". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, October 21, 2011

Aesthetic of the Cool - Robert Farris Thompson

We had no idea this is the book, to which El V contributed, nor that El V had contributed so significantly. Not only his piece with about Bob and the Tango, and Congo Square, but many of his photographs illustrate Bob's own essays, from New Orleans, the DR, Cuba, etc. are all through this publication -- he's even one of the photos on the jacket. We'd no idea for the publisher and editor (an art professor at Yale) approached Ned for permission to use something he'd written about Bob quite some time ago. Much went on in the meantime, including nearly going under from the economic crash. Periodically she'd e-mail and ask if he had a photo that would be relevant for this or that, because Bob thought he might, and he did, and he'd send it to her. They never met. He never even thought to google her.

In other words Aesthetic of the Cool is a book about art, created as art itself. One of those .... And el V is a big part of it. At the reception and dinner after the Studio Museum of Harlem, the publisher informed me that she'd no idea when beginning the project that this would happen either. It just grew. And she's ecstatic how it turned out. And so is everyone else. We received a book before Bob's presentation on "Cool," and the following Conversation, and then the Q&A. Our jaws kept falling lower and lower. 

I feel that el V has a great deal for which he can feel justifiable pride and a sense he's not spent his time on the planet in vain, and has given back at least as much he's been given. To have been given such a place in this project says it all. This is one of the greatest honors he could receive.

This is how Bob put it last night during the Q&A, in response to someone who asked how he felt about having worked his entire life to spread the African expression of art and the spirit. "I am an old white guy, a really old white guy, don't look at me. But for some reason I was made a medium. When I'm good it's the spirit working through me, attracted by me, and I throw it out there, BAM! And then it's out there. I'm nobody. It's not me. It's the spirit."

Last night is the very best of our life. This is why we are where are. This is the world in which I am most at home, where I feel among family. It's African, it's AfroLatin, it's Caribbean and Latin American, it's African American, it's New Orleans, it's the U.S. People are all colors. It's art, music, dance, it's performative, it's spiritual, and it has one hell of sense of style, wit and humor. It's ecumenical, not exclusive. It's beautiful.

It's cool. Watch this Yoruba woman dancing -- warming up, swimming, slowly, falling to the bottom of the waters. Flowing, Flowing, Now it's hot. She's got Ogún in her head. Stomp-stomp-stomp those adulterers, Stomp those Cheneys, Stomp those Oil CEOs, Stomp, stomp, the evil. And now we cool, we cool, we flow, we swim up, out of the waters from where we destroyed the evil. Cool, cool, cool. So cool. She still dances, with the Sacred Object on her head, and it never falls. Her head is straight for she is cool.

Africa is infectious. Where there is something of Africa it will spread -- as in Argentina, from a small population of Africans and create the Tango. In the Union army the black soldiers never wore their military caps bill straight forward, but at any other angle. In Rio in the 1930's, where Africans were in huge numbers as they are now, they already wore their caps bills backwards. See how differently the NFL running plays are now that the NFL players are mostly African American, than when the players were mostly white and they ran so straight. When interviewed about why the black players' style are so much more, well, stylish, than the white players, "Man, we dance and we play drums."

Giving is cool. Bob has given so much, and we give back to him. We love this man so very much.

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