Flower Arrangement and Photography by Catherine King.
Flower Arrangement and Photograph by Catherine King.
[See the sidebar, "Democracy in America" at ASU, for background.]
by Jerome du Bois
More drama about the "Democracy in America" exhibition at ASU appears in the recent (Oct.15) Web Devil / State Press article by Joshua Spiegel, "Democracy Debacle." Read it and see Marilyn Zeitlin acting like the media image of Senator Kerry, her motives and actions changing over time, taking every position possible except copping to any mistake. Never mind what really happened. Read it and listen to the self-important justifications of artist Ryan McNamara, demanding clarity about why his piece, "Angry Americans," was cut from the show. Read it and notice the glaring absence of curator John Spiak, McNamara's champion for at least four years. Spiak is unavailable, still dodging comments, even though he originally solicited for and obtained the piece.
Read it for the minor fillips of unintentional humor, such as this from caricaturist Linda Eddy:
Eddy brushed off the idea that her work was brought in only to balance the show, saying, "My work is unparalleled in the field of digital art. That's what qualifies it for a show of this stature, not simply the 'politics.'"
Thus betraying herself as doubly deluded.
Marilyn Zeitlin shows more of her true colors:
McNamara said Zeitlin did not tell him about any of the correspondence. He said he found out his piece would be cut from Joe Watson, a writer for the Phoenix New Times, who wrote about the museum this summer.
What a pro. What a weasel. What a coward. But typical of her.
In this post, hopefully the last about this stupid exhibition, I'm going to seriously examine "Angry Americans," and ask the reader to do so as well. That is, I would like readers to pop it up and stare at it for at least a minute. I guarantee it won't be easy, but I'll try to make the payoff worth the pain.
And I'm going to settle the First Amendment issue once and for all, and easily -- by a simple timeline. In the words of someone familiar, "They can run, but they cannot hide" from the truth.
Angry Americans by Ryan McNamara, 2003.
McNamara explains this work:
"As a resident of lower Manhattan during Sept. 11, 2001, and its aftermath, I began to notice a national confusion between fear, anger and patriotism," he said. "These motivations and ideals began to pollute each other and resulted in some fairly unfortunate global consequences. 'Angry Americans' was a place where I attempted to frame and highlight this loaded, emotional knot."
Let the fisking begin.
"As a resident of lower Manhattan during Sept. 11, 2001, and its aftermath . . .
Great. Another one of those jerks, like artist Brad Kahlhamer ("it seemed so cinema") and writer Walter Kirn ("I'm so over 9/11") and cartoonist Art Speigelman ("Waaaaah!"), who were there -- but somehow not there -- not to feel it, anyway -- and now they're all bitching about having their so-called feelings manipulated by politicians, as if they had no mature, adult self-control.
. . . I began to notice a national confusion between fear, anger and patriotism . . .
First, Manhattan is not the nation in microcosm, so his conclusions must have come from the national media. And once again we see the alienation from emotion by failing to recognize that fear, anger, and patriotism often, and should, coexist, each one growing and shrinking, accommodating the other two, and many others, as reason guides the self. And the self contains and balances many emotions, such as sorrow. Remember sorrow, Mr. McNamara?
His confusions become clearer in the next sentence:
These motivations and ideals began to pollute each other and resulted in some fairly unfortunate global consequences.
In other words, President Bush went off half-cocked and the world is worse off for it. I assume Mr. McNamara uttered these words near the publication date of Spiegel's article, October 15, 2004 -- one week after Afghanistan voted ten million strong for the first time in 5000 years. Long after Uday, Qusay, and Saddam were brought into unfortunate consequences -- for them. Long after three-quarters of Al Qaeda's leadership is in chains or with their dicks in the dirt. Long after 25 million Iraqis were freed from horror.
And notice the metaphor -- pollute -- as if emotions were germs. Further evidence that we must keep everything separate. No; an integrated self manages the continually contending impulses.
"'Angry Americans' was a place where I attempted to frame and highlight this loaded, emotional knot."
Implying that we're stuck. And he's right, but only about himself and others on the Left like him. Many of the rest of us manage our pain -- about attacks by people like him on our decency, about 9/11, about every American soldier's death or injury in Iraq right now. McNamara and his type (e.g., Richard Serra) are stuck in a knot of resentment because their stale notions don't count for shit in the real world. Honestly, ask somebody if they know about Serra or McNamara's political work. Who? they would say.
