Name: Michael Winter
Geographical Location: Tana Toraja, Indonesia
Sub-concept: Death, Honor, Ritual
Description: Tana Toraja’s deceased are exhumed, decorated, and displayed as part of a community’s death ritual.
The Tana Toraja regency of Indonesia takes a unique approach to honoring the dead. Funerals in the area are multi-day parties, a far cry from the short, somber affairs of the western world. Most interesting, however, is what happens after the funeral; depending on which sub community they are from, families exhume the bodies of their ancestors every 1 to 5 years as part of a large public ritual. The dead are removed from their resting place – sometimes a coffin, often just a shroud – and cleaned, dressed in new clothes, and displayed for all to see. It has even become normal to take pictures of, and with, the newly decorated corpses.
In order for this ritual to be pleasing for the dead, the lifeless body must remain able to perceive time. Without the perception of time, the perception of change is impossible; to understand change, one must compare a situation at time “x” with the same situation at time “x+1.” Thus, the deceased would only benefit from the ritual of cleaning and clothing if they could differentiate between “now” and “before.” Assuming the community would only undertake this ritual if they thought it effective, we can infer that they believe that the perception of time remains within our physical body beyond our death.
This belief, taken to its logical conclusion, represents death as a frighteningly claustrophobic ordeal. To remain perceptually trapped in the corpse, unable to affect your surrounding in the slightest yet compelled to perceive the infinite march of time, seems a most terrifying fate. Time in this sense becomes a sort of prison, forcing you to experience existence, presumably against your will. Perhaps an absolute death might be more comforting in the end.
Name: Lawson Hung
Sub-concepts: Hysteria, Smell, Sickness, Aliens
Location: Braxton County, West Virginia
Description: The Flatwood Monster is an extraterrestrial being that appeared after a meteor landed in Braxton County, West Virginia.
Interpretation: The creature is described as having a face the shape of a spade in cards. It had eyes that glowed from within, a black body, and a black face. The creature moved so fast that it’s long stringy arms almost could not be made out. Its arms ended in claws. It also glided, which made it look like it was almost flying. After being in contact with the creature, the witnesses had irritated noses and swollen throats. There was also a metallic smell in the air, which the witnesses thought to come from the creature.
Years later however, this was dismissed as a barn owl sighting. The descriptions provided match closely with those of a barn owl holding a tree branch after being startled. The black body that the witnesses described were dismissed as shadows. The metallic smell in the air may have been caused by the meteor which had landed nearby. The only reason that the witnesses did not see it as such is probably because they were scared and were in a state of hysteria. Doctors also dismissed the sicknesses of the witnesses as caused by hysteria, which can be caused by a traumatic or shocking event, as did the witnesses went through. The only reason why the witnesses did not perceive the creature as an owl was because they were too scared to think rationally. If only they had been more calm, then they would have seen that it was merely just an owl and nothing more.
This proves how hysteria can cause people to think irrationally. Everything can be scientifically and rationally explained, but only when one is calm enough to do so. The witnesses were so scared and hysterical that they could not think straight. They thought they had seen an alien when they had only seen an owl.
Name: Paco Chan
Sub-Concepts: Madness, Reality, Transformation
Description: Becoming a human-animal hybrid might make us healthier
Although our medical breakthroughs each decade and century have proved to prolong the lives of human by a significant number of years, we are still constantly looking for ways to extend our lives as much as possible. From physical appearance improvements through plastic surgery to finding cures for the incurable diseases such as cancer, we constantly want to look and stay healthy as much as possible.
Genetic engineering has always been a controversial and sensitive subject even in the most developed parts of the globe. There always seems to be an ethical and moral discussion on whether the entire study should be legal. Transgenics is a specific study of mixing animal genes with human genes. Although it is not something entirely new to the world, significant breakthroughs has occurred in recent years. Such discovery has led to treatments that could stave of ageing effects and metabolic disorder, which for many people would be life changing news.
Although transgenics does have a lot of upsides there is a huge grey area that some scientists won’t even get into. There will be issues such as how much transgenic modification should someone receive until he or she can no longer be classified as a human? If it were non-human, many legal issues and rights to such a creature can be so confusing and dangerous. Furthermore, I believe that such enhancements or creations would give people who receive it even more of a competitive edge in the world as if the socio-economic, geographical and other disadvantages that currently exist isn’t widening the world’s poverty gap enough.
Theory of Forms
Name: Cade Miller
Sub-concepts: Good, Thought, Form
Description: Plato’s Theory of Forms gives rise to the foundation of metaphysical thought even more than 2000 years later. It is the first acceptance that the reality in which we perceive to be true, may not be ultimately what is there at the purest form. It is necessary to understand what the original conception of metaphysics is meant to represent before it is possible to extrapolate upon that idea.
Interpretation: The way in which Plato represents the idea of metaphysical thought can be seen in Book Seven of Plato’s Republic, where Socrates develops the Allegory of the Cave. Having just ineffectively debated Thrasymachus on what the true nature of justice is, Socrates develops a theory that can serve as a guideline for all social interaction within the Republic. This splits thought up in four orders.
The cave is set up with prisoners shackled facing a wall in such a way that does not allow them to turn around of move their necks. Behind them is a fire and a partial wall. Other people in the cave put on puppet shows on the cave wall using wooden animals, dolls and the like. This is at first reality to the prisoners because it is all they can see and interpret. This is what first order thinking is to Plato, an image of an image; the puppet of a human is merely a representation of a human. Also, the human itself that it represents is also an image because even the physical manifestation of a human is not the true idea of a human that people place in their minds to categorize them internally.
Second order thinking happens in the cave when one of the prisoners is able to break free from the shackles and can turn around and see the objects being cast over the wall for their amusement. This is traumatic to the prisoner because it completely shatters what they had previously thought to be true about the reality in which they lived. Third order thinking then can be considered when the prisoner is brought outside the cave and is able to see the true source of light, that of course being the sun. Eventually, Plato conjectures, the prisoner would be able to derive many things using logic, such as how the sun is the cause for nearly the whole visible realm and all that exists within this new reality. Third order thinking is also intellectually different from the previous two because it requires thought in the forms of hypothesis and tries to limit the manifestations used by the first and second order. This is true of the equality principle, which does not require even for it to be written to be understood by all humans, that things equal themselves.
The most interesting is fourth order thinking which completely eliminates the use of images, symbols, and even language to describe it. Fourth order thinking can only be achieved by those who have been able to understand a property of some object within the third order. It is impossible to describe what the person now understands to be true about that object to someone else, because Plato suggests that this exist outside of the physical realm, and only belongs in the realm of pure form.
Sub-Concepts: Amorphousness, Immensity, Situationism
Description: French architect Marc Fornes created an immense, neon pink aluminum art installation.
Interpretation: The piece, dubbed “The Situation Room,” clearly calls upon situationist principles. Visitors are enveloped by the structure, unable to discern a beginning or end. The piece refuses the notion that art and one’s present state or environment are separate by forcing its abnormal, amorphous immensity into the “normal” (read: linear, partitioned) plane. It is comprised of twenty spheres of varying sizes, melded together to create a continuous form which is at once familiar and unfamiliar: just when one thinks they know where it is going or what shape its taking, it changes—but never too sharply.
The massive, bulbous, pink piece is abrasive in all senses. It has no clear pattern of movement, and swallows its visitors whole. Although it is polished and made of aluminum, the piece almost resembles a vast internal organ. In this way, it presents a juxtaposition of the visceral and the stylized, the natural and the artificial. The piece is made from shapes and materials which, individually, one can recognize, but which when combined, one has no reference for. One’s artistic and spatial preconditions always give way to the piece because—amorphous yet solid, perforated yet whole, shapely yet unshapely—it is unlike anything they have experienced before.
Name: Michael Winter
Geographical Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sub-concept: Escape, Death, Retribution
Description: Adolf Eichmann, the architect behind the Nazi’s deportation and extermination operations responsible for the murder of over five million Jews, was captured in Argentina 15 years after Germany’s defeat.
