Politics: February 2005 Archives

drawing from a pre-school Chechynan child

To Chechnya with art, with deep concern, and love too.

A number of artists from around the world have organized what they are calling the "EMERGENCY BIENNALE in CHECHNYA."

The extraordinary occasion, a work of conceptional art itself, will be inaugurated tomorrow, February 23, at 5 pm with a press conference at le Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Thereafter a suitcase filled with works, projects and concepts by more than 60 artists from all over the world will "hit the road," to be delivered in Grozny to a location yet to be finalized. The project is co-curated by Evelyne Jouanno and the artist Jota Castro with the support of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH).

Duplicates of the works and documentation packed in the suitcase sent to Chechnya will be displayed in Paris until April 23.

All kinds of information on Chechnya will also be presented [in le Palais de Tokyo]. Mylene Sauloy's and Manon Loizeau's films on daily life and culture of Chechens since the beginning of the first war in 1994 will be screened.

In addition, an internet post with webcam and direct access to the website created for the occasion - http://www.emergencybiennale.org - will do its utmost to connect with Chechen partners, to receive images and information on the suitcase and the organization of the exhibition in Grozny. A discussion forum will also offer an opportunity to react and exchange on the subject across and beyond all borders.

A publication is in preparation. It will comprise texts on the situation of human rights, some theoretical articles on art, political and social sciences as well as images of the various artistic projects.

[tip from e-Flux, image from sauseschritt, where it was accompanied by the text I've copied below]

terror und gegenterror in tschetschenien: aus einem 2002 veröffentlichten bericht (der russischen föderation und der republik chechnya) über die lage des Bildungswesens in tschetschenien stammen folgendes zitat und die kinderzeichnungen:
pre-school children were born and lived during war and continue to live in war affected situation. the psychological condition of children could be described by words and expressions like terror, reserved disposition, cautiousness in behavior with other adults, insufficient level of development of native speech, poor imagination, absence of variety of emotions ...

[my] English translation of the German above:

terror and counterterror in Chechnya: these drawings and the following quotation comes from an official report (of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Chechnya) published in 2002 on conditions within the Chechnyan education system:

a girl holds a poster reading 'Seriously damages human rights' during an anti-Bush demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Brussels today

Of course, like most people outside this country, William Pfaff knows that Bush doesn't really know a damn thing, so in this excellent discussion of the enormous and essential divide between the U.S. and the European world he addresses the myths held by a much larger constituency, the one which has made that little man President - and still likes what it sees.

Why Bush will fail in Europe

The President has an enormous political gulf to bridge. The trouble is, he doesn't even know it's there

William Pfaff
Observer, February 20

[Mr Bush's] trip will fail because he and his administration do not understand what really divides most continental European governments from the US ... Few Europeans believe either in the global "war on terror" or the "war against tyranny," as Washington describes them.

American claims about the threat of terrorism seem grossly exaggerated, and the American reaction disproportionate and even hysterical ... The invasion of Iraq is widely regarded in Europe as irrelevant to the reality of terrorism, overwrought in scale and destruction, and perverse in effect, vastly deepening hostility between the western powers and Muslim society ... Many Europeans believe it is not the world that has changed, but the United States.

[these excerpts from the full article appeared on a Guardian page covering the attitude of the world's press to the purposes of Bush's European visit]

I don't know how I'm going to be able to stay.

[image by Jacques Colett for Agence France Presse Belgium]


the "politicization" of the gates!

Many thanks to Noah Lyon for giving me the opportunity of pulling together my last two posts about art and politics (and maybe a good many more of these blogs, going back almost three years) with an email to which these photos were attached. The elegant sticker in the pictures is Noah's art, and my caption is taken straight from his message. Of course none of us knows much about the specifics of this particular "politicization" operation.

Incidently, for those who might be disturbed by the negativity of some of their critics, remember that we're still all part of their art, according to Christo and Jeanne-Claude, even when we quibble about or shout at The Gates.* It's such a burden.

