Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Art and Politics Now goes to publisher

This is the work of Hana' Malallah, an artist from Baghdad who is included in my book. The title of the work is "The Looting of the Museum of Baghdad."

Yes, it is really true. My book is about to come out after all these years. You can read more about it on my website, Art and Politics Now Cultural Activism in a Time of Crisis. It has ten chapters on topics ranging from art against globalization, war, terror, censorship, racism, and art in support of immigration, border crossing, and ecology.
I include artists from around the world, but the emphasis is on socially engaged artists in the U.S.
Tomorrow, one of the artists, Cecilia Alvarez, is part of a group exhibition in Seattle.
Trevor Paglen is a keynote speaker at Creative Time, Daniel Heyman has been showing his art at university galleries, and the activists like the Backbone and Yes Men just keep on going.
That is just a tiny sample of the over eighty artists and exhibitions that I discuss. More soon. This is just a teaser.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Olivia Bouler and the Gulf Oil Spill

Eleven year old Olivia Bouler began her presentation at the Audubon Seward Park " My name is Olivia Bouler, and I am here to tell you that one person can make a difference." The laid back Seattle audience was not used to such up front assertiveness!
Olivia has drawn pictures of birds and raised $150,000. for Audubon to help with efforts to clean up birds soaked in oil in the Gulf. So far the counted number of birds who have died is 8,000, but the actual number is much higher because off shore birds may have died in the thousands without our knowing about it. Then there are the sea turtles, the dolphins, the many many nesting grounds. All of us agonized. Olivia did something.

I have been expecting artists to have stepped up with an outpouring of art about the spill. Some of them have.
Someone sent me this photographic project by Jane Fulton several months ago. She actually posed people on Lake Michigan, but the point was obvious and affecting. It is called Crude Awakening.

Here is another work by artist Io Palmer
The installation is in her new exhibition at a winery in Eastern Washington State. She said that she was intitially thinking about stomping grapes because of the location of the exhibition, but as the images of the Gulf Spill overwhelmed us all summer long, she made this piece with its emblematic references to those trying to help. "The oil spill is one more emblem of America's incessant and uncontrollable greed and consumer driven desire"
The most recent issue of the National Geographic is a must see. It has a fold out map with the layers of life in the Gulf on one side and a map of the oil wells on the other, as well as photographs of the ravaged estuaries from oil pipes, dumping, and other polluting activities. A tragic photograph of a dead baby sea turtle in a sea of brown oily mud and an image of an oil covered pelican strike to the very core of humans' stupidity.

The reality is that this oil spill was inevitable, that the protected areas of these Gulf coasal zones are just a very thin area * as we see in the amazing National Geographic map of life and oil on the Gulf, which I cannot download for the blog*, compared to the ravaging, thirsty oil industry.

We all understand that half the population along the Gulf depends on the sea and the other half on the oil industry. So they will soon be back to drilling deep again.

But what if we all started living a different way, if we imagined a different future, and we insisted on it. We really have only two choices, the end of the planet as we know it, or going in a new direction.

I realized recently how fortunate I am that I hardly drive at all in my day to day life. The vast majority of people are imprisoned in their cars, sitting in traffic everyday. I walk, bike and take the bus. But I am lucky that I can. Lots of people would like to do that, but it takes time that most people don't have. And most or our urban and suburban lives are designed to require us to drive.

But what if everyone just stayed home and didn't drive one day a week, or stopped buying all those petroleum encased (organic) vegetables or just tried to buy food in packages we can re use at least once.
Small efforts.

As Olivia said at the end of her wonderful presentation in which she celebrated birds  "If insects disappeared it would be the end of the world, if humans disappeared, it would save the earth." And then she said, "An individual can make a difference, but all of us together can make more of a difference."  She not only drew pictures, she also went to Congress to lobby for another type of energy. I wonder if they condescended to her. She is more on the ball than they are. She has, apparently, been all over the news. But the real story is that she really cares and did something about it.

This summer and fall Congress voted billions to continue with our support for petroleum pursuing and consuming wars, as well as failing to pass clean energy support.

