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A Search for Comity in the Intellectual Property Wars: symposium at The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, April 28-30, 2006 [slides, audio, transcripts]
download the report [PDF]
Japanese poster urging people to conserve electricity after the 2011 earthquake.
This post is from Eryk S's blog This Japanese Life (many may remember Eryk and his work from the 1990s net.art scene):
Eryk is a former newspaper editor from Maine now teaching English in Japan with the JET Program.
He has written for a California salvage yard consortium and on the topics of Prescription Drugs and Metal Bands and Tanks and Bubblegum for McSweeney’s. He is a frequent photo contributor to Flannel Magazine and posts his images to The Birdwatcher’s Report.
In a previous life as a visual artist, his work was featured in The New York Times and mentioned in Artforum, Mute Magazine and the Dutch Press, which dubbed him “The Harry Potter of the Digital Vanguard.” He is mostly done with that stuff.
Salsabomb.com includes any creative output not covered here.
via This Japanese Life:
Posted on March 15, 2011
I went to work today. Normally that wouldn’t merit a blog post, but in a country with nuclear emergencies, multiple earthquakes, rolling power outages and an active volcano, the normal stuff starts to get noteworthy.
As I write this, rescue squads have barely even started the work ahead of them. Grim scenes told by numbers: 700 bodies found in an incoming tide. 2,300 missing. Estimates of 10,000 dead. 457,000 in evacuation shelters. Numbers this size and beyond are unfathomable.
And yet, we see scenes on NHK: A Sake brewer wanders around the wreckage of his brewery. “I just hope that someday, I can brew sake again.”
In Tokyo, where trains are running on a slower schedule to accommodate scheduled blackouts, workers “returned to work as usual” on Monday morning, which strikes some people as slightly insane. Government officials are in the office, even if their own families are missing or dead.
Why is Japan going back to work?
Mostly, it’s because perseverance is as deeply embedded into Japanese culture as earthquakes and tsunamis. Without this kind of stoicism, no nation borne from fishermen and rice farmers would survive centuries of destructive sea tides and flooded rice paddies. The nation’s geographical position has ensured that disaster is a part of the landscape.
This has contributed to two survival mechanisms in Japanese culture: It’s own brand of resigned pragmatism and an organic respect for social order.
There is a Zen phrase: “After enlightenment, laundry.” If it sounds beguiling, you’ve romanticized it. It’s just a reminder that, once you’ve transcended reality, clean the house.
As a Japanese corollary – “After disaster, laundry” – I nominate Shikata ga nai – “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
You’ll see that phrase in interviews with generations of Japanese survivors:
“When it hit, it passed through my mind that this could be the big one. What can you do? There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s an act of nature. There will be more.” - The Record, March 13, 2011
As Nakamura-san struggled to get from day to day, she had no time for attitudinizing about the bomb or anything else. She was sustained, curiously, by a kind of passivity, summed up in a phrase, “Shikata ga-nai,” meaning, loosely, “It can’t be helped.” – The New Yorker Magazine, 1946, on Hiroshima
The sentiment isn’t specific to Japan. You can imagine anyone shrugging off a “What else can we do?” in the face of tragedy. But it’s rarely an organizing tenet of an entire culture.
It gives the people of Japan dignity and grace in the face of devastation. It comes back to transience. It is the flip side – or, ultimately, the same side – of Mono No Aware: resignation and acceptance of change.
After disaster, laundry. Resign yourself to reality and get back to the work of improving things. It’s part of a greater social obligation, which doesn’t stop when catastrophe strikes. Those obligations becomes stronger, because more people need more help. Anything else would be counterproductive or selfish.
Which is why Shikata Ga Nai is not a call to Western-Style resignation. It’s not an excuse to stay on the couch eating Cheetos while the world burns. It’s a call to get back to minding the small fundamentals that keep a society running.
Another phrase, “ganbatte,” applies here. It means “persevere.” You say it before a test, a sport, or a difficult task. The Japanese do not wish each other “Good Luck.” They wish each other the strength to persevere.
When Emperor Hirohito surrendered to the Allies in World War II, he said:
“We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering the insufferable. … Beware of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.”
The “needless complications” he’s talking about are no doubt the kinds of panic and irrational behaviors usually exhibited by crowds after a massive natural disaster – behaviors absent in Japan.
Japan is enduring the unendurable, as it often does, and the call of the Emperor is the same now as it was at the end of WW2: Don’t let emotions get in the way of the public order.
