Archive for the ‘Politics /Social commentary’ Category

The fashion of distress

April 15, 2019
Hong Kong MTR 13 April, 2019


Anyone who remembers the 1970’s knows the infatuation most young people had with their blue jeans at the time. Jeans were in essence the symbol of an individual’s freedom, sense of adventure and individuality. Even more so as the jeans got older showing the signs of wear and tear. In essence, documenting the adventures they had endured, and the experience’s of their owner.

In Europe, blue jeans were coveted, a hallmark of contemporary American culture. I remember during my first trip to Europe in 1974 in Budapest, Hungary, which was then behind the so called “Iron Curtain”, I had to fend off several requests to purchase my blue jean pants and jacket, from young men in the Hostel dorm room where I stayed. My travel companion, a woman was less fortunate, as one of the other women in her dorm room never bothered to ask, but simply stole her jeans during the night.

Anyway, it is strange today to see here in China how blue jeans, specifically worn and tattered blue jeans have become a comodity. The photo above was taken on a Hong Kong MTR train on 13 April, 2019. Seeing brand new jeans which have been intentionally torn sold in a botique clothing store is not a new thing, I have seen them sold in New York in the past, but what is so pecular here is how these two women having clearly purchased these two denim jeans from the same store, at the same time are wearing pants that have the same manufactured, almost identical tear and shredding. In essence, totally defeating any sense of individuality and perhaps even highlighting the absurdity of buying a processed product that is meant to mimic the wear and tear of use.


Grenfell one year on.

June 18, 2018

photo: (c) Natalie Oxford

TEDx Zhuhai

May 2, 2017

TEDx Xiangzhou /Introducing My Muse: TEDx Reworked FINAL

TED detail  TED1

Dear friends, for those of you who are interested I have provided above a link to the PDF of my live web broadcast TEDx Xiangzhou talk, presented in Zhuhai, China at the Chengchuan Art Gallery in the Beishan Village, April 22, 2017.

Sehr geehrte Frau Merkel Bundeskanzlerin

December 17, 2015

Sleepless Nights Left Behind

The Sleepless Nights Left Behind, Die hinterlassenen schlaflosen Nächte.  Berlin, Deutschland 2007

85x45x40cm Weiss-Beton Kisse mit Stacheldraht.
40x20x37cm Rot-Beton Kisse mit Stacheldraht.

ich wende mich an Sie als ein amerikanischer Künstler, der lange Zeit in New York City lebte und jetzt seit einigen Jahren in der Volksrepublik China arbeitet. Ich habe von 1991 bis 2010 wiederholt in Deutschland gearbeitet und ausgestellt und dort eine Verbindung zum Künstlerhaus Bethanien und der BBK Berlin aufgebaut.

Ich möchte Ihnen mitteilen, dass ich von Ihrer Arbeit für die Menschen in Deutschland sowie von Ihrer aufgeklärten Führungsrolle als zentraler Partner der internationalen Gemeinschaft tief bewegt bin. Ich selbst habe von der Großzügigkeit und Aufgeschlossenheit des deutschen Volkes stark profitiert, als ich zunächst 1991 als Gastkünstler in Berlin weilte und dann in der Stadt von 2006 bis 2009 meinen Wohnsitz hatte. In diesen Jahren lernte ich die Menschen in Berlin und die Tugenden der deutschen Kultur kennen und schätzen. Ihre jüngsten Bemühungen, die Flüchtlinge der Kriege in Syrien, dem Irak und anderen Nationen in Ihrem Land unterzubringen, wirkt beispielhaft und zeigt das großzügige Herz der deutschen Nation. Ich wäre stolz, Deutscher zu sein.

Während meines Aufenthalts in Berlin habe ich im Jahr 2007 ein Kunstwerk, mit dem Titel “The Sleepless Nights Left Behind”, “Die hinterlassenen schlaflosen Nächte” angefertigt, das darstellt, welche Qualen und Ängste die nächtliche Realität eines Flüchtlings prägen. Die Befreiung von diesen Ängsten ist das, was Sie und Ihre Regierung sowie die deutschen Menschen zur Zeit mit ihrem Engagement bewerkstelligen.

Ich würde dieses Kunstwerk gerne Ihnen und den Menschen in Deutschland zur Ehre zum Geschenk machen, um die großen Hilfeleistungen, die Sie erbracht haben, zu würdigen.

Zu Ihrer Information füge ich für Sie und Ihre Mitarbeiter hier ein Foto der Skulptur sowie einige Details zu ihren Ausmaßen bei. Ich würde mich sehr freuen, wenn Sie dieses kleine Zeichen meiner Dankbarkeit für Ihre weltweite Führungsrolle entgegennehmen würden.

Die Skulptur befindet sich gegenwärtig in Berlin, wo ich vom 12. bis 22. Januar sein werde. Ich könnte ihre Überführung zu jedem Amt, Platz oder Museum organisieren, das Ihnen geeignet erschiene. Bitte lassen Sie mich wissen, ob Sie von meinem Angebot Gebrauch machen möchten.