* "The work is not only the fabric, the steel poles, and the fence. The art project is right now, here. Everybody here is part of the work. If they want it, if they don’t want it, either way they are a part of the work I believe very strongly that twentieth century art is not a single, individualistic experience." - Christo

[the images from Michael Carreira via Noah Lyon]

paradise, an imaginary park where "Fair Use" really is doctrine

Hide those cameras and sketchpads if you're planning on using them in Central Park this month, and even if you're not going, think of an alternative phrase to describe those 7500 orange-ish shower curtains. Do Christo and Jeanne-Claude own Central Park? Their publisher at least seems to think so, according to a post in Infoshop News by street artist and dedicated artists' rights gadfly Robert Laderman.

Christo's publisher [Kunst-Verlag Schumacher/Edition Fils] claims a vast new degree of copyright and trademark protection. They claim they will prosecute anyone who sells their own original photos of The Gates; who makes and sells a drawing of The Gates or who even uses the words, The Gates, without their permission. They claim to have copyrighted the words, The Gates. They also claim to have an agreement with the media that media sources may only use news photos of the gates for the period the installation is up. That after that the media will only be allowed to use "official" photos of The Gates.

They also claim that all of Central Park is now "private property." Talk about privatization! Be sure to thank Christo, Bloomscrooge and the CPC [Central Park Conservancy, the private group which now controls New York's parks, or at least the areas enjoyed by communities of money - ed.].

Don't forget the Maybach.

[image of Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise" from Artchive; story tip from Robert Boyd]

Leon Golub Two Heads (II) 1986 oil on canvas 21" x 68"

It's a terrific show, and don't let thoughts like that expressed in the remark of the guy we passed on our way across 20th Street deter you. We heard him tell his companion, "If there's one thing I don't like it's the politicization of art."

Full disclosure: If you've been reading these pages for even a little while you already know that I have no problem with the "politicization" of art - any more than I have a problem with art which addresses any other subject. Man is both the creator and the subject of all art, and the root of the word, "politics" is the Greek word for "people."

The Jack Shainman show was organized by Claude Simard and it will be up until March 12. The title is a mouthful to be sure: "The Whole World is Rotten: Free Radicals and the Gold Coast Slave Castles of Paa Joe," and the content may be a headful, but there's beauty and power in the images of the mid-twentieth-century activist reponse to centuries of racism, and the continuing engagement of contemporary artists, which are included in this exhibition.

And exhibition it is, at least so it is in the larger room, where the works are displayed almost as they might be in a museum of natural history. We were at the opening with our friend Karen who liked the work but complained that the show just wasn't messy enough. Then she immediately added that her complaint "might just be the Group Material in me." But I thought immediately when she said it that she was right about the room. The works were generally excellent, even at first sight (they will further reward a return), and the crowd was dynamic, but the walls were holding back.

Then we found the small gallery to the side, which was hung just right. There were posters, photographs and newspaper clippings hung imaginatively in something vaguely like salon style, and in the center one of Paa Joe's large coffin replicas (there are two in this show) of slave castles from the Ghanian coast. Dynamite.

I've finally accepted the fact that I really do enjoy going to (some) openings, and the major lure, aside from the ties of friendship, must the be the kind of energy created by the crowd at the reception for this show.

Cave Nick.jpg
Nick Cave The Day after Yesterday 2005 human hair on found beaded and sequined garment fabric 43" x 111" x 1" detail

The witch hunt has begun in earnest, and we won't be the only ones hunting. The most insidious aspect of what is already taking on the appearance of a coordinated media campaign is the fact that it will be so difficult to fight back. The victims of ignorance and fear are put into a position where almost any response looks like it's merely a defense of the right to use recreational drugs, fuck like rabbits and murder the innocent.

Obviously responding to the media's recent hysterics over the first, sketchy report of a more virulent form of the AIDS virus, linked invariably with stories about promiscuous gays, Richard Cohen writes today in the Washington Post [I shouldn't be too surprised, since this is a paper which also thought the Iraq war would be a good thing] that the buggerers must be condemned.