McNamara shows his simplistic understanding of the exhibition, of the word "balance," and perhaps of the world, right here:
He added that if the curator wanted to balance the show, she should have found pieces that discourage voting since there is a piece by artist Julian Schnabel in the show that features the word "VOTE" prominently.
Spoken like an ASU graduate. By this illogic, had she included his own piece, she would have had to add one entitled and showing "Happy Americans."
To the work, then. Let us allow David Velasco, Mr. McNamara's partner (right on, stand by your man), to describe it. Velasco wrote an open letter of protest to Dean Mills of ASU's Herberger School of Fine Arts, posted at the National Coalition Against Censorship. It reads in part:
In the spirit of disclosure and transparency: I learned about this act of censorship from my partner Ryan McNamara, whose piece “Angry Americans” was among those set to be exhibited. I would like to use his piece as an example, as you already have. “Angry Americans” is a series of eight large photographic portraits of young children theatrically demonstrating their best attempts at anger. These color close-ups are installed side-by-side, forming a large rectangle of six by nine feet. Earlier this year this piece was requested for "Democracy in America," and was routed straight from a show in Belgium to be stored at Arizona State University until its installation. Several days ago one of the curators, John Spiak, informed Mr. McNamara that this piece was too controversial and would not appear in the show. Mr. Spiak, whose implication in these events leads me to question his credibility, will no doubt take some of the fall, though I and others will be watching to make sure he is not used as a scapegoat as this controversy unfolds.
Six by nine feet! Arrgghh! Where's my flamethrower? Now, the kid on the lower left, say what you will about child abuse, every time I see his face I want to slap him into next week. All the others, save one, I could live with as goofiness if the subject matter wasn't so serious. Only the boy in the upper row, third from left, looks genuinely angry, and therefore out of place. ("I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside.")
I now see this piece as the perfect emblem of the seething subtext of the history of this exhibition, which is unfocused, childish rage. We hate President Bush and that ought to be enough! He was wrong about Iraq and that ought to be enough! We don't want war and that ought to be enough! We don't need to give you reasons! Each frame in McNamara's piece reminds me of a cell in the multifaceted fly-eye of a demon in our culture -- the Left, mutated beyond recognition by ingesting its own poison, showing us its full-bleed bulging ugliness -- the cyclopian eye of a giant baby in perpetual tantrum that its priveleged world has been torn open by reality and truth.
Let's redo the piece, Mr. McNamara. You're still in New York City, right? Perfect. Go get eight more subjects, but adults this time, people of your persuasions -- cowardly gaywads like Ross Bleckner, Paul P., Christian Holstad, your partner David, Daniel Reich -- and this time, make them angry for real before you take your photographs. Since I'm doing the thinking for the both of us on this, let me supply some of the goading script:
"Think about what happened to Uday! Did you see that picture? Did he deserve that? Qusay? Did he ever harm you? And what about the way they treated Saddam, like an animal! Abu Ghraib, man! What about the Iraqis dignity?"
And so on. I'm sure you'll get more genuine shots that way. Actually, ditch the script: given the output of New York artists on political art, all you have to do is repeat, over and over, "Bush! Bush! Bush!" That's all your Pavlovian friends need to foam at the mouth and spit out some half-assed art. "Read My Apocalips"? "Richie Bush"? "The Hole Truth"? Oooh, you lefties, we President Bush supporters are getting the allover fidgets with these devastating blows. Please, lay off, yer killin us!
Am I exaggerating? Here, from today's (Oct. 22) NYT, page B37, Ken Johnson reviewing a show by 41 artists at Exit Art, called "The Presidency," first paragraph:
"The Presidency," a selection of works by 41 left-leaning artists, could make you decide that artists should keep their art and their politics separate. It looks like a student show and ranges from mildly amusing to irritatingly predictable. Almost nothing in it will make you think in any deep or unexpected way about its theme.
Who's surprised? Wankers. I'll tell you what makes me angry, Mr. McNamara. You won't act like a man, you don't respect yourself, and you have contempt for others. You would rather attack decency and dignity with silly satire than engage the emotional complex that you only dimly recognize, much less the concepts of "democracy" and "America," which recede even further beyond your limited horizon of understanding.
But your main dishonesty, Mr. McNamara, like your partner's, and that of many others, consists of ignoring the logic of the timeline and thus skewing the spin from the beginning.
In January, the Office of the President of ASU announced that Gammage Auditorium would be the site of the third Presidential Debate. At the same time, it was made known that there was an agreement of impartiality between ASU and James Baker and Vernon Jordan, brokers of the debates. ASU, as an entity, would remain neutral. It was a contract.
