29 April 2008

A Pox on All Your Houses

Miley Cyrus ~ Photograph © Annie Leibovitz /Vanity Fair

I've resisted the temptation to enter this photo-fracas. Why? I have only sons. I therefore am not tuned into the intricacies of pre-adolescent girl "culture"; until today, I have had a corresponding - and quite blissful - ignorance of all things Hannah Montana. From this vantage point, one thing seems clear. Miley Cyrus, the 15 year old girl who plays Hannah is being poorly served by all the adults around her. You can find the gist here.

The folks at Disney Channel, who peddle Hannah relentlessly, are shocked, simply shocked that anyone would consider exploiting so impressionable a young girl for crass commercial purposes! They are stomping about because of the current Vanity Fair photos of Cyrus which, they say, exploit the girl in order to, of all things, sell magazines. But the DC folk are simply worried about their investment. No more, no less. They will quiet down once it becomes clear that the scandalous shots lead to increased sales of Hannah paraphernalia. In that sense they are just like the folks at VF who, indeed, are simply out to sell a crappy magazine, even if that means publishing tawdry pictures of an adolescent girl. What a controversy! Hypocrites all around.

Meanwhile Cyrus's handlers and, worse, her parents seem to have put her smack into the middle of all this. There was nothing amiss at the time the pictures were taken (the parents and handlers attest to that; after all, they were there!). Nor was there really anything wrong even up till the time that the DC folk started to complain ~ in response, of course, to the disillusionment and dismay (feigned or otherwise) of fans and their parents. Now the photo shoot seems embarrassing, or something. On this one, Annie Leibovitz, who made the pictures, has proven herself even more shameless than I imagined she could be. The girl is 15, Annie. Even if she's surrounded by jackasses, do you need to join them?

Finally, to all of the parents out there whining because Hannah is supposed to be a role model to your little girls, look elsewhere than the television set. There is no "betrayal" here; just another teenage girl being used by adults, yourselves included. My advice? Find a real role model for your daughter. Even better, try being one yourself and get rid of the set.
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PS: Added later that evening ~ You might be interested in these short essays on the Hannah scandal by Germaine Greer, Viv Groskop & Stuart Jeffries over at The Guardian.

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Case Dismisssed

In the side bar I've carried a banner for the Critical Art Ensemble Legal Defense Fund. I have posted on the artistic practice of CAE and the legal travails of member Steve Kurtz, here and here and here and here. On April 21, a Federal Court Dismissed the unjustified prosecution of Kurtz for bio-terrorism as "insufficient on its face." The U.S. Attorney has until later this month to file an appeal. You can read a report in The Progressive here and The Guardian here and The Buffalo News (Kurtz's hometown paper) here. Not much on this decision in the national mainstream media. Surprised?

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Erecting Legal Barriers to Democracy

The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a restrictive Indiana Law regarding voter identification is truly idiotic. You can find the news report here.

The bill, enacted on a party line vote by the Republican dominated State Legislature requires each voter to present a state issued photo-ID before voting. The alleged point of this reform is to make it more difficult for someone - say me - from pretending to be someone else - say you - in order to steal your vote. Let's place aside the probability that your vote will come close to having an effect on electoral outcomes, let alone a pivotal effect. Let's inquire as to the point of all this.

Unfortunately for their argument, the Republicans could not identify a single reported case of someone trying to cast another person's vote. Ever! So this legislation is "fixing" a "problem" that doesn't exist. The Supremes admit as much. They - both the Republicans and the Supremes - also discount entirely the actual and transaction costs involved in obtaining such an ID among the poor and elderly in a state that, politely, is difficult to navigate via public transportation. The consequences of this decision are predictable. So, by upholding this unjustified "remedy," the Supremes placed the burden on those least able to bear it. Well done! That is the way one should operate a democracy.

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28 April 2008

The Top 100 Public Intellectuals? Top 5?

