Saturday, December 31, 2011

The last dying image of Basil al Sayid


If art means something, it means truth. But truth -even in its most non-hyperbolic manner- shows itself as it performs. The video above documents the last seconds of Basil al Sayid, an activist journalist of the city of Homs, as he films his own death. He had recorded dozens of videos of the daily civilian slaughter by Assad's Syrian militias. This time Al Sayid ran out of luck and wаѕ shot іn thе head.

In the video we don't get to see his face. Life can only hold up the image for a few seconds: it gives us a point of view from the floor into Al Sayid's arm and gray jacket. Then, as people scream, the image goes black. A  pure slice of reality can be quite brief.

If this is not art, what is it?

Al Sayid's death captured on video, settles a lingering question in Rainer Maria Rilke's Ninth Elegy, the idea that in a world of fading, crumbling reality, images becomes invalid:

Speak and bear testimony. 
More than ever
the things that fall away, the things that can be experienced, for
what replaces them, displacing them, is an act without image.*

Al Sayid's interrupted, unforeseen last image bears testimony to truth. 
*Translation, introduction, and commentary by J. B. Leishman and Stephen Spender ( New York, Norton, 1963).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fuck you, Great Comrade Kim Jong Il!


The video above, of weeping crowds of North Koreans mourning the death of The Great Comrade Kim Jong Il, has prompted numerous reactions in the West. While many pundits and bloggers see the video as an over-the-top show of genuflection typical of totalitarian societies, a befuddle NYTimes calls it "a real demonstration."

¿Real 'cause it happens?

We need to find out what's behind the massive sobbing and wailing. This is not a fake demonstration. Certainly, these people feel a sense of loss which points to The Great Comrade Kim Jong Il, which only complicate things. Let's not ignore that this is a public performance with an automatic component. The event follows a social script that gives the people the green light:

Time to weep at the Square!

Precisely! The contagious and clamant sobbing has an inscrutable surplus. On the one hand, who wouldn't cry if one's face appears on Korean National Television? More importantly, for the first time in their lives, the North Korean people have the chance to mourn their fate. Shedding tears is a primordial response to the nightmare they live, which -oddly enough- they have come to love and desire. The reverse side is unlike the public one: How could they not, indeed, weep? If the Great Comrade Kim Jong Il was alive, how would this once-in-a-lifetime public presentation be possible?

In a perverse and unconscious way, the death of the Great Comrade Kim Jong Il has brought forth a long time repressed (and much needed) social catharsis. The North Korean people can express with tears something absolutely unthinkable, unsayable:

Fuck you, Great Comrade Kim Jong Il!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Art Basel: What are you wearing?

Miami Art Basel, Audi S4 Pavilion 


As part of its Art Basel coverage, The Miami Herald displays 26 photographs of models, artists, designers, etc., which takes journalism to new heights of branding hokum. Half the pictures show details of shoes (including the designer's name and some vapid remark).

For example, we know that so and so...

"wears snakeskin Balenciaga sandals that she bought this summer in Istanbul"
"wears Nike sneakers he designed with his son Jordan, using his Chicken Kitchen colors"
"wears sneakers she picked up on Broadway in New York, for $15"
"wears Valentino shoes printed in pheasant feathers" (visibly so)
"stands under Erwin Wurm's "French Police Cap" (visibly so)
"wears Frederick's of Hollywood shoes, that she ordered from the catalog"
"wears gold Y3 sneakers on which he removed the laces" (visibly so)

In a  photo a Sue Hosteler dons a Lichtenstein dress while posing in front of a (who else?) Lichtenstein sculpture. A "cow girl" poses in front of a Keith Haring acrylic.

