Due to the immense amount of school work that has come up over the past few weeks I have not had time to take any trips outside of the city. Last week I was really getting frustrated by the routine I was falling into and the realization of how quickly my time here is passing. A few weeks ago I created a new, updated version of my new year’s resolutions from January and it was appropriate timing seeing as how the past two days were one of the two Jewish new years, Rosh Hashanah.
Since my study abroad program occasionally offers little excursions for us to take advantage of like theater productions, museum visits, bike tours, concerts, and the like, all free of charge I decided to see what was coming up. I have a list of places to see and things to do while I am here in Buenos Aires, and one of the excursions would allow me to make good on the commitments I made to myself. MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) is the modern art museum here in Buenos Aires, much like New York’s renowned MOMA. The invitation was to check out one of the current exhibits by Félix González-Torres as well as other showcases of Latin American artists. To quote the pamphlet I picked up while at the museum, “The Félix González-Torres. Somewhere / Nowhere. Algún lugar / Ningún lugar exhibition includes work from his most celebrated series whose relevance and connection to current world problems is striking.”
“[González-Torres] abraded notions like authorship, private property, and art collection, allowing some of his pieces to be ‘dissolved’ by the public through a simple act of appropriation:eating a candy or taking home a sheet of paper. But, if not recomposed, those gradually disappearing works can reappear anywhere and anytime: they are infinitely reproducible and their supply, endless.”
As we wandered through the exhibit with our guide listening to explanations about what each piece was supposed to convey (in Spanish!) my thoughts kept drifting to how I didn’t think art was successful if a viewer had to be told what it was supposed to convey. Isn’t that defeating the point? Or shouldn’t a piece be left open so that the viewer can create his/her own meaning and take from it what they will? Or is that just selfish? It’s one of the conflicts I’ve always had with modern art. Most of it resembles something I imagine a 5 year-old could have created (though I do admire Jackson Pollock!) and doesn’t ever speak to me. Some pieces seem to be an experiment in architecture or physics, but nothing extraordinary. Perhaps this is why I have always preferred photography and the written word.
As the tour came to a close our guide left us with the final piece and my favorite. In front of me were two huge stacks of paper, each about three feet in height. From a distance they appear to be merely blank white sheets until you stand next to them and see that there is one simple sentence in a classic black typeface, each of which resounds with you in a different way. The first one I read stated:
Somewhere better than this place.
The phrase on the stack immediately next to it read:
Nowhere better than this place.
When you first read these you may recall the ever-quoted notion about the grass not being greener on the other side. Or, as the museum pamphlet observes, “Together, the two statements seem to vacillate between the promise of future happiness and life as it is right now.” As I again reflect on what these sentences mean, I’m reminded to always try to live in the moment and appreciate where I am. I am always one to get sucked into creating goals and achieving them but not always focusing on the process. After a few weeks of being in Argentina my mind started drifting to, “What’s next? What’s my next move? Where’s my next location?” It was all I could do to not be ready to finish my last year of college and Georgia State and head to Israel and wherever else my ambitions take me to. In fact, when I mentioned the updated list of resolutions above, I failed to mention that I also created a list of resolutions for 2009. This is probably I biggest fault: I am forever planning for the future.
A few weeks ago I was at a party with Argentines as well as other exchange students. Since I actively avoid talking with other Americans (with the occasional exception of speaking in English with the Europeans I encounter), I spent much of the night with two Italian girls, a girl from Paraguay, and several Argentines. As I sat there surrounded by an excited, loud conversation in Spanish I just smiled and soaked it in before turning to a friend next to me and exclaiming, “I want to stay here until I understand every word they’re saying!” And I do. As much as I’m starting to think I’m not as much of a city girl as I used to be, I thoroughly enjoy all of the opportunities and experiences that are available to one in a city that would not be elsewhere. The people and the experiences make living in a city worthwhile for me and also because the diversity of scenery that Argentina has to offer is unbeatable. I think you would be hard pressed to find another country with as many different vistas as this one offers, between the pampas, Iguazú, Salta, the Central Sierras, the Andes, the coastline, and the prime reservation of possessing the city at the end of the world before reaching Antartica, Ushuaia.
Nowhere better than this place.
‘This place’ being exactly where I am right now in location and in my life.