What’s Shakin’ at the AAR?

Alice Waters was at the Academy this week to celebrate the first year of the Rome Sustainable Food Program. She spoke to us at our daily five o’clock tea about her new book, The Art of Simple Food. Later, she blessed Lucia, the newborn baby of AAR fellow John Ochsendorf and his wife Anne, anointing her with olive oil.


We have been playing a lot of ping-pong in the last month since the kind folks at AAR bought us a table. I am the current champion, but I have some dangerous opponents, especially Caveh Zahedi, fellow in film.

Everyone is busy planning our President’s Day party. We are inviting all the academies in Rome (there are 32 of them) for a night of drag queens (Wonder Woman, Tina Turner, and of course Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”), hot dogs, pop corn, video installations, an Italian noise band, and DJs. We’re focused on celebrating a theme of gravity and suave, somber coolness—a sort of revamped Truman Capote Black & White Ball. As the invitation reads, “Attire: formal with tragic notes.”

Tim Davis, fellow in photography, will be leading us in a rousing chorus of Randy Newman’s “Political Science”:

No one likes us—I don’t know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let’s drop the big one and see what happens.

One of the videos we’ve made for the evening will feature a few fellows down at Piazza Navona interviewing Americans and Italians answering the question: What do you know about President’s Day? We’ll also have a “Suggestion Box for America” that we’ll intermittently have our MC read aloud from.

Not much dramatic news this week. I am working on a soundscape for fellow Daniel Bozhkov’s March 2008 Berlin installation on the First-German-in-Space-Meets-Turkish-Kebab-Seller. I’m combining music by Germans and Austrians that looks myopically at Turkey (Beethoven and Mozart’s Turkish marches, racist German music from the ’80s and ’90s) and Turkish music that does the same towards Germany (mostly rap and hip-hop by German-Turks in from last decade).

One thought on “What’s Shakin’ at the AAR?

  1. William Osborne

    I’m combining music by Germans and Austrians that looks myopically at Turkey (Beethoven and Mozart’s Turkish marches, racist German music from the ’80s and ’90s) and Turkish music that does the same towards Germany (mostly rap and hip-hop by German-Turks in from last decade).

    I’ve lived in Germany for almost 30 years and this has naturally given me an intimate knowledge of the society. There has been a lot of polemic in Germany of late trying to portray the Turkish minority as Germanophobic, which is simply untrue. A law has even been proposed to make insulting Germans and/or Germany a punishable offence.

    This is why I find your very vague sentence above somewhat troubling. When you mention that you are selecting “Turkish music that does the same towards Germany” are you saying that the Turkish minority in Germany has a “myopic” and “racist” view of Germany?

    If so, I think that would be very unfair. The Turkish “guest workers” in Germany have often lived here for three generations. Their view of the discrimination they face is anything but myopic and racist. It is based on practical experience, and the commentary of the Turkish community is almost always very measured and moderate. One might be able to dig up some Turkish rap lyrics that are anti-German, but that would be a very ugly form of cherry-picking the facts that would only fan the flames of xenophobia.

    I think to be involved in a work like you describe would require an intimate knowledge of German society. You would need to understand Germany’s special problems with its large Turkish minority, and you would need a deeply informed understanding of the situation Turks in Germany face.

    Without that kind of knowledge your commentary could inadvertently end up supporting recent attempts to falsely portray the Turkish community here as Germanophobic.

    I hope you will respond, Yotam. I would really like to know more about the project, and what you are thinking about it.

    One other thought, the “Drag Queen” event might seem a little sexist if there aren’t at least a few Drag Kings included. I wonder what the ratio of women is in the 32 Rome Academies.

    William Osborne
    http://www.osborne-conant.org

    Reply

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