Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

JAMES ARONSON AWARDS

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Call for Submissions Deadline – March 18, 2019 for the James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism & Cartooning with a Conscience.

Individual reporters, cartoonists and publications are encouraged to submit work. We are thrilled that the Aronson Awards is entering its 29th year of celebrating outstanding and risk taking journalism. Since 1990, the Aronson Awards have honored original, written reporting that exposes widespread injustices, underlying causes, and possible reforms. This includes exposing discrimination based on race, class, gender, religion or sexual orientation; economic exploitation; violations of human rights, civil liberties or free expression; environmental degradation; and brutality to civilians in war.

The Aronson Awards recognize original work published in English in newspapers, magazines, blogs and online publications based in the U.S. A separate prize, the Grambs Aronson Award for Cartooning with a Conscience, recognizes the achievements of political cartoonists whose work focuses on social issues. Individual reporters, cartoonists and publications are encouraged to submit your work.
Entry Forms: http://aronsonawards.com

The Aronson Awards are administered by the Hunter College Department of Film & Media Studies.
Directors
Tami Gold & Blanca Vazquez
718 801-0381
tamigold@mindspring.com

Written by ricardo

February 5th, 2019 at 10:41 am

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Dictator Cycle

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The series of work titled Dictator Cycle has a specific moment of inception – January 29th, 2014 when I heard that the Nicaraguan National Assembly had elected to do away with presidential term limits, effectively allowing, the current president Daniel Ortega to remain president throughout the remainder of his life.

With each manipulation of the Nicaraguan constitution by Ortega and the Sandinista party, I feel a deep sadness for the impoverished country, the birthplace of my parents and where I spent the best days of my childhood. I am also dumbfounded at the short-sightedness of the ruling party and the ignorant avarice of Daniel Ortega who will not hand over the political reigns of the country to a new generation.

Prosperity has been illusive to this small country that has suffered a long-lasting dictatorship, natural disasters, a popular revolution and seemingly inherent political corruption. If only true leaders would emerge who seeks an end to corruption and the engineering of a society striving for the well-being of all its people. Unfortunately, since the Nicaraguan National Assembly elected to eliminate presidential term limits, an end to poverty and corruption appears as distant as the worst period of the Somoza dynasty. Ortega has effectively become Somoza.

Nearly a year later, I illustrated Stalin/Putin out of anger of the increasingly draconian laws in Russia such as the “bloggers law” and “anti-gay law”. Following Stalin/Putin, I started work on the “Dictator Cycle” as an illustrative series depicting once young and noble leaders who had become corrupt autocrats unwilling to surrender power. Each “Dictator Cycle” pairing is alive today or their reign continues to have very real consequences upon the country. For example, although Gaddafi has been killed, Libya continues in disarray. Although Kim Il-sung died in 1994, his grandson Kim Jong-un is North Korea’s current supreme leader and is shown to perhaps be the most ruthless of the family dictatorship.

A Case for Latinx

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Coined in the early aughts, the term Latinx has slowly gained traction in academe and social media. Spanish is a gendered language, nouns are either female or male – they are binary and immediately evoke a binary gendered meaning and identity and value – female or male. To those who identify outside of the female and male binary, a transformation of language must occur.

Language is a living thing. Languages change over time; new words are established, pronunciations change, languages die and new languages are established; language evolves. In Judeo-Christian religions as well as other religions, language is the root of knowledge and language is power. In our culture, those who dominate a language may more easily cross class and racial boundaries. Language continues to present power.

As language is knowledge and power and language is a living thing, it can be transformed. Language is a culturally transformative vehicle. Language has the power to alter understanding and may present a means to inclusiveness. Perhaps next year the Latinx Grammys will embrace this transformation.

Written by ricardo

November 16th, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Amazon Is Funded, CUNY Is Not – Shame de Blasio

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The hypocrisy of the NYC Mayor: today on WNYC’s “Ask the Mayor” de Blasio states that CUNY 2-year grads will be able to get $50K jobs with Amazon (which he declares is a living wage in NYC, I’d like to see de Blasio get by on $50k). Meanwhile CUNY is severely underfunded and falling apart. CUNY state support has declined for decades. In 2017, City Comptroller Scott Stringer testified that “since 2010, CUNY’s cumulative shortfall in State funding is now over $700 million.” The 2018 $200 million “boost” for CUNY AND SUNY (again – a lousy $200 million for both SUNY and CUNY) for a “quality education”, trickles down to nearly nothing in correlation to the decades of underfunding. The fact that Amazon, an over $130 BILLION corporation, is awarded $3 billion in tax credits, abatements and capital grants from the city and state while CUNY is severely underfunded year after year is SHAMEFUL!

As the mayor stated, a rational for this is the job creation that the Queens’ based Amazon headquarters will present to the city population. However, if CUNY continues to be underfunded, if the vast majority of our faculty are underpaid, if classes are over-stuffed with students and education must be watered-down, these jobs will not be filled by CUNY grads. Amazon jobs will be filled by private university grads and grads from across the country that receive a better education than what CUNY can possibly offer on a short budget. And the disparity between privilege and poor will continue to grow – as sponsored by Cuomo and de Blasio.

It is shameful that adjunct faculty must fight and protest for a lousy $7K salary when Amazon is awarded billions of dollars. We all know that Cuomo does not value public higher education, his record clearly shows this, but it’s shameful that the so-called progressive de Blasio does not do more to fight for CUNY.

Written by ricardo

November 16th, 2018 at 8:59 am

Get Out the Vote!

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Tomorrow – Friday, October 12th is the deadline for voter registration! But not only for voter registration, but also to change party affiliation for next year. After years of voting as an Independent and being locked out of primaries and telling myself that I need to switch out of Independent to Dem in order to have a valuable vote in NY/NYC, I made the switch online and it only took a few minutes:

Info Page:
https://www.dmv.org/ny-new-york/voter-registration.php

Direct link to voter registration:
https://voterreg.dmv.ny.gov/MotorVoter/

For U.S. citizen who now live in other countries but whose last U.S. address was in New York, email registration works.

Four steps:
1. Get your NY absentee ballot request here, pre-filled via this clever web form:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/

2. Sign it.

3. Take a picture/make a PDF, and email that to the address provided before Friday. You should get an email confirmation back same day.

4. Mail your hard copy. This way your registration goes through even if it arrives after the Friday deadline.

WE MUST ALL VOTE TO HELP MAKE THIS “DEMOCRACY” WORK.

Written by ricardo

October 11th, 2018 at 10:06 am

Brett Kavanaugh Drank Beer

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If Brett Kavanaugh liked beer as much as he declares that he does, there’s no way he didn’t black out at some point, hehehe. This man should never be a Supreme Court Justice or even a judge. If he is appointed, we live in the worst nation state concocted. It is merely a matter of being born into the right situation, and able to mix it up with the necessary network. Drink beet with DoubleYa!

Written by ricardo

October 2nd, 2018 at 9:40 pm

Pope.L Bougie Irreverence

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William Pope.L

It is difficult to call any art placed in a blue chip Chelsea gallery irreverent, but Pope.L tries his best. Currently (9/13 – 10/27 2018) at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Pope.L “One Thing After Another (Part Two)” stocks the gallery with collaged digital prints, framed found trash, assemblage, photo-collage, and a video of an erect penis attempting to balance a white whip cream pie. (As you might guess, the cream pie tips off the big, hard, black dick; only Brett Kavanaugh’s small white penis would hold that pie up.) The video is hilarious and I wish I had recorded a bit of it to include it here. It is a sharp and whimsical comment on desire, sex, race and privilege or rather lack of. The white pie and black dick are accompanied by a smoking digital black sock puppet that rises and forms like a snake from a corner of the video image.

William Pope.L

The digitally printed collages tear apart political and celebrity figures, mockingly reframing them in unexpected contexts and pairings. Across the gallery, William Pope.L has inserted himself into historical photographs. Again, the visuals are at once comical and critical recontexualizing a problematic racial history of the United States.

Pope.L effectively reminds us to always look at the images we are fed with a critical eye. Question the images – where are they coming from, why are they being presented and what is it that they represent? What is our place in this culture? But in the end, lets not take ourselves too seriously, be creative, have fun, but always be smart.

William Pope.L

William Pope.L

“Kusama – Infinity” Uninspired

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Last night, I watched the bio documentary “Kusama – Infinity” that attempts to capture the life and career of visual artist Yayoi Kusama by Heather Lenz. Unfortunately, I came away wondering why I paid to attend a film that did not present anything that I couldn’t have learned from reading her wiki page. The film is conventional, linear and superficial. It begins with Kusama’s childhood as the youngest of four children to wealthy parents who owned a seed company. It points out the clash between Kusama and her mother which perhaps was largely based on Kusama’s obsessive-compulsive disorder that may have not been understood or her mom had little patience for. And her father’s unfaithfulness which her mother had Kusama spy upon (hence the penis soft sculptures). So the film effectively presents a “traumatic” childhood for a sensitive child.

The film documents a letter by Yayoi to Georgia O’Keeffe asking for guidance in becoming a recognized artist that O’Keeffe responded to telling her that she has removed herself from the art world which is in the cities. It continues to poorly attended exhibitions in Matsumoto, Kusama’s hometown while by the sounds of it, Kusama has been disowned by her family. However, at a time when it was expensive to fly from Japan to the United States, Kusama manages to do so. I would have liked to have known how she paid for that flight and from where she gathered the U.S. dollars that she sowed in to her kimono.

