A personal, curatorial & bilingual Blog about: Artistic Movements, my Art, Creativity, Innovation, Design, Leadership, Empowerment, Sustainability, Science, Jazz, Movies and other cool pursuits - Blog personal y curatorial bilingüe sobre: Movimentos Artísticos, mi Arte, Creatividad, Innovación, Diseño, Liderazgo, Empoderamiento, Sustentabilidad, Ciencia, Jazz, Películas y otros temas.
For an artist, doing the sure thing, the thing one feels most comfortable with, is usually something close to what is traditionally called “the kiss of death”.
Repeating the same work over and over again has often taken artists from seemingly wonderful work into the realm of the tedious.
The same way, the “system” (to call it something) tends to force its hand by pushing artists into doing over and over again, and maybe with minor variations, those paintings by the artist which “sell”.
The end result may, although not necessarily, be a profitable return on investment, but it mostly turns a creative and artistically rich individual into a laconic, easily infuriated, and mostly frustrated artist.
I have tried my best to be as flexible as possible with the market. I will not deny that I accept that if the public likes something in my work, then it is up to me to give it to them. I accept and embrace the market. But I also make the effort to keep my art close to my heart rather than my pocket. That also means that I keep and feed the energy needed to try to produce something new every time I face blank canvas.
Those who know me and have seen me work, always mention that I quickly demystify the usual idea of the cool artist with a long brush in his or her hand, sitting in front of an easel contemplating life before every brushstroke.
Instead, I usually end up looking like a long distance cross country runner, feeling (and appearing) exhausted after a few hours of “running” free with my ideas and inspiration into a canvas. I suffer, walk, look, leave and comeback, and I work to the point of collapse.
That does not mean that the end result is better or worse, but there is a good chance that something in it will definitely be original. Most of my paintings will say one thing about me, and that is that I will not surrender to the temptation of mere repetition. I am always attempting, at the very least, to come up with something new, explore things I have not tried, and see if in the process I manage to grow, as a person and as an artist, a little bit more.
And to do this, I must jump off the proverbial cliff (or maybe at least “off a Clef”).
I believe that whenever you want to explore your talents, you must endeavor to go where you have not been before. And it does not matter if the cliff is 10 inches or 2 miles deep. The distance matters but the jump is the real key. It is feeling, at least for a moment, that there is nothing keeping you safe on the ground. It is that sensation that nothing you know will save you, so you must look into what you don´t know.
In creativity we may call that “divergent thinking” (term coined by Dr. J. P. Guilford during WWII). It is what happens when your brain faces something that for most people would mean crushing into a mountain, but you manage to come up, under pressure, with a new strategy to avoid it.
This is the experience of painting for me. It is looking for that “unknown factor” that will get my burning plane into a safe landing situation. In a simplified manner, I always say that my biggest thrill is when I manage to turn my mistakes into triumphs.
We all can do it. You just need to take a deep breath, make a quick run, and just jump off the cliff. As simple and as terrifying as that.
So, I dare you. Yes, let´s go together! Just get ready, set…
The number 40 is of great importance in Judeo-Christian tradition.
In biblical times, it was assumed that a person would die 40 days after he or she stopped breathing. The great Kings of Israel (Saul, David and Salomon) all reigned for forty years, Jonas preached for 40 days before Nineveh’s destruction, Noah’s great rains lasted 40 days and Moses received his call at 40 years of age and stayed in Sinai for 40 days. Furthermore, the chosen people lived in the desert for 40 years, while Jesus preached for 40 months, was tempted in the same desert by the devil for 40 days, disappeared from his burial place within 40 hours and appeared after resurrection, and before ascension, for exactly 40 days. And, obviously, forty days is the preparation time before Easter.
Forty was presumed to be THE number required for full transformation or renewal.
So is then forty a magical number? Probably not (I do not have the answer). It may probably be just a number, but it is definitely something else, and that is a message in a bottle.
It may simply mean “give it reasonable time”.
It may exemplify the fact that everything that is important, everything that requires a shift from an accepted paradigm, or a change of perspective, also requires a sensible time to mature and happen.
