Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2007
We can remember it for the dreadful passageof yet another appropriations bill by the spineless Congress.- 98 Billion to continue the war, to continue to provide "military training for the Iraqis to defend themselves" and to "support out trips." In other words to pour more money into the hands of the corporations and to escalate the conflict in Iraq.

I am offering here three images as a protest. First, the ephemeral sculpture by Mike Magrath placed in Occidental Square last fall on the anniversay of 9/11. It was based on a photograph of an Iraqi man with the dead body of his son in hisarms. The sculpture is made of salt and intended to gradually disappear, just as our sense of death of Iraqis barely registers. Beneath the sculpture sleeps a homeless man, victim of the same corrosive forces of greed capitalism, that are the reasons for war and the excuse for the government to de-fund even our minimal social services.

At the time of the installation of this sculpture
(one of several) a Butoh performance brought to life the sense of struggle, oppression, and survival of the marginal others of our society. They poured sand around a second statue of a young prisoner with his hands bound behind his back and gestured to a third young boy awaiting his fate.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Online vs in the street a debate on activism

I am having an ongoing debate with my thirty something daughter about street activism vs internet activism. I tend to dismiss people who just sit at computers all day as not "real" activists".

She claims that "internet activism is *equally* important, and that if you focus more time on one type of activism but not the other, that doesn't mean you aren't an activist. In other words, just as people who only go to protest marches but never use the internet can still be activists, so can people who are active in internet communities but don't go to rallies."Her example is that the Gonzales scandal is a result of internet activism at salon.com and Talking Points Memo http://talkingpointsmemo.com/

I think that people with signs in the streets, and especially with brilliant street art, is still best way to get our message out. It is also exciting, stimulating, and makes anyone who participates feel better. She feels street protests are claustrophobic and finds anti war demonstrations depressing.

I participated in A28 action last weekend, all over the country people wrote out impeach, passed out signs, and banners, etc. It was huge, and we all felt connected, even though we are also an online community. It will live in in both cyber and reality.
I say you have to have BOTH.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Iraq in Fragments and Orientalism

Independent films can be racist without realizing it, much like racism in a place like Seattle in general. The film Iraq in Fragments, made by Seattle filmmaker James Langley presents a classic liberal view of a racialized, impoverished, fanatic, backward, “other.” The focus on impoverished “primitive” families reinforces prejudice about life outside the United States and the need to “save” people with “democracy,” a thinly disguised translation of the manifest destiny of the nineteenth century. It is discouraging that this film has been so widely celebrated. Its nomination for best documentary demonstrates that the entire film industry is oblivious to its own Orientalism, and ignorant of the realities of the fact that Iraq was a modern country before we got there.

The fact that the well meaning and courageous Langley uses the voices of young boys and old men almost exclusively, underscores his paternalism toward the poor communities to which he turned his lens. An outtake from the film, a section that focused on a young mother and her sick child, equally emphasized impoverished living. The setting of impoverishment against stunningly photographed landscapes is a tourist perspective, much like the imagery that comes with requests for funding from many well meaning agencies.

What a film like this doesn't tell us is that many Iraqis are well educated and accomplished professionals, with one of the best medical and educational systems in the Middle East. Legally, women had more rights than in most countries in the Middle East. It was a secular country.

We have destroyed that. Most of the middle class, artists, writers, poets, playwrights, dancers, singers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, dentists, have been forced to leave ( mostly since 2006, when Langley made his film, they were still there). Women have been prevented from working and forced to cover themselves and leave the house only with men, while living in fear of being killed (for that transformation see Baghdad Burning blog, the author of which has just announced that she must also leave ( April 26). The clerics are controlling women's morality and legal decisions after decades of secular law. Now the only people left fan the flames . The isolated puppet government has no support to resist signing the oil law that gives away all the resources to multinationals. Then Bush can declare a victory and leave.

The "fragments" of Iraq, the three part approach presented in the film, also is a hallucination of American foreign policy. We have created the Civil War through our selective backing and training and arming of various fundamentalist militias. Before us there was one country of Iraqis, who were a peaceful people.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Artists Against the War

Artists against the War, New York City in collaboration with other groups, handed out a petition for impeachment and supporting documents. It was designed as a tabloid newspaper and delivered to every congressional office.
This is a brilliant direct action in the halls of power as Congress is wimpering and whining and unable to really take a stand, except with a feeble bill that they basically invited Bush to veto.
AAWNYC/ART (Activist Response Team) also did a stunning banner drop with the section of the contitution about impeachment in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building .
They are potent artist activists. Images of their actions are available through their website http://www.aawnyc.org
The sophistication of the visual images designed by artists makes a huge difference in their effectiveness. It also demonstrates their courage and determination to great rid of this President who is ruining Iraq and our own country as well. The soomer artists join the activist camp, the better, we cannot afford the luxury to follow our own private paths anymore.

Multiple actions occurred in the early afternoon today inside the Hart Senate Office Building. Eight New York activists were among the 15 plus arrested.

First, in a massive distribution, A.R.T. hand-delivered a 20-page tabloid petition to every representative. It contained documentary evidence for indictments, literally putting impeachment back on the table.
Then, at 1PM, in a spectacular visual feat, A.R.T displayed the full text of Article II, Section 4 to the Senate as a 30-foot banner drop in the Hart Office Building atrium.
A second 30-foot banner read "YOUR SILENCE YOUR LEGACY". Organizers said, "We must magnify the refusal of Congress to uphold the Constitution. Their silence equals complicity in the flagrant crimes of this administration."Contact: *A.R.T. (Activist Response Team)email: stateofemergencyaction@gmail.com

Selma Waldman's Black Book of Aggressors

Selma Waldman
“Lust for power and territory is the same lust that kills man, women, children and the land itself” Selma Waldman

No artist has more consistently addressed the subject of inhumanity and its relationship to power than Selma Waldman. Waldman’s entire life and art have been dedicated to the representation of war, capitalism, in both its victims and its perpetrators. Waldman grew up in King, Texas, where everyone was a slave to the King Ranch and her family were the only Jews in town. She learned about injustice and oppression early.

She is currently showing her work at Allison and Ross Fine Art Services in Seattle, because no museum will touch her potent work that exposes the intersection of sex, war, and torture. Her most recent series is on black paper with chalk lines in blue, red, yellow. It is a tangle of passionate and fury that ensnarls interrogators and victims in a process that has no moral parameters. She declares in the brochure "War is the Crime,Naked/Aggression is the work"
The work is titled The Hague Project, because she plans to show it in the Hague. The 40 drawings currently on display are called " Black Book of Aggressors". It has four parts of which only one is on display. The Abu Ghraib series is part of her ongoing project Naked/Aggression that exposes the intersection of sexuality and war.

(excerpt from my forthcoming book "Art and Politics Now") See images above.
"Waldman is a member of Women in Black. She has also participated in multimedia commemorations such as "Sleepwalking Apocalpyse" (Seattle September 11, 2005) in which poets, singers, dancers, actors and the general public took part in a procession in honor of victims of war everywhere. Waldman makes connections between war and other environmental disasters. She sat in front of a shelter on which she had photographs of Camp Katrina “Gulf Coast Toxic” and Camp Casey ( Cindy Sheheen’s one woman protest in the month of August 2005, as a mother of a soldier killed in Iraq) “Iraq Toxic” and finally the repeated images of Bush and Cheney. “Toxic Leadership wastes Lives”