The American Fairytale

Artist Blog by Debmalya Roy Choudhuri

America is not a dream. It is a land full of contradictions. It is as real as reality could get. And then in this vastness, is a chaotic spot, a mirage called New York. As Baudrillard once remarked, “the number of people here who think alone, sing alone, and eat and talk alone in the streets is mind-boggling. And yet they don’t add up. Quite the reverse. They subtract from each other and their resemblance to one another is uncertain”. This uncertainty, however, is fascinating and perhaps emblematic of the Western world dominated by capitalist ideologies that pervade all aspects of existence, from art to life itself. This uncertainty is at the core of this city of illusions, which I have been calling “home” for six years. This series is made to write about my bittersweet relationship to this land through images taken over the years. A direct look at the chaos and the search for a home.

When I landed in this city for the first time, I knew no one - all by myself and having slept in Greyhound bus stations while attending college on a scholarship. Perhaps, one good thing that happened to help me understand society - through my study of philosophy and photography, never formally, but because of the kindness of some. I wanted to take all of it in. Hell-bent on getting out from my own city’s streets and the violence of personal situations with the “hope of a better world” made me enter America. An outsider, an “alien” by status, how could I make something out of this grandeur? Everything here is big. The cars, the billboards, the phallic superstructures of power. People, some smiling back at you while most of the others merely “hustling”. A word used with great enthusiasm to signify increased productivity. Produce art, produce wealth, produce culture as the capital, produce fashion, produce, produce, produce. That is all there is to life? They ask you as they pass by “How’s it going?” but have no time to even hear the answer to such platitudes. A man dies in the hands of another. Life goes on the next day. “Hustle”. To buy more of Chanel, Versace, Dior, shoot your fashion campaigns, bla bla.

Through a turn of personal events that changed my life overnight, a sudden, violent, and cathartic realization dawned upon me. I realized that these paradoxes of capitalist society are indeed what controls life today. Unknowingly we are all part of this. Speaking out will only put you in a further alienated spot. And yet you persist. You could have been dead, but you are still here. You want to rebel against your condition, you think you are a punk, an anti-capitalist but are you really? What can you do? You fight and try to keep your innocent dreams alive. Through the only language, you know-photography. But America is not a dream…

As that song by Childish Gambino said: “We just want to party Party just for you We just want the money Money just for you This is America”.

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