Friday, July 30, 2010

Aesthetics and its discontents

Korda, Ché, (1960).

There used to be a time when you could pick out something perceptually the way you recognize, say, tulips or giraffes. But the way things have evolved, art can look like anything, so you can't tell by looking . Criteria like the critic's good eye no longer apply. Art these days has very little to do with aesthetic responses.-- Arthur Danto, Is it art?

Alfredo Triff

Jacques Rancière's Malaise dans l'esthétique (2004) is available in English as Aesthetics and its Discontents (2009). Judging by the number of book quotes in magazines, websites, catalogs, etc, one can assume that the book's publication has reignited the discussion on aesthetics, particularly the intersection of aesthetics and politics. I'd like to explore this intersection to formulate questions probing Rancière's own definition.

Rancière problematizes the received discourse on aesthetics, as it pertains the idea of art as representation as well as entrenched conclusions about the avant-garde and the difference between modernism and post-modernism.1 His novelty is not so much establishing an almost necessary connection between aesthetics & politics, but how he justifies that move vis-a-vis other competing theories, such as (amongst others) Lyotard's aesthetics of the Sublime, Adorno's reconstructive aesthetics and Badiou's project of inaesthetics.

Built around a set of circuitous premises, Rancière's discourse claims to find aporias, untie knots and unveil paradoxes. Aesthetics and its Discontents aims at redeeming and redefining aesthetics. In the end, thinking art becomes the medium par excellence to talk just about anything. It has to do with the free-play implicit in the very constitution of the today's aesthetic regime: one of dis-order. Let's not blame the long list of philosophers (Hegel, Marx, Lyotard, Adorno, Badiou et. al) who got it wrong. It's all intrinsic to the order-of-disorder (I'm not being facetious) that one may get lost in the endless reverberation of aesthetics.

In what follows, I try to make sense of Rancière ideas while resisting his political-aesthetics -sort of suggested- conclusion: that of aesthetic revolution. But this is going to take more than one post. Bear with me.

George Grosz, Suicide, (1916).

As with Marxism, instead of beginning with art, let's start with politics. How is art political? It all begins with the aesthetic regime. We shouldn't identify art objects by what they refer to (say, a particular political depiction in a painting), but instead following the way aesthetics plays the game of being such that it can still think what is -and what is not- art.1a

General Nguyan Ngoc Loan shooting Nguyễn Văn Lém, Saigon, (1968).

Rancière follows -what he calls- logic of aesthetic relation, yet he doesn't endorse relational aesthetics (i.e., the actual culture-as-spectacle that pervades the museum and gallery circuits of the west, that is to say, the view that while rejecting art's claim to self-sufficiency, it ends up reaffirming an essential idea of "contemporary art" constructing spaces and "building a territory of the common").
Art is not political, in the first instance, because of the messages and sentiments it conveys concerning the state of the world. Neither is it political because of of the manner in which it might choose to represent society's structures or social groups, their conflicts or identities. It is political because of of the very distance it takes with respect to these functions, because of the type of space and time that it institutes and because of the manner in which it frames this time and peoples this space (AD, 23).
You'd think that Leon Golub's art is political because of the obvious content of his paintings. But Rancière is saying that Golub's thinking politics as a painter is already prior to Interrogation I's being political.

Leon Golub, Interrogation I, 1981.

So, what's politics?
... a mode of expression that undoes the perceptible divisions of the police order by implementing a basically heterogeneous assumption, that of a part of those who have no part, an assumption that, at the end of the day, itself demonstrates the sheer contingency of the order, the equality of any speaking being with any other speaking being.
Politics is tied to "the police order," its concomitant element. The police is a system of organization that pertains to the "sensible" (i.e., the field of our life/experience in general):
The police is thus first an order of bodies that defines the allocation of ways of doing, ways of being, and ways of saying and sees that those bodies are assigned by name to a particular place and task (AD, 24).
Thomas Hobbes'Leviathan, (title page, 1651 edition).

