Peter Eisenman, architect of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, and quite possibly MY LEAST FAVORITE FELLOW JEW IN THE ENTIRE WORLD OH MY GOD.
I’m very much against the Holocaust industry. I’m against the nostalgia that is brought up about the Holocaust. I am against kitchifying the Holocaust.
I think it was something that defies representation; I think you cannot represent it. And what I’ve tried to do is say if you go to Auschwitz, if you go there, it’s horrific: you’re reminded of all these images et cetera. But you can re-assimilate your internal mechanisms to say, OK, that was then and here we are now.
What I tried to do in Berlin was to do something that couldn’t necessarily be as easily re-assimilated. It has no imagery. In other words, it was not about imagery, it was not about marking, it was not about a cemetery. The fact that it could look like a cemetery is possible. It could also look like a field of corn. I was thinking about a field of corn I was lost in in Iowa when I did it. I was trying to do something that had no center, had no edge, had no meaning, that was dumb: D-U-M-B. And there’s nothing in the city that’s dumb. And therefore it was silent, it didn’t speak.
I believe that when you walk into this place, it’s not going to matter whether you are a Jew or a non-Jew, a German or a victim: you’re going to feel something. And what I’m interested in is that experience of feeling something. Not necessarily anything to do with the Holocaust, but to feel something different than everyday experience. That was what I was trying to do. It’s not about guilt, it’s not about paying back, it’s not about identification, it’s not about any of those things; it’s about being. And I’m interested, in a sense, in the question of being and how we open up being to very different experiences.
I’ve got to tell you the biggest supporter of that project was Helmut Kohl, the conservative prime minister of Germany. When the liberal Gerhard Schroeder came in, he almost killed it. My first project in Berlin was when Richard Von Weisacker was mayor and I did this field at Checkpoint Charlie, and VW came to me after I won the competition and he said to me,
‘You know, Peter, my problem with your project is this: the left wing hates it because they think it’s right wing and the right wing hates it because they think it’s left. Nobody can make an assessment. You have created something that is, in a sense, problematic for everybody, because they can’t label it. And if they can’t label it, then they can’t tell whether they like it or dislike it.’
That’s what I’ve tried to do in Berlin. That’s what I’ve tried to do with myself, with my work. I don’t want a label. I don’t want to be either good or bad, right or wrong, left or right,
I am one of the most outsider of all the insiders. I mean, a lot of people say, you teach at Princeton, you teach at Yale, but I never had tenure at those institutions. I never wanted tenure at those institutions. But I’m not yet a maverick. I don’t dress like a maverick. My dress is either Brooks Brothers or J. Press.
I believe that art and life are two different discourses, and how I want to live is different from how I want to practice architecture.
Ted makes some crucial connections between the circumstances of Mark Carson’s murder and the circumstances of CeCe McDonald’s unjust arrest. Pass this around - it’s important.
(Here are some thoughts I have been having since the death of Mark Carson)
Last Friday Mark Carson, a 32-year-old African American gay man was shot on the corner of west 8th street and 6th ave. Within a short time, police captured 33-year-old Elliot Morales, and he confessed to the murder. Earlier in the evening Elliot had been bragging about his gun, and was making homophobic comments to strangers.
One of the last things Elliot said to Mark before he shot him was, “Is that your boy?” referring to the man with Mark. “Yes,” Mark answered.
24 hours after the shooting there was a vigil for Mark. People mourned the young man’s passing and spoke about issues of safety, visibility and the need to watch out for each other.
Those who spoke also brought up the need to question hate crime legislation in an effort to work towards real ideas of justice, they brought up the closing of St. Vincent’s and wondered if there had been a hospital closer maybe Mark’s life could have been saved, and they made connections between Mark’s death, and the exceptional and everyday violence experienced by many in this city due to poverty, HIV/AIDS, and policies such as stop and frisk.
Learning more about Mark and Elliot I thought about another case where asserting one’s right to be ended in violence.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 5th 2011 CeCe McDonald and her friends were walking to grocery story when they crossed paths with a group outside of a bar who began berating CeCe and her friends with homophobic, transphobic and racist slurs. Words escalated into physical violence and soon CeCe was bleeding and Dean Schmidt, one of the men who witnesses say was verbally and physically assaulting CeCe and her friends, was dead due to a fatal stab wound.
