A cadillac with horns



It is not, “O, Ford!”, too much difference between Romania and U.S.A. In Romania, King is the political ideology. In U.S.A., King is the consumer’s ideology.
In the absence of a “shared symbolic order”, the artist is as much alone in his own country as he is somewhere else. I do not have more nostalgia for the folk culture of my own country (which is disappearing), than I have for the American Indian culture (which is also disappearing). We are all visiting Earth these days. The tourist mentality kills everything. So long as the Earth is round, so long as we don’t know if we are standing upwards or downwards, so long as the force of gravity is neglected, so long as we don’t know if East is really East and West is really West, the question of roots, boundary, place, and so on, is a superficial one.
Both worlds are sick today. East is West and West is East. And it must be like this, while it is not the sun which rotates around the Earth, but the Earth which rotates around the sun. What do you expect, at a time when everything is relative?
I felt a stranger in my own country as I feel a stranger here, across the Ocean. The question of Nationalism and Universalism is a very important one. But in order to have it, you need to have “nations”, and across their borders, universal meanings, not only “international” ones. Internationalism is a flat word, implies only horizontal expansion and lacks vertical deepening. Universalism is larger and deeper because it implies a certain transcendental value. In “Universalism” space and time melt into each other, towards a central mysterious force, for which, these days, we lack an appropriate word.
In order to have “bi-culturalism” you need two distinct cultures. But are cultures, today, as distinct as we think they are?
Nature is the common denominator. But where is that Nature we all dream about? Most of it is dead, literally speaking, or carefully preserved in recreational parks, which are nothing else but designed coffins for the same dead Nature. Nature is our root, but this root is either covered by a thick layer of cement, or carefully preserved, between high fences, in recreational “oases”. As I said, we are not living life today, we are only visiting it.

Our roots, dead but beautified, are in a museum, our body is in a running car or a flying plane, and our mind is broken to pieces on the dissection table (or bed?) of the psychoanalyst.

Of course, there are still a few spots of national identity, like the Hong Kong Bank on Canal Street, but they are not of the best kind. They refer to the epidermal aspect of what we call “national identity”. I.M. Pei is still Chinese, but how much? Many of his buildings are very “American”, and not necessarily in the good sense of the word. And sometimes I feel that the “new-comers” become even more “American” than the Americans themselves. Who are the owners of the huge, white Cadillacs these days? Many times, the immigrants. There is much more Americanism (understood in its aggressiveness) in Hong Kong than in New York City. Consider also some movies made “the American way”, but there, in the Orient.
There are still a few specificities, yes. But for how long? Japan is already beginning to look like America, America like Africa (if you consider the jungle aspect, with the only difference that what there is still natural, here is technological), Bombay like Miami, Paris (certain parts) like Manhattan.
Place-border-home – these words refer to a world with a “center”. They all refer, more or less, to a restriction. A man is bordered by the length of his arms, his legs, and not ultimately, his thoughts. A place, in order to be, must be bordered. Through the ever growing tools of our expansion (visual, audio, informational) man is able today to see very far away. But, like Oedipus the King, he is not able to see “his own story”, he is not able to see what is determined by his natural restrictions. So long as he doesn’t recognize these restrictions, he is nothing more, nothing less, than a flying leaf, poor victim of a capricious wind. A leaf without a tree. A man without a father. It is not surprising that his work now is as poor in meaning as his name is poor in identity. Tradition, customs, elementary faith, moral imperatives, cultural specificity – they are all gone, or superficially mimed in embellished shows made specifically for tourists. But profoundly they are all gone – as the city banished the village, as man-God banished God-man. We can find today (without searching too much) a proud Executive practicing Yoga and a Buddhist engaged in financial speculations, a Hindu wearing blue-jeans and a Christian wearing Indian clothes. So the question of bi-culturalism is a superficial one these days.
Technology uniforms everything. It is difficult to imagine a VCR with a national touch, inasmuch as it is difficult to imagine a nuclear reactor looking like a Gothic cathedral. Because technology has no spirit, it is not made by the human hands (these days at least) and it is, fundamentally, without cultural identity. What is the difference between a Japanese computer and an American one, between a German camera and one made in Malaysia? None, except, perhaps, a certain difference in quality. What is the difference between a French skyscraper and a Chinese one? What is the difference between public housing in Moscow and public housing in Harlem?

It is, I think significant that at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Brancusi is announced to be a French sculptor born in Romania, and Duchamp an American painter born in France. It seems that what gives you identity these days is not where you are born, but your citizenship, not your own identity, but your social security number, not the spirit of your work, but where you live. It is exactly like in the superficial discussions at some dinner parties in New York. Not “who you are”, but “where you live”, not “what you work”, but “where you work”. But everything is so relative… You came from uptown Sibiu (Romania) and you live in downtown Brooklyn, but you work in Midtown Manhattan. You came from the East, but you are now in the West. But in the West you work on the East side of Manhattan, while you live in the West side of Brooklyn.
Imagine yourself like a God, looking at the Earth from outer space, like in so many TV commercials. You see the Earth rotating around itself and you also know that it rotates around the sun. In these conditions, the question of East and West, South and North, up and down, left and right, are quite irrelevant. What is East becomes West, what is North becomes South, all depending on the position of the spectator and the movement of the Earth. If we continue to see the Earth from this God-like position, the problem of “bi-culturalism” will be out of the question. And not only of “bi-culturalism”, but of culture itself. In a world where “ending is better than mending”, where “O, Lord!” was replaced by “O, Ford!”, culture will become less and less significant.
As for now, a “bi-cultural” artifact could very well be represented by the large, white Cadillac, with powerful horns attached at its front.
Dan Coma, who was born in Romania, lived and practiced architecture in New York City and, now, lives in Bucharest.

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