San José : DO NOT OPEN until 2117

San José : DO NOT OPEN until 2117

MACLA Instagram screen capture: Xavier Cortada, “DO NOT OPEN/San Jose,” 2017

 

In “DO NOT OPEN,” I ask residents of San José to write letters to the future. I do so because, today, many of their neighbors aren’t willing to listen. Today, too many are in denial about the human impact on global climate change. For many, denial comes easier than visualizing the future impact of rising seas on their community. Our words fall on deaf ears.

So, instead, we must write it all down, keep it in a safe place, and share it later, when others are willing to listen.

Although the letters are intended for people not yet born, the true audience is those breathing in the present.

Sure, the future will be curious.
The future will read our letters and want to know why we couldn’t show restraint when facing insurmountable evidence of our role in creating this global crisis.

The future will be incredulous.
In 2117, our great-grandchildren will read the words we wrote them and want to understand why we didn’t do more when so much—everything– was at stake.

The future will be furious.
A century from now, San José will read what we penned and want to know how, on our watch, ecosystems collapsed, biodiversity plummeted and so much of humanity suffered.

The future will benefit from insights, but “DO NOT OPEN” isn’t for them. It’s not about them. It’s about us.

I’m less interested in them being able to hear us. And more interested in us being able to see them. By writing to them, we name them. By writing to them, we can’t deny their existence. By writing to them, we create a connection to them.

Being able to connect with our progeny raises the stakes for us now in 2017. It lengthens the “care horizon” beyond our lifetime. It provides a path to hope, purpose. It encourages us to do all we can now to protect our planet, its future generations and the animals we coevolved with.

— Xavier Cortada

 

http://cortada.com/event/2017/macla

MACLA Instagram screen capture: Xavier Cortada, “DO NOT OPEN/San Jose,” 2017.

 

During the opening Temperature Check exhibition, MACLA invites attendees to participate in Cortada’s “DO NOT OPEN” performance.

Participant Instructions:

Walk up to the “DO NOT OPEN” wall in the MACLA Temperature Check
Close your eyes: Imagine San José 100 years in the future. Imagine the people living here then. Imagine how rising seas will impact the city and those who will live here then.
Think about what you would like them to know. Think about what someone living in San José in 2117 would want to hear from someone living here in 2017.
Unclip a piece of blank paper and envelope from the “DO NOT OPEN” wall and use a pencil to write it all down:

Tell them who you are.
Tell them why you are writing to them.
Tell them what you thought, what you saw.
Tell them what you felt, what you feared.
Tell them what you did, what you hoped for.
Tell them what you want them to do.

Fold your handwritten letter in two, kiss it, place it inside the envelope and seal it. Sign and date the back of your envelope and write the words:
“DO NOT OPEN until 2117”
Clip the sealed envelope to the “DO NOT OPEN” wall with the handwritten words facing out.
Stare at your envelope for 100 seconds. Visualize the changes rising seas will bring over each of the next 100 years. Think of how your words will be received in San José in 2117.
Walk away.

See: http://cortada.com/event/2017/macla

Marking “I have a dream”

Xavier Cortada, “The Markers, 1963,” South Pole, 2007.

On Aug. 28, 1963, this point (marked by the flag) on the moving ice sheet that blankets the South Pole stood at 90 degrees South, while the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech , in front of the Lincoln Memorial at 38’53” North, 77’02” West.

See http://www.xaviercortada.com/?Ant_Markers

Here is the text of his speech:

***

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

“Finally, the shriveled mangrove plant represents the demise of the Confederacy…”

In 2005, I was asked to create the 2006 Florida Heritage Month poster.  I was charged with depicting the 5 flags that flew over my home state since Europeans made contact.  Every fourth-grade classroom was to receive the poster.  Instead of painting a Confederate flag, I chose to depict the demise of the Confederacy.

Below is the statement that I wrote then.  It was printed on the back side of every poster.

