Monday, August 31, 2009

New Island Festival on Governor's Island NYC


Special Invitation: Mini-Symposium & Performances

September, 17, 2009 on Governors Island

$25 (includes performance, meal and drink tickets)

Space is limited- RSVP by September 11, 2009

Direct from Holland, the New Island Festival presents the work of over 150 Dutch artists on New York City's Governors Island from September 10-13 and September 17-20.

"On Thursday, September 17th, theatre practitioners, students and site specific performance enthusiasts are invited to participate in a half-day mini-symposium with Dutch and US based performing artists to discuss the growing popularity and forms of site specific theatre. The mini-symposium will provide multiple opportunities for artist/audience debate in response to various questions about new aesthetics and forms being explored by theatremakers plus the connection between performance, architecture and the process of creating site specific work. The mini-symposium includes the opportunity to see performances by Dutch artists."

Schedule of Events on September 17, 2009:

1:15pm Ferry departs from the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan
1:30 - 2:15pm Registration and exploration of site specific installations
2:30 - 4:00pm Panel, moderated by Anne Bogart with Dutch and US-based artists, including Lotte van den Berg, Luc van Loo, Meiyin Wang and Jay Scheib
4:15pm Installation: The Archaeological Dig
Then attend one of the following performances* (requests must be made at time of RSVP)

Option A
Braakland (Wasteland) Dir. Lotte van den Berg Compagnie Dakar
6:00 - 7:25pm

Option B
Broeders (Brothers)
Dir. Jetse Batelaan
7:00 - 8:25pm

Option C
Orfeo: Performance & Dinner
Created by Veenfabriek
8:00 - 9:15pm

Option D
La Voix Humaine
Dir. Ivo van Hove Toneelgroep Amsterdam With Halina Reijn

*You may attend any of the additional 30 performances between 4-10pm for free. Performances are in English, subtitled, or non-verbal-visit additional info.

Food and drink are served nightly at the enormous 400-foot long table from 6 - 10pm.

Post Show Activities:

10:00pm Visit the Boulevard of Broken Dreams for food, drinks and conversation with artists and audience members, or enjoy other performance events on the island
11:00pm Ferry returns to the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan (Free).
Ferry service to Manhattan runs every 30 minutes beginning at 4pm.

To RSVP, please email the following info to by September 11, 2009 (Additional information with exact departure time/gathering place will be sent in advance)

Phone Number:
Email address:
Number of Mini-Symposium Passes ($25 each, payable in cash upon arrival):
Preferred Performance Option (first-come, first-served basis):

Sunday, August 30, 2009

State of The Blogger: Terrible Fucking Night

My dog Rocket

I don't usually use this space for personal stuff. But.

Tonight my dog got hit by a car.

He is going t0 be alright. His crazy rubber monkey body bounced around underneath a giant stupid SUV and out the other side. The woman driving was horrified. It wasn't her fault. He'd bolted out the door and into the street like la la la I am a crazy monkey come and catch me. And she was driving down the street. And.

I was on Staten Island. My buddy Nick just got his appendix out. He loves Rocket so Anthony drove us all over to cheer him up. We went to John's place and Marilyn came over. We were going to order Chinese food and watch John's enormous television. Nick showed me the dent from the tiny hole they made in his side to pull out his faulty appendix. Cool. He and John went to go pick up the food and Rocket just shot past them. Ant went after him. I heard him scream.

I ran outside as Rocket raced back up to the house, terrified. I patted him all over looking for damage as the guys ran up behind me and Marilyn came out of the house. I noticed bright red blood on my arm. His blood.

The woman was in the street next to her SUV, crying. Apologizing.

I scooped the dog into my arms--all sixty pounds and one ounce of him--and ran for the car. John pulled a page out of the phone book (who still has a phone book? John.) with the address of a 24 hour animal hospital on Staten Island and Ant drove there. I ran up to the door with the gangly, bleeding dog in my arms and it was locked. There were two women in scrubs and some guy just standing there on the other side of the glass so I screamed "Open the door, my dog has been hit by a car!" They shook their heads no and said they were closed. Ant parked and ran up behind me yelling, "THE DOG HAS BEEN HIT BY A CAR OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR!" And a glue-colored girl with stringy brown hair hissed, "there's no doctor on!" No referral. No I'm sorry we can't help, go here. Nothing. So we had no choice but to get back in the car and drive back to Brooklyn. We brought him to a 24 hour emergency vet in Park Slope, whose number was on the outgoing message of Rocket's regular vet.

The Emergency Vet People were just the way you'd want them to be. Kind. Straightforward. Rational. They talked in reassuring voices. We stood in the waiting room blinking and looking at the walls while they took the dog. The receptionist pointed to my knee and asked me if I wanted to clean up: I'd skinned it picking up the dog and blood--my blood--was running down my leg.

Nice pretty lady doctor tells us Rocket has several superficial wounds and one deep one. His eye is red and swollen and his lips and muzzle and legs are lacerated. He has an angry pink road rash. They x-rayed him to make sure he was okay inside. 500 bucks. Ant put it on his Amex and I have to figure out a way to pay him half by the time the bill comes. The doctor warned that Rocket's lungs could bruise and impede his breathing and his stomach could fill up with blood so we have to watch him for 48 hours. Give him pills. Keep him from eating the surgical glue sealing his wound.

But he is alive.

I'm selfish. I know it. I'm an artist and thinking about myself is a big part of my job. But it makes being in a relationship with me difficult sometimes. I'm vengeful. For example, if that woman at the Staten Island vet hospital who would not help my dog were to trip and shatter her teeth on a cement curb that would be fine by me. I'm bossy: I am used to being in charge of my work and I don't always know when to turn it off. I can't bear it when something obvious to me goes unspoken, no matter how uncomfortable it makes other people. I am impatient. Bawdy, too interested in sensual pleasure to be as thoughtful as I'd like. I am very much looking forward to seeing Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried kiss in Jennifer's Body. And I really do think I am smarter than you are, whether I am or not.

But this dog makes me a better person. I can't withdraw from the rest of the world for days at a time because I am depressed or working on something or irritated by everyone. I have to think of him when I think of myself. He has to be fed. Walked. Cleaned up after. He doesn't care about my work.

He is lying on his side with a plastic cone around his neck. He whimpered just now and I tried to get him to drink from my hand.