CeCe was the only arrested that night. She was charged with second-degree murder in Dean’s death. In a plea bargain she accepted a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter. As her supporters say, “in short, CeCe was prosecuted for surviving a violent, racist, transphobic attack.” She is serving 41 months in a men’s prison. The state will not recognize her as a woman.
While there cases are very different, like Mark, CeCe stood up for herself in the face of oppression. While it did not result in the loss of her life, her life chances have been severely reduced. As we hope for justice for Elliot, we need to pray for Dean’s soul. As we mourn Mark’s death we need to be also fighting for CeCe’s life.
In the wake of CeCe’s case over the last two years, and over the last few days after Mark died I have been inspired to see how communities can come together. Vigils have been organized, tough conversations have been had, and people have opened up and been vulnerable with each other, in return others have come to support. I have heard people compare these last few days to early AIDS activism, or the marches after Harvey Milk died.
While I am not sure about that, I do wonder, can we care for each other everyday this way, not just when the violence we know is happening all the time hits the news?
Can we learn to make the love we have for ourselves and each other a practice of everyday freedom?
Can this love be our resistance in the face of death, misguided hate crime legislation, and prison?
Can we create a community of networked and systemic care that rivals the networked systemic violence practiced against us?
Can we love each other en masse on the regular?
Can you imagine needing this book?
I’m working on a distraction project, which triggered a memory of this beautiful song.
Here is a video from last night’s vigil.
It’s understandable that you, and all of us, would be frightened given the recent events. But instead of focusing on the fear we should think of all the bravery it has taken, all the courageous choices we’ve made as individuals and as a community to get to where we are now. It’s then we can recognize that the fear is something we can let go of because we are a strong, resilient, and powerful people.Justin Vivian Bond
[Photo by Adam Feldman]
Last night, Adam Feldman (theater critic for Time Out New York) organized a midnight vigil for Mark Carson, the Black gay man who was killed in the West Village Friday night. We gathered on 6th Avenue and West 8th Street, on the corner where he was shot in the face. It was an intense, emotional event. I’m bad at estimating these things, but I think there were around
100 [edit: 300] people there. While a few speakers betrayed an upsetting short-sightedness about how violence operates in our society, most were eloquent and inspiring. In no particular order:
I got up on the box and said something like this:
I hope this doesn’t sound callous, but I was not surprised by this death. Queer people are killed in this country all the time. I have always thought of myself as someone who is vulnerable to murder. Four trans women were killed in the month of April alone — four in one month! So when things like this happen in our neighborhoods, we need to ask ourselves what this violence means. And we have to be skeptical about solutions like hate crimes legislation, which just feeds the prison industrial complex — an industry that profits from the imprisonment of queers and people of color. One third of all adult Black men in the U.S. are in prisons, and trans people are disproportionately arrested and locked up. We cannot continue to support this! And while I’m sure individual NYPD officers were polite in the lead-up to this vigil, we cannot forget that the NYPD ritually harasses trans people and people of color in this city! Trans women are arrested simply for walking down the street! So when we talk about how queer people need to be “safe,” we have to ask ourselves what “safety” really means — because the NYPD does not makes us safe! It harasses and imprisons us! We must reckon with these connections — that Mark Carson’s death is an extension of the violence that oppresses so many others, from the institutional violence of governments to the random violence of a crazy guy with a gun.
I make a living speaking in front of people, but talking at this vigil was terrifying. As I spoke, I felt myself hyperventilating, and I worried I would vomit. After I stepped down, I sat on the curb a few yards away from the crowd, catching my breath.
I wish I had specifically named the Stop & Frisk policy that makes queers and people of color vulnerable to police harassment. I wish I had called out Christine Quinn for supporting this policy.
I wish I had acknowledged a previous speakers’ disappointment about the lack of people of color in attendance. I wish I had pointed out the sad truth: that our queer “community” is still so segregated, such that when a white person organizes a vigil and spreads the word through his social networks, that message will not automatically filter into Black queer circles. When I mentioned this afterwards to Ted Kerr from Visual AIDS, he added that many queers of color are
not willing to make [edit: cautious about making] themselves vulnerable to the kind of police surveillance that surrounded the event. This hadn’t occurred to me, and reminded me that so many aspects of our queer condition are so complicated, and we all have so much to learn and understand about each other.
