The lineup -- which may change, "probably in the direction of more and more ginormously powerful" -- has elephantine star power: Tapes 'n' Tapes, Haley Bonar, Nellie McKay, The Honeydogs, Charlie Parr, The Alarmists and others.
As a stark counterpoint to the "scripted democracy" of this fall's GOP nominating convention, a project by mnartists.org, the Walker Art Center and the UnConvention is inviting people of all political stripes and artistic abilities to create yard signs to coincide with the RNC -- and, fittingly, the 50 designs getting the most online votes will be produced and distributed around the Twin Cities and near the convention site.
Visitors to the My Yard, Our Message site can submit designs by June 30; then open voting will be held from July 1-27.
Don't want to leave the fate of your design in the hands of we, the people? For $20 bucks, the project will produce and deliver a one-off of your design.
Featured: "Ugly Partisanship" by Emmet Byrne; "Convention" by Andy Pressman; "Groove" by Emmet Byrne; "Now or Never" by David Barawski
Update: Wired calls bullshit, and the art fesses up that it's a fake.
Even John McCain has acknowledged things are worse in America today than they were eight years ago, and according to artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese, democracy agrees. The duo who brought us "Contract with America" underpants (signed by Newt Gingrich!) will present their work "The State of Things" in the Twin Cities during the Republican National Convention. A 900-pound, 15-foot ice sculpture of the word "democracy," the work will melt away over the course of a day. As it does, Ligorano/Reese will stream video, audio and photography related to current sociopolitical realities.
According to The UnConvention, a collaborative project by arts groups like Intermedia and the Walker Art Center, the piece is "a testimonial to the impact eight years of extreme judicial, legislative, and executive actions have had on American democratic institutions -- from the landmark Supreme Court decision 'Bush v. Gore' in 2000 to presidential signing statements to illegal FISA surveillance." The work will also be "performed" at the DNC in Denver.
Earlier: Democracy in oil!
The film, like all of Morris' recent works, was made using his patented interviewing tool, The Interrotron, a device that puts a video image of Morris where the camera lens should be. It makes interviewees more comfortable and gives movie-theater audiences direct eye contact with them. Given what some of the Abu Ghraib guards have seen with those eyes -- often as perpetrators of horrible acts -- this contact can be unnerving, and I found an odd disconnect: the intimacy of eye contact is in such stark contrast to the distance I felt seeing those bizarre photographs. Here's what Morris had to say when I asked him about the use of the device in the specific case of Abu Ghraib:
Listen to the official Morris interview here.
Pictured: Spec. Sabrina Harman, featured in Standard Operating Procedure
That pretty much sums up the thesis of his new documentary, Standard Operating Procedure, which opens at The Lagoon in Minneapolis this Friday. An unflinching reconsideration of the iconic photos taken at Abu Ghraib prison, the film talks mainly to low-level military personnel and contractors (only one higher-up, Col. Janis Karpinski, would talk) but still manages to look beyond the frame of the photos we've all seen a million times to find some of the context for these unfathomable acts. My interview, conducted for Minnesota Monitor, covers what we don't see in those shots: the "obscene" violations of the Geneva Conventions, the vast tent cities and cellblock networks of the prison, and the countless people -- MPs, intelligence officers, commanders and civilian contractors -- who were there when these supposed "bad apples" were at Abu Ghraib.
"Photographs can make us feel like we've seen everything when in fact we've hardly seen anything at all," Morris said. And in yesterday's post at his New York Times blog, he addresses one such case, that of Spec. Sabrina Harman, whose smile in her snapshots with a battered Iraqi corpse is not what it seems. He told me:
"There's one photo that endlessly fascinates me. It's Sabrina Harman with her thumb up smiling over the corpse of an Iraqi prisoner. I looked at the photo and thought, initially, what a monster. I now know she had nothing whatsoever to do with this man's death and she was secretly taking photographs to prove that a murder had occurred and the U.S. military was attempting to cover it up. In fact the picture means something much closer to the opposite of what we think it means."Listen to the interview.
More: Listen to an interview outtake, where Morris discusses his interviewing tool, The Interrotron, and the power of eye contact in Standard Operating procedure.
"My god! What is going on," Lewis moaned. "To hell with Shakespeare, to hell with Tennyson, to hell with science and math; we're going to teach our sixth graders how to be hip hop emcees!?" Hip hop is "garbage," he added, and as evidence, he quoted that font of high culture, the former Mr. Christie Brinkley: "Even Billy Joel says rap is crap."
Lewis' opinions have raised ire among local hip hop and spoken-word artists, many who have for years used spoken word as a teaching tool in educational and artistic settings. Writing at CultureBully, spoken-word artist Kyle "El Guante" Myhre says, "Mr. Lewis is fighting a straw man; no one is ever going to suggest that we replace math and science (or Ethan Frome, for that matter) with hip hop... To somehow suggest that Shakespeare is taking a backseat to 2pac in our public schools is, even for conservative talk radio, laughably ridiculous, unfounded fear-mongering."
