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Seeing is not Perceiving

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

“[T]hey may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding” — Parable of the Sower, Mark 4:12 (NIV)

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting an artist’s studio in preparation for ICI’s upcoming spring exhibition. Without giving too much away, upon seeing the works, and speaking with the artist, I have been left to philosophize on the line between truth and perception or rather between sight and reality; a curiosity that has been further intensified by a recent visit to PHENOMINAL at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

In conjunction with the theme, “phantom worlds,” this quandary is especially intriguing. Is what we see around us genuine? Do we perceive the true form of our surroundings? Is there a secondary reality that we are being denied access to as a result of limited knowledge or access? How much do we really know about our world or anything else for that matter?

In the words of The X-Files, “the truth is out there”, but whether or not we’ll know it when we see it is yet to be seen.

Opening my eyes and mind to new ideas of perception


The Fight Continues

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

World AIDS Day, a Day Without Art, December 1, 2011

Now that Forget Foucault has finished its initial run and the buttons have been disseminated, I am left with a new perspective on a topic that I already thought I knew about. Both saddened and encouraged, I feel I have gained perspective on the state of AIDS awareness and sentiment in America for the first time.

30 years after the epidemic began, ignorance and hatred still persists in regards to HIV and AIDS. While giving away the buttons both at LACMA and Third Street promenade in Santa Monica, I received a diverse array of reactions to our cause. Many people were receptive to the buttons and supportive of World AIDS Day but just as many were not.

I was surprised to see that in 2011, fear and disgust still surrounds the term AIDS in the minds of some people. For some, the term made them avoid me and my ephemera, taking extra effort to walk at a distance from me. For others, the free buttons were a draw until I told them what they were for, at which point a few people immediately dropped the buttons in their hands and rushed away; some of whom claimed to be unsupportive of the cause and while others just seemed to fear sudden infection.

Unfortunately, some of the negative responses were the most abrupt and sincere. I had one elderly gentleman “explain” to me that while their deaths may be sad, my cause was fruitless because “those people got what they deserved” for being gay and “whoring around.” I calmly explained to him that gay men were not the only people affected and that many people also became infected by dirty needles or through infected blood transfusions, but most of my words fell on deaf ears. And at another point during the day, I was accosted by a man who claimed that I was only out to irritate him. That AIDS wasn’t even real and that it was only a clever government scheme to systematically frighten and kill people at will. When our director Lise told us about this belief earlier that day, I almost didn’t believe her, and yet here it was, right in my face, yelling.

On the flipside of this, I was also particularly struck by a lengthy conversation I had with a different man. Unlike some of the other negative sentiments that had been directed towards the project and the disease process that day, this man’s thoughts and actions seemed aligned with our cause, and yet his words affected me all the same. This man knew the facts and the statistics; he knew people who had died from AIDS; and he knew that that the epidemic was still spreading. BUT, what he didn’t know was why HIV and AIDS have seemingly fallen off the radar in the US. He asked me why the media had steadily decreased reporting on the issue since the mid to late 90s. He asked me why we never really seem to hear about it anymore, even as incidents rise in regions like the South. And he asked me whether or not the major global pharmaceutical companies were still searching for a cure. We hear about advances in cancer research and survival rates on a regular basis, but why not AIDS? Are anti-viral cocktails still the best they could come up with after all this time? Sure, people taking the anti-virals are living longer, (arguably) healthier lives, but those have been around for 20 years, why haven’t they created something new yet? Why does Magic Johnson still seem to be the poster boy for “living with HIV/AIDS”? Do they think that because he’s still alive, everything’s OK? They were all good questions, and I didn’t have pertinent answers for them. All I know is that if more people were having these conversations, maybe things might change.
As the buttons we gave out travel to their respective new homes and begin to spread beyond their dissemination points, I can only hope that they begin to spread discourse and discussion as well. Will everyone who comes across a button from the project know its meaning and significance? No. But if even one person uses theirs as a talking point, that’s one more person helping to keep HIV and AIDS alive in the public consciousness.

The event may be finished, but the project, like the fight against the AIDS epidemic itself, is far from over.

