Tuesday, September 23, 2014

when your teacher is an ecology activist or whatever

It's all started like this:
woke up at 7:30 am, left M all alone, came to college to listen to cultural studies lecture, and the lecturer decided to dedicate it to global warming, animal extinction and the importance of preserving nature. i hate this type of mornings.
And continued like this:
regardless my point of view on these issues i want to say a big big thank you to the today's lecturer because oddly enough i left the building with a clear idea in my head what my essay will be about [...] i’m going to write about ivory craft and how it helps to maintain the population of elephants in africa!
And ended like this:
[in two words

if you want elephants population to grow, breed them like cows. here you can say that you're a vegetarian and don't want cows to be bred, you just want them to be left alone. but people are omnivores by nature, so not eating meet would be a step against nature. animals kill animals. and this is ok. this is how it always has been. here you can also say that while killing animals to eat them may be ok, killing them for aesthetic purposes is not. but the only thing that should matter is the end and not the mean.

we kill animals as any other carnivores animals do. but we're the only ones who can breed those who we kill. so let's just do it! duh.]

And here is my essay (well, a couple of key paragraphs from it really):
This essay addresses the social authority of historically ruling classes over the subordinate classes, i.e. the process  of  hegemony. I want to look at the intervention of the First World countries in the cultural affairs of Africa and China and its negative impact. More specifically, the ban of elephant hunting and ivory trade forced by the international environmental organizations, and how it leads to the complete eradication of the whole brunch of art, ivory carving.

Ivory has always been the symbol of wealth in Africa. After the trans-Saharan trade route was established in the 15th century, North Africa became one of the main ivory suppliers in the world which played an important role in its economic development. Thus, not only Africa developed its own national art practice, but it has also made a great contribution to the development of ivory carving throughout the whole world especially during the Gothic period and Baroque era.

As a result, the population of elephants in Africa significantly decreased. Recently, the international environmental organizations such as the World Wild Foundation and Greenpeace addressed this problem by lobbing the ban on ivory trade and elephant hunting. Since the ivory trade sanctions were introduced, prices on raw ivory increased in arithmetic progression, the First world countries such as America, Britain, France and Japan are attempting to completely close their domestic ivory markets. New rules will ban import and export of ivory, and make it harder than ever to sell. It has further compromised the existence of ivory craft in Hong Kong. 
Seated in his workshop where he has meticulously transformed elephant tusks into intricate ivory artwork for four decades, Wong Cheong-lam knows the days of his craft are numbered. 
"I'm the only one left," he sighs, looking around the workshop where six carvers once worked [...] "Ivory carvers usually do not have much education" he said. "It is too late for them to learn another skill and doing other odd jobs will barely make ends meet."
Meanwhile, the elephant population in Africa dropped even more since the elephant hunting ban was enforced. 
In the states of Africa where the ban was introduced, the illegal ivory poaching has only increased. For example, the number of elephants in Kenya dropped from 65,000 to 19,000 between 1979 and 1989, the number of elephants in Zimbabwe increased from 30,000 to 43,000 where elephants were legally sold and private ownership of elephants were allowed, and the private owners of the elephants provided all the security to the wildlife to prevent poaching.
Kenya banned elephant hunting in 1977. Poachers subsequently butchered the herds, as supervision of the animals also declined with the loss of revenue from hunting. In less than two decades, Kenya's elephant herd went from 150,000 to less than 6,000. Botswana, in contrast, permitted big game hunting, and in the same period of time, their elephant herd has quadrupled.
  1. Subsequently, the ban led to the gradual decrease of the traditional ivory craft practice in Africa and China, as well as made it impossible to successfully develop the contemporary ivory craft.The dependency in one field and the exploitation in others show that the hegemony process and neo-colonial politics continue to deprive countries of their artistic heritage as well as the economic growth.
  2. By prohibiting ivory transactions western culture continues to oppress African contemporary art practices and replaces it on the international art scene. All the aforementioned sanctions prevent Africa from competing on the world market with finished goods and services, i. e. ivory crafts and wild animals hunting. Nowadays, Africa's role in the world economy is imposed by West and can not yet go beyond. The sanctions are also the reason why the ivory carving as an art branch is ceasing to exist in the developing world.
  3. The fact that we are now in the situation where the political authority dictates the evolution of the art practice, and where the contemporary art is being shaped by the bureaucracy instead of artists themselves is a serious problem. Instead of letting artistic expression be the primary drive behind the art we are faced with a situation where the political bureaucracy has a similar if not a bigger part in the contemporary art practice and its role in the public realm.
  4. All art is inherently political and while making a political statement by creating a piece of art is healthy, to be dependent on the authority and allowing it to dictate the medium means surrendering the agency as an artist to the political class. It makes one question the whole art system, its political independence and integrity.
  5. The only way to get rid of the problem is to stop intervening in the weaker states affairs without the understanding of their mentality, ethics and traditions. Otherwise, the intervention may only be in the interests of the interveners and for their own gain.