Xavier Cortada, “Five Flags / Florida,” 61.5″ x 96″, acrylic on canvas, 2005 “Five Flags/Florida” (Cortada’s “Five Flags / Florida” is In the collection of the Florida Department of State, commissioned for the 2006 Florida Heritage Month Commemorative Poster.)

 

“Five Flags/Florida” (2006)

Miami artist Xavier Cortada utilized the Florida coastline to depict its heritage: each wave represents a new wave of immigrants who set roots and established communities. The mangrove roots metaphorically depict our interconnectedness as people who share a rich and diverse cultural history.

The mangrove root on the left symbolizes Florida’s indigenous people. The two clusters of clouds above mark their first encounter with Europeans: Juan Ponce de Leon’s landing in 1513.

Each of the mangrove plants rising above the horizon represent the five flags that have since flown over the peninsula:

The first plant has two sets of leaves representing Spain’s two periods of control: 1513-1763 and 1784-1821. The leaves on the second plant resemble the fleur-de-lis on the French flag when it was flown over Florida during 1564-65. Great Britain’s reign over Florida, 1763-1784, is shown as a mangrove plant with sliced leaves as it divided the territory into East Florida and West Florida. As the war for American independence ended, all of the territory was returned to the Spanish.

In 1821, the United States bought Florida from Spain for $5 million. The fourth plant represents the American flag. Back then the American flag had 24 stars. That number grew by three when Florida became the 27th state in 1845. The plant is bifurcated because Florida split from the Union in 1861 to join the Confederacy. After the Confederacy was defeated, Florida returned to the Union at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Finally, the shriveled mangrove plant represents the demise of the Confederacy.

The mangrove root on the right honors those whose search for freedom (e.g.: Seminoles, slaves using the Underground Railroad, Holocaust survivors, Cuban exiles, and Haitian refugees among others) brought them to Florida’s shores.

The painting, “Five Flags/Florida,” was created by Mr. Cortada for Florida Heritage Month 2006.

 

Democracy (Is an action verb)

Xavier Cortada, “Democracy (is an action verb),” chalk on chalkboard, 2017.

At noon, on January 20th, 2017, I led fellow Miamians participating in the performance of “Oath.”  On a Wynwood street, they read the full text of the United States Constitution out loud.  Together, they took the Oath of Citizen.  I then had them speak their favorite clause from the document they had just read into a water-filled glass and stir it.  They drank the words  with the water, incorporating the document into their very being.
As we approach U.S. Constitution Day (on September 18th, 2017), I created “Democracy (is an action verb)” as a gift to my city.   It is an owner’s manual –a path teaching us how to care for the breathing, living document we pledged to preserve, protect and defend on Inauguration Day.
Many Miamians come from countries where democracy and the rule of law has failed or is failing. Growing up here, I always imagined our city’s outstretched arms welcoming them (as tehy did my parents).  Taking them in, bestowing them with gifts of freedom, democracy.   To me, democracy was like sunshine: Gifts we had in abundance. It was a given for all of us.
But, as I grew older and as I’ve seen my nation grow more and more polarized, I’ve realized that its not quite true.  Freedom is not eternal.  Rights can erode. Democracy is difficult, fragile, vulnerable.  Democracy is hard work.  Its not a thing we get by virtue of being American.  But, because we are American, an activity we continuously engage in.
Through my socially engaged practice, I attempt to develop work that helps audiences see themselves as protagonists, problem-solvers. Here, I challenge them to be the change they want to see, to work together to build a more perfect Union.  To animate democracy.
By asking individuals to conjugate democracy as if it were a verb, I ask them to take action to make democracy happen.  And by conjugating the other pronouns, I ask them to engage and also hold all others accountable.
I democracy
You democracy
He/she democracies
 
We democracy
You democracy
They democracy

 

— Xavier Cortada

 

DEMOCRACY LIVES IN MIAMI
CONSERVATIVE, PROGRESSIVE AND INDEPENDENT LEADERS
DIFFERENT STORIES | SHARED VALUES
Save the Date
September 18th, 2017
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Proscenium Theater at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex
212-260 NE 59th Terrace,
Miami, FL 33137
More info: