I’m on a flight coming back from Costa Rica and just finished Ta-Nahesi Coates’ Between the World and Me. And the day prior to leaving I turned in an application for a Masters program, not realizing how deeply one strand of my essay echoed the contents of this letter. The body, its power, its vulnerability—it is the vessel which is all-encompassing.
In Costa Rica the body longs for the raw elements—the water, the salt, the sun, the wily air, exhaustion, green, dust and dirt. We felt our bodies satiated and reset in a way they had been craving. Little did we know what we needed until it was there.
The narrative I’d retold in my essay was that of my return to St. Louis, finding a surprising connection between the injury that led me to home, and the city’s own ailment. I realize now how this curiosity evolved into my current project, Building as Body, the exploration of the physical buildings as bodies in that they can suffer, and they can be cured, or supported. And Coates purports, the utmost sacredness of the body – that above all else this is what must be protected, and this is what will be targeted. Like buildings? The bodies that make up the urban space, the cultures, histories and power they hold?
Living is a type of translation, Coates explains. Bodies performing the processing of culture and history, arriving now.
He also reminded me of the gift of wanting to unpeel those layers, like skin, like bricks, to see into the belly of a living, breathing thing, of being called “..to question what I see, then to question what I see after that, because the questions matter as much, perhaps more than, the answers." Though my perspective, however, is that they both matter. Art asks a cultural group questions. Through the living, the body translates these into temporary, fleeting answers – and asks, and asks again, a target ever-changing.