Thursday, January 5, 2012
the pere"z" museum & miami xenophobia
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"?
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.