tell us about yourself

Me to We

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February 9th, 2012 Posted 12:03 am

My name is Yaasen Bhutta and I lived in Brooklyn for almost my entire life. My mother and father grew up in Pakistan, and I was born there in February of 1993. My family decided to move back to the US when I was 7 months old, and I’ve been here since. When I say move back, I mean that my parents had lived in New Jersey for a few years before deciding to go back to Pakistan. After I was born, my father realized that the educational opportunities were better in America, so we headed for New York.

My mother grew up in an upper middle class family, which lived affluently in a relatively high-class neighborhood. My father lived in a neighborhood that would be considered low class, but his father was well respected within the community. From what I know, my paternal grandfather was a builder, who constructed the house his family lives in now with his bare hands. I don’t know much about my paternal grandmother, who passed away when my father was a teen, but from his and my uncle’s stories, I know that she was as tough as nails and instilled discipline in all five of her children. My maternal grandparents were more or less the same. My grandfather worked long and hard to become successful, so he didn’t spend much time with his kids, but my grandmother more than made up for it with her strong and loving personality.

My story isn’t as exciting as my parents’ story. I grew up in Canarsie, and lived there until I was 12. I went to public school 115 and made a bunch of friends in elementary school, and I talk to many of them on a regular basis. When I was in middle school, I moved to the Midwood section of Brooklyn, and it was odd seeing so many Pakistanis in my neighborhood, because there were very few in Canarsie. My sisters and I protested the move at first, mainly because we were used to living in Canarsie, but after 6 years, I can say that I’m glad we made the change. Canarsie isn’t exactly the safest neighborhood in Brooklyn, although it’s not the worst, and my new home was right by Midwood High School and Brooklyn College. And that’s about it for my life so far.


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December 18th, 2011 Posted 3:11 am

On Friday September 16th I went to the Grey Art Gallery in Manhattan and saw the Fluxus exhibit. This exhibit was one of the oddest ones I’ve ever visited. Entering the building seemed normal enough, a security guard sitting in the front and a woman taking my bag for security purposes. This is where the normality ended. I felt like I was in a different world. The idea of Fluxus is to go against the normal notions of art and create something that makes the viewer think and hopefully upsets some established artists and art critics at the same time. The man who started the entire Fluxus movement, George Maciunas, basically wanted to start an artistic revolution to combat the growing “commercialization” of art. What he and a group of other artists ended up creating was an incredibly bizarre collection of pieces that focused around some of the many aspects of life that the pieces were associated with, like love and happiness. Some of the art pieces were very creative and interesting, like Yoko Ono’s Painting to Be Stepped On  and Robert Watts’ 10 Hour Clock. Ono’s painting was hilarious in my opinion; at first I actually walked around it to avoid stepping on it because I hadn’t read the title, and I thought Ono did a great job in doing exactly what the Fluxus project centered around, which was being different and the foil to mainstream art. The clock piece was clever and wasn’t quite as unique as Ono’s idea, but whenever I see a clock that doesn’t have 12 hours, I can’t help but find it hilarious. I thought the exhibit was fairly controversial, from suicide kits to film of a naked woman’s body being played on repeat, but if the point of the entire project was to completely differ from what everyone expects art to be, then I think Maciunas and all of the artists who contributed did just that.

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I Don’t Believe in Outer..what?

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December 18th, 2011 Posted 3:09 am

On Wednesday October 6th I traveled down to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to see a play entitled “I Don’t Believe In Outer Space”. Before attending the production, I had managed to see a brief snippet of the production done previously. This snippet involved a man pretending to play table tennis with an invisible ball. He even managed to add in his own sound effects to truly create a strange display. So, in a sense, I was somewhat prepared for what I was about to witness. However, my preparation had not trained me well enough for this display of bizarre behavior.

