Thursday, January 5, 2012

the pere"z" museum & miami xenophobia

atRiFf

that we live in a post-racial society doesn't mean we're free from racist posturing. blame language, a social epistemic realm of condensed xenophobic token-types, where one easily find vestiges of ethnocentric drivel, as if in-slow-motion speech acts of incoherent contempt.

it all begins with a surname: perez.*

so the story goes, miami art museum changes its name after jorge m. perez promises a gift for $35 million. the museum will become jorge m. perez museum of miami dade county. suddenly, artists, collectors -even critics- recoil with a hysteric shudder! facebook pages, such as the poorly conceived occupy miami art museum, or mam not pam, proliferate.

there's a miami new times page entitled "forget jorge perez, here are five better sponsors for the miami art museum," penned by a michael miller. amongst the suggestions? "cafe bustelo museum" and "miami art mu'z'eum." in miller's black-and-white linguistic/jingoist universe there are foreign cursed phonemes: "perez" is the perfect cipher for a good ethnic beating. it ends with "z," thus it has an accent.  

take a look at some of the many comments posted to different articles, posts, etc (including, newspapers, blogs and facebook):

*Who the fuck is gonna list "Jorge Perez Museum" on their resume...
*I will not step foot into the museum if Jorge Perez has his name on it. 
*Jorge M Perez museo de arte y CHECK CASHING y envios a CUBA.
*All of a sudden, it's the Pérez Art Museum, for short.
*Papi Perez is an unsophisticated nouveau rich guy who happens to have the worst taste in art.
*Miami is changing everything into spanish names,viva latinos,miami is havana,dolphins are chubatos, heat are negritos, police is banditos, cuban sandwiches are the new burgers, woman now will be called mamacitas, and all man are papis, and everyone has to play dominos.
*It's going to be called "SPAM" (Spanish Pepito Art Museum) and its logo will be a can of SPAM. Hmm, que rico!
*How about The Pablo Escobar Cultural Center?
*Hey, just make it FIDEL CASTRO!
*I’m not sure anyone would want to have the Bonnie and Clyde Opera Company.
*The Bacardi Art Museum would have a way cooler nickname. A world-class pop art collection belongs in the BAM!
*Media noche sandwich with ham croquettes in the cafeteria... mmm, good move Thom!

keep in mind that some of the the respondents are cuban-american and latinos (!), a sad state of cultural cringe. if they were not so appalling, these comments would pass as just plain stupid.

on the other side of the argument, perez, a miami developer, is presented as a crook (ethnically obvious), his philanthropic act becoming a reprehensible, self-aggrandizing act. but then miami has important institutions bearing the names of benefactors such as arsht, frost, etc. why not perez? 

a third position defended by some artists, collectors and critics (the last one a rara avis, more hypocritical because he/she looks the other way when it comes to the pervasive shady dealings of the art world) mounts a moral attack over perez's rapacious selfishness, as if american philantropy is -or should be, by definition- divorced of self-interest.*

no wonder, the huffington post has this side of the news, with the eye-grabbing heading, "racism".

ironically, "perez" is a patronymic derived from petrus, meaning "son of pero." the suffix "ez" means "descendant of" in spanish. very possibly, "perez" is a sephardic jewish name. of the different variations of the same name we have farez, fretz, peres, peris, peretz, pesidas, pharez, etc.

how about the following list as substitute for our dreadful, ethnically unpalatable "perez"?

Farets,
Paresh,
Perheiß
Pereshberg
Kèrézberg

isn't it much better?
________
in spanish, is "pérez," with (é), the more reason to revolt our ethnocentric art community. *Developer and art collector Craig Robins has a interesting advice to all the wealthy, ethnocentric anti-Perez out there: Outbid Perez.

15 comments:

Feminista said...

Shameful.

Anonymous said...

that we live in a post-racial society is news to all persons of color. choosing to quote the most cynical and racist comments you could gather only serves to further divide. in your etymological defense: "perez" is a patronymic derived from petrus, meaning "son of pero." you have inadvertently opened up the obvious "hijo de perro fem:perra" (son of a bitch) for yet more unsavory fodder. give the miami tax payers one... any good incentive as to why there should be a 'perez' museum that rightfully belongs to the city.

Alfredo Triff said...

you have inadvertently opened up the obvious "hijo de perro fem:perra" (son of a bitch)...

Go on, language speaks.

Daniel said...

Hahahaha, Triff this is so true, but also funny.

Anonymous said...

Lo que se desprende es que el elitismo y el racismo del mundo del arte de Miami da pena. Lo que deben hacer los que protestan es donar más dinero que Pérez y reclamar entonces el título al museo. ¿Por qué no lo hacen? ¿Por qué?

Carlos said...

Whoever wrote that is a racist.

GeNeRaCiOn AsErE said...

Que protesten aquellos que le duelen los Pérez... no obstante y como siempre, la mejor forma de enfrentar el racismo es ir hacia adelante.

"Ladran, Sancho, señal de que cabalgamos".

Anonymous said...

as a cuban born american citizen, I am am mildly horrified to see that those who champion your cause do not or will not speak english. your well written story was entirely written in english--why respond in spanish? IT'S A CULTURAL THING, RIGHT. i am a lefty from a republican family. who are you speaking to sir?