He talked about Lewis' rant with Tou, who says his aim is to teach kids about self-expression, understanding where they come from and ways to tell the stories of their lives here. "I don't teach students to become hip hop emcees; I just expose them to hip hop music as a medium to speak through," he said. Further, he sees it as a way of turning kids on to the kind of literature Lewis is shouting about.
"I feel that hip hop emcees are modern day poets, and that studying them can open doors to having more interest in learning about the classics such as Shakespeare, Robert Frost and so on," Tou said. "It did for me."
Tou's interest in hip hop is also about preserving his own culture. As a recent New York Times video on Tou explains, Hmong people in Laos, including Tou's grandfather, fought against the Communist Pathet Lao, with CIA backing, in the Vietnam era, and are persecuted for that help. The US government helped resettle many Hmong refugees here, including around 60,000 in Minnesota. Tou says he fears that Hmong Americans are losing touch with these roots and the continuing violence against the Hmong in Laos. Some of his work directly relates to the troubles there, but another project tries to use hip hop to link a younger generation to older cultural traditions. He's collaborated with his grandmother on a fusion of spoken word and the ancient form of poem-chanting (Kwv txhiaj) she's mastered.
"How," he asks, "can we find ways that reconnect back to our culture?"
For Lewis, there's only one culture that matters -- his own.
"You know, it might be a good idea to teach Western culture before we start going into all of the other cultures," he said. "Might be a good idea for our friends in the Hmong community, and the Somali community, and any other community, to learn our culture. Let's have an assembly and a weeklong fine arts program teaching them Shakespeare."
More: Read the Twin Cities Daily Planet's profile on Tou Saiko Lee, or listen to Lewis' May 2 program.
Minnesota's Power Line claims Obama's meeting was shrouded in secrecy and passes along word that Qazwini is "Hezbollah's most important imam and agent in America." Power Line's source is rightwing blogger Debbie Schlussel, who says the meeting "says a lot about the company Obama keeps . . . and why he shouldn't be President." Trouble is Schussel offers only one outside link to substantiate her claims, which given her track record might give one pause: she speculated that the Virginia Tech shootings were done by a "Paki" Muslim and were part of "a coordinated terrorist attack," and she's said that the liberal watchdog group Media Matters is funded by Nazis.
That one source link goes to a matter-of-fact news report on Obama's visit by the Detroit Free Press. While Power Line's Scott Johnson acknowledged Bush met with Qazwini several times during the 2000 campaign (he doesn't mention the 2003 encounter pictured above or Qazwini's attendance at a 2001 interfaith event at the White House), Schlussel doesn't. In the post Power Line links to she quotes extensively from the Detroit paper, but omits the key last sentence: "Qazwini has also met several times with President Bush and other elected officials."
As I've mentioned before that the fifth edition of Heliotrope is this weekend. The annual underground music festival got a good write-up in City Pages today, covering what I think are the best aspects of the festival: shared profits among band members; its make-up of musical "experimenters, agitators, and aesthetes"; a low-key atmosphere; and a truly DIY spirit.
Rich Barlow, co-founder of Flaneur Productions and co-curator of the festival, says, "I'd get really tired of everyone I knew saying there was nothing going on. My feeling is that you can either complain about stuff or you can change it. I don't particularly like complaining."
The story also mentions the "bittersweet return" of this year's headliner, Japan's Suishou No Fune. It will be a bittersweet return for Suishou, who became friends with the band Salamander and played a few shows with them last summer; in November, drummer/visual artist Matt Zaun passed away at age 34. Part of the Ritz's lobby will be dedicated to a small exhibition of Zaun's graphic art.
Pictured: This year's poster by Burlesque's Steven Boettcher
Painter Frank Gaard and his wife, painter/mixed media artist Pamela Gaard, have a joint show on view at The Phipps Center for the Arts, just across the border in Hudson, WI, through June 1. We checked out the artist-curated show during the opening two weeks ago and met up with Frank and Pam; Frank had a copy of Charley 05, the newest publication on the "stray dogs" of contemporary art edited by Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick. A beautiful -- and thick -- catalogue (designed by Conny Purtill, formerly of the Walker), it features an eight-page spread on Frank's work (you'll also remember Frank's contribution to the Walker's billboard project in '04 and this piece, which was published alongside an Adbusters essay I wrote in '05). Notably absent from the show: Frank's trademark x-rated comics. Probably good, considering the family-friendly atmosphere of the Phipps. See more photos here.
Justice Department lobbying records show DCI pushed to "begin a dialogue of political reconciliation" with the regime. It also led a PR campaign to burnish the junta's image, drafting releases praising Burma's efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing "falsehoods" by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses. "It was our only foreign representation, it was for a short tenure, and it was six years ago," Goodyear told NEWSWEEK, adding the junta's record in the current cyclone crisis is "reprehensible."There's more. Lots more.
The LA Times writes:
His motivations were personal as well as political. Like so many Angelenos, Kletzky, 36, had been feeling hemmed in. "I was driving around, sitting in traffic and I just wanted a break. I wanted to take a vacation," he recalls. His eyes drifted over to a traffic island, "And I thought, 'I want to take it here.' " He pauses, smiles. "Well, I don't know if that's entirely true . . ." -- that is, that it happened in a moment. But the anecdote conveys the overall sentiment. That patch of green looked inviting enough. Why not sit a spell? Why not be carried away with a feeling?Via Modern Art Notes.
