Friday, May 29, 2009

Utopia Emoticon Cabaret: Live Latinas On Stage & Screen

Utopia Emoticon Cabaret

Live Latinas On Stage and Screen
A Night of Comedy, Performance and Video

Thursday, June 4 @ 9:30pm
Joe's Pub
425 Lafayette Street
Tickets: $15 in advance - $20 at the door
Joe's Pub: 212-967-7575

Nao Bustamente presents an excerpt of Silver & Gold inspired by legendary filmmaker Jack Smith, Bustamente interprets Smith's muse: 1940s Dominican movie starlet Maria Montez.

Carmelita Tropicana presents Ole!--the Sequel. A piece that will beam you up to a monastery in Seville and climaxes in the Dance of Emoticons. Directed by Ella Troyano.

Fulana, the incomparable collective of Latina artists: Lisandra Ramos, Grullon Cristina Ibarra, Andrea Thome, Marlene Ramirez-Cancio present videos including the award winning Amnezac.

Online at

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The State of the Arts in the Middle East

Keffieh, Mona Hatoum (1993-1999), human hair on cotton



Contact: Stephanie Swierczek Richardson, Communications Department 202-785-5336

"WASHINGTON, DC – May 27, 2009 – The Middle East Institute announces a special edition of Viewpoints entitled “The State of the Arts in the Middle East.” This collection of 17 original essays complements the volume published last September on “Architecture and Urbanism.”

The Middle East and North Africa is bursting with artistic production in literature and the visual and performing arts. At a time when so much of the news about the region is focused on instability and violence, this special edition of Viewpoints surveys the landscape of creative artistic endeavors. The essays comprising this volume are a sampling of the rich, diverse menu of artists and artistic products of the contemporary Middle East.

The arts of the Middle East are “alive” ― with new artists, genres, and themes continuously being grafted onto old, adding shades and texture. While some of these are represented in this volume, many more are not. In the interest of providing a fuller picture of the state of the arts in the region, the MEI welcomes additional essays from young and established scholars. These essays (1,000-1,200 words) must be accessible to non-specialists and aim to shed light on the importance of a specific artist, body of work, theme, or genre. Topic proposals will be accepted on a rolling or ongoing basis. Essays accepted for publication will be added to the current collection and published in electronic format. Please submit topic proposals in the form of a 100-word abstract (including full name, title, and affiliation) to Dr. John Calabrese at

This collection is available at:

Since 1946, the Middle East Institute has been dedicated to increasing Americans’ knowledge and understanding of the region. MEI offers program activities, media outreach, language courses, scholars and an academic journal to help achieve its goals. Please visit for more information."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009





A series of three events: May 29, 7pm & May 30, 3pm & May 30, 7pm
Plus a related special-event screening on May 24 beginning at 10:00am

"Capitalism on speed has enjoyed a long night of hearty partying and excess. But now we’ve woken up with the hangover to end all hangovers with most of our economic certainties shattered. Is it time for a new, a slower capitalism? In a series of talks and performances, the Berlin-based socialist-capitalist joint venture Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur (ZIA) [Central Intelligence Agency] will explore ideas for an economy on the slow, looking at new developments in design, collaboration, digital collaboration, and DIY-cultures.

But Slow Capitalism is not simply about deceleration. Rather, it tries to make different, productive use of increasingly compressed time in a global society. ZIA agents will look at the conditions and consequences of today's temporal crunch and experiment with various counter-strategies, and issue their own temporary homemade currency, Slime, which will serve as a symbolic nexus, marking the re-entry of portable power from the sphere of the virtual into a more viscous reality.

Friday, May 29, 2009, 7:00 pm: Faster, Capitalism! Kill! Kill!
Join the Slime Economy: Swap your greenbacks for a pot of Slime currency and start speculating! Waste it on drinks at the bar or try to make a slimy fortune at the casino. But watch out: when the Federal Slime Reserve floods the market with vast quantities of freshly minted slime, the bubble will certainly burst.

In The Hedonistic Company ZIA agents will outline their enterprise as a virtual company. Using their rules, you can learn how to build a socialist-capitalist company and how to work together and still stay friends. On this first evening you can also test your bullshitting skills by participating in ZIA's original PowerPoint Karaoke contest. Are you ready to take the stage for an impromptu presentation of some of the sleaziest and funniest bullet-point-ridden slideshows ever?

Saturday, May 30, 2009, 3:00-6:00 pm: Der Wörkvergnugen
Fed up with your work routine? Lost your job? Try something new! In this afternoon installation, ZIA will put you to work. You can apply and get paid for jobs which are normally not granted any economic value. Our employment program offers diverse activities such as napping, reading, enjoying a conversation over a cup of coffee or playing the video game classic Pong. But before you can start,make sure you fill out the application forms correctly and be prepared for a personal interview with our job counselors. For your work you will receive the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, paid in the equivalent amount of Slime currency.

Saturday, May 30, 2009, 7:00 pm: Slow Capitalism
On their second evening, ZIA will present a string of projects dealing with the new, slow economy: Kathrin Passig will be Putting the Pro into Procrastination, discussing ways to waste your time wisely and how to get stuff done without any self-discipline at all. Holm Friebe will present The Brand DIY, outlining how the selfmade- revolution is changing the rules of work, production, and consumption. Finally, Sebastian Sooth will talk about Hallenprojekt: Connecting Co-Working Spaces in Berlin and Around the World and will explain how co-working enables us to work the way we want to live.