We cannot escape our past. It walks with us in our shadow, trailing us through new locations and identities, waiting until we are most vulnerable to strike. For Eichmann, the SS Lt. Colonel responsible for facilitating the mass deportation and extermination of the Jewish people during World War II, the past caught up with him May 11th 1960 when a team of Israeli Mossad agents captured a man known to locals only as Ricardo Klement at his residence in Buenos Aires. Eichmann was subsequently returned to Israel, found guilty of crimes against humanity, and hanged two years later
Despite his efforts to detach himself from his previous self, Eichmann ultimately failed to outrun his past. Eichmann did everything he could to become a new person. Twice he assumed new identities, one for his life in Austria and one for his subsequent life in Argentina. However, no matter how hard he tried, a new job, a new location, and a new name would never absolve Ricado Klement of the stain that was Adolf Eichmann.
Though we can change everything about how the self is perceived, we can never change the entity that is the self. Eichmann’s escape was predicated on superficial changes being sufficient; clearly, it was not. In fact, his failure was as predictable and unavoidable as that of an attempt to separate our left half from our right without annihilating our self; just as we are essentially connected to the part of us that spans the first three dimensions – height, width, and depth – we are also essentially connected to the part of us that spans the fourth dimension – time. Our past is no less a part of us than our top half, and any attempt to detach one from the either will either end in failure or annihilation. In some sense, then, Eichmann did partially succeed; though he is not around to benefit from it, the Eichmann responsible for the death of millions has finally been annihilated.
Aphasia – Loss of Words
Name: Kenza Mouaqit
Region: Ontario, Canada
Sub-Concepts: Loss, Isolation, Emotions
Description: More than 100 sufferers of Aphasia take part in the fifth annual event of Aphasia Camp in Ontario, Canada. They meet up to get some relief from their isolation as they are often misunderstood by the communities. Aphasia is a language disorder that occurs suddenly as a result of a stroke leading to damages in the areas of the brain that control language. About one third of the people who experience a stroke will undergo aphasia. Aphasia can range from an inability to pronounce words correctly to a loss of words. The type of Aphasia one experiences depends greatly on the part of the brain that has been damaged.
Interpretation: Imagine constantly striving to share your thoughts through language, but not being able to do so. Imagine your mind was constantly racing with thoughts, but you struggled just to pronounce one word, and if you are lucky, maybe you would be able to pronounce a couple of words. People suffering from Aphasia have gone from being able to speak perfectly, to not being able to share their thoughts. Their loss of words has caused frustration. The lack of language has heightened emotions for many, as they have replaced speech by emotions. Due to these differences, many of those who suffer aphasia are constantly feeling misunderstood. As a result they tend to isolate themselves from everyday society. Sometimes they are mistaken to being mentally delayed as they cannot completely formulate their thoughts. To what extent does the restriction of language affect our identity? These people must be living in constant frustration as they are now viewed as completely different people due to their new handicap. Are people usually judged depending on their communication skills? Society today is very judgmental about how well different people are able to convey their thoughts, and people suffering from aphasia are unfortunately constantly put to this test by everyday society. Not only has the loss of language affected their emotional behavior, but it has also led to their continual everyday isolation from everyday society.
Alberto Rodriguez Rico
Description: Le Feu by Henri Barbusse is a text that related the life of soldiers during The Great War. He was a trench soldier in the Western front fighting for the French side. He wrote the book in an insane asylum in 1916, two years before the war would end. He had a large impact on societies as a consequence of the way in which he wrote about the soldiers’ experiences. His novel led a large amount of other soldiers to write similar stories about their experiences. He contrasts the popular image of a soldier to what reality actually is during the war. In the 1910s media’s strength was even more powerful than in our days since there was limited source of information and the trust in the system was stronger. Therefore, media and more specifically propaganda created a fantasy or illusion behind certain words in the way that benefitted their current needs the most.
During the Great War countries needed soldiers motivated to fight for the cause and be willing to risk their life for the country. The government set a reward for the soldiers that was the promise to return to their countries as heroes. Nonetheless hero was an illusion diffused by propaganda which depicted a soldier extremely patriotic which had superior skills which led to his survival and to exterminate the enemy; and that risked everything for their country and the ideals of democracy and justice. However, Barbusse as other soldiers changed his perspective throughout the war. At first he was motivated to go to war since he thought it had justifiable purpose and wanted to be that hero. However, after spending months in the trenches he realized how World War I was being extended without a reason; losing his motivation to fight. War was killing men indifferently despite their feelings towards the war, conviction or skills; it was just a matter of luck, a soldier that managed to survive was product of coincidence and destiny. Soldiers were not feeling as heroes, they felt like murderers since their actions were only killing people. The problem arose since they did not hate the soldiers they were killing, they understood that they were in the same situation as them. They were just two small ants in the same detrimental condition fighting a fight of giants.
In this example it is again the sensual experience that one that destroys the concept behind the word hero. Heroism was nothing close to the illusion before going to war. In fact he realizes a true hero would be an individual brave enough to refuse to fight for a non-justifiable cause. This would mean to be against the society as a whole since the majority of them still considered the illusion of hero portrayed by propaganda, consequence of their alienation to war. Words are able to be spread faster than realities and this is one example in which authorities create fantasies behind words in order to manipulate the masses; they give them a justification for committing violent actions. The feeling and glory to survive was not as they thought, they even loved their country less than before the war. They mistrust their countries authorities and were not willing to risk their lives for it. True heroes were not rewarded nor got glory for their actions, and the probability for their survival was less than of a common soldier. The true enemy was war itself, not the Germans. It was destroying humanity with violence; therefore the true hero would be the one to destroy this enemy. After realizing this, the majority of soldiers did not want to be heroes anymore.
Name: Dwiarta Alim
Sub-Concepts: Cleansing, Faith, Endurance, Penance
The Hindu festival of Thaipusam is widely celebrated in South East Asia, including India, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. The festival is a dynamic, colorful and devotional event which can stretch for three or four days that attracts one and a half million people each year. Thaipusam is a sacred time for Hindus of all castes and cultures to celebrate their appreciation to one of their Gods, Lord Murugan, a son of Shiva, the goddess of destruction. On the days of the festival, devotees go to different extreme lengths to show their devotion. While some simply join the crowds by climbing steep steps with pots of milk on their heads to say prayers to Lord Murugan at his shrine, some devotees are pierced with skewers; one through the tongue and one through the cheeks. Still others go even further and pull heavy chariots fastened to metal hooks in the skin of their backs. The skin tugs as they go, and they grunt and howl.
The intense pain these devotees go through are taboo to our society and culture. Nevertheless, the piercing by skewers or hooks are a symbolism of the festival. Firstly, with piercings in the mouth, the devotee renounces his/her gift of speech to concentrate more fully upon spiritually connecting with Lord Murugan. Similarly, the piercing induces the individual under the protection of the deity who will not allow the devotee to shed blood or suffer from pain. The devotees who go to these extremes do not feel pain because they are caught in a spiritual and devotional trance, cleansing their body and bringing them closer to their deity. Hindus believe that each soul has the spark of the divine within them and that their life is not only a journey in reality but in their spiritual self as well. Through the practice of skewering or being hooked on the backs, the ultimate path for Hindus is realization. While in the trance, devotees are in a state of divine communion and imposes a feeling of ecstasy upon the devotee which allows them to be aware of his/her ultimate objectives.
Grandmother Starves Herself to Death because the Government Won’t Allow Assisted Suicide
Name: Stela Maksutaj
Region/Concept: UK/ Seduction
Sub-concepts: Death, Pain, The End
Description: A 86 year old grandmother, Jean Davies, spent 5 weeks starving herself without water or food to end her life because the UK has strict laws on assisted suicide. She has suffered from conditions that have made her life very unbearable and uncomfortable, such as chronic back pains and fainting episodes. However, she was not terminally ill.
