Sunday, January 22, 2017

Day 128: We gotta fight for our right(s)--no partying involved

Hello readers! Not a super eventful week, again, but this weekend was a bit more exciting (and emotionally taxing, if I'm being honest). 

On Sunday I went to the Kunstforum Wien (koonst-forum ween) to see Georgia O'Keeffe, which is precisely what it sounds like: a show on Georgia O'Keeffe. What was interesting to me, going to a show of this American artist in Austria, was learning that O'Keeffe isn't well-known in Europe, and that this show was actually the first show of hers in Austria at all. I grew up learning about art and artists, which naturally included O'Keeffe, so I was put into this position of being an outsider in Austria suddenly becoming an insider in the context of this exhibition. It was quite interesting for me to see how the European institutions who organized this show decided to present this quintessentially American artist without reducing her to solely her American-ness or her giant flower paintings, and overall I think the curators were quite successful. (You can check out the review here.)
The show was organized both thematically and chronologically depending on the room. It was a pretty substantial number of her works, even if they weren't necessarily all super-famous ones.
The best works had me either practically drooling, giving into Stendhal Syndrome, or a mixture of both. This is one of those works.
This painting made my brain do the equivalent of a keyboard smash but in a good way.
I just really liked this flower painting, and I'm not usually the biggest fan of flower paintings in general.
On Monday afternoon I went to a Fulbright-sponsored ballroom dancing lesson (seriously) so that we hopefully will not embarrass ourselves at the TU Ball later this week. We learned a bit of the English waltz, the Viennese waltz, and a few more basic steps of other forms of ballroom dancing. I felt like I was in Strictly Ballroom or something. Naturally, because I was one of the taller people in the room, I had to lead, but since I'm confident with simple ballroom steps, it was actually nice to be able to boss my partner around in a way approved by the relevant authorities. After the lesson, some Fulbrighters and I went to Tunnel for dinner, where I had fajitas in a slightly sad attempt to stop missing Los Angeles' Mexican food so much. (The fajitas were competent if not great.)
Someday I will learn the kind of swing dance where the boy throws the girl in the air and I will be the girl and it will be fun.
Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty similar in that not much happened outside of the usual-- I had teaching, naturally, and then in the afternoon I relaxed and/or slept. However, teaching on Wednesday was a pretty eye-opening experience because in half my classes, I was assigned to talk about the "American Dream." The lesson format was as follows: we did some brainstorming as a class about what the American Dream means so I could see what they knew about it, and compared various aspects of the dream to American reality as well as Austrian reality. Then I had the students read an article I had found from the New York Times from 2009 about the American dream, and we discussed it a bit. Then I split the class into groups and gave each group a different article from the Times. Each article discussed the American Dream, but they were all from different time periods: one was from the 1950s, one was from the 1970s, one was from June 2001, and one was from 2005. So the idea was that each time period had its own challenges and specific historical contexts, and I wanted the students to reflect on that while reading the articles in order to see what was emphasized, and why the articles were written the way they were: as a pro-America Cold War missive; a reflection on the Vietnam-era attitudes towards the United States; a story of immigrant success in the world before 9/11; and an article about the obsession with getting rich amidst the housing bubble that eventually would burst a few years later. 

With everything that is going on the United States today, especially in the wake of the election, I have to say talking about the American Dream was a bit sobering. People come to the United States to chase this dream of potential success, but then see themselves as having failed if they don't achieve these goals, because our culture ignores larger social contexts in the name of individualism. So we have people who are massively wealthy and people who are just as good and hardworking but who are in dire poverty. Meanwhile, people move to Austria or to many European countries because the baseline quality of life is better thanks to public funding of healthcare, schools, transportation, et cetera, and there's also a much larger focus on the idea of success as less individualized and more about general welfare and a functioning society. Maybe I'm being a bit essentialist about American versus European attitudes, but when it comes to countries with "socialized" healthcare and stronger welfare systems, I have to say I'm kind of jealous as an American, where you're largely on your own in a lot of ways if you don't succeed at supporting yourself. Unfortunately, this situation is likely going to get worse for many Americans over the next four years, and it makes me feel often like things back home are hopeless and endlessly regressing.
Some cheeky student, no doubt, put a hanging figure on the sign and I like it. It kind of reminded me of the Jonathan Borofsky installation (pictured below) at the Boston MFA but in a much more low-budget way.
The rest of the week passed pretty uneventfully, and then came Saturday: the day of the Women's Marches all over the world. Vienna was no exception--and apparently over 2,500 people showed up (which is a lot in a country of 8 million)! I hadn't been sure if I was going to go to the March because to be honest, I was worrying a lot about potential violence at the Marches in general (though mainly the ones back home). I was worried that people would try to enter the crowds and attack others to undermine the message and the movement, and to try and intimidate the people fighting against what's coming in the next four years. My mom was planning on going to the Los Angeles March, and I confessed to her how scared I was that something was going to happen to her at the March--even in solidly-blue, liberal, diverse Los Angeles--because one consequence of being so far away from home is that this election has made me question if I even have a home to come back to in July. The country I thought I understood in some way is now a place where 62 million of my fellow Americans voted for a president whose every action and word could harm the people I know and love, and as a result I wasn't sure my mom would be okay even in Los Angeles. I'm very privileged to have been able to feel at home in the United States my whole life, and I cannot imagine the weariness people feel when they've been fighting like this their whole lives. Fortunately, at the Vienna March, the Los Angeles March, and all the other marches around the world (based on what I've read), things seemed to be pretty safe.

