THIRD ATLANTIC – DAY ONE
“Protest of moral and historic force begins with people facing extreme vulnerability. For those have been silenced, rising to the act of speaking is a perilously high climb indeed. For them, protest is not an expression of fear and doubt, but an overcoming of fear and doubt. And when it comes from those at the bottom, it can often be a profound proposition about how to make the world a better place.” – Jeff Chang , We Gon’ Be Alright
FACT: Although I have written countless essays on film and art, even convincing a number of professors to grant me an MA in Global Film Culture, I don’t consider myself a particularly good writer. That’s why I’ll be leaving most of the writing duties to my co-creator Daniel Melfi.
I was however convinced by my dear friend Sab Meynert to write a personal introduction to the THIRD ATLANTIC and I decided that it would be appropriate to launch this site on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration considering that his now confirmed administration is seeking to rid the world of the exact themes and topics covered by this site. Even as I type these words on Thursday January, 17, my news feed warns me that Trump’s budget cuts will include axing the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities.
Since November, my Facebook feed wonders why a Canadian like me should care about the results of an American election. I can some it up in one word: isolation. In the near future, it appears that Canada may be one of the last democratic and liberal countries left as both the U.S. and much of Europe moves towards the conservative right. One of the main reasons we started this site was because of our mutual isolation in and around the margins of the art community and now as a Canadian these feelings are taking their place on the national stage.
While we certainly have many of the same problems as our southern neighbors, which we intend on investigating over the next several months, and hopefully years, I have never in my lifetime seen such disregard for human, animal, and environmental life as Trump’s cabinet has proposed: denial of climate change, anti-immigration, islamaphobia, anti-gay views, pro-torture, pro NAFTA, support of corporate tax cuts, opposition to fare wages, the dismantling of Obamacare & social welfare programs, pro-Christian support, denial of military service to women and transgender people, and of course the fostering of the alt-right ideology.
It is well known by now that we are very influenced by the U.S., via movies, television, art, music, fashion, food, and sadly as of recent, things we thought diminished like overt racism, misogyny, anti-intellectualism. And this is why I, with the help you and my like-minded brothers and sisters have decided to take a stand. It is time for us to create our own reality not only for ourselves but also for the sake others who cannot speak for themselves.
It is incredibly hard to be a full participant in the world of cultural identity without experiencing the trauma of racial and sexual identity. Trauma however does not mark my efforts, rather the union with others does. I live in a world of problems, but problems don’t embody me, rather the successes off those like me do.
For most of my life I have always felt sheltered from any physical or mental violence living in racially mixed suburbs for the first three quarters of my life. I don’t really remember being held back from doing anything I wanted and I never really felt limited as a person of color socially or economically. But despite my circle of racially diverse friends, I was one of the few kids with an actual multi-ethnic background.
Sometime around grade seven I was walking home one afternoon from a friends house when a middle aged white man stepped out onto his porch and decided to air his racial grievances. “Why don’t you get off the street and go fucking home Paki.”
I knew that word as a derogatory term for at East Indians. What this man didn’t know was that I am in fact half East-Indian and half-British or as we are also known as Anglo- Indian: a by-product of the British invasion in India.
I made my way home and told my father what had happened. He was pissed. Really pissed. I remained confused but I wasn’t entirely sure why. It was definitely the first time that I was labeled anything of color.
I kind of look East Indian, but only when I’m around other East Indians. Around white people I appear well-tanned or simply foreign. I don’t speak any other languages. My parents? Both were raised catholic, went to boarding schools cooked mostly Western Food (my father only really knew how to make a few Indian dishes) and were raised on Western entertainment.
No one had ever called me anything or even asked me about my background except for parents of close friends. For the most part my family was accepting of our colonial background. Indian but European, European but Indian. It was something we always had, a mixture of places and accents, constantly relocating ourselves, from India to England and then across the Atlantic. Belonging but at the same time not belonging.