Interpretation: Although Ms. Davies was not terminally ill, her conditions pushed her to a limit of agonizing pain. We question what the limit of pain someone must endure to seduce them to end their own life. Jean suffered from chronic back pains, an ongoing ache that stayed with her day-to-day, moment-to-moment. With a constant reminder of her body’s grief, she also suffered from fainting episodes. Losing consciousness at any point of the day weakens someone’s self will. Both conditions, when simultaneously affecting Ms. Davies, unsurprisingly drove Davies to unbearable pain. By not having control of your own body, it is easy to want to let go of it altogether. Ms. Davies started to crave a moment with no pain, and a moment where she could have complete control of her own body. The conditions deteriorating her physically started to affect her mental state also. Pain began to take control of her thoughts, and eventually became the only thing she wanted to get rid of. When frustrated, in horrific pain, and at an old age, death starts to sound as a source of release. Death was the exact path of freedom for Ms. Davies, and because the government kept such strict laws on assisted suicide, she took matters into her own hands. We must keep in mind that deciding to die by manipulating her body through the lack of water and food was not a coincidence. Ms. Davies craved to gain a last moment of control, not letting her condition deteriorate her body; rather, let her own actions do so.
Name: Charlotte Widjaja
Sub-Concepts: Power, Destruction, transformation
Description: Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26 year-old street vendor in Tunisia, set himself on fire after being humiliated by a police officer, and rejected by municipal officers at his provincial headquarters.
Interpretation: Tunisia is a small country in northern Africa, where autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been in rule for 23 years. Many young men in Tunisia have at least a high school education or have even acquired their college degrees, yet they are desperate to find substantial work. Without status, money, or birth into a privileged family, men like Bouaziz have a close to impossible chance of rising out of poverty. Mohammed Bouazizi owns a single cart that he uses to sell fruits and vegetables on the roadside to support his family. However, Bouaziz does not have a permit for his vegetable cart. Although he has tried many times to obtain a license, officials have refused to grant him one and continue to take bribes as a form of payment for an unlicensed cart. During one of his days at work, a female police officer approaches Bouazizi, seizes his unregistered cart, and proceeds to abuse, slap, insult, and spit on Bouazizi’s face. Bouazizi, humiliated, goes to the governor’s office to express his mistreatment. After being denied a meeting with the governor, Bouazizi obtains gasoline from a nearby gas station and sets himself on fire in the street outside to governor’s office. His attempted suicide was not only due to his inability to continue living in such a corrupt world, but also to his idea that a suicide outside his town’s headquarters will show the officials that they were the cause of this disturbance.
The setting and the way Bouazizi carried out his suicide was an extremely bold, captivating, strong, and provocative act. Suicides often take place is closed, private scenes, where a person is alone, with only his or her own thoughts to dictate future actions. This behind the doors suicide is incredibly different that a public suicide. Bouazizi willingly made himself a sacrifice for the people, choosing to take his life to make a clear and loud statement that now is the time to end the mistreatment of people in Tusinia. The fact that Bouazizi decided to burn himself as his way of suicide adds an incredible amount of power to his action. Suicide by setting oneself on fire, also called self-immolation, produces a public image that the people of Tunisia can never forget. Those that saw Bouazizi pour gasoline all over his body, and watched him burn alive will never forget his facial expresiion of agony, the sight of fire literally eating his skin away, and finally the disappearance of a human figure to the flames of the fire. This scarring image, and just the mere knowledge of Bouazizi’s act is so powerful to people who have been oppressed, ignored, and abused for countless number of years. The fact that someone is willing to experience the kind of pain from being burned alive, and is willing to take his own life in such a violent manner demonstrates the degree of change needed in Tunisia. Bouaziz sacrifice made him a martyr for the people of his country. They were greatly angered by the death of Bouazizi and began a the people’s revolution, in which just after ten days of Bouazizi’s death, President Ali was ousted from his position and his 23 year old rule over Tunisia came to an end.
Suicide by the physical destruction of oneself creates a certain power that has the ability to impact masses of people. The destruction of Bouazizi not only affected the people of Tunisia, but it has also managed to impact much of the Arab World. He is forever seen as a martyr, and has caused protests to begin in other Arab countries and some non-Arab countries that suffer from relentless dictatorships. Just as power can result from destruction, transformation can also arise from destruction. Bouazizi’s sacrifice transformed the people’s complains and anger into actions. Several others from different countried have also committed self-immolation as an attempt to start revolutions in their own countries. The people in Tunisia took their anger to the streets through persistent protests against their lack of freedom of speech, their unfair treatment, unemployment, and poor living conditions. Destruction was able to transform Tunisia into a country that was able to hold its first free election after decades of oppression.
Forced to Fight
Name: Caitie Benoit
Region: United States
Sub-concepts: Animal Cruelty, Violence
Interpretation: People have begun raising animals for all the wrong reasons. Dog fighting has become a serious issue and crime in the United States today. Owners begin to train their dogs when they are just puppies to be extremely aggressive towards other dogs and animals. Dogs are known for their loyalty to humans and thrive in an environment where love, attention, and companionship with other dogs and people are at highs. People who participate in the dog fighting circles are also usually partaking in gambling surrounding the dog fights. Their success in gambling depends on the abilities of their animals to win the fights they are participating in. Therefore, the success of the dogs and ability to be extremely aggressive depends on the level of training the dogs receives growing up. The dogs are trained to inflict pain on other animals and are forced to endure pain that can lead to their eventual death. Starting at around a one year old, the trainers start to test the aggression of their dogs. Depending on the results, they begin to train them to be more aggressive. One example of a training technique is to have the dog on a treadmill and force it to run. At the end of the treadmill an innocent animal and sometimes a pet stolen from another person is placed in a crate. The dog is trying to get to the terrified animal to attack it. After a sufficient amount of running, the dog is allowed to attack the animal and tear it to shreds as its reward for successful running.
The dogs are sometimes injected with steroids to grow stronger and gain hormones causing aggression. They may also be bred with close relatives in order to pass on the traits that are tied with the successful fighting dogs. The dogs that are unsuccessful fighters, whether they lack the aggressive traits or just tend to lose the fights, are usually either beaten to death, used as bait for other dogs, or abandoned and left to die after getting torn to pieces. Dogs have been discovered after being abandoned with half of their jaws missing, ears cut off, and lips torn to pieces. The ranking and success of dogs is judged based upon the ability to perform after losing extreme amounts of blood and enduring large amounts of pain. The aggressive traits brought to the surface in many fighting animals has little to do with the dog itself. The trainers and owners of the animals tend to be the reason the dogs are so aggressive. The loyalty of dogs allows owners to manipulate the actions of the animals into being willing to attack when their owner says attack. Animal cruelty and dog fighting are both extremely violent and inhumane acts. Dogs do not deserve to be forced to fight each other or endure the terrible training methods that are forced upon them. Dogs are meant to be companions and loved, not tortured and forced to attack other animals and face the possibility of death just to please their owners. Animal cruelty is a huge issue in the United States. Dogs should not be trained to have high levels of aggression towards other animals and should not be used to benefit their owner financially at the expense of pain, violence, and death in many cases.
Subconcepts: Animal, Futurist designs (hexagons, curves)
The Shenzen Bao’an Airport accommodates 45 million passengers per year. Terminal three is a new sector of the airport that has been recently built by Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas. The airport has a very futuristic design with thousands of hexagonal skylights and a curving, all-white design. This futuristic structure is a very fitting design for an airport. The airport is a space of exactness; passengers require flights to leave at a precise time without delay. It is also a place that defies nature—it is against the laws of nature for a substantial mass (airplane) to suspend in air—so in a way, airports are spaces that boast technological victory over nature (and it celebrates this victory with much noise from the plane propellers).
The shape of terminal three is that of a manta ray. A manta ray is a mythical creature that is referred to as a devilfish in some folklore. The body appears to be like a huge bat and when it opens its fins, it can be more than 20 feet in length. Despite its size, they are extremely graceful and fast. Fuksas attempted to create a space that combines the idea of movement and fluidity with the idea of pause and waiting; like a mythical creature, the airport (a space of suspense and waiting is created to be the most dazzling).