When I am “stuck” on an issue with my painting, I have two choices. Muddle through or give it time. And more often than not I will chose to give it time. Let it mature. And this means that I should “lay off”. Let it be for a while. Look at my troubled work in that typically artistic stance that is a mixture between despair and admiration for what we have done and may never repeat.
So my recommendation would be, let it be. Give yourself a period to rest. Forty minutes, forty hours or forty days. Fifty, fifteen, twenty or whatever you happen to feel is right, but give it time. And giving it time also means looking for silence, searching for a period to reason, contemplating, and extracting answers and further questions (after all, if anything , we have learned by now that one answer inexorably leads to a new uncertainty).
And letting it be also means going into your own desert, being tempted to do misguided stuff, and finally returning from the horrowing experience free from pressures and erronous stimuli, feeling liberated and ready to resume the correct path.
Forty something, twenty something, sixty something…it doesn´t really matter. It is all probably all pretty much the same. It should simply be a great opportunity to stop, move away, think and maybe, just get it right.
There is an old movie called Galaxy Quest, about a group of actors who, having enjoyed better days (professionally and in their personal lives), still perform together occasionally at Mall Openings and conventions. Their common bond is the fact that, long ago, they all starred in a successful TV Sci-fi show (of the same name as the title).
The movie has its moments, particularly at the start when they are kidnapped by an alien race and get embroiled in the middle of a war with a planet of lizards. It is a simple case of mistaken identity.
It seems that the aliens picked-up the TV signals in space and thought that the crappy TV show episodes were in fact historical documents about a group of invincible warriors who saved planets from extinction, while in fact we know they were a bunch of semi-retired second rate actors doing weekly shows in front of cardboard sets.
This movie always comes to mind, not because it is anything outstanding, but because almost every time I give a lecture about creativity or art I get asked by professionals, artists and university students alike, about what are in my mind the most important aspects that help in building a successful career.
Success is many things to many people, and I am not going to try to define it here. Suffice to say that I am assuming that we are talking about attaining some of what we search in life (it may be recognition, love, a family, money, power, a career, and so on).
Furthermore, I am in favor of defining success and failure in every aspect of our lives if we wish, and as we wish. In my case, I let others run races set by someone else. I run my own.
And that may be the first point. You are the master of your own life. You set your destination, and it is up to you to decide how you wish to go about it. I am a great believer that the power of “we” is far superior to the power of “me”, but I have to know where I am going before I can invite others to tag along, or join up with others in their journey.
Many concepts can be added on from there – creativity, solidarity, positive thinking, conscience, ethics, hard work, intelligence, responsibility, self-discipline, clairvoyance of sorts, and so on -, but there is one that is a must. One which to me is so important that it may help to bring you over the other side even when you lack some of those qualities.
In “Galaxy Quest” they keep repeating the catch phrase of the show, which happens to be “Never give up! Never surrender!”. In fact the whole movie is based on this very premise. Not giving up and not surrendering (no matter how ridiculous, scary, or ridiculously scary the situation may be). What they are talking about is nothing more than “resilience”.
Merrian-Webster defines the concept of resilience in general as “the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress”.
That, translated to a human capacity, refers to a quality that allows some people to absorb pressure and failure, and convert it into something positive. The old fashion “taking on the knocks and coming back stronger than ever” attitude.
Some people innately have this quality. Yet for others, it is a matter of learning. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that will categorize someone as resilient.
The most common seems to be optimism. It does not mean blindness to reality. It just means having a positive attitude even after being burned down. It means doing a Phoenix like flip and rising from the ashes. It means taking on apparent failure and turning it into a lesson on the way to success. It makes people capable of adapting intelligently and quickly to change, adjusting their outlook promptly and soldiering on.
Resilience is at the essence of very successful people (whether they are at the top of the corporate heap or are just a great mum or dad). It is what keeps us going our way when everyone else is also telling us to go, but away.