"As far as I have been able to determine, the word “intellectual” was popularised as a term of abuse during the Dreyfus affair. The coinage then suggested that the pro-Dreyfus faction was insufficiently rooted in nation and loyalty, preferring as they did the urbane abstractions of “the intellect” to the verities of church and soil. I personally hope the word never quite loses this association with the subversive." ~ Christopher Hitchens
~~~~~~~~~~
The magazines Foreign Policy and The Prospect have teamed up to sponsor a popularity contest of a very odd sort. The point is to identify, by reader vote, the very top public intellectuals in the contemporary world. Their criteria are that:
"Candidates must be living and still active in public life. They must have shown distinction in their particular field as well as an ability to influence wider debate, often far beyond the borders of their own country."
You can find the list of the top 100 here. The opening passage is from an essay by Hitchens that accompanies the list and invitation to vote. I have not and will not vote because it seems to me that you cannot determine the worth of ideas I think the the worth of ideas by majority vote. Their value and robustness emerge from being examined and actively contested in debate and, then, in practice. Public intellectuals are interesting only insofar as they articulate ideas.

Three individuals not on the list that spring immediately to my mind are Adam Michnik, Arundhati Roy, and Roberto Mangabeira Unger. Any other suggestions?

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ABC No Rio Building Renovation Fund

Got some cash burning a hole in your pocket? Send some to the building renovation fund at ABC No Rio in Manhattan. ABC No Rio is a "collectively-run center for art and activism." I posted about the space a while back. You can find a recent story on it/them from The Brooklyn Rail here.

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Our Propagandists (2) ~ A "dour fraternity of deceitful military cretins"*

Appearing with Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” in 2005 were
Wesley K. Clark, center; Wayne A. Downing; Montgomery Meigs,
right; and Barry R. McCaffrey, foreground. Copyright 2008,
The New York Times Company.

Well, the good folks over at Democracy Now! and The Nation have been covering the story from The New York Times last week concerning the seeding of Television "News" broadcasts at the major networks and cable outlets with allegedly expert and independent military analysts who, in fact, had been taking direct marching orders form the Pentagon. The initial story from The Times is here. I posted on it here. The follow-ups I just mentioned are here and here. The follow up stories in more mainstream outlets, like CNN, ABC, CBC, Fox, NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC are ... well, completely missing.

I am shocked! Well, a Google search earlier this evening indicates that some newspapers and even CNN have covered the story about how the Pentagon has discontinued briefings with the T.V. analysts, some of who had lobbying and other financial ties with military contractors. In other words, they are covering the Pentagon's response to the story. But none, as far as I can determine, has addressed how their analysts connived with the pentagon to justify military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has any of the major media outlets addressed their own culpability for neglecting (as a polite way of putting ti) to inquire into the contacts and background of the alleged experts they had hired.

Remember how many Americans were buying the BushCo line about the need to invade Iraq and then about how much progress was being made once we'd invaded. It seemed easy to deride public opinion then. But now the numbers seem quite reasonable because, quite simply, not only the Bush administration, but the media and their "pundits" were quite simply purveying bullshit by the shovel full. Peddling propaganda like this surely is ethically dubious (to be generous) and quite likely illegal. Keep an eye on the campaign at FreePress.net to pressure Congress to initiate inquiries into this practice.
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* My subtitle is lifted from Mark Morford's column "All The President's Liars" at SFGate (at The San Francisco Chronicle). I couldn't say it better myself, so why try.

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Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2008

Esko Männikkö ~ Photograph © Pekka Pääkkö

Somehow I missed this announcement last month. But Esko Männikkö was awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for 2008. As I mentioned in earlier posts, he was not my first choice; I'd have preferred John Davies. If you are interested in knowing why see [this post] and [this one too]. In any case, the jury could've done considerably worse.

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27 April 2008

Among the Exiles

I have posted here repeatedly [1] [2] [3] [4] on the wonderful work of Charles Simic. In the NYRB this week (15 May '08) there are a couple of his poems. Here is one:

Among the Exiles
Charles Simic

One met former cabinet ministers,
University Professors, defrocked priests and officers,
Feeding pigeons from a park bench,
Squinting into foreign newspapers
And telling anyone who asked
Not to bother their heads about the truth.

On the use of murder to improve the world,
They had many bitter memories
As they huddled in their dim kitchens,
Clipping supermarket coupons,
Shifting the loose dentures in their mouths
While waiting for the tea kettle to boil.

They ate in restaurants with waiters older than themselves,
Musicians whose hands trembled
As they picked their instruments
Making some giddy widow burst into sobs
On hearing the song her husband loved,
The man who sent thousands to their deaths.
This poem brought to mind the future awaiting members of our current administration as they age further, far from the spotlight and, if not literally exiled, then quietly set to one side. It conjures images of their families, remembering them fondly once they're dead, managing to overlook the horrors they have visited upon the world. Of course, Simic surely would insist that the poem really is nowhere near so narrowly focused. Of that, I have no doubt. Just because there are other criminals whose circumstances are captured by the poem, though, doesn't mean it doesn't "apply" to Bush and his minions too.

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Jill Freedman

There are so many really terrific photographers out there. In The New York Times today is this story (and accompanying slide show) on Jill Freedman, a documentary photographer with whom I am completely unfamiliar. You also can find PopPhoto.com story and slide show on Freedman from a couple of years ago here. Freedman apparently has two web pages - this older one and this, still incomplete, newer one. The picture above shows the latter. Overall, Freedman's work is astonishingly good and very wide-ranging.

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Martin Amis & "the simpleton’s view of the world"

Imagine you are a talented writer with strong political convictions. You write and write, expounding those convictions in interviews and essays and reviews. You collect those diverse offerings under a single cover with a catchy title. And you then publish the book to widespread derision, even among those very sympathetic to your political views. What would you do?

This is not a hypothetical. The writer is Martin Amis. The reviewer is Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the typically, but not always, rightward tilting New Republic. The reviewer suggests that the author is "angrily" peddling "the simpleton's view of the world" and has produced "clumsily mixed cocktail of rhetoric and rage." Here are a couple of other good bits:
"In “The Second Plane,” his collection of noisy, knowing writings about theocracy and terror, Martin Amis goes out on a limb. He denounces both. Really, he does."