The honeycomb motif is used throughout the entire airport to create a plane without sharp edges, allowing smoother edge regions. Hexagon is used in other futuristic designs because it is the most effective shape to cover any distance without leaving gaps as well as being rotationally symmetric. For instance, Alexander McQueen used honey comb enamel paillettes in his dresses and shoes showcased in his “Plato’s Atlantis” gallery in an attempt to give an idea of a clinical laboratory. McQueen’s “Plato’s Atlantis” collection highlights the opposites between man-machine, nature-technology. Symmetry and fluidity is utilized to not simulate nature, but to reveal essential lines and forms that have directional tendencies (each vector path has a mind of its own, invoking a sense of movement). Unlike curves used in baroque architecture, the curves of futuristic structures like that of the Shenzen airport reveals essential lines that only provides minimal form and is subject to molding and changing into different shapes. The structure is open to alterations from subsequent generation. Combining fluidity and curves with metals and rigid structures (building blocks of the airport and in McQueen’s structured dresses) underscores the contrast of man and machine.
Name: Ayse Onen
Sub-concepts: Memory, Reality/Illusion
Description: PTSD, a type of anxiety disorder triggered by violent or traumatic events, causes patients to “re-experience” certain events. These events, which are the initial cause of the illness, cause the patient to constantly remember the past and disables him to create a future for himself.
Interpretation: Time is believed to be the ultimate healer for the past. People around us keep telling that all we need is time in order to forget a painful memory or a troubling event. For the most part, their saying is true. When people move forward with their lives, the brain naturally starts to create new memories and events to hold on to. This becomes our present, and slowly we learn to accept that past stays in the past. The acceptance process is different for everyone, since forgetting is also linked to personal emotions and characteristics of the person.
Imagine, however, not being able to forget even if you want to or try as hard as you can. Imagine trying to go to sleep every night, knowing that you will dream the event or the person you have been running away from. This is what every PTSD patient goes through. PTSD does not let its patients to cut their links with the past. Patients, who have been scarred and traumatized by certain events, relive or re-experience these same events over and over again. Time cannot function as the ultimate healer, but rather it deepens the wounds and scars of the patient. Instead of starting to forget the past, patients get more and more embedded in the flashbacks, nightmares, and the reliving experiences. The past and the present clashes, as if they happen simultaneously. The patient, overwhelmed by going back and forth between reality and illusion caused by intense flashbacks, loses the ability to distinguish the present from the past. In this case, the brain cannot start to accept and to forget even though time still continues to flow at its natural pace. Patients, who cannot change how their brain functions, start to engage in heavy drinking and drugs as a way to numb their memories or to help them forget.
For PTSD patients, time does not carry the same value or importance it does for other people. PTSD patients neither keep track of time, nor do they imagine a future for themselves. Instead, they struggle with their memories and fight with the past which is constantly chasing them.
ARTIST SPRAY PAINTS HOMES FOR THE HOMELESS
Name: Kayla Clark
Sub–Concepts: Images, Space, and Abandonment
Region: Los Angeles, California
An anonymous LA artist who is known by his street name “Skid Robot” took it upon himself to go around the streets of Los Angeles and spray paint imaginary homes for the homeless people that he found on the street. He also left care packages for them and talked to the one’s that he found awake.
Humans consider themselves to be considerate, caring, kind and compassionate. When one human does something bad or deplorable, we always find it important to distinguish ourselves from that bad individual. One thing that all humans share is an overbearing sense of cruelty. All humans may not be cruel in the usual sense, (i.e. murdering and causing mayhem), but, we do possess this quality of indifference which is its own form of cruelty. We as humans seem to lack something as simple as empathy. This “Skid Robot” has shown how we as humans have no problem with dehumanizing individuals we deem as lesser. Although people love to talk about how they help individuals in need, they don’t actually want those “needy” people to invade their everyday lives.
What Skid Robot has revealed is that homeless individuals are people too. It’s so easy to differentiate one’s own situation from another’s more desperate situation. By spray painting houses around these individuals, it reminds people of how much they are overindulging and how much these homeless people lack. His beautifully painful art installations reveal how much the human kind lacks empathy, and that’s as cruel as one could get. By not putting homeless people in familiar and relatable surroundings, one can cast them off as being inhuman. Once someone is inhuman, they become objects, and thus do not need the same this that we humans need (food, shelter, water, etc…).
The consequence for lacking empathy and being so cruel is that we have past veterans, doctors, lawyers, and young children living on the street and we won’t even stop to say hello.
PRISONER IN A CORSET
Name: Natalie Reta
Sub-Concepts: Coping, Art, Symbolism and Absence
Frida Kahlo, the great Mexican artist and polio survivor, spent approximately one year in bed when she was 18 years old after surviving a bus accident that completely destroyed her spine, shoulders, ribs and foot. She went through more than 30 operations throughout her life. It was during her convalescence that she started to paint. Since her spine was rendered useless after her accident, she had to use plaster corsets for most of her life to support her spine. She spent hours painting all the different corsets that she had to wear.
Kahlo´s injuries were so grave that she could not bear the back pain of her surgeries and could not walk without wearing a plaster corset. She never recovered well. Sometimes, she would be bedridden for several months. She could not walk or sit properly and was always in some type of treatment at the hospital. She lost her health when she was young but her adult life was pervaded by illness. She hated the fact that the corsets were visible, and that they rendered her “invalid”. They were at plain sight for everyone to see. Therefore, she used to wear certain types of clothes to cover the imperfections of her body. The corsets were so big sometimes, and could not be easily hidden, that she started to paint on them. Instead of hiding her loss, she exacerbated it by painting. Even though most of her paintings are biographical because they deal with her suffering after the accident, she painted her corsets with images of tigers, monkeys and different animals and symbols. Frida painted them, transformed them, and took them over as much as she could. She transformed their meaning by turning them from a symbol of misery into expressive art. Even though her body was almost gravitationally pulled toward injury, her corset paintings point at grace.
Her body was her symbol of vulnerability, but she refused to reduce it to just that one meaning. By painting her corsets and creating on them, she did not let her body to be reduced to one symbolism, but gave it a thousand different ones through her imagery. She could live with this because she could control her loss to some extent. When she found out that she could not have children because of the accident, she painted a baby in a uterus in one of her corsets (picture above). In several letters she writes how she would have given anything to have a body that rendered her corsets irrelevant. Her spine was a loss that she could deal with because she had found a way to do it. However, twenty-six years after the accident, Frida finally lost her leg. Withered by polio and fractured in eleven places by the streetcar crash, it succumbed to gangrene and was amputated. Before her leg was amputated she wrote a letter in the hospital to Diego Rivera, her husband, where she explains how they were going to cut her leg off. She writes, “I had told you before that I knew that I was always incomplete, but what was the necessity of everyone to know? Now, my fragmentation will be at plain sight for everyone to see; even you”. She died the next year, as if this loss –after so much, was what she finally could not bear. She had forgiven her body so many betrayals and losses, only to watch it taken from her in pieces. She could cover her spine, but she could not cover the loss of a leg.
Name: Aakash Daryanani
Region: Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia
Sub-Concepts: Memory, Loss
Description: A small village named Tana Toraja, on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, maintains a strong relationship with their dead relatives as a form of respect and culture. The village is almost exclusively reserved for the dead and their culture revolves around death as well.
Interpretation: Tana Toraja and its inhabitants have a very unique and respectful perspective of death. In many cultures and religions, the body is either cremated or buried in a respectful manner, almost right after the death takes place. In Tana Toraja, however, life is celebrated at the point of death, and is “buried” in a unique way so that the physical skeleton is free to travel and be inhabited by blessings of a higher being. While the citizens of Tana Toraja are mainly Christian, they have their unique ways of honoring the dead and make special arrangements to bury the dead. First of all, the village has a building called “House of the Dead.” This isn’t a house inhabited by living people; it is inhabited with embalmed corpses. This gives the family the chance to save up money for the funeral, which usually costs around thousands. This process could take months, or even years, and the body is held until the family has enough money to pay for the funeral. What makes this even more unique is the fact that the family of the deceased still considers their deceased family member to be alive, just ill! To this point, the corpse is actually dressed daily and served regular meals throughout the day. When the family finally has enough money for the funeral, the entire town shown up to pay respects to the deceased and also provide offerings such as food and cigarettes (yes, cigarettes). The corpse even walks into the grave (with a little help from their family) once the Shaman casts a ritual on the body. While this is all taking place, animals like water buffalo, pigs, and chickens are sacrificed by the local community in the honor and name of the deceased. The meat is then cooked and distributed to everyone as a meal, to eat on behalf of the deceased member of the community.