Social harmony is Japan’s engine. Everyone is educated in specific ways of doing things, from walking on a stage to preparing tea to wearing shoes in your own home. The etiquette is complex and training begins early. Students clean their own schools and settle their own arguments (usually with a teacher’s mediation).
Americans are often shocked to hear that police will respond to physical altercations by asking the instigator to apologize.
If you live in Japan, it’s not weird that people are waiting patiently for pay phones instead of looting. When the electric company announced rotating blackouts in a five-region system, the Japanese people responded by using less electricity – which initially eliminated the need for the blackouts.
As time goes on, as death counts rise and as blackouts spread into late April, people may get pushed to the brink. We may see some of this stoicism subside and give way to sadness or anger. But my bet is that Japan will do what it has already started doing: Working.
Art as a Weapon in Western Sahara
New Strategies in the Fight for Independence
Left Forum 2011 (www.leftforum.org)
WHEN: Saturday, March 19th, 2011 3:00-4:50pm
WHERE: Pace University, 1 Pace Plaza, NYC Room W-614
Register online or at the door: $20/$25
Western Sahara, formerly the Spanish Sahara, is Africa’s last colony. Rejecting the UN’s resolution to decolonize and the International Court of Justice’s call for a referendum on self-determination for the indigenous Sahrawi people, Spain instead granted sovereignty over the territory to Morocco and Mauritania. For more than 35 years, the Sahrawi people led by the POLISARIO Front (recognized by the UN as their legitimate representative) have been fighting for independence and the right to determine their own future. Today more than 150,000 Sahrawis are exiled in refugee camps in Algeria, and over a hundred thousand more suffer oppression and human rights abuses under Moroccan occupation inside their homeland.
This panel will present cultural programs recently initiated to bring global attention and support to the Sahrawi struggle. Each panelist has worked in Western Sahara and the refugee camps, and, with the exception of Mr. Said, participated in ARTifariti, an annual "arts for human rights festival" held in the Liberated Territory of Western Sahara.
Mouloud Said, Frente POLISARIO, Representative of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in Washington, DC, will discuss the current state of the conflict.
Robin Kahn, artist, curator and participant in ARTifariti 2009, will speak about her time spent living with Sahrawi families in the refugee camps and her new book Dining in Refugee Camps: The Art of Sahrawi Cooking (Autonomedia, 2010).
Federico Guzmán, artist and co-curator of ARTifariti 2010, will present Lxs Desconocidxs: Retratos de Desaparecidxs Saharauis / The Unknown: Portraits of the Sahrawi Disappeared, an arts initiative designed to preserve the memory of the Sahrawi people who have disappeared under Moroccan occupation.
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 at 11:03 am
A couple weeks ago, Austin’s Arthouse presented its second round of exhibitions in its newly renovated and expanded building. Opening night was packed with people moving back and forth through installations by Lisa Tan, Michelle Handelman, Graham Hudson, Marie Losier and Nathan Baker. Walking through these exhibitions, it seemed to me that Arthouse might actually live up to its ambitious rhetoric and become a contemporary art space that was experimental, challenging, sophisticated and cosmopolitan.
However, in the week that followed, Michelle Handelman’s video installation was closed down for certain periods of time without explanation. Then the looped video was presented with limited screening times. I heard rumors that a board member was offended by the film’s content, essentially considering it lewd and pornographic, and was concerned about underage viewers as well the impact on current and future donors. I asked Sue Graze, executive director of Arthouse about the rumors and the changes in the video’s screening. In her emailed response, she stated: “Arthouse Board members did not object to the content of the Handelman video but rather their concern was that it was being shown during our teen programs on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays. I believe Michelle Handelman did not create the work for children.”
Whether or not the board objected to work, its content is being treated as if it is objectionable on some level. The film is no longer screened while the Arthouse teen programs are in session in the building. In their effort to make the video inaccessible to teenagers during certain hours, Arthouse is also making the video unavailable to adult viewers during those hours, which include Wednesdays from 5-8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and one Saturday a month from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Additionally, the continuous-loop presentation created by the artist was altered from a video installation to a more traditional cinema experience with a finite start and end time. These measures go further than the original opening night policy, which (in keeping with many other museums) placed a sign warning viewers of the sexual content of the installation at the entrance.