In February, John Spiak and Marilyn Zeitlin, knowing the above information, concocted an anti-Bush exhibition, in the face of the neutrality agreement. These are facts. Zeitlin came up with the title, but it was always ironic, and they both busily began commissioning explicitly anti-Bush artworks.
The rest of the timeline is well-known, from Watson's and Seigel's articles, and our own series. There was no First Amendment Issue, and thus any cries of "censorship" are not only disingenuous but illogical. Zeitlin and Spiak consciously tried to end-run the University and its president, and they didn't get away with it. Such is the arrogance of the art crew out there that they thought they could.
Do you bozos not get it yet? This exhibition should never have been. You try to foreground it, in space and time, and that's a lie. First there was the debate, and nothing else. This exhibition should never have been. And now the ASU Art Museum curators, and all the artists associated with the debacle, have to eat the consequences. Good.
Flower Arrangement and Photograph by Catherine King.
by Jerome du Bois
I found two letters on the Internet that reveal more about the psychology of two people featured in some recent posts on "The Burgeoning" -- ASU Associate Professor John Leaños, and Phoenix Public Arts Program Director Greg Esser. The letters -- from Leaños to Esser, and Esser's reply -- stem from an October First Friday drama: Leaños and twenty of his obedient, politically-brainwashed students wheat-pasted a bunch of antiwar posters which they made on buildings Esser owned. Esser objected and tore the posters down. I won't go into details -- if I can find the letters, you can -- but both missives support our previous judgments: that Greg Esser is a dissembling, dodging bureaucrat, who won't stand up for private citizens; and that John Leaños is a racist megalomaniac, with no regard for personal private property, and is dangerously consumed with a messianic vision of bringing America down and replacing it with some Mexi-Indigenous-ooga-booga social order, undoubtedly with obedient women bent over metates (and other things). He joins two other racist ASU professors we've identified so far, Beverly MacIver and Neil Lester, who also trash white people, "the dominant paradigm." Your tax dollars at work, Arizonans. Am I exaggerating? No, I quote pseudo-Zapata, writing to Esser:
I think you must be aware of the value of doing public art both with and without permission. You are probably aware that Indigenous and Chicana/o visions of public space differ most definitely from predominant paradigms. We believe that the southern border, for instance, is a temporary expression of a failing social order. The hegemony of Private Property may be seen in the same vein. Chicana/o and Indigenous peoples have occupied this territory for many generations and have been told over and over that our concerns, ways and aesthetics do not matter. Many Chicana/o residents of the Downtown and Garfield Districts view the downtown arts community as paving the way for gentrification, a whitewashing of diverse cultural expression in order to replace it with an aseptic, "sponsored" and paid for culture. It seems that your actions are in tune with this project.
Ooh, meet El Presidente/a/o! Tell you what, Jota, every Chicano I've met, and I've worked side by side with many, same work, same pay, would take exception to you getting your skinny hands on their private property. And if I see you or any of your robots around my place, be ready for blood in your eyes, pendejo.
And Esser, for his part, hides like the limp weenie he is, dodging the whole brown issue; but -- oh, you bitch! -- he does offer some nice inside dish about Mr. MayanAztecMestizoMofo:
. . . I would like to respond to your inaccurate implication that the City of Phoenix was in any way not open to dialogue or participation with the Department of Chicana/o Studies at ASU. As a city employee, I generally do not respond to individual artists’ requests for information about public art. This is typically a function of other staff in the Office of Arts and Culture. POAC staff were in fact in contact with you. You were recently selected as a finalist to develop a proposal for a public art project. You received an honorarium for that proposal in the amount of $500 from the City of Phoenix that you cashed on September 16, 2004.
Five hundred bucks for writing up a proposal? Haysoos Marimba, where do I sign up? Hell, we just wrote up a spoof proposal, two posts down. Gimme da ting! (Listen, Greg, while you've got the ledger open, where can we find the audit trails for all those $5000 mentor grants down the years, hmmm? It isn't on your website, or Phil Jones's. Why not? . . . Oh, never mind, we'll do our own research. Sorry to interrupt your asskissing.)
