Ode to Art School / Wednesday on Edgewood Ave
The last assignment of an intro studio art class is to respond to the question “What would you create—anything at all—if you were not limited by time, space, or resources?” For what the instructor names ‘The Impossible Project’ each group is to draft + present a proposal for a public art project (that must ‘benefit the community’) which would then be given a yay or nay by the “board members.” Some previous group, for example, drafted a clothesline that stretched across the Atlantic ocean to other continents: an exchange machine where people could send and receive clothes from outside their country. (Whatever.)
The class separated into groups and threw around ideas. After a while I started talking about how the $300 billion bailed out the banks and the banks are foreclosing houses, completely uprooting/degrounding people. So in the spirit of ‘That’s public money, the houses belong to the public now’ I proposed that we draft an enormous reclamation of foreclosed houses and/or empty buildings across Atlanta. We could draw a blueprint and devise a system that would house people (no public housing in ATL), starting with Atlanta’s legendary largest abandoned building—City Hall East. CHE is bigger than the mall of Georgia. Plenty of people’ll tell you it’s “impossible” to re-prioritize our social environments according to ideals, right.
After I laid it on the table the rest of the group (18, 19, 20 years old) shuffled around and nodded. “That’s cool,” trailing off. A young, whiny girl defiantly asserted that those people got kicked out of their houses because “they bought houses and loans they couldn’t afford, they knew they couldn’t afford them” with that ignorant, hollow sound characteristic of anyone repeating shit they heard once. After my response she remained completely unmoved. “Ehh, yeah…that’s just like too political. I mean that’s like a social…project, not really art. Like what’s artistic about it? It’s political and I want to make something, more, beautiful you know.”
So someone suggested that we transform City Hall East into an art school for people in the “community” to come to.
I got up mentioning the restroom, gone for longer than could be excused for any bathroom break. When I got back the notetaker leaned forward and told me “We’re thinking about doing something more impossible, like something in outer space maybe. Just wanted to fill you in since you’ve been gone.” Class was ending. Told her thanks but actually meant ‘You don’t even give a shit about people here, what the fuck are you gonna do in space?’
On my walk to the free parking space I’ve managed to find downtown I passed the park where everybody without home comes to absorb warmth while the sun’s out. Their shopping carts and sleeping blankets turned burden in the daytime hours. I passed the biting smells of urine down Edgewood ave, the scattered lottery tickets, so many houseless wanderers too internally frozen to give a shit about passersby. Finally, I’m under the bridge where I park, walking on the same ground their bodies sleep on.
I hate ‘art.’ I fucking hate these people. I’m enraged and sweating, I don’t sweat. Tears are making my eyes fuzzy and my face is burning and I’m smelling the piss on cold concrete.
If that’s not art I don’t give a shit about art.
When I had nowhere to go once, a very aged someone taught me that a way to stay warm when you have no heat is to never wash your clothes. It traps body oil and keeps in the heat.
I saw an incredible thing last week. Two lines of very poor seeming, possibly homeless black men were marching in unison down Auburn Avenue, the street where MLK Jr grew up. Their clothes worn and tinted with earth tones, being led by another homeless drill sergeant. Fanon came to mind: “The violence which has ruled over the ordering of the colonial world…that same violence will be claimed and taken over by the native at the moment when, deciding to embody history in his own person, he surges into the forbidden quarters.” My only thought then, and even more now, was I hope they’re doing what I hope they’re doing.