Dissey said...

Triff, nice post. As an artist, I find the whole thing so sad and petty. Keep up the good work.

Alfredo Triff said...

Thanks, Carlos, Generacion & Dissey.

Alfredo Triff said...

as a cuban born american citizen, I am am mildly horrified to see that those who champion your cause do not or will not speak english.

Anon: Why should you be "mildly" horrified? Miami is a trilingual city. Signs in Spanish, Creole and English all over and it functions this way. I myself speak and write both and feel comfortable in both. Of course it's a cultural thing! Language belongs in the noösphere.
My audience, like Miami, is open-ended. Take care.

No art critic said...

To the anonymous of 4:44. I say that what the city needs is more programs and money for everybody, not just for the so called emerging artists represented by the system of galleries. don't you get it? curators separate taste and museums and galleries parade it for the masses.

Anonymous said...

nice piece. came about it by coincidence. the way i see it: isn't miami a southern state?

Anonymous said...

while i see nothing very productive in calling the ethnic dimension in this a red herring and pointing the referedum's $100M, as detractors of the name change tend to do, i do think that there may be something productive in doing a little parallax shift on what you are saying.

what if the "ethnic-ization" of the name-giving is, in fact, not so much a difference from the normal and accepted name-giving (and other practices, like private-museum building) to miami institutions as its exacerbation, a kind of amplified self-signalling: the accent and the z merely underscore (too markedly, it seems) a practice that the city's cultural sphere has happily endorsed. The accent and the z crack open a little fissure through which a secret shame is starting to ooze out.

this, of course, extends beyond name-giving. it involves a class that has turned patronage into social/cultural capital production in such a vulgar way (vulgar, in the sense of no longer even hiding the mechanism of its appropriations) as to, one would think, become deeply offensive. this extends to bringing the fair as a kind of personal, private venture; the spectacularization of a collector group; the placing of its curators in public institutions, etc. And the city--politcians, cultural producers, critics, etc.--has gone along with this, always proposing that "we know it's all bullshit" but participating nonetheless. We've allowed a collector class to produced an illusory culture, a kind of layer of cultural capital trading that is very tenuously bound to the city (if at all, really) and the concrete practices that take place in it. we participate in it in that zizekian fashion that we participate in capitalism in our "post-ideological" age: we disavow in thought and in private what we adhere to in our actions. we flock whenever they put out a call.

in some way, this floating plane of cultural capital trading is not unlike the virtual capitalism of derivatives: it functions "above" us somewhere, in some virtual space (distant galleries and trends that are coming to us from the future, in one case; impossible equations and instant transmissions of money across the globe in the other case). While allowing us, of course, the privilidge to feel the full impact of its effects. The private museums and re-naming ceremonies, like the actual buildings of financial institutions, are mere stand-ins for proceeses that happen elsewhere. The analogy is imperfect and hyperbolic, i know, but i think it begins to speak to a city whose culture sphere is split and structured top-down, determined by particular interests that rarely have the rest of us working on the ground in mind.

what is telling in all this--and what may invite the parallax shift on the ethnic question--is that the loudest roar has come from the actual cultural producers. The collector class has bitched here and there--one feels, more as a way to dissociate itself from the event, to keep mud from landing on its shoes, than from any fundamental disagreement--what fundamental disagreement would that be?). In this sense, C Robbins' answer to the whole thing has probably been the most coherent: buy back the order of the city that we have worked so hard to naturalize if this bit of upheveal flusters you. Move real capital in order to stabilized the game of accruing cultural capital. it's the people working at ground level that seem the most pissed, the most dissapointed, most vehemently oppossed to the whole thing. This may all just be displacement. What goes unsaid: Let's rally against this deep injustice of renaming, since it cracked the bottom of the vessel that held our shame and self-disgust at letting our culture be taken from us by a collector class. The anger is at the person in the mirror, but of course the we can never aim it there. We need surrogate targets. And what makes a better target than an object that is "deformed" in relation to the general grammar of things.

Alfredo Triff said...

what if the "ethnic-ization" of the name-giving is, in fact, not so much a difference from the normal and accepted name-giving (and other practices, like private-museum building) to miami institutions as its exacerbation, a kind of amplified self-signaling

possibly

the accent and the z merely underscore (too markedly, it seems) a practice that the city's cultural sphere has happily endorsed.

possibly, but no euphemisms here. miami is a racial lab and the economic side of the issue merely brings forth simmering, hidden racial stereotypes. don't do merely "cultural" on me without pointing to tokens, otherwise the point gets more obscured than it needs to be.

it involves a class that has turned patronage into social/cultural capital production in such a vulgar way (vulgar, in the sense of no longer even hiding the mechanism of its appropriations) as to, one would think, become deeply offensive.

agree. but the protest comes from the ranks of that very class (the 1% protesting protesting regulations for the sake of the 99%?).

i agree with your 4th paragraph.

The anger is at the person in the mirror, but of course the we can never aim it there. We need surrogate targets. And what makes a better target than an object that is "deformed" in relation to the general grammar of things.

what needs to be done, and that class of collectors, curators, critics and many willing artists won't do is to expose the profound conflicts of interest that pervade a basically incestuous art world. from this angle, the "z" affair is just another internecine power dispute.

thanks and keep visiting.