"You get the feeling, reading these pages, that for his side Amis will say almost anything, because being noticed is as important to him as being right. The complication is that there is considerable justice on Amis’s side. . . . I have never before assented to so many of the principles of a book and found it so awful. But the vacant intensity that has characterized so much of Amis’s work flourishes here too."
If this is what a writer's fellow travelers say, what must he presume those who differ with him will say? "Get Lost, Nit Wit," maybe? Perhaps Amis can demonstrate a capacity to learn. I doubt it. I will never learn for sure because, given this sort of review there is no reason to ever read a word he writes. Moreover, this assessment raises questions about the pragmatic contradiction of dogmatically bellowing that others (say "Islamists") are dogmatic and dangerous.

One consequence is that reviewers are compelled to remind us of such commonplaces as the following:
"There are religious people opposing the terrorists and secular people supporting the terrorists. After the 20th century, the question of which worldview kills more, the godful one or the godless one, was made infernally moot."

" [Quoting Amis] “When Islamists crash passenger planes into buildings, or hack off the heads of hostages, they shout ‘God is great!’ When secularists do that kind of thing, what do they shout?” Well, it depends on whether they spoke French or German or Russian or Chinese or Khmer or Serbian or Kinyarwanda. The historical innocence of secularism is a myth. And if the secular butchers worked in silence, what of it? The crime was the same."
Apparently, Amis has thrown himself vigorously into the task of debasing our public discourse (and if we are to believe Wieseltier, proposing a set of repressive policies for we at home) in the name of rescuing it and us from an imagined threat. Boy, we sure need more of that.

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26 April 2008

Martin Parr on British Politics

Photograph of Martin Parr (right) being photographed at book
signing, Edinburgh, August 2005. Photograph © Peter Stubbs.


I've never been terribly interested in Martin Parr or his work. Indeed, I doubt you could find more than a passing mention of him here in the time I've been keeping the blog. But here is an illuminating little essay Parr wrote for The Guardian today.

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From Academic Politics to Real ~ Social Scientists, Torture, War, etc. ...

The late philosopher Richard Rorty drew a notorious, distinction between two types of politics - real and academic [*]. He cleverly charged that, since the 1960s, academics had disengaged from real politics and had instead been preoccupied with 'taking over the English department.' Reflecting on the war and torture so central to our current disastrous foreign policy, I only wish, his diagnosis were correct.

The Bush administration, of course, has been well stocked with representatives of my own discipline. For convenience I'll mention just one. Condi Rice, current Secretary of State, former National Security Adviser, of course, is a card-carrying political scientist. It is clear that her academic research influenced her views on how to conduct foreign policy. (In particular by treating international affairs as consisting in cold-war-like blocs of nations even as whatever terrorist threat we might actually confront arguably is posed by amorphous non-state actors.) And as I noted recently, she was a key member of the "Principal's Group" in the White House who plotted in detail how prisoners held by the U.S. would be tortured by military and intelligence agents during interrogations.

At a less exalted level, anthropologists have been recruited to help U.S. military units navigate the "human terrain" in Afghanistan and Iraq. I posted on this program here. This story continues to percolate in the news <1> <2> <3>. On Alternet lately there have been a series of stories <1> <2> on internal controversies at the American Psychological Association over the participation of members in U.S. government torture policy. As is the case among both political scientists and anthropologists, critics of psychologists for becoming accomplices in perpetrating war crimes have emerged among the psychologists too.

My point? It is not just lawyers like John Yoo who have implicated themselves in our current disaster.

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25 April 2008

Summer Reading ~ George Lewis on the AACM

I am starting to make a list of things I hope to read this summer. Among the first things I want to take a crack at will be a new book by trombonist/composer George Lewis, Professor of Music at Columbia University and long time member (since 1971) of the AACM <1> <2>. The book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music will be released soon by the University of Chicago Press. You can find a story on Lewis and the book from the Chicago Reader here.

The AACM is a truly wondrous outfit, arguably unparalleled in the contemporary United States. It is a collective of avant-garde musicians playing "great black music", that has sustained itself over the course of several decades ~ truly a monument to cultural, artistic and organizational creativity. Among the reasons I was so excited to go off to graduate school in Chicago in the late 1970s was the prospect of hearing music by members of the association. Happily, I managed to take in quite a number of performances in the many years I lived there. I have posted on some of the AACM's guiding lights here and here.
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Update ~ (11 May 08): Here are a couple of pieces from The New York Times prompted by the release of Lewis's book [1] [2].

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Amy Alkon is a Dim Bulb * (First in an Irregular Series)


Photo of the 'Advice Goddess' Withheld to Avoid
Wild Charges of Copyright Infringement

I've decided to add a new feature here at the blog.** It will consist in the irregular exercise of my god-given right to ridicule and more generally poke fun at the astoundingly dim "Advice Goddess," Amy Alkon. As you know from posts earlier this week [1] [2] I've had the privilege of making it onto the loathsome Ms. Alkon's enemies list. Why? I had the temerity to disagree with her over at her blog.

I figured that, given her celebrity status and syndication schedule, Amy could just move on. Apparently she simply can't and has continued to rant about my alleged mis-deeds even today. Now, Ms. Amy has decided that she is qualified to peddle "advice" to entire nations and religions, on which more below. Like me, photographer Tom White had the temerity to question one of her pronouncements. The intrepid Amy (who, as a joke, includes the label "journalist" in the header to her web page) tracked down this miscreant and discovered that on his blog Tom was a link to mine. Imagine Amy's outrage on discovering a vast virtual conspiracy out to question her precious judgment. (Another good reactionary criterion of assessment - "guilt" by association. The only problem is that neither Tom nor I are guilty of anything other than questioning some of Amy's inane pronouncements.)***

In any case, Amy seemingly had posted some typically insightful and well-informed advice on the looming threat of ISLAM to various Western countries including Britain, the U.S. and Canada. And she even generously explained to Muslims how they might most effectively "speak out" against slanderous attacks on their religion. I am certain they are grateful for the advice. I am not fan of any religion, but I try my hardest not to tell the religious how to go about their business.

Of course, Amy knows roughly as much about this topic as she does about copyright law ~ epsilon (Amy, that is just a really, really small number, OK?). Her ire had been raised by a story in the Moonie funded Washington Times regarding John McCain's propensity to identify terrorism with Islam. (Ooops, forgot about, say, Northern Ireland.) Fortunately for Amy, lack of knowledge is no obstacle because, of course, she can bring in experts to bolster any ignorant case she makes. You'll recall that on copyright law her expert was a photographer whose primary qualification was having lost a law suit over the "fair use" of one of his images. I'd sure be eager to rely on his interpretation of the relevant decisions and statutes!