The Berlin-based Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur (ZIA) is a socialist-capitalist network of freelancers. Operating at the interfaces of academia and journalism, marketing and art, Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur develops its own projects and cultural formats, offers custom-made solutions, and takes on special missions for commercial clients. The ZIA agents presenting Slow Capitalism are: Philipp Albers, Martin Baaske, Holm Friebe, Peter Glaser (via video from Berlin-Spandau), Moritz Metz, Jörn Morisse, Kathrin Passig, Cornelius Reiber, Christian Y. Schmidt (via video from Beijing), Sebastian Sooth, and Thomas Weyres.

Visit them at:

Sunday, May 24, 2009, starting at 10:00am
As a special adjunct and introduction to the theme of Slow Capitalism, the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building is proud to present Alexander Kluge’s monumental 2008 film, Nachrichten aus der ideologischen Antike: Marx– Eisenstein–Das Kapital. [News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx–Eisenstein–Capital.] Eighty years after Sergei Eisenstein’s plan to make a movie out of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital , trailblazing German filmmaker Alexander Kluge examines this phenomenal project, creating cinematic miniatures about Marx’s theory, which to us now seems as close or as far as antiquity. Kluge’s film features conversations with noted intellectuals Peter Sloterdijk, Dietmar Dath, Oskar Negt, Boris Groys, Rainer Stollmann and many others, offering a multitude of perspectives on the book that changed the world. Kluge, one of the groundbreaking directors of the New German Cinema, has a unique genius for transposing the realm of the intellect into powerful and provocative cinematic imagery. Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind introduction to an extraordinary work. Please note that the film will be shown in German only! 570 minutes.

Goethe-Institut New York, Wyoming Building
5 E 3rd St (at Bowery)
New York, NY 10003
Tel: 212 439 8700
Closest Subway: 6 at Bleecker Street
All events are in English, unless otherwise noted. Admission is free, no reservations required

The Goethe-Institut New York is a branch of the Federal Republic of Germany’s global cultural institute, established to promote the study of German and German culture abroad, encourage international cultural exchange, and provide information on Germany’s culture, society, and politics. The Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building, its new event space, is a cultural venue in the heart of New York’s vibrant downtown arts scene."

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Dixon Place Presents

HOT! Shots:


Guest Curator: Edwin Ramoran

Saturday, May 30, 2009
8:00 pm
Dixon Place
161 Chrystie Street
New York, NY
Prices: $15.00
student $12.00
senior $12.00

Designer Imposter, KAREN JAIME, Jayson Keeling with Alison Ward and The Ruffian Arms, Rachel Mason and Mark Golamco, Ivan Monforte, and Charlie Vázquez

LIPS LIKE MY SUGAR WALLS promises an evening of world premieres by emerging artists working in New York City. As a curatorial concept "Lips Like My Sugar Walls" acknowledges the primacy of our outer layers, lips, foreskin, culo, mandala, epidermis, and labia. They propel us. We use them in so many ways. We spit, suck, sing, slurp, squirt, lick, fuck, eat, blow, flirt, and kiss. What can a post-punk, Prince-influenced mash up look, feel, sound, taste, smell like? Does it hurt, love, fear, accept? This performance showcase brings together a raw, innovative mix of New York artists. All are contemporary artists who use interdisciplinary practices to produce performative works in video, poetry, photography, and song.

The world premiere of Ivan Monforte’s short video Tres Veces reveals the artist and three other men in a racy interpretation of Paquita La Del Barrio’s ranchero song of revenge Tres veces te engañe. For the first time, Jayson Keeling collaborates on a slide show and text performance with the punk antics of Alison Ward and her rock group The Ruffian Arms. Bringing the immediacy of the edgy East Village scene, performance artists Karen Jaime and Charlie Vázquez, both dynamic writers and spoken word poets who recently performed for Hispanic PANIC! at the queer bar Nowhere, will deliver new works, including a rare appearance by Vázquez as Spittles the Clown. Designer Imposter (aka Ramdasha Bikceem), known on the queer club circuit for her fierce mix of dance music at parties like Pantyho’s, will perform new original songs. Rachel Mason and Mark Golamco, who have worked together since 2003, will play a set of their experimental, collaborative music with viola accompaniment.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Machines and Machinations, Graduate Student Conference

Machines and Machinations
Romance Studies Graduate Student Conference 2009
Cornell University
September 18-19, 2009

"In light of the current centrality of digital culture, we propose the necessity of a critical examination of the machine, understood in the broadest terms, from the machinations of philosophy, to technologies of writing and war, to the criteria of humanity. Literary texts and machines have often been praised and feared for their ability to imitate life. Both are in a relationship of intimacy and remoteness to man, standing alternately on the edges of these two limits. Whether stressing the verisimilitude or the unbridgeable gap between literary or concrete mechanisms and life, philosophers have always manifested concerns about the threats posed by these imitations. Does the inexhaustible productivity of machines endanger the definition of creation, or even writing, as a product of inspiration? Departing from a different understanding of "the machine", our conference also asks what to make of the machinations of rational thought against the mechanisms of poetics and technology. A similarly endless production of discourse on networks, systems, and new media now abounds in the humanities and social sciences. Yet, before and beyond the industrial revolution - from the influence of the catapult on medieval warfare, to the modern technologies of art - the paradigm of the "machine" has always been displaced, dissected, and dissolved. How do machines