“Kusama – Infinity” does an excellent job of capturing Yayoi Kusama’s 1957-1972 period in New York City and the seemingly classic struggle of the self-obsessed artist doing whatever it takes to be shown and recognized. As an artist based in New York City, I have witnessed too many times, the young, actually also not so young artists attending openings merely to try to schmooze with powerful curators, gallerists, collectors. As in all careers, it’s all about the network and getting cozy with the figures that will help one scale the ladder. So it appears that Kusama did this relentlessly, enough so to find a patron to pay for her studio and art supplies and she used her Japanese feminine cuteness/allure to do so.

The film also attempts to paint Kusama as a trail blazer – she was the first to wallpaper a gallery, before Warhol, she was the first to do soft sculptures, before Oldenburg and a mirror room before Samaras. The first two, I don’t really buy. If Warhol was inspired by the wallpaper, great, and the cows are his images. If Oldenburg shifted from paper mache to fabric due to Kusama, smart, and again the content is his. However, Lucas Samaras stealing the mirror concept is pretty outrageous as he had not done anything like that and he basically stole Kusama’s concept and placed it in a high profile gallery. So that I can certainly recognize and even understand a self-obsessed artist dropping herself out a window (she survives due to falling onto a bicycle).

Regarding her naked body happenings, a lot of artists were doing happenings at that time. And Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece” in 1964 seems much more powerful than any of Kusama’s performances. That said, I would have liked to have learned how she went about organizing them.

The film captures her intervention at the Venice Biennial which is commonplace today, I don’t know if it was so in 1966. The film also presents Kusama’s platonic relationship with Joseph Cornell, her move back to Japan, her re-discovery by the art world in the late 1980s and her rise to current fame. However, the film fails to delve deeply into her psyche, her persona. It does not present anything regarding her siblings and their take on her. The sequences of interview with Kusama present little depth. Perhaps there isn’t much more than obsessive compulsive disorder fulfilled by painting dots and a relentless desire for fame. Unfortunately the film is boring, but short enough that it doesn’t get tedious.

Written by ricardo

September 9th, 2018 at 8:12 am

NEGOCIO at Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

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VAGAMUNDO: A Migrant's Tale

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante is an ambitious attempt to present an archive of the creation of games as art largely over the last twenty years, though one work – “White Chess” by Yoko Ono dates back to 1966. The majority of works have been created in the 21st century. The exhibition presents a mix of digital and analog games and the vast majority of the exhibition is interactive – allowing visitors to play the games on exhibit as intended by the artists.

I’ve been honored with the inclusion of VAGAMUNDO: A Migrant’s Tale (2002) included the exhibition (pictured above). This is a sculpture and video game originally presented on the street that unfortunately is as timely today as 16 years ago due to the Trump administration’s stance regarding immigration.

The curators – David Machado Gutierrez, Alba Garcia Martinez, Beatriz Martinez-Villagrasa and Miguel Soria Andurell state:

The origin of the game, is lost in the memory of time; the game is perhaps as old as the very existence of the human being on earth. But what does the game transmit to us today apart from its playful appearance? Can art use it as a tool that reflects on challenges and social reality? Does it also work as an act of criticism? This exhibition does not pretend not to answer these questions, since it would be too ambitious, but it is formulated so that the spectator participates and, using the works of art as a guide. The exhibition investigates in the multiple planes what may unfolds in games as art.

Below are a selection of photographs documenting the exhibition.

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Two game sculptures by Cuban artist Abel Barroso
Abel Barroso at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Carlos No’s Intifada – a “ping-pong table which, in place of a net, has been divided into two halves by a very high brick wall, topped by barbed wire that heightens a feeling of insurmountabilty. There arises in the spectator the curiosity of seeing the other side, the place which one is forbidden to see and be in, as if one had discovered Lewis Carrol’s charade in the passage to the other side of the looking-glass. In this wonderland that comprises this side and the other side, both the space and the visitor’s steps are divided into two.”
Abel Barroso at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Velvet-Strike is a mod of the first-person shooter video game Counter-Strike. The mod, developed by Anne-Marie Schleiner, Joan Leandre, and Brody Condon, adds “protest sprays” to the game’s existing graffiti function.”
Velvet Strike at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Ladrillazo is a historical game that takes you to the real estate bubble of the first decade of the 21st century. There were days of wine and roses, an interpretation center in each town, an airport in each city, mortgages at 40 years, masons with minister salaries, Olympic dreams, AVEs and golf resorts.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Pac-Art is a version of the immensely popular Arcade video game Pac-Man. In this case, Pac-Art has transformed Pac-Man into an artist who has to devour famous works of art and flee from ghost-artists who threaten him.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Ravalpoly by Alba Refulgente – a game of real estate speculation in Barcelona that re-contextualizes the game Monopoly.
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Visitors will have the opportunity to play Yoko Ono’s “White Chess.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Many other artists and game makers are included in this exhibition, including Brenda Romero, Connor Monahan, Molleindustria, Richard Hofmeier, Jason Rohrer, Joan Priego amongst others. And one more image of VAGAMUNDO:
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