We are so indebted to the Miami Herald for this in-depth piece!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The space of an idea


This is a spatial alienation, whereby a society that radically severs the subject from the activity that it steals from him [also] separates him in the first place from his own time. Social alienation, though in principle insurmountable, is nevertheless the alienation that has forbidden and petrified the possibilities and risks of a living alienation within time.- Guy Debord, The Socierty of Spectacle

After the 2008 financial crisis, there is an increasingly cynical perception of the legitimacy of the traditional view of politics. How could the system get subverted from the inside? By softening regulations, surrendering government's power to enforce the law in the hands of capital. The financial crisis of 2008 exposed the system's inner dysfunction. It revealed a relation between government and capital that subverted the very foundation of separation of powers.

An existing space may outlive its original purpose and the raison d'etre which determines its forms, functions, and structures; it may thus in a sense become vacant, and susceptible of being diverted, reappropriated and put to a use quite different from its initial one. A recent and well-known case of this was the reappropriation of the Halles Centrales, Paris's former wholesale produce market, in 1969-71. For a brief period, the urban centre, designed to facilitate the distribution of food, was transformed into a gathering-place and a scene of permanent festival -- in short, into a centre of play rather than of work -- for the youth of Paris.

Which brings me to Occupy Wall Street (OWS). The protesters started with a simple premise: Occupy a park in lower Manhattan. It was an act of resistance, but the occupation implied a certain permanence, a visibility. Sure, they were protesting, but more than that, the occupation was a way to exercise a political right, a face-to-face engagement with an ancient practice in the Stoa. 

Those weeks of discussions were not in vain. They emerged as a 99%. A pretty strong message, if you ask anyone. I find Many of the people that comment about the Occupy movement have no idea of what's going on. read come of the comments in the New York Times columns, or what callers or so-called experts say, even silly comparisons of what Gandhi would do if he was an OWS member. Here are some from Tom Ashbrook's radio program "On Point":
"We the people" is a socialist, sentiment. Any government policy with intent to improve the lives of majority of Americans in any way, is 'socialist' in the eyes of those who wish to twist the narrative in a way to benefit the few. Media outlets have done a pretty good job at supporting this story line. 
These lack a credible political message. They are all over the place... that's why people don't buy it. 
To the (much heard complaint) that OWS is not pursuing a political goal here is this response (by Diane Peel):
Occupy doesn't want to be a political party and I hope we can stick to it. I was trying to think what it is like and then it occurred to me. It's a lobby, only a lobby for the American people. It's sad that in a representative government it's come to this, but it has. We don't have much money but we have lots of voices and a ton of creativity. 
She got this response by a Prairie_W:
You mean Occupy doesn't want to tell us what to think?  Isn't that a little (should I use this word? it's so out of style!) democratic of them? Sorry, Diane.  We have become people who look to specific opinion-makers to tell us what to believe and even how to feel. 
Obviously, the reader doesn't bite the old political bullet because it is exhausted. Yes, OWS is political but of a different kind.

They get the idea that OWS is a "camping" movement. I'm surprised that OWS has been able to translate a Zeitgeist. The movement makes for an "unconscious decision" to produce the space for an idea. And what's the message? Isnt' it obvious, the message is OCCUPY!  What?

The region from which injustice emanates. Wall Street is a symbol. What matters is what it represents, the power it yields. The mingling of politics and capital, and the ways in which capital has perverted the democratic process. 

OWS has brought a new old way of doing politics: open-ended, participatory, face-to-face, space-bounded, committed. 

Democracy or oligarchy

OWS has shown that people are being brainwashed by the system. We thought that the political sphere seemed was legitimate. The system had us doing certain things, choosing certain candidates, voting, getting together at city hall to watch elected politicians falling sleep and totally oblivious of current events. OWS has a different story: the code has been manipulated and turned against the people. OWS senses that the idea of ​​"politics" as we knew it so far is worn out. to be elected one needs powerful patrons. Financial interests are able to coerce the interests of the people, many of whom are robotized by slogans and campaigns.

In other words, after the 2008 crisis, it has become obvious that the old political system in Washington just does not care about democracy, but the enjoyment of power.

OWS has reserves. The system may evict the protesters, but they cannot crush the idea. Zuccoti Park is now a symbol.