War: January 2009 Archives



(look closely at the borders within the drawing above)

NOTE: Yesterday I wrote a hurried and perfunctory post on the work Michael Mandiberg has produced while he has been associated with Eyebeam, because I had been told he would have an open studio last night. The information proved to be mistaken; the date of the formal viewing is instead going to be next Tuesday, January 27, at Eyebeam, from 2 to 4, or by appointment [michael at mandiberg dot com] through the end of that week, until January 30.

Mandiberg has assembled a body of work in a range of various mostly-paper forms using elements of both the old technology and the new. He's addressing the rapidly accelerating obsolescence of our established information systems; our experience of history and language; what we do with time; our direct participation in changing social structures and the disappearance of old political certainties; and old art subsumed in the new. He does it sometimes with ordinary words, and sometimes with the line of the artist. His tool in expressing both of these languages is the modern laser cutter.

His sitter may be the OED, the New York Times, the World Book, the National Geographic Society or Josef Albers. For these portraits he has cut through variously somewhere between one and several hundred pages of "dated" printed texts to produce dramatic, even ravishing negative spaces, words, which symbolize or articulate the contemporary, cutting-edge approach to words and information, and he carefully scorches surfaces of the artist's traditional paper medium to reconfigure for today some of the aesthetic icons and arguments of the past.

As modern as they are, these pieces are hardly accomplished just by push button. The mark of the artist's hand is in each. I don't know how much of it is a consequence of the process and the nature of the materials and how much of it comes from Mandiberg trying calculatedly to show imperfections; he may not know the answer himself.

Sometimes the machine itself fails to produce a perfect effect, and the artist has gone back to reproduce its desired machine perfection by hand. Sometimes Mandiberg seems to be trying to get rid of imperfections in the machine's work (to remove the hand), and elsewhere he is trying to make the work of the machine look slightly imperfect (to introduce the hand).

If it is anything like what I describe, this approach registers on this individual, personal scale the complex relationship with our machines which we have all shared - not just the artists among us - since the beginnings of industrialization.

I don't have the space to describe the individual work displayed, especially because they are all so conceptual, and because much of the work is still incomplete, but if you visit far West 21st Street during the next week, you'll find the artist is totally up to that task.

Mandiberg is currently a senior fellow in Eyebeam's R&D OpenLab facility. In a conversation Barry and I had with him there yesterday, we were discussing his art and his process when he avowed that, yes, "all of the work here lives in both the arts sphere and the nerd sphere". Yum. Members of both communities will find much to their tastes if they are able to check out his installation.

[final image from the artist's Flickr set]

"Maybe, if you think about the mental situation of the people under seige in Masada, you could get a better sense of what's happening in Gaza" - Udi Aloni

Some time ago I had set aside a blank, unpublished entry on this blog's admin page with this working title:
"Can someone please direct me to the Israeli refugee camp?"

I never completed the post.

I probably thought it sounded a bit too snide, even for me at my angriest, as I was then and remain now, anguishing over the never-ending insanity and horror of the tragedy unfolding in the Middle East, specifically in Gaza right now. But ultimately this cancer festers almost everywhere else in this world, as relations between peoples have increasingly putrefied because of the mess which resulted from the manner in which the state of Israel was created.

So, since some of my friends may already be staying clear of me in my absorption in the events of the past weeks, and since I wasn't prepared to assemble a long narrative on the origins of the conflict to substantiate what some might describe as my more provocative statements in this medium on the subject, I was almost totally relieved and very excited to get an email this morning which included a link to the text of an exceptional statement by an Israeli-American artist and activist I have met and whose work I have admired for years. The text of its sender's public letter manages to provide the perspective I didn't, and mercifully without the history lecture I would have delivered.

The film director, writer, visual artist and activist Udi Aloni answers a letter written by Israeli singer Noa [Achinoam Nini] and addressed to Palestinians in the Gaza strip and worldwide in which she called upon them to disavow fanaticism:

Dear Achinoam Nini,

I chose to answer you, and not the entire raging Right, because I believe that the betrayal of the peace camp, at this of all times, exceeds the damage caused by the Right a thousand fold. The ease with which the peace camp gives itself over to the roars of war hinders the creation of a meaningful movement that could [sic] a true resistance to occupation.

You roll your eyes, use your loving words in the service of your conquering people and call upon the Palestinians to surrender in a tender voice. You bestow upon Israel the role of liberator. Upon Israel – that for over 60 years, has been occupying and humiliating them. "I know where your heart is! It is just where mine is, with my children, with the earth, with the heavens, with music, with HOPE!!" you write; but Achinoam, we took their land and imprisoned them in the ghetto called Gaza.

We have covered their skies with fighter jets, soaring like the angels from hell and scattering random death. What hope are you talking about? We destroyed any chance for moderation and mutual life the moment we plundered their land while sitting with them at the negotiation table. We may have spoken of peace, but we were robbing them blind. They wanted the land given to them by international law, and we spoke in the name of Jehovah.