So my fellow marchers and I actually missed the actual march part in Vienna because we got a late start on making our signs, so when we caught up with the crowd things had become more of a general rally. There were lots of people taking photos, news crews running around with fuzzy microphones, a guy playing "The Times They Are A'Changing," even a dance number. Since I don't have a ton of experience with marches/protests, I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to smile when people wanted to take photos of me with my sign, but I smiled anyway except when one photographer told me to look more serious. 

On a shallow level, I actually liked making my sign for a few reasons. First, it saved me the trouble of trying to think of a pithy/funny/punny slogan that didn't make the mistake of equating "woman" to "has a uterus" or anything exclusionary like that. So when I remembered that I'd seen some cool images on "The Unquotable Trump," namely one of Wonder Woman, I figured I could incorporate the awesome defender of women into my sign. Instead of worrying all about text, I could just focus on the visual impact of my concept.

Secondly, even though I didn't make much art in college, it actually used to be a big part of my life. I took art classes all throughout elementary, middle, and high school, and even passed AP Studio 2-D Design in my senior year. I hadn't really done much drawing since sophomore or junior year of college, though, because I started using my laptop for notes and thus didn't have pencils and paper handy for doodling all the time, so even though drawing in particular had been a big part of my life, it had been quite awhile. Drawing (or dancing, or choreographing) has always been a really great outlet for me to channel negative feelings--if not to resolve them, but to at least confront and reconcile myself with them, and to allow both the negativity and me to exist, rather than the negativity wielding too much influence. So I guess in that way, drawing this sign allowed me to harness the more creative side of myself that hasn't had much time to shine in the last few years.
It doesn't look like many people, but that's more due to the angle I had to take this picture at.
Miscellaneous photos of the week:
Enjoy a photo of my Halloween costume from 2014. I got it from Hot Topic at the Westside Pavilion Mall with my mom, because of course I did.
I'm so (not) excited for this obscenely expensive movie based on the ideas of a four-year-old (who, frankly, could have been a little more creative. When I was four, I could have come up with a better movie idea than trucks that are also monsters.)
My roommates and I are considering taking photos of all the weird statues in Vienna, because some of them are really really odd and disturbing, like this one.
(As always, if you want to express your love for me with material goods, my Amazon wishlist is here, my main site is here, and if you want to see many, many photographs of me and of Vienna, my Instagram is here. Also please send me good vibes so I get into graduate school with a good stipend! (Please, please, please--the wait is extremely unpleasant!!!))


  1. Love this post (as usual)...The image of you leading your partner through ballroom dance lessons will entertain me for a day or two. Your American Dream lesson was amazing! Talk about combining past, present, and future, in a way that focuses students attention on one concept relevant throughout. WOW! As for the march related stuff...I hope you realize that YOU inspired me to go to the march here; I like to think that my action in turn inspired to you to go to the Vienna event. While some fear that these kinds of things won't make any difference, I have to believe making our voices heard, and taking peaceful, well thought out action, will impact the world we live in. And PLEASE make more art. LOVE it Deborah!

  2. great class project! where did you learn that? i am looking forward to a tour of weird viennese statues.. but with food. there must be food like schnitzel and bratwurst and viennese dark chocolate (do they have that) to look at weird statues. btw, d.t lost after you learned who he was...