Kletzky, a former rhetoric major at UC Berkeley, had come to making art late. To help cope with his father's passing, Kletzky began writing poetry in 1995, which led to photography, video and then video installations and performance. Art became not a form of expression, but rather "a form of exploration, interaction . . . even transformation." (He will begin working on an MFA in art and integrated media at CalArts come fall.) And once the island seed was planted, he started making connections. "I started reading philosophical theory about why it is that individuals are more interested in ideas than in objects. That's when I got the idea about prompting discussions and inviting people to think. To be involved -- be participants in the blog, or in their communities," he says. "The discussion itself is part of the project."
Update: In comments, Whitney points out a fitting passage from Pynchon's Vineland:
The already confused Zoyd, whose survival instincts may not have been working all the way up to spec, decided to produce the chain saw from his bag. "Buster," he called plaintively to the owner behind the bar, "where's the media?" The implement attracted immediate attention from everyone in the room, not all of it technical curiosity. It was a tailor-made lady's chain saw, "tough enough for timber," as the commercials said, "but petite enough for a purse." The guide bar, handle grips, and housing were faced in genuine mother-of-pearl, and spelled out in rhinestones on the bar, surrounded by sawteeth ready to buzz, was the name of the young woman he'd borrowed it from, which onlookers took to be Zoyd's drag name, CHERYL.
Rob Walker points out a story on branded burial vessels in Ghana. Honoring the dead through the use of "brightly colored coffins that celebrate the way they lived," Ghanaians apparently sometimes use name brands, from Coke to Mercedes Benz to the local beer, to encase their loved ones as they head off to the next life.
Update: For my Google-impaired commenters, a few more shots:
By Missisippi Snopes on Flickr
A local entry comes from Tom (not this Tom; I checked), a 26-year-old IT professional from Minneapolis, who's hoping for a different kind of stimulation. He says he spent his Bush bucks on 41 copies of Ron Paul's book, "The Revolution: A Manifesto." He writes, "We need a man with sound monetary policies in office to prevent things such as this 'stimulus check' from happening again; stimulate my ass!"
I didn't know this: Shepard Fairey is losing his eyesight due to diabetes and, according to one source, could be legally blind by year's end. From ANIMAL/NY:
"That's why he's having so many gallery shows and making so many prints," the source, who requested anonymity, said. “The Faireys are trying to pump out as much artwork as they can before he can't see anymore -- time is running out.”
Before his Obama work, Fairey was best known for littering countless urban landscapes with his 'Andre the Giant Has A Posse' wheatpastings and and has been compared to a modern-day Andy Warhol by many in the contemporary art world. ANIMAL asked Jonathan Levine, Shepard's NY rep, if the price of his work could potentially fetch more when news like this gets out. "I don't know enough about it. I think it's possible. Even if he's legally blind, it doesn't necessarily mean he's fully blind, so he still might be able to make work," said Levine who refused to confirm or deny Shepard's condition.
Miles told me, "The position the MCCL is taking is that no voice can address any subject within the church unless that voice is anti-abortion, which would seem to cut the church off from a fair amount of social dialogue." In fact, that's the church's stated policy too: 100% conformity. The bishops' statement on such issues bars speakers who "act in defiance of our basic moral principles." (Talking to Miles, it sounds like the archdiocese or MCCL dug up something he either wrote or said many years ago; is that an "action"?)
There's a happy, if ironic, ending: St. Joan's excellent social justice coordinator Julie Madden got on the phone and arranged a new place for the talk: It'll be held this Tuesday night at the Carondelet Center in St. Paul, owned and operated by another Catholic institution, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Read my piece at Minnesota Monitor (which includes the pdf of Miles' planned talk), and Nick Coleman's followup at the Strib, in which he describes what happened as: Miles got Tutu'd.
Update 5/21/08: John writes back that the piece was really just sketches for a full-color version by commissioned artist Bill Johnson. Which is too bad; I much preferred the subtlety of the lineart version. At any rate, here's to more art in public places!
The plan at the outset is to spend the next year, my 30th as it happens, hyper conscious of every consumer purchase I make. For every transaction, there must be a personal connection with someone along the production chain. Whether its the designer, factory worker, chef, farmer, or maybe even trucker, being aware of the lives touched by every product I buy will certainly enlighten me, probably surprise me, possibly shame me, and absolutely provide me with some good stories.
The experiment/challenge will most likely direct me to consuming primarily local goods– grown, produced, created somewhere near Brooklyn, NY. I will not necessarily hold this as a rule, however. I hope to be able to make some connections across the country, and possibly internationally. I'll probably want to buy something that was made in China over the next year, won't I?
In a statement issued on behalf of his lawyers, Twitchell said, "This settlement sets an important precedent which will benefit other artists. This resolution makes it clear that when it comes to public art, you have to respect the artist’s rights, or incur significant liability.”
Twitchell's attorney says the settlement could help the artist restore and/or move the 11,000-square foot Ed Ruscha Monument elsewhere, but art conservators say that could be tricky and expensive.