Elections in Exotic Places (2)
vote at a polling station in his hometown of Mumba,
in northern Burundi's Ngozi province (28 June 2010).
Sunday in the capital, Conakry (27 June 2010).
Photograph: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
“What we need is a critique of visual culture that is alert to the power of images for good and evil and that is capable of discriminating the variety and historical specificity of their uses.” - W.J.T. Mitchell. Picture Theory (1994).
We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense. And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending. [. . .] you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.Given his lack of economic acuity, it seems to me that Neil Cavuto ought to be the one looking for a job. Yet, his fight with Ron Blackwell isn't about economic analysis, its about politics. That is what FOX "News" is mostly about - rationalizing policies that screw the poor, the working class and the otherwise vulnerable. So Cavuto will continue to shill for the sort of right wing policies that the FOX folks peddle. Listen, I think I just heard him shout "Hey Paul, where did you get that Nobel Prize?" I know what Krugman's reply should be.
As far as rhetoric is concerned, the revival of the old-time religion is most evident in Europe, where officials seem to be getting their talking points from the collected speeches of Herbert Hoover, up to and including the claim that raising taxes and cutting spending will actually expand the economy, by improving business confidence. As a practical matter, however, America isn’t doing much better. The Fed seems aware of the deflationary risks — but what it proposes to do about these risks is, well, nothing. The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won’t authorize additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.[. . .] Why the wrong turn in policy? [. . .] I don't think this is really about . . . any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.
And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.
"The reasons for the new American austerity are subtler, but not shocking. Our economy remains in rough shape, by any measure. So it’s easy to confuse its condition (bad) with its direction (better) and to lose sight of how much worse it could be. The unyielding criticism from those who opposed stimulus from the get-go — laissez-faire economists, Congressional Republicans, German leaders — plays a role, too. They’re able to shout louder than the data.Some remarks. First, the ability to shout effectively is pretty much reserved for the right these days. It perfectly describes the spectrum from FOX to "Tea Party" types. Second, no one thinks massive deficits are sustainable indefinitely: not Ron Blackwell, not Paul Krugman, not me. Everything rides on the word "eventually." And the right is simply willing to dump risk and hardship on the vulnerable. Finally, here is something the Times piece gets right. This is about politics. If you asked me how to best cut the U.S. deficit (or at least most, yes most, of the growth therein) I'd say (1) get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan and (2) start repealing the idiotic right wing tax policies that favor the rich. Tomorrow. No one on the right is willing to look at the real sources of our deficit woes. They are too busy shouting to drown out the data.
Finally, the idea that the world’s rich countries need to cut spending and raise taxes has a lot of truth to it. The United States, Europe and Japan have all made promises they cannot afford. Eventually, something needs to change.
In an ideal world, countries would pair more short-term spending and tax cuts with long-term spending cuts and tax increases. But not a single big country has figured out, politically, how to do that."
"He opens a copy of Living in the End Times, and finds the contents page. 'I will tell you the truth now,' he says, pointing to the first chapter, then the second. 'Bullshit. Some more bullshit. Blah, blah, blah.'"He, of course, is the master himself. I could not have said it better myself. Although, no doubt, I simply am failing to grasp his deep irony and intelligence. Maybe so.
"It featured black and white images of her three children, often naked or partially naked, as they played and posed in the woods, lakes and rivers around her home in rural Virginia.I will give O'Hagan the benefit of the doubt here and assume he is simply being ironic. Of course the reason the "more provocative" images in the series are not being displayed is that the gallery and/or photographer anticipated public complaints. So, instead of censorship we get anticipatory reaction. If I don't show you the provocative images I won't have to worry about being forced to remove them from the show. In other words, the censors have done their work effectively before the exhibition is even mounted.
The images, some of which are on show here in the 59-year-old American's first British retrospective, are by turns beautiful, disturbing and unashamedly sensual. Perhaps more problematically, all of them are, to one degree or another, staged. [. . .]
"Many of these pictures are intimate, some fictions and some fantastic," Mann said of the series, "but most are ordinary things that every mother has seen." Well, maybe, but not every mother has restaged and then rendered them in such a darkly beautiful and ambiguous ways. Intriguingly, none of the more outrightly provocative photographs have found their way into this show, which is an edited version of a bigger retrospective exhibition that has already toured Europe. Whether this is down to lack of space or fear of public – or tabloid – outcry is anyone's guess, but one could argue that something has been lost in this excised version of the series: the sense that Mann is walking a tightrope between reflecting childhood sexuality in all its lack of self-consciousness and staging it in often dramatic reconstructions. This, in effect, is where the true power of her art lies.
The other, even more disturbing series on show here is entitled What Remains (2000–04), which approaches death and dying head on. Mann gained access to the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Centre, a place that would not seem out of place in one of Chuck Palahniuk's darkly humorous short stories. Here, bodies that have been donated to science are left outside in the woods so that the process of organic decomposition can be studied by forensic scientists.
Mann's close-up images of these rotting corpses are not for the faint of heart, but, again, the prints – made by an old-fashioned chemical method called the wet-plate collodion process – have a Victorian feel that is almost painterly. One does, though, feel like a voyeur when looking at images such as this. They raise the ethical question of whether a person's decision to donate their body to science gives scientists the right, at a later date, to grant Mann permission to photograph that – decomposing – body. (And whether the result should then be displayed as art. )
From there O'Hagan quickly turns to the safe subject of photographic technique. Apparently it would be OK for a crime novelist to describe rotting corpses. And it is OK for forensic scientists to study them. And it is OK for us to watch the various CSI programs on television. But Mann's images (stylized as they are) are somehow beyond the pale?
“The subject of pain is the business I am in . . . To give meaning and shape to frustration and suffering. . . . The existence of pain cannot be denied. I propose no remedies or excuses.” ~ Louise Bourgeois
"Ms. Bourgeois’s sculptures in wood, steel, stone and cast rubber, often organic in form and sexually explicit, emotionally aggressive yet witty, covered many stylistic bases. But from first to last they shared a set of repeated themes centered on the human body and its need for nurture and protection in a frightening world."This strikes me as leading us to think about the politics of vulnerability and security. But, from what I can see, none of commentaries accept the invitation.
“The Bestiaries, or books of beasts, of almost a thousand years ago contained much that we no long believe. There is no stone in the heads of toads that neutralizes poison and there are no unicorns at all, so the ability of their horns to likewise undo poison is not particularly helpful either. Those old books were compendiums of known and imagined animals, of eagles and dragons and elephants, with lore about their powers, lives and meanings, often moral and religious meanings, They were also compendiums of sheer wonder, but the sense of wonder that emerges from scientific knowledge is at least as great, whether its about Belding’s ground squirrel of the Sierra Nevada that hibernates about eight months a year or the elephant seal that not only can hold its breath underwater for an hour but often does so for twenty minutes or more at a time while sleeping on the shore. Or the blue whale, whose heart is bigger than an American bison and beats about six times a minute, a tenth the speed of ours, or the hummingbird in flight, whose tiny heart beats a thousand times a minute.”*
From a Notebook_____________
The final vanity, to think
you're not your life, that even today
as\t the last possible moment
you can walk away; as out of cheap hotel,
leaving ten dollars under the key on the bureau.
Why bother to lock the door? The fuzzy TV,
the footsole-colored bedspread,
the quart of milk souring on the windowsill,
you always new they had nothing to do with you
although you were used to them
and even grateful,
alone as you were, in a strange city.
"The Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution. More do than before, but a majority still do not. Their fundamental view is, the Europeans treated the Jews badly and gave them our land — this is Palestinian thinking [...] They don’t believe in the Torah, in David [...] You have to force them to say Israel is here to stay. The boycott of Gaza to me has another purpose — obviously the first purpose is to prevent Hamas from getting weapons by which they will use to hurt Israel — but the second is actually to show the Palestinians that when there’s some moderation and cooperation, they can have an economic advancement. When there’s total war against Israel, which Hamas wages, they’re going to get nowhere. And to me, since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, while certainly there should be humanitarian aid and people not starving to death, to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go, makes sense." ~ New York Senator Charles Schumer (June 2010).
"The vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians are willing to live alongside each other peacefully in separate states, according to an independent poll released on Wednesday. Results of the poll, commissioned by the grass-roots OneVoice Movement, indicate that 74 percent of Palestinians and 78 percent of Israelis are willing to accept a two-state solution." ~ Ha'artez (19 May 2010).