In this case, the Advice Goddess has stumbled in a similar way, buttressing her case with a video rant from the sophomoric Robert Spencer, perpetrator of JihadWatch. Of course, Mr. Spencer is a crank as I noted here last fall. There are reliable sources - right, left, and center - on Islam, terrorism, Middle East politics, and so forth. Robert Spencer is not among them. Dim as she is, though, Amy could not discriminate in this case if her life depended on it. So, once more, she is piling it higher and deeper.
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* This may seem to be overly harsh. But I first stumbled across Amy after she wrote a post entitled "Rebecca Solnit is a Sniveling Idiot."

** I don't intend to comment on every inanity that Amy utters. There are not enough hours in the day to do that. And I have no interest in responding to the predictable howls of indignation and outrage that she and her coterie of admirers will unleash. I just think it will be fun to have a laugh every so often at Amy's expense. I'll restrict my comments to her more egregious utterances.

*** For the record, Tom and I have never met. I believe we may have exchanged an email or two on photography since I've been writing this blog. I did, however, drop a line to congratulate him on having apparently made Amy's enemies list.

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24 April 2008

Errol Morris Interview

Mitchell: "Is there a difference between your use of what I would call “forensic” reenactments in The Thin Blue Line and the kinds of reenactment you created for SOP?"

Morris: "Yes and no. I have used reenactments in all of my films. I hear a line in an interview and it suggests an image. In The Fog of War, McNamara discusses his work at Ford on automobile safety. Padded dashboards, collapsible steering wheels, seat belts, etc. He suddenly, unexpectedly tells a story about dropping skulls–padded and unpadded–down a stairwell at Cornell. I thought to myself, what an image! McNamara even when he’s trying to save lives is dropping stuff from the sky. O.K. I “illustrated” the line. It is a way of directing or re-directing attention to a specific thought or idea. In Standard Operating Procedure, I do something similar, but the “illustrations” direct attention to moral quandaries, disturbing details–and many of them involve the photographs."

[. . .]

Mitchell: "You have written at length about the strange effects that photographs have on viewers, persuading them of the self-evident meaning of what they see–while, at the same time, they are liable to attract all kind of misconceptions and ungrounded beliefs. What lessons do you draw about the changed conditions of photography in the digital age from your experience with the Abu Ghraib images?"

Morris: "The problem is with photography–both still and moving images. Photographs are ripped out of the world and stripped of context regardless of whether they are “chemical” or “digital” images. Of course, digital photography has changed how photographs are viewed and how they are distributed. Now, photographs are not printed on paper, they are displayed on screens. And they are not sent in the mail or over telephone and telegraph-wires, they are sent as digital attachments in emails or posted on FTP sites. A photograph can be sent to 100,000 different places with one click. Photoshop, however, did not inaugurate an era of photographic fabrication, manipulation, and falsification–that started with photography itself. Photoshop points out something we should have known all along–that we are easily fooled by photographs, even photographs that haven’t been manipulated at all."
These brief excerpts are from a short interview in Harper's (blog ~ 24 April '08) between W.J.T. Mitchell and Errol Morris. I've posted on Standard Operating Procedure and its reception here and here already. The film is due to be released tomorrow. I love the notion of "illustrating" ideas and the question of our credulousness when confronted with photographs is theoretically crucially important. David Levi Strauss is writing a book on the topic that you should keep your eyes peeled for. (If you search my past posts for his name you can find some teasers.)

Thanks to John Measor for bringing the interview to my attention!

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Brigitte Lacombe

David Mamet ~ Photograph © Brigitte Lacombe.

I have just read this essay by and this interview with David Mamet. In the former he boldly announces that he's foresaken his childish "liberal" commitments. In the latter he admits that he is "not the guy to ask about politics." Regardless, it seems to me that his recent political apostasy is driven less by the way things are with the world than with a change in his disposition. But he is smart and funny and incredibly talented. Having said all that, what really caught my eye was this terrific portrait of Mamet by Brigitte Lacombe. It accompanies the interview. There are plenty of other wonderful portraits on Lacombe's web page. While many are of this or that celeb, there are several of political heroes like Nelson Mandela and Aung San Sui Kyi.

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Best Shots (22) ~ David Hurn

(48) David Hurn ~ Fence Near Cardigan (24 April '08)

The interview is inspiring, but I couldn't find this image among all of Hurn's work on-line. Use your imagination.

(Updated, 30 April ~ The Guardian folk have posted the shot, so here it is.)

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23 April 2008

Rodchenko

Pioneer Girl, Alexander Rodchenko, 1930.
Photograph: © DACS 2008 / © Rodchenko archives

For some reason I have resisted posting on the Rodchenko exhibition that will end later this week in London. There was considerable coverage in The Guardian [1] [2] [3] [4] and I figured that nearly everyone would've seen that. But this evening I came across this review of the exhibition in the London Review of Books which helps, I think, to focus on the nature of propaganda. It does so in two ways. First it calls attention to formal details of photographs to which I generally pay little attention:
"He was particularly intrigued by views from high up looking down and from low down looking up. ... Rodchenko must have been crouching when, in 1930, he made close-up, foreshortened portraits of young Pioneers. In the repertory of poses photographers have invented or borrowed, heads seen from below against the sky tend to stand for things like ‘hope’, ‘striving’ and ‘looking to a new horizon’. Photographs taken from above, on the other hand, make patterns out of human activity and embed individuals in groups: crowds weave past each other, bands march, workers eat in the factory kitchen. Looking up at a modern building or fire escape led the eye towards a distant vanishing point; hold the camera at an angle and the stolid horizon becomes an active diagonal.

Stairs, Alexander Rodchenko, 1930.
Photograph: © DACS 2008/© Rodchenko archive

Such observations may seem banal when stated so bluntly. But it is a useful reminder, I think, that in the analysis of all sorts of images, it is important to attend to the nuts-and-bolts of how a picture works. The second way the review helps focus on the character of propaganda is more provocative. and it is more in line with the sorts of things I've discussed here.

"This concentration on pattern-making suggests that the accusation of ‘bourgeois formalism’ leveled at Rodchenko by those who wanted socially uplifting imagery was – as far as ‘formalism’ went – fair enough. In other countries photographers have angered their contemporaries more often by pointing their cameras at the wrong people and places than by abstraction. From August Sander’s portraits of German types, labelled degenerate by the Nazis, to Robert Frank’s photographs of a sadder, rougher USA than the picture magazines showed, to Richard Avedon’s pictures of Westerners who were odder and stranger physically, and maybe mentally, than local pride allowed to be possible, and Diane Arbus’s freakish finds in the park, the complaints have been ‘too cruel’ or ‘we’ (who ‘we’ might be is not clear) ‘don’t look like that’. Rodchenko’s situation was such that even had he wished to uncover the truth about rural poverty, say, or human misery in the Gulag, it would have been impossible. The closest he came to it was with a commission to produce a picture story on the making of the White Sea-Baltic Canal. The photographs he took were edited by the authorities and he wasn’t allowed to take away with him any that hadn’t been approved. Once you know that the crowds of navvies digging and carting clay are made up of forced labourers and political prisoners, something of the misery of their situation comes home to you. Rodchenko said that he had ‘photographed in a simple way, not thinking about formalism’.