The reasoning for all of these events and rituals is simple: the Tana Toraja villagers have a strong belief in the afterlife. This rituals are conducted and followed so strictly so that the deceased can be sent off peacefully and prepared for the afterlife. For example, the family members bury the bodies in caves, and each grave or display area is equipped with tools that they would need in beyond life, as in the afterlife. As mentioned above, cigarettes are buried with them. The cigarettes are very significant because only the living need cigarettes. You need to be able to breath to smoke a cigarette, and the act of giving the dead a pack of these implies that even though the body is just skull and bones, it can still smoke the cigarette, because it still breathes. Torajans even carve life-sized wooden figures of the deceased to represent that these members lay in this cave. These effigies are called Tao Tao, which honor the dead by showing the community who lays in this cave and that they are still alive to everyone around.
Death in Tana Toraja is not a sending off and abolishment from the world, so all that remains of you is memories. Death in Tana Toraja is viewed as a social event and an honor rather than a mourning, because in Tana Toraja, the dead literally live besides you throughout life, and they’re included in everything like life decisions. Therefore, death may be the biggest honor, one may ever receive in their lives of the Torajans.
The Mirror Man
Region: South East Asia
Sub-concepts: Pain, Replacement, Illusion
Event: Phantom limb syndrome is a psychological condition under which people that have lost a limb experience pain on that part of their body. In Cambodia, a man takes a mirror around one of the most densely mined regions to treat people who experience phantom pain.
There is a difference between losing something or someone, and losing part of yourself. When you lose something external it is easier to comprehend the loss, but when you lose a part of yourself, and the rest is still intact, the brain denies to have lost anything, and this is what causes phantom pain.
Losing a limb is usually a violent and unexpected loss. Suddenly you wake up and a part of you which you heavily relied on is gone. You not only lost a limb, you lost the functions associated with it and your self-image is now disturbed. Even though you might understand that it is gone, the violence of the loss makes it almost impossible to internalize and assimilate it. The pain, described as unbearable, arises from the impossibility to understand that you are now incomplete. Phantom pain is a reflection of deep denial: those who experience phantom loss syndrome are trying to make the part of them that is missing react to the pain, because their brain can’t fathom the possibility of the limb not being there.
The mirror man experienced phantom pain himself, so he can related to those who he helps as well as trick their brain into filling the void and controlling the pain The brain is desperate to avoid the loss and so, in spite of their rational knowledge, it is possible to substitute the missing piece with a simple image on a mirror, even if they know they can’t hold if forever.
Name: Deniz Ozmen
Sub-Concepts: Nature and Animality
Description: In this short video from National Geographic, we see these special Japanese honey bees that have developed a collective defense mechanism to kill hornets that infiltrate the hive. On the contrary to common knowledge, these bees attack the hornet and cover the hornet with their bodies. After the hornet is absolutely covered, they start to vibrate all together and generate heat up to hundred and seventeen degrees but the hornet’s tolerance is up to hundred and fifteen degrees. Gradually. The hornet roasts inside this live oven and finally dies.
The common tendency to describe destruction involves the size of destruction and more importantly how it was destroyed. Usually the common assumption is that there is always a powerful and single action taken against the destructed and eventually destroying it. It is that single and powerful blow that always does the major damage, and henceforth destroys. In other words patience is never an option for destruction. Patience, is a waste of time and resources, this is the human way. Nature on the other hand offers different methods regarding destruction, all very effective and in some cases like this one requires collective work, but one common thing that natural destructions have is the harmonious cooperation of its habitants. In nature, individual work never adds up to anything, and in fact a single creature cannot survive the perils on its own. Only when the hive or the herd acts together, than they can strive together. Each individual has to contribute something in order to maintain its existence and become a vital member of its community. This collective work habit applies to every concept in their lives, especially in our case of destruction, or to be more specific “collective destruction”. So then, “collective destruction” can only be demonstrated when the group decides unanimously to conduct destruction, in other words it is not up to the decision of an individual but an act of the whole. If only a single bee tried to kill the hornet, it would have probably be eaten in that instance, whereas in case of humans, a single person usually has a single detonator that can dealt serious damage. It is up to that person to decide if something should exist or not. This shows how destruction has evolved among human beings throughout history until today. The ability to destroy became an indication of power rather than becoming an indication of survival and defense. “Collective destruction” in other words shows the actual nature of destruction. It portrays the importance of why destruction exists in nature in the first place and how destruction is a means of survival but not power.
Monica Lewinsky’s Emotional Speech Fights Cyber-Bullying
Sub-concepts: Time, power, memory, desire, destruction, pain, pleasure, cruelty, solitude, fragmentation and loss.
Description: Monica Lewinsky gives emotional speech to end cyber-bullying
Interpretation: After reading several cases about former president Bill Clinton for my Constitutional Law class it was such a coincidence to find this very recent article about Monica Lewinsky early on my weekly search. When people think back on the 1998 controversy, all they remember was that the then president was having an affair with the intern. The main character is Clinton and the story revolves around him. We think about how Hillary felt, how the people of the United States felt, but little thought is given to the repercussion of the event in Lewinsky’s life. She becomes Kafka’s “no one”. She was the whore who was too insignificant for mainstream people to care about.
Lately, people do everything to become famous, to have their everyday activities posted on social media, or made a spectacle of on reality television. They need enough likes, or enough fans, or followers to make them feel special. Lewinsky gained the spotlight in the opposite way. It was before the era of social media, and being famous might not have been her intention, but one day she woke up to find out that her private life was now public media matter. In her speech she talks about having constant thoughts of suicide – now that she was famous (for the wrong reasons) – it had become difficult to see how her future would end up.
The affair happened 16 years ago and since then, Monica has tried to reconstruct her life…not very successfully. According to her, the affair is her everything – it is all she is remembered for. A prime example of when nothingness would represent a better option. She has now opted to join the cause against cyber-bullying, as she can closely relate to the issue.
Titanic Site Reveals Hints of Human Remains
Region: North Atlantic Ocean
Sub-concepts: Death, Torture, Catastrophe
Description: Nearly 100 years after originally sinking, there have been human remains found near the wreckage of the RMS Titanic. After an exploration of the abandoned RMS Titanic, boots and other clothing were found. Due to the large number of boots found floating around the ship, anthropologists believe that they could have fallen and drifted away from the passenger. This would mean that there could be a large number of bodies buried inside inaccessible parts of the ship. Furthermore, clothes were found organized in perfect human form furthering indicating a person’s final resting place.
Interpretation: The tragedy of the RMS Titanic is a very well-known story in our culture, however what has become of the remains of the ship is easily forgotten. After the sinking of the ship, 1,500 people were killed. Of those killed, only 340 bodies have been recovered. This means that there are still 1,160 bodies aimlessly floating in the open ocean and within the ship itself. These souls have been completely abandoned to rot and drift for all eternity. In this endless suffering, abandonment can be observed as the complete impossible nature that these people can ever be properly laid to rest. They instead are abandoned by people and animals that cannot reach their bodies inside the ship. This also resonates with the idea that with since they are impossible to reach these passengers it is the epitome of abandonment. The passenger’s bodies are stuck inside of it causing their souls to be trapped as well. With this knowledge it can be deduced that these passengers have been abandoned by society, animals, and heaven, hell or purgatory. Similarly, abandonment is present in the ship itself. Since sinking, the RMS Titanic has been forced to dwell on the bottom of the ocean floor. In doing so, it has been abandoned by society and all other forms of structure. Without these presences, the ship is subjected to nature; the heavy weight from the water is causing the ship to fall apart illustrating the violent effects that abandonment can have on a structure. The broken pieces of the ship are evidence of this abandonment.
Chinese Boy Sells Kidney for iPhone
Sub-Concepts: Sacrifice, Ignorance, Youth, Relativity
Description: A 17 year old boy in China recently received $2000 and led 5 people to be arrested when he sold one of his kidneys in order to buy an iPad and an iPhone. The boy was from a very poor neighborhood and is now having medical problems after having the surgery. China has banned the selling of organs since 2007, however many say that a black market still exists.