"In 1964, Andy Warhol exhibited wooden facsimiles of shipping cartons. A work of art and a mere shipping carton can look exactly alike. What explains the difference? What is the difference between sitting down with someone in a performance and merely sitting down with someone? The work of art has meaning; it is about something. And it embodies that meaning.So here is what I think the crux of the matter is for me. As Danto makes clear in these passages, and what I complained about earlier, this "sitting" was passive for the viewers - an "act" of homage, an experience of being orchestrated or choreographed for the artist's purposes. Abramović, on Danto's own view, is bestowing on viewers some sort of gift; she is doing them a "favor." I therefore don't quite get his claim that "The Artist is Present" exemplifies performance art insofar as that category or genre "has ignited in the public imagination the idea that one can do more than passively experience works of art." It seems to me to convey the reality that, for viewers, their "participation" is wholly ancillary. Moreover, insofar as Abramović entered into some sort of trance-like state during the performance she offered no recognition of viewers as agents. Would she even have noticed had the chair across from her were vacant? Conversely, how might sitting across from someone who is oblivious to your presence differ from viewing an inanimate object (painting, sculpture, photograph)? Perhaps that is the message Abramović sought to convey - that all art (at least in the industrial-gallery-museum complex) ultimately takes the form of such supplication on the part of viewers. I doubt it.
Many people thought that Marina Abramovic’s act of sitting across from them was a case of the emperor’s new clothes. But for most who sat with her, the act was fraught with meaning. It was in a sense a sacrifice on the artist’s part, an ordeal, an immense favor conferred on those who sat with her.
[. . .]Think of the title of Marina’s show, “The Artist is Present.” And what presence means. The sitters are honored to be in the presence of the artist. It is a ritual moment, and understood as such by their own ordeal of waiting. The woman who sat for the entire period (seven hours) tried to make the presence hers. The next day Marina was present but the woman who sought her presence was gone. Marina’s presence was a treasure that could only be conferred. These are some of the hermeneutical aspects that the artist understood, and sitters mainly acknowledged. Think of all the photographs that shows tears in their eyes! People will discuss this event for years. It was a moment of spiritual exchange. How many of those do we have in a life?
[. . .]
The spiritual wiring of the human soul remains to be diagrammed. That is what art is for."
Nevertheless, there’s a temptation to dismiss Bergman’s pictures as latter-day Bowery Bum photography. Most of his ink-jet-produced, moderately sized prints show us the faces of people he encountered on the streets of major cities in the Midwest and eastern United States. They are posed portraits: the subjects gaze down or away into the distance, or else stare confrontationally at the camera. For the most par t, the people appear to be downtrodden or at least on the outs with conventional society; more than a few seem afflicted with a wasting disease. Unfortunately it is impossible to verify any of the questions a viewer might have about these people, since Bergman calls each image “Untitled” and provides it with only a date. No name, no location, no facts except those given by the lens—presumably Bergman wants his subjects to be open to whatever preconceptions and prejudices his viewers may project onto them. In the context of the gallery, though, this denial of extra pictorial detail seems less a social statement than an aesthetic position: we are forced back on Bergman’s compositions, his use of color, the consistency of his choices of framing, even his decision about which subjects to shoot.
[. . .]
Beyond this, though, it is really Bergman’s motives for choosing to photograph the people he does that remain the central question. Surely he can’t be concerned that these pictures in any way improve the lives of the people they portray, since we don’t know where or who they are. Perhaps the ambition is for our regard of the pain of others to make us more attuned to human suffering in general (come back, Susan Sontag, please), but this aim is attenuated by our prior experience of pictures in the same vein. We might expect anyone conversant with recent photographic practice to know this as an existing critical problem, which leaves us with a far less ennobled idea of what is afoot here: that Bergman is out to convince us that he is a great photographer.
Compare what Grundberg says here with the nearly identical complaints Sontag levels at Arbus in On Photography or Salgado in Regarding the Pain of Others. Pretty remarkable. Pretty banal. Moreover, in the current context this complaint is especially perplexing. Bergman hardly has been self-promoting, at least successfully so. Until recently (and he is in his mid-sixties) he has not sold his work or had gallery representation. This exhibition is, I believe, his first solo show at a prominent venue. As Levi Strauss points out, while his work is not "new," he has not been a denizen of the photo/art world.
According to the Persian vocabulary "Dide" means "eye", "glance", " being seen." But for us, Dide, is the name of an electronic monthly magazine published in both Farsi and English, and its main goal for the first year is to be able to emphasize notable works of Iranian photography. Each issue of Dide will focus on displaying one project, along with words and texts by photographers and critics. We are hopefully trying to depict the variety that identifies contemporary photography.In any case, this is a project to keep an eye on (no pun intended) and to support however you are able.