Rancière police is sui generis because it doesn't necessarily refer to a state apparatus. He wants to show what is logically presupposed behind interactions in this (sensible) space. We normally take state apparatuses as bound up by the state and society opposition (where the state imposes a rigid order on the life of society). But this sort of representation "already presupposes a certain political philosophy", that is to say, a certain confusion of politics and the police.1b

So, the police is a kind of law, generally implicit (that defines a party's share or lack of it):
The police is thus first an order of bodies that defines the allocation of ways of doing, ways of being, and ways of saying, and sees those bodies are assigned by the name to a particular place and task; it is an order of the visible and the sayable that sees that a particular activity is visible and another is not, that this speech is understood as discourse and another as noise. 1c
Police's function is to distribute and separate society into groups, social positions and functions (thus, it has a regulative function).
If police regulates, politics disrupts:
A political community is in effect a community that is structurally divided, not between divergent groups and opinions, but divided in relation to itself. A political 'people' is never the same thing as the sum of a population. It is always a form of supplementary symbolization in relation to any counting of the population and its parts (AD, 115).
Politics has an uneasy stabilizing effect of displacing the divisions, i.e, rich & poor under an identity, or the citizen, or the nation). The conflict over political power and interests is tempered through social or economic activities of work and leisure.
Aubrey Beardsley, Lysistrata (censored: The Lacedaimonian Ambassadors, 1896). Within the dispositif of Victorian aesthetics, can one not see Beardsley censored drawing as a sort of micro-regime within a regime?

On the other hand, the reduction of the political by the social takes place whenever the promise of general economic development, of progress, is offered as a solution to political conflict. So, politics happens when the order of police is broken by disagreement. In the instance of disagreement, the order that is structured is forced to admit that it is not capable of totalizing the situation (i.e., it's opposed to consensus).2

What's the place of aesthetics in all this?

Aesthetics is "a form of thought that problematizes the nature of art." i like this one better: "Aesthetics is the thought of the new disorder" (AD, 13). Art (as dispositif) exists parallel to aesthetics: "For art to exist, what is required is a specific gaze and form of thought to identify it."2a

Let's stop for a second: If aesthetics is a form of thought, aesthetics cannot precede art unless one can think art before there is art. Does Rancière want to turn art into a category? I don't think so, after all, the thought that problematizes art is caused by "a specific relation between the practices, forms of visibility, and modes of intelligibility that enable us to identify the products of these..."3 This is what Rancière calls regime.

So, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Wait, says Rancière, the sudden scandal over this Manet in 1863 was given by the very parameters that thought the art (but the art is such only by virtue of the thought thinking it). Isn't this kind of circular?

Manet, Dejeuner sur l'herbe, (rejected by the 1863 Jury and subsequently presented as Le Bain at the Salon des Refusés).

Let's come back to regime. Rancière mentions: 1- The ethical regime of the arts, whereby: "... a specific relationship between the practices, forms of visibility and modes on intelligibility that enable to identify the products of these [...] as belonging to an art" (AD, 28). In this regime (think of ancient art) there is no art per se, but "images that are judged in terms of their intrinsic truth." 2- The representative regime of the arts, which consists of threefold relation: mimesis, poetics and aisthesis (think of Renaissance-through-18th Century art). 3- The aesthetic regime of the arts where "the property of being art is no longer given by the modes of doing but to a distinction between the modes of being [...] the property of being art is no longer given by the criteria of technical perfection but is ascribed to a specific form of sensory apprehension" (AD, 29).

Questioning regimes:

Did the artist depicting this double portrait of King Mycerinus and his wife think of intrinsic truth? (because statues of the deceased were intended to house the ka, or spirit, after death, it was necessary to produce very realistic portraits so the ka could recognize its next home).

King Mycerinus and Queen Kha-merer-nebty III
Old Kingdom, Fourth Dynasty (circa 2600 BC).

Did Cellini think of representation here? ("representation is always mis-representation".-- Levinas)

Benvenuto Cellini, Perseus, (1545-1554).

Is punk in the mid 1970's a form of sensory apprehension?

Mapplethorpe, Man in a Polyester Suit, (1980).

Why is Schiller so important for Rancière? Two reasons: He initiates the aesthetic regime while leaving the possibility of a redemptive politics of aesthetics3a (bear in mind that Schiller's Letters are influenced by the French Revolution). In particular we're interested in the 15th letter (though the 14th letter is quite important). Schiller introduces three elements, sinnliche Trieb, Formtrieb and Spieltrieb (sense-drive, form-drive and play-drive), each with a distinctive function. In paragraph 5, Schiller is precise, but not at the expense of scope:

The sense-drive excludes from its subject all autonomy and freedom, the form-drive excludes from its subject all dependence, all passivity. Exclusion of freedom, implies physical necessity, exclusion of passivity moral necessity. Both drives, therefore, exert constraint upon the psyche, the former through the laws of nature, the latter through the laws of reason. The play-drive, in consequence, as the one in which both the others act in concert, will exert upon the psyche at once a moral and a physical constraint, it will therefore, since it annuls all contingency, annuls all constraint too.

