MAN WHO LEVITATED OUT OF THE GHETTO
“The staggering evidence of man’s sole dignity is the dogged revolt against his condition.” -Albert Camus
“Man Who Levitated Out of the Ghetto” is the story of a man who attempts to escape his ghetto through levitation. This poor janitor from Harlem is condemned, like the ancient Greek Sisyphus, to eke out his existence in the underworld. Each day he exerts his entire being towards achieving the goal, but alas, makes no progress at all; the levitation that could lift him up and out of the ghetto comes to daily frustration, as he endlessly repeats the same futile efforts. But whether he achieves levitation is immaterial. What is remarkable about this man is that he does not despair at the lack of progress, rather his vision becomes clearer in the increasing defined shape and intensity of his non-progress. He is successful at the moment he envisions a world beyond the ghetto and makes an effort towards its attainment; this is the moment he levitates or rises above his condition. In the Fall of 2011, cold air coming in through a window mixed with warm air rising from the radiator created an atypical set of thermal conditions that caused the janitor to experience a slight levitation.
Ghetto dwellers often believe their condition is eternally fixed and settled. Hope succumbs to inevitability; despair and apathy set in and block the dynamics between themselves and their fate. The janitor demonstrates an illogical or absurd use of human will by acknowledging the improbable odds of his endeavor and perseveres nevertheless. This is existential revolt for Camus, i.e., to affirm the absurdity of life and continue nevertheless. He does not become frustrated by his lack of progress, but uses it as a measure of distance he is from the goal, in much the same way a cross-word solver gets more-not less-frustrated, the closer a word gets to the tip of her tongue. His work concentrates a semiotic impulse necessary to disrupt stable meanings and conditions. He performs his ritual in solitude, creating personal proofs for himself. Through self-determined efforts, he frees himself from co-dependency on saints and deities and conditionality that changes his condition. He guarantees a human future by his action. Modernist myths of the superior self and human progress are challenged by his work and represent a new way of altering the world. The janitor re-interprets ancient spirituality as contemporary man “walking by faith and not by sight,” connecting performance art to philosophy.