Yun Cho Blog 5

I really enjoyed the diversity of narratives and styles of the novels we read for the class. Each work really drew me into the lives and visions of the characters, especially Breath, Eyes, Memory, No Telephone to Heaven, Zami, and Before Night Falls. The distinct voices and narrative structures provided me with a very intimate and lucid insight into the lives of the characters. After finishing a novel, I feel almost exhausted yet fulfilled in having absorbed a lifetime of emotions and experiences. I really enjoyed how in No Telephone to Heaven, syntax and punctuation was deliberately played around with to truly capture a distinctive voice and style.
I also liked that we watched the movie of Before Night Falls, which I think depicted the book well. As a memoir, the book does reads more like an autobiography than the other novels. However, I feel that the style itself captures an essence of Reinaldo Arenas’ personality, since he seemed to be someone who enjoyed going out into the world and experiencing as much as he possibly could. He liked to meet and interact with so many different people and get involved politically in such a direct way. In comparison, Edwidge Danticat in Breath, Eyes, Memory seemed to filter life experiences more through her memories and metaphors. I think they were both very politically and socially observant in their relative contexts, but in very different ways of perceiving the world, which is manifest through writing style and voice.
Sexuality was definitely emphasized in all four novels and was a major theme that drove the narratives. Personally, it enriched my conceptualization of sexuality and intimacy considering the multiplicity of ways one can view and experience them. For each of the main characters in the book, sexuality meant way more than a mere physical pleasure. Each of them pointed to a notion of sexuality more concerned with the intimacy that is inevitably attached to sex. They write regarding sexual experiences to dive deeper into how being a sexual being in the world influences their relationship to specific individuals and the larger world around them. I think this is an effective way to get a more nuanced and phenomenological understanding of human sexuality and intimacy, which undeniably are a major part of the human condition. I wonder how my absorption of such various ways of interpreting sexuality and intimacy will subtly affect the ways in which I experience them in the future.
The performance art pieces we saw and discussed were quite bold and made me think about the subject matter they represented more deeply. It really was rather jarring to view the caged couple in the context of a museum setting. I wonder myself how I would have reacted to the performance if I didn’t already know it was an act put on by the artists as satire. I personally think that this kind of performance piece better captures what art is about compared to the way museums display and exhibit art in a more traditional sense. With the history of the institution of art, it makes sense to me how performance art would emerge as a kind of critique of that history and institutionalization. I think the cage performance being placed in somewhere like the American Museum of Natural History conveys a much stronger political and social message than on the street. The artists attempted to critique colonialism in a much more affected way, considering the direct implication of the audience in real time, compared to addressing the subject matter through writing or painting. I am interested in learning more about performance art and hope to see more performance pieces in the future as an audience-participant.