As a kid, making decisions that will impact the rest of your life are difficult. Especially in an age of instant gratification, it is not surprising that something like this happened in China. Pleasure is one of the few emotions that is an immediate and rush-producing sensation. Even the thought of something can cause you to feel pleasure. Match that with an equal amount of desire, and people will go to extraordinary lengths to get the things that bring them happiness. Among pleasure, all emotions are uniquely experienced in children. Although the same basic emotions remain the same, the inhibitors and varying degree by which they are experienced differ greatly. Children think in very simple terms, and because of that their rationale of thinking is limited to fewer things. With less considerations and their judgment inhibited, making sacrifices in order to gain pleasure is a much less complex decision. To the kid in this situation, pleasure was presented to him in likely many different ways. Deception was most likely used by the five men who worked to get his kidney from him, promising him many different rewards and downplaying the risk and outcomes of the surgery. Social pressure and cultural factors were other factors that most likely persuaded the kid to perceive the benefit of the Apple products to be much greater than what he would have derived on his own.
The selling of his kidney for an Apple phone and tablet also suggest the relative nature of pleasure and happiness. For many kids, selling their kidney would be no more than expression, or an exaggeration of words. But for him to have actually done it, means also that relatively speaking, pleasure is not all the same. To have gone through with surgery means that the boy valued the pleasure of the products at an unbelievably high amount. Growing up very poor, the idea of Apple’s products were more desirable to him than another 17 year old who grew up spoiled. Therefore within his valuation, as the tradeoff remains the same for whichever type of kid experienced it, the pleasure from the products equaled the pain and process of giving up a kidney, as he could likely foresee no other options.
Name: Angela Price
Sub-Concepts: Memory/Forgetting, Pleasure, Transformation
Region: California, USA
Julie Gnuse has 95% of her body covered in tattoos. Her addiction first started when she got her first tattoo on her legs to cover up a skin condition called porphyria. This skin condition would cause her skin to blister when exposed to sunlight. Even though there is medication Julie could take in order to lessen her blistering, the side effects are extreme and could cause her to go blind.
Julie Gnuse has an excessive amount of tattoos on her body covering even her face. This art of her body proves that she is trying to cover up her disease. There is medication available for her skin condition but she did not take it because it could’ve caused her to go blind. This choice to instead cover up her body in an attempt to forget her skin disease results in an excessive addiction. She gets pleasure in not only having one tattoo but having many. The tattoos do not stop her disease, but instead provides a way for her to not see the scars and therefore forget about them. This way of covering up her body provides her with an escape from the reality of her disease and use the tattoos as an outlet where she does not have her condition. This escape provides her with the happiness and pleasure that she would get from not having the condition. The numerous amount of tattoos makes her feel protected and safe from her disease that she could not otherwise escape from. In today’s world, tattoos are a very trendy and ‘in’ thing to do. They are used by people as expressions of their own feelings or as memories of loved ones. Some people even want tattoos to represent things they enjoy and stand up for. Julie uses them as an escape and transforms her body into a modern day coloring book in order to fix herself before her disease left its mark. She has different tattoos of things she enjoys and even movie and cartoon characters. The pictures on her body are pleasing to her to look at because she would rather them than the scars to remind her of her disease. This transformation gives her a sense of pride and allows her to go about her everyday life because her disease no longer holds her back. Although many people find her tattoos excessive and even feel uncomfortable looking at her, her transformation and excessive body art provides her with the ability to feel proud and happy about herself.
Name: Emre Kulluk
Region: Copenhagen, Denmark
Description: Coastline of Copenhagen will nestle artistic power plants that have futuristic ideas.
Interpretation: In the modern world, energy, or power in public language, became one of the basic needs of human beings like nourishment and sleep. Modernity transformed humanity into a creation that it is nearly impossible to sustain a so-called modern day living without energy. Since it makes life easier, human beings embraced this resource and adapted their lives to it. Cooking meal, doing laundry, charging phone, using computer are just few basic examples of how energy is integrated into people’s modern day lives and demonstrates the power of power. Although there are alternatives ways to accomplish these actions, which are seen as more difficult and old-fashioned, supply of energy just simplifies the hassle. It would even be rational to claim that modern day living takes its power from the energy that is supplied to households through the grids.
Despite being so intertwined with modernity, the source of energy, the power plants, still remains structurally archaic and they are all located in remote areas. Most of the power plants are away from cities and they appear as gigantic buildings that only blow black smoke from the chimneys. It is obvious that humanity will demand more energy and thus, more power plants in the future. The remote location of power plants increases distribution costs and affects the sale price of energy. To fight with this problem, Pittsburgh based non-profit, The Land Art Generator Initiative, started encouraging artists/engineers to design modern power plants that generate renewable energy and would just look like an impressive piece of art at the heart of the city. This year’s winning proposal, by an Argentinian designer Santiago Muros Cortes, looks like an art piece that art lovers would spend hours, discussing, in front of it. Other than its artistic values, the solar power system Cortes created is capable of producing 7,500 MWh annually, just like small coal-fired power plant.
Transformation of power plants from frightening structures into beautiful art installations would create the opportunity for people to innovate more in this sense as well as it would have the chances to improve the awareness of art. Since power plants are the source of modern day living, these artistic and futuristic structures would strengthen the power of art as well as fortifying the country. A population with better perception of aesthetics and art would overall affect the world positively. Trying this innovative concept in a developed and powerful country like Denmark would also stand as an excellent market research of possibility of applying similar concepts in other countries in the future.
Game Theory: Exploring meaningful violence
Name: Hein Myat Win Lwin
Sub-Concepts: Excess, Loss
The article revolves around the “violence” that has been circulating in the world of video games. It suggests that the mainstream concept of violence in games are superficial and shallow in the sense that most mainstream video games position the objective of the main player to repetitively massacre countless hordes of anonymous enemies.
Action and violence are deemed to be close to synonymous in the video game industry. One of the most discussed topics in regards to video games is the violent behavior it supposedly encourages. The focus of the interpretation will be based on the modern view of violence in video gaming and how it has failed to portray the complexities and depth behind violence in real life. Most of the successful video games today under the violence genre has one theme, which is to shoot armies of enemies with the occasional difficult enemy. All players that engage in these games quickly gets desensitized to the simulated massacre that these “violent” games successfully makes causing violence a mundane activity. Thereby, contrary to the concerns of most adults, these games do not encourage or entice players into committing violence because the accusation is comparable to that of blaming celebrity hip hop “gangsters” for gang violence. There is a strong fragmentation that forms between the realm of people’s perception of violence in video games and the violence that occurs in real-life. However, in the name of being appropriate and suitable, the gaming industry has reduced violence into the act of thoughtlessly killing anonymous with the same marginal utility of popping bubble wrap. Thereby, the video games no longer depict violence in its entirety but through a very limited scope on the surface of violence. The main cause of disconnect between video games and real-life portrayal of violence is the lack of history and intention behind the simulated violence. Thereby, as video games achieve success through the limited scope of contained violence, it encourages the video game industry to continue milking the cash cow thus effectively desensitizing and misinforming the concept of violence. Thereby, the violence in video games would not elevate beyond shooting massive hordes of foes as it is easier for society to remain unaware and to a certain extent ignorant about the existence of a deeper and more complex forms of violence that is ubiquitous. Thereby, the main form of violence that the modern day video gaming actually brings is the violence towards the perception of violence as it conveys the sense of simulating real violence through thrill of gore and bloodshed. Thereby, it could potentially blind the players of other forms and levels of violence that is occurring in real life. The line that separates “filtered” violence and real violence would be the lack of actual story/history provided from both sides of the spectrum. As a character in the video game, you are forced to superficially “get into character” after being provided with a minute of background information. The players usually do not have a choice of the path that his character follows which further desensitizes the players from real violence as they have the luxury of falling back on the authority excuse for violence. Moreover, all the enemies portrayed in video games are not given any identity as the only purpose they serve is to impede the player from going from point A to point B. Eventually, you would develop to feel more guilt for killing an insect rather than killing countless of enemies as they have been reduced to a status lesser than of an insect. Thereby, proclaimed violent video games produces enemies (victims) whose deaths matter to us as much as that of a mosquito.