We, too, sent an open letter, and several emails, to Mr. Esser, about the hermetic, mute, antipublic presentation of his art gallery. But he hidin in a spidey hole from us. In his letter to JJL he takes pains to distinguish his public and private roles, and wants to avoid their "conflation." I can see why he wished to maintain this artificial, bureaucratic, cowardly distinction. Our points had to do with the man being a human being who was supposed to learn from his role as public art presenter to present his own art venue as if it presented art -- dig?
eyelounge sounds like a bar. eyelounge looks like a bar. It looks like a closed, condemned bar. Who puts plywood behind barred windows on someplace open for business, you dick? You waiting for a hurricane? The words "art" and "gallery" appear nowhere on the puke-green facades of your precious stucco walls. If we had to judge your public art credentials by the presentations of your own projects, we certainly would not have hired you.
Now we are wondering if you're behind the sculpture that was made from the melted-down guns. For those out of the loop, the damn thing looks like a steel Gumby raising its hands high and frantic in surrender. "Release From Fear," it's called, but it looks like "Take My Wallet." From melted guns. Was that you, Esser? It sure looks like your style.
A Greg Esser pose, practicing for when the banditos take over.
But you're both banditos, aren't you? pseudo-Zapata and The Denver Kid, misrepresenting your ethical and fiduciary responsbilities to the citizens of Phoenix and Arizona, cashing your tax-supported checks by fraud, and stealing the simple souls of the students and young artists in your charges.
[Update: When you're done looking at the beautiful images, scroll down for new postings.]
Flower Arrangement and Photograph by Catherine King.
by Jerome du Bois
This week's Phoenix New Times offers up a trio of pendejos stemming from the "Democracy in America" exhibition and the upcoming Presidential Debate -- a weasel editor, a vacillating, infantile executive editor, and a fascist, racist artist-professor. I refer, respectively, to Rick Barrs, Michael Lacey, and John Jota Leaños. The first man ignores our scoops and prescient analyses, far in advance of Joe Watson's stories, though Joe Watson became aware of our work; the second man whines, on the cover of his increasingly filthy and misogynistic rag, "How can anyone vote for either of these two clowns?"; and the third man stridently advocates censorship and practices political indoctrination on his students. And all three snidely look down their noses at ordinary, thinking, decision-making American citizens, any one of whom puts these wankers in the shade when it comes to being a stand-up person. (Other, minor players in this piece -- pendejitos -- include three of Leaños's students, and ASU President Crow, who is afraid of signs in students' dorm windows.)
Did someone mention clowns?
But this isn't funny. Part of it might seem silly -- for example, applying the concept of journalistic integrity to Rick Barrs and New Times. But we do. We must. It's an important part of 21st Century Soul to sincerely hold up high standards.
Barrs's story "Forty Whacks" (an irrelevant title, complete with humiliating, adolescent S/M cartoon) tells how Crow and other ASU administrators pressured Zeitlin to balance an obviously anti-Bush exhibition, and how she responded by claiming it was Joe Watson and New Times who created a climate of sensationalism, which marred the curatorial process. But Zeitlin gets ambushed by her own (and others') emails -- six months worth -- which the paper obtained under FOIA. She also damns herself repeatedly with her easily-disproved, pathetic letter to Svetlana Mintcheva and the National Coalition of Censorship.
Barrs knows so many more facts than we do, yet he writes this obvious falsehood:
At the outset, Zeitlin and the museum simply judged artworks on their merits, choosing what they thought was best. Guess what? Artists are mostly liberals, and political artists tend to lampoon whatever president's in power. To boot, there's a war going on that's unpopular among a throng of Americans. The result was an exhibition that would've been offensive to the Rush Limbaugh crowd. . . . Had it not been watered down.
Now, that first sentence is a lie, revealed in Watson's first story. In February, both Zeitlin and Spiak commissioned specifically anti-Bush pieces from at least eight artists, who delivered as promised. Later, in one of those famous emails, she writes to Mills, her Dean:
. . . we also know of several mediocre pieces that focus on Kerry that we can add . . .
So much for "merit" and "best." Barrs's main target, though, is ASU's President Michael Crow, a nervous nelly who apparently fears funding loss if students may put political signs in their dorm windows, and display them on That Fateful Day. And Barrs, for his own inflated part, thinks that having those signs makes any difference at all. Both these men are deluded. Senator Kerry and President Bush will just roll on by without a glance, if they even use University Avenue, past any number of placard-waving people.
Near the end of his piece, Barrs advances a "theory" for Crow being "so concerned about putting up such a nonpartisan pre-debate front":
Conservative Arizona legislators and Bush administration grant purveyors could get all exorcised [sic] over they'd perceive as a pro-John Kerry exhibition at the ASU Art Museum, and Crow's efforts to continue turning ASU into a premier research institution could be affected. Particularly if Bush were reelected.
