……art on alcatraz

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Last week I went for the first time on a tour of Alcatraz Island. I thought I would share my experience with you. My main reason for going was not to see the prison itself; (although it was interesting); but to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit which is closing shortly. This is the first time that art was exhibited on Alcatraz.

As for myself, whenever I think of Alcatraz what has always come to my mind is the occupation by the IAT (the Indians of all Tribes) in the late 60’s when, after the prison was closed, the native peoples worked to get back their land. I wish it were successful, but it was not. It is now a public park. There is only a slight mention of that part of the island’s history; the tourism trade seeming instead to focus on its “famous” prisoners like Al Capone and the Birdman of Alcatraz…

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THE ARTIST

Ai Weiwei is a contemporary artist and political activist with a focus on human rights. In fact he was not even allowed to set up his own exhibit because he was unable to leave his mother country China. You can learn more about him by clicking his photo.

I think if art is to be shown on Alcatraz that political, socially responsible art is appropriate.

 


THE TRIP

bart-stationCity parking being what it is I came up with the bright idea to try California’s BART system which for me is another first (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Now, I am a native New Yorker and I love most things New York…… I wasn’t expecting much by way of trains…. therefore  I was pleasantly surprised to find the BART system and stations to be clean and organized.

We even had some young dancers coming through cars doing a performance. Kind of brings back warm and fuzzy memories… (sniff lol)


AT PIER 33

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Outside the entrance to the ferry is a small installation about the original landowners of Alcatraz.

 

 

 

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On the ferry to Alcatraz. BTW the Alcatraz ferry is green, priding itself on being partially electric with very low fuel consumption.

 

 

 

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View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the ferry.

 

 

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As we dock.

 

 

 

 

The first thing I noticed upon arriving was the water tower with the Indian graffiti (yaay)

 

 

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And how the island is trying to return

 

 

 

 

to its natural state.

 

 

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View of San Francisco from Alcatraz. (that’s the Oakland Bay Bridge on the left)

 

 


THE EXHIBIT

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The Weiwei kites were a stark contrast to the peeling oppressive nature of the prison.

 

 

There were quotes on the kites.

This one says:

“Our march to freedom is irreversible” Nelson Mandela

 

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Alcatraz Chinese Artist

Ai Weiwei created posters of many political prisoners around the world done with LEGO building blocks. There’s a book in the center showing who each face is and their “crime”. These are people around the world who have risked their lives to help their fellow man and been locked away instead. The white stuff in the sink and tub are tiny porcelain flowers. I think its up to each person to interpret what this represents…


THE PRISON

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Panes still in some windows…

 

 

 

 

So close to beauty…. but so far from freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hmmm…… PRISON ! (whew)

 

 

 

 

Typical prison cell. Years in so tiny a space……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tiers of prison cells and “the yard” where you only earned the opportunity to go outside.

For a few years the prison enforced a “no talking rule”…. but too many prisoners became unhinged and it was stopped. This was super max.. the worst of the worst back in the day.


TO SUM UP

I believe using Alcatraz as a location for “awareness art” and gatherings, is a good use of this beautiful space in the middle of San Francisco Bay. If used this way; and aside from the tours, it could become a place known to provide information and stimulate awareness of social issues around the globe.

I recently learned that on Thanksgiving Day there is an Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering. What a great way to begin Thanksgiving. I am hoping to attend.

Some of the more relevant songs I have written in keeping with the theme of this post…

A song called “Eyes”. The lyrics tell the story.

This second is a song called “For Come Ya” and It reminds me somewhat of our native peoples plight. You can read the lyrics of both songs by clicking the little grey “bc” on the right.

Thank you for taking the time to check in. If you haven’t done so already, please subscribe to my site. And, if you like the post please give it a thumbs up, or share.

My quote for this post is by John F. Kennedy

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

You can write in or comment by clicking the little balloon at the top right of this post.

As always I am musically yours,

Gregory

classic

 

…… thanksgiving and stuff

 

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Welcome to November, which to me is the major signpost that kicks off the Holiday Season all the way through to the New Year (or would that be Halloween? Hmm).

The crisp air.… the fall leaves…. the food…. the decorations….  all leave most of us feeling pretty good about life. It seems  that people are friendlier this time of year.

This is a perfect season for cruising the San Francisco Bay as well as up and down the California Coast. But don’t think its all for pleasure. We actually have set the boat up so that we can record music…. and during our trips I take time out to be hard at work creating. The inspiration you get while cruising is extraordinary.

 


I have had the good fortune to have my music appear in an upcoming TV episode and a feature film so I’m feeling pumped…. More on that later….

 

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I also had the pleasure of meeting up again with Olympic Silver Medalist Nelson Vails at the premiere of his documentary. I met him a few years ago at a Bicycle Festival. It turns out he knew some of my family and actually stayed with my cousin; pro biker turned pro race car driver Robb Holland for about a year… (small world).


Earlier this month I released a new single called “Every Little Step”

I really enjoyed creating this song which I hope successfully expresses the sentiment that lasting love grows by steps…. little steps… which bring you closer and closer. A nice metaphor for love and life in general.


 

Since so many of you have been requesting it over the years……

I am finally releasing a Christmas Song!

APPLAUSE

It will be out in a week or two. The first person to guess which song I decided to do will be e-mailed an mp3 of it for free. I’m keeping it a secret for now and will make a separate post when it is available. (and will send the free mp3 at that time)

 


 

youtubesmIn order to organize the web better we closed down one of our three youtube pages so now there are only two official pages where we upload material (and where I reply directly to fans) etc…

I also opened an instagram account (gregoryabbottmusic). Not much on there yet but for those of you who use it- keep checking back.

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Here’s a little “Soul Food” for the Holidays—

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                         Happy Thanksgiving or as my kids used to say “Happy Turkey Day !”

As I eat more than I should on that day-(and I will 🙂 ); I try to remember that Thanksgiving is not just about food. Although it’s some of the best food of the year (in my opinion); to me it is mostly about the spiritual expression of gratitude…. for those you love…. what you have…. and where life has taken you up to this point. If it is possible to share this sentiment with good friends as well, all the better.

I have been blessed in my life. Thanksgiving however makes me realize that not everyone is in a good place. My mother taught my brother and I to do a random act of kindness; especially during this season (I encourage you to do the same if you’re so inclined). This is a tradition my family has continued over the years. Anything would do…. donating food, time etc…. just something to keep you mindful. As an example; one year as my family was going through the toll booth into the city; we decided to pay the toll for the next four people behind us. What smiles and waves we got!

Someone once did that for me and I was inspired to do it for someone else…. and that’s the whole point…. to pay it forward…. or in this case pay it backward lol!

I’d also like to take a minute to speak about the Native peoples negative stereotypes during this season. I have native Caribbean blood and I am sensitive to the mis-information of native peoples role in history. I really love Thanksgiving- but I do not love the harmful images we perpetuate via movies and TV etc… each and every year. They are inaccurate, demeaning and harmful to young minds both Indian and non Indian. At this point in our history I think we need Thanksgiving to be placed in a more spiritual place as I stated earlier. The Indians did the pilgrims a favor and helped them to survive. I think the best way to repay that gratitude is to show them the respect they deserve…… Okay I’m done.


Blessing to you all. I thank you for your friendship.

Enjoy the season and I will be back soon with a post of the Christmas Song.

Until then… here’s my quote:

 

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough, and more.

It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

As always I am musically yours, Gregory

 


P.S. If you missed Harry Belafonte’s powerful speech on race and social injustice
and want to see it; you can catch it here.
Harry Belafonte with Sidney Poitier

Harry Belafonte with Sidney Poitier