He is my dog.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Link Jamboree

1) Memo From Dubai: A Familiar Set Helps to Create a New Cultural Market

There is a lot wrong in Dubai ::cough:: indentured servitude ::cough:: but this... sounds so very right: a Pop Idol-type show for poets! The "Poet of Millions" show features similar glitzy sets as its contemporaries in the global singing-competition biz but the contestants, mustachioed and head-dressed men, are not the typical contestants. Hassan M. Fattah writes, in the New York Times, "Instead of love ballads sung by scantily clad singers, the contestants offered the rhyme and rhythm of a flowery style of Bedouin poetry known as Nabati, popular in the Persian Gulf, but largely forgotten in much of the rest of the Arab world." Fattah compares the cultural rise of the Persian Gulf to that of the US South as country singers and "southern ways" entered the American mainstream. Previously Egypt and then later Lebanon set the tone for the "Arab street" but, Fattah argues, that is changing through the influence of satellite TV and the growing desire of oil rich nations to influence Arabo-Islamic pop culture. Of course, even as I write this I am reminding myself that the cultural influence of the US south came part and parcel with a country-wide embrace of conservative "values." It is perhaps a mistake to extend the metaphor too far, but it is a question worth asking: if the task of setting the tone for popular culture in the Middle East is moving away from comparatively moderate states like Egypt and Lebanon and toward the Gulf, what are the implications? Fattah doesn't open that can of worms here, but he asks the opposite question, "Throughout the Middle East, media companies and government projects have worked to elevate gulf talent and bridge a longstanding divide between the region’s conservative ways and the comparatively more liberal attitudes found elsewhere." This is what I mean when I write, politics is culture/culture is politics.

tags: Culture is Politics, Poetry

2) An Unwanted Spokeswoman

Sahar, of the blog Nuseiba, has written a great analysis of Hillary Clinton's jainky politics based on a recent interview (titled "Saving the World's Women: A New Gender Agenda"... Oy) she gave Mark Lander in the New York Times Magazine. Sahar writes, "I find it remarkable that Clinton– who assumes the role of spokeswoman for all women in the world—is talking about global women’s rights, while concurrently a part of a government that has wrought so much havoc on many in the developing countries specifically mentioned in the interview (India, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq)." Having seen Clinton in action here in New York before her return to the world stage during the democratic primary race I am unsurprised by her feminist orientalism and nascent colonial ambitions re: the Middle East. It is amazing to me though that one can still get away with claiming-- as Clinton does-- that the wrongs done to women are a symptom of an endemic resistance to modernity, a hoary old Orientalist cliche. Especially given the horrors--some subtle, some grotesquely not--that women routinely face in the so-called "First World" west. Sahar does a great job here of deconstructing the assumptions that underlie Clinton's world view. And hints at the heady admixture of feminist orientalism, Zionism and colonial ambition that hangs on Hillary Clinton like perfume. We are in for much more of this, I am afraid.

tags: New York Times, Feminism, Orientalism, Islamophobia

3) Burqa Tourism at its Finest: How To Become an Expert of Muslim Women in Just One Week

Rounding things out is another one from Muslimah Media Watch: Krista has written a terrific analysis of the latest asinine Burqa-for-a day experiment undertaken by a non-Muslim European woman. In this case, journalist Liz Jones of Britain's Daily Mail, moved by the plight of Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein, who faces 40 lashes for wearing trousers in public, decided to "spend a week enveloped in what (Hussein) should have been wearing." What follows is so Tyra-in-a-fatsuit over the top that it truly reads like the racist parody it is destined to become. Even within the genre of contemporary Islamophobic/orientalist reportage, there are simple logical inconsistencies within her report that one assumes an editor might question. (As in: her claim that the only person who harassed her during her covered week was an Arab man who harangued her as she attempted to eat a sandwich while covered, an image that begs for the Benny Hill theme song... Except that she admits she had no idea what he was actually saying. Nevertheless, she asserts on his behalf (hey, why stop now?) "... perhaps I shouldn’t have been out on my own, or perhaps eating is a sin..." Yes. That makes a lot of sense. Needless to say, Krista tears this apart, maintaining the excellent standard set by MMW for this sort of report.

tags: Culture is Politics, Islamophobia, Orientalism, Feminism

4) Lebfest
Ain't no party like a Lebanese party 'cause a Lebanese party don't stop. So if you are Michigan this weekend...

tags: Culture is Politics

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tutu to Haaretz: Arabs Paying the Price of the Holocaust

Desmond Tutu by Brian Moody
F Word Exhibition;
for the Forgiveness Project

By Akiva Eldar for Haaretz

"The lesson that Israel must learn from the Holocaust is that it can never get security through fences, walls and guns," Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa told Haaretz Thursday.

Commenting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement in Germany Thursday that the lesson of the Holocaust is that Israel should always defend itself, Tutu noted that "in South Africa, they tried to get security from the barrel of a gun. They never got it. They got security when the human rights of all were recognized and respected."

The Nobel Prize laureate spoke to Haaretz in Jerusalem as the organization The Elders concluded its tour of Israel and the West Bank. He said the West was consumed with guilt and regret toward Israel because of the Holocaust, "as it should be."
"But who pays the penance? The penance is being paid by the Arabs, by the Palestinians. I once met a German ambassador who said Germany is guilty of two wrongs. One was what they did to the Jews. And now the suffering of the Palestinians."

He also slammed Jewish organizations in the United States, saying they intimidate anyone who criticizes the occupation and rush to accuse these critics of anti-Semitism. Tutu recalled how such organizations pressured U.S. universities to cancel his appearances on their campuses.

"That is unfortunate, because my own positions are actually derived from the Torah. You know God created you in God's image. And we have a God who is always biased in favor of the oppressed."

Tutu also commented on the call by Ben-Gurion University professor Neve Gordon to apply selective sanctions on Israel.

"I always say to people that sanctions were important in the South African case for several reasons. We had a sports boycott, and since we are a sports-mad country, it hit ordinary people. It was one of the most psychologically powerful instruments.

"Secondly, it actually did hit the pocket of the South African government. I mean, when we had the arms embargo and the economic boycott."

He said that when F.W. de Klerk became president he telephoned congratulations. "The very first thing he said to me was 'well now will you call off sanctions?' Although they kept saying, oh well, these things don't affect us at all. That was not true.

"And another important reason was that it gave hope to our people that the world cared. You know. That this was a form of identification."

Earlier in the day, Tutu and the rest of the delegation visited the village of Bil'in, where protests against the separation fence, built in part on the village's land, take place every week.

"We used to take our children in Swaziland and had to go through border checkpoints in South Africa and face almost the same conduct, where you're at the mercy of a police officer. They can decide when they're going to process you and they can turn you back for something inconsequential. But on the other hand, we didn't have collective punishment. We didn't have the demolition of homes because of the suspicion that one of the members of the household might or might not be a terrorist."