Sometimes, hitting the proverbial wall has to do with schemas, pre-formatted ideas people have about how things “should” be (many companies also have them and they show up, for example, when seeking new personnel). Sometimes there are other issues and we should always revise our own attitudes as well (it is not a matter of simply placing blame somewhere else either).
But that adaptability, resistance, aptitude and attitude is what allows us to take in responses from others that feel, very often, like a slap in the face and comeback with the best scorecard we have ever done. It means jumping over, letting go by, or simply ignoring the negatives along the way so we can make it to where we want to go.
One great example of this was recently given by Jack Ma. He said: “I failed 3 times in college. I applied 30 times to get a job but I have always been rejected. When KFC came to China for the first time, we were 24 to apply and I was the only one to be dismissed. I wanted to go into the police and out of 5 postulants, I was the only one not to be accepted. I applied 10 times to return to Harvard and I was rejected. Never give up because you failed once, twice…just understand that failure is only how we are shown another way to reach our intended route”.
Just in case you don´t know, Jack Ma is the founder of Alibaba, which together with Amazon are the two largest e-commerce websites in the world. He is also the 22nd richest person in the world with $29.8 billion dollars, according to Forbes.
So…just never give up, never surrender. Learn, adapt, spring back, and find your way to your own kind of success.
“Blue in Green” is the third tune on Miles Davis’ 1959 album, Kind of Blue. One of two ballads on the LP. (the other being “Flamenco Sketches“).
As an aside here (and something that may earn you points in one of those “did you know?” kind of games), it has been said that the second ballad which appears on the record as “Flamenco Sketches” is in fact the song “All Blues” and vice versa. Yes, the argument is that somebody may have switched them by mistake and that they only realized it when the records were already printed and so were the covers, and as a result one simply became the other.
At the very least this is what Jeremy Yudkin argues (also as an aside point) in his scholarly article Miles Davis Kind of Blue, which you can read on the Oxford University Press Music Quarterly Journal. He correctly points out that “Flamenco Sketches” fits more logically with the strumming mid-tempo of the song which appears as “All Blues”, while the title “All Blues” fits much better with the last, very slow song that is known as “Flamenco Sketches” (If you ask me, the easiest thing would be to simply check the original copyright registry of both scores…but no one is asking me…I know).
In any case, the spirit behind “That other day” is a little bit more complex, and less romantic, than “That Day”.
One of the most beautiful songs in that masterpiece album is “Blue in Green“, with its mainly modal melody. Recorded on March 2nd, 1959, in New York City, and in the same session where “So what” – another classic – was also recorded, it was the result of combining the talents of some of the best musicians of its time: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Miles Davis, Jimmy Cobb, Bill Evans on piano, and Paul Chambers on bass.
Even though the song appeared in the original record as written by Davis, it has long been speculated that pianist Bill Evans had, at the very least, a hand in it (the credits for the Evan´s trio Album “Portrait in Jazz”, in which there is a version of “Blue in Green”, attribute the song to ´Davis-Evans´)
Some go as far as to say that Evans actually wrote it. This is the case of producer Earl Zindar, whom in the Fall 1993 issue of a magazine called Letter from Evans , said that he knew perfectly well that Evans had actually penned it himself. He said “I know that it is [100-percent Bill (Evan)’s] because he wrote it over at my pad where I was staying in East Harlem, 5th floor walkup, and he stayed until 3 o’clock in the morning playing these six bars over and over.”
On the opposite side of the street we find Miles Davis asserting, in his autobiography, that he alone composed all the songs on Kind of Blue. Confirming this is the writer and poet Quincy Troupe, co-author of one of the best know Davis biographies -, who said in an interview and in regards to this issue:
“Miles talked about being back in Arkansas, and he was walking home from church. And the people in the backwoods were playing these really bad, really great gospels. He couldn’t see the people but he heard these gospels coming in through the trees and over the trees. And it was dark and he was about six years old, and he was walking with his cousin. So he said that gospel, and that music, and also he had been listening to the music from the Guinean Ballet, the finger piano, so all of that fused and came back to him with this feeling that he heard playing when he was walking through the back roads of Arkansas.
