30 June 2006

Protest as Museum Artifact

So as I noted in my last post, Sontag's point that we lack space for serious thought seems to have been muted entirely and is now a museum piece. But she is not alone, as it turns out. The Art World seems to reach out and swallow dissent and protest with barely a hint of indigestion. In London, the Tate Modern is hosting a "performance" by the Guerilla Girls who have been protesting the egregious under-representation of women artists in American and European gallleries and museums for twenty years.

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27 June 2006

Sontag exhibit at the Met

The Metropolitcan Museum of Art is running a special exhibition this summer in memory of Susan Sontag and especially her writings on photography. As to particulars, I actually disagree with Sontag on nearly everything. However, I think her analyses of photography are important for (at least) three reasons: (1) they came from someone who was not part of the art history mafia; (2) they focused unrelentingly on the relationship of photography to politics and society; (3) and they were intellectually serious, as this notice from The Village Voice quite rightly makes clear. The irony, of course, is that if Sontag's work is, in large part, a set of meditaitons on the need to create space for serious thought, her plea or demand or quest is now being treated as a museum artifact.

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17 June 2006

Regarding the Pain of Iraqis

Susan Sontag starts her last book Regarding the Pain of Others by reflecting on whether pictures of war and its consequences can have any determinate impact. I think her book is confused in many, many ways. But her basic question is appropriate - what impact can such photos of pain and siffering have on those who view them from a safe distance? This morning on Alternet there is an essay by David Swanson who is active in a variety of progrssive orgainzations. The essaay, entitled "Iraq's War Porn" carries the following sub-heading: "We believe the war would end if the media showed more images of the human horrors in Iraq, yet we turn away when they're placed in front of us. Not anymore." Two things are striking. The first is the analogy to pornography. I won't comment here except to say that this is an analogy that seems worth exploring. Second, the Alternet post provides links to a set of exceptionally disturbing photos like the one dispalyed here that are posted at AfterDowningStreet.org . Can you bear them? Would they have the impact of generating outrage aat the war and deceit and descruction? Moral outrage, I think, is wholly inadequate and perhaps self-defeating. Where are the politics? Swanson poses the same quesiton as Sontag and places his bets. What do you think?

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13 June 2006

«Cela existe. Pas ici, mais maintenant.»

I want to call your attention to these installations that are part of an Amnesty International campaign against torture. They proclaim: "This happens, not here, but right now!" I find them remarkably powerful. They remind me of works by Alfredo Jaar, but were produced in collaboation with a Swiss advertising firm Walker and photographer Federico Naef .

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