Mit bestem Dank und hochachtungsvollem Gruß
Ron Rocco


After Aurora

August 18, 2015

After the Aurora, Colorado theater gunman, James Holmes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, for the rampage that killed 12 people and left 70 people injured, the U.S. media began focusing on the grief of victim’s families who felt cheated of a death sentence. In a short video aired of Holmes in the courtroom during sentencing, one can clearly see that the man is mentally not even present in the room, his schizophrenia being so severe.

It was reported in the Huffington Post that Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, the psychiatrist to first interview Holmes after the shooting, testified, “Holmes was psychotic, with symptoms that included his delusion that killing other people would increase his self-worth and help him recover from depression. But people with delusions can still tell right from wrong, the psychiatrist said.”

“I thought his judgment was clinically impaired, despite having the capacity to judge right from wrong,” Metzner testified. “He was so depressed he was willing to do anything that would make him feel less depressed, even if it meant going to jail.”

It has been reported that, “Holmes said he wrote his feelings in a notebook and sent it to a therapist in advance so mental health professionals could understand people like him and keep them from committing similar crimes.”

The tragedy is that people with such severe mental illness are not cared for in the U.S. Instead communities unwilling to pay for clinics and care facilities for the most severely and dangerous patients, opt out and these patients are released into society unmonitored and untreated. Perhaps we should be addressing the correction of a defective system of government and punish those responsible for their neglect? Or perhaps the media should focus on the individuals who sold Holmes a gun, an automatic weapon to be exact, a weapon capable of killing dozens of people in seconds. How does one justify selling such a thing to anyone without getting a background check of the buyer?

Americans are quick to request an “eye for an eye” punishment, but continually fail to learn anything that could cure a defective society, when it produces such horror.

Kafka’s Metamorphosis at the (Brooklyn Academy of Music) BAM Harvey

December 2, 2010

A young man falls ill with a debilitating illness. Unaware of the gravity of his situation he struggles to, but can no longer work. He loses his job and soon loses the respect of the family with whom he shares a home. This is Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a chilling piece of theatre, which speaks to us from the onset of a chilling time, published in 1915, and as witnessed by the text, written before the onset of the first World War.

Metamorphosis, performed December 1 – 5th at the (Brooklyn Academy of Music) BAM Harvey is an ingenious adaptation of the work by David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson for the Vesturport Theatre of Iceland. In this production Mr. Gardarsson’s role as Gregor Samsa, the unfortunate soul who’s fate it is to transform overnight into a large insect, is riveting. Mr. Gardarsson a trained Olympic gymnast hangs from the fixtures of a distorted room, one turned on its side, climbing the walls, or hiding under the bed. Gregor the elder son of this Czec household, is attended to in his affliction for a time, by his sister Greta, who’s violin playing he often requests, but no longer receives. At one point Greta makes clear that because Gregor role as bread winner for the family is no longer tenable, he can not expect his privileges as a family member to continue. Soon even the scraps of food she once offered him are denied, his room is stripped bare of the fixtures of a normal life by his mother, and he is brutally attacked by his father. Soon he is left to die in the darkness of his ravaged room. Kafka’s play is a world stripped of human caring, a time when love no longer plays a role. The grave outline of this distorted world is characterized in Gregor’s own distorted reality, and in the foreshadowing statements that arise in the text. For example a statement by a visitor to the household, Herr Fischer that soon “the vermin of society will be removed” harkens the rise of Totalitarian terror. Kafka draws the thin line that separates us from total isolation, and those we love. It is also the line that defines the limits of sanity and reason. In a time when many are in fear of losing their jobs and with that their roles in a society, this production is a chilling check on reality.

The brilliant performances by Mr. Gardarsson, Nina Dogg Filippusdottir who plays Greta, Ingvar E. Sigurdsson who plays the father Hermann Samsa, Kelly Hunter playing his mother Lucy, and Jonathan McGuinness who stars in two visiting roles, are accompanied by the haunting music of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis both veterans of the band the Bad Seeds.

Dor Guez at KW Berlin

October 24, 2010

Berlin, October 24, 2010

Dor Guez’s Al-Lydd is a series of video interviews presented at KW Berlin and curated by Susanne Pfeffer. In this work the artist interviews several residents of Lod, formerly known by its Arab name Al-Lydd, a small town in Israel. These are Christian Arabs, who identify themselves as “a minority in a minority”. They are citizens of Israel, who despite their upbringing in Jewish schools and surrounded by Israel culture suffer the burden of anti-Arab racism. This comes to light in the artist’s interview of a young woman, Samira who is employed as a waitress, in one of Lod’s restaurants. She communicates the story of having been called into her boss’s office because of clients who complained at having an Arab woman serve their table. The boss asks her if she can please change her name, written on the client’s check. After her refusal the boss makes it clear that the refusal will result in her losing her job, so a compromise is reached where she will employ the name Mira on the check, a name which aids in concealing her Arab identity. Another work July 13, 2009 is an elder resident’s recollections on the occupation of Lod by Israeli para-militants on 13 July, 1948. At this time, the remaining Palestinian residents, a thousand in number, take refuge in the local church. This building, which is later surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by the Israeli military becomes the center of Lod’s Palestinian ghetto. The stories are simple, but very clearly outline the conflicted identity of these individuals, Christian-Arab-Israeli-Palestinian they belong to all, and yet also to no one’s camp. For the Palestinians they are not Muslin, and in that lesser Arabs. For the Israeli’s they are Palestinian, and therefore suspect. This work is a chilling view of the mechanics of racism in what is called the Middle East’s only Democracy.