The results, widely published, were propaganda, but American contemporaries were making propaganda too – photographs of dams built by the TVA, for example. Walker Evans’s photographs for the Farm Security Administration – in their way, quite as formal as Rodchenko’s – also carried messages that are now subject to sceptical scrutiny. Rodchenko’s work was made with more editorial oversight than that of his American contemporaries but he had more control over its presentation than they did.
P.S.: Next morning. Thinking about propaganda campaigns is especially timely at the moment. While the media may seem more sophisticated, the process are essentially the same as they were in the 1930s.

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22 April 2008

PhotoSudan Network

Photograph © PhotoSudan Network/Mohammed Nour-elDin

With support from Unesco, the first photo agency in Sudan has established an on-line presence. According to the PhotoSudan Network web page:
"This is a project for the promotion of the diversity of Sudan, and a new documentary vision of its resources through the activity of photography. PhotoSudan Network has a vision to raise the profile of Sudanese cultural diversity. The project has its focus on social issues, current affairs, customs and on tradition. PhotoSudan Network would work as a group of independant photographers who wish to share ideas and resources.

The idea was born in 2006 in Khartoum under the initiative of Mr Gadalla Gubara, Mr Ali Mohammed Osman, Mr Mohammed Noureldine, Mr Sidi Moctar, and the French project manager Mrs Frederique Cifuentes.

Each member of the group is a professional Sudanese photographer. They will develop personal as well as common projects tackling a wide range of issues. The project should promote intercultural dialogue to maintain cultural vitality within Sudan, and to reach a new audience outside Sudan. PhotoSudan Network has a vision to enable picture buyers and photographers to access one another so that Sudanese photographers can tell Africa's story on the international stage."
If you believe, as do I, that freedom of the press can help alleviate government repression and other man-made mayhem like famine and genocide this is surely a wonderful turn of events. for the same reasons, I suspect too, that it is a courageous one on the part of the individuals involved.

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Aimé Césaire (1913-2008)

Poet Aimé Césaire has died. Césaire was an extremely influential Martinican writer, intellectual, politician and staunch anti-colonialist. You can read an appreciation from openDemocracy here and a New York Times obituary here.
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Update (27 April) ~ there is a nice appreciation by Robyn Kelley here at Democracy Now!.

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unsubscribe-me.org

In The Guardian today is this report by Mark Sweeney on a new ad campaign Amnesty International is undertaking in Britain - a video that will be shown in movie houses across the country. This new campaign is the latest endeavor AI has undertaken as part of the unsubscribe-me.org initiative they launched last fall. Called "Stuff of Life" the new video allows viewers the chance to watch a man being waterboarded.



Here is an earlier installment ~ "Waiting for the Guards" ~ on what our torturers have persuaded us to refer to euphemistically as "stress positions."



These are sophisticated videos. According to Sweeney, "Stuff of Life" was conceived "by advertising agency Drugstore" and "created in conjunction with post-production company DarkFibre Films and visual effects company Prime Focus London." Thanks to these outfits for providing a more concrete view of the practices that President Bush's "Principals Group" sat around discussing in the White House "Situation Room." Bush, of course, approved those meetings and John Yoo greased the skids with his legal opinions. Convene the Tribunals.

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Amy Alkon & Christopher Harris Redux ~ Considering the Actual Complexities of 'Fair Use'

Having endured repeated, unsubstantiated attacks by a nitwit (Amy Alkon) and her aggrieved consultant (Christopher Harris) yesterday, it seems that it might be useful to discuss the "fair use" exception to copyright in the United States. You can find a pretty detailed discussion here at the Fair Use Network (Brennan Center, NYU Law School). But here is the bottom line from the U.S. Copyright Office. I offer it because in all their ranting, neither nitwit nor the aggrieved managed to demonstrate any familiarity with any actual points of law.
"One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the Copyright Act (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and;

4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."
Now, the bottom line is subject to interpretation on many dimensions. Indeed, none of these four factors is, alone, unambiguously dispositive in any given case. The burden is different for each of the different factors and any judgment or assessment must weigh them all. Neither the nitwit nor her aggrieved chum seem to grasp that commonplace. They were too busy yowling with outrage and self-righteousness. What is called for in all this is subtlety of interpretation and that is something that seems to be in short supply in their self-referential bubble.

So it may be helpful to think through some of the instances in which I post copyrighted images or text. We could do the same for nitwit's blog where she too regularly posts copyrighted materials. Life, though, is way too short. Let's take each factor in turn:
(1) I make not a dime from this blog. I do not post advertisements. I use copyrighted materials almost exclusively for purposes of comment or criticism in the course of a broadly educational undertaking. By that I mean education in a public sense not solely in a classroom sense. I rarely use an image without commenting on it or connecting it to some other or associating it with some text or idea that the photographer in all likelihood knows little if anything about. I use the blog for educational purposes by creating themes (indicated by the various labels attached to most posts) which would associate particular works with a variety of others.

(2) The nature of the original materials? Sometimes text, sometimes images. What seems to have gotten nitwit and her aggrieved pal really riled up is the use of images. Among the important factors here is whether the initial text or image is creative or factual. Try to draw that line clearly with even the most 'documentary' photography. What about portraits? Landscapes? Hopefully you get the point. One would have to argue the case either way in each instance. And although nitwit and the aggrieved fail to recognize the point, an assertion is not an argument. It is an assertion.

(3) So, let's think of what we mean by a "work." In the case of texts, an article o
r a book would, for instance, constitute the work. So we might use passages. and fair use would require not just word counts but an assessment of the centrality or otherwise of the quoted passage as well as the context in which it is quoted. In the case of photographs, almost never does a single image stand alone. Photographers present images as series or groups, whether they present them in books or exhibitions. (For example, think of Walker Evans's American Photographs, etc. as both book and exhibition.) Often even a single image comprises part of a larger work that also includes text of various sorts. So, when I use a single image it is at best an open question as to whether it alone would constitute a complete work. Usually it does not. And even if it might, I rely here on small jpeg images that hardly rival an actual size photo. (As an extreme example, consider any of the images of Burtynsky I have used here as compared to his giant prints.) So what counts as the substantial use of a work is, politely, subject to interpretation.