If the BP spill didn't wake up Congress, what will. And of course, this was really no surprise, BP has been a bad actor all over the place with their oil fields, Alaska has been full of spills they caused.

Here's to this young lady. She acted on what she believed in. If only we could all do that, even for one day it would really lead somewhere.

Monday, September 20, 2010

John T Williams Wood Carver Shot by Police

John T. Williams was a seventh generation wood carver of the Ditidaht Tribe on Vancouver Island. He lived in Seattle, in housing created by the Downtown Emergency Center that understands that just because people have a problem they still need a place to live. John had a problem with alcohol abuse, he had been making his own way on the street since he was seven years old. He made his way by carving small totems that he sold to tourists. His father taught him, and in the old days, they used to make a pretty good living at it. Cyney Gillis writing for Real Change News has given the only coverage of the full story of John T. Williams life. 
He was shot and killed by a white policeman as he crossed the street at an intersection on his way from where he lived to where he hoped to sell his art at Pike Place Market. 
He was shot four times because he didn't stop when told to by a police officer who seems to have been terrified of his small pocketknife. John T. Williams is hard of hearing. He was simply crossing the street. Now he has died. 
What an abrupt contrast to my previous entry of healing, and community. 
Unfortunately, the fate of John T. Williams is what is going on today. 
This small blog honors his art, his life, and his spirit, in keeping himself going all these years, without any of the supports of a middle class life that we all take for granted. 
Thank goodness the Indigenous community has risen up in fury, they are holding daily vigils, marches on City Hall, confrontations with the Mayor. Here are a few pictures.

The last one is the tribal community in City Hall. The Mayor of course said it was a tragedy. But this is more than a tragedy, this is racist murder pure and simple.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Confluence Project Story Circles at Sacagawea State Park

At the dedication of the new Confluence Site in Sacajawea State Park in mid Washington State (now pronounced Sacagawa), Maya Lin is standing in front of drummers from the Confederates Tribes of the Umatilla Indians, at their invitation. It was a thrilling and sacred dedication. There were a lot of eloquent speakers, a trumpet piece, poetry, and eloquent indigenous speakers (including Anton Minthorn and Bobbie Connor, in a photograph below) but this drumming was by far the most profound moment. The drummers saluted the ancestors of present-day tribes, their spirits in that place, and their history. Right after I took this photograph, the Native drummers asked us to not take any more photographs, so we all simply listened and experienced the connections to the past and the future. We heard incredible music and singing that seemed to come from the depths of the earth itself.

The shape of their  drums is echoed in the seven "story circles" that Maya Lin created at this site, the confluence of the Snake and the Columbia River, two mighty waterways.

Indians gathered here in large numbers for centuries, for trade, story telling and for ritual celebration. This is site no. 4 to be dedicated in the Confluence Project. Maya Lin was invited by Native leaders in 2002 to commemorate the loss of Native cultures as a result of the  Lewis and Clark expedition because they were so impressed by her work at the Vietnam Memorial.

At other sites, Lin has been quoting from the Lewis and Clark journals that meticulously noted flora and fauna as they progressed down the Columbia, as well as the villages and tribes that they encountered. The extinction of much of what they say, including Indians, villages, and the natural world, is a theme of the Conflucene Project. At this site, Lin focused on the Native traditions.

She was intrigued that when L and C came to this Confluence they spent only a short day or two here, whereas, for native peoples it was a site of great importance and they tribes spent months here.

Each Circle has a different reference: welcoming, salmon, a longhouse, rivers and the dams, mythci time, trade and last what was called the Seasonal Round, all the different animals and animals that were here. I took pictures of all the circles, but the real experience is being there, seeing their relationship to one another, our relationship to them, and our relationship to the past, present and future of the river and the land.
The shape of the circle echoes the shape of the drums, and their sound enveloped us creating a sense of community coming together.
It was a very moving experience.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Backbone Localize This! Action Camp

The Backbone Campaign sponsored "Localize This!" An art/action camp. Here we are at lunch. We had such a wonderful time. It brought together my three favorite activities, camping, politics, and art. I was only there for two days but it was really intense.