He said the activists in Bil'in reminded him of Ghandi, who managed to overthrow British rule in India by nonviolent means, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who took up the struggle of a black woman who was too tired to go to the back of a segregated bus.

He stressed his belief that no situation was hopeless, praising the success of the Northern Irish peace process. The process was mediated by Senator George Mitchell, who now serves as the special U.S. envoy to the Middle East.

Asked about the controversy in Petah Tikva, where several elementary schools have refused to receive Ethiopian school children, Tutu said that "I hope that your society will evolve."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Link Carnival (Formerly Link Parade)

1) Judge Judy: Judy Bachrach Plays Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Over at Muslimah Media Watch Safiya (of Safiya Outlines) writes incisively about Judy Bachrach's ridiculously Islamophobic article "Twice Branded: Western Women, Muslim Lands" (No, I did not link to that shit. If you want to read it there is a link in Safiya's essay. Or you could just follow your nose...) MMW's essays are always reliably good and if you are a white, western feminist who thinks her secular feminist ideals put her at odds with Islam, this is the blog for you. And this post, which elegantly deconstructs the Feminist Orientalism (yes, that is a thing) at work in articles like Bachrach's, is a great place to begin. Too often, Orientalist and Islamophobic attitudes expressed on the putative US "left" via discourses like feminism are unquestioned. This post questions the hell out of them. Go and read it.

tags: Politics is Culture, Representation, Islamophobia, Orientalism, Feminism, Fear Mongering

2) The Kominas: National Tour

Ted Swedenburg's great blog hawgblawg covers Arab and Muslim culture and politics and he reports that (Muslim/Punk) Taqwacore icons The Kominas are gearing up for a national tour. Good.

tags: Culture is Politics, Performance, Mark Your Calendars, Upcoming

3) My Life As a Deaf Child, part 1

Speaking of Muslim punks... friend-of-the-blog playwright Sabina England, who blogs as Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist at The American Dream is Dead has written a terrific memoir in three parts. Here are the links to part 2 and part 3. Some of you may know Sabina from the interview she did here at the Pomegranate and some of you may be new to her smart, funny, crazy work. (I told her recently that she is Batman: always working out, loves studying the criminal mind and driven by righteous purpose. Seriously, if she starts wearing a cape get the hell out of Gotham.) This memoir is good way to discover her as an artist and I encourage you to check it out.

tags: Culture is Politics, Review, Representation

4) Toronto gallery that severed ties with Palestinian rights activist found in violation of city’s non-discrimination code

Muzzlewatch, a site that "tracks efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy" follows up on an earlier post about how artist/Yiddishist/Klezmer performer Reena Katz's community-based art installation at Toronto's historic Kensington Market area lost the funding of the Koffler Center for the Arts when they discovered her support for Palestinian rights. While no one suggested at the time that her politics, which were not an element of the proposed piece, were the cause for the cancellation, Katz and curator Kim Simon write, "The Koffler Centre for the Arts dissociated from Katz and the commissioned project in early May, 2009 because of her political work for Palestinian human rights, and subsequently sent a defamatory press release across the country, falsely claiming that Katz supports the extinction of the State of Israel. Since late May, we have been in legal negotiations with the Koffler about moving forward with the project and we have now reached an agreement." Further, the Toronto Arts Council (TAC) has determined that the Koffler Centre violated the City of Toronto’s non-discrimination policy with their actions. In May Muzzlewatch reported, "Theirs is a simplistic, narrow and ultimately pathetic form of Jewishness which primarily worships Jewish nationalism --a form of idolatry-- and tries to impose a mythical monoculture on a rich, varied and argumentative tradition-- which has a history of including political Zionists and non or anti-Zionists." Can I get that on a t-shirt?

tags: Politics is Culture, Zionism, Installation, Anti-Art

5) Amnesty International ends role in Leonard Cohen's Tel Aviv concert

Amnesty International has withdrawn from a role coordinating the distribution of funds to charity for Leonard Cohen's upcoming concert in Tel-Aviv. This comes on the heels of pressure from pro-Palestinian activists. Proof that the boycott works, folks. But... Amnesty took great pains to make clear that it takes no official position on the boycott. Sure, okay.

tags: Zionism, Culture is Politics, Palestine/Israel, Boycott

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009



September 10, 2009, 1:30–9:00 pm
Austrian Cultural Forum (ACF)
11 East 52nd Street New York, NY 10022

"A roundtable discussion of digital theorists and practitioners on the future of cultural intelligence and freedoms with: Ted Byfield, Steve Kurtz, Amanda McDonald-Crowley, Claire Pentecost, Peter Lamborn Wilson, Konrad Becker, Jim Fleming

Among the questions to be addressed during this conference are:

Beyond the obsolete models of artist or author as genius and their fetish objects, what collective and collaborative practices are inventing new terrains and flows? As information and communication technologies saturate our world, how is art giving way to new forms of cultural symbolic manipulation? Can we identify new models to replace the auteur and the artwork? If so, where do they come from and what might that say about the future of critical practices? What new kinds of “virtual” spaces are opening up for cultural practice in electronic media? As “old media” begin to collapse under the pressures of the virtual, what new media can we find? How are didactic illustration and channeled dissidence giving way to new forms of surprise and intensity? What strategies elude the creative industries’ seemingly infinite appetite for things radical? Are there any strategies that can elude being reduced to styles in the service of sales, or are critical practices doomed to play cat and mouse with the forces of consumerism?"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New NEA Chair Sees Arts as an Economic Engine

New York Times

"Now that the Broadway producer Rocco Landesman is officially chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts — he was confirmed on Friday — his straight-talking style, Missouri roots and affinity for baseball and country music are expected to give him a leg up with many legislators.

But in his first sit-down interview since his nomination by President Obama, Mr. Landesman’s comments suggested that he may nevertheless raise hackles on Capitol Hill after he is sworn in in the next few days. Speaking recently in his office above the St. James Theater on West 44th Street, where Tony Awards abut baseball trophies — testament to his prowess as a producer and as a pitcher in the Broadway Show League — Mr. Landesman, 62, made clear that he has little patience for the disdain with which some politicians still seem to view the endowment, more than a decade after the culture wars that nearly destroyed it.

He was particularly angered, he said, by parts of the debate over whether to include $50 million for the agency in the federal stimulus bill, citing the comment by Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in February, that arts money did not belong in the bill. That kind of thinking suggests that “artists don’t have kids to send to college,” Mr. Landesman said, “or food to put on the table, or medical bills to pay.”

