Sunday, August 17, 2008

Spending Time with Words

Back in the West, back in Toronto. The air is dense here with thought and verbosity. Opinions abound, style, literature, publications, galleries, every carefully crafted individual human entity, self, vying for airtime. My friends are artists, writers, curators and I am exhausted spending days with them and their anxiety.

The world is buried somewhere under here. “Remember these,” I‘d like to say. “There are bodies here, things that live and eat and fart and get sick and love and hurt and want. These things that hold our clothes up and move the pens and paint brushes around, these things that do actually have their own set of feelings, even before we write an essay about the complex conjunction of forces and relationships that have come together in such a way so as to cause this particular event that we no longer even recognize to be an emotion.” But I can’t find them here. They must be here somewhere, bodies. I know they exist.

We’re obscured under the waves here. Each desperate and abused body churning in this ocean of identity, unaware of its own movements, watching the surface, hoping that one of the ripples will be me, mine, my visible being. Only if I make a ripple will I exist. True: only if I make a ripple will I pay the rent when I’m a painter, a writer….

We are bodies here.

The city is full of ideas, solidified in brick and cement--a university, shop, government building, hospital, Buddhist temple, a home. We all agree. We all know a bank is a bank and my world rests on the fact of that bank and the fact that these colourful bits of paper will buy my bread and beer. Here, ideas are so forceful that the concrete world shapes itself according to them.

Where I come from, my land of Cambodia, ideas live on bodies, and it is our responsibility to make them real. Red light means stop by virtue of my stopping. (In Toronto, a red light can be ignored like a brick wall can be ignored--only if you’re really drunk would you consider going through.) Where I come from, torn US currency has no value; in Toronto, the banks determine what counts as money. Where I come from, law is context-dependant. Where I come from, a hospital is a set of walls and white coats, not a concentration of knowledge. Where I come from, when I look out the window I see a chaos of movement.

In Toronto, when I look out the window I see ideas in the shape of buildings and behaviour. And I see people, loads of them, masses and throngs and herds of them, all immaculately put together in the shape of their ideas--this scarf, this job, this part of town and set of words. They are fine sculptures, these residents of Toronto.

The ones I talk to are not happy. The ones I talk to that are happy are insane.

I don’t think they even believe in bodies over here anymore.

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