Name: Ryan Narod
Sub-Concepts: Pleasure, Transgression
Description: Violent videogames have violent consequences when the action goes from the screen to the streets. The article explores the link between gun use in video games to the desire to own/use guns in real life.
Interpretation: Bandura’s Bobo Doll Study was conducted in the 1960’s. In the experimental condition of the study, children watched adults play violently with blow up dolls and were then left alone. The children copied the adult’s behavior and hit and yelled at the dolls. As a result of the study, Albert Bandura formulated “social learning theory”. Before this theory, psychologists relied on behaviorism, which is based on the idea that individuals learn when they are rewarded or punished themselves for a behavior. Bandura’s study, and dozens of subsequent findings, has given credence to the idea that people can learn vicariously from watching someone else being rewarded or punished.
As technology has advanced and video games have become increasingly realistic, the idea of vicarious reinforcement of violent behaviors has again come to the forefront of discussion. The article highlights the myriad of games that include extreme violence and killing: Call of Duty, Payday 2, Battlefield etc. These games indulge fantasies where the object is to amass guns and kill the enemy. Players start to desire different guns to advance to the next level. While many have never shot a gun before playing the game, they are exposed to gun culture and gain knowledge about different types and shooting techniques when they get sucked into the game world. This exposure could lead to a more concrete interest outside of the game. There is also the threat of desensitization to the violence they interact with on the screen. As Bandura’s study demonstrated watching others, characters in this case, beat someone up can transfer to the priming and salience of that response in a real life scenario, which could be especially dangerous if you had a concealed weapons permit. While these urges are innate to our nature, excessive conditioning of the acceptance of violence present in video games is simultaneously a healthy outlet and dangerous primer.
Addiction vs. Obsession
October 16, 2014
Sub-Concepts: Obsession, Detachment, Insanity
Description: A 15 year old girl shot her father with a hunting bow for taking away her cell phone.
Addiction can lead to stupidity but obsession can lead to murder. Addicts will do whatever they need to in order to satisfy their addiction. They would commit rape, robbery, and murder. But usually there is a hinge of regret after committing those crimes to simply satiate their appetite. This is because the consequences include going to jail or dying which would hinder their ability to satisfy their addiction thereafter. Ultimately, addicts would think of committing those crimes but most are too cowardly to act on them. People with obsessions however, do not think twice when they murder. There is no hesitation. There is no remorse. We are a part of a generation where phones are our best friends. Some of us look at and come in contact with our phones more than our friends. Eventually these objects cease to be a luxury and become a necessity. When an individual is deprived of a necessity, an extremely desired one at that, they become violent. They become obsessed with obtaining the object and will destroy anything and anyone in their way.
In the case mentioned in the description, a girl has become so attached to her cell phone that the disappearance of the object caused her to panic. Discovering that someone else is purposely depriving her of her beloved creates in her rage and murderous intent. Even when that person is a family member, she is blind to the relationship. There is no mercy when her objective is clear and all she sees is her cellphone. Killing becomes the only solution to retrieving the treasured object and prevention of the dreaded incident to recur in the future. There is no appeasing an individual who is obsessed with objects, nor is there a point in communication. This person would speak to an inanimate object that cannot respond so any communication from other humans would have no effect on the individual. Permanent loss of the object may even cause the individual to self-annihilate for they have lost sight of the only thing that gave their life purpose.
Name: Jeremy Fathy
Region: Czech Republic
Sub-Concepts: Madness, Power, Pain
Description: A fifteen year old girl chopped off her ten year old friend’s fingers as part of a satanic sacrifice.
Interpretation: This strange story out of the Czech Republic exemplifies the power that beliefs hold on people and the sacrifices that they will make because of them. The fifteen year old girl’s belief in Satanism drove her to tie her friend to a tree in the woods and chop her friend’s fingers off with an axe. This is not an act that somebody carries out without truly believing in what they are doing. To the Czech girl, sacrificing her friend’s fingers was not an act of madness but rather an act of power; in other words, her satanic beliefs were so strong that they drove her to inflict terrible pain on a seemingly innocent ten year old girl. However, from the outside, this is madness. To do something so terrible as part of a satanic sacrifice is unthinkable. Yet, if a step is taken back, this situation can be applied to many actions and sacrifices that people commonly undertake. Replace Satanism with Catholicism or any other commonly accepted religion/belief system and then the situation seems much different. Of course, chopping off fingers will seem radical, but popular belief systems constantly lead people to make strange decisions and apparently irrational sacrifices. For example, take a look at circumcision in Judaism (and Islam). This is a commonly accepted tradition, but in an odd way, it is quite similar to what the fifteen year old girl from the Czech Republic did. In Judaism, circumcision is a symbolic act that marks entry into the Jewish community and the connection between the child and God. This is not a perfect example as there are some practical health components to circumcision, but at the same time, it is seen as normal to sacrifice part of a child’s body in order to comply with religious tradition. In essence, sacrifices are not unique to strange stories like that of this fifteen year old girl. In her case and many others, it becomes apparent that powerful beliefs often cause people to make sacrifices and/or inflict pain on themselves and others.
Name: Kevin Dooley
Sub Concepts: Pleasure, Death, Movement
Region: United States of America
Description: What hides behind the enjoyment of making others laugh? All too often we hear the idea that those want so deeply to make others happy are often themselves the saddest individuals. The life of a comedian is one of constant movement from place to place, often performing handfuls of shows every night just to earn enough for necessities. Although they spend most of their lives talking to people, they often never have conversations with these people. They make hundreds of people at a time laugh with their jokes, but after the jokes end the comedian is often forgotten by the very people that were laughing just hours before. They are alone most of the time. This lifestyle often causes comedians to transform from young and optimistic performers to older and depressed shells of what they used to be.
Interpretation: The tragic news of the passing of Robin Williams was a shock to most of the public that were familiar with his work. However, those who saw the signs of depression knew that something was wrong with the man that gave us decades of laughter. Robin Williams had a child-like personality when he was performing, appearing as though he did not have many worries in the world and his sole purpose was to make his audience laugh. Its almost as if laughter of others was his life force, and the more laughter he incited the more he felt good about himself. But eventually laughter dies down, and the very thing that he lived on began to disappear into silence. On the inside, Williams was in a constant state of sadness. He once said in an interview, “How insecure are we? How desperately insecure are we that makes us do this for a living?” Were these questions his way of calling out for help? If you think about it, even when we are younger, we try to be funny in a way to make friends in school or on the playground. We are afraid that if people know who we really are, we won’t be accepted by them. If we appear to be weak in any way, we are insecure that people will see our true selves and not like what they see. Although we make “friends” in this process, we are still alone in the sense that no one really knows who we really are, they only know the mask that we live behind. This mask manifests itself out of fear of being alone. This results in a type of social mask being constructed. To the outsiders, when we make these “friends” we appear to be happy but in reality it’s a very shallow form of happiness. There is no foundation for these friendships to last, once you stop making these people laugh they will leave you. I believe people like Robin Williams often live behind this curtain of comedy to protect their inner selves from being revealed. Williams was obviously mentally ill for years, and we as his viewing public refused to believe that the man who seemed to be the life of every party was actually a man feeling very alone and detached from society.
Prior to his death, Williams had struggled for years with movie and television roles which may have helped lead him to his demise. A comedian’s worst nightmare is having the audience stop laughing while they are performing. His already insecure self was driven mad by the fact that he was failing to do what he had done for decades prior. Robin Williams is the classic case of the tragic comic. There are countless stories of other comedians such as Richard Jeni and Chris Farley who were comedic geniuses of their time but were also extremely troubled by the lifestyle that they had adopted. The facades they created for themselves perfectly masked what was actually happening in their lives. They were both rising stars in the comedy world, and everyone was shocked when the news of their deaths were announced. They were alone in their own mind, constantly criticizing themselves. Depression is the most common mental illness in the United States and it often goes untreated. When it goes untreated, the sufferers often become involved in drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with their illness. We shouldn’t be surprised anymore when comedians die prematurely, instead we should be paying more attention to why they died.
