The Ugly Contemporary
I dreamt that a chunk of raw tuna was telling me that I’m a bad person. It wasn’t that the tuna was actually speaking, in a cartoonish manner; it was me hearing its thoughts in my head. This raw tuna is not alive, not at all, but it is still raw, you see. Hours from becoming foul unless cooked or frozen, the tuna is in its final moment of being its true self. It is dead, yes, but it is not cooked yet, it’s not really our food yet. This is a very perverse state to be in.
The part about it not being our food yet is not entirely true, of course, because raw tuna is actually super tasty in tartars and sashimis. But every time I see that fresh meat in front of me, I think about the toxins. I think about the risks. My mom always warns me about parasites - don’t know what’s up with that, but generally I think about tuna’s reputation as a fish high in mercury. There’s also allergic reactions to some other toxins, let’s call them sea-toxins, and so on.
So this chunk of tuna knows that I’m a bad person generally because I live in bad times. I actively participate in an era of utter ugliness, just by being alive in a society that we’ve become; a society that, well, we might have always been. It’s not that I want to be bad and ugly. If anything, I want to be good and beautiful. It’s the fact that I cannot do anything but be part of what is happening that condemns me to be ugly forever. This is because I am a contemporary person.
You'd think that being ignorant, being kind, being cynical, being political and active against any oppression or maybe being religious would bring me some peace of mind. But it does not. Whatever I do, however I speak, whenever I try to help and whatever that means, I keep on being part of a chain. I exhaust this planet. I breathe this air. I walk these streets. I eat this tuna.
I protest these lies. I write these words. I post these posts. I read these comments. I get angry. I feel these emotions, I feel them, God do I feel! I feel so much that I run out of words. I watch these news, I call them fake. I doubt these conspiracy theories. I also encourage them. I challenge this patriarchy. I explore these feminisms. I obsessively scroll through and share these memes. I have so many opinions, I share them, or I keep them to myself. But whatever I do, I add to the collective ugliness.
We saw it in fashion, we saw it in art and design, that’s where it’s clearer than anywhere else, ironically – in the supposedly beautiful and refined. It came from Eastern Europe, of course, the Balenciaga, Vetements, whatever-else-Western-brand aesthetics. Of course it’s great fashion. It’s great because it’s true. It’s ugly - just like you kind of secretly both love and hate that communist and post-socialist architecture.
The lack of trust. The lack of faith. The state of absolute anxiety. The “nOvEl” coronavirus and these uncertain times, the antivaxxers and the medical systems crashing. The protests. The killings. Racism, sexism, chauvinism, binarism, millionaires, weapons, countries, borders, forced immigration. Politics exposing the malfunctioning of art institutions. Wars that are happening and being lead in silence, usually elsewhere, but actually right here. Everyone’s desperate fear. Let’s just call it what it is. Of course we’re not going to paint beautiful pictures. Of course we’re not going to be beautiful. Let’s just be real. Let’s live in accordance with our times – let’s, because we don’t have any say in the matter anyway. We are it. We are so ugly.
Now let’s just go back to that tuna for a second.
Potentially toxic, very seductive, of good taste and dead – but you wouldn’t call it that (cause you wanna eat it and death kind of doesn’t go well with appetite). I keep on going back to it, and I think I was actually seeing myself on that plate, on the night stand in my dream. Not just myself, no, it wasn’t just personal. I was seeing my generation. I was seeing my friends, my enemies, the people I love and the people I loved. Not only are we what the tuna was talking about, we are the tuna. Uncooked meat. Fresh. Under a real threat to become dangerously foul and just, like, inevitably dying. But also: living in this short moment, and sadly not even aware of who, where, what we are.
I think what I would like for this zombie tuna is to give me good nourishment, then. Let it be toxic, let it be dangerous, let it be dead. But give me the vitamins as well. Give me the iron. Give me the strength, that both I and you find in yourself. Do this, by not pretending anymore: we are what we are, and we’ll probably never be beautiful. We need to let that dream go. I’m gonna eat you in the end. Let’s live in the ugly.