In American politics generally, he added: “The arts are a little bit of a target. The subtext is that it is elitist, left wing, maybe even a little gay.”

And while he praised the way recent endowment chairmen have carefully rebuilt the agency’s political standing, Mr. Landesman — who is known more as an independent entrepreneur than as a diplomatic company man — said he was not planning to follow too closely in their footsteps. While Dana Gioia, his immediate predecessor, made a point of spreading endowment funds to every Congressional district, for example, Mr. Landesman said he expected to focus on financing the best art, regardless of location.

“I don’t know if there’s a theater in Peoria, but I would bet that it’s not as good as Steppenwolf or the Goodman,” he said, referring to two of Chicago’s most prominent theater companies. “There is going to be some push-back from me about democratizing arts grants to the point where you really have to answer some questions about artistic merit.”

“And frankly,” he added, “there are some institutions on the precipice that should go over it. We might be overbuilt in some cases.”

Mr. Landesman does believe that the agency should be “perceived as being everywhere,” he said. “But I don’t know that we have to be everywhere if the only reason for supporting an institution is its geography.”

On the subject of the endowment’s budget, too, Mr. Landesman did not hold back. Though he would not put a dollar figure on his own fiscal goals, he called the current appropriation of $155 million “pathetic” and “embarrassing.” And he seemed to imply dissatisfaction with increases proposed by Congress and by the president, which both fall short of the agency’s 1992 budget of $176 million.

“We’re going to be looking for funding increases that are more than incremental,” he said.

As for grants to individual artists — which were eliminated in 1996 after years of complaints from conservative legislators about the financing of controversial art — Mr. Landesman said he would reinstate them “tomorrow” if it were up to him. (It’s up to Congress.)

Mr. Landesman said that as chairman he will focus on the potential of the arts to help in the country’s economic recovery.

“I wouldn’t have come to the N.E.A. if it was just about padding around in the agency,” he said, and worrying about which nonprofits deserve more funds. “We need to have a seat at the big table with the grown-ups. Art should be part of the plans to come out of this recession.”

“If we’re going to have any traction at all,” he added, “there has to be a place for us in domestic policy.”

He was less clear about the details of this ambitious agenda, though he talked about starting a program that he called “Our Town,” which would provide home equity loans and rent subsidies for living and working spaces to encourage artists to move to downtown areas.

“When you bring artists into a town, it changes the character, attracts economic development, makes it more attractive to live in and renews the economics of that town,” he said. “There are ways to draw artists into the center of things that will attract other people.”

The program would also help finance public art projects and performances and promote architectural preservation in downtown areas, Mr. Landesman added. “Every town has a public square or landmark buildings or places that have a special emotional significance,” he said. “The extent that art can address that pride will be great.”

Given the agency’s “almost invisible” budget, he said, goals like these would require public-private partnerships that enlist developers, corporations and individual investors — largely by getting them “to understand the critical role of art in urban revitalization.”

Such arrangements — which he said will be a “signature part” of his chairmanship — will play “right into the president’s wheelhouse,” Mr. Landesman added, speaking of Mr. Obama’s concerns about cities and economic development.

The new chairman said he already has a new slogan for his agency: “Art Works.” It’s “something muscular that says, ‘We matter.’ ” The words are meant to highlight both art’s role as an economic driver and the fact that people who work in the arts are themselves a critical part of the economy.

“Someone who works in the arts is every bit as gainfully employed as someone who works in an auto plant or a steel mill,” Mr. Landesman said. “We’re going to make the point till people are tired of hearing it.”

As for the former agency slogan, “A Great Nation Deserves Great Art,” he said, “We might as well just apologize right off the bat.”

Mr. Landesman said he realized he was not the obvious man for the job. “There are a lot of people whose résumés laid out a lot better than mine,” he said. “But I think the president is serious when he talks about change. I think he wanted to bring a new energy to this agency.”

Mr. Landesman’s own résumé starts with his upbringing in and around the cabaret theater his father and uncle ran in St. Louis, the Crystal Palace. Performers including the Smothers Brothers and Mike Nichols and Elaine May often headlined there during his childhood, some of them staying in the Landesman family’s basement apartment after their gigs.

Mr. Landesman, who has a reddish beard and lanky physique, did a lot of acting as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, then went on to the Yale School of Drama, where he earned a Ph.D. in dramatic literature and criticism and stayed on as an assistant professor for four years, until 1978.

After leaving Yale, Mr. Landesman started a mutual fund, bought racehorses until he had amassed a dozen — one successful horse would enable him to purchase another — and about three years ago, he said, “came within about five minutes of buying the Cincinnati Reds.” (He lost out to another bidder at the last minute, which he said was “painful.”)

In 1985 he produced the Broadway musical “Big River,” which won that year’s Tony for best musical, at a theater owned by the Jujamcyn group, the third-largest of the big three New York theater companies, after Shubert and Nederlander. Two years later he was hired as the president of Jujamcyn Theaters, and in 2005 he bought the company; in his new position he will retain his ownership stake but will not participate in the company’s activities.

Jack Viertel, Jujamcyn’s creative director, described Mr. Landesman as smart, decisive and “a very entertaining person to be around,” but also “mercurial,” “unpredictable” and “an extraordinarily hardheaded businessman.”

Paul Libin, the producing director at Jujamcyn, said he was at first “taken aback” by the idea of Mr. Landesman’s leading the endowment, but that he has come to believe that the job requires “someone who is a general,” and that his boss fits the bill.

Mr. Landesman wasn’t tapped for the job. “I’d love to say the president drafted me, and I had to answer the call of duty, but no,” he said. “I put my hand up for this.”

“Everybody I talked to said, ‘This is the worst idea I’ve ever heard, put it out of your head immediately,’ ” Mr. Landesman said. 'The idea of running a 170-person federal bureaucracy seemed crazy.'

But it’s an unusual moment in history, he said, and he wanted to be part of it. President Obama was "the first candidate in my memory who made arts part of the campaign," Mr. Landesman said. "He had an arts policy committee and an arts policy statement and arts advisers."

Cultural mavens like himself feel they 'have one of their own' in the White House, he added. 'It makes the arts community feel finally, for the first time in a long time, there might be some wind at their back.'"

