I consider “Wild Style” a visual manual of Hip-Hop culture. Cue “Crazy Legs” with his awesome swipes. Cue “Lady Pink” and her “don’t mess with me” leadership and intellect. Cue “Chief Rocker Busy Bee Starski” in all his lyrical smoothness and those unforgettable glasses.
H+ | The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory with Charlie Ahearn, Director of “Wild Style”
It is a montage of teenage dancers freestyling their generation’s expression, of the vibrancy that plastered those old NYC subways (where you could actually open the windows yourself), of teenage spirit in a burned/burning Bronx; life still high even with treatment so low.
I can’t watch “Wildstyle” enough. The first time I saw it was in a theater on the Lower East side when it first got transferred over to 32mm film. Ahearn raved on about how guerrilla style the whole shindig was. I only imagined how crazy it must have been to film that ending concert scene with the police roaming around.
The second time I had the pleasure of watching it was at the HighLine where I also had the honor of meeting Chief Rocker Busy Bee Starski. The summer day on that park coupled with the summer aura that glowed from the screen was a perfect environmental marriage.
And now this Thursday evening being my “third time charm” at the Museum of the City of New York for their public program, “From Wong to Wild Style An Evening with Charlie Ahearn and Friends.” This event was in conjunction with their graffiti exhibit, “City on Canvas: Graffiti Art from Martin Wong Collection”, a very appropriate curatorial venture for this urban birthing ground of Hip-Hop.
Each time I watch the film, my appreciation grows exponentially for its historical contribution to the culture what with the full uninterrupted scenes of the spirit and the vibe that surrounded Hip-Hop: the parties, the drama (Cue “Zorro’s” watchful eye on “Lady Pink’s” self-confident freedom with other men), the familial tension (Cue the scene between “Zorro” and his brother in their bombed bedroom), and the class/race hierarchy (Cue the scene between “Zorro” and the lady art buyer).
What made this experience unique unto itself was the opening with Ahearn’s endearing video portrait on community-loved member, Martin Wong, a Chinese American man born in San Francisco and relocated to New York City. ZEPHYR and SHARP, along with Ahearn, spoke to his character and his reputation, drawing a full picture of his presence and meaning to Hip-Hop. Known as an accomplished visual artist, Wong also was a top supporter who bought these young graffiti artist’s work and in turn shifted their minds to see their work as worthy both in cultural/artistic significance and thus in monetary value. Along with his investment in the graffiti culture, he also shared his beaming creativity and extensive art knowledge with the community.
I very much chuckled my way through the introduction to this eccentric character, a man with a vibrant and steaming mind, proven by Wong’s amazing works that seemed to so effortlessly bridge the gap between the life-size graffiti murals of the 80s and the Chinese (American) experience what with the cultural symbols of dragons, Buddhas. Two scenes magnified Wang’s very warm soul and visceral self: the up-close and personal documenting of the cutting of a fish’s head to serve and Wong’s slurping of dim sum in all it’s greasy splendor.
There is a humanistic quality to Ahearn’s filming. There is a trust built: a sensual permeability. Walls don’t exist in his world behind the camera; people just are who they are, something that is not at all difficult for the unapologetic Hip-Hop generation. This authenticity is so effervescently captured in both “Martin Wong” and “Wild Style,” an effect of the approach that Ahearn takes to a beautiful, raw, subculture spawned from the Black and Latino cultural heritage.
Charlie Ahearn, Director of “Wild Style”
H+ | Artistic Director taught me that Breaking: though “beautiful” is definitely not “pretty”. I transfer this very simple yet poignant distinction to the cultural invention of Hip-Hop. In the highest compliment possible, there is nothing pretty about either documentary; instead both exist as a beautiful real-life portrayal of a world that was a mystery to most (until the documentary landed in their hands), which is what magnifies the valuation of their place in New York history, in American history, all of which must be seen as synonymous with Hip-Hop History.
H+ | Education Director Yvonne H. Chow
H+ | The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory at Museum of the City of New York
Special thanks to Frances Rosenfeld, Ph. D., Curator of Public Programs of the Museum of the City of New York.