And he started remembering what that music sounded like and felt like. He said that feeling was what I was trying to get close to in Kind of Blue. That feeling had got in my creative blood, my imagination, and I had forgotten it was there. I wrote these blues to try to get back to that feeling I had when I was six years old, walking with my cousin down that dark, Arkansas road.”
The end result is that, sadly, we will never know the whole truth. Over the last 20 years the song appears mostly now as a “Davis-Evans” composition. It is sometimes difficult to know what goes on in the mind of brilliantly creative people to get stuck, at one point, over something like this and never settle the issue. I guess, it is that exception that everyone talks about when reaffirming a certain opposite rule.
The issue became so heated between both musicians that Zindar himself, in another interview conducted by Win Hinkle, recalled the 1978 Evans NPR interview in which he asserts his authorship of the song, and recalls –with certain humor and disdain – writing to Miles with the suggestion that he should be entitled to a percentage of royalties, to which Miles apparently responded with an envelope that had a check for twenty-five dollars in it.
I am no musician, but I can distinctly see Evans hand in this. Miles was also a wizard, so doubts persist. I guess the best way to go about it is to just enjoy their brilliance and accept that for once, these two geniuses showed their flaws and pettiness for all of us to see. An exceptional blemish for two men who had dazzling musical careers that no one can refute or argue with.
Here is my pictorial version of “That Other Day”. That nonetheless beautiful day – the music still moves us the same way it did before – but it is also the day in which these two egos collided. More complex than the original painting, but maintaining its spirit and stressing the superposed opinions of Bill and Miles.
In a world where information is being sent to us at incredible speed and with unconceivable depths; where we are also producing, inadvertently, data beyond our understanding; in a civilization that is advancing technologically beyond what the educational system can cope with; at a time when the knowledge of how things work is in more and more hands; and the technology which allows us to make them is in less and less hands; the role of the creative mind must evolve as well.
Now, evolving does not necessarily mean going freaky! It does not inevitably mean developing at the same speed the ability to digest all that is thrown to us, as well as rehashing it in new ways.
In fact, it may mean something completely different.
One of the biggest misconceptions on the theory of evolution, just to bring this point forward, is that the mechanism of natural selection – central to the theory – and which may result in improved abilities to survive and reproduce, should necessarily mean that the outcome is progressive.
As it happens, this is clearly not so.
What is called natural selection under the theory, does not produce organisms perfectly suited to their environments, as it is commonly misinterpreted. What it means, really, is that these organisms through different traits and skills are “good enough” to survive.
So evolving may mean, in simple terms, adapting survival characteristics which may be new, or even reacquiring qualities and attributes that were useful before, were lost for one or more generations due to environmental or social changes, and now have become of importance once again.
So how does this translate to the information age?
Well, it means for a start that the role of a creative professional is not to keep up with the speed of change but with change itself. In sporting terms, the creative thinker may be more like a long distance runner than a sprinter.
Secondly, being creative means being open to novelty and interested in everything. I always call myself “an encyclopedia of useless information”, this said with a glint in my eye, as I know very well that I gather information that most will discard for a good reason. To me, it is never useless.
But I must learn to choose what I digest. So the other evolutive step for a XXIst Century creative mind, may be then going back rather than forward. Specifically, to XIXth Century London and perhaps pay a visit to a certain sleuth who lived at 221b Baker Street.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the great detective, Sherlock Holmes, based on a doctor named Joseph Bell whom Doyle admired for his quick logical interpretation as a physician, as well as for his “Method” of deductive reasoning (“Observe carefully, deduce shrewdly, and confirm with evidence”).
Bell turned detective became, in late 1886 and thanks to the pen of Conan Doyle, none other than the great Sherlock.
The role of the creative individual is very similar to the role of the detective. It involves keen observation, careful deduction, asking the right questions, having the correct basic knowledge, and above all, connecting all the dots (coming up with a hypothesis that is not necessarily constricted by a traditional structure).
In a world where information surpasses us, while technology seems to be speeding up way ahead, becoming like the road runner may be the wrong approach.
