NYC: April 2005 Archives

Richard Hoeck and John Miller Something for Everyone 2004 video installation view

Sabina Hörtner Twins 01 2002 Eddy marker on multiple cardboard sheets installation view

Marko Lulic Hart und weich Nr.2 [Hard and Soft No.2] 2002 painted wood platform with vintage film by Dejan Karaklajic and Jovan Acim installation view

I feel like we just came back from a trip to Vienna (again), or more specifically a visit to the studios of nine emerging artists living and working in the city which could arguably be described as the geographic and cultural center of a Europe which has rediscovered the treasure of its eastern lands. The Austrian Cultural Forum (ACF) is hosting this group exhibition curated by Trevor Smith of the New Museum through August 20.

Smith points out that although his assignment has placed these artists in a geographic context they do not necessarily define themselves geographically.

Many of the artists's works that I have chosen for the New York version of "Living and Working in Vienna" are marked by this tension between somewhere and anywhere, using architecture or film as the site for mediations on history, memory and cultural critique.
If artists are outsiders regardless of where they find themselves, we should all be delighted to see what creative minds can do with the fantastic kind of "outside" which is described by this gorgeous and surprisingly modern city today.

Go to this little bit of Austria on 52nd Street for the show and for how well it has been integrated into the spaces of this very interesting building. For the rest of this week there's the additional incentive of the avant garde festival "Moving Patterns: Electronic Music and Beyond," which is fully described on the website. Go early in order to check out the visual art, especially since its arrival seems timed perfectly for the cross-genre festival of sound.

Oh, and ACF performances are always absolutely free.


Spotted in Williamsburg on the inside of the narrow extruded steel pole supporting a parking sign.

how do you say "booga booga!" in ten languages?

In an email with the subject line, "My encounter with Pope Benedict XVI," a friend and awesome activist colleague of mine reminds us today that our outrage over what Josef Ratzinger represents has a history, including one very much in our midst. The following paragraphs are an excerpt from Michaelangelo Signorile's first book, "Queer in America: Sex, the Media and the Closets of Power," published in 1993.

[The event described here occurred on January 27, 1988. I will forever be grateful to the new pope for being so integral to my development.]

One protest that was announced was an upcoming zap of Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, the German prelate who was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. He had written a paper for the Vatican in which he said that homosexuality was "intrinsically evil" and a "moral evil." Cardinal Ratzinger had said the church had to fight the homosexual and fight against legislation that "condoned" homosexuality.

The Ratzinger appearance was at St. Peter’s, a church known for its modern architecture, at Citicorp Center...When I arrived, the place was packed. It was in a big amphitheater that looked more like the United Nations General Assembly chamber than a church. This wasn’t going to be a Catholic mass; St. Peter’s wasn’t even a Catholic Church. Ratzinger may have been a religious figure but he was also a political leader, especially since he was the church's antigay crusader, here to fight against gay civil rights legislation. The church wanted him to speak in a slick, modern, secular-looking space, free of ornate and intimidating religious décor and adornment. It made the gathering accessible and open to people of all faiths and political persuasions.

Ratzinger sat at the altar, along with Cardinal O'Connor and several other prelates. Judge Robert Bork, the conservative Supreme Court nominee who'd just been rejected by the Senate, sat in the front row. Mrs. William F. Buckley, Jr., was there too, as was an incredible array of Upper East Side women, the upper crust of New York's Catholic Society. There were prominent Wall Street businessmen and local government officials. And rows and rows of nuns, brothers, and priests, perhaps the heads of orders and parishes. I began to feel very small – I hadn't seen so many priests since Catholic school.

I looked for protesters, but I couldn't see anyone with a sign or a T-shirt. I wondered for a few moments if anything was really going to happen. I had decided to go there strictly to watch, to check out how these people operated when they conducted these demonstrations. As for myself, I didn't know the first thing about protesting and I still wasn't sure about it. I certainly didn't like the idea of getting arrested.

...Ratzinger took the podium and began to speak. As soon as he finished his first sentence, a group of about eight people to the left of the crowd leaped to their feet and began chanting "Stop the Inquisition!" They chanted feverishly and loudly, their voices echoing throughout the building. The entire room was fixated on them. Activists suddenly appeared in the back of the church and began giving out fliers explaining the action. Two men on the other side of the room jumped up and, pointing at Ratzinger, began to scream, "Antichrist!" Another man jumped up, in one of the first few rows near the prelate, and yelled, "Nazi!" All over the church, angry people began to shout down the protestors who were near them; chaotic yelling matches broke out.

