A Spike Lee Joint
Wow. When I think back to this movie, that is what comes to mind first. Like so many others, I saw a lot about the levees breaking and the hurricane on the news. This, however, brought my understanding of the situation to a whole new level. Below are three things that struck me the most. I wish I had a scanner so I could put up the sketches I made of particularly potent scenes while I was watching, but I'll try my best with online photos/videos instead.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about responsibility’s relationship to design. Similarly to the whole 35W collapse fiasco, the levees of New Orleans breaking causes one to wonder who is/should be responsible. First of all, the engineers who designed them should be held accountable. One cannot expect to design things so inefficiently that they break without even being tested to their full potential (the film said that Hurricane Katrina mostly missed New Orleans, and it was the water from the levees that did most of the damage). Secondly, whoever built the levees should be held equally accountable. Even a perfect design needs to be well-constructed to be effective. Likewise, something could be built completely perfectly according to the plans, but if the plans are flawed, the construction will be, too. Of course, maintenance is necessary, even on excellent structures, so whatever agency was supposed to be in charge of that is partially responsible. Also, the government in general--the mayor, governor, and the federal government--is at fault. A simulation of a high-category hurricane (Hurricane Pam) was run on the levees, and it was predicted before Hurricane Katrina that the levees would fail. Obviously, the problem was not mitigated, probably for fiscal reasons. Well, looks like that backfired, because I am sure this is a lot more expensive.
Look at this--this is a picture of Hurricane Katrina. You know what it did. I know what it did. But look at it--the picture (minus the computerized lines) is beautiful.
In the Andy Goldsworthy film, nature was portrayed as both gentle and powerful, and beautiful even in the harshest places (like when his work was making his fingers painfully bloody, but the things he created were gorgeous). All of the art was modeled after the flow and beauty of nature. I gathered that he believes nature is inherently beautiful, and he highlights that in his art, rather than trying to upstage it. Hurricane Katrina showed invincible-feeling Americans just how powerful nature is, and that the feeble structures (levees) designed to combat it were no match.
The resilience of New Orleans amazed me as I viewed the film. The city so closely resembles the jazz funerals that go on there. Like the beginning of the funerals, with the slow procession, the city was quiet and somber for awhile after the destruction. However, "nothing cancels Mardi Gras," and the city soon started celebrating survival and its unique culture (like the fast, jazzy part of the funerals where the person’s life is celebrated). I think that the city’s musical roots are very important to its recovery. It is such a big part of the culture that it is probably the best way to bring the people together. Also, I know that Habitat for Humanity is working on a rebuilding project called "Musician’s Village," or something to that effect. I saw it on a commercial, and thought about what a good idea that was. The musical heritage comes from people gathering and Congo Square (or Park--do not remember exactly), so I think that it is a very good idea to bring musicians back together to continue the tradition. Independence is great, but synergy is even better. Living on the West Bank Arts Quarter of campus, I find the creative energy and collaborations to be amazing, and miss that when I go to other areas.