It may be that I enjoy going against the wave, but if everything speeds up, I usually slow down (and vice versa). Creative reasoning and creative thinking in a slow moving environment allows for swiftness. While if everybody rushes, our role is to slow down.
Like Neo in the Matrix, our advantage is that of being capable of decelerating everything down to the point where we are actually so cognitively enhanced that, in reality and for everyone else for that matter, we are indeed ahead of the curve.
And to do that, a bit of XIXth Century deductive reasoning may be the thing. Evolution may mean in this case, for example, simply slowing down; perhaps taking on a musical instrument – and not necessarily a violin -; or being involved in long periods of apparent daydreaming. In that mental estate, your mind will be doing its best detective work, and your deductive skills will allow you to see and connect the dots that no one else has managed to yet perceive.
I know I am going to get myself in trouble for writing this.
Furthermore, I am probably going to get a lot of mails from artists who have come to my “Flash, Crash, Boom, Creative afternoon” lectures.
I like talking about the importance, for an artist – any artist – of being conscious of the significance of the “mythological” aspect of his or her story. I have always argued that the “selling point “ is as much the artist as the art.
Let´s take van Gogh as an example.
A painting he may have given in exchange for rent (100 bucks worth perhaps) has remained intact. It is always the same painting. It hasn´t gotten better with time. It is not wine – it isn´t that it has “aged well” -. It has not acquired flavors, or details in this case, which were not there before.
What has changed in our appreciation of the artist. It is van Gogh himself who has aged well. We have come to appreciate his story, his ways, his dramas, and his techniques better with time. And as a result, everything he has done has become something else. Each one of his paintings have become “a van Gogh”. His “mythology” has overpassed the painter and the flawed human being. And that is where the difference rests.
I always make the point of qualifying this view by pointing out that, by mythology, I do not mean becoming, or asking to be treated, like a “god” –although many colleagues do fall into this trap- , and neither do I mean that you should lie about your history.
It has to do with, simply put, being consciously aware that an artist´s story
is as much part of the process behind the growth in value of an artist work, as is the quality of work produced. People, more often than not, “buy” – engage, become interested, admire, or simply like – the artist first, and then they become interested in the art to the point of deciding to make a purchase (particularly when the price of a painting is above impulse purchase price).
This is so normal, that when in a newspaper we read that a famous painting is sold at a record price, for example, it is generally the case that the title usually implies that it is the artist who has been sold, while in the follow through we learn about the painting, sculpture or whatever it is really behind the news.
We “buy” Picasso, Van Gogh, Rauschenberg or Pollock. And we get – assuming we had the money – whatever painting is available at the time. The reason is twofold. On the one hand we understand there are market forces behind all these sales, as we are talking about investment grade painters and paintings after all. So whatever is available must be worth our while.
And secondly, we are talking about paintings that resist, endure, and grow in appreciation during a long period of time. And these facts usually have a common thread. In fact, each one of these works represent, in pictorial terms, an intricate part of the artist´s life.
We are talking, then, about art that is a visible section of an artist´s passion. And that is also central to this equation. We are buying a piece of an artist´s identity, a piece of his artistic soul. Or at least that which will endure the passage of time. No matter what embelishments the artist may have made to his own story, what survive are the vestiges of his true self.
This is all very personal stuff. We are talking about an artist´s spirit, his or her heart, and in the case of those already gone, the legacy of work that is left behind and provides the artists with that desired immortality of sorts.
Yet many artists, in their desire to get to that special plateau, become mere caricatures of themselves. They make up stories, take on looks that are more for the benefit of others than a symbol of whom they are, and fictionalize their lives to the point of becoming like characters in a pantomime.
They confuse “a personality” with “personality”, they make-up a stereotype of an artist rather than being true to their history and letting others judge and decide. They feed us with fiction, while true art is as real as it gets.
True art is about a naked person being shown and exposed; it is a soul being revealed; it is a heart discovered in its most intimate detail.
Many have “put on an act”. Dali was brilliant at this. But the key word here is “brilliant”. He built an engaging public persona around his personal quirkiness. And all of this pointed towards two ends. On the one hand his renowned love of money, and secondly it was probably his way of exorcising his own childhood demons.