When the event was over, I was surrounded by friends and colleagues. People whom I respect, and who inspire me on a regular basis — the people I came to NYC hoping to meet, and the people who keep me here. I was proud of Adam for making this happen, and proud of my community for showing up.
But I was sad too — not just about the senseless death of this man — but that there didn’t seem to be anyone at this vigil who knew him. It seemed indicative of the intense divide amongst queer people in this city.
Tomorrow night, there will be another rally — this one sponsored by the (often idiotic) LGBT Center and featuring Christine Quinn herself — the lesbian mayoral candidate whose policies hurt queer people and may have allowed Mark Carson to die. I will not be in town for this event, but I am fixated on it. Will there be resistance to the party line? Will Quinn be heckled? How can we best honor Mark Carson’s death? What comes next?
[CORRECTION: The earlier riot on that corner was not Stonewall, as I write in this post. Here’s the clarification from John Knoebel:
“This was not an incident from the 1969 Stonewall Riot […] but happened at the somewhat larger riot of the next summer in August 1970. This was when hundreds of activists pulled off a large demonstration in Times Square against police harassment of gays and lesbians there and then ended up marching all the way to the village where a violent confrontation with police involved many more hundreds from Sheridan Square to 8th Street.]
It would be a stretch to say that LE1F “speaks Yiddish” in his new single, but IT’S CLOSE ENOUGH TO FILL ME WITH LOVE AND LIFE.
I am very honored to make a cameo in this epic friendship recap!
I’ve known Emily Gould since we were twelve. In those days, she bore a striking resemblance to the movie version of Hermione Granger. We were only loosely friends at first— she disinvited me from her 7th grade YELLOW SUBMARINE viewing party because her mom said she could only have so many people and Emily had just developed a new crush, meaning that a boy (me) had to be cut from the list. I was only mildly annoyed; I felt that at least she had a good reason.
The summer after that, even though we were only warmish acquaintances, Emily surprised me by calling me on the phone just to chat. I’m pretty sure the reason for this is that she was going down the list of names in the school directory, calling everyone, and I was the first person who picked up. Most people were out of town. We had a long and probably very bitchy conversation and after that we were actual friends.
It was the year Kurt Cobain died, so she wore lots of baby-doll dresses. I was always trying to affect a grunge look, which usually ended up coming off less Evan Dando and more Gay Pigpen.
As a hobby, Emily was making a comprehensive list of all the pop songs in the world that had the word love in the title. This was before the internet, you understand; you couldn’t just Google it. I don’t think she ever made it to the end of the list, but she did get pretty far.
In high school, Emily started a proto-blog called The Notebook. By this point the internet had finally come along but there were definitely no such things as blogs. The Notebook was an actual notebook. The way it worked was that Emily would write down her thoughts and pass it around during class and everyone else would add their comments. Eventually this got us all in big trouble, but in an uncharacteristic act of largesse, the school administration at least let her keep the book. She still has it and it’s always shocking to look at it and see how smart and funny and articulate she was even then, not to mention what idiots the rest of us all were in comparison.
It’s sad that we never took gym together, because gym is where high school really happened. But Emily was very committed to her Artistic Movement class and there was no way I was giving up Trampoline, so that was that. We had most of our other classes together anyway.
She was always trying to find me a boyfriend. When she masterminded a blind date between me and her Hebrew School classmate Dan Fishback, she had to tag along with us to White Flint Mall (which no longer exists) because we didn’t have cars and Dan and I didn’t want to try to explain to our parents where we were going. Emily was our cover.
Later she arranged a match between me and a friend of a friend from swim team. This time we went on a date by ourselves. We took the Metro to see BEAUTIFUL THING at a movie theater in Dupont Circle that no longer exists and then went to Burger King because we were teenage boys and thought Burger King was a great restaurant. Needless to say, this wasn’t much of a love connection. Emily has never had a great feel for the vagaries of homosexual chemistry, but I will always be grateful that she tried.
The first time I got drunk, it was with Emily. Her parents were out of town and she served a beverage she called Long Island Iced Tea. Really it was just vodka and Country Time tea mix. I know it sounds toxic, but I think we were basically just pretending to be drunk.