For too long now heterosexuals have kept out of this debate. Many of us have been protective of gays, seeing them primarily as victims of discrimination.

. . .

But while gays clearly have their enemies, that should not mean they are immune from criticism. The fact remains that a portion of the gay population -- maybe 20 percent, [Charles] Kaiser estimates -- conducts itself in ways that are not only reckless but just plain disgusting. Unprotected, promiscuous sex in bathhouses and at parties and using drugs such as crystal meth to prolong both desire and performance are practices that should be no more acceptable for gays than for heterosexuals. Gays don't get some sort of pass just because they're gay.

. . .

They are entitled to their own sexuality, but not to behavior that endangers others, costs us all plenty and, too often, entails a determined self-destruction that too many heterosexuals overlook.

. . .

Back in the 1970s William Ryan of Boston College popularized the term "blaming the victim." It gave voice to a needed concept, but it also silenced critics who saw that sometimes the victim needed to be blamed. This is the case now with gays when their behavior is both stupid and reckless. When they're victims of discrimination, they need to be defended. When they're victims of their own behavior, they need to be condemned.

Why was this piece written? What's his purpose, since he gives no helpful advice, offers no proposals? While I have no reason to think it's not his intention, Cohen's venomous piece sounds to me like an incitement to violence.

Finally, and this isn't a rhetorical question at all: If the "carriers" are just gay men, why are he and his straight colleagues so worried about our health? I don't have a good answer.

AIDS and (recreational) drugs. It's a dangerous mix, but the danger is not just that described by the media lately; the danger lies also in our media's obsession with drugs and the impact that obsesssion has on all of our society.

The latest wave of hysteria over what is still presented as "the gays' AIDS" was inspired by the tentative discovery in one person of what may be a drug-resistant strain of HIV. Regardless of whether fears of a new mutation turn out to be justified, we should be asking some questions about the report itself and the public's reaction to it.

Today's NYTimes features a very frightening (although for reasons other than the paper intended) story in the center of the front page with the headline: "Gays Debate Radical Steps to Curb Unsafe Sex; Fear of a Severe AIDS Strain stirs talk of Intervention"

[Gay activists and AIDS prevention workers say] They want to track down those who knowingly engage in risky behavior and try to stop them before they can infect others.

It is a radical idea, born of desperation, that has been gaining ground in recent months as a growing number of gay men become infected despite warnings about unsafe sex.

Although gay advocates and health care workers are just beginning to talk about how this might be done, it could involve showing up at places where impromptu sex parties happen and confronting the participants. Or it might mean infiltrating Web sites that promote gay hookups and thwarting liaisons involving crystal meth.

Other ideas include collaborating with health officials in tracking down the partners of those newly infected with H.I.V. At the very least, these advocates say, gay men must start taking responsibility for their own, before a resurgent epidemic draws government officials who could use even more aggressive tactics.

Scared yet? That's the agenda. But actually, in addition to the weakness of its basic premises, there's a problem with most of the documentation used by the Times writer, Andrew Jacobs.

The piece discusses AIDS as if it were identified solely with the (American, male) gay "community," and every measure discussed for fighting its spread is directed to those "others" who supposedly comprise that community. Moreover, as usual this paper enlists the support of some of gaydom's more conservative "spokespersons." The result is some pretty scary stuff for the eyes of an activist who has survived the first 25 years of the epidemic (every one of them as a person with HIV disease) without succumbing to the hysteria of our "drug" laws.

Historian Charles Kaiser: "A person who is H.I.V.-positive has no more right to unprotected intercourse than he has the right to put a bullet through another person's head."

GMHC's executive director, Ana Oliveira: "It makes a community stronger when we take care of ourselves, and if that means that we have to be much more present and intervene [my italics] with people who are doing this to themselves and others, then so be it."