Ahem. I wrote, on August 16:
One must be breathing real air, outside the hermetic academic fantasy world these people inhabit, to see the deluded hubris that dominates their minds. Ted Decker, Peter Held, Heather Sealy Lineberry, Jean Makin, John Spiak, and Marilyn Zeitlin must have actually believed that ASU President Michael Crow would eat crow: that he would, for one, put a multi-hundred-million dollar public institution, partially dependent on Federal funds, at risk, financially or by public embarrassment; or that, two, he would foul his own professional future permanently by pissing off the President of the United States -- whoever that man turned out to be.
And why would the University President do these things? Because over there on the far corner of the campus at the art museum (big cash cow) six pissants were scheming to promote their narrow hateful agenda through political cartoons while trashing the twin towers of Democracy and America and all who love them both. Riiiight. Read me that list of names again?
More importantly, Barrs ignores what his boss, Michael Lacey, admits:
When it became obvious that the current art was overwhelmingly anti-Bush, school administrators, who were contractually obligated by the debate guidelines to remain neutral on the candidates, turned the screws in favor of a more balanced collection. (Emphasis mine.)
Again, we covered this. In my late father's words, "There is no First Amendment issue." But for Barrs, it's just politics:
Also, although I fear it's just an excuse for certain high-handed tactics, ASU officials have cautioned that the Commission on Presidential Debates might pull the plug on the ASU location if it detected campus partisanship.
All the curators knew of the contract, but they went ahead anyway, floating away in the blithe bubble of insularity and illusory invulnerability in which they live.
POP! And Barrs maintains they sacrificed "integrity." They sacrificed nothing, and , of the art, nothing of substance. They have their puerile show, with Alfred Quiroz's cocaine-snorter and all 98 of Jon Haddock's little Senator puppets. I hope they're proud of themselves. And Barrs wouldn't recognize integrity.
Now, about Lacey: here's the founder of the whole New Times alt-weekly megillah -- fight the daily paper power, baby! -- refusing to take a stand, refusing to be a traditional editor, or even a man, an ordinary person, millions of whom will ignore him and his multiple insults -- "How can anybody vote for either of these two clowns?" -- and go right ahead, step up, and a make a mature, informed decision. Unlike him, they will be responsible citizens.
Oh, he huffs and puffs about wanting Osama's head, but . . . on November 2, according to his citywide, cover-story declaration, Executive Editor Michael Lacey -- "Make mine a double" -- will be curled up in a corner of his mansion in a fetal position, sucking on his Black Bush and whining about how unfair life is: he doesn't like any of the candidates. Awwwww. (Maybe he'll move to Ireland, finally. Oh, wait, he said, "Yo soy Mexicano" in that article, didn't he? Uh-huh. The only thing Mexican about Michael Lacey is his Monterrey tan and the tequila in his belly.) He has no shame at all:
These [the candidates] are not my countrymen.
When asked who I will vote for, I shake my head in disgust and reply, "Yo soy Mexicano."
Friends and colleagues expect me to vote for John Kerry. But they misjudge me. Kerry does not deserve to be President . . .
I do not feel that Kerry or Bush is competent to lead us through a religious war waged by terrorists.
And who are you, exactly, Mr. Lacey, that we should listen to you? A newpaperman who made his fortune off ads for massage parlors, gay hook-ups, and T & A bars, and who has no problem running a bondage photo in this week's issue (of a woman, of course, you asshole) in a free paper available to anyone of any age on the street. And I'm going to listen to you, my countryman? Go to hell -- but first, have another drink to convince yourself of your significance, you pitiful man. And thanks for encouraging people not to vote.
In the middle of Lacey's screed lies the insidious La Raza racist and bullying fascist John Jota Leaños:
A perfect storm of biased cultural critique, joined with a refusal to confront the moral implications of Hussein's genocide, festers in the halls of higher education at Arizona State, the university hosting the presidential debate.
Assistant professor John Jota Leaños coached his students at ASU into an overwhelming demonstration against the war in Iraq and against President Bush. As part of the first component of this class in Chicana and Chicano Studies, the teacher assigned a reading list about the war.
"We needed to inform ourselves about Iraq," explained a student.
Once they were thoroughly grounded in their reading, the students were required to make protest posters in the rich tradition of Mexican artists. The students chose overwhelmingly to voice their opposition to Bush and the war.
The artwork hung on building walls in downtown Phoenix as part of the First Friday celebration on October 1, less than two weeks before Kerry and Bush were to conclude the debates in Tempe.