Peter Hallward comments the interest vs. dis-interest discussion:
The subject of Schiller's aesthetic 'play' is not so much impersonal or dis-interested as re-interested, or interested in new, more imaginative and less restrictive ways. Aesthetic experience involves the distinction but not the isolation of appearance from reality. 4
Schiller's "free-play" turns the Kantian idea of aesthetic purposelessness sideways with the -purposeful- help of pedagogy (the poet's education becomes pedagogical aesthetics). This "free-play" of imagination through art produces new forms, objects, and arrangements. Making something new, something for which there is no prior concept, is the liberating activity that raises man above his dual and dangerous nature. Paraphrasing Rancière: "Free play " frames a specific sensorium by breaking through the partition of the sensible that shaped the traditional forms of domination. 

Mark Tansey, Still Life, (1982).

One more point: Since politics consists of reconfiguring the sensible, i.e., bringing on "the stage" new objects and subjects, ... "making visible that which was not visible," etc, setting up scenes of dissensus, then politics turns out to be a sort of "aesthetic" activity! 4a
So, aesthetics, as an experience of suspension (see it as a Rancierean withdrawal of power), presents or suggests the autonomization of a "self-contained" sphere of art on the one hand, and the identification of that "self-containment" as a "new form of collective life" (art educates). If so, suggests Rancière, we could revisit some old stereotypes about modernity's collapse, or passage to postmodernity (Rancière doesn't mention Baumgarten's contribution, which is far removed from Kant's autonomous regime). 4b

How about aesthetics here and now

We have inherited a state of aesthetic "disorder":  a- art's old patronage system changed with the genius, who now becomes the artist entrepreneur, b- art has no longer the duty to represent, c- art's domain has become highly porous. Aesthetics emerges now with the recognition that there are no more preexisting rules for presenting the objects, situations, and peoples of everyday life within the context of art, or indeed for rigorously distinguishing between the two spheres.5 

What happens when aesthetic discourses become policies of state? If so, what makes it so? Rancière would answer that it's all part of a paradox that is misunderstood. How?

The aesthetic regime of art institutes the relation between the forms of identification of art and the forms of political community in such a way as to challenge in advance every opposition between autonomous art and heteronomous art, art for art's sake and art in the service of politics. For aesthetic autonomy is not that autonomy of 'making' celebrated by modernism. It is the autonomy of a form of sensory experience.
This is a dramatic suggestion. It implies that Social Realism becomes the official policy of the soviet state during the 1930's, not as a result of a decision of the politburo, not because of Lenin's own misgivings with formalist abstraction since the early days of constructivism, not because the media campaign against it in Pravda since the 1919 on, not because realist art was thought to better represent the legitimate interest of the soviet masses (Trotsky).

Mikhail Nesterov, Portrait of Ivan Shadr (1934).

Right after the promulgation of Stalin's "On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organizations" in 1932, the painting above displaces the one below from the dispositif of art:

Kasimir Malevich, Suprematism, Self-portrait (1916).

The actors in this drama become puppets of the aesthetics (now in guise of politics) discourse -or, depending your take, victims of it. They don't, can't foresee that "education splits into two figures" (AD, 36). Artists beware! If you play by the project of aesthetic revolution (now Constructivism), you may end up with a "form of life" (then Soviet Realism).
To dodge my point, Rancière will bring up a new element: Aesthetic metapolitics, i.e., a utopic movement inherent in the knot of the discourse since its inception (Schiller's ambivalent "free play") whose scope twists the initial idea into a sort of simulacrum. For example, aesthetic emancipation is a double edge sword. The politics of art doesn't promise emancipation of forms of art. Instead, it cleverly changes the subject, turning political dissent into (ready?) underground movements. Rancière is thinking of none other than Marxism, "whose revolution of producers is conceivable only after a revolution within the very idea of revolution, in the idea of revolution of the forms of sensible existence as opposed to a revolution of state forms."

Wilde was right after all: Art lies!

Is the development during Nazi Germany part of the "aesthetic regime?" If so, how to punctualize it?

Following Rancière's methodological strategy one would assume that Nazi aesthetics (their thinking of art) is itself part of a deployment prior to its actual mobilization (above, the Entartete Kunst of 1937). Can one say that Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazis chief theorist is not one of the real protagonist behind the party's attack against modern art?