Monday, August 17, 2009

Interview with Amreeka Director Cherien Dabis: Arab in America

New York Magazine

Arab in America: Cherien Dabis

By Kera Bolonik

"Onetime The L Word writer Cherien Dabis’s convictions far outweigh her fear of obstacles. Raised in the Midwest by a Jordanian mother and a Palestinian father, Dabis spent five years during the George W. Bush administration writing and pursuing funds for a film about racism and deracination in post-9/11 America. Amreeka recounts the travails of Muna, a perennially optimistic Palestinian single mother who flees the escalating violence of the West Bank for her sister’s middle-class life in Kewanee, Illinois, only to face another brand of discrimination. Dabis talked with Kera Bolonik.

Amreeka is a far cry from The L Word. Is this your family’s story?
It’s loosely based on things that happened to us during the first Gulf War. We lived in a small Ohio town, and my father, a physician like Muna’s brother-in-law, lost a lot of patients because people didn’t want to see an Arab doctor. We got daily death threats, and the Secret Service came to my school because there was a rumor that my 17-year-old sister had threatened to kill the president. I was 14 and became obsessed with the media’s portrayal of Arabs. No one was depicting what we were going through in that climate. It propelled me to become a filmmaker.

You were doing prep work in March 2008 when Israel bombed Gaza. That must have been terrifying.
There were riots in the streets. At one point we were stuck in border traffic, directly in the line of fire. And while we were casting at a refugee camp, a boy was telling me about Israelis teargassing his house when gunfire erupted. He looked at me not like he was scared, but like he was sorry. I thought, If he’s not scared, I’m not scared. People shouldn’t be able to adapt to certain things, but we can. That’s part of the problem.

Is that where you found Muna’s teenage son?
No. Melkar [Muallem] is the son of a Palestinian woman who helped cast the film. He wanted nothing to do with acting—both parents are actors, and he’s only interested in computer science. I begged him to audition, and after he did, he wanted the part.

How did you get the film produced during this tumultuous period in our history?
I started writing the screenplay in 2003, when everyone wanted movies with American heroes. I’m a first-time filmmaker, with a no-name cast, shopping around a family dramedy that I was told was too light, too culturally specific. It was through programs like Sundance Labs and the Arab-American community that the movie got made.

And that took you to Sundance and Cannes.
Cannes was the first time my mom saw it. We got a six-minute standing ovation, during which she hugged me so tight she accidentally unclasped the back of my dress. It almost fell off!"

* Amreeka Screening and Discussion with Director Cherien Dabis
Mon, August 17, 2009 8:30 pm at Walter Reade Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Screening and Discussion: Amreeka, with Director Cherien Dabis

Screening and Discussion: Amreeka, with Director Cherien Dabis
Mon, August 17, 2009 8:30 pm at Walter Reade Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center

Special New York Screening at Lincoln Center
Cherien Dabis, USA/Canada, 2009; 96m
Tickets are available at:

Walter Reade Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center
70 Lincoln Center Plaza - 165 West 65th Street (bet. Amsterdam & Broadway, Upper Level)
 New York, NY 10023-6595
(212) 875-5600

"Amreeka chronicles the adventures of Muna, a single mother who leaves the West Bank with Fadi, her teenage son, with dreams of an exciting future in the promised land of small town Illinois. In America, as her son navigates high school hallways the way he used to move through military checkpoints, the indomitable Muna scrambles together a new life cooking up falafel burgers as well as hamburgers at the local White Castle. Told with heartfelt humor by writer-director Cherien Dabis in her feature film debut, Amreeka is a universal journey into the lives of a family of immigrants and first-generation teenagers caught between their heritage and the new world in which they now live and the bittersweet search for a place to call home."

National Geographic Entertainment will release Amreeka in September 2009. Amreeka is a First Generation Films-Alcina Pictures-Buffalo Gal Pictures/Eagle Vision Media Group Production, presented by E1 Entertainment in association with Levantine Entertainment, Manitoba Film & Music, Rotana Studios and Showtime Arabia.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, National Geographic Entertainment and Arte East in association with Alwan for the Arts, Sundance Institute, American Jews for a Just Peace and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

About the Director:

"Amreeka is a film that writer/director Cherien Dabis very much needed to make. It’s a personal story that draws on her own memories of growing up with her Palestinian/Jordanian family in rural Ohio. Named one of Variety’s 'Ten Directors to Watch' in 2009, Dabis makes her feature writing and directorial debut with Amreeka, which premiered to both audience and critical acclaim in U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. The film went on to open the Museum of Modern Art and Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual New Director’s/New Films series in New York and will have its international premiere at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival’s Director’s Fortnight in May. Dabis’s original script was selected to participate in the 2005 Sundance Middle East Screenwriter’s Lab, IFP/LA Director’s Lab, Los Angeles Film Festival’s Fast Track program and 2007 Berlinale Co-Production Market.

At Tribeca All Access in 2007, Dabis was honored with the first ever L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Vision Award, and last year she won the Renew Media/Tribeca Film Institute’s Media Artist Fellowship, founded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Also a television writer and co-producer, Dabis worked on Showtime Network’s ground-breaking, original hit series The L Word for three seasons."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hip Hop Theatre Workshop

48 Hours of
August 22 - 23, 2009
New York, NY

Saturday, August 22
11am-6pm (lunch break 2-3pm)
Devised Hip Hop Theatre

"In this workshop, participants will create Hip Hop Theatre by weaving personal material with the performance elements of Hip Hop. Using the HHTI methodology, participants will focus on expanding their community building and collaborative skills."

Sunday, August 23
Hip Hop Theatre and Pedagogy

"In this workshop, participants consider the use of Hip Hop Theatre in various classroom, workshop, and community settings. We will discuss different approaches and available resources in an effort for each participant to begin thinking about how to implement this work in an environment of her or his choosing."

Both workshops will be led by Daniel Banks, Co-Director of DNAWORKS; Founder & Director of the Hip Hop Theatre Initiative.

Enrollment: $75/day; $125 for both days.
NYU Students: $50/day
Scholarships available • Payment due with registration • Limited enrollment

Jackie Risser, Program Assistant • (212) 765-4914

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Remember the Time?

What is it about Egypt that makes people so crazy? I am not talking about Hosni Mubarak (at least not at the moment) but rather the special, mystical craziness that seems to attach itself to Egypt in the western mind. The only other place in the Middle East that comes close is Israel, which if we were to believe reports, is a cross between the Emerald City and the lost city of Atlantis. I am talking about the way that otherwise normal people will look you right in the eye and tell you they believe space aliens built the pyramids.

That's right kids, the only possible explanation for advanced science/technological achievement in a non-Western culture is... the intervention of men from outer space.