I first learned of this activism from a student who occasionally baby-sits my kids. She claimed professor Leaños steered the class to manufacture anti-war, anti-Bush art, and she felt extremely uncomfortable having a political position forced down her throat.
The studious and demure [?!] Leaños (whose card reads, "artist, cultural worker, assistant professor") is contemptuous of the campus, and First Friday, too, because he does not see enough stridency in either setting.
Leaños explicitly advocates censorship when he thinks it is necessary:
Leaños felt New Times should not have exposed the administration's heavy-handed attempts to dictate the contents of an art exhibition. He argued that the story should have been suppressed and the controversy ignored until the show was finally mounted. He felt the story egged on administrators to push even harder for fair and balanced.
Your tax dollars support this man, who, not incidentally, believes white people are inferior to brown ones. This is not a non sequiter: this thirtysomething spoiled punk with the cushy academic job and swooning stupid students really thinks he knows better than you. Well, I see the little Mussolini for what he really is.
And I wonder about his students, Joaquin Lopez, 24, Violeta Tamayo, 25, and Moshe Novakoff, 24. Please note the ages of these adults well. After plowing through his propaganda and the required reading -- Ramsey Clark: "A major part of the demonization of Saddam Hussein has been based on the false portrayal of Iraqi government policy toward the Kurd" -- this is what they say:
As a result of his reading in this class, Joaquin Lopez said his eyes were opened.
"Before this class, I wasn't concerned about political views or the war in Iraq. If I don't think about it, maybe it's not there," said Lopez. "But I have discovered the power of art. How would I feel if someone came and bombed my neighborhood? The class made me think critically about war. Why are people dying? Why are we forcing our views? I feel like I'm really against the war."
Moshe Novakoff is outraged by what he has read for the class.
"Everyone in class realizes it's a complete degradation of morality," said Novakoff, who feels that their art represents a shot at having a voice.
Violeta Tamayo does not think of herself as an artist, but does feel well-informed. For her, the class was a revelation.
"This is unlike any other art class I've been exposed to. Art and politics, they should be synonymous," said Tamayo.
Novakoff: "It's daring . . . Because of the times. I know you can't speak your mind. The FBI will investigate you if you say something anti-Bush . . . Not having access to media outlets, not having a loud microphone to speak out . . . Most art comes out of desperate situations."
And finally, Tamayo: I don't know," she concluded. "If they liked Saddam, it's none of our business."
Leaños needs to brainwash people; he needs them for his stupid fever dream of power. But why do they become convinced, when other information is freely available at their fingertips? Because that's work. These three students are typical of the new empty ones, who have no depth and will latch onto anything that seems substantial.
Leaños himself is a political coward:
As an example of how he proposed to confront the evil of genocide, Professor Leaños suggested that if one left things alone, things would work out. As an example, he offered Spain's Franco, who, once his dictatorship was over, was replaced by enlightenment.
This man, I promise you, is typical of the Resentful Class who have been teaching our young men and women for the last couple of decades. Even if he is a mere college professor I consider him dangerous, since he hates people, freedom, and life itself. Rick Barrs is a dissembler, a Bush-basher, and a cynical opportunist, Michael Lacey is a big arrogant drunken crybaby, but this guy Leaños -- he's evil in the flesh.
Flower Arrangement and Photograph by Catherine King.
[Update: Since I'm getting some traffic on this, I'll open comments, at least for awhile. Thanks for your attention, readers.]
by Jerome du Bois
Jeff Falk's long-promised installation at the Stop'N'Look window on Grand Avenue is just about as viciously ignorant an attack on America -- and on its unique and honored status as protector of the sovereign individual -- as any of these local rat-bastard leftists could wish for. Two of his worst transgressions: awarding equal status to Abraham Lincoln and Che Guevara, and implying that we had it coming on 9/11. And in the middle of it, his signature image, stand-in, and avatar, as dead-tired as Keith Haring's glowing baby: the gold-painted cherub with useless blue wings, oddly impaled to a base, smack dab in the middle of the installation. Too many angels were created that day, and this bastard sacrifices every one for his resentful, pissant vision. Yes, Jeff, it's all about you, it always has been, and that's why your art is weak, vicious, and stupid.
Let's look at some pictures, readers, then I'll have more to say.
[Update 10/08/04: Related Che items at attaboy.]
Here's Lincoln on the right side (I've printed the text under the photo):
This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right [to dismember, or] overthrow it . . . (From the First Inaugural Address, 1861. Falk leaves out the bracketed section.)
Here's Che on the left:
The text reads: Let me say, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love. 1961. (I'll get back to this horrible falsity, uttered by one of the Americas' worst murderers.)
