Through the Screen, Brownsville Art District
Alan Waxman, April 6th, 2015
In an attempt to make a cogent argument that Brownsville, Brooklyn, is a unique art district that creates critical, poignant, and meaningful art that can actually transcend difference and work towards a more just, understanding, and compassionate society, I have compiled this manifesto in reference to the special potency and power of many vibrant communities existing within socio-ecological edge conditions around the world.
- A screen is a projective mirror of reality. Projective implies potential of future and past, viewing and making. It has the potential to change current reality through seeing it.
- Screening is a process that involves selection, generally for good or bad attributes, that allows for the success of some and failure of others, in particular by way of tests or social conduits.
- People are prevented from seeing or meeting most others in society because of their complicitness in the screening process. This screening effects their education, even prevents their education, and continues processes of social marginalization and descrimination internally and externally.
- Art is a process that allows people to see others THROUGH their own screen; making art is a process that allows people to see through the screening mechanisms they have taken from society. Through the projective mirror of art, people can come to see complex reality, material or social.
- When two people each see through their own projective screens because they are involved in an artistic process, they are able to meet in a way they may have previously found impossible. It is by this method that it is possible to move through class and status distinctions and dissolve them, if momentarily.
- "Art" that constructs a product that facilitates the success and growth of the ego because it is associated with dynamic feedback actually strengthens the screen. What this ego "art" constructs is a manifestation of the ego in material form, sometimes known as a corporation. It creates material capital and may even lead to material success for the "artist," but ultimately this is success based on the vagaries of economic and social flows - it is not revolutionary. It does not challenge hierarchies, dissolve hierarchies, or pierce the screen (sometimes called a "corporate veil"). Much of design falls into this category if it is oriented to be economically pleasing rather than revealing a truth, criticizing society, or truly resonating with a client beyond recreation.
- The difference between the "art" of the ego and the art of seeing truth is the difference between manifestation of power and surrender to a greater power (a power higher than "the man" of the state or the money) . This is the difference between the art and literature of the "mainstream," the "center," the "man," the "police;" and the art and literature of the periphery, the edge, the "youth," the "criminalized." Those in power attempt to create art, but what they create is often a monument to their power. If those in power surrender their power, they may create something of value. On the margins however, the situation is different as there is much more of an incentive to realize this higher critical power, and see through monuments of self; this is discussed in more detail below.
- The marginal position of the periphery is partially defined by a double bind and a liminal state. For example, the youth, the criminal, the edge, in which existence is in flux, is doubted, called into question and made materially difficult. People flee such a position, whether to "mature" or to become "safe" and find "stability," but many do not flee or cannot flee, and find themselves in a state where they want to change but cannot.
- In this place there is a power dynamics in dialogue with the "center." Not being part of the "center" creates instability that often becomes correlated with addictive behaviors: how to survive while loving a "bad" man or a "bad" woman, coping mechanisms or structures such as drugs, alcohol, and codependent relationships abound, with flight, violence, running away, and control as defining traits of this position.
- Some cultures have developed, even thrived in this edge space, they are there now and have been there in the past because they CAN be there where others cannot. The trickster is a frequent hero, or rather, antihero that characterizes stories in this cultural milieu. There is a huge corpus of literature created by various marginal cultures around the world and often mainstream cultures that actually adopt the wisdom of the periphery as its main precepts, as is the case perhaps with Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, etc. For a large scale population to leave such a cultural space requires widespread internal cultural destruction, assimilation AND replacement within the urban schema so that the marginal position is fulfilled.
- Because of the double bind that creates this edge space within the margin as long as the margins of economic social hierarchies etc exists, there will be a cycle of dependency relationally with the mainstream. Many mainstream power holders have tried to exert their power by way of controlling the periphery, as in the case with caste exclusion, Buraku laws, the European ghettos, the Crusades, the pogroms, American slavery and segregation, etc. Only rarely have powerholders tried to imagine a society completely without the periphery - a "Final Solution." This only underscores the essential meaning of these edge conditions, even to those in positions of power.
- In the peripheral, edge conditional space a unique force of discovery is found, a unique wisdom and a unique understanding of higher power - an understanding that is found through realizing that the situation cannot be changed through ones own actions, but rather through collaborative action, and even something greater - internal and external liberation - which can be found through art, THROUGH the screen.
- The art district is a place where this artistic educational process can be made possible, a place where double binds and cycles of dependency facilitate production of art that pierces the screen between people.