Treatment advocate David Evans: [who thinks gays are safe today] "You have to remember that was the era when Jesse Helms and others were saying that gay people got what they deserved, and that the government shouldn't spend any money to help them. There was a time when people thought, 'Oh my god, they're going to put us in camps.' "

POZ editor Walter Armstrong: [playing much less loose with our rights and with common sense, would leave the policing to gay organizations, but he thinks they should use widespread screening and a partner-notification effort to track users of crystal meth who have been infected] "I think there are ways to do interventions [again, my italics] ethically, sensitively and compassionately. There's a huge window of opportunity between criminalization and empty prevention messages." recently


The most reasonable voice included is that of author and clinical psychologist Walt Odets:

He and others said it would be more effective to try to identify the underlying causes of drug abuse and self-destructive behavior, including the difficulty of living in a society that rejects committed gay relationships while condemning homosexuals for having sex outside those relationships. Gay men, he said, are using methamphetamines as an anti-depressant.
Finally, at the bottom of the article we hear a reassuringly calm announcement from New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about plans for
a more vigorous return to conventional H.I.V. prevention. Deputy commissioner Isaac Weisfuse says that his agency is planning to place information banners on gay Web sites and devote more money to hard-hitting ads about methamphetamine use.

And, he noted, the free condom has largely disappeared from public places. "Unfortunately, condom use has fallen off the radar screen," he said. "We need to do something we did well 20 years ago, which is to get condoms in every place people socialize or have sex."

In the end it's still about knowledge and condoms - for everyone, not the totally discriminate use of "screening" procedures, prohibitions against sex, drugs (always the drugs the establishment doesn't admit to), on line hookups, medical records or whatever they may come up with tomorrow.

This is not a good thing for America, regardless of the court arguments.

Lynne Stewart, whom the NYTimes accurately describes as "an outspoken lawyer known for representing a long list of unpopular defendants," has been found guilty of all charges levelled against her by Justice Department prosecutors. The headline on the Times site for a story dealing with reaction within the legal defense community to her conviction is shown above. It's a little cute, but the reality is definitely not.

"I don't think that there's a political lawyer in this country who doesn't believe that the government has a plan to target the lawyers who do what we do and to silence us," said Stanley L. Cohen, one of the country's best-known defenders of militants, terror suspects and other unpopular clients.

. . .

Roger L. Stavis, who worked alongside Ms. Stewart representing another defendant in the case that led to Mr. Abdel Rahman's conviction [it was the lawyer/client relationship of Stewart and Rahman which was the subject of the government's ire - Ed.], said it was regrettable that a lawyer could be convicted of a crime "for her zealous representation of a particularly odious client."

But wait, good people, maybe this isn't such a big problem after all. This regime just sweeps up any number of folks around the earth whom it brands as terrorists, throws them into concentration camps, again anywhere in this Pax America world, and possibly for life, by the admission of its own spokespersons. There they are never charged with any crime, yet they are routinely tortured and denied access to legal counsel. We don't even know who they are or where they are; no list is ever furnished; and the gang in Washington may itself not know about the existence of most of them or the nature of their alleged wrongdoing. The victims' friends and family are normally no better informed about their disappearance than the rest of us.

In the current scheme of things, concerns about legal representation for an accused terrorist may have become irrelevant. Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman was seized and tried long before 9/11, when we are told "everything changed." There have been virtually no trials for real terrorism since, and zero convictions. This government doesn't believe in trials when they can get away with avoiding public airings of its incompetence and evil purposes.

Lynne F. Stewart's trial mave have been the exception which proves the rule.

inside historic, if somewhat seedy, City Council Chambers, an easy camaraderie prevailed in the midst of testimony which will supposedly decide the fate of the Jets stadium proposal

Crowds of construction union workers, most of whom typically live in the outer boroughs or even the suburbs (including New Jersey), crowded New York City Hall today to reinforce Mayor Bloomberg and his powerful friends in pushing for the building of a monstrous thing the city doesn't need as the only way to urban economic health. But remember, this project is supposed to be very much about jobs and affordable housing for people who live in New York City - or at least that's how it's being sold to us by the wealthy owners of the Jets. It's certainly not about tailgate parties on the platforms of subway cars.