Looking into the future of the fight.

Forget who?

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011


“While the collective memory endures and draws strength from its base in a coherent body of people, it is individuals as group members who remember.”

– Maurice Halbwachs  The Collective Memory

A project, come and gone, leaves a certain mark on you. The kinetic character of the progress and action is suddenly still and you are left with the remnants and marks of movement. I’m sitting at my desk looking at the bags of remaining buttons, all mixed up, the leftover printouts of AIDS resources pages, button assembly instructions and press releases. I wonder how the physical abluvion of these past few months will be kept, organized and interpreted by the next intern, fellow, archivist or artist to come. Will we create a clear lexicon and a concise abstract to guide the investigator towards our ideas and concepts or will these documents be left to fend for themselves with no signs to combat their investigators subjectivity. In all likelihood, given my experience with past projects housed here at the ICI, I would think it will be somewhere in between. I imagine the buttons displayed in a row of unassuming boxes, organized by name, color, and “Forget” or “Remember”, obituaries on small filing inserts at the front of each box; maybe a small diagram on the wall next to them which maps a person’s potential digital pathways from button to tag to web page to obituaries. There is something to be said about letting the person who is seeking an understanding of something wander through it a bit without instruction; something to be said about having to make sense of it yourself. Like navigating a new city with a good intuitive sense of North, South, East and West, and maybe an outdated map from a local gas station, instead of a GPS with street by street instructions. Getting lost can be fruitful in ways that we, the project creators, might not have anticipated.

While this archive will function as a kind of stamp of the project, the digital web linked to the project will be more like a planted seed. We will wait to see if it will get the necessary inputs to germinate and grow. I am interested to see this living archive has the kinetic energy of the project. Does the project continue through this modality? Is it a mirror? Or is it a separate channel breaking off from the first? I’m curious how it will function and whether it will ever join the physical archive as a still document.

Forget Foucault has interesting implications about which ideas, people, and systems we choose to resurrect, remember or forget. While so often pseudo-poststructuralists like myself (and sometimes Foucault) want to discuss the fact that we have little ability to overcome our taught predispositions towards memorial, faddisms and our strategic propensity to just put things out of mind, FF offers (or demands) that we assume a little agency. By wearing a button with the statement of forgetting or remembering we assume responsibility for our actions…at least that is the hope.

I saw only a few people actively concerned about the prospect of wearing the wrong statement. These people were upset when we didn’t have the button they wanted. Most of these wanted to remember someone, and found it an awful proposition to forget. Though these were the most impassioned people, I have a sense that it was due to a conditioned belief that remembering people is “good” forgetting people is “bad”. Though I had originally wanted more people to actively engage me, I now have a suspicion that the ones who could get the most out of the project might be the few, who in realizing that they just grabbed a button at random, will find themselves considering the implications of their mindless act. Disappointed in retrospect that they didn’t take the time to consider their options. That is my sincere hope.



Curatorial Internship

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

My name is Gina Caprari, and my journey to and within the Institute has been a particularly rambling one—after a couple of rounds of applying for intern positions and then spending some time volunteering with the gift shop, I now serve as a curatorial intern and have supported the never-dull 100/10 project in sundry administrative and creative ways. After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with an English Literature degree, I traveled and studied for four months in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I met family and worked to solidify my Castellano. I was spending this year working at a small Science Technical Medical publishing company editing manuscripts and managing its online journalism sector when I began putting in time at the ICI, and the think tank here has proven to permeate much of my personal life and even future plans.

I supremely enjoy just working within the Institute’s walls, where one can often feel the energy glowing. The library, ephemera, laboratory, exhibit space, and miscellaneous collection have bred such intriguing insights in just the short time I have been acquainted with the ICI, and that makes me excited to watch and see what happens here in the future.

I leave for San Francisco in the fall to begin a graduate program in English Literature, but I hope to keep well in touch with Institute productions while I’m away. At present, I’m happy to contribute some of the bare bones tasks that maintain a collection like this one, and it is always a pleasure to watch affiliates’ and visitors’ reactions to and interactions with the Institute.