When Emily found herself embroiled in all sorts of romantic drama a few months before the prom, we resolved to go together. I would have preferred to bring a dude, but the White House travel staffer I was semi-seeing at the time would not have been an appropriate choice. I helped Emily pick out her prom dress at the Betsey Johnson store in Georgetown, which no longer exists. She wrote an article about it for the school newspaper.
On the way to the dance, we got in a huge fight over the issue of where to park. (We had foolishly judged ourselves too cool to take a limousine with the rest of our friends, and so we were in my dad’s Honda Civic.) On top of that controversy, Emily’s love life was still very complicated and she had other boys to think about.
So she ditched me for the last dance in favor of one of her various boyfriends or ex-boyfriends; I can’t remember who exactly. I stood in the corner alone feeling sad. Luckily, another friend was in the bathroom holding a puking girl’s hair and her date— this really hot swimmer named David— was alone too. He asked me to dance. I said no because I was too flustered by the whole situation, which I still regret. Instead, we ended up just standing there watching everyone else and feeling a sense of strange fraternity. It was nice. Emily and I made up later that night.
Emily went to college in Ohio and I went to school in the suburbs of New York, but after a couple years she got bored of the country and transferred to the New School. She shared a tiny apartment in the East Village on the Hell’s Angels block with a performance artist who had also been a middle school classmate and a girl who played pool and loved iceberg lettuce. The apartment was very glamorous and always filled with smoke. Emily and her roommates had a hobby making miniature food out of Sculpey; they briefly got the notion to turn this into a business but all the boutiques to which they tried to sell their wares already had all the doll food they needed.
One night I smoked this really crazy weed and thought I might have to check myself into a mental institution. My roommate at the time, the artist Lee Relvas, cradled me in her arms on a mattress on the floor and fed me pretzels and water until I fell asleep. The next day I was still feeling pretty out of my mind so I took the Metro-North to Emily’s place in the city. She made me lasagna and I finally felt better. That apartment no longer exists; the building was torn down and replaced by a fancy condo.
After college (and a brief stint living with my parents), I moved in with Emily in Greenpoint. I got dumped by my boyfriend of several years and was trying to write my first book and pretty much became a monster. Emily was working her first 9 to 5 job and wasn’t at her best either. The highlight of this period is that I taught Emily how to blog. But there wasn’t much for her to learn— The Notebook had been good preparation— and she quickly surpassed me in this department.
There were some other nice moments in the year or so when we were living together, many of which Emily covered in her collection of essays, AND THE HEART SAYS WHATEVER. But overall the whole thing was sort of a disaster and it was extremely kind of her to leave the most damning stories of my bad behavior and our huge fights out of the book.
I moved out and we didn’t really speak to each other for a long time, but it didn’t last. Years later, when I broke up with yet another boyfriend and had no apartment, no money and no prospects, Emily let me crash with her in her new place for weeks at a time. I was miserable, but the apartment was sunny, plus I got to hang out with Raffles, her cat who had also once been mine.
That summer her family took me along to the beach with them. Emily’s parents gave me relationship advice. Her father seemed concerned when I confessed that I’d gotten into a phase of listening to Astral Weeks on repeat while I sobbed every night. I was having a hard time finishing the novel I was working on, which would become SEPTEMBER GIRLS, but I got huge chunks of it done on that vacation, sitting on the balcony next to Emily as she wrote her own book. The next year I went on another vacation with the Goulds and wrote some more. Eventually I was done.
Emily’s first novel, FRIENDSHIP, will be published next year by FSG. She also co-owns the feminist e-bookstore EMILY BOOKS. (You should become a subscriber.) September Girls comes out next week. Emily and I will be talking about it at McNally Jackson on Tuesday, May 28th. I’m hoping she’ll read a little from Friendship too, even though it won’t be out for awhile.
I feel incredibly lucky that I get to do this with someone I’ve known and loved for so long and that we’ve both (sort of) accomplished what we set out to. I left a lot of things out of this.
I probably should have put this part at the top, considering it was originally the point:
Tuesday, May 28th, 7pm
McNally Jackson 52 Prince Street, NYC
I really hope you come.
I’m going to change the title of my book from “thirtynothing” to “THE ’80s: Remembering a Wild and Crazy Time.”
We’ve seen it all - AIDS, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Ellen…A gay character on Glee, explaining gay history.
STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH ADVERSITY.