A more panoramic view:
Finally, the planes, from the left --
-- and the right:
These photos were taken from the car; we didn't get out to read all the printing on those yellow and white sheets, or on that stand in front of the murderer. I doubt I'm overlooking some important subtlety, though.
Despite Falk's heavy-handed and semi-coherent Lincoln / Che comparison, there is a lesson behind the two statements, which hinges on the recognition of human dignity. Lincoln accepted human beings as they were; Che delusively thought he could create a New Man, partly by personally shooting a whole lot of the Present Men in the back of their heads with a .45 automatic, splattering their brains on his boots.
Oh, sorry . . . Lincoln's First Inaugural is a fascinating document where, in a cursory reading, the President seems to endorse slavery and sidestep any principled explanation. But, on closer reading, he is simply saying that he took an oath to keep the union (at present, with slavery) intact. He would not make their decision for them. In other words, he respected his citizens and he refused to take the reins from them. Read, please:
One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. . . .
This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember, or overthrow it. . . .
I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution — which amendment, however, I have not seen, has passed Congress, to the effect that the federal government, shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express, and irrevocable. . . .
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect and defend" it.
I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
"Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl!"
This from Che Guevara's "Motorcycle Diaries," the very diaries just made into a heartwarming film by Robert Redford -– again, the only film to get that whoopin' hollerin' standing ovation at last month's Sundance Film Festival. Seems that Redford omitted this inconvenient portion of Che's diaries from his touching film.
The "acrid odor of gunpowder and blood" never reached Guevara's nostril from actual combat. It always came from the close-range murder of bound, gagged and blindfolded men.
(Hat tip: Val Prieto.) And this, from earlier in the article:
"To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary," [Lewis] Carroll would have heard from the chief executioner, named Ernesto "Che" Guevara. "These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of the paredon (The Wall)!"
Robert Commie-pinko Redford's latest movie premiered yesterday in Cuba. "The Motorcycle Diaries," a portrait of Ernesto "Che" Guevara as a young romantic, opened in Santa Clara, where Che's remains are buried.
More adulation and masturbation over a murderer.
Here's the ultimate money quote:
"The presentation of the film pays homage to the life of a man who taught us a lot about tenderness," said Aleida Guevara March, Guevara's daughter.
Tenderness? WTF? I almost choked from laughing so hard.
Che was a puritan pig who hated humanity as it was. He was allergic to love and empathy. He and Castro delusively believed they could expunge something they called the profit motive from people's minds, hearts, souls. Frankensteins, both of them. Lincoln was wise; he knew that people evolve; you cannot create them.
And Jeff Falk is worse than a fool: he thinks we had it coming on 9/11.
Why the jet planes, Jeff? Why the fluttering papers and piles of grey dust and the black house? Is it Che = Osama and/or Saddam, Lincoln = Bush, beleaguered leader of a divided country? But you put revolution in Lincoln's mouth, and love in Che's. You twisted twit, squeezing our still-wounded hearts, then stabbing them. You mock everything Abraham Lincoln suffered for, everything that stands behind me, and elevate a bloodstained psychopathic mafiamechanic in a splatter suit for your saint. You shame yourself, Jeff Falk, but America endures you anyway. Let me say it in the short words you know best: Grow up. Your baby clown days are over. You. Must. Change. Your. Ways.
Flower Arrangement and Photograph by Catherine King, October 5, 2004.
ISCILLATION, 2003, colored pencil on Arches paper, 18 x 60 inches.
by Jerome du Bois
I stopped making art indefinitely at the end of last year. I've stacked my collages and drawings in corners in other rooms, not even hanging them on the walls. I've put away my tools, my wood, my special papers, my rubber stamp alphabet, my paints and colored pencils and my templates; my black idea book, filled with ideas and festooned with bits of folded papers peeking from its leaves, sits on the bookshelf. My fingers itch, but my heart's not in it right now.
ISCILLATION is the last piece I made before I downed tools. I haven't looked at it for nine months. But I took it out and I've been looking at it all week. We have, I should say, Catherine and I, and we saw a new interpretation of the piece which seemed glaringly obvious in retrospect, but it made us sick to see; it made us want to go back, to erase the knowledge, because it's horrible. I'm going to tell you about what we discovered.
I'm an idea man. I make art with words and graphic patterns, holding as many ideas forward as possible without overwhelming the viewer. The patterns hold the viewers' attention while I go to work on their hearts and minds with the words. This piece, like most others with most artists, had many influences and motivations, such as these:
I wanted to make a piece with the shortest English word I know: I, and what it means to me.