Did we see the real Dali in action? Probably not, but was it a fake personality or was it based on his very real and eccentric nature and life history.
This was the second son of a family who had lost their first child, also named Salvador, only nine months earlier. He looked so much like his dead brother that his mother suspected that he was actually their previous dead child reborn, and it is believed to have acted accordingly. On top of that, and from all accounts, he was quite the sadist as a child. Even to the point of considering that pleasure and pain were pretty much the same mechanism. He used to attack people for no apparent reason, and it is said that he even threw a dear friend off a bridge “just because” (his friend was badly hurt as a result).
So, was he putting on an act or was the act an embellishment – a mythology of sorts– of his own life story and personality? You can decide if there is a difference between this and the fictional character. But keeping in mind Dali´s story, is then the fictional character many artists envelop themselves with, something wrong?
Some will argue that, whether truth, embellishment, or pure fiction, in all cases this is just marketing. And if as such it increases your sales, it is ok. And it may well be so. But the fact remains, and my experience corroborates this assumption, that many artists do end up believing they are this phony façade. They end up playing out the character in their real lives, and to a certain level, they end up getting lost in their own concoction.
So what is the point then?
Very simply: Whatever you do, be true to yourself, or at the very least, try your utmost to keep true to yourself. You are an artist. You are someone whom, by definition, will follow what your heart dictates. And that does not mean you cannot work on your own mythology. If you think about it, your life –any life for that matter – is rich and therefore plentiful in “workable material”.
Your beginnings, your family, your place of birth, your life experience, your ideological bents, your personal attributes and your personal agonies. They all have contributed to your present YOU. Your life is the source of your own mythology, and it is also the fountain from which your artistic endeavors spout.
It needs to be put into an attractive order. It needs to become your life story almost in cinematographic terms. It needs that attractiveness that makes your story something to be consumed, in the good sense, like a good novel. In short, it needs to become a story that people can engage to and become close to, and by doing so, they will begin to know you, and will become closer to you and your art.
There is an old saying in marketing about not falling on the trap of basing your decisions on your own marketing. One thing is what you sell, which necessarily enhances your virtues in detriment of your weaknesses. Something else is believing in your own “enhancements”.
Falling into the trap of that “fictitious character” is part of the learning process. I see many who do fall and never get out of that hole. In the short term it may be fine and it may potentially be profitable as well. But in most cases it will not last. And what is worst, it will take you astray from your true self, which is in the end, where your art is coming from.
FAR-OFF, most secret, and inviolate Rose,
Enfold me in my hour of hours; where those
Who sought thee in the Holy Sepulchre,
Or in the wine-vat, dwell beyond the stir
And tumult of defeated dreams; and deep
Among pale eyelids, heavy with the sleep
Men have named beauty. Thy great leaves enfold
The ancient beards, the helms of ruby and gold
Of the crowned Magi; and the king whose eyes
Saw the pierced Hands and Rood of elder rise
In Druid vapour and make the torches dim;
Till vain frenzy awoke and he died; and him
Who met Fand walking among flaming dew
By a grey shore where the wind never blew,
And lost the world and Emer for a kiss;
And him who drove the gods out of their liss,
And till a hundred moms had flowered red
Feasted, and wept the barrows of his dead;
And the proud dreaming king who flung the crown
And sorrow away, and calling bard and clown
Dwelt among wine-stained wanderers in deep woods:
And him who sold tillage, and house, and goods,
And sought through lands and islands numberless years,
Until he found, with laughter and with tears,
A woman of so shining loveliness
That men threshed corn at midnight by a tress,
A little stolen tress. I, too, await
The hour of thy great wind of love and hate.
When shall the stars be blown about the sky,
Like the sparks blown out of a smithy, and die?
Surely thine hour has come, thy great wind blows,
Far-off, most secret, and inviolate Rose?
I have been watching Jerry Seinfeld´s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee since it was first on. From the beginning I liked the concept and most importantly, the way it was done.