So, when someone noticed the resemblance between a long-dead ancient Egyptian woman, captured in the bust pictured above, and the recently deceased King of Pop the only logical conclusion was reached: Michael Jackson is a cosmic being who once lived in ancient Egypt. The following exchange in the comment thread of this blog typifies the confluence of obsessive fandom, orientalist fantasy and old-fashioned nuttery at work here:

Tom, "It remains to be seen, but MJ was involved in some radical things. Things that go back centuries. I know I sound like a nut but I’ve looked into them and they appear to be true. He even said some of it on video. IDK this seems to be more than coincidental."

Sondan, " I do not think you are a nut. I am glad that someone actually has *LOOKED* at the photo and has given it some thought, as you obviously have. I agree that this is more than coincidence — because IMHO there is no such thing as coincidence: everything happens for a reason. So glad to have your input. If you have time to send me some links I would be very interested and appreciative in being able to check out the video(s) you are referring to."


For our purposes I am sure there is something in there about beauty standards, orientalism and racialized constructions of masculinity/femininity... but I just don't think I have the energy.

Please, discuss amongst yourselves:

Courtesy of al-Arabiya

"An ancient Egyptian bust on display at the Field Museum in Chicago has been the focus of interest since Michael Jackson's death as visitors double-take at the eerie similarities between the 3,000-year-old statue and the singer.

The limestone statue, which depicts an unidentified woman, went on display at the museum in 1988 and was carved during the New Kingdom Period, dating from between 1550 BC to 1050 BC.
Like Jackson's surgically-altered face, the carving has a distinct, upturned nose and rounded eyes.

And like Jackson -- if rumors of the singer's prosthesis are to be believed -- the statue's nose has partially disintegrated.

Museum curator Jim Phillips said staff had been "inundated" with inquiries from Jackson fans since the star's similarities to the bust were pointed out in a recent newspaper article.

"We've had people coming to the museum and asking 'Where's Michael Jackson?' So we have to tell them that he's not here, but there is a bust that looks a lot like him," Phillips told AFP.

Phillips said while it is doubtful that Jackson's physical startling image may have been inspired by the statue -- the singer was not believed to have visited the museum -- the resemblance between the two is undeniable.

"I have to admit it, there are a number of very striking similarities," Phillips said. "I don't follow all the permutations of Michael Jackson's physical appearance, but they do look a lot alike."

The statue has been named "The Pharaoh of Pop" by media.

The King of Pop died aged 50 of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles on June 25."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Link Parade: A Parade of Links (in the form of a Parade made of Links)

1) A fifth of European Union will be Muslim by 2050

According an investigation by the Telegraph, "rising levels of immigration from Muslim countries and low birth rates among Europe's indigenous population mean that, by 2050, the figure will be 20 per cent." ... Yes, they said "indigenous population" with no irony. And they refer to the population growth among European Muslims, whom they admit are not radicalized, as a "demographic time bomb." So, the simple fact of their existence makes European Muslims a threat. FYI: This is the same rhetoric employed by Israelis to justify marginalizing/slaughtering its indigenous (see what I did there?) Arab population.

tags: Politics is Culture, Representation, Europe, Fear Mongering, Conservative Nutjob, Islamophobia

2) “Jihadis”*, Skinheads and Film Representation

Shafiqah Hudson, of the great blog Possumstew has written a fascinating post comparing movie portrayals of Arab and Muslim insurgents (i.e. "terrorists") with altogether more sympathetic portrayals of White Supremacist skinheads. One of her more disturbing discoveries? There are fan sites dedicated to the "hotness" of skinhead characters like Edward Norton's "Derek Vinyard" of 1998's American History X. She notes that even mainstream movie reviews of this film and others like Romper Stomper, which featured a young Russel Crow, make mention of the muscular sexuality of the skinhead characters while their Arab equivalents (ironically often played by South Asian or Israeli actors) are always portrayed as ugly and crazy.

tags: Representation, Culture is Politics, Orientalism, Islamophobia

3) Female, Muslim and Mutant: Muslim Women in Comic books

This excellent series, originally written by friend-of-the-blog Jehanzeb Dar of Muslim Reverie for Muslimah Media Watch, has been edited into three parts and published at Given the growing influence of comic books on mainstream pop culture as evidenced by the growth of ComicCon International into a venue for movies and TV as much (if not more) than for comic books themselves. So this well-written series is more timely than ever: Even if you read it the first time around it is worth revisiting.

tags: Representation, Culture is Politics, Islamophobia

4) US Blackwater's boss accused of Crusader beliefs

According to a report in al-Arabiya, Erik Prince, the CEO of Blackwater, the private army/security company (now known as XE) contracted by the Bush administration to support the US military in Iraq, "used aliases referring to the crusading Knights of the Templar, a notorious Christian military order known for its militant activities in Muslim lands during the Crusades in 1099 and declined in the 1100s." Quoting a report from The Nation, wherein former employees claim,"that their boss Erik D. Prince 'views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe' this article argues in light of mounting evidence that Prince is a religious and political extremist (why does that sound so familiar?) who was on the US payroll in Iraq.

tags: Politics is Culture, Conservative Nutjob, Islamophobia

5) Christian Arabs Like the Pope Want Peace with Justice

Daoud Kuttub, an award-winning Palestinian journalist who lives in Jerusalem and Amman writes about the position of Arab Christians on the occasion of the Pope's recent visit to Jordan and Palestine in the spring. He writes, "While the world looks at the Arab-Israeli conflict from an Arab-Israeli point of view, or a Jewish-Islamic one, the role and contribution of Arab Christians cannot and need not be ignored. Unlike followers of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, Christians have no religious attachment to physical locations... (However, Christian Arabs) believe that a lasting resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict must both address the national aspirations of the Palestinians (of which they are part) and provide for the spiritual needs of the faithful, including Christians. In this regard, Palestinian Christians are perhaps angriest with a radical but effective group of Christians who try to give Biblical support and legitimacy for the Israeli aggression against Palestinians. An entire industry that has been well endowed has cropped up in the West, attempting to hijack the Christian theological debate in favour of what is now referred to as Christian Zionism." While it is a few months old, this essay is an excellent summary of Arab Christian objections to the use of their faith to justify colonial aggression against Muslims and the offense--both theological and political--represented by Christian Zionism.

tags: Politics is Culture, Palestine/Israel, Zionism

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Politics of Pronunciation Part 2: Arabic Lessons at the New York Times

Being an Arab/American is an odd, sometimes disconcerting experience.

