LOCALOGY: Radio Habana Social Club

“La mente es un intrínseco camino que busca la verdad de la Realidad.  

The mind is a labyrinth seeking the truth of reality.”

- Alejandro Urgell Reyes

One evening, during a spirit quest into the unknown, I slipped into a liminal vortex and took an intellectual journey to a dadaist bohemian netherworld of flying toasters, upside down trees, and high-heeled furniture, never to return.  But don’t worry, mom.  I am in the company of nice Cuban artists, and the guitarist plays Gypsy Flamenco songs.  They have prescribed a holistic regimen of sangria to stimulate transcendence.  This initiation ritual is known to induce a surrealistic euphoric sensation known by locals as “Radio Habana Social Club.”

Radio Habana’s owner, Victor Navarrete, is the mastermind behind the whimsical orgy of oddities that envelop this charming fantasia.  Navarrete’s art installation is a visual mindfuck that can only be described as Lewis Carroll meets Peewee Herman’s playhouse with a dash of Willy Wonka’s magical boat ride on its way to the circus.  It’s an impressive sight.  I mean, where else can you find a plastic doll with a revolver for a head and a clown riding on its back?

Victor’s nephew Alejandro impulsively leaps on the counter and begins to dance.  It is his birthday, but here at Radio Habana, every day is everyone’s birthday.

“Every day is your birthday because you are reborn every day,” Alejandro tells me.  “If that doesn’t happen you are not alive.”

Alejandro Urgell Reyes has been dancing for 40 years and studied ballet at the National School of Arts in Havana Cuba.  His dance company recently presented an avant-garde multimedia performance titled “Perfect Imperfection” fusing contemporary experimental ballet, live painting, and techno music.  For a person who says he doesn’t believe in perfection, Alejandro dances exceptionally well.

“I can’t live without dance.  It’s impossible,” he says with a sparkle in his eyes.  “You feel good every day.  When you dance you must be in balance, so in life you will be balanced.  You must be able to listen.”  He pauses.  ”I observe a lot.”

When not observing, painting, dancing, or charming guests at Radio Habana Social Club, Alejandro also plays piano, bass, trumpet, and soccer.

“What DON’T you do?”  I tease.

“I don’t go to wars.  I don’t go to military.  I don’t carry weapons.  I don’t argue with people.  You never win when you argue.”

No argument there.  It is his birthday after all, and mine, and yours.  Regarding that philosophy, he adds:  “You are reborn every time you do something beautiful, do something you like to do, or help somebody.  That’s my truth, I live with that.  I have no religions,” he says.  “I believe in this.”

Engaged in discussion, my friend and I suddenly realize we have lingered nearly an hour past closing.  Fortunately no one here is ruled by time, since we’ll all be reborn tomorrow.   And when that happens, I suggest you go to Radio Habana Social Club, take your time over a locally grown salad or Victor’s homemade sangria, and enjoy the creative intellectual stimulation that awaits you.  It’s a rare place in the western hemisphere where you may even get a hug goodbye, and if you enter with an open mind, I can almost guarantee an evening of memories.

Happy birthday, everyone.

- Kenna Shapiro

Leave a comment


After over two years of open collaboration with colleagues and esteemed organizagions and collectives like Black Lantern Synergy and LIONarchitecture, we are proud to present: Lantern, an axis point that may light the paths that others stray from, an open dialog. Explore and tell us what you find, cheers.


Leave a comment

Localogy: San Francisco Street Art

By Kenna Shapiro

Banksy is infamous, but he isn’t the only street artist to have used San Francisco as his canvas.

Underground art is our identity, tattooed onto our collective subconcious as a fiercely alternative city.  So it is fitting that we can’t walk a block without seeing our reflections in the everyday art around us.

Every inch of our visually decorated environment is an altar to what we love, where we came from, and what we stand for.

Above:  Mural by Eine, across from my apartment.  Photo by Spencer Keeton Cunningham.

Left:  Red hearts by Anna Rivero Rossi dangle from telephone wires in every neighborhood, including mine.  Sneakers over wires are full of urban myths about drug deals and gangs, so Rossi uses the language of the streets to display love wherever needed.

Below:  Another favorite mural within walking radius of my apartment is this collaborative project by artists of 1:AM Gallery.  This three-headed monster is rumored to feed on fearful emotions in the neighborhood.