The words in the headline above are those of Council Member Bill Perkins [on the far left in the picture] as he began questioning the principal Hudson Yards/Jets Stadium backers during today's combined public hearing of the Finance, Transportation and Economic Development Committees. His words get right to the heart of the matter, but unfortunately in the end the decision will be made by people who have lots of money of their own, but want ours too.

The trio of guests (an impressive entwining of corporate and goverment power) gathered almost as one before the combined Committees while I was in Chambers today were Daniel L. Doctoroff, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding for the City of New York and founder of NYC2012, the organization behind New York City's Olympic bid; Mark Page, director of the New York City Office of Management and Budget and a member of the MTA Board; and Jay Cross, President of the New York Jets. What a tangled web they have woven. Have they no shame? And a Manhattan football stadium as New York City's last, best hope?

I was there only for some of their testimony, and while most of it was devoted to financing issues, at least one commitee member brought up the subject of traffic congestion. I didn't hear anything about how we were to deal with the consequences of an enormous football stadium being dropped into the middle of a Manhattan already at a traffic standstill evenings and weekends, but one of the high-powered boondogglers repeatedly used the phrase "traffic mitigation" in his testimony, as if he were talking about condolences.

Actually I was unable to get into the room until very late in the morning. I arrived after 9:30, when the hearing was scheduled to begin. At that time I couldn't even get inside the park surrounding City Hall (locked behind gates now , but it once belonged to the people, two Republican mayors back), to say nothing of getting near the building itself.

I waited with a small dedicated group of anti-stadium people outside on the sidewalk in the cold, beyond the tank traps and metal detectors, for most of the morning. The construction trade unions had sent huge numbers of their members to pack the floor of the hearing and I was told that there had been only a few rows of seats available in the rear for those who weren't on their bandwagon. It's sad to see trade unions manipulated by corporations intent on destroying working-class neighborhoods for their own huge short-term gains.

Bloomberg and his corporate allies are trying to rush through an approval of the stadium project so it can be displayed with the city's proposal for the 2012 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee will be in New York for four days beginning February 21 as part of its round of formal visits to contending cities. But where is Bloomberg's head? If New York's bid ever had a chance after the beginning of Bush's "war on terror," it finally died when the Mayor's party decided to invade Iraq.

Interestingly, this photograph shows how the current City Council makeup pretty much reflects the demographics of New York, if not of much of the entire world, although here it does look like an entirely male world. The image is very misleading however. I was sitting in the second row and had to point my camera between two large suited gentlemen in front of me, so I didn't have much choice in deciding what was in the viewfinder. In fact, Council members Quinn, Sears, Gonzales and James, arguably some of the strongest and most articulate members, were seated on the dais just to the left and the right of the men pictured here.

If I can now be forgiven for going even further off-message, I want to admit that I'm finding myself compelled to keep looking back at the photograph above. I really, really like the gold needlepoint star with its red field on the back of the Speaker's chair; I now remember that even while I was sitting before a fairly animated group of committee members I was staring at the empty chair much of the time. I think everyone should have a chair with a star.

The Democrats have decided they'll let Gonzales become the chief law-enforcement officer of the world's only superpower rogue state.

If, after the November 2004 election, there might still have been any doubts around the world about how many Americans actually support the regime which has reinvented their homeland as a dangerous rogue nation, this will finally squelch them. The only "opposition party" in the country says it's pretty cool with the guy who was largely responsible for legitimizing our use of torture anywhere in the world as a device for protecting our very exclusive national security.

What are these privileged politicos waiting for? Where will they take a stand? I think we know the answer already.

But maybe this torturing rogue state thing is actually okay, even estimable, because, like Gonzales's own tale, it's such a great immigrant success story, the U.S. having come from such a humble background to finally emerge the most powerful and most violent nation on earth.

So perhaps you should give us a big hand and a warm pat on the back, world, although you'd better have a smile on your face.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from February 2005.

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