Ron Rocco, views: Berlin /New York

October 5, 2008

New York as a viable option for working artists. 5/2006

May 29, 2006

Montag, Mai 29, 2006 

Sent to New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. No reply or acknowledgment of  receipt was ever given, despite four attempts, including ground post.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

 I understand that recently you made a public address in New York, in regard to helping keep New York a viable option for working artists. As I am a working artist, who has recently been priced out of New York and have some suggestions on this issue, I thought I would write you to share these ideas.

There are three basic needs, without which a working artist can not survive in New York, which must be part of any initiative to keep the arts in New York.  One is affordable housing and the second is an affordable work space and the third access to affordable health care.  In regard to the former issue, I think the concept of low income, artist residential housing, embodied by the Westbeth project on Bank Street in Greenwich Village stands as a good model of what can be accomplished to provide for the residential needs of working artists.  Artist Residential Housing projects on the Westbeth model scattered through all the five Boroughs, would create a solid base for artists who are priced out of the New York housing market, and who wish to continue working in New York.  As at Westbeth it would need to be clear that residence be granted only to working artists (documented by education and exhibition history, without curatorial bias) and financial need.

In addressing the second issue of providing affordable work space I have some suggestions, which were presented in February 1996 for the organization Artists Talk on Arts entitled, NEW IDEAS FOR FUNDING THE VISUAL ARTS.*  I have for many years, and currently, work in Berlin, Germany for the simple reason that there are facilities accessible to artists here that provide ‘state of the art’ technologies in various artistic media.   These facilities run by the organization BBK Berufsverbandes Bildender Künstler Berlins, were initially funded with public lottery money through the Berlin Senate for Culture.  They include a factory building, Bildhauerwerkstatt located in Berlin-Wedding, which is fully equipped for large scale sculpture fabrication in steel, bronze casting, ceramic and wood working, and a second facility, Druckwerkstatt, located in an old hospital building in Berin-Kreuzberg, which includes printmaking technologies from digital printing to silk screen, lithography etching and offset printing.  These facilities are open to all working artists (again documented by education and exhibition history, without curatorial bias) on a daily use (day fee), scheduled basis.  The facilities provide skilled technicians, tools, equipment and materials in each media (materials are paid for by the artist at cost, plus any handling fees required by the facility).  There is no residence at these facilities and work is limited to fixed schedules, within a daytime work period. (In New York 10-12 hour access might be more appropriate). 

As I mentioned in my presentation in 1996 New York already has some seed projects, which with proper assistance via City, State and Federal support could be developed to provide affordable work space in various media for a far greater number of artists.  In brief, these organizations include: Urban Glass (for artists working in Glass) in Brooklyn, the Lower East Side Printshop in Manhattan, Harvestworks (audio and digital media) and Film/Video Arts in Manhattan and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens.  All these facilities, with exception perhaps for Urban Glass, are in very restricted locations, which allow for only limited access and scale for the work undertaken.  Once provided with larger, and more diverse facilities, staff and ‘state of the art’ equipment, these organizations could provide excellent working spaces for a greater number of artists across several media.  In exchange for this support the organizations would need to be more open to artists, outside of any specific curatorial bias.

In addressing health care the Brooklyn Arts Council along with Woodhull Hospital, in that Borough, have engaged in an interesting new experiment to provide health care to working artists in Brooklyn.  Certainly if more medical institutions in New York City could be enticed to participate in a similar city-wide program that would help address this problem. 

I believe that it is in addressing these issues, that critical progress can be made for New York to retain viability as a working place in the arts.  I welcome your interest in working with the arts community to address this problem, and would recommend looking to the New York Foundation for the Arts for more information concerning the needs of New York artists, as they have undertaken a recent study on this question.  If I can be of any further assistance in this regard, please feel free to contact me.


Ron Rocco
* a video of this presentation is available from Artists Talk on Arts.  (Guests included: Ron Rocco, moderator, artist;  Thomas Meister, Cultural Affairs Officer, German Consulate;  Jennifer Feil, New York Foundation for the Arts;  John Perreault, Director, Urban Glass; Robert Kloos, Cultural Affairs Officer, Dutch Consulate.)

New York as a viable option for working artists.

May 29, 2006