Is art's heteronomy an intrinsic property? Rancière would say no, the very idea of aesthetic regime suggests that art has not always been autonomous. Can art loose its self-made autonomy? It could, in fact that's the prevalent desire, judging each attempt to discredit aesthetics as confusing or misplaced or obscure.  (To be continued)
1The conclusion that post-modernism is just another side of modernism is an old thesis. What is novel here is Rancière's hermeneutic/structural account. 1a This comment is just methodological: How could there not be a "pointing to" in the qua vector? Answer: Platonist philosophers like to say that the "pointing to" is external to the qua. 1bOne catches Rancière's eclectic methodology: On the one hand, a radical neo-phenomenology (we seek not the Heideggerean Scheinen or "seeming," even the Erscheinung. But isn't some of this a way of causing, pointing to?) on the other, a neo-structuralist drive, perhaps inherited from Foucault. 1c Rancière's Disagreement, (University of Minnesota, 1998) p. 29.  2 See Ernst Van den Hemel, Krisis, 2008, #3. It is this principle of politics that Rancière takes to be the essence of democracy: a democratic order is a heterotopic order, a deviation from a natural order of things, where the 'natural' places of things have been disrupted. It is an order founded on the absence of any title to govern.  2a If it looks as if Rancière is saying that art is not art without a previous idea of art, that's exactly the point, which makes him an irrealist.  3Aesthetics and Its Discontents, (Polity Press, 2009), p. 28. For Rancière there is art to the extent that there is a specific regime of identification. 3a This "free-play" or suspension of activity becomes the very "humanity" of Man, bearing "the whole edifice of the art of the beautiful and the still more difficult art of living". Rancière explains:
Because the "aesthetic autonomy" is not, as the "modernist" paradigm has it, the autonomy of the work of art as such. It is the autonomy of a form of experience. And this autonomous form of experience appears as the principle of the self-formation of a new humanity. There is no conflict opposing the "purity" of art and its "politicization". On the contrary, it is thanks to its very purity that the materiality of aesthetic experience can be posed as the material anticipation of a new form of community. (Aesthetics and Politics, Rethinking the Link).
4 Peter Hallward, "Jacques Rancière and the Subversion of Mastery," p. 39.  5 This shift between regime and regime reminds me of Thomas Kuhn's idea of paradigm in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and Foucault's idea of episteme in Le mots et les choses. 4aThe risk here is to, on the one hand, trivialize the relation between aesthetics and politics, or to reify aesthetics with art. 4b Rancière  doesn't mention Baumgarten's contribution to aesthetics, which is quite different from Kant's. The latter didn't agree with the former's founding of aesthetics as a sensorial/rational activity (albeit a lower form of cognition): "The Germans are the only people who presently (1781) have come to use the word aesthetics to designate what others call the critique of taste. They are doing so on the basis of a false hope conceived by that superb analyst Baumgarten. He hoped to bring our critical judging of the beautiful under rational principles, and to raise the rules for such judging to the level of a lawful science. Yet that endeavor is futile." Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, (Cambridge University Press, 1999) p. 64, note 1. Dispositif and regime seem to overlap. Steven Corcoran, Rancière's translator, puts it this way:
The context of usage is that of dispositifs of art, and even, for example of contemporary art itself being a dispositif. An artistic dispositif is thus not only an arrangement of elements -e.g. a particular art installation or artistic device, a particular installation is part of a dispositif in the sense that it is deployed within a 'system' or plan of action.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Miles: 1971

Miles, t.
Keith Jarret, p.
Jack de Johnette, d.
Gary Bartz, s.
Dave Holland, b.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Work Miami 2010 @ MAM: When politics and aesthetics collide

(Photo taken from Miami Art Exchange)

Alfredo Triff

¿Can we discuss an exhibit (here referred to as New Work Miami 2010) that has the characteristics of an inclusive event showcasing Miami's young talent and fails -precisely- for this reason?

New Work Miami 2010 is the kind of effort one expects from a local museum like MAM. The show makes the featured artists look good. It also distributes and promotes certain positive market values across a space that includes artists, curators, critics, collectors, etc. I'm sure the organizers (both curators whom I respect), did their best to present what they considered was the most representative work within the given parameters of the show.* It's good news for all the parties involved.

Michelle Weinberg, Social Origami, (2010).
Photo: Sid Hoeltzell (Courtesy of Miami Art Museum).

