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From Al Jazeera: Rumsfeld Cracks Jokes, But Iraqis Aren't Laughing
If ever an Oscar was deserved for minimizing catastrophic reports coming out of Iraq with jocular "henny penny" disbelief, then Rumsfeld has a date with Hollywood.
"Television is merely running the same footage of the same man stealing a vase over and over," he joked, adding he didn't think there were that many vases in Iraq. [Need to confirm--did he actually say "There can't be that many vases in Iraq"?] The US may be the strongest nation in the world, but their history is incomparable to that of Iraq – a region that has been described as the cradle of civilization.
Flippant remarks cannot replace priceless artefacts that have disappeared from the National Museum in Baghdad, or the books of the University of Mosul – one of the oldest and best universities in the whole of the Middle East.
The NY Times report on the gutting of the National Museum is just unbelievable. Why wasn't this immediately secured by "coalition" forces--if for no other reason than to protect a multimillion dollar asset? Is it farfetched to imagine that professional art thieves participated in the "looting"? This really goes beyond Bush and Co being a bunch of art-hating philistines. It was gross negligence.
Artist Jack Goldstein recently died at his home outside LA, sadly a suicide. Jim Lewis has a tribute in Slate (the slide show is also worth a look). He writes "Goldstein is probably best-known for his early film segments. In [Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1975], the MGM lion is isolated on a red background, his roar looped over and over, until it attains the status of an annunciation that heralds nothing but its own presence." Those are beautiful words, but if we think of the clip as an annunciation it's because of information extraneous to the work itself: that the lion comes before the movie. Except, we don't think of that knowledge as extraneous because it's so ubiquitous in our culture. That's what the piece is about: what Craig Owens meant (I think) when he repurposed the term "allegory" for the "pictures generation" of media-savvy artists--a code instantly recognized by everyone, which would be discussed in the '00s in terms of memes or branding. "Heralding nothing but its own presence" probably also doesn't get at how annoying the loop is if you stay in the gallery longer than five minutes. Like the techno or industrial music that followed, meaning is reduced to pure noise, which becomes a new kind of meaning.
Also, I suspect (hope) Lewis is just trying to ingratiate himself with Slate's conservative readership when he calls the words spectacle and simulacrum "risibly dated." As our recent experience with shock-and-awe bombing and staged statue-toppling shows, the concepts are very much alive, and no better buzzwords have actually come along.
On that subject, here's a later work by Goldstein, one of the photorealist paintings from the '80s (still checking on the particulars):
The two posts previous to this one--drawings titled Starfish Disaster and Melting Appliance--are my first (official) stabs at Pixelist art. I used to enjoy the pixel contests on the sadly-defunct word.com, and was intrigued to find "pixel art" listed as a genre at deviantART, an anyone-can-post visual art site. You draw these things mostly in the "fat bits" or zoom mode of a simple paint program and the finished product is meant to be a low-res understatement. Some works still manage to be over the top: this piece by gunstar-red, Edge Retro Cover, is a tour-de-force crammed with myriad pop-culture references, neatly arranged in a kid's isometric playroom. Other drawings are more concise, sometimes gems of miniaturization:
Cute Little Cube (Rubik's)
Nobody does "delirious urban spectacle" better than Japanese animators, and Cowboy Bebop, which you might be lucky enough to catch on the big screen for a few more days, is sheer techno-poetry. Visual highlights include people watching a scratchy John Wayne western in cars parked in a multilevel cinema-stadium; a shootout in a high-speed monorail, intriguingly designed with tracks switching between the tops and bottoms of the train cars; a Macy's-style Halloween Parade with huge floating jack'o'lanterns casting ominous shadows on the crowds below; a descent into the atmosphere of a partially terraformed Mars where the sky is jammed with dancing, shimmering product logos; a walk through a multicultural Martian city where kids breakdance a block away from Moroccan market stalls--there is more sumptuous drawing on view here than you'll see in a month of gallery shows. Also, the chemistry of the bounty hunter protagonists is decidedly un-blockbuster; they work at cross purposes and frequently wander off on their own for no reason (the Onion describes their camaraderie as "uncommunicative, uncooperative cooperation.") Oh, and the Welsh Corgi "data dog" is cute as hell.
Cripes! With the news media announcing victory over the hapless Iraqis, the right wingers and '"liberal hawks" are dancing in the aisles. Finally, we can start imposing liberal democracy over there at gunpoint! Yippee! (Just like we did in Afghanistan!) Evidently a war is considered successful, or a "cakewalk," if American casualties remain low. If at all possible, I'd like to spoil the party by mentioning that a lot of innocent Iraqis did die (and are still dying) horribly. After watching the newscasting insaniacs on Fox the other night (I tried to avoid it but a friend of mine had me over for dinner and watches it "ironically") I came home and made myself look at some of the pictures on the web of people mutilated and burned beyond recognition by our military--what Fox would never show us. I'd been avoiding this kind of material but after an intense dose of jingoistic shouting I suddenly felt the need to see what my tax dollars were paying for. I'm posting a link here; I'm not saying anyone else has an obligation to look. But in response to Nat Hentoff, an old-school liberal who smugly announced he "would not be marching" because we needed to make Saddie the Baddie our business (forget all the torturers in the "coalition of the willing"), and to all the "liberal hawks" enabling Bush & Co--when I look at these pictures, I can't get around the fact that Saddam didn't do this, we did.
I'm tryin' to run an art weblog here, but it's been hard with all the war news. The daylight mugging of Iraq is appalling, and what's happening here in the US--the jingoism, the hate speech, the corporate media propaganda--equally abysmal. The moral minority used to complain bitterly and vitriolically about Bill Clinton--a President who did nothing to the country as bad as what's transpiring now--and I swore I'd never stoop to discourse that low. I've been cheating on my promise, though, because of the downhill spiral we've been in since the 2000 election. The "hands off the Saudis" edict to intelligence agencies obviously contributed to the 9/11 tragedy, and so far no one's been fired. The military takeover of Afghanistan, and now Iraq (and soon Syria, Iran, etc.) are the worst things to happen to this country since Vietnam. Suddenly after 9 years of (relatively) low-level conflicts, we're in total, pumped-up, IOU-funded war mode, with most of the world hating our guts. And our economy, which depends largely on selling products and rendering services around the globe, is sucking hard. (The war's been great for war profiteers, though.) Anyway, I just want to say it's difficult to focus on the things I know and love with all this wretched shit going on. End rant.