Monday, November 13, 2017


As Performa 17 examines the sociopolitical context informing contemporary art today, with work examining immediate and critical concerns confronting our urban centers, the shifting political and cultural currents of our world today, and the role of the arts and of artists in supporting afflicted communities, Heavy Discussion v.3 examines skateboarding through a female perspective, reflecting on skateboarding as an art and women in skateboarding as the afflicted community.  Due to major political and cultural shifts within that community, including the recent induction of skateboarding in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, increased normalization of skateboarding in popular culture increasing female participation, and expanding corporate interest, now is a perfect time to foster dialogue. Here, a panel of intergenerational female skaters will share their views on the political and cultural currents.   

Featuring Alexis Sablone, Kea Duarte, Jaime Reyes, Sara Kay, Lacey Baker, and Elissa Steamer

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Heavy Discussion has been recently finding new platforms beyond Instagram- panel discussions IRL and now on a completely separate media outlet. It's an interesting growth, one that I might not have even necessarily anticipated. Wrote a piece the other day for Garage Magazine about this lame, racist art show in Chinatown. A friend pointed out that my piece provided an important "outside" context from the art world- which is unfortunately where the vacuum of dominating narratives for this particular show are stuck in. And until the artist outed his own inability to be accountable by creating layers of reactionary deflections in his press release- all his paper thin excuses are based on some tired framework of comparing everyone and everything to some kind of nazi figure or storyline. And yet, through all of it he still remains the antagonized "neutral" victim of free expression. Like evolve the intersection of your oppressive frameworks- not everyone or everything is a Nazi. It's called a ladder of white supremacist/colonial behavior. But let's be real people like him will never do the "real work" required- because from what I've seen- his industry also does not prioritize that work either.

It's interesting that my POV has been "qualified" or "merited" because not only was my discontent and anger for the show repeatedly "discredited" by individuals on IG, I was already accused in other IG posts about it- that it's essentially not my place to comment on "art " basically.  Or because if I viewed it as a racist art exhibit and shared my opinion- that somehow I'm attacking someone's "neutral" stance on it by proxy- therefore indirectly labeling their neutralness as a form of racist behavior.

I see so many examples of close minded, reactive, quick to discredit features among people who view themselves as progressive it's pretty fucking tiring. The reality parallels with the most dangerous place for journalists in America, for example, are at protests. The more political- the more arrests and bigger the charges. Some have suggested this backlash towards journalists is because of this underpinning opinion that journalists represent a kind of "coastal" elite. It is part of a media dazed culture that is constantly trying to manufacture an oversimplified evil and good narrative. In this case, the coastal elite media are the out of touch bad guys.

So when I get people who perform progressive culture and tell me that I don't have a place to actually have this level of emotions or commentary about controversy that affects me not only personally but systemically- it's quite clear what status quo they are interested in preserving. We may share the same bars and friends- but when you pin me as some kind of "out of touch" commentator because my current occupation defines me as not of the "art world"- this only uncovers that there is in fact an essential elitism and unfortunately privileged classism to what qualifies some opinions to be even heard or considered. Whether or not the Art Industry in America is an economy that perpetuates forms of "coastal elitism" I would never be able to difinitavely draw that conclusion. Outside of America, art by existence is political in nature. In 2017 America- it's quite clear the art world has created a very comfortable "apolitical" and insular environment for practitioners that end up exploiting communities, countries and histories in their process of monetizing their own "authentication". What's gross is that these galleries and artists are hardly ever expected to "back their shit up", meanwhile they get to gentrify, discredit, profit, and label their neighbors and afflicted communities as irrelevant censorists. Art or not- it is self serving bullshit and another form of elitist culture where nobody needs to be accountable for the shit they provoke. And while not ALL artists of course engage in these practices, and while censorship is a very slippery slope- I find that the ones that benefit from these protections are most often the artists and galleries who end up not being accountable for their own racism or roles in gentrification or perpetuating "poverty porn" aesthetics either. If I were to compare this to any other kind of institution like a school or a job- we would immediately acknowledge and call for reform - but because it's art, we can't. So just by nature it is held above all other economies and industries to a different level of standards and ramifications. That being said- to ASSUME that all art is progressive is something that going forward people need to present MORE viewpoints about it- NOT LESS.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"Trump is the first free trade-bashing populist to win the White House." I read this recently and found it struck an amusingly creative yet unarguable way to describe him. His underlying protectionist and anti-globalist rhetoric is not dissimilar to what Bernie's socialist democratic platform was on issues like the TPP. Listening to Trump talk about the economy is like listening to a drunk, racist uncle explain a sensitive subject while offering no concrete details or tangible insight- only corrosive language and more confusion.Bernie on the other hand, whenever he leads in a speech with "And let me make it very clear" with that iconic hunch and finger wave, you know it's about to get good.