Photography Credit: AK47 Division
Photography Credit: AK47 Division
When we are born growth is a natural process that occurs without our intentions. Our bones are growing, we become taller, our body changes as we explore the differences and similarities between us. We stop growing when we reach the completion of puberty.
"From an evolutionary viewpoint, once our genes have orchestrated the growth and development of the body to the point that it can reproduce, the purpose for growth is complete."
However when do we stop growing as people? our character? Eastern philosophy teaches us that learning never stops. When we stop learning - we stop progressing. Within the industrial revolution we were indoctrinated with a goal oriented mentality: more means better, forgetting about the quality. We learn certain skills, attitudes with a purpose of knowing how to execute it. However we miss the fact that it’s not only about knowing how to do certain things but also how to do it each time better. We seek an end point subconsciously. We learn a lesson and walk away from it thinking that now we “learnt” it, instead of asking what else can I learn within the same concept?
Goal orientation makes it extremely difficult for us to be open and formless. Safi Thomas, in his explanation of the BLADE Dance Technique speaks about dancers who have to be formless and go back to their pure child state in order to be molded. When I think about being formless, I think about a process. There is no period at the end of the sentence, there is a comma after which, as we continue to learn, more knowledge will be added.
We created expectations in society: by a certain age we have to be at a certain point within our life, this point represents a stop in our heads, instead of looking at the point as a foundation to build more on top.
I have experienced growth after reaching my “puberty” state and it has been an extremely painful process, because of a long resistance and high walls of defense. I seek to come to a conclusion about certain subjects, because I hate uncertainty. When my current perception is challenged I resist, thinking that I already have learnt the lesson and I know what I am talking about. I attained a certain shape, form of understanding and refuse to mold, expand or transform it. People who are uncertain are not listened to and are not respected. In school if the teacher asked you a question and you did not know the answer, you failed. We seek to know the answers and to be right.
This fear of “uncertainty” comes from not having a solid foundation and belief in self We do not want to be honest. When we are challenged we react with: “I am not like that!”, “I would never do that!”
We judge actions. When we understand a negative impact we do not want to exude the same qualities, because it’s “bad”. However most of the time when we are so adamant about not being like someone else, we are in reality like-minded.
In the same description of the BLADE Dance Technique Safi Thomas also talks about the process of revealing of self. In my understanding, revealing of self means to be honest and learning about self through receiving answers to questions like:”Who am I?” and “What is my purpose?”. Growth happens from a place of honesty.
I think outrospection can aid us in self revealing process. @Roman Krznaric in an RSA video The Power of outrospection talks about the need of empathy in the 21 century. He talks about two kinds of empathy: affective empathy (sympathy), where we are mirroring emotions of a person and cognitive empathy, where one is going through a thought process by stepping into the shoes of another person, like actor embodying a new character. When stepping in someone else’s shoes we think about the cause and effect of their actions: childhood experiences, adulthood experiences, etc- what made someone the person they are until now.
I think in order to help us to grow it is not enough to use affective empathy, because we get stuck at emotions and how we feel about a situation. In using cognitive empathy we are able to go through a thought process that can aid us in finding a cause of a problem and a solution as a result.
This teaches us how to work with ourselves as well. Asking questions like: ”Why did I do that?” and answering it leads us to a deeper comprehension of self. Empathy negates judgement.
Most importantly empathy allows us to not judge others and to find connections and similarities between each other.
Empathy is part of critical thinking which brings me to my last summarizing point of continuous growing: the necessity of critical thinking.
Continuously questioning ourselves as we walk through life experiences is important if we understand that the human thought process is flawed if left unchecked. Through questioning we are able to continue to grow because it allows us to have intellectual integrity, humility, unity, empathy, sense of justice and confidence in reason. (via Linda Elder)
Bringing this back to my original question: why do we stop growing? I am confident in answering that we stop growing if we stop questioning ourselves, if we stop critically thinking seeking intellectual humility and allowing ourselves to reveal true self through our experiences and through stepping into the experiences of others.
Not having a shape is not uncertainty, but more so freedom. We are limited to an understanding that we gained yesterday if we are not continuing to expand our knowledge today and tomorrow and the next day, etc. That does not mean to throw away what we already know, but use it to aid us as opposed to stop us, or skew the new experiences coming our way.
Let’s think critically. :-)
- Anna Kuzmina