In conclusion, it becomes obvious that there is something else hidden behind the so-called help the West is persistently trying to enforce. Because what the world has now, after all the sanctions were imposed on ivory trade and elephant hunting, is the degradation of the ivory craft threatened with complete eradication, further decrease of the elephant population, steady increase of the illegal ivory poaching and continued existence of the neo-colonialism. As well as uncertainty in the integrity of contemporary art in the developing countries and the whole world.


Monday, September 15, 2014

So this book is for my two friends, and millions of others like them

I have ADHD, and sometimes (all the time) it makes my life (and M's life) really annoying (just unbearable). Normally, I watch a movie in 2-4 sessions. When drawing at home I need to take breaks all the time. I can work in a studio for 5-7 hours straight though, however only under stress. But one of my main frustrations is reading books. While I read news and articles all the time I'm online (and I'm usually online 12/24), I find it extremely hard to concentrate on a book. I can read a 200-300 pp book for weeks, no matter whether i like the story or not (and I happened to like 90% of books I read). However, oddly enough, I almost never have a situation when I can say "I'm not reading anything at the moment". There is always a book I started weeks ago and haven't finished yet ha haaa :/ 
But despite all this I genuinely like reading. And I'm not willing to feel guilty about my  of reading speed and a short attention span I happened to have. I don't see my life without reading and always have dozens of books in my reading list. But yeah, my relationship with books is complicated. The only nice thing about it I can think of is that I'll never run out of the best of the best in literature and will always have something to read.
We are all from different countries. We have our own cultural heritage, our own ethnic background. Which means all of us have certain fields of interests and hobbies to read about, and our own number of classics to add to a reading listsThat's why I think of books as something intimate and don't talk about them as often as I talk about movies here (or anywhere actually). However, today I wanted to talk about a couple of books which are not as popular as I'd like them to be, and I don't understand why.

I'm talking about the elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (ok, this one is quite popular but mostly among French). It's a French novel about a girl from a wealthy family named Paloma (who tells you straight away that she is going to kill herself on her 13th birthday), and an old concierge lady living in / working for the the families from the same house. I absolutely enjoyed it from cover to cover, and when I looked through a couple of reviews on goodreads, I was confused: all I could see on the front page were one star reviews. I already started doubting myself when I realised that the arguments people used against the book I'd use to actually advertise it!

  • The two main characters [a 12yo girl and an old lady] are hypocritical snobs who accuse others of snobbery. Have you heard of Daria? What about Aubrey Plaza? They both are 10 out of 10, and Paloma is just a younger/cuter version = awesome! The concierge rocks as well.
  • Actually, the concierge and the 12 year old girl sound pretty much alike. The characterization is that thin. ... This is one of the main points of the story? ... 
  • Asia and Asians are characterized as "mysterious". Because they always were and always will be (in the most polite way, of course). I mean, it's obvious that the author just fancies them very much! There is a lot of admiration of Japanese/Chinese culture in the book.
  • It’s not clear why, in all 12 years of existence, I’ve never discovered a friend, teacher, neighbor, or relative who might complicate my unilaterally dark feelings about humanity by actually having some positive qualities. If you're a teenager from a showy shallow family who has to go to school full of children of same qualities, and you don't hate most of people around you, there is something wrong with you.
  • In fact, I spend so much time sounding intellectual that, except for my melodramatic suicidality, there’s little hint of the fact that, emotionally, I’m really just an early adolescent. Sounds like a perfect combination to me.
  • Also, readers accuse the author in name-dropping when she lets her characters talk about philosophy. This remark made me especially angry. Just thank this 12 years old girl for giving you a quick lesson in philosophy and widening your vocabulary and relax!

Anyway, I had a great pleasure listening to (and had a lot of sympathy with) a little hater and know-it-all twelvie. Moreover, I found the book quite anti-socialist, so it's all good. There is also a movie based on the book but it lacks so many details that it's really impossible to understand what is going on if you haven't read it yet. It's a nice illustration to the book though.

OH WAIT, can I just quickly draw your attention to Paloma's impressive collection of striped shirts and checkered pajamas?

* * *

The second book (it's a 10 pp story in a book of short stories, to be precise) I'd like to mention is a perfect day for bananafish by Salinger (you can easily find it online). I'd also like to be short with this one: this is my absolute favorite story of all time. Three years ago I showed it to M and made it one of his favorite stories too (regardless the fact that he doesn't like Salinger that much). It's a story about a deeply sad man, with his extroverted young wife, and 3-5 yo little girls (whose company he enjoys way more) as supportive characters. It's only 10 pp long but there is so much happening in this story, you won't get it until you read it several times.

[When you grow tired of catching all the nuances, you can read this review, the lady mentions some important moments there.]

Well, that's all I had for today. I guess, the reason I write about all this on the internet is that I simply don't have anyone around to discuss these things with, so I end up talking to myself and then write it all on my blog to get it out of my head. Plus, some people message me from time to time asking about books I read / movies I watch / music I listen to. So, everyone benefits in the end, right? Anyway, hope you all are ok.

Till next time! (◡‿◡✿)