Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Iraqi Women by Nadje Sadig Al-Ali

Since I am on the subject of books. Iraqi Women is another crucial book. The subtitle is "untold stories from 1948 to the Present" . Nadje has interviewed a cross section of women who left Iraq at various times ( some only briefly), provinding one window into the history of Iraqi women since the 1940s, with a brief look backward to the early twentieth century. It discusses the incredible support for women provided in the 1970s, professional training, child care, good salaries, transportation to and from work. A model of what a society can do that trully wants to support women as full human beings. But already in the 1980s the situation changed, during the Iran Iraq war, when women were encouraged to produce babies, and in the 1990s, during sanctions, problems escalated exponentially. Since 2001, everything has gone down hill to the present almost total destruction of the country of both the past, present and future of the country as Reshad Selim, another major Iraqi artist puts it.
This painting is by Maysaloun Faraj, the artist and director of Aya Gallery London.
The title is Weeping Palms, Stolen Childhood, 2004

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dahr Jamail's Beyond the Green Zone Read It

Dahr Jamail's book, Beyond the Green Zone Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, is an essential book to read for anyone who wants to hear another side of the situation in Iraq. What makes it so potent is that he is not aggrandizing himself, he is not reporting the war per se, he is simply talking to as many Iraqis as he can, especially focusing on the bombing of hospitals, shooting at ambulances, using cluster bombs as well as phosporous incendiary bombs on civilians. As a sub theme he accounts his own observations of the continual degradation of life in Iraq.

Of course as a man he had access to a lot of places that a woman would not have been able to report on, and his interviews are almost entirely with men. This is the new Iraq, where formerly secular women are now covered from head to toe in black when they leave the house, unable to work, and unavailable, for men to talk to outside of their families. The new Iraq from which the Middle Class is leaving as fast as it can.
( See whose writer is now in Syria as one record of life from a woman's point of view) .

Most of Jamail's contact with women and children was encountering them wounded in a hospital, or observations of their impossible day to day challenges of lack of water and electricity, lack of medical care, and basic security. In those observations he brings home in one way the day to day nightmare that families are experiencing in the war.

And Congress just keeps voting money for the corporations (disguised as support for the troops). Bought and sold to their pieces of the pie.

A particularly potent part of Jamail's book describes the absence of any of the promised multi million dollar reconstruction by Bechtel . Based on his own on the ground observation and interviews with people who have no water in chapter 6 Craving Health and Freedom"

Here is a quote from near the end of the book, commenting on the second assault on Fallujah.
"The second assault on Fallujah was a monument to brutality and atrocity made in the United States of America. Like the Spanish city of Guernica during the 1930s, and Grozny in the 1990s Fallujah is our monument of excess and overkill. " 239

Another major contribution is Jamail's documentation of the disconnect between mainstream reporting and facts on the ground. Repeatedly the US military and media reported outright lies, distortions, and invented stories, as well as suppressing other stories and the reports of unembedded journalists. For example, Jamail describes the rally by the resistance after the first attack on Fallujah, after the embedded journalists and military withdrew.
Therefore, today, as we see the New York Times report on "Baghdadi's sigh of relief," because of the "success of the surge" we can place it in the bigger picture of the complete disaster on the ground and the campaign of disinformation that Jamail reports on in his dispatches and his book.

Above is art work by Hana Mal Allah Baghdad Artist. It is a book called Baghdad Map, US Map. Hana Mal Allah, see my earlier entry on her work, actually burns her work in partnership with the burning of the city of the ancient and beautiful city of Baghdad. The work is currently part of the exhibition Red Zone/Green Zone at Gemak den Haag, an exhibition focusing on "urban security policies and the withering of public space from Baghdad to Den Haag"

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Kara Walker

Kara Walker has really started to talk loudly about miscegenation. Although I have seen her works for years, they always seemed to me to be perpetuating racism rather than countering it, but her recent retrospective as well as her new works, on display at Sikkema Jenkins and Co in Chelsea, are unavoidably challenging.

In the newest work Walker links abuse of African-Americans based on research with contemporary examples of torture and abuse in Iraq and Sudan, the message of the abuse of humans is loud and clear. White people actually
can't avoid the past here. It is all so clear that torture is an American way of life.
The work here is part of a series based on research in the "Bureau of Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands - Records, "Miscellaneous Papers," National Archives M809 Roll 23 (anyone can access this source)
The show is called:
"Search for ideas supporting the Black Man as a work of Modern Art/Contemporary Painting; a death without end and an appreciation of the Creative Spirit of Lynch Mobs" .
The title is complicated and ironic. It is worth an essay in itself.

What Walker confronts us with are the horrors of the racist acts of which the US human male is capable based on documentary evidence. There is a direct correlation in the language and actions of today's US human males and females in the war in Iraq and in the starving of millions in Sudan. Our roots in terrorism, both of Blacks and Native Americans, are deep and permanent. Today's world is simply a continuation of that horror.

Title of the Kara Walker work above:

Bureau of Refugees: May 29 Richard Dick's wife beaten with a

club by her employer. Richard remonstrated - in the night was

taken from his house and beaten with a buggy trace nearly to

death by his employer and 2 others.


Cut paper on paper

30.75 x 20.375 inches

Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins and Co.

Extreme Interiors Olive Ayhens

Olive Ayhens expressionist nightmares of contemporary life currently on view in New York City at Frederieke Taylor Gallery are tour de force paintings that present us with the chaos of our contemporary world.
One recent series represented interiors of computer labs where the wiring has taken off on its own in a nightmare of disorder. At the same time, her paintings are detailed, complex compositions with bold offbeat color that jars the viewer. These cannot be passed by quickly, both because of their arresting content, their layers of details, and their complex formal devices.

Computer Lab 2005-2006 oil on canvas 52 x 61 incehs