(4) As I state in my sidebar, I endeavor in each post to offer as complete an attribution for any non-original material as is available. This includes indicating copyright whenever I can determine it. Of course, it is a commonplace that such attribution is no substitute for obtaining permission if obtaining the latter is not obviated by fair use. Here an important issue is whether the use of copyrighted material undermines the actual or potential market value of the original. One has to wonder whether my critics really believe seeing a jpeg of a Burtynsky photograph on a blog undermines the value of the original. The jpeg is surely no substitute for the original and I, at least, would never pretend otherwise. Nor would any self-respecting photographer. Who knows? But I seek not only to identify the writer or photographer or artist or publisher and reassert his or her copyright, but also to discuss their work in a way that directs readers of the blog toward rather than away from it. I try whenever possible to link directly to whatever web presence the author or artist might have established.
And in the case of exhibitions I try to link to the venue (e.g., museum, gallery, or whatever) homepage. And in light of what I've already said above, I try to place the original work in a broader artistic, political or intellectual context - all of which would work to enhance the market (economic or intellectual) of the work. even when I am criticizing some artist or writer or work, I try to prompt readers to attend to and think about the subject at hand, namely the artist or writer or thinker and their work. Perhaps nitwit and her accomplice are so busy trying to browbeat people into agreeing with them that they overlook the possibility that others might be trying to prompt readers to think for themselves.
I am sure there are many other issues at stake. But they call for thought. And while they were jumping up and down yowling with outrage, neither nitwit nor her aggrieved running buddy bothered to think through what I actually do around here. (In fact, to the best of my knowledge neither has spent more than a few minutes at this blog. And then they were searching out some imagined gotcha. That is the approach of the terminally self-satisfied.) Admittedly, it must be hard to think and yowl at the same time; at least I suspect it must be since I've not tried it myself.

Having written all that, it is important be clear about something. We should not follow nitwit and her pal in assuming that anyone who challenges "fair use" of copyrighted materials is a defender of virtue or the oppressed. That would be a serious error. Those who question fair use too often include writers and artists (and heirs or executors) out trying quite opportunistically to extort rents from other writers and artists - including, you guessed it, photographers and film makers. This eventuality, of course, is something that nitwit and the aggrieved entirely fail to consider. For their enlightenment, therefore, I recommend this comic book written by legal scholars and published by Duke University Press.

The world that nitwit and the aggrieved live in apparently is very simple and all black and white. Yet the actual world the rest of us inhabit is very different. In the real world what we need is judgment and arguments (not assertions) and attention to details. Neither our nitwit Amy nor the aggrieved Mr. Harris are up to living in the real world. It would require them to think. So I close the door on this exchange with a simple piece of advice. As my wise, now deceased grandmother used to tell me ~ "Use your head for something other than a hat rack!"

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21 April 2008

Christopher Harris ~ Snap Judgements

In the context of a comment thread on the blog of right wing ranter Amy Alkon, photographer Christopher Harris opined that I am a "jerk" and a "thief." Mr. Harris has not, as far as I know, done more than visit this blog on a recognizance mission. He surely has never met me. Neither, for that matter, has the "gutsy" Ms. Alkon (her adjective). The context of Harris's intemperate comments was a disagreement over what constitutes "fair use" of copyrighted images and text. We got there because Ms. Alkon had reverted to one of the staple tactics of a good ideologue ~ change the subject and try to blame someone who questions you for some alleged, but truly irrelevant failing. Can you understand the phrase "red herring"? Enough, though, of the genealogy.

What is astounding to me is the self-righteousness, outrage and self-certainty Harris expresses. He is sure about the intricacies of the fair use exception. Maybe because he has no law degree his view is more perspicuous than, say, the folks at the Brennan Center (NYU Law) who on their Fair Use Network page admit that "intellectual property, or "IP," law" is "a mass of confusion for artists, scholars, journalists, bloggers, and everyone else who contributes to culture and political debate." It must be very, very re-assuring to Harris that he possesses so clear a view of such a contested, confusing arena.

Unfortunately for him, Harris's self-certainty has not translated well into the legal arena. In 2006 he lost a case against The San Jose Mercury News for purported copyright infringement.* The newspaper had used one of Harris's photos in a book review without securing his permission. Their defense? Fair Use, of course. Now I am sympathetic to Mr. Harris's concern for his livelihood. And I might actively admire his willingness to fund this case himself. (The PDN story to which I link says he received no funding from major photography groups. Is that because he sought none, or because they thought his suit crackpot? It turns out that Harris is a serial litigant, having previously sued another newspaper. My admiration is contingent on the answers to those questions.) All that said, virtually none of the factors that Harris must've thought held against The News apply to the way I use images and text here. I'd be happy to talk about that if Harris is interested.

What is my point? In his correspondence with Amy Alkon, Harris suggests (referring to me) that "he does not value the very thing he claims to care about." But since he has never so much as spoken to me, Harris has no idea what I care about, and so he steps right in it. (To bad his clarity of vision doesn't help him navigate his immediate surroundings. His shoes must be a mess.) What I value is public debate about culture and politics. And in partaking in that debate here I rely on the conception of fair use that Harris apparently fails to grasp. Harris is a good photographer, although I dare not reproduce any of his work here for fear of falling prey to his litigious impulse. I link to his web page above. He is, though, seemingly a pretty poor source of legal advice. And while I may be a jerk, it seems that I am not alone. The way Harris reaches for epithets first - before bothering to figure out what he is talking about - suggests that he has a propensity to rant that threatens the sort of debate I care about. I would just remind Harris that, as one who himself photographs some in color, he should consider that just maybe the world is not all black-and-white.
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* By the way, Amy Alkon, erroneously reports the disposition of Harris's suit. He lost, Amy. That is characteristic of her terribly tenuous connection to the real world. She apparently cannot report even the most basic facts accurately. Given a 50-50 chance of being right Amy Alkon screws it up. That is frightening given her self-proclaimed status as "Advice Goddess."
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P.S.: (Update later that day): I should have, but did not, make clear that I had never so much as heard of Christopher Harris prior to today when he sent his emails to Amy Alkon. At no time, for instance, have I posted or even mentioned any of his work here on the blog. So his diatribe is of the "principled" sort that only someone with absolutely nothing at stake here might offer. Ms. Alkon sought out Harris's expertise (such as it is) of her own accord and he replied in just the way she would want.