In my opinion, understanding the details of the TPP ( which were largely shrouded in mystery for a long time ) is an important factor for me in how I am choosing to judge Trump's administration solely based on the merit that if he achieves economic advantages for the country as a whole, as a person of color with a business dependent on international trade- I can and will deal with the attacks on progressive issues completely separately.

The TPP, now cancelled under Trump, is an undisputed crown jewel of economic negotiations perilously furthered by the Obama administration. But similar to how I despise in how the administration chose to handle the Wall St. bail out and the financial crisis- it is extremely important to acknowledge the critical mass in which the unchecked consolidation of multi national corporate interests thrived under neoliberal economic policies fueled by mainstream free trade fanaticism and finance economics driven speculations.

Unfortunately, what these narratives didn't drum up were the many causes for a five alarm bell like how the TPP undermined U.S. sovereignty by giving corporations the right to challenge our laws before international tribunals. Or that unlike most trade agreements, there was no indication the TPP came with an expiration date. Unlike the infamous unequal treaties of the past which were largely achieved through "gunboat diplomacy" and colonization which forced a uniform tariff rate on other countries rather than allowing them to set their own. The effects of these "not so free trade" policies are only part of how capitalist countries have historically inhibited developing nations from creating their own infant industries as America was able to during our Protectionist Century which lasted from the 1830's to WWII. Together with slavery, federalism, and protectionism, America was able to grow by leaps and bounds by also boasting the highest average industrial tariff in the world. Globalization that was driven by outright imperialism rather than market forces are said to have led the escalation between leading capitalist countries into the first World War.

About 78% of last year's imports from developing countries arrived with no tariffs, quota limits, or other barriers. Unequal treaties of the past have led to not only the economic retrogression in places like Asia and Latin America- but it has also allowed for the path of least resistance for globalization ( or Americanization) to continually operate as an unsustainable, expansionist and therefore modern form of colonization through the phenomena of multi national corporatists. The illusion that China is the source for all things cheap labor in 2017 is inaccurate as three consecutive 10% increases in the national minimum wage from 2013-2015 have resulted in clothing and electronic giants long since moving to Vietnam where the TPP posed to exclusively benefit from a zero tariff relationship with twelve countries, including Vietnam. Currently US/Vietnam trade supports $30.6 billion dollars in imports. 40% being zero tariff goods like cell phones, furniture, and coffee while the rest high tariff goods like mass market sneakers for instance can land in the US currently anywhere between a 15%-48% tariff rate.

On the other hand, the TPP broke progressive ground in this way "Finally, an area where TPP is doing genuinely new and innovative things is in labor standard, where it will likely be the most elaborate, enforceable, and "liberal" agreement the US has even concluded. Assuming US negotiators are reasonably successful, this will cover laws, implementation of laws, and capacity-building programs in labor rights, child labor prevention, minimum wage policies, and workplace health and safety policies." In this sense, it is a great stride for globalists- but at the benefit and cost of who? Some would argue that while establishing a more modern labor standard for some of these developing nations is a great thing- but at what cost? Clearly if multi national corporatists are the entrenched beneficiaries of this maximized "free trade" deal- it would be at the expense of not only the American worker but the American entrepreneur who still believes in the idea of a genuine "free market" to compete.

Currently Trump is threatening a 45% tariff on Chinese made goods. But it's important to point out that while I think it is fiscally irresponsible to omit details of his plans for negotiations and therefore is leaving an intentional gaping hole of market speculation and public chaos- this 45% could already account for some of the import duty laws that exist for certain goods or it could be another layer of duties. Literally nobody knows. 98% of all shoes sold in the US come from outside of the country, and it's been this way for a long time. I believe this is largely due to the government inherently choosing to not implement protectionist policies for American manufacturers when there were still skilled laborers and supply chains that were in a position to not only be maintained, but invested in.