It was electrifying. Chills ran up and down my spine as I watched the protestors and then looked back at Ratzinger. Soon, anger swelled up inside me: This man was the embodiment of all that had oppressed me, all the horrors I had suffered as a child. It was because of his bigotry that my family, my church -- everyone around me -- had alienated me, and it was because of his bigotry that I was called "faggot" in school. Because of his bigotry I was treated like garbage. He was responsible for the hell I'd endured. He and his kind were the people who forced me to live in shame, in the closet. I became livid.

I looked at Cardinal O'Connor, who had buried his head in his hands, and I recognized the man sitting next to him. It was O'Connor's spokesman and right-hand man, Father Finn, who had been the dean of students back at my high school, Monsignor Farrell. A vivid scene flashed in front of my eyes: The horrible day when I was in the principal's office talking to the principal, the guidance counselor, and the dean, the day they threw me out because I was queer. I looked back at Ratzinger, my eyes burning; a powerful surge went through my body. The shouting had subsided a bit because some of the brothers had gotten in front of the room to calm the crowd. The police had arrived and were carting away protestors.

Suddenly, I jumped up on one of the marble platforms and, looking down, I addressed the entire congregation in the loudest voice I could. My voice rang out as if it were amplified. I pointed at Ratzinger and shouted: "He is no man of God!" The shocked faces of the assembled Catholics turned to the back of the room to look at me as I continued: "He is no man of God -- he is the Devil!"

I had no idea where that came from. A horrible moan rippled across the room, and suddenly a pair of handcuffs was clamped on my wrists and I was pulled down....

...I was excited the see something in the New York Post the next day besides the gossip columns: a headline – "Gays Rattle Pope's Envoy" – next to a photo of an anguished Cardinal Ratzinger.

I joined the ACT UP media committee.

One year later Signorile and I both participated, along with thousands of others, in the 1989 "Stop the Church" action. One of the most important catalysts for its success was our community's anger over Ratzinger's 1986 letter to the bishops of the Catholic church, "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons."

outside St. Patrick's Cathedral, December 10, 1989

[image at top by Domenico Stinellis from the Associated Press via Robert Boyd; lower image is that of a Jack Smith photo on the front page of the Daily News copied from my archives]

Welcome citizens! (wire and flesh, inside the holding pen on Pier 57)


This is the political nightmare we fear the most. -- joseph Keiffer
Six letters in the NYTimes today discuss yesterday's news article about the confirmation of the false arrest of hundreds of people during last year's Republican Parteitage in New York. They cover a lot of ground and every one of the short contributions is worth a read, but I feel compelled to add my own observation here:
All of this almost certainly means nothing over six months after the damage was done. These people were held captive in miserable conditions, their voices silenced, for up to five days. That time and those assaults can never be restored. The speech silenced then was not and will never be heard; it was unable to influence or effect anything while voices were locked up inside a filthy abandoned pier. [see my archive for posts from the end of August and the first week of September, 2004]

Even if the innocence of these victims is affirmed now, and the malfeasance of the police and city administration is made clearly manifest to the world, what most people are not thinking about is the fact that it worked very well. It silenced a people who thought themselves free, including countless numbers who were frightened into staying at home.

A radical, quasi-fascist regime is now firmly entrenched in the most powerful nation on earth, and there is no effective dissent anywhere.

Worst of all, in spite of what happened in the courts last week, it will work the next time too. The police will continue to suppress all dissent; it's what our leaders want them to do. There will be no reprimands, no directives or new systems which might prevent a recurrence of last summer's shame or an even greater debacle in the future.

[image, repeated from my September 3, 2004 post, via indymedia, by anonymous]

sign race

This was the scene on 23rd Street a few nights ago. Boston Market was installing a long canopy stretching to the curb, presumably to compete for attention with its fast food and fast life neighbors. This miniature Las Vegas is immediately adjacent to our own building, whose storefronts are currently being restored to their restrained, mid-1930's art deco appearance (including curved glass and awnings that roll out of pockets above display windows). A cab ride home in the rain the other night revealed that this electrified visual pollution is taking over much of the city.

Footnote: When I moved into Chelsea Gardens the buildings which stood where most of these signs are now composed a small row of once-dignified brownstones, the last on our side of the block. By the 1980's it was clear that they were the victims of malign neglect by absentee owners. Their tenants were eventually removed by one means or another (except for the pigeons), and the buildings slowly disintegrated, their rotting carcasses meanwhile presenting a continuous assault to the aesthetics, health and safety of the neighborhood. Years passed before they were torn down altogether, and by that time only the birds seemed to care that they were gone. The two-story replacements seen in the picture are built of Styrofoam, bent aluminum strips and wallboard. Their property titles are very likely in the hands of the same people who once owned the brownstones.

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