Some Miami media are really enthused: The Knight Arts Website's line is politically blunt:
There have been good local museum shows before, indeed at MAM several years ago; so what is striking is how many of these artists were not included in previous shows, underlining the depth of what is now here. (Italics not mine).
Carlos Suarez de Jesus of The New Times was impressed with the event. He puts it this way: "This is a can't-miss show you'll want to visit again and again and rediscover something fresh each time." 

A local blogger relates a similar experience:
"New Work Miami 2010," conceived as an exuberant salute to Miami’s artistic community, will provide a partial snapshot of the Miami art scene at this moment. Approximately 35 artists based in the Miami area will present new and recent artworks executed in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, video, environmental installation and performance.
Miami Art Exchange's Onajide Shabaka remarks:
What makes this exhibition so good is that the curators did an excellent job, and the quality of the work really shows that the level of art in Miami has gotten better over the years.
De Jesus' praise emphasizes the timing of the exhibition under the present economic crisis (which fits Rene Morales metaphor of "artist-as-weed," resiliently showing through the cracks of hard life). The second blog stresses the number of artists featured (talking about the crisis, there was only one artist that addressed the present crisis head on). So it seems that de Jesus' point -in passing- looses steam. Shabaka's short note openly congratulates the curators for the quality of the work presented, but he doesn't justify why.

True, a show can score points for timing and inclusion. But this is art.

From this point let's address political and aesthetic concerns. I'll try to show that when it comes to aesthetic merit, not only these other concerns are independent, but even oppugnant to each other. I'd like to explore the shortcomings of the inclusive approach which (judging by the writeups) makes New Work Miami 2010 a likely political success.

Fabian Peña, Overdose, (2010)
Photo: Sid Hoeltzell (Courtesy of Miami Art Museum).

Let's start with the premise that any show presupposes a theme. And anything can -in principle- work as a theme (I'll suggest my own titles to the following choices). Take color (The Reds of Constructivism and Futurism), a marginal social issue (Crossdressing Europe: American Paintings of the 1930's), a historic factum with political overtones (Surrealism & Misogyny), the tragic life of an artist (The Van Gogh Brothers and Fin de Siècle Dutch Paranoia), or a theme within a theme (Cubism, 1907-1908: The Hip-Hop Years), etc.1

I'd like to point out that any theme has "internal" and "external" aspects to it. How? The very structure of it. In the case of "color," it may refer to certain extension (i.e., all things -or ideas- which are colored). Take "Conceptual art in the 1960's" as a genus and "documents" as species. The work of the curators would be specified within certain internal parameters within this theme. The organizers could stop at this level and present a pretty general show, or they can go on to a subspecies, say, "FLUXUS." Presumably, going the next step sacrifices scope for the sake of simplicity, thus increasing overall consistency (I'm not necessarily saying that big things -or classes of classes- cannot be cohesive).2

 Kevin Arrow, Cluster 3, (2010).
Photo Sid Hoeltzell (Courtesy of Miami Art Museum).

What was the criteria used by the curators? I venture that they took the idea of a Miami Art show as genus, with "Contemporary Miami Artists" as a species, "artists who have not exhibited before" becoming a subspecies. Now, "Miami Contemporary Artists" (or "emerging" or would have you) becomes internal to "Miami art," but "artists who have not shown before" is not. Why? There is nothing about the latter that grabs any aesthetic relevance. "Inclusion," as subspecies, will not make the show better or worse. I'm even suggesting that an exhibit could succeed politically where it fails aesthetically, as is the case with this one.3

One has to admit that working ad hoc presents some challenges for overall consistency. Imagine the curators: a- begetting a possible list, b- visiting different artists' studios, c- tweaking more the initial criteria, d- debating which piece goes where. Suppose an artist already included in the exhibit doesn't cut it (it's conceivable that not everything they looked at was equally worthwhile and they harbored second thoughts). What to do? Aesthetic merit suggest the artist should go; inclusion demands the opposite.3a At this point someone may say that I'm treating art as some sort of merchandise. You tell me: What does it mean to apply a "political" criteria of inclusion if not an exchange value within a given market of aesthetic perceptions and goods? 4

In favor of aesthetic consistency, some of the pieces presented had no place in this show. For example: What justifies the distribution of artwork vs. wall-space? Is it individuality, novelty, plasticity or showmanship? I looked at what can be called "reluctant proximity," by that I mean a work "A" that prefers to not share close quarters with "B", and found some likely candidates. The clash has to with internal fitting. Just as some art works "get along" with others based on pre-established shared constellations, some simply don't, can't.