I am a "western" person but I am not "of" the West. That's why I often use the slash instead of the hyphen to describe myself. Because I don't feel like both terms have equal weight, and linking them with a slim hyphen seems like a wasted effort, since the "Arab" pulls the "American" so far out of its orbit that the general sense of it is lost. Even to people who should perhaps know better these terms seem oxymoronic, so it is not entirely possible to truly be both because the associations attached to "Arab" do not dovetail with "American" in the western imagination. My family, like many of the Lebanese Christians who immigrated to America as the 20th century turned, certainly tried. Of all the flavors "Arab" comes in, the peoples of the Levant, largely fair skinned, and even possibly blue/green/hazel eyed, have come closest to leaping the chasm that separates East from West in the United States (unless, you know, they are Palestinian). My family's journey is typical of this attempt at assimilation. And one of the key strategies they employed in this effort involved language, both learning and forgetting.

My grandparents, who spoke Arabic with one another, forbade their children from speaking it so they lost the language. My Aunt, who can still sometimes understand Arabic, but has not spoken it since she was a child, tells a story: One day in the 1930s when my grandparents were in their store, my grandfather said something to my grandmother in their language and a customer-- a stranger-- turned to them and hissed, "Speak English!"

And so they did.

Subsequently, Arabic did not make its way through my family, the way other immigrant tongues do. It was consciously left behind as something that marked my family as "foreign" and "Other" and specifically Middle Eastern. As an assimilation strategy it worked. I often think that the reason I am not "read" immediately as an Arab by some has as much to do with my western comportment and perfect, un-accented English as the shape of my nose, the shade of my skin or the color of my eyes. So when I decided to study Arabic as an adult I wondered how my family might react. They'd amputated the language to fit in, survive and thrive in a new country and I was aware that by studying Arabic I was consciously reversing that process. My Father and grandparents, all long dead, were not available to weigh in, but I wondered what my Aunts might say... and they surprised me (as they often do) with their sophisticated responses. They were simultaneously proud, wistful, pragmatic and unapologetic. Not that they have anything to apologize for: Because of who they chose to be, my life is possible. I owe my position as a western artist with a couple of advanced degrees to the choices they made a generation earlier, so I could not judge them even if I wanted to. I am standing on their shoulders.

My experience is that Arabic is challenging to learn as an adult not because the grammar is so obscure (although everything flows in the opposite direction than I am used to), or because the alphabet is so strange (the lovely, curling letters make words that are entirely phonetic, which is handy) but because the vocabulary is seemingly limitless. There are Arabic words for concepts that do not even exist in English, and the fineness of the distinctions between them lend themselves to the poetic in a way that makes English seem utilitarian and coarse. But it can be daunting to move from one way of thinking to the other.

We have seen how Arab identities disturb the western imagination just by existing. And that power to disturb through eastern "foreignness" is embodied in reactions to Arabic, whether it is spoken or merely written. Of course the ridiculous over-reaction of the airline Jetblue to Blogger Raed Arrar's anti-war t-shirt with "We Will Not Be Silent" on it in Arabic (which I'll blog about another day) is a key example of this irrational fear sparked by Arabic. But often the negative associations attached to the language are not as blatant as in the Jetblue fiasco. In looking for narratives of other people studying Arabic as adults, I came across an essay by Robert F. Worth in The New York Times but his eloquent ruminations on the difficulties and rewards of Arabic study were, for me, marred by the Orientalist tone that runs throughout his observations.

It turns out that the Arabic speaker who inspires Worth's linguistic breakthrough was Ayman al-Zawahri, "Al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, (who) was threatening to slaughter large numbers of Americans." It seems incredibly odd to me, given the vast universe of cultural products emanating from the Middle East-- cinema, poetry, theater, songs, etc., not to mention academic and scholarly texts-- that Worth's breakthrough would come listening to a speech made by an Arab insurgent. No wonder Arabic sounds "angry" to his ear, the only Arabs he ever listens to are yelling.

Worth endures the rigors of Arabic study, underwritten by his bosses to facilitate his job as the The New York Times Beirut Bureau Chief. He writes, "The scattered (Arabic) phrases I knew seemed only to underscore my ignorance: Wayn alinfijar? I’d say ('Where’s the explosion?'), or Shaku maku? ('How’s it going?'), and I’d get a condescending pat on the back." Again, I am struck that an American who spends his work life in a country where most people also speak English (Lebanon), in a city which has as rich contemporary cultural scene (Beirut), would only ever talk with the locals about violence, and second-hand at that. Perhaps he is mis-reading the reason for their condescension?

After months of language study Worth reports that he "began marching into the Arabic markets on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn" to test out his textbook Arabic phrases. "Generally I was met with a confused look and then a smiling apology: 'We don’t hear too much fusha (Modern Standard Arabic) around here." He clarifies, "Linguistically speaking, what I had done was a bit like asking an Italian for directions in Latin. Modern fusha... is a modified version of the Classical Arabic in the Koran. It is the language of public address, and of any newscast on Al Jazeera and other Arabic television stations." But he also qualifies, "It... corresponds to the written language, and any educated Arab can understand it." So, in other words, in another city filled with Arab intellectuals and artists (New York) Worth manages to find only uneducated shopkeepers to speak to? To, not with. Although he probably overstates the ignorance of the shopkeepers he pestered with his rudimentary Modern Standard Arabic phrases in any case, as colloquial versions of Arabic are different from the Modern Standard version and these vary greatly from country to country. Guttural Moroccan Arabic sounds so different from the liquid Levantine version I am used to that it seems to me a completely different language. But... so what? The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a gigantic expanse and the variations in language only underscore how culturally different it is from place to place, unlike the monolithic stereotype.

Still, Worth is articulate in describing the ups and downs of learning Arabic. He writes, "The language is not so much hard as it is vast, with dozens of ways to form the plural and words that vary from region to region, town to town. With every sign of progress it seems to deepen beneath you like a coastal shelf." He also makes an important point about the "poisonous ideological garb" Arabic often wears in the United States as an impediment to learning the language itself. For Worth, divesting Arabic vocabulary from western ideological preoccupations is a necessary step in learning the language, an astute observation. "Once you begin to do that," he writes, "American attitudes toward the language itself, along with all things Arab and Muslim, can begin to seem jarringly hostile and suspicious... One has to wonder whether these attitudes have inhibited our ability to train more Arabic speakers." Worth alludes to "many" other reasons for this failure (although he does not enumerate them) but nevertheless asserts they are "inseparable from the Arab world’s long history of troubled relations with the West." And therein lies the rub: It's disturbing that an American journalist would posit the "history of troubled relations" as flowing only in one direction, from Middle East to West. This trajectory obscures the long history of western colonial intervention in the Middle East and North Africa, a phenomenon which continues in Iraq and Palestine to this day.

