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I Am A City.

pialikesowls's picture

Is a city still a city if it’s considered dead? A necropolis? What is a city, exactly? There is a myriad of definitions for “city,” and due to the ambiguity and extensive possibilities, the true definition of a city will never be deciphered. That being said, while states and governments have their own meanings for what a city is, each person has their own denotation of what they think a city is. My relationship with a city stems from its history, its art, and its culture.

Coming from the truly metropolitan and thoroughly modern Singapore, I don’t feel connected with how little history, art, and culture there is. Singapore has a need to stay in the contemporary scene in almost every aspect, and doesn’t leave much room for creativity and culture. While some landmarks of certain cities are older than Singapore itself, the landmarks of Singapore are not particularly historically interesting, in my opinion. However, since Singapore is such a young country, it’s not exactly fair to compare it to a place with such old places. This being said, I yearn to live in and experience a city with history, art, and culture. This is where I turn to museums; specifically, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Met isn’t comprised of just one city; it is consisted of aspects of several different cities. It contains parts of Native American history, 19th-century French paintings, ancient Greek sculpture, and everything in between. In a way, the Met embodies what a city should be: a melting pot of different cultures and arts to combine a place where everyone can find something to personally connect to, whether they identify with their ancestors or a friend. That is the beauty of having so many cultures in one area.

In a sense, this idea also relates to Singapore. While it is not the most creative country, it does have several cultures living very well together. Racial Harmony Day, which occurs every July 21. The purpose of the event is to celebrate Singapore as a racially diverse and peaceful country. However, I still don’t feel completely connected to Singapore because I don’t really know where I am from. Just like what I think a city is, I have different parts of the world that make up who I am. From my mother’s upbringing in Cuba to my birth in Hong Kong, I can’t exactly pinpoint one place that I’m “from.”

Similarly, what I love about the Metropolitan Museum of Art is that one cannot simply define the space with one genre or category; it is composed of different parts of the world brought together in one space harmoniously. I connect to cities through their history and their art. I connect to cities through the diversity that each culture brings to the melting pot. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I connect with the art because of where I’ve been and how I have developed passions and interests through traveling and interacting with people. I connect with art because over the past several years, I have culminated and discovered my passion: art and its history.

Beyond the Met, there is New York City, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. With Chinese business owners on Canal Street, hipsters and Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg, and the stereotypically privileged on the Upper East Side, it seem as though New York City is its own museum. People are the artists, and their actions, whether it be skating in Central Park or watching a play on Broadway, are the art. It’s a tapestry of everyone and everything combining as a city, yet maintaining their individuality in the things they do.

I will probably never be able to identify completely with one specific city, and that is because there are parts of me in so many places and parts of places in myself. I have left parts of myself in London, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, East Rutherford, and Bryn Mawr. I suppose that I, myself, am a museum; a museum of experiences that I have encountered throughout my life. And isn’t that how a city is started – different people from different backgrounds combining to create one body?

Like a city, each part of me doesn’t get a designated display; just because I am in New Jersey doesn’t mean I am going to act more American, and just because I am in Hong Kong doesn’t mean I am going to act more Asian. Just like Singapore, my experiences live harmoniously inside me, which is why not one part of myself is more dominant than the other. I am my experiences. I am a museum. I am a city.