Who are the secular people of Gaza supposed to turn to, when we trample on international law, and when the rest of the enlightened world ignores their cry? When enlightenment fails and moderation is seen as a weakness, religious fanaticism gives a sense of empowerment. Maybe, if you think about the mental situation of the people under siege in Masada, you could get a better sense of what’s happening in Gaza.

The seculars in Gaza find it hard to speak against Hamas when their ghetto is being bombarded all day and all night. You would probably say that 'we would not need to shell them if they held their fire,' but they fire because they are fighting for more that the right to live in the prison called Gaza. They are fighting for the right to live as free citizens in an independent country – just as we do.

"I know that deep in your hearts YOU WISH for the demise of this beast called Hamas who has terrorized and murdered you, who has turned Gaza into a trash heap of poverty, disease and misery," you write. But Hamas is not the monster, my dear Achinoam. It is the monster's son.

The Israeli occupation is the monster. It and only it is responsible for the poverty and the sickness and the horror. We were so frightened of their secular leadership, which undermined our fantasy of the Land of Israel, that we chose to fund and support Hamas, hoping that by a policy of divide and conquer were could go on with the occupation forever; but when the tables have turned, you choose to blame the effect instead of the cause.

You write, "I can only wish for you that Israel will do the job we all know needs to be done, and finally RID YOU of this cancer, this virus, this monster called fanaticism, today, called Hamas. And that these killers will find what little compassion may still exist in their hearts and STOP using you and your children as human shields for their cowardice and crimes." It is the same as if your Palestinian sister would write: "Let us hope that Hamas does the job for you, and rids you of the Jewish Right."

So maybe, instead of ordering around a people whose every glimmer of hope we have surgically eliminated, you could help your brothers and sisters in Palestine rid themselves of the occupation, oppression and the arrogant colonialism inflicted by your country. Only then can you urge them to fight democratically and return Palestine to the mental state it was in before we pushed it into the corner of the wall that we built.

And if your brethren in Palestine choose Hamas, you have to respect their choice, just as the world's nations respected Israel when it chose the murderous (Ariel) Sharon. Hamas is theirs to fight, just like you fought him. That is what democracy is about. Only then can you and your brethren in both Palestine and Israel share – as equals – the joy of the land, the sky and the music; only then can we fight for equality together, for every man and woman living living in our holy land. Amen.

ADDENDUM: "What if it was San Diego and Tijuana instead?", an analogy which might be helpful to Americans who know nothing beyond the latest headlines, written by Randall Kuhn and published Wednesday in, yes, The Washington Times.

[image of 1730 French print depicting the siege and capture of Masada from preteristarchive]

Jews captured during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising led by German soldiers to deportation

I'm normally not inclined to pay attention to the Vatican when it comes to statements on morals, but this BBC bulletin is hard to ignore: The Pope's justice minister, Cardinal Renato Martino, has sharply criticised Israel's actions and likened the Gaza Strip to a "big concentration camp".

The developments of the past two weeks make me want to pose a question closely related to that analogy: Can anyone say, "Warsaw Ghetto uprising"?

After the horrors committed in our name (and with the active or passive support of most of us) by our own government these past eight years, Americans of conscience can't easily point fingers at any of the peoples who suffer under immoral regimes whether these systems were historically discredited in the middle of the last century or are very much active in the present. However I still think it's fair to ask, where are the "good Germans" today [using the phrase sincerely, not sardonically], in both Israel and the U.S., and also in those countries which continue to support and enable the disastrous policies pursued by both.

My thanks for the news tip go to a friend who is with a group, "We are Jews who say 'Not in Our Name' to the Israeli Government", assembling at 5:30 pm this Monday, January 12, in front of the Israeli Consulate at 800 Second Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets.

[image from JewishVirtualLibrary]

(tell him it's not his to give away)

Nothing Michael Bloomberg has done yet has disgusted me more than his mindless support of the government of Israel's bloody insanity in Gaza while he's wrapped in the trappings of the high office of the cosmopolitan City of New York.

Some of us prefer to think before we act, and we don't pretend to represent an entire constituency when we do.

While he's talking about the right of a government to defend oneself, referencing a mighty military state allied with the most powerful nations on earth, a nation which actualized its people's 2,000-year old memory of a homeland only 60 sixty years ago, why can't the mayor of all New Yorkers bring himself to recognize the rights of an almost people who are almost powerless and have virtually no allies, whose memory of a homeland is more vivid and within living memory, going back, as it does, only those same 60 years?

Bloomberg may understand money and power (he bought his own political office and since then he's learned to emulate Putin), but apparently nothing else. His sympathies have always been with the guy on top, and that's where they remain today.

He's a damned fool, but that doesn't make him any less dangerous.

[image of the Great Seal of the City of New York from citizenarcane]

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from January 2009.

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