written by Eddie Arroyo

The hammer is heavy yet comforting. Slowly I walk around this damaged concrete cube deciding where to begin, small and large pieces lay along its perimeter. Its dark and seven florescent lights gives this minimal structure an ominous presence, unmovable and permanent. Smoke bellows from its back. Where to begin? On the crown sits a black American flag; an antenna straight to heaven. A logic-based algorithm spray painted on one side adding to 15 or subtracted to 7. Its significance interests me less the more and more I inspect this defaced yet infallible form.

Where to begin? On each side there is a word carved into its face. “Desire” occupies the right and “denial” the left. The hammer is heavy yet comforting. I decide to begin with “denial”. A deep breath. A quiet moment. With two hands I grip the industrial tool, swing it back, and force it against the structure.

I hit it again. I hit it again. I hit it again. Pieces of concrete hit my face, my body, the ground. I hit it again. I hit it again. I hit it again. It wears on me growing more tired and the result is disappointing – far more difficult than anticipated.

This is a challenging situation that 3PQ (artists collective Freddy Jouwayed, Sinisa Kukec, and Stephan Tugrul) had presented with O R I O N [ T Y M P A N U M ] at Bridge Red Studios/Project Space. It is not long before I hand the sledge hammer to someone else to reduce its form. And so it continued, with participant after participant.   They all hammered away with just as much or less results than I had -leading to a conclusion which was unrealized yet illuminating. This is difficult.

This Derridan approach entered my mind at Fall Semester. An independent initiative established in 2013 by visual artists Odalis Valdivieso, Lidija Slavkovic, Marcos Valella, P. Scott Cunningham, Angela Valella, Andrew Horton, Antonia Wright, Felice Grodin, Gean Moreno, and Rob Goyanes to present public lectures and promote discussions regarding contemporary society and culture.

I managed to catch Gray Read’s lecture entitled Second Landscape. The proposal began with the current problem urban structures in Miami face in the advent of global warming.“Relentless asphalt of both roof and street feed the urban heat island of the city, turning the urban tropics into an inhospitable desert.” – Read

The solution was presented with creating a rich and tropical ecosystem on the existing roofs and sides of buildings in downtown Miami. Her presentation included a number of renderings depicting how this would look. Reminded of Google Maps, it was curious how Read has made the city more natural with her vision for it. An illustration of a roof of parking garage was the most notable sample with trees and an array of different plant and avian life.

Given its architectural structure it would be possible for such concept to be realized and utilized. However, other buildings require more planning and code modification. It was apparent when asked about the logistics of such an initiative. And this was the tone of Fall Semester. A series of ideas for the public to consume, an open think tank.

It was Jan Verwoet who discussed urban dynamics in a communal tone with City Bodies: Undead or Alive?  He presented the mythos of witchcraft in the “dark ages” of Europe.  It was an amusing and compelling concept of the metaphysical.  What was curious was how he referenced the collective reaction to subverting these individuals in ritualistic spectacle.   Of course, most everyone knows what form it took with burning a great number of them at the stake or mutilate their bodies to save the holy spirit.  

Verwoet stated case after case of the reasons, driven mostly by eliminating overt sexuality within women as a whole.  And in reference to that what he referred to as zombies in the form of the mob.  A case study of how large groups of people within an urban landscape can be mindless in action when fear has driven them in a common goal.  A goal presented by a hierarchical will in embodied urban power.

Fitting that Fall Semester ended with Michael Hardt’s Where have all the leaders gone?. He discussed the recent rise of “leaderless” movements from 2011 to 2013 noting the Occupy Movement as the most effective despite its initial reception. Hardt asked where is the new Martin Luther King or Che Guevaras? Is there a need for them given the advancement of technological communication to bring forth a collective in a common goal?

His answer leaned to “no” and more to a personal responsibility; to congregate under ideas allowing them to evolve as a collective. Such a practice is Marxist by definition… and yet here we are witnessing it in real time with the Arab Spring and Ferguson.

A scary thought if one subscribes to an authoritarian, undemocratic, and centralized decision-making pyramid.

What these collectives do is awaken the public to social myths presented by established norms. For if these where actual truths then why would its contradiction exist?

Recently, I visited Bridge Red Studios for O R I O N [ T Y M P A N U M ] phase two. Not much has changed. Save a couple of more carvings, a bit of spray paint, and chips of concreate on the ground the structure was still very much sound.

Speaking with the 3PQ, I had the impression of disappointment regarding the initial goal. I was not disappointed – quite the opposite there was an air of excitement. Strictly speaking, I realized long ago that it will take countless swings of a hammer to create the smallest of change.