Street art isn’t about face-time, fame, or personal gain.

It’s communal.

There is no cover charge, no admission ticket,  no membership fee.  And probably no fancy wine reception, unless you brown-bag a Jameson.  (We won’t tell.)

In a world of social castes and censorship, street art is truly free, and it is for everyone.


Enter Roberto Gonzalez.  At first glance, one might not assume that the UC Berkeley graduate in a peacoat enjoying jazz at the bohemian Revolution Cafe is a graffiti artist.  Born in El Salvador, Gonzalez works for a non-profit organization, is an Aztec dancer, and has a bicycle named Betsy that he bought from a crackhead in the Tenderloin.  His public murals are bold illustrations of indigenous Mesoamerican histories.  His work is found on busy street corners and buildings all over the Mission district, including the famed Clarion Alley.

The art is legal and done with permission, although that hasn’t stopped police from questioning him when toting his spray-cans in broad daylight.  Like any good citizen, Gonzalez attends community meetings and plays by the rules.  But that doesn’t mean some people won’t be offended.  One mural, retelling the history of the Spanish conquest from an indigenous perspective, was painted over with a Virgin Mary.  “You can’t change history,” says the artist, who has a zen-like acceptance of the temporary nature of murals, much like history itself.

Street artists love their communities.  And the community generally loves them back.  (One of Gonzalez’s murals was so admired that it was physically ‘peeled off by hipsters’ who wanted to enjoy it on their apartment wall.)  With this kind of extreme fan-base, graffiti artists are obviously doing something right.

Having attended museums everywhere from Europe to the Middle East, I can safely say that every city has elaborate institutions dedicated to shiny priceless art hidden under glass with a security guard looking over your shoulder in case the mist from your breath corrupts the value of the art.  But if you want to really understand the soul of a place, take a walk outside.

Sometimes you don’t go looking for art.  Sometimes the art comes looking for you.

1 Comment

Localogy: A Conversation With Trees

By Matt Teismann from Cleveland, Ohio


I would like to begin by first giving a brief background on who I am, and more importantly what I am, this will help explain where my conceptions of localogy come from. I am an architect, well not really. I have a degree in architecture and am close to finishing up the requirements for my professional license. I have lived in many different places in the world, places both unique and distinct. Having spent my childhood in the midwest of the North American continent, I consider that region my roots. I have also lived in New York, spent roughly half a year in Italy, and lived in Ireland for three years. Currently I am back in the midwest dwelling in Cleveland, Ohio. But more important than who I am is what I am. I am a human, or better, an animal. I roam this earth like other animals, and similarly dwell with the earth. I have two legs, two arms, two eyes, and a mind that all work in unison together with the environment around me. I dwell.


It is from these foundations that I would like to discuss a more recent walk in a desolate park in downtown Cleveland. Cleveland is a complicated place, with a history ranging from the banal to the profane. So when i say ‘downtown’ Cleveland I am not necessarily describing a concrete abyss between skyscrapers, although that exists. Immediately to the east of the edifices breaking the horizon, is a small park nestled adjacent to the shore of Lake Erie. To say that the area is desolate cannot be an exaggeration. Strickened with large, and mostly abandoned warehouses, the area is a void in the urban fabric of the city. Centered around this walk are a few thoughts I would like to share about nature, death, urbanity, and presence.


Rows of trees surround the perimeter of all sides of the park. Not planted purposefully, rather the trees reveal a void; the park is a void removed from the middle, leaving the emptiness as ‘park’. On my walk, the trees told me this. They also told me another story, a story of the nature of trees, and perhaps all other living things. But before getting into that, I would like to explore the nature of all living things.


Many writers, poets, and musicians, to name a few, have reached out to the idea that the natural world is alive. Not alive in the typical sense that we think of trees as being alive – because they grow, move, and change – but rather they are alive, like you and I. To even begin to talk about this I could not, rather I would recommend picking up David Abram’s book, ‘The Spell of the Sensuous,’ to understand the animation of nature. So I would like to broaden the scale and mention mother earth.


I have often thought that the earth was alive – a living organism if you will. To best understand what I mean by this I would like to offer two alternative ways of thinking: scale and extraterrestrial organisms. Through reworking the way we think about scale we may rework the way we think of the cosmos. Let us walk into a scale that is almost unfathomable to human kind: the universe.


