Lorna Mills and Sally McKay
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Extraordinary interview with Robert Fisk at the Democracy Now! web site.
I just received links to the following blogs through an email thread initiated by Palestinian artist Emily Jacir. I've just glanced through the drawing blog and it is totally fantastic. Scroll down for the talking bombed out building.
A Beiruti's drawn diaries: "How can I show sound in a drawing?"
Mazen Kerbaj, Live from Lebanon, 18 July 2006
Laila al Haddad's blog in Gaza:
Message from e-flux:
Dear friends, we are forwarding this request for help for refugees in Lebanon on behalf of Ashkal Alwan, an organization we highly respect which organizes some of the most important contemporary art events in the Middle East. We ourselves are making a financial contribution and strongly urge you to also do so, if possible, as it is really a critical situation.More information and donation details here.
all of us at e-flux
|"I'm very grateful for the lucky accident that plopped me into the world during this particular junction of space/time because once in a while I get to read Paul Hong's writing."
- Sally McKay
That quote by me appears on the back jacket of Paul Hong's new book, Your Love is Murder, Or the Case of the Mangled Pie, from Tightrope Books. Having been raised in a writerly setting, I am somewhat phobic about first books by new authors I am accquainted with and I rarely read them unless I absolutely have to. This one is different. Having read some of Hong's perfectly balanced, lateral, frightening and surprising stories in Kiss Machine magazine, I was waiting for the book with out-and-out anticipation. While reading it I experienced not one flinch, nor sigh of awkward pity, but rather found myself completely absorbed, disbelief suspended, with utter confidence in the author and eagerness to see what would happen next. |
The stories are hard to describe: they are short and precise, and a lot of them have animals. The animals are sometimes sort of supernatural, like the shark that appears to the boy in the hospital. Other times they are locked in the material world with the rest of us, like the dog who must borrow a child's plastic shovel in order to scratch complaints to his owner in the sand box. The stories are also about aliens. Neurologist Ramachandran talks about the zombie in our brain, a literal aspect of our physiological functionality that is impassive but observant. I recognize a certain deatchment in Hong's point of view, as if the narrator was just a visitor to this world, seeing through the eyes of a human boy. Except for the parts of the book that express a deep, confused and seething rage. This is the subtext, and it is linked to racial discrimination, to the infuriating impotence that comes from witnessing and experiencing human violence, and to the alienation of swimming through a culture's tropes and modes that do not speak to you, yet envelope you.
In some cases the animals seem to proffer a bridge across a chasm. A creature that functions as icon in one set of mythologies (for instance a beaver) functions for our protagonist as a kind of existential entry-point to forming relationships with the world, or maybe, and this is where it all gets spooky, a relationship with the underworld? Ben Okri's Famished Road springs to mind, with his boy protagonist trapped between the spirit world and the living world, constantly courted and seduced by ghosts, barely clinging to the version of reality that is shared by friends and family.
The struggles in Paul Hong's stories are handled with a light touch, with perfect tension, with lots of humour, and efficient yet unpredictable prose. He is an incredibly good writer, and I am an envious, admiring and enriched-for-the-experience die-hard fan.
How Lebanon Gets Fucked part 3
During all the drama in the late 70's we heard from Sunni, Christian, Druze, Israeli, Palestinian, Socialists, Ba'athist, Fascists etc. and all subsets of each organized entity were doing fast deals all over the place.
Enter a new party in 1982, the Shia militant group, Hezbollah, and as mentioned before, their ideological parent and sugar-daddy, Iran. (As with the rest of them, publicly dedicated to the eradication of Israel, the only serpent in this garden of Eden) (if you are unfamiliar with irony, go fuck yourself, which I only mean ironically, of course) Another commonality with all the other agents in this area, is that they claimed to speak for all whom they identify themselves as ~ whether the spoken-for agrees to that or not. (That happens to the best of us, whether we like it or not.)
Hezbollah's POV was that the PLO would never succeed in their fight with Israel as long as it remained a secular movement with ties to Arab monarchies. (and they don't like the Sunnis or Christians either) Therefore good representation for Iranian interests in that region. Have I touched upon the converging business interests of Syria, Iran and Israel over the years? Beirut is a very important seaport.
