fill the benches, so I sit down on the floor in the corner. I wonder if she meant for this silence to shroud her show. I wonder if she had hoped someone would sit next to her. I wondered what she did with the other eighteen hours of her day. She had a ring on; I supposed maybe she went home to her husband and lived a normal life for the rest of her day. Looking at her drawn, somber face I doubted that her non-museum hours were particularly pleasant either. People go to work for much longer than six hours a day. I wondered if the piece was also a commentary on how people spend much of their time working.

The description was correct and clear in one regard: none of my questions seemed to have any answers. Questions in mind with no answers on hand, I went to find my boyfriend.

Reunited, I asked him what he’d seen and he asked me the same. I told him that I’d been in the performance art room. He had seen the piece from outside the room, and he immediately brought up some of my same questions.

“Can you sit by her? Can you talk to her?”

The ambiguity of the board, intentional or unintentional, lead to our selective reading that we weren’t explicitly not allowed to sit with her. The board read

Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time debuts a new performance by Boston-based artist Marilyn Arsem (American, born in 1951). For six hours a day, every day, for 100 days, Arsem will be present here in the Towles Gallery, inserting her living presence into the Museum. Her performance is an invitation to pause and experience the present moment together, providing a temporary respite to the frenetic pace of our modern lives.

Arsem has dedicated her career to exploring the unique characteristics of performance art. These include the unpredictability of its final form and its ability to encompass all the sense—sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. The medium blurs traditional boundaries between audience and artist, and we encourage you to spend time in the gallery with Arsem. When she is not present, you will hear an audio recording of Arsem made following the end of the previous day’s performance.

If viewers have the time to allow themselves to slow down with me, small details will become visible. The work could be viewed as if it were a minimalist or abstract painting or sculpture. In that respect, it operates similarly as a kind of opaque or seemingly simple surface that reflects back to the viewers the complexity of their own thoughts. This is not a work that offers answers, but rather provides an opportunity to consider one’s own concerns about the passage of time. –Marilyn Arsem

Stuck on phrases like “the unpredictability of its final form,” “the medium blurs traditional boundaries between audience and artist,” and especially “when she is not present, you will hear an audio recording,” I became convinced that we were meant to bridge the gap.  I also became more and more excited about her piece. Beyond questioning time, it seemed to question the boundaries of art. It questioned the relationship between the artist and the audience and the bindings that create those roles. Nowhere was a sign that said “Don’t Touch the Art.” Was she simply sitting alone because no one had chosen to enter her sphere? Was it the Bystander Effect but stretched to encompass any interaction at all? We thought about asking some museum representatives outside the room if we were allowed to speak to her, but they were engaged in a passionate conversation and interrupting seemed rude (somehow ruder than potentially interrupting (but potentially adding to) a hundred day long performance piece). Austin and I went in and sat on the benches.

Marilyn remained straight backed and silent in her seat. The clock ticked.

I couldn’t take it. I had to know.

Maybe it was impatience; maybe it was the desire to understand; I couldn’t take the time, and I couldn’t take the questions. Whatever it was, I whispered

“go sit next to her.”

Austin, intensely curious as well, rose to fall in next to her.

As he approached the seat she stood and swept down on him, suddenly large. She abruptly pointed to the bench.

“YOU sit THERE.”

Hands clenched, she began to pace around the rock. Counterclockwise.

Another woman came over to scold him.

I was furious. Didn’t she understand that she was practically asking us these questions? Didn’t she realize that the second empty chair practically begged for someone to fill it so she wouldn’t seem so alone? Her description didn’t forbid it. If anything, it seemed to encourage interaction. Was her scolding of him a part of the art? Were we all meant to experience time in solidarity?

Feeling protective and confused, I angrily imagined punching her in her old gut. I’m not proud of it, but I did. I imagined punching her right in her black sweater sheathed belly. I glared at her. What was she trying to communicate? It seemed like the piece was supposed to be about spending time together. Why was she dressed in all black, neck to toes? Did she think it made her more of an artist? I didn’t understand. I yearned to understand, but I just didn’t. Arsem’s piece was really raising questions, but I didn’t feel like I got it. It was interesting to me in a few ways. I liked the noisy clock. I liked the unyielding symbolism of the rock. I liked how she paced in a circle as if she herself was inside of a clock. But I didn’t understand. I felt on the cusp of understanding, when my boyfriend stood to leave. I stood with him.

“What did she say to you?”

“She told me not to sit there. When I got close I could see that there was some oily substance on the chair next to her.”

Suddenly, everything fell into place.

The chair wasn’t meant to be sat in.

She wasn’t meant to be interacted with.

Every day for 98 days she had sat in silence, markedly alone, for 6 hours a day. She didn’t go home to her husband. Her husband had died. The piece was a performance art piece dealing with time in regards to mourning.