The entire stage was covered with small balls of duct tape, and began with several groups of people randomly prancing throughout the stage. I couldn’t figure out who to fix my attention on, and this caused me to whip my head left and right, trying to understand what was going on before me. The dancing, if you could call it that, was a mix of a what a contortionist would do and the prancing of a traditional ballet. Sprinkled over the play were occasional monologues, most notable one by a woman who may have been possessed by Satan himself. It was almost as if I was in a really bad nightmare, because nothing was making sense and everything was horrifying me. But alas, I knew I wasn’t in a nightmare, because even in my worst dreams, I could at least see what was going on without twisting my body in a yoga-esque pose. Yes, the seats were that horrendous. Adding to my dismay were 2 human giraffes sitting in the two seats ahead of me. It seemed as if the BAM had taken surveillance on me, figured out what would baffle me the most, and put in on stage. However, one element of this….thing was able to salvage my sanity, and that was Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. This song, like every other element in the play, had no real reason to be there, but it was almost like this song was the blanket that protected me from the fierce, horrific tundra of “I Don’t Believe in Outer Space”.

Overall, the  play wasn’t to my liking. However, I had learned some valuable life lessons and skills after attending the performance. The most important skill I gained was being able to find my happy place. I was scared, and I was petrified. However, I went deep into my brain and entered my new-found happy place, and now when something traumatic is occurring, I can return to my happy place for safety and refuge. I will survive. I won’t lay down and die, but with that being said, if bizarre and random displays of expression for 75 minutes aren’t your idea of a good time, you might as well do so. I salute William Forscythe and all of the performers for their effort, and if it’s any consolation, this isn’t the most disturbing thing I have ever seen (I think it ranks close to 11 on the top 20).

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Did Diego Rivera deserve to have his design destroyed?

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November 27th, 2011 Posted 6:46 am

In 1932, Norman Rockwell, as well as the other member’s of the prestigious Rockefeller family, petitioned Diego Rivera in the hopes that he would create a mural for their building. Normal Rockwell initially decided that an artistic mural would create an atmosphere of culture that would legitimize the otherwise banal business tower. Initially, the project looked like it would be a success. However, when Rockefeller and the press found out that Diego Rivera had created a portrait of communist leader Vladimir Lenin in the mural, they were infuriated. America was strongly capitalist at the time, only a few years past the great depression that struck in 1932. Clearly, a picture of a communist leader on a building that symbolized great commerce and personal wealth would be contradictory and embarrassing. Faced with pressure from the elites in Manhattan, Norman Rockefeller eventually decided to hand Rivera the lump sum of his artistic dues, send him on his way, and destroy any evidence of his mural in Rockefeller Center.

I think the question of whether the removal of the mural was the right result or the wrong result is hard to answer. While we live in a society that values every person’s right to think and voice his or her opinions, it seems unfair to say that removing the mural was the wrong thing. If this mural were painted today, many of us in support of freedom of expression would still find the communist imagery unappealing. Communism is a system that most Americans identify as restrictive and oppressive. American’s experience with Soviet communism during the Cold War tends to make them less receptive to images of Lenin being plastered in public. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Diego Rivera simply presented his personal view and was within his right in doing so. Essentially, the question of the removal’s fairness cannot be answered like a math equation; there is a lot of gray area.

Although there may not be a clear verdict on the removal’s case, it is clear that the Rockefeller’s are at fault. They knew well before enlisting the help of Rivera that he was a staunch supporter of communism and displayed communist imagery in his work. With that knowledge, they still gave him the task of beautifying their building, and placed no restrictions on what he could make. Rivera, although controversial, clearly was within his rights in making the images of Lenin and John D. Rockefeller boozing in a nightclub. Were his images provocative? Of course they were. However, he was an artist and an activist and was merely using this canvass to convey an idea. If Rockefeller didn’t anticipate Rivera’s antics, he was either misinformed or naïve. In the end, he destroyed what would have been a stunning piece of art because it made his company look bad. Rivera, although daring, did not deserve to have his work removed.

