Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Grayandgrey Complaints Choir

Last week while at the Capp Street Coop a group of people were talking about how strangers tend to gravitate towards the same topics of conversation to get to know one another. Emily told me that she read a case study where two groups of strangers were brought together-- one with a conversation where people shared what they liked and the other about what they hated. In a survey, the strangers who had only talked about things they disliked reported that they felt a closeness to one another than the other group reported they had not experienced.

At first, I thought that this seemed kind of strange and sad, but have decided now that it makes a lot of sense why this would have happened. First of all, my relationship with things that I love seems sacred-- so to find out that someone has a common interest would probably dredge up some deep rooted defensive feelings of competition and scarcity. If I find out that someone shares a distaste with me, there is no panic in that at all-- to share a lack of interest is not competitive-- it's solidarity. Today in class Ted Purves played some clips from Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, whose current project collects the pet peeves and angst-ridden pleas from communities, compiles them into songs, and then has local choirs sing them in public venues. You can check them out here, and here are two amazing youtube productions:


This is a great project because, well, it's hilarious, but more importanly, it bonds communities by showing that individuals are not alone in their discontent. This is totally related to the same sort of yearning that I wrote about a few days ago. I think that this is why most of the memories I share with friends and through my art practice are usually dedicated to moments of disappointment and discontent-- one, because it's funny, and two, because it's such a transparent way of becoming vulnerable and open to people without feeling like you're sacrificing a part of your identity. And certainly it underscores how identity can be shaped through experiences that have not felt right. I feel like my own personal string of romantic relationships and friendships has been a steady progression of me figuring out what kind of person I am and what is right for me. When I discover that a certain kind of relationship doesn't work for me, it's a wealth of information that helps me figure out what might work better next time.

Next Tuesday I'm going to a lecture up in Marin being given by Jessica Bernstein, a psychologist practicing in Oakland who meets exclusively with Type I diabetics. Her lecture, which is sure to be controversial, talks about how the Western medical model of control is unrealistic and emotionally traumatic for people with Type I diabetes, a disease that is not contracted and not treatable-- making it seem like you were kind of arbitrarily hated on by the celestial authorities.

What Bernstein emphasizes, and which I believe, is that the Western medical system teaches people to be fearful of suffering and death, the same way we are taught to fear making mistakes. But I've found that having a livable disease like diabetes or surviving through a terminal prognosis can be incredibly strengthening, in the same way that a mistake can get clarify what a success is, in the same way how people can bond over common dislikes and then use their solidarity to enact change.

If you're interested in this lecture or know someone who might be, you should let me know or pass along the information! Sasha and I will be driving up there and there's space in the car. Here's the information:

Taking “Control” Out of Diabetes
Time: December 9, 2008 from 7pm to 9pm
Location: Mill Valley Community Center
180 Camino Alto Street
Mill Valley, CA


Frank Mauceri said...

A documentary film of the Chicago and Singapore Choirs and Tellervo and Oliver is in the works, should be out in 2009.

Anonymous said...

well said