Clothed in all black except for her gray hair and her gold wedding ring, she was the icon of a widow. She spent her time publicly mourning her husband instead of at home alone. And she was intensely aware of the time spent. Similarly brilliant was Arsem’s implicitness. Only with interaction (or nearly interaction) would a person know that the chair was unavailable for sitting in. Only then would a person know that she was certainly, decidedly alone. Only then would a person know that when she paces, she paces to turn back time.

 

Googling the piece later, I learned a lot. Marilyn’s piece changes each day. I found that she changes the setup of her props each day. Some days she counts aloud. Some days she talks with her audience. Some days she watches ice melt. The Globe touches on a number of ways in which the artist conducts performances dealing with time. The only article I could find about her personal life involved a recent interview. Before starting the piece, Marilyn was interviewed by Jeffrey Byrd. In this interview, she speaks of her husband. He had come to almost all of her showings for 30 years. He died in 2012.

Marilyn’s piece is personal, introspective, and ephemeral. Each day it changes. But each day, she wears all black and she considers time.

 

 

 

“How to Talk to Strangers” : A French Figures Out

The very American concept of “networking” makes my French soul cry. So Monday afternoon, I decided to attend a workshop at MIT (“How to talk to strangers”), in order to understand it all better — and who knows, maybe start liking it.

In terms of format, I tried something I never did : a first person audio piece. It cost me not to take any pictures, but I did it. The whole thing took me a little more than 4 hours.

 

Exhibition: Drawing apart

Since I was not confident about writing a lengthy article in a language that is not my native one, I decided to explore the format and presentation.

I am not at all a professional photographer, as you will notice, but as I visited the very small exhibition I wondered how I could make the format of the report express a bit of the experience of being there. So I chose to take close-up, non revealing pictures of the works exhibited, and to fragment those pictures as the artist chose to fragment her scale models. If you click on a block, it rebuilds the correspondent image.

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I cheated slightly, to be honest. My camera battery died right after I went to the exhibition, so I had to buy a charger before I could finish the assignment.

Click here to see the result

Rafters, Border-crossers and Spanish citizens: Faces of Cuban Immigrants in United States

More than 6,500 Cubans arrived in the United States crossing the border of Mexico since October 1st, 2014, in a context where uncertainty about the privileges granted by the Cuban Adjustment Act deepens.

Others entered using airports with passports of a third country and applied for political asylum.

Between 2005 and 2014 more than 15,000 people arrived on rafts and managed to touch land. In the same period, 17,503 Cubans were intercepted in the Straits of Florida and repatriated to the island, says Cafe Fuerte.

Cuban Immigration in US (2005-2014)

Cuban Immigration in US (2005-2014)

The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) is a law approved by the Congress on 1966 that allows Cuban immigrants to stay legally in the United States after physically being in the country for one year and one day. Immigrants from other countries need to have a sponsor which could be a family member or an employer to apply to come to the United States legally.

Statistics provided to the website Café Fuerte by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show an alarming increase in the number of Cubans immigrants, specifically after the Cuban immigration reform approved in 2013 eliminated the “exit permit”. This was an expensive mechanism that that previously controlled the citizens’ right to travel out of the island.

After President Obama announced a change in the relationship with Cuba on December, 17th, 2014, many people on the island grew “worried that America’s long-standing immigration benefits for Cubans are now in jeopardy,” says the Washington Post.

When the border is the sea

Rafters (Photo courtesy of the Public Affairs Office, 7th Coast Guard District, Miami, Florida)

Rafters (Photo courtesy of the Public Affairs Office, 7th Coast Guard District, Miami, Florida)

“Between 1959 and 1994, in defiance of the law, more than 63.000 citizens left Cuba by sea in small groups and reached the United States alive,” says the website Balseros, a digital archive to explore the experiences of Cubans who left the country in small boats, homemade rafts and other unusual crafts. At least 16.000 additional rafters did not survive the crossing.

“My name is Inés Brooks,” says someone who claims to be from Camagüey, Cuba, in the website Cuban Rafters. During the last years, this website has been publishing life stories from people who came to United States during the crisis of 1994.

We built the floor of the raft with wood and put large gas tanks and high rebar to protect ourselves. Although we move slow at sea, we did not have to paddle. We arrived to Guantánamo on September 3rd, 1994. I was there until January 31st, 1995. I didn’t work at the base, but I do know a lot of people who worked in the hospital, while others worked in warehouses or distributing food.

The number of people leaving Cuba in rafts declined since the last decade, specially compared to the crisis of 1994. Many of these rafters are intercepted at sea and returned to Cuba by the Coast Guard. However, in December, 2014, “the Coast Guard intercepted 481 Cubans in rickety boats and rafts, a 117 percent increase from December 2013,” said the Washington Post.