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September 25th, 2011 Posted 7:21 pm

It’s the combination of the jungle that we pave over

And the swamp jungle where our ancestors became soldiers

Struggling to establish a civilization

But when we built it we took away from nature

Like the quilt of the Earth, we tore it

We lost it and became a stranger

But it’s stranger still that we will

Rebuild what’s gone when we can no longer

Stand the sight of giant steel monsters

Bearing their teeth so we took a creation and fostered

A relationship of the past with the present

It was fast when we sent it

And this park built joins those worlds with a vengeance

An old path is where it was created

Underground scheming and calculating, like math, not to have it slated

Debated, whether or not to connect with what we lost

But we never had it, no message inscribed that was faded

And this park is raised like the hopes we have in a vision

To give beauty to this city, and the gray streets that are now hated

With great precision, landscaped with the rail line, as a collision

The two worlds can combine, but what we had hoped for really isn’t

It’s a joke cuz we have failed in our mission

Pretty, from the gritty and gives us peace and serenity

But it’s not natural, not crafted by divinity

Nonetheless, between man and God there was synergy

An energy, something we can grasp and work off of

To revive from the last, one last gasp, at what we all lost




Coney Island and the High Line

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September 25th, 2011 Posted 7:14 pm

Two of the more exciting places in New York City to visit are Coney Island and the High Line amusement park. Both areas are a magnet for tourists and locals alike, and both are marvels that show the evolution of the city from the early 20th century to the early 21st century. Coney Island developed as a spot that would rival the architectural feats that Manhattan had achieved and act as a place for amusement and leisure in an otherwise busy and unsmiling city. The High Line was established only a few short years ago, and was built on an old railroad line. Many wanted this dilapidated crossing to be torn down, but with the support of many park enthusiasts, this rail line transformed into a place for relaxation and tranquility.

Coney Island is a gigantic beach/amusement park that attracts thousands of visitors in the summer. The old and young all gather to swim, dine, and go on the numerous rides in Luna Park. Coney Island functions as a neighborhood haven, with a family feel to it that one doesn’t necessarily get from going to Disneyland or Six Flags, because of the lack of neighborhood atmosphere. This haven is a landmark that everyone in New York City knows about, and its established legacy makes it almost iconic. In contrast, the High Line Park is relatively new and not as well known. It isn’t as mutually loved as Coney Island is, because there is still a small minority who wish the park wasn’t built, and instead wish that the old railroad was removed. However, the High Line is still widely visited and eventually may become as accepted and as known as Coney Island. The High Line, like Coney Island, provides a means of escape for those in the city. However, unlike the powerful and loud atmosphere that Coney Island has, the High Line is all about enjoying yourself with some peace and quiet.

Coney Island is well known for its boardwalk, but what I found particularly dazzling was the pier near the end of the boardwalk. That pier stretches deep into the water and from afar almost appears to be stretching out infinitely. The pier is special because it allows you to venture into the waters without actually leaving dry land. Once at the end of the pier, I felt as if the main boardwalk was in another world and I was looking out at the happy beachgoers, who were light years away from me. In addition, another rare and amusing oddity in Coney Island was the assortment of trashcans with designs on them. Some cans had a smiling sun, and others had a rainbow sailing past the boardwalk. The idea of creating artistic pieces with something as simple as trashcans was something very Brooklyn in my opinion. It reflected a belief that anything can be made beautiful, even something as simple and unsightly as a trashcan. And at the same time, this is essentially what Coney Island is; taking a drab stretch of beach and filling it up with so many lights that it almost becomes Brooklyn’s Time Square at night.

The High Line didn’t fall short of my expectations, and the beautiful landscaping wasn’t even the best part of the park. Inside were quirky attributes that gave the High Line a very playful touch. One of my favorite things in the park was the water fountain. Well, more specifically, all of the water fountains throughout the park. These fountains all did one thing which I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing anywhere else; they spoke to you. As my friends and I took a drink, a female voice sprung out from the fountain, talking to us about water. I was caught so off guard that I was unable to understand the rest of her message, but the point was clear and simple; the High Line was going to go above and beyond in all possible ways. Along with the water fountains were strange horizontal waterfalls that almost gave a beach-like feel to the park. One woman even dipped her feet in the waterfall to see if it was real. The High Line was already different in its creation because, after all, it had been built from an old railroad line. But with these little quirks, it seemed even more amazing to me.