The English Aljazeera site has some good background info on the evolution of Hezbollah from radical upstarts to a powerful political entity in Lebanon.
I think the article overestimates the role of Hezbollah in the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. As mentioned in part one of this sad story, Israel would not give up control without some sort of back room deal with Syria to keep Hezbollah on a tight leash. (remember Syria publicly hates Israel, privately couldn't care less about the Palestinians and, as a secular Ba'athist state, doesn't have much love for Islamic political movements, and lastly, believes itself to be entitled to any wealth left in Lebanon) The Syrians appeared to keep their part of the deal for many years until recently when, much to their regret, they had to leave Lebanon.
The consequences of the Syrian withdrawal was outlined in this frighteningly prescient analysis from 2005.
And currently from Stratfor:
"The uncertain question is Syria. No matter how effectively Israel seals the Lebanese coast, so long as the Syrian frontier is open, Hezbollah might get supplies from there, and might be able to retreat there. So far, there has been only one reported airstrike on a Syrian target. Both Israel and Syria were quick to deny this.
What is interesting is that it was the Syrians who insisted very publicly that no such attack took place. The Syrians are clearly trying to avoid a situation in which they are locked into a confrontation with Israel. Israel might well think this is the time to have it out with Syria as well, but Syria is trying very hard not to give Israel casus belli. In addition, Syria is facilitating the movement of Westerners out of Lebanon, allowing them free transit. They are trying to signal that they are being cooperative and nonaggressive."
So is Syria sitting tight for now, just waiting to see what the spoils will be? Robert Fisk is thinking along these lines too.
Nothing is as it seems.
Now, a little more history for How Lebanon Gets Fucked part 2: Back in the late '70's and early 80's Iran was ground zero for revolutionary Islamism, (and that Iranian Islamic Revolution is the initial inspiration and bankroller for Hezbollah.)
During Iran's war with Iraq in the 80's, tactical needs trumped the ideology and the revolutionary purity of Iran, and led them to the 1986 U.S. brokered purchase of weapons from Israel. (the Iran-Contra Affair, perhaps you've heard of it) If our American friends think this was an outrageous scandal in their country, imagine what this arrangement with two major enemies did for the Iranian revolutionary position in the middle east. (as for the loss of revolutionary purity, don't you worry, that battle will always be fought on that special frontier I call 'Ladies'.)
Fast forward to the late 90's and onwards and al Qaeda, a Sunni movement.
"The Iranians always saw al Qaeda as an outgrowth of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and therefore, through Shiite and Iranian eyes, never trusted it. Iran certainly didn't want al Qaeda to usurp the position of primary challenger to the West. Under any circumstances, it did not want al Qaeda to flourish. It was caught in a challenge. First, it had to reduce al Qaeda's influence, or concede that the Sunnis had taken the banner from Khomeini's revolution. Second, Iran had to reclaim its place. Third, it had to do this without undermining its geopolitical interests.
Tehran spent the time from 2003 through 2005 maximizing what it could from the Iraq situation. It also quietly participated in the reduction of al Qaeda's network and global reach. In doing so, it appeared to much of the Islamic world as clever and capable, but not particularly principled. Tehran's clear willingness to collaborate on some level with the United States in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in the war on al Qaeda made it appear as collaborationist as it had accused the Kuwaitis or Saudis of being in the past. By the end of 2005, Iran had secured its western frontier as well as it could, had achieved what influence it could in Baghdad, had seen al Qaeda weakened. It was time for the next phase. It had to reclaim its position as the leader of the Islamic revolutionary movement for itself and for Shi'ism."
(One of the initial steps in this process of reclamation involves the cultivated nuttiness of the Iranian President shooting off his mouth about Tehran's nuclear program and threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the earth with the nuclear weapons they don't have yet. But Israel does. This was for his domestic audience.)
Ok I promise more Hezbollah in part 3.
