It has been 15 years since the last time I visited New York.
It was 2003 or 2004 and I was planning the screening of a Colombian short film exhibition in Barcelona and curating an international photography exhibition about love and sexuality. The trip was sponsored by a USA investor who believed my research was worth the effort which I deeply thanks and value. In my plans, The Fales Library at NYU and many visits to local Artists Studios were on the agenda, by that time curating exhibitions seemed to me the better future possible apart from a deeply enjoyable and nutritional source of inspiration and meaning for my life..
But that year, and probably during this trip, my whole life changed. My work, my relationships and even my hometown. Everything seemed meant to be transformed into a new level in life. But before that, New York showed me a fascinating world of talents, discussions and efforts to make the world a better and most of all an inclusive place.
Today, things seem to have changed a lot.
New York is showing me a very different face. Social differences are deeper, technology and data access and trade seem to be driving a stronger division between rich and poor, black and white, men and women. A permanent surveillance and a sense of military ruling transcend into day-by-day life, culture and personal interactions. But Why? How?
You normally notice this in very simple details and routines, and I will briefly mention a few
Food, pharmaceuticals and Insurance: During the first days, anywhere you travel it is normal to notice the new food and the local gastronomic offer and specialties. An interesting relation between food advertising, fast food, obesity, diabetes, pharmaceutical advertising and insurance popped up in my mind when a recurrent feed of messages in the city landscape and media connected. and it is a circle. the process goes like this: 1.- You get exposed to a lot of push marketing for industrial and fast food that pushes you into consumption of very unhealthy products and build very bad habits. 2.- Once you are obese or even during the process you try to fight the consequences trough medication also advertised and accessible in the market 3.- Of course you fail to fix the symptoms you try to go clinical and insurance policies and politics come into play. The more ung¡healthy you are or become, the bigger the business for everyone. this circle starts at a very young age and the whole systems glorifies things like pizza, frozen and pre-cooked meals and a fast stressinf¡g way of life as symbols of successful and practical modern living.
Manhattan, Brooklyn and the re-Gentrification: Staying in Brooklyn for the second time was revealing. In the middle of an urban transformation process, big towers of apartment buildings are sold at prices starting on 700.000 dollars for the studios that include a gym a pool, a coworking spaces a nearby organic market and an increasingly visible cultural offer. All set up and designed for young hipster professionals who have been earning decent money from digital transformation and the new investments in the startup ecosystem, digital products and services and apps. When you walk the city you see old and new residents of the area, the poor and the emerging class, the underprivileged, speaking foreign languages, clearly struggling with income and the lifestyle oriented new owner of the area. Talking with architects they mentioned that calculations and investment projections have made them invest in firm land. The Island of Manhattan can hardy sustain the weight skyscrapers bring to it and with sea levels rising every year, real estate investors need more than eve r a firm territory for their money. Is that the reason why old industrial buildings are being replaced by apartment complexes? is that why there is so much empty space in Manhattan? I guess time will tel
The Work Pyramid: It is always interesting to see the diversity of newyorkers, traditionally expressed in urban tribes, subcultures and immigrant districts the new social pyramid show a different structure: The work Pyramid is related not only to the job your do, but to race, gender, class and religion being some strategic and upper positions available to specific combinations of people so on one side we have C-levels, Mid management, entrepreneurs, freelancers, basic income, unemployed, semi-slaves and in the bottom of the structure a new class that includes a mix of unemployed or sub-employed citizens that do whatever to survive in this expensive city, and it correspond to the Uber/Fiverr community. This structure directly relates to a new kind of Food Chain conformed top down order by the Whites, Jews, Europeans, Latinos, Asian and Black communities. When you start playing combinations you can find for example white male jews in C-Levels, black female unemployed women, Asian male entrepreneurs and freelancers, basic income latino women an on, but some combinations tend to be more possible than other at the end….You do the mix-n-match I’ll do the math and let’s discuss it! 😉 (a great idea for a card game has been born right now!)
The final detail that shocked the most is the particular tradition of the Double Plastic-Bag. Every supermarket and pharmacy in town will provide you with two plastic bags instead of one for your shopping. Is this a way to contribute more to the pacific plastic island, is it considered and gesture of kindness by giving you ” something extra”? Is it just that they do not care at all? I asked in three or four super markets and most employees responded that it has always been like that, why change? we do it automatically.
At this point I am not really certain I would like to wake up in a city that does´t sleep (probably because of stress) not so sure that if you always make it there, you make it anywhere and definitively not convinced I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.