 This is Kim Marks. She is part of Earth First, an international environmental activist group. She covered the many different aspects of civil disobedience, starting with someone willing to be arrested, and the support for that person, then media, legal, video, public liasons, as well as connections to workers affected, medical, and communications and de briefer. There were even more.
Her second theme was also valuable. Where do we fit in the process, at what point are we intervening?? There were six places, all of them important and she mentioned that the "mountain top removal" resistance project includes all six.

extraction, destruction
money ( production)
consumption (stores)
decision ( who is accountable)
assumption ( as in cultural assumptions)
envisioning the future ( Yes Men are an example)

Of course I realized that I am always intervening in the same place, at the point of consumption, as I stand and wave an anti war sign every week. We consume war as a commodity. We eat war, we drink war. Our society is permeated by war. When we email the representatives we are intervening at the point of decision ( but better is face to face meetings). Kim actually talks to CEOS. And then there are the YES MEN!

There were other workshops on theory as well like the one by Tom Kertes.
You can seem his theme, an amazing quotation from Martin Luther King
"Power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power is sentimental and anemic" He was talking about how to have power! Useful idea.

We also had a workshop from Jay Cookson and smart meme His subject was changing the story  "How changing the story, changes the world." Again food for thought.  He showed an alphabet of corporate logos, we recognized them all, then of plants, we recognized few. Our society is permeated by corporate marketing, we can change their story to our story.
The most devestating presentation by Rising Tide told us about the campaign to extract oil from sand (see http://oilsandstruth.org/)  in Alberta, Canada. This is a vast act of environmental destruction that few of us even know about. 10,000 acres have already been clear cut (what is called the overburden) and that is just the beginning, in order to get oil - but very little oil for the amount of oil used to get it. Gigantic trucks are going over the narrow and treacherous, and beautiful, Lolo Pass, 210 feet long! 2 to 4 barrels of oil to get one barrel of oil. Two tons of sand for one barrel of oil, http://www.endgame.org/links.html
has a lot of helpful information on this and other campaigns to resist environmental degredation.
Salmon Dinner at Localize This Backbone Camp with Chef Maia in the foreground - she really had a job, 25 people, vegan and non vegan, in a non catering kitchen!

We chose kayaking, treeclimbing or making giant mache heads. This was a real camp!
So of course I chose making heads, but first I visited the tree climbers.

This tree climber, Kathleen,  is a peace activist. Every Sunday she helps to put up a huge war memorial in Santa Monica. It is called Arlington West Santa Monica. This is her first time climbing a tree. A slew of young people were guiding her and she succeeded! These skills are for hanging banners and protesting forest devestation among other activities.
And here I am helping to make a giant paper mache  ( I am wearing the pink tee shirt from the Ni Mas Una campaign, see earlier blog) We learned step by step starting with a big plastic bag stuffed with newspaper. The features are made with shrink wrap which can be shaped to form features, I made an ear. Then we tore up paper bags, and dipped them in the cornstarch and water goo that was boiled until smooth. We smooshed the paper to break down the fibers as we covered it with goo. Then we put it on one layer at a time, alternating print and non print, minimum of three layers. That's as  far as I got with it. Here are a few more pictures.
And last but not least the agit prop band. Bill Moyer led the way as a drummer. He actually taught us how to make music for demos. I would love to play in a band at a demo sometime. I played the cymbals. Here are some pictures of forming the band starting with Bill on a makeshift drum set.
I can't tell you how much fun this all was. For one thing, I loved being with young activists who really care. I am so tired of people who actually make fun of activism, or say it doesn't matter. For another, we all had a
great time getting to know each other.

And we really learned a lot of organizing skills, which is the point. Now I am going to get involved with a campaign.
The camp itself went on for three more days and culminated in a flash mob at Target - a point of consumption because Target gave $150,000. to the anti gay, anti worker candidate for governor of Minnesota. They collaborated with a group called Agit Pop to
sing "Target Ain't People" as a protest to their intervention as a corporation in elections.