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Best Shots (21) ~ "taking the piss out of myself"

(47) Mat Collishaw ~ Self-Portrait 1990 (17 April 08)

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20 April 2008

Why Can’t you Say It? The Bush Administration, All the Way to the Top, Has engaged in a Policy of T-O-R-T-U-R-E.

Today the brave editorialists at The New York Times offered their opinion but withheld their judgment. Not only are they very late, but they are still hedging, unwilling to say the words or really tell us what they think. Let’s have a close look at what they say.
“Ever since Americans learned that American soldiers and intelligence agents were torturing prisoners, there has been a disturbing question: How high up did the decision go to ignore United States law, international treaties, the Geneva Conventions and basic morality?”
O.K. “American soldiers and intelligence agents” have tortured prisoners. But there is hardly anything stunning there. We’ve seen the pictures again and again. And some of the soldiers have been convicted and imprisoned. The waffling commences almost immediately after the obvious has been stated:
“. . . with President Bush’s clear knowledge and support — some of the very highest officials in the land not only approved the abuse of prisoners, but participated in the detailed planning of harsh interrogations . . .”
No T-O-R-T-U-R-E, apparently, among the higher-ups, just euphemisms - “abuse of prisoners” and “harsh interrogations.” The editorialists keep up the segregation in the next paragraph too:
“We have long known that the Justice Department tortured the law to give its Orwellian blessing to torturing people, and that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a list of ways to abuse prisoners.”
The law was tortured, we've read the memos too. No news there. And, as we already know, that rationalized the actions of soldiers and intelligence officers. But Don only “approved a list of ways to abuse prisoners.” So while unnamed officials at the Justice Department seem implicated, they remain discreetly at one remove and the Secretary of Defense still has only approved a euphemism. Dick and Condi and George and Colin and John remain safely off stage. Our editorialists do rightly note the opportunity costs associated with the time the Principals group devoted to approving and planning “harsh interrogations.” Hence:
“These officials did not have the time or the foresight to plan for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq or the tenacity to complete the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But they managed to squeeze in dozens of meetings in the White House Situation Room to organize and give legal cover to prisoner abuse, including brutal methods that civilized nations consider to be torture.”
So again the editorial mentions “abuse, including brutal methods that civilized nations consider to be torture.” The questions are obvious. Sure, citizens of “civilized nations” know torture when they see it. Do the editorialists consider such methods torture? Their earlier reference to various standards of domestic and international law and morality intimate that maybe they do. Are they willing to say flat out what they think? No. Should we consider such methods torture? No answers. The folks at The Times simply cannot take a stand.

Let’s be clear. The methods Don and Dick and Condi and George and Colin and John approved and recommended are torture. We may “have questions,” as the editorialists say, about what actually went on in “the Situation Room.” And we may “have questions” about just how much W knew when he “approved” the meetings there. But the methods constitute T-O-R-T-U-R-E. Use the word in a sentence and its yours for life. That is what the Nuns at Sacred Heart School taught me as a kid. The folks at The Times need to go back to school. The consequences of writing like this is to further devalue our language and our politics.

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19 April 2008

Our Propagandists

"Propaganda is a concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of large numbers of people. Instead of impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense presents information in order to influence its audience. The most effective propaganda is often completely truthful, but some propaganda presents facts selectively (thus lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or gives loaded messages in order to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the cognitive narrative of the subject in the target audience ." *
Main Entry: pro-pa-gan-da
Pronunciation: \prä-pa-gan-da, pro--\
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin, from Congregatio de propaganda fide Congregation for propagating the faith, organization established by Pope Gregory XV died 1623
Date: 1718

1capitalized : a congregation of the Roman curia having jurisdiction over missionary territories and related institutions
2: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
3: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect

— pro-pa-gan-dist \-dist\ noun or adjective
— pro-pa-gan-dis-tic \-?gan-?dis-tik\ adjective
— pro-pa-gan-dis-ti-cal-ly \-ti-k(a-)le-\ adverb **
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Today The New York Times is running this long investigative report on the Pentagon "message machine." The story focuses on the ways allegedly expert analysts - typically retired military officers - fanned out across major media outlets in an orchestrated campaign to discredit critics of then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld specifically and his ill-considered, ultimately failed policy in Iraq more generally. According to the reporter David Barstow:
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.
Not only did many of these "analysts" receive talking points in Pentagon briefings, many too had financial interests in dealings with the military. The conflicts of interest (and the way the putative "analysts" disparage any notion that they even exist) are appalling. What is more appalling still is that the mainstream media- you know, the one typically thought of as "liberal" - has not bothered to so much as check relationships, financial and informational, that their "analysts" have with the Pentagon. This is simply a reprise of what we witnessed in the run-up to the war - the abject failure of the American press to maintain anything resembling independence. If Bush and his minions are prosecuting a set of criminal policies in Iraq and elsewhere, the media seem to be functioning primarily as enablers.
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* Wikipedia
** Merriam-Webster Online

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"Over here on E Street, we're proud to support Obama for President."

I usually am not too impressed by "celebrity" endorsements, mostly because most celebrities are roughly an inch deep. This one, though, carries quite a bit of weight. Or maybe it that he's not really a celebrity? Thanks to my friend Kelly for passing along the announcement!
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P.S.: Update (20 April) ~ intelligent reports from The Guardian here and here.

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Prosescute John Yoo, Worry About His Tenure Later . . .

I have said here before that, like other, more senior, members of the Bush Administration, including W himself, John Yoo should be tried as a war criminal. This evening, my friend Jack (who is visiting for few days) read to me this post from Brian Leiter which argues very persuasively that a commitment to academic freedom prevents UC Berkeley from revoking Yoo's tenure. I agree with Leiter on the main point regarding Yoo's tenure - indeed Jack and I had come to very similar conclusions in a conversation yesterday. Leiter's argument is thorough and nuanced.