God bless Spain

In the fiscal year 2013, 9.700 Cubans arrived at Miami International Airport (MIA) with Spanish or other European nationality passports and qualified as refugees under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), says Café Fuerte. More than 180.000 Cubans have become Spanish citizens under the Historic Memory Law (also known as the Grandchildren Law), which came into effect in December of 2007.

The Historical Memory Law recognizes the right to Spanish nationality to persons whose father or mother was originally Spanish and grandchildren of those who lost or had to renounce to their Spanish nationality as a result of exile.

“The number of Cubans holding a Spanish passport tripled between 2009 and 2011, when it hit 108,000. Many of those Cubans fly to Mexico or the US on their Spanish passports, then present their Cuban passports to US officials,” says The Guardian.

But some of them are living in the United States with Spanish passports, as it is the case of Daniel Hernandez, who never applied for the Cuban Adjustment Law.

 

Mexico: crossing the border

Osvaldo Perez is the director of the Score At The Top’s Wellington school. Conveniently located on Southshore Boulevard in the heart of Wellington, Florida. Perez has managed this learning center for years, which sole purpose is to serve students from Wellington and equestrians from across the world. The staff includes over twenty professional teachers and tutors that provide SAT/ACT test prep, college and school guidance, and private schooling.

Osvaldo Perez

Osvaldo Perez

People calls him just “Offi.” When someone dare to call him Osvaldo, he answers: “That’s my father”. This can be read in the school website, but it doesn’t tell the entire story. “I came to the US through Mexico,” says Perez. “I got a visa to participate in a religious event (…) then we flew to Ciudad Juárez where the immigration authorities detained us for two days and forced us to come back to Mexico City. At that point, they gave us three days to leave Mexico either back to Cuba or any other country.”

What did Osvaldo do? You can listen to his story here

 

From Canada to Mexico with Love

In recent years, many highly skilled Cuban professionals in Cuba have left the country. After the Cuban migratory reform was approved, some of them apply for fellowships. The main international destinations are Mexico, Canada, and Brazil, among others. The fellows receive good stipends compared with the average salary in Cuba. And, it is also a safer and more expedite way to come to United States.

Rolando Marin and Thais Pineda

Rolando Marin and Thais Pineda

“A month ago, my wife and I came to United States”, says young programmer Rolando Marin.

I applied for a fellowship in Mexico and she applied for another one in Canada (…) She spent like 50 minutes at the border of Canada. But my history was more difficult. I took a flight from Mexico City to Chihuahua City and after that I went to Ciudad Juarez. I spent almost six hours at the border point.

You can listen to the rest of the story here

 

Even in a context of political détente with the United States, the causes behind the Cuban migration have not disappeared. Low wages, lack of profesional opportunities for young people, difficulties with housing, public transportation, and food shortages are among the reasons mentioned by Cuban immigrants. On the other hand, the United States has been perceived historically as a prosperous country where you can get what you want if you work hard enough. This is, of course, another misrepresentation of a more complex reality.

The Muddy cleans up

Last Christmas Eve, the graduate students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology let out a collective cry of despair:

The venerable Muddy Charles pub has been MIT’s centrally-located campus bar since 1968. In a graduate scene where everything can seem a little stratified, the Muddy brings together the chemists and the math-heads, the Media Labbers and the Sloanies. The dark walls and carpet gave off a comfortably drab and unpretentious vibe. In a 2011 article in the MIT Technology Review, Kenrick Vazina put it succinctly: “On a campus dominated by cold concrete and hard science, the Muddy Charles pub exudes warmth.”

So the temporary closing of the Muddy was not only perturbing for temporary reasons (where would we get our $6 pitchers of High Life?)– the idea of a renovation threatened the tired charm of the place. A bright Muddy with a new floor would be, well, not muddy at all.

The new Muddy was unveiled at some point last week, to evidently little fanfare (“Last…Tuesday, I think?” says the bartender). Although the bartenders report high turnout despite the snow, its Facebook and Twitter accounts remain dormant. While a few super-secret email lists were abuzz with excitement at the reopening, few were discussing the renovation. To gauge the reactions of Muddy stalwarts and regulars, I decided to post up at the place for an afternoon with the ultimate peace offering: a pitcher of High Life.

IMG_2935
The entrance to the renovated Muddy Charles pub.

When I arrived, I found a photographer snapping pictures of the bar, and the alliteratively-named Mike the (Muddy) Manager posing. I’d been scooped! Fortunately, I soon learned that it was for promo photos rather than another Tech article. The Muddy was indeed looking to promote, even if its social media implied otherwise. In the meantime, yet another hopeful message popped up on Twitter, from a student who was still unaware that it has been open: “Any update on this?”

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Floor not included.