Michelle Handelman’s installation Dorian, a cinematic perfume (2009) is a four channel video installation that is meant to loop for 63 minutes. According to Handelman “the piece was designed so that that people can go in and out at any time, take a hit of the perfume and walk away with a piece of the story.” It is a queer retelling of the Oscar Wilde story The Picture of Dorian Gray. Originally published in 1891, Wilde’s story tells the tale of the title character who comes to believe that beauty and the pleasures of the senses are so important that he sells his soul to ensure that a portrait of him ages instead of his own body. The novel was originally criticized for being “unclean, effeminate and contaminating,” mostly because of its homoeroticism. Handelman’s video is lush, hallucinogenic and filled with layers of symbolism that allude to both Wilde’s biography and the story’s content. It includes scenes with nudity, the implication of a hand job, same sex kissing, drag queens, simulated sex with a strap-on and a gilded butt plug.
At one moment in Handelman’s video, the performance artist K8 Hardy delivers a diatribe to the camera from the stage of a nightclub. “What gives you the right to judge us?” she says. “Are we a little too excessive? You don’t have the guts to get up here on stage…fuck all of you…clearly you think that you’re better than us…go ahead and snicker!” These phrases are spoken from a position that is well acquainted with marginalization and accusation and they predict the very reaction that Handelman’s video did indeed receive.
By altering and limiting how and when Handleman’s work is viewed, the board and staff raise a complex set of questions related to the exhibition of sexual material in contemporary art spaces–especially that with queer content. Ironically, this is the same kind of controversy that Wilde’s novel generated in the 19th century. It also is related to the very public controversy surrounding David Wojnarowicz’s piece Fire in My Belly (1987) which was pulled from the recent Smithsonian exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. That particular controversy prompted many museums–including Arthouse–to show the video in protest to its censorship.
The rush to shield children, including teenagers, from Handelman’s work is a typical knee jerk reaction to difficult material. Handelman said to me that the notion that the piece shouldn’t be accessible to anyone under 18 was absurd. “That’s putting an X rating on the piece, which is so unbelievable because there is no explicit sex…‘Dorian’ is far tamer than ‘Skins’ which any kid can watch on MTV.”
In Fort Worth a number of schoolteachers refused to bring their students to see a 2008 Kara Walker traveling retrospective for fear of its sexual content. When I spoke to its curator Philippe Vergne about this, he stated that not all art is for everyone, some art is targeted to a particular audience. This is a time when many museum education departments are seeing increased funding, even at the expense of curatorial departments. It is easy to raise both public and private funds for exhibitions that “open up young bright minds” with benign content but less so to support artworks that address the complex adult problems of our society.
This dustup also brings up the authorship of exhibitions. Should curators have absolute freedom in the research and implementation of exhibitions? Should the artists that are commissioned also have this freedom? Should board members participate in programming decisions? As the 2007 MASS MoCA fiasco with Christoph Büchel makes clear, the first and most important thing is for there to be a clear agreement between artists and institutions about their concerns, budgetary and otherwise, at the outset. The primary work that boards do is development. They raise the money to give artists and curators the ability to fulfill the mission of the institution. While we have to be realistic about the ideological motivations of public and private funding sources, curators and artists should not have to cater to them.
Austin is at a tipping point with The Blanton, Visual Art Center and Arthouse all in newer, bigger buildings. This cultural development has been concurrent with urban development–both predicated on the notion that Austin is growing into a nationally recognized urban center and a magnet for those interested not only in new forms of music and film but also contemporary art. But as Austin comes of age it must also recognize that bricks and mortar are not enough. It must also develop the sophistication to deal with difficult issues in an open and transparent way. Arthouse will start this process with a panel discussion on March 24 about Handelman’s piece and the issues of queer sexuality and censorship that it brings up.
At one point in Dorian, a cinematic perfume, K8 Hardy says, “I have grown sick of shadows.” This is a line filled with both history and allusion. LGBT identity is often kept in the shadows or the proverbial closet. The strategies of artists and activists like ACT UP, Robert Mapplethorpe and Felix Gonzalez Torres included various ways to make the invisible seen and the silent heard. While Arthouse in no way went to such extreme measures as those that extracted Wojnarovicz’s offending content from Hide/Seek, there were similar ideological strains at work. I can only hope that such gestures can only lead to more work and more dialogue about these issues that can be seen and heard.
Noah Simblist is an Associate Professor of Art at Southern Methodist University and is currently pursuing a PhD in art history at the University of Texas, Austin. He is also the Curatorial Fellow at The Visual Art Center where is co-curating Queer State(s) with David Wilburn, set for the fall of 2011.