Gestures and Posers
07 October, 2010
Gestures and Posers

Recently I read a review in New York Times on Nick Cave, chair of fashion department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When I went to The Art Institute, he was new and green, just starting to teach knitting classes. Recently he has been promoted to the head of the entire fashion design department.
The person who used to hold that position was a former professor of mine, a competent, not flashy but extremely knowledgeable and professional.

How this person, who has no substance or competency to be anyone’s boss, got to be the head of the department I will never know.


I found out about the position upgrade it by accident. I came to Chicago to visit my friends and I had decided to literally stick my head into the office and see my former department head. She wasn’t there and I asked the secretary when the chair of the department was coming in. It took me a minute to digest it when she said Nick Cave was out for the day. I told her I wasn’t looking for Nick Cave but for the head of the department. She had heard me right, she said. But still Nick Cave was the chair of the department. It took her some time to convince me that yes, this was true. I was confused and bewildered and I wanted to know why such a decision was made. Sadly the secretary gave in, and told me that as usual it was office politics. Competency doesn’t necessarily mean the top of the food chain. As in politics and in business and in life in general, the smartest people don’t necessarily get to do their jobs. It’s the people who can talk their way into the door using their words and the body language.


I’ve seen Nick Cave talk, and he talked a lot. He gestured a lot too, and not the Italian kind of gesturing. When I see Italians in New York gesturing it is to emphasize what they are already saying. This man seemed to gesture just for the sake of gesturing and to compensate for the fact that he really wasn’t saying anything.
I went to listen to a CEO of Yahoo give a speech and curiously she commented that she did not think she was the best candidate for the job, but she was a good one. She made up for it with hand gestures. If you closed your eyes and listened to what she was saying there was a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the speech, but if you watched her talk you could see her hands doing the talking for her.


I was more than usually focused on hand gestures this week because it started of with a restaurant that employed a very happy hand gesturing waiter. He pointed here and there and talked about the menu and spread his hands and lifted his arms and circled his hands, and yet had nothing I wanted to order on the menu. Every time I pointed to a dish, it was ‘No longer on the Menu’, or ‘I’m sorry we are completely (at this his hands went wide) out of trout this week’. In short, he had nothing, but he was very diplomatic about it. Like a good old politician.
Politicians are known for posturing and gesturing and saying absolutely nothing. I have no problem with politicians saying little less to nothing, I’d much prefer they act. But that’s the problem isn’t it? Competent people who can get anything worth while done in the government are very few in between. Sure they can talk a good game, and sometimes not so good game, but can they actually deliver? So far it has been one let down after another. A slap in the face of the gay community, a spit on the firefighters and 911 responders of the  September 11th, and a collective punch to the gut for the rest of us, who got swindled on health care.
For all these posers and gesturers, art clowns and political frenemies (that’s friends who sometimes pretend they are enemies) and the rest of these pontificates, I have a gesture too. And it’s not a polite one either.

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