Life on top
Name: Jared Silber
Sub-concepts: Temptation, religion, space
Description: A 59 year-old monk lives alone atop a 140-foot pillar in Georgia (the country). He descends only twice a week to pray with the small community below, spending the rest of his time praying alone in his abode.
Interpretation: As a young man, Maxime, the monk, acted like every other post-USSR male—drunkenly terrorizing the streets with his friends, looking for another client of his drugs. But when Maxime was inevitably jailed, he—unlike his brethren—turned to an old tradition practiced by the stylites. The stylites were Christian ascetics (those who abstain from pleasure) who sat atop pillars for extended periods of time, removing their ability to yield to temptations; the name stylites stems from the Greek sytlos, meaning column. They held a belief that by living alone atop columns, they would eliminate their appetitive urges, thus making themselves more fit to preach to the crowds below. Further, their literally-raised position symbolized an elevation above the common Christians, signaling their readiness and willingness to be accepted into heaven. The earliest known stylite sat on top of a column for 30 years starting in 432 AD.
Maxime, looking for a way to live a clean and holy life, was inspired by a recently discovered stylite pillar in the countryside; his life in solitude atop that column is now approaching its 22nd year. He uses solitude, just like monks of prior centuries, both as a tool (to restrict sinning) and as a display of devotion (by forgoing socializing). Maxime says the isolation brings him silence, which he uses to “feel god’s presence;” yet it’s the shackles of living alone atop a pillar that’s keeping him a holy man.
Hedonism II: The Jamaican Sex Resort
Name: Thu Tran
Sub-Concepts: Excess, Pleasure, temptation
Description: There is an adults-only resort in Jamaica that offers an all-you-can-eat and drink beach, clothing-optional policy, and the attitude that just about anything goes. With this in mind, the resort is well-known for its “decadence and debauchery”.
Interpretation: Hedonism outlines that Pleasure is the primary intrinsic good. Aligning with the obvious and vulgar nature of the resort, their management decided to call the resort Hedonism II. This resort strives to do exactly that under the promise of pleasure, pushing for as many visitors as possible to enjoy what they claim to offer. There are stories coming out from Hedonism II that are crazy and unfounded; no one really knows whether the accounts are true or not. It adds to the secrecy and allure of an otherwise very blatant promotion and advertising. The juxtaposition of the two upholds the fact that this place is indeed interesting, and should very well be explored. In addition to that, it saves the resort from being overwhelmingly tacky.
There is a specific group in which this resort appeals to: those who feel restrained in some way in modern day society and feel the need to explore. After all, Hedonism II claims to be inhibition-free. Their large clientele ranging from all sorts of types of backgrounds makes sense. The clientele are also majorly made up of repeat customers, who cannot get enough of it.
The fact that such a place exists shows how restrained some feel in daily activities. Why is there a need for an adult-only arena for individuals, couples, and those alike to feel more free? The attitude of “anything goes” aims to be freeing and pleasurable, but they must travel to Jamaica and pay the resort to achieve this feeling. The clientele ironically has to pay to feel less bound and more like themselves. They are drawn to the pleasure connected to the resort, as if they cannot get enough of it normally. It is not far to conclude that some experience a lack of pleasure in their lives, leaving an unquenched desire for the tacky and obscene. Going through this type of activity, pleasure is now seen as a monetary good that can be easily transferable.
Chinese Media is “Nonsense”
Name: Kevin Manesh
Region: Beijing, China
Sub-concepts: Power, Reality/Illusion, Fear
Description: The Chinese media along with local authorities are making aggressive claims against blind human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng. The government uses several events to justify their claims but there is skepticism and doubt behind the legitimacy of these claims.
It is evident that uncertainty helps create the notion of nonsense but it is interesting to see how it does so. “Despite the Chinese government’s indications that it may allow Chen to leave the country to study, state-controlled media and pro-government commentators have begun to publish disparaging comments about him, adding uncertainty about Beijing’s stance toward him.” This uncertainty strips Chen of his authenticity and clout. Without proper credentials or qualifications, Chen’s voice holds significantly less power to the masses. Whether or not he is guilty of the claims is irrelevant. What tarnishes his image the most in the eyes of the public is the doubt he manifests. The fact that the Chinese government can do this is biased and this uncertainty the government intentionally creates is in fact nonsense. As Chen states, “it’s painting black as white” which means that the government has the ability to manipulate views even if it involves polar opposites to the truth. The simple recipe or formula to achieve this involves nonsense. This reveals that in an atmosphere where nonsense confuses society, individuals succumb to figures of high authority. This may be because they trust that these figures keep them in their best interest and resort to them as a form of nourishment from the unknown.
The scopes of the media are relevant in this article especially when Chen argues that local officials broke into his nephew’s house at night without warning and he merely acted in self-defense while the government only points out that he assaulted local officials with a knife. The government went on to say that local villagers supported their claim and Chen backfires by saying if this was true and villagers actually disliked him, then why won’t the government let journalists get involved to “hear people out?” Ironically, Chen is blind, yet he portrays visions that seem clearer than the government’s. Chinese authorities should never “be both players and referees,” but sadly they are. The government has strict control on what information is available to its general public. When there is any conflict similar to this, it ultimately comes down to one person’s word verses another. The government knows that their word merits more power so this is an unfair battle. The nonsense the government instills is effective in controlling the media because no one can singlehandedly contradict it. Accepting this nonsense is a subconscious method for dealing with the fear and control that the government suppresses on society.
Sub-Concepts: Loss, Cruelty, Solitude
Region: Hong Kong 2010
Description: “Members from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sit in cages in front of a fur exhibition being held at a convention centre in Hong Kong” (The Telegraph).
Interpretation: This protest exemplifies PETA’s strong disagreement with the animal torturing and exploitation of their fur for our own use. The lack of mobility shown by the picture above illustrates the bondage that is being placed on the animals. They are no longer able to move freely by themselves, but rather they are confined to a set space with designated food and water. The fact of the matter is that these animals are not being treated as they are supposed to. They are only being used for the utility of their fur and nothing else. Their identity is lost because they are no longer the animal that it used to be in the wild, it is now the fur bearer. Also they are in cages right next to each other, the confinement of the cage acts as a suppressing mechanism that just isolates the animal mentally. This simply put is cruelty. But it would be inhumane if we as humans do this to other humans. The fact of the matter is we have been doing this. Even though it may not be as visual as these women being locked in a cage, our movements are confined, and our resources are regulated to us and our significance is based on the utility from our work. We are no better than pawns being moved by society, the government, and the large corporations that falsely portray that they have our best interests in mind, or so they say. With this being said, we need to make the conscious effort to see these confinements placed upon us and break free.
Destruction, Construction, Mechanization
“All is Full of Love” (by Bjork)
As the electronic music starts playing with a rhythmic and mechanical beat, the video shows an android being repaired by robotic arms on what seems to be a surgical bed. As the android is being repaired, it gestures at its robotic counterpart. Eerily humane, the two androids start to kiss and touch each other passionately as Bjork chants the chorus, “All is full of love,” in the background. At the same time, the robotic arms resume assembling the androids. At this point, it seems that the main themes are construction, rejuvenation, and the humanization (transformation) of androids as they fall in love. The robotic arms seem to be the omnipotent force that brings the robots and the love story to life. However, the flow of liquid against gravity in the video suggests that it should be viewed on reverse. With this realization, the whole romantic story transforms into a rather tragic one: while the two androids are passionately kissing and touching, the mechanical arms try to pull them apart by dissembling them. As they are being pulled apart, they reach their hands out to reach other, beckoning for union. Then, as one of the android lies on the surgical bed, its body is pulled apart, with liquids and fuels leaking from the “wounds.” With the video being played backwards, futuristic themes starts to appear—the robotic arms of creation now serve as agents of destruction, the initial creation/construction now seem to accentuate the eventual destruction, the humanization of androids now resembles machination of humans (from passionate kissing to mechanical dissemblance), just to list a few. Despite the thematic transformations that occur after the video is played backwards, one theme remains the same—love—as the passion between the two remains unchanged whether the video is played backwards. Thus, “All is full of love.”