In Delirious New York, Koolhaus talks about Coney Island and how it was meant to be a pleasure center for visitors. One look at Coney Island made it clear that everything built there was to excite and enthrall anyone who came. In addition, Koolhaus mentions that Coney Island is an artificial world built for those who can’t go out and experience it firsthand. On page 37 he notes: “…the ability to ride a horse is a form of sophistication not available to the people who have replaced the original visitors [inhabitants]”, when explaining the creation of Steeplechase Park. When visiting Coney Island, this description comes to mind. The fishing games remind me of those who would visit the park to experience a life that they couldn’t enjoy in the city, a life of fishing and hunting for themselves. In addition, the fire truck ride in the current Coney Island seemed to be homage to the midget firefighters who battled the flames that brought down Coney Island in the early 20th century. This ride provided one of many links of the old Coney Island to the new.

Gopnik and Goldberger both talked about the High Line and its connection with nature, because after the rail line became untouched, it eventually grew into a literal urban jungle. One of the themes of the High Line was to preserve the natural feel while still creating a new park for everyone to enjoy. I felt that the park did some justice to this notion, because the rail lines and some of the natural foliage remained, but overall it had become more artificial than not. And that, in a way, symbolizes both Coney Island and New York in general. This entire city is artificial, and in our struggle to return to a more natural state of living we’ll either mock it, as the rides in Coney Island do, or we’ll tear down natural greenery and plant other vegetation, just to achieve a natural feel. In essence, we can never truly return to nature while still inhabiting the city, although it seems people will constantly develop new means of doing so.


Goldberger, Paul. “Miracle Above Manhattan.” National Geographic April 2011: 122-137. Print.
Gopnik, Adam. “A Walk on the High Line.” The New Yorker May 21, 2001: 44-49. Print.
Koolhaas, Rem. Delirious New York. New York: Monacelli Press, 1994. Print.

Meet the Artists

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September 18th, 2011 Posted 6:30 pm

On Thursday September 1st, the Macaulay freshman class and I visited the Macaulay Center in Manhattan to go meet some documentary film makers and learn about the art of making a documentary film. I, probably like most of my classmates, was really annoyed to have to travel right after school straight to Manhattan when the weekend was right around the corner and freedom was so close, but we went anyway because it was a Macaulay requirement and we had no choice. I initially thought it would be boring, but even though the dark room and comfy auditorium chairs almost made me fall asleep, I managed to stay awake for the entire first film, which was fairly interesting. It was about former Von Dutch partner Bobby Vaughn, and the struggles he faced trying to relocate to Queens and start a clothing company after a murder allegation against him in Los Angeles. The documenters were a former graduate of the Macaulay Honors program and a professor currently teaching in the city. They both chose to make a documentary on this man because he was an interesting character in the community and he was reaching out to help the neighborhood he lived in, so the documenters also wanted to be in support of that. I found the movie, especially his account of fighting off an attack by his best friend only to then take his life, very interesting.

The documenters also talked about the process of making a film. Besides choosing a topic that would be exciting enough to make a movie on, they also had to get the funding, the supplies, and the manpower to make a film. The student who graduated from Macaulay, whose name I’ve forgotten, talked about the relative ease of getting technology good enough to make a feature film. He said that this was the easiest time for an amateur to make a film, because now it only cost a few thousand dollars to buy a good camera and rolling tape. They also mentioned that while shooting the film took only a month or so, editing the entire film took a year, which was pretty shocking to hear. I have more respect for filmmakers now, even though I didn’t think their job was easy before this event either. But it was pretty interesting to see someone be able to make a film and to learn some of the techniques on getting the entire piece put together.

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