"If US companies did re-shore manufacturing, prices would also go up due to the much higher costs, particular for labor, of making goods in the US. New Balance, which is the only sneaker manufacturer to still produce a significant amount of its shoes- about 25%- in the US- charges from $165 upto $399 for it's American-made shoes." And these are the retail prices from a multi national corporation who owns private factories Stateside and have notoriously engineered their efficiency from cutting raw materials to shipping finished shoes- from eight days down to three hours.

"What Trump's proposed policies would likely mean, however, is that shoes ( and other goods ) would get more expensive for consumers - perhaps a lot more. The US sneaker industry could start to look like Brazil's, according to Powell, where Nike sneaker costs significantly more than it does in the US. Nike Air Max 2017 runs about $240 in Brazil versus $190 in the US." as pointed out in a great article on Quartz.

But the conversation that we should be having is how to put certain politics aside in hopes of creating new jobs in tech and higher value manufacturing (while renewable energy prospects seem extremely bleak in this administration). What is inescapable is the now highly politicized nature of how Silicon Valley chooses to interact and work with the new administration. My problem is the continual focus on unrealistic and political scapegoats of industries that have long since disappeared. And we can't afford to create media sensationalized barriers towards the bearings of an actual conversation that needs to be had- because it stands to benefit the entire country economically. Unfortunately, life does not follow ideology and in this new era of knee jerk politics, it's becoming more important to create your own conclusions independent from media companies that answer to shareholders just like any other big business.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Chomsky addressing the path ahead with keen insight that has largely been unaddressed.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


First post of 2017 are photos from my Christmas trip to Rome. While abroad, I've barely used my camera as I've been working with factories and suppliers the past month so definitely haven't had time for anything else. I was hesitant to go to Rome at first because I still need ACL surgery, and I heard that Rome required a lot of walking. Let's just say "a lot of walking" is a total understatement. It requires tons of walking. I went anyway because it was Christmas and all the factories were closed anyway so I figured I would just make the best of it. Rome is totally inconvenient as a spoiled, mass transit utilizing person that lives in New York. Although they have a subway and buses, the subway lines aren't really conducive to exploring the more interesting parts of Rome. Getting a bus ticket, one needs to go to a tobacco shop to purchase so speaking Italian is somewhat required for basic transportation purposes. Also private car companies like UBER are pretty much illegal. Taxi's are only available at designated areas throughout the city which is similar to Milan. 

I'm glad I went because there's no doubt in my mind that I will go again. Four days wasn't enough time to see nearly as many things as I wanted to see. One important tip when going to Italy is that if you want to see any exhibit or anything that is remotely "touristic", it is smart to consider booking a ticket ahead of time as it's almost impossible to show up to anything and expect to get in without waiting in a massive line. And I mean massive, especially in the summers as I can imagine. If you are a fan of ancient history, Rome is basically as good as you can get. I've been to Istanbul and while Turkey is really beautiful, Rome is just on it's own level. It's historic religious significance between The Vatican and the hundreds of gilded churches throughout the city are a testament to why the city has been dubbed "The Eternal City". I was surprised to find that the Sistine Chapel does not allow for photos for none other than "trademark purposes". I was also fascinated to discover that Rome is truly a melting pot of Asia, Africa, and European immigrants and influences. I didn't get that vibe when I was in Milan, but I think there's definitely aspects of the Ancient Roman Empire that have continued to thrive in the present day. You can literally walk down the street and casually see a pyramid or an ancient Egyptian obelisk. The amount of casual history rooted in the midst of a cosmopolitan city like Rome is truly awe-inspiring. While the magnitude of many of these ruins and structures leaves one completely dumbfounded.

Christmas Tree at The Vatican

Pedestrian bridge crossing over to The Vatican.

An American girl came in and ordered a pizza next to me. While many people in Italy speak really basic English, it was super annoying to have to witness so many Americans not only refuse to learn how to say thank you in Italian - "grazie" ( so easy?) but this girl not only ordered food but would elaborate in English about her food- as if she was in America and we happened to be in a Fake Italian Disneyland restaurant or something. It was embarrassing.

Just ruins on the way to work, NBD.

The infamous Jewish "ghetto" area. I had these bomb fried Jewish styled artichokes at a restaurant here. I'll have to take a photo next time I go back- although it basically looked like burnt leaves. Ha.

The Pantheon

Inside an abandoned shop. So many of these mom and pop shops are so old. You can see how old the furniture is.

I've always wanted to go to the Colosseum. Finally got to go.

Just only THEE colosseum in the middle of the road, NBD.