From Minecraft to Fortnite: The Common Language of Video Games

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I grew up between the United States and Nicaragua – the school year in the U.S. and summers in Nicaragua. In the 80s, I would bring my cousins packs of blank tapes and a selection of my favorite tapes so that we could make mix tapes. I would also bring old toys, such as my Intellivision game system with all it’s games (where it got an extra 6+ years of play).

I recall one summer leaving The Who’s “The Kids Are All Right” tape because one of my younger cousins – Oscar absolutely loved it. When I returned the next summer, Oscar could sin every song on that tape perfectly. I was floored! Oscar was young as he was born in 1976 and this is the mid 80s – sometime between 1984 and 1987, so at most he was 11 years old (I am five years older than Oscar). He had never taken an English class and yet, there he was signing perfect renditions of “My Generation,” “Happy Jack” and “Pinball Wizard“. Oscar has never lived in an English speaking country and he never attended an English speaking school, however today his English is amongst the strongest of those cousins who have remained in Nicaragua. For nearly a century now, popular culture has been a bridge amongst people divided by distance. Oscar and I continued for years asking one another what we are listening to and playing upon seeing each other. Music and video games are a common language that we share.

In 2015, I travelled to Nicaragua with my 7 year old – Iggy as my mom wanted to spend Christmas and New Years in her native country amongst her siblings. I have spoken in Spanish to Iggy since day one, but I have not forced him to use it – a big mistake. He understands Spanish very well, but he is not comfortable speaking it. Although Iggy has many second cousins in Nicaragua who are bilingual, the one cousin that is the same age, does not attend a bilingual school and does not speak English, so I wondered how they would get along. Of course, they are kids and speak the universal language of play, so after a brief awkward period of silence and observation they engage. They both play soccer and and are competitive about it. The ball and the grass were instantly a common space as was a mutual admiration for Messi, Barcelona and La Liga.

Tired and sweaty they sought reprieve from the sun indoors where I discovered another common space – Minecraft. This I did not expect. I knew that Minecraft was huge amongst 7 year olds in the States, but I did not consider its global reach. Once I set my kid’s device to my cousin’s wifi, it only took them a minute to start playing together on a local area network. And there they were, sitting next to one another, interfacing through a screen, laughing, teaching each other skills, trading devices, building structures, killing zombies and doing whatever else one does in Minecraft. Eventually, they needed to be cut off, but common languages and happy bonds were established.

A couple weeks later, we all went to see “The Force Awakens” and another common bond was established. As the boys went on and on about the movie, my cousin and I recalled our mutual love for “Return of the Jedi” – another soundtrack that I had left with him back in the early 80s. We both loved that celebratory Ewok “Yub Nub” song!

It is summer 2018 and due to the murders committed by Ortega and his regime following April protests against the pilfering of Nicaragua’s social security by the Ortegas, many of my cousins’ kids are States-side. Once again my son Iggy, now 10 years old was about to meet two cousins who do not speak English – the twins Franco and Diego who are 12 years old. And again, I wondered how they’d communicate and get along. A brief awkward period of observation and listening soon became play.

My son had just received a drone from his grandmother for his birthday. He pulled it out, walked his cousins through the interface and they took turns flying the drone around the living room. As the adults sat at the table in conversation, the twins’ mother lamented about how many hours she allows them to play video games as she doesn’t have a car or is comfortable using public transportation. Then Franco chimed in on how much they love Fortnite and immediately Iggy started telling them about what level he’s at, his favorite weapons, number of kills and favorite dances… Soon the three were sharing two devices and playing as a team. And yes, they needed to be cut off and pulled away from the devices, but the ice was broken and they spent the rest of the day playing and interacting device free.

It’s been over 35 years since I taught my cousins how to use the Intellivision controllers and play games like Pitfall, Nightstalker and Utopia. Today the interfaces are much more intuitive and it’s pointless to make any comparison regarding the graphics, but video games are a global language amongst children and it’s always surprising to me how some titles cross all cultural differences to establish common environments of virtual play and exchange.

Written by ricardo

August 5th, 2018 at 10:48 pm