Two students were chatting over a beer and discussing chemistry (the science kind), but soon left. A few others arrived: some curiously asked whether it was officially open again and then left; others asked and then stayed; still others were friends of the bartender. At no point before 4pm were there more than 6 people present. Given the Muddy’s famous warmth, it was strangely cold.

IMG_2936
Me in front of everyone’s two favorite words.

My “FREE BEER!” sign drew attention from Mike the Manager, who asked me to remove it because free beer is, apparently, illegal under Massachusetts state law. No appeals to “but I’m paying for it!” or “but those two words are beautiful together!” could sway him, and my strategy for enticing conversation was foiled. I’d also earned the ire of the manager, a potential source. Moreover, I had to drink this pitcher myself.

At 4pm the tables began to fill up. Some friends of the bartender came in, and we asked, “What do you think?”

“…I like the walls.”

“That was sincere.”

“No, I do like the walls! I’m just not sure about the floor.”

The reception to the new look was lukewarm. The maroon, yellow, and white walls were offputting to several, though one Muddy denizen appreciated the MIT shade of maroon. Still, another remarked “It’s not quite where I thought they would go. I expected something a little more dark.” A few people missed the dinginess.

“It looks like a Burger King,” muttered one friend who joined me.

Other reactions were more positive. One Muddy regular appreciated the light tones and the welcoming nature of the front foyer. “It’s easier to navigate the space,” she said. She also pointed out the new power outlets circling the space, which will give more afternoon regulars the chance to “study at the Muddy.”

The Muddy was almost not in this position to renovate in the first place. In 2010-11, MIT’s higher-ups considered a renovation of the Walker Memorial building, which houses the Muddy along with an event room, student clubs, and a top-floor gym. The plan was to turn it into a dedicated Music and Theatre Arts building, and it was unclear whether the Muddy would be invited to return. The Muddy could move, but its central location — in between the science and business hubs of MIT — is crucial to its identity and success, as attested to by Muddy fixture Joost Bonsen, who regularly holds “office hours” for his Media Ventures class at the pub, and turns his table into a serendipitous meet-and-greet for scientists and entrepreneurs.

Fortunately for the Muddy, the Walker renovation plans were postponed, and this Muddy renovation seems to signify that it’s here to stay, for the time being. Whatever your feelings on the renovation style, this is undoubtedly a reason to celebrate (with a pitcher of High Life).

Started, completed, and fueled by the Muddy Charles Pub, Tuesday, February 24, 2:15pm-6pm

Past and future of Artificial Intelligence

What does define Artificial Intelligence? Are the researchers still looking for nature or human characteristics to the robots? If not, what are the main goals of AI research nowadays? And where is AI going to?

I had these questions in my mind when I arrived, Monday morning, in a quite empty MIT Museum. A drawing, made with green pencil in a white sheet on the table for children, caught my attention. It is so simple and so enlightening. The idea that robots will help people is behind these researches since the beginning, almost 60 years ago, and still is in the popular imaginary. More than that, we still expect for humanlike robots to be created and be part of our to facilitate our lives.

Read more at Storehouse.

Mexican food review

The Mexican fast food is closely related to the street, the food vendors are part of the landscape in most of the Mexican towns and cities, their smells and flavours constitute a landscape beyond the visual.

On the other hand the food truck presence has been becoming something more usual -not just in USA, also in Mexico- the food trucks are a good option to get something fast for lunch, I’ll say they are the equivalent to the Mexican street vendors.

IMG_0001

IMG_0004The Jose’s food truck (Located in 20 Carleton St. near Kendall Sq.) combines Mexican classics like tacos with Tex-Mex food like hard shell tacos or bowls. For this occasion I decided to take the tacos, this plate so simple but so delicious and wider in options. I asked for a Beef taco, Chorizo Taco and Carnitas.

The tortillas options for the tacos are hard or soft tortilla, I got the soft corn tortilla -classical one-, but without many expectations because it’s so difficult to find a good tortilla outside Mexico (fortunately this was the exception, they were very good!).

The beef taco was the less fortunate, the beef was good but it wasn’t something spectacular , it was just a beef. On the other hand the Chorizo and Carnitas they were great! The chorizo has a really nice consistency and a adobe flavour really good. But the one that was like being eating in Mexico was the Carnitas Taco, the meat was really good, cooked at the right point not over cooked and with the corn tortillas it was the perfect combination.

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The tacos were served with red rice and fried beans, two classical Mexican sides they were good, nothing spectacular, but a good side for the tacos. The total price for the food was $10 something reasonable for three tacos outside Mexico (In Mexico it would be between $2 to $5 for the three tacos).

4 Hours Challenge:

Order tacos: 12:30 PM

Eat: 36 min.

Writing: 100 min.

Publish: 2:46 PM