Coubert's Femme nue couchée, (1862).

Lissitzky's Lenin Tribune, (1920).

What if the organizers and this writer have incommensurable ideas of what constitute "fitting?" Fair game. Aesthetic discussions are more about rightness than truth.5

New Work Miami 2010's main flaw is structural, i.e., its internal consistency weakens when aesthetic merit is supervened by an "external" criteria of inclusion.

Finally, some may rejoin that my review becomes as political as the show I criticize by not disclosing artists' names for this review. Peut-être. Take it as a tit-for-tat critical response.

*Observe that the title of the show: "New Work Miami 2010" cannot be more general and particular at the same time; its "pointing to" meant as "bracketing" a fact. To the observer: "What you see here belongs in this 'time and space' bracket."  1 My bombastic titles only seek to stress the connection we  place between theme and scope when applying the criteria for a show. 2 Though thematics should be constructed as close as possible to Ockham's razor, according to Nelson Goodman (See his Languages of Art). Which brings me to this question: Is the universe cohesive? If you agree, you have something in common with Spinoza. Many people disagree with this view, amongst them Goodman himself, who would say that "cohesiveness" is just another manner of constructing and sorting out universes. This month, WIRED magazine presents an article about how people make "surprising connections." According to the piece, if I like WIRED, I'm attracted to redheads (?). See, Devin Leonard's "Should You Read This Article?", (WIRED, 18.08), pp. 118-128. 3Though a crucial component, aesthetics is not the only grade of art discourse. 3a If such a thing ever happened in this case, it would be a sufficient reason for internal inconsistency (from the curatorial standpoint). 4 Jacques Rancière calls this overlapping of values a regime. 5Arguments can buttress rightness. And the critic works hard at making sense. I hope I do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Notations: Super People

Things that make hearts break.
Pretty smiles
Deceiving laughs
And people who dream with their eyes open
Lonely children
Unanswered cries
And souls who have given up hopin.-- Tupak Shakur (Things that make hearts break).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Virtuous tautology

 Medrie MacPhee, Big Bang, (Oil on canvas, 64 x 84 inches, 2010).

From Art critical Medrie MacPhee's What It Is, at Von Lintel Gallery.

Christina Kee aptly writes:
MacPhee seems insistent questioning just what is being looked at in these pictures? The response is rich in adjectives and short on nouns. The seemingly discrete parts that make up these works have clear and specific characteristics –hard, transparent, soft, columnar, etc.– and yet remain unidentifiable as any known object outside their painted world. As viewers we have the distinct sense of looking at real, raw materials in a pre-named state. Surveying these paintings recalls the tasks of early philosophy, laboriously weighing questions of attribute against those of essence [...] The world presented by the artist is one keenly, even threateningly, felt –if not necessarily comprehended.
I've followed MacPhee's work for some time and it seems to me that her art is clearly commenting the State of our society. A state of circular accumulation of detritus.

How about MacPhee's art introducing a virtuous tautology? Let's imagine a conversation between a failed epoch and the artist:

The epoch presents itself as "curious."
What is it? -the epoch (oddly) inquires.
What It Is! -replies the artist (turned metaphysician).

 Medrie MacPhee, Float (Oil on canvas, 60 x 78 inches, 2009).

Let's sign the petition to free Sakineh!

The update is that Sakineh will not be stoned to death (but she still could be hanged!).

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been in prison in Tabriz since 2006. The reason? According to Iranian authorities she had an "illicit relationship" (Sakineh was already a widow at the time of the alleged affair).

She has already endured 99 lashes and the state obtained a confession(!), which she later recanted.

The flogging spectacle can be quite effective as a coercive tool of social control.

What place has the government of Iran stoning its (female) citizens?

Protofacist Phalocentrism! 

In Iran, male victims of execution by stoning are first buried up to their waists, then pelted with stones by a crowd of executioners. Women however, are buried up to their necks. The stones used are large enough to cause serious injury but not kill the person, and the victim often dies slowly and painfully.

At least 126 executions have been carried out in Iran this year, according to Amnesty International:  
Recent developments in Iran have prompted fears that the Iranian authorities are once more using executions as a tool to try and quell political unrest, intimidate the population and send a signal that dissent will not be tolerated.
 To sign the petition to free Sakineh click here.