Writer Gaston Bachelard in the ‘Poetics of Space’ describes a writing by Pierre-Maxime Schuhl, about an apple’s core, more importantly its seed, as the sun of the apple: the energy giving entity. By describing it in this way, we are analytically able to apply a scale to a known object of relation to understand the incomprehensible, in a sense allowing our imagination to see a true scale. In doing so we experience the unexperiencable, taken to a scale unknown to ourselves, our imagination takes over and everything becomes real in a moment of clarity.

Platonic dialectics of large and small do not suffice for us to become cognizant of the dynamic virtues of miniature thinking. One must go beyond logic in order to experience what is large in what is small…he entered into a miniature world and right away images began to abound, then grow, then escape.”

Bachelard p. 150,154

Let’s take this a step further. Take our example of the seed of the apple as the sun. In this case, a separate universe is created by a change of scale. Apply this to humans. For a moment, allow yourself to be taken to another place; to suspend all disbelief. This is not to imply that we literally are neurons in the brain of the earth, but rather it offers a new way of thinking. The earth is literally a living organism, albeit different from what the current schools of thought are about life.


A change of scale is a change of logic.


To better illustrate this point let’s look at extraterrestrial organisms: aliens.


If aliens do exist in a place so far away in the universe, it is almost sacrilegious to be so selfish to our life-systems to think that they might breath oxygen, drink water, or have blood. Most scientists agree that if we are to come in contact with an alien species that the organism will seem so different from collective human knowledge and experience that we may not even recognize it as alive. Perhaps the earth is like this. If it is possible, and deemed likely, that ‘life’ in the universe may be so diverse as to almost not comprehend it, why are we as a species so quick to disregard the earth as something ‘living’. The earth moves, it grows, it reacts to outside forces, it defends itself. I believe the earth is alive. I believe that the trees on my walk are merely another living piece of this larger living organism. The trees told me this too.


While on my walk I spent some time with the trees, in a barren urban ‘man-made’ environment we call Cleveland, Ohio, in a country we call the United States. The trees appeared lifeless, the whole area looked dead. No birds soared over the lake. No animals climbed the trees. No people walked by. The park, along with the trees appeared to be devoid of life, but they watched me. I felt their presence.


As I walked along the surface of the earth and watched these trees, I also became the watchee. They welcomed me, trusted me, and spoke to me. They breath like me. They listen to the weather and climate. They shed their leaves as a direct response to what the weather tells them. Although they looked dark, grim, and even dead, they perhaps were more alive than ever, in their most vulnerable state. Perhaps I offer this first writing as an abstract to say that the world around us is alive and listening, we only need to remember how to speak with it. Even in the industrial wasteland of the lake shore of Cleveland, we still have much we can experience with nature, even on a walk like this. Listen as the trees whisper.

Leave a comment

SS: The Inner Journey

Sustainability Sunday: The Inner Journey

Through the month of January, resolve towards the equivalent exchange of value, with others and within.


Ensō is the Japanese word for circle, it is most commonly associated with Buddhist painting. The painter makes the circle in one stroke, the brush only leaving the parchment or canvas when the circle is completed. And yet the very point of the Ensō is to accept that there is no beginning and no end, thus no credence to perfection there is only our continual progression moving outward in all directions. Our life journeys take us varied and often unexpected places, it is the experiences and knowledge that we pick up along the way through both thick and thin that make life worth living in the first place.

Still reeling from such an amazing experience at Ink Knife Studios in the Hobbes I’ve been thinking about the coming year, and how we often make resolutions that fall to the wayside, often simply out of habit or tradition. So I figured maybe we would try something a little different this time, but only if you’re game. Motuv’s main focus before I leave is dedicated to the equivalent exchange of value, to give a skill, idea or product of what you love in return for the same from another.

But it’s just as vital to focus on the self in order to share those very things you value in the first place. So I call anyone who is willing to spend a Sunday in January either doing, learning, or sharing something you love either in private study or with others. It could be something you already know how to do, or somethign you’ve always wanted to, be it a painting, a good book, how to throw a pizza, organize a soup kitchen or just stitch up your pants. And then to send some photos or writing about it to: dreamdofollowthrough@gmail.com to be shared on our burgeoning website.

Thanks to you all who constantly choose right action and value each day, it will be those small positive actions that when accumulated that do and will change the world.

FB link: http://www.facebook.com/events/282437525142572/

Leave a comment