Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the one hand, I want to yell my ever-ready mantra at Peter Schjeldahl concerning his opining on Prospect .1: "We don't care how they do it in New York!!!!"

However, he does raise some valid points about how the atmosphere of New Orleans circa 8-29 and three years afterwards has affected the participating artists:

Be it ever so small and poor, and despite catastrophic displacements, New Orleans can’t help but remain New Orleans, which is to other cities what a poem is to prose. The phantasmagoria of high and vernacular architecture, polyglot flavors, omnipresent music, exuberant cemeteries, and geographical unlikelihood, of a seaport largely below sea level, stokes continual wonderment. Desire isn’t only a street name there. A municipal tradition of giddy impulsiveness, shadowed by recent tragedy and chronic woes—including a high incidence of crime—has got to many of the invited artists in “Prospect.1.” In the friskily hyperbolic words of a review by Walter Robinson, the editor of Artnet Magazine, the show “takes the reprobate scallywag nihilists of the contemporary avant-garde and converts them . . . into goody-two-shoes bleeding-heart believers in the nobility of humankind.” You may disdain the frequent sentimentality in the show if you can suppress your own uprushes of sentiment. I could not.

I give Schjeldahl props for recognizing the most New Orleans-centric artists, and, especially, for recognizing Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick of the L9 Center for the Arts. The man has professed to liking this biennial: my favorite...since the nineteen-eighties, when biennials ceased to be innocently serious roundups of recent art and became heavily engineered spectacles.

The next sentence, however, is of P.1 organizer Dan Cameron admitting quite frankly that he is a "tourism promoter". Ummm, little to no heavy engineering in these New Orleans spectacles, Mr Schjeldahl? I beg to differ.

Speaking of engineering...

I read this Babble article on the strains of taking care of one's mom and one's three children under the same roof recently and found myself appalled at the tone of the comments on it, at the insensitivity coming from both the author of the article and the commenters. On the one hand, I do hope that this woman talked with her mother about how she felt before this article came out online.

Living with my mother and feeling responsible for her financial future often feels like an overwhelming burden. Instead of saving money for my children's education, traveling as a family, or even going out to eat, my husband and I spend our money on the hefty mortgage. We've talked about selling, but between the weakening economy and our need to house so many people, it's not a viable option for us. Not only do we fret about our children's future, but we worry about my mom's as well. With no retirement funds to live off of, her financial future is in our hands.

Mom contributes what she can. She works a few days a week in a small boutique, and every month she writes me a small check to cover utilities. Sometimes I want to ask her why she's not working more, but the words never come out. As her daughter, I feel as though she's earned the right to work less now that she's raised a family. But as the adult who's responsible for three young children, as well as for her, I wonder if she should be doing more.

Yes, motherhood can be hell. I personally think it's nuts for me to be having any more kids, no matter how many people ask me if I'm considering having more, no matter how many times my son's teacher says having another child might help put the one I have now in his "place" somehow, no matter how many people might think I now need to be in some sort of baby-making and child-rearing business, with no guarantees and no safety nets and most definitely no monetary returns. But to say things like this to somebody who has made their own decisions on the matter:

...isn't it just a tiny bit irresponsible to have had more kids while worried about this? I know lots of working poor have several children for many reasons (belief they are a gift from god, lack of knowledge or will to use birth control...all valid for what they are worth) but the author doesn't seem to be of this ilk...

Why did you choose to have a third child when you could barely afford two? It doesn't sound to me like you're making such great and responsible choices as compared to your parents.

...is pretty damn insensitive. Any decisions involving family size, the care of family members, the financials of raising a group of people and keeping them housed, clothed, and fed, are going to be freaking difficult ones requiring lots of thought, a good deal of talk with the involved parties, and more than a little kvetching along the way. Stuff happens. You make plans, and the fates and/or gods laugh their heads off. And being a member of a so-called "sandwich generation" that is doing her best to trim the caretaker candle at both the young and the aged ends ain't easy at all.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna watch some puppies wrestling each other. One of 'em just pooped and missed the puppy pad. Sign this petition and perhaps Veronica White's new job will consist of cleaning up after these sorts of critters, instead.


Cold Spaghetti said...

At what point did caring for others, particularly those in our families, become so completely devalued? As if raising a child or caring for an adult is a task beneath them, one that only a lesser skilled, lesser educated, person undertakes. And let's not forget that women CHOOSE these roles, oh yes, nothing about caring for others is assumed in a woman's life.

(Take, for example, the holier-than-thou insults to so-called 'Mommy-bloggers,' a term which means, you chose to be a Mom, so shut up, get in the kitchen, and live with it -- most certainly don't write about it, or anything else for that matter.)

Which is, of course, what the insults to this woman were about.

Leigh C. said...

I can't say that I'm immune to the attitudes that have devalued basic day-to-day caregiving for others. Something in American culture has changed the way we look at extended families - perhaps the primacy of individual gain above all else. And this woman's complaints - and the commenters' kvetches as well - have those changes written all over them.

This generation of women we are a part of was raised to have these individual aspirations, that we could have it all without too much of that responsibility, that, somehow, if the care of others such as children and parents, entered the picture, we could manage it without too much strain, because we could take it, by God! Plus, wasn't all of this supposed to be equally shared by family members of both genders? (yeah, riiiight)

Well, it's tough, tougher than we thought. And we STILL can't complain about it because the responsibility thing is perceived as a "choice" rather than a necessity. You are correct there, Holly.


Cold Spaghetti said...

I'm with you on not being immune. But it's taken me years to recognize how destructive and anti-woman those feelings were... I think part of equality is recognizing the inherent differences in women and structuring our workplaces and home lives in ways that accommodate families, not just single individuals. Equality is not "acting like a man" -- it is accepting what makes us difference and creating a world that embraces those differences.

Are we on a soapbox yet? :-)

Leigh C. said...

I think we are on some sort of soapbox every day, myself...


G Bitch said...

"no matter how many times my son's teacher says having another child might help put the one I have now in his 'place' somehow"

Damn. The idea that a child needs to be "put in his place" is alarming coming from a teacher. What kind of view of children and childhood informs that kind of dreck? Ew.

As the mother on a singleton, I have heard my share of a-sibling-will-be-good-for-her/teach-her-to-share/prevent-spoilage. Fuck that shit. Of all the reasons to have another child, to keep the first in line and/or provide a playmate have to be in the category of The Worst EVER.

We can't stop others from devaluing us as mothers/teachers but we can stop devaluing ourselves. And each other. Competition can be fatal when what you really need is cooperation and community.