For all the pride and tradition instilled in me by my relatives for both my Indian heritage and my British heritage, I never felt like a member of either club – just a guest. As a minority of a minority group living in a multicultural population, being asked about my ethnicity is a part of my daily routine. East Indians ask me if I am Indian enough and English people ask me why I’m not. At times I have felt guilty that I was somehow abandoning my Indian side but I can never fully identify with one or the other. There were times when I tried to pick a side and there is no real me without both.
For many years I asked how I can pull together all the different strains of myself: half British, half East -Indian, and culturally associated to both gay and straight Black and Latino arts. These parts of me are not as separate and apart from any particular community, in fact, I am connected to every one of those communities.
I have set about trying to take total control of myself and to make sure that I do my own thing. After a life long struggle with my identity I wanted to figure out what I needed to do to get to a new place. I wanted to be ruled by own language and my own way of putting and seeing things.
I am not alone.
Living in an era of mixed races doesn’t mean the obliteration of race – it means the creation of a new category. The impact of a cross- cultural upbringing can be a hidden advantage, and is not readily apparent on the outside like the usual markers of race, ethnicity, and nationality. Identity is not tied to particular mode that either others or we have set. We don’t have to deny one part of our cultural selves to embrace another. Instead we can be both. So how do we make sense of ourselves? By turning ourselves into narratives.
We know the Internet as fundamental platform of human conversation. The problem is, we bombard ourselves with streams of other people’s thoughts. You end up submersing yourself in the conventional wisdom and it becomes nearly impossible to hear your own voice. But at the THIRD ATLANTIC we recognize that multimedia platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, MIxcloud, and Soundcloud, our dominant forms of communication, can also function as important cultural practices and places for the exchange of ideas.
As we connect with all the artists on display on this site we hope to accommodate and integrate various beliefs, philosophies, social conditions and artistic elements. As third cultural producers we also accommodate new ideas and circumstances that are always in flux. This is because identities are always unfinished and are always being remade. Our lives are always in state of movement, transformation and relocation. And by unifying within the boundaries of the THIRD ATLANTIC we preserve this information in hopes that it remains for another day so that others will be able to see it, cite it, and reinterpret it. It’s perfectly natural to have doubts, questions, and difficulties. Now is time to confront them directly, honestly, and courageously.
“An inequitable culture is one in which people do not have the same power to create, access, or circulate their practices, works, ideas, and stories. It is one in which people cannot represent themselves equally.” – Jeff Chang, We Gon’ Be Alright
So what is this narrative? We need to focus on the things that we take for granted that are basic function of human life. The most important and relevant connection to all these elements for us resides in the ritual of music and dance. Music is our template because it is the most creative space where new hybrids are constantly being made and transformed and it is around music where most of us gather and socialize.
Almost no social gathering is devoid of music and dance for most of the non-western world. It is a part of a daily routine: in celebrations of life and in death. The whole idea of music is not abstracted from which it belongs because it is so much a part of a culture. Music and dance are by nature family oriented practices, experienced directly though personal involvement of rituals and ceremonies.
In what might seem as a contradictory statement, we must also engage our relationship with solitude and its links to time, space, and nature. The search for peace and quiet often comes with a hefty price tag. Silence is an expensive commodity and the cost of that luxury is beyond the means of most people. But solitude is a fundamental right. Solitude can lead to more psychological growth and development, creativity, restoration, spirituality, and most universal, relaxation.
Technology ensures that we are never, ever alone. It makes it considerably harder to enter important and deep states of focus and concentration. Through concentration and focus, you can gather yourself together into a single point rather than letting yourself be dispersed everywhere into a cloud of electronic and social input. And there is another form of solitude that seems perhaps counterintuitive: friendship. I am referring to the deep friendship of intimate conversation. A long and uninterrupted talk with one other person.
Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person, one you can trust, and whom you can unfold your soul, share your doubts, questions you are not supposed to ask, and feelings and opinions that may be deemed unacceptable. It is our hope that through the THIRD ATLANTIC we can begin this dialogue.