The first thing I thought was “Mr. Seinfeld is probably right. We like coffee, we like cars, and comedians are funny. So, what´s not to love?”.
But many doubted. It was online, it was long, it was kind of weird (albeit, it was my kind of weird), and there was no real script. It was the ultimate show about nothing in particular with people who didn´t exactly know what they were doing there.
So the coffee bit was essential. Coffee, even more than cars, was the tree from which Seinfeld and friends could hang branches to leap around.
The initial response you heard on the grapevine was that it wasn´t going to work. I have been around enough internet specialists and executives to know that their view is that the average attention span of an internet viewer is about 5 minutes. So an online show of between 15 and 25 minutes was just not going to make it.
And yes ladies and gentlemen, do not be surprised. The people who feed us the virtual information we voraciously eat like Soilent Green think we are all internet dodos. It seems we generally have the attention span of a fly as well as the need to touch and move things around like chimpanzees.
But there is where Seinfeld and Co. hit the right note. They provided us, simians of the information age, with a tree and branches! And we all just jumped at the opportunity of enjoying ourselves before someone came along with the need for us to move along.
And so, six seasons on, we are still hanging around. Doing a bit of a “hoo hoo haa haa” while clinching to a banana peel and enjoying some friendly banter.
In the last episode of December 2015, Jerry had a very special guest: President Barack Obama. I urge you to watch this episode in the same way I urge you to watch all episodes. This one is surprisingly fresh and uncomfortably relaxed, and on top of that, it hit a right note at a time when I was in the middle of writing my last Blog article.
Tower of Power – the title of this article – is also the name of a painting of mine from early 2015. It is made in acrylic, inks, and oil based paints on canvas, and it is only 50cm wide by 70cm in height (not very large), but very powerful and intense. It is dedicated to the great R&B, Soul and Jazz band of the same name, from California, which has been around for more than 50 years and which has survived many changes in its composition.
And it is not only a great band (and a pretty powerful painting), it is also a way of referring to that ivory tower, or that isolated presidential palace to which so many people aspire, harnessed by money, political clout, or even circumstantial public support. It is same place that once clinched, they usually don´t want to leave.
The tower – my tower – is chaotic, energetic, a little unstable, and reminiscent of Babel´s, with an orange –furious- sky behind.
“Power tends to corrupt, while absolute power corrupts absolutely”, so says the famous quote from John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, KCVO, DL. Or as you probably know him, Bob (or most likely, Lord Acton). He also said that “Great men are almost always bad men”.
President Obama refers very candidly, in his coffee laden chat with Jerry Seinfeld, to how nutty many world politicians get after holding on to power for too long.
Watching Obama with Seinfeld, and even admitting his “Well, I´m a cool President” line (you´ll see it in the full versión of the show), one cannot escape thinking that we are in the presence of one of the most powerful men in the world (in fact, these are two very powerful men chatting with each other).
So in light of Lord Acton´s phrase, would he qualify as bad, but charming? Or is it, as he says, that he may have saved himself -for now- from the perils of power just because he loves his job? And does this make him a good gage of what surrounds him?
Well, be it as it may, Obama´s explicit mention of world leaders who have “simply lost it” must have sent shivers down the spine of many seemingly powerful, self-conscious, mirror loving politicians the world over – both current and former -. It is uncomfortably funny to watch as well.
The truth is that, no matter where you live in the world, you can probably think of many examples. I was born in Argentina and we have a long history of nuts at the helm. But don´t be too hasty to laugh. This is something all nations share. I lived in several countries around the world and I can think of many politicians who qualify in this league. Power seems to have a tendency to corrupt no matter where you were born, how smart or pretty you are, or how well you talk or look on TV.
On the positive side, sooner or later, we pass through these self-centered eccentrics and thugs, just like we pass any painful gall bladder stone, and we go on living (and peeing) with joy.
And as long as we are going to go on living –and peeing-, I would sugest that good music be always present. Here is then a great concert from Tower of Power, an impressive and powerful band, playing live in Lugano (Switzerland) in 2010.