On Semi-Social Darkness
So for those that actually follow this stuff, you may have noted that a couple things have gone missing from the site over the past couple weeks – namely just about every mention of social media – i.e., the Twitter feed, the follow on Facebook button, the Instagram thing in the sidebar, etc. This is all intentional – we wish it wasn’t, but at this point we view it as somewhat of a necessary evil to help allow us to keep doing what we’re doing. Of course, the power of direct communication to like-minded individuals IS how we do things, but at least for the moment, the current channels are just a little-too obfuscated to allow us to consider doing things they way we’ve been doing. Allow me to elaborate.
So for those who know us, it’s no secret that we were involved in the experimental music and arts scene in the SF Bay Area prior to moving to Costa Rica and then back to the states to our current locale of Baltimore. During that time we were associated with several scenes, some of which were located in warehouses similar to the Ghost Ship in Oakland. Granted, they had different names and the ebb and flow of those spaces always provided a changing cast of characters, but in our case, the Ghost Ship fire killed several friends of ours – a tragedy in itself. And then things went from tragic to just plain weird.
As the story goes, the trolls that constitute the alt-right decided that we art folks needed to be saved from ourselves and started a “safety” campaign to infiltrate art spaces across the country, otherwise known as bastions of progressive, liberal thought and call in any infractions for whatever wicked reason they deemed relevant. I truly doubt that there was actually a legion of anything other than bitter, slightly libertarian basement-dwellers upset that other people are doing things outside of their existence, but on the local level, several art spaces were either shut down by police or “inspected” by vigilantes, with the Pizzagate incident at Comet Ping-Pong being the most notable – not to say that other spaces weren’t also affected. On a personal note, it seems that Rhizome in Takoma Park was inspected the same day that I was giving workshop on circuit design – which would be all fine and good since it’s zoned as commercial and the fire-code is adhered to, but as it happened, Xime was with me for this workshop – the thought that there could have been photos of my baby playing posted to a site with the sheer intention of causing malice and disarray to folks outside of the mainstream has me a little shaken. Thankfully she and Pau were out to lunch when this guy purportedly came through, but a title too-close for comfort.
And then of course there’s the aforementioned Pizzagate, where outside of the surface story of a guy driving across country to shot up a pizza parlor because the internet told him that the Democratic part was operating a child sex ring in the nonexistent basement of a pizza place, there’s a couple other seedier parts in place. For instance, the part where an associate from the scene has been receiving death threats for months since a mural he painted at said restaurant was perceived as one of the “clues” to the purported sinister baby-snatching – perhaps a little too-close for comfort. Compound that with tactics of guilt-by-association via friends and followers and the general feeling of vulnerability and the slight twinge of paranoia stemming from the thought that your next post could potentially lead to orchestrated maliciousness. Never good for the concerned art family.
And of course on top of all of that, there’s the new “extreme vetting” and federal hiring freeze put in place by the new administration to contend with. For those just tuning in, yes, we’re an immigrant family. From Latin America. And before any conclusions are drawn, yes, we’re here quite legally. In fact, Pau was even working with the State Department in Costa Rica on a couple projects before moving here and our Thanksgivings in Costa Rica were usually spent as invited guests of the US embassy – since that’s just about the only place you can find turkey in that country. But that notwithstanding, we’re still navigating the immigration process. And again, before you ask, no, marriage doesn’t guarantee immediate citizenship. We’ve probably submitted thousands of pages of supporting documents to USCIS at this point, to the tune of approximately $1/page. Right around when Xime was born, we were granted conditional residency – meaning all is good for 2 years and then we have to file new supporting documents to prove that this was in fact a bonafide marriage. Considering that all is good in that department, the appropriate forms and supporting documents were also filed and are now circumnavigating the administrative, bureaucratic logjam of the US Immigration system – which, while already a slow system, even for accelerated cases such as ourselves, is mired down even farther due to staff reductions and increased steps to make sure that we’re not actually the “bad hombres,” looking to cause mayhem by way of sculpture, installation and sound art. So to loop this thought back to decreased social network presence, yeah, the possible risk of having this entire process upended by a stray retweet in our feed – too much of a gamble at this point.
So where to go now. One would hope that the good folks in the Valley of Silicon would be working on developing a more secure platform for communication – one less-likely to be infiltrated, monitored or usurped. One would hope. For me, at least for the time being, the best course of action is just to carry on without. At the moment, it’s kind of nice – call it the alternative path – the one less-travelled post-2005 when we all jumped on the social media bandwagon. We’re still here and still keeping busy – some would say even busier than usual, at least in the case of this weekend. The joys of anxiety as I await the results of interview one and the potential call for interview 2. But I figured I’d at least mention something about it here for anyone who may be curious. Which is where I’ll leave it for the time being. Considering it’s Sunday at all, there’s a baby to feed, laundry to do and a pile of cold-pizza left over from babysitting one of Xime’s toddler friends last night that isn’t going to eat itself. More soon.