So my reaction to Worth's essay is complicated. On one hand, he describes the challenges adult Arabic study poses for someone raised with English in a way that resonates. And he discusses the politicization of particular Arabic words such as "Jihad", whose range of meanings has been flattened as a political exercise, and even the harmless "madrassa", which means simply, "school" but has sinister implications in right-wing discourse. Unfortunately, he also perpetuates some of the stereotypes he seems to be speaking out against, which suggests that de-centering the entrenched fear, hatred and desire of the West for the East is more difficult than he may think. And it is this mixed bag of understanding and objectification that characterizes so much of the way we-- Arab/Americans-- are in the United States. There is always something that must be finessed, ignored or forgiven in the ways we are portrayed.

Even after a century as Americans we are continually forced to pick and choose, to learn and forget.

Performance: "Ice Music" by Emily Lacy

"Ice Music"
by Emily Lacy

"Working with time, music, color, and, temperature, Ice Music allows for fantasies of intimate visceral mischief with folk and electronic sound patterns. Performances made for 1-2 people will be available by Emily Lacy inside a small, fre
shly cooled homemade music environment, similar to an igloo or personal camping tent. Though not required, reservations for 20-minute appointments are recommended."

Date: Saturday, 15 August, 4 - 8 pm
Place: Cabinet, 300 Nevins Street, Brooklyn, NY (map and directions here ).
Free. Reservation recommended.

Email or call for reservations:

Appointments are 4:00pm--- 8:00pm in 20 minute intervals

Cool drinks will be served.

About the Artist
"Emily Lacy is a folk artist generating works in music, film, and other media. She has performed in exhibitions at PS1 MOMA, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and LACMA, in addition to various livingrooms, subways, and DIY spaces all throughout America. She works very closely with Machine Project, while being based in NY and LA." For more information about Emily Lacy and her work here see her website and her MySpace music page.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Criminal Identities, Culture and (Street) Art

Photo by Ivan Corsa (2005)

The website Global Graphica is subtitled " Street Art Photos + Videos + More: Daily Pix from New York City and the World." I like the idea of considering street art as a part of the shifting cultural landscape of a city. A couple of years ago I did a photo series that had a similar context when I was performing in Vienna. Instead of focusing on statuary and monuments on my days off I became fascinated with Viennese graffiti, which seemed to me like the city talking-- and sometimes arguing-- with itself. And for a city like Vienna, where anarchists and liberals, and once and future Nazi's rub shoulders on the street, that conversation was complex. In the blocks around my family-run pension there were Indian restaurants and shops, many of which had the words "Fuck Nigger" scrawled on their fronts in angry black pen. I followed this racist graffiti around the neighborhood like breadcrumbs and noted the places where it had been crossed out and replaced with anarchist/anti-racist messages. If the South Asian population whose presence inspired these tags had any reaction to the debate between warring Viennese street factions, it wasn't apparent. But the graffiti --both pro and con-- remained on the sides of Indian businesses the entire time I was there: a fact of life. There was other graffiti too, of course, a lot of which was inspired by U.S. hip hop culture. So I appreciate Global Graphica's project, which traces the shapes in the air left by people as they move through cities, it is culture in action.

We like to put qualifiers on culture like "Pop" or "Street" or "Sub", but that is just another way of saying "High" and "Low", a separation that, like colonialism, is a legacy of the 19th century. Arguably, those separate categories were always an illusion, but never more so than in post-modernity, when a celebrated street artist like Neck Face shows work in galleries and the sides of buildings (as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat did before him). But if culture is a flow that cannot be contained inside museums, theaters and galleries and spills out into the street and all over the walls, then prejudices, ethnic hatreds and social hierarchies are carried along with it. The photograph above, captured on Global Graphica a few years ago, shows a tag that says, merely "Arab." In a city like New York, which is home to many ethnic groups, a graffiti tag like this is not unusual. But this tag merited special attention on Global Graphica not because of its artistry but because it articulated a dangerous, political identity and not a neutral, ethnic one like, say, "Irish".

The caption for the photo, posted by , reads,

"This tag is jarring, not so much for its style or boldness or scale, but because of the moniker itself. Given current events in the U.S. and globally, the tag resonates with New Yorkers and, perhaps makes us pause to think, in a way it wouldn't have several years ago, before the events of 9/11/2005 (sic). Which, whether the intention of the writer or not, is the importance and value of art (whether or not you consider Krylon tags art)."

So, in other words, simply announcing yourself as an "Arab" is enough to make New Yorkers and, by extension, the world, pause and think.


Think about... what, exactly?

It is the unsaid here that disturbs. As an Arab/American New Yorker who lived through 9/11, this cocktail of vague nationalism, melancholic nostalgia and barely withheld anti-Arab racism tastes very familiar. After 9/11, we were supposed to excuse and even forgive such biases because of the tragic circumstances. And we still are, these many years later. Of course the fact that 9/11 also happened to Arab and Muslim New Yorkers is always obscured by this demand, as if we exist outside of the pain caused by the felling of the Twin Towers, because we are somehow responsible for causing it. Although if 9/11 is the justification for singling out this tag for its potential to disturb that makes the misstatement "9/11/2005" even more laughable. (Uh, dude? I know your heart is heavy and all, but you are a couple of years off there...) And the timing of this original post, on July 4th, hardly seems coincidental, given the sentiment expressed.

The fact is, this tag could not be more ordinary. It doesn't even have any of the lame, hip-hop boasting that often accompanies ethnic graffiti: It doesn't read "Arabs Rule" or "Arabs Invented Higher Mathematics" (although, how awesome would that be?).

It just says "Arab".

As in "We exist."

But that alone, absent some sort of apology, is "jarring".

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Arab Culture Grant

Arab Culture Grant
Deadline: August 31, 2009

Arab Fund for Arts and Culture Grants - Aims to stimulate and support artistic creativity and freedom of cultural expression in the Arab World.

Open to individuals, NGOs, cultural and educational organizations, governmental bodies, and private companies in the fields of independent filmmaking, performing arts, visual arts, literature, research, capacity building and training, regional and cultural events, regional exchange, and multi-disciplinary projects.

Applicants do not need to be Arab, but must be active in the Arab world.
See website for complete guidelines and application forms.

NOTE: Applications must be completed in Arabic.

Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, P.O. Box 1402, Amman 11118, Jordan,,

Deadline: August 31, 2009