Leiter goes too far, though, in suggesting that Yoo is not susceptible to criminal prosecution since his defense lawyers might claim that Yoo offered his advice re: the legality of torture in 'good faith.' Leiter suggests that the defense could argue that such good faith is evidenced by the fact that both before and after his government service Yoo espoused his theory of the unitary executive which provides the 'intellectual' framework for his torture memos. I think Leiter is wrong because a 'good faith' defense of this sort likely would preclude prosecuting virtually any lawyer who was driven (as Yoo very arguably is) by deep, unquestioned ideological convictions. It may well be difficult to prosecute Yoo successfully in the face of a 'good faith' defense, but that hardly is a good enough reason to let him get away with rationalizing deadly policy. In other words, lots of prosecutions are difficult and pursuing Yoo surely is worth a try. Moreover, a trial would arguably do two useful things. First it would hold Yoo up to well-deserved, widespread ridicule as his lawyers sought to defend him in public against charges that he acted illegally and culpably on the basis of ideological delusion. (Notice that I do not think Yoo should be prosecuted for merely thinking or even espousing ideas. He should be prosecuted for being an integral part of a cabal of government officials that systematically dreamt up, justified, and implemented a policy of torture. Simply put, Condi, George, Colin, Dick, Don and John might very well not have been sitting in the "situation room" detailing the way the CIA could torture prisoners absent John Yoo's rationalizations.) Second, any such trial would almost certainly provide solid grounds to pursue related prosecutions for the higher-ups for whom Yoo was simply a toady.

If he were convicted, of course, Berkeley could revoke Yoo's tenure on grounds justified by its own guidelines on academic freedom. In the meantime, it seems to me that academics should drop their campaign to have Yoo's tenure revoked. But they should ridicule and ostracize him in all the ways he deserves for propagating his idiotic theories, that when implemented, predictably had arguably illegal and surely immoral consequences.

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18 April 2008

Can You Spell 'Reaction'? (2)

Catherine Opie and Douglas Crimp in conversation.

David Wojnarowicz

Over at Conscientious Jörg Colberg observes:
"I am being told it's a hoax! How very witty! Makes me think, though - isn't it a sad sign that we now live in a time where stuff like this (and every other headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion) could be real?"
Jörg pursues this thought comment on my last post:
"The project holds way less water than you think it does. The point for me is not that so many people got really angry, but rather, that so many people didn't consider it to be a joke. After all, it could easily have been true.

This in a time where the only reason we know why the headlines printed in "The Onion" are not true is because they're in "The Onion".

The fact that the President just openly endorsed torture, yet people debate about the lapel flag pin of a presidential candidate provides the background for this."
The problem, of course, is that Shvarts's performance art hardly stands out for its outrageousness. We can think of Mapplethorpe's self-portrait with the handle of a bullwhip stuck up his ass. But there are more, and more offensive, examples. Indeed, there is a robust recent history of performances exploiting various intersections of bodily integrity, gender, sexuality, pain, and so forth in much the way Shvarts has done in this new escapade. In fact, unlike say Opie or Wojnarowicz, in her project Shvarts apparently does no actual violence to herself or anyone else. I don't find much redeeming value in this sort of thing. But I do not think it fair, either, to characterize Shvarts's project a "joke" or a "hoax"; she was trying to make a point and created an elaborate performance into which she recruited witting and unwitting accomplices.

So, we live in a world where "stuff like this" is real well outside the pages of the Onion and, worse, well outside the art world. I find the public outrage yesterday misdirected and, too much of it, self-indulgent precisely because, as Jörg suggests, it occurs against the immediate background of the 'ho hum' response to even further revelations regarding the illegal and truly outrageous behavior on the part of a Yale alum and his cronies [e.g., 1, 2]. To that no one seems to be paying much mind.

Can You Spell 'Reaction'?

The initial report from the Yale Daily is here. The revelation is:
Arts, Briefly
Art Revealed as Fiction at Yale

By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: April 18, 2008
A Yale art student who claimed that she had repeatedly inseminated herself and then induced miscarriages as a performance-art project, igniting a firestorm of criticism on the campus and on the Web, told university officials on Thursday that she had lied about the claims and that the story itself was the art project.

The Yale Daily News reported Thursday that the student, Aliza Shvarts, said that she had inseminated herself “as often as possible” over a nine-month period using sperm from donors and later took herbal substances that are known to work as abortifacients. She told the newspaper that she made videos of herself experiencing her miscarriages and planned to show them at an exhibition of student art projects next week, along with her own blood.

But Helaine S. Klasky, a Yale spokeswoman, issued a statement from the university Thursday afternoon, saying: “Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body.

“She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art,” the statement added: “Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.”

I read the initial story and subsequent firestorm in the press and various blogs yesterday. I suspected (hoped?) the story couldn't be true. It wasn't. Good. The interesting things is the level of indignation, outrage, and self-righteousness that come automatically. Push the button and it spews forth. No reflection. No patience or pause. No questioning ~ let alone of ourselves. Our public culture is dessicated. All we do is react, shrilly. Ms. Shvarts gets an 'A' for revealing that with perfect clarity.

Lange & Meiselas


The University of Chicago Press is developing a really nice list in photography these days. Of course the put out No Caption Needed and Beautiful Suffering last year. And now the are re-issuing Susan Meiselas's Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History as well as Anne Whiston Spirn's Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field which reconstructs the connections between Lange's photographs and the texts she wrote in field journals.

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17 April 2008

Open Air Billiards

Islamabad, Pakistan: Pakistani boys play billiards in the
Christian neighbourhood of Khashi Kaluni.
Photograph © Emilio Morenatti/AP
(The Guardian ~ 16 April 08)

I came across this photo yesterday and it reminded me of this one I had posted on a long while ago. Here too we are prompted to question too common, politically inflected, conceptions of cultural 'authenticity,' conceptions I think are incoherent.

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16 April 2008

Bilal Hussein Released

Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, deputy commanding general for detainee operations, signed an order Monday for Hussein's release. ... Stone said that "we reviewed the circumstances of Hussein's detention and determined that he no longer presents an imperative threat to security. I have therefore ordered that he be released from [U.S.-led] coalition force custody." (CNN.com)
Imprisoned for two years without charge and now released because he is "no longer" deemed a security threat! What evidence has the U.S. military presented that photographer Bilal Hussein was ever a security threat - "imperative" or otherwise? None. Like the right-wing propagandists who have howled for Hussein's hide, the military is now, and have all along been, talking complete bullshit. You an read the reports from AP here and The Guardian here. Yet another travesty of justice perpetrated by the U.S. in Iraq. And I have no doubt that Michelle Malkin and the other knuckle-draggers will continue to howl.

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