Nothing is as it seems. How Lebanon Gets Fucked - part 1
Post 1948, Lebanon, a former French colony, had an influx of Palestinian refugees of numbers great enough to change power balances between Christian & Moslem. Christian leaders of Lebanon looked to the French as allies, while Moslems preferred Pan-Arabic alliances (this is a really shallow description, I'm trying to be brief) Google the 1958 Lebanon Crisis for some background on the consequences of Lebanon's refusal to cut ties with the West during the Suez crisis. (or just hit wikipedia for their quickie on American involvement in that episode)
Keeping power requires all sorts of unreliable associations, and Lebanon's politically divided population had allied themselves with a large variety of regional actors, the biggest players being Syria, Israel and the PLO. By the mid 70's Arafat & the PLO controlled southern Lebanon, having been populated by more Palestinians fleeing the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Fighting for political control of Lebanon began with the Palestinian population against the Lebanese socialists. Battle lines became clearer when the conflict gelled into a civil war between Christian militias and the Palestinians, (aligned with Sunni and Druze militias.) Syrian Baathists weaseled in with their military as their interests were temporarily in step with Maronite Christian control and destroying the power of the PLO. (Syria is anti-Zionist but has no interest in seeing an eventual Palestinian state, they believe that Palestine belonged to them as a former Syrian province during the Ottoman empire, and the same goes for Lebanon, Syria wanted and still wants to control it)
Syria cuddles with Christian Lebanon for approximately 15 minutes and then switches its alliances to the Palestinians in the South. After a series of attacks on Israel, from southern Lebanon, in 1978, Israel invades Lebanon. Stays for 3 months. In 1982, Israel again invades Lebanon in order to evict the Palestinians from their positions on the Lebanese-Israeli border. During this occupation Israel does secretly collaborate with (the seemingly pro-Syrian) Phalangist forces (google Shatila and Sabra or read here, here or here, for wildly divergent accounts.) (I generally trust Fisk's reportage on the third link).
Their occupation of the south lasts until their withdrawal in 2000. At this point, another secret collaboration takes place between Syria & Israel: Israel will not interfere with Syria's control of Lebanon as long as they keep anti-Israeli activity to a minimum. Syria, happy to control Lebanon agrees. Syria withdraws from Lebanon in 2005. (insert oodles of deceit and backstabbing among all interested parties at any point in this narrative)
(now who be this Hezbollah? that's in part 2)
A group exhibition curated by *Andrew Harwood
Gladstone Hotel Public Spaces 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Floors
July 15 to Aug 27, 2006 12-5pm
OPENING RECEPTION 7PM TO 9PM JULY 14, 2006
Patricia Aldridge, Katie Bethune-Leamen, Amy Bowles, Cecilia Berkovic,
John Caffery, Keith Cole, Chris Curerri, Michael Comeau, Pete Dako,
Fastwürms, Sadko Hadzihasanovic, Luis Jacob, Melissa Levin, Scott
McEwan, John McLachlin, Allyson Mitchell, Will Munro, Andrew J.
Paterson, Lisa Pereira,* **R. M. Vaughan, Natalie Wood
* recently responsible for the destruction of the Toronto Art Awards
**recently indicted on a charge of lacking appropriate reverence for Vancouver art
The show I'm in called Neutrinos They are Very Small opened last week in Kingston at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (curated by Corinna Ghazanvi, and hosted by Celeste Scopelites and Jan Allen). It looks fantastic, if I do say so myself. There is a catalogue coming soon designed by Lisa Kiss (superstar). The same show was on exhibit in Sudbury last fall, where it also looked great. The space in Kingston is smaller and the works are more jammed together, which I really like a lot. The three artists — myself, Rebecca Diederichs, and Gordon Hicks — all worked together on the topic of neutrinos for several years (during which time many pints of beer were consumed, much information was shared, any many outlandish speculations were floated). The show is a really great amalgamation of our three very different approaches to the same big topic. The collaborative element was really important to me and, while I hope to work with both Gordon and Rebecca again, I know that the good chemistry we had for this exhibition is impossible to fabricate or reproduce.
There is one piece in the show that is literally a collaborative work between the three of us (Agent B, Agent G, and Agent S) called " The Black Box." We have installed it in two different ways so far, but the current mode involves a website which Gordon designed, and which I completely adore. I'm not going to explain the project here because exploring the data for yourself is really the whole point.