I thought about how one's perception of oneself risks blinding oneself to the truth: to see better, thin yourself out.
Also, I wanted to draw eyes. Eyes are holy to me because Light made them, and because Life and Nature used them as the greatest ladders to get us to where we are now -- and without knowing it; but now, we know.
I knew the background would be busy, but stabilized by both bilateral and quadrilateral symmetry. Bright colors would make the pattern pop.
I knew I wanted to bend the I, remembering my own saying, "Death bends your life's bow to make it useful."
I remembered hearing from someone when I was a kid, and I'm still working it out: "Accept yourself, forget yourself, and get into something bigger than yourself." And all the Jesus talk I was soaked in, too; some of that's in there.
Oscillation: the regular movement of an impulse from a maximum to a minimum about a central pole or origin.
And because I'm so influenced by Camille Paglia and Sexual Personae:
My personae are not strategies of irony or social adaptations but cinematic visualizations, products of an archaic process of picture-thought. The brain is the neurological repository of the human past, and personae are the hidden masks of our ancestors and heirs. Man is not merely the sum of his masks. Behind the shifting face of personality is a hard nugget of self, a genetic gift. I believe only some master principle of heredity, defyng liberal theories of environmentalism, can account for the profusion of human types, often manifested within a single family. The self is malleable but elastic, snapping back to its original shape like a rubber band. Mental illness is no myth, as some have claimed. It is a disturbance in our sense of possession of a stable inner self that survives its personae.
Then there's Julian Jaynes's outrageous notion, embodied in the title of his singular book: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. (Everybody used to be a little schizoid, way back in the day.)
But most importantly, I rely on Daniel Dennett's evolutionary exposition of the Self as the sum, the I atop the pyramid of a jillion jostling semi-stupid Darwin machines, each with its own agenda, arrayed and stacked in coalitions, the sum worked out by such marvelous processes as pandemonium contention scheduling.
I am never alone; I am always with my selves and subselves; there is no isolation.
The little ovals? Those are the Darwin machines. The ones on strings hold the core together, while the dynamic ones dance, collide, and learn. So then I can say that the third eye -- in the center of the drawing -- gives birth to a big new idea, sending questions and claims shooting out into the world, through me; but to really see its truth I need to strain -- to even split myself -- to empty out and open up and try to embrace its significance.
Notice, though, as the energy expands, the I-form deforms in the opposite direction of the physics of expansion, as if consciously resisting it while still being carried outward and bent around oneself.
Notice that as the Self splits, it splits into two wholes, not halves. They reach out to embrace the new perception, the new lesson, and then bounce back to the center, wiser; until the next idea blooms forth, and the iscillation begins again.
So I made it, eighteen inches by five feet, grinding the colors into the Arches paper, saturating as much as I could, and keeping it neat. I made the left and right eyes separately -- big baby blues -- and embedded them in cutouts.
And we enjoyed it for awhile. Then the world turned ugly in ways I don't have to go into; what I call rebarbarization dominates our culture for now and the foreseeable future. I didn't want my work out there with that work. So we put it all away until this week. And we saw, with dismay, that ISCILLATION could fit right into the Rebarb.
That hot pink circle in the very center of the piece?
Imagine it's the button on a suicide bomber's belt . . . Deformation indeed, and the pretty fuschia ovals become bits of flesh, the other ovals BBs or bolts . . .
Or the central I is an I-beam in the World Trade Center and the hot pink circle is the nose of a 747 turning everything to exploding hell . . .
No. No. This isn't what I made! But as we talked, looking at the thing, we reached an obvious and ugly conclusion:
It's a freeze-frame of human annihilation.
Horrible. Now what, rename it KABOOM? I had created the piece in the intifada and the Iraqi War's aftermath, and not once did I, or Catherine, make the violent connection, though we keep the TV on (picture anyway) most of the time in our workspace. Of course, it still retains its earlier interpretation, and others, but now there's this new horrifying overlay that I have to confront every time I look at it. Will that wear down over time?
I made another piece before this one, in 2002, called The Oracle Board: Thirty-Six Triplets. I put that one away, too. At the center of that piece I transcribed four triplets I created in the three days, sitting before the TV, after the terror:
Never Write Bullshit.
Every Word Flesh.
Invest In Black.
Shoot Through Tears.
Maybe I need to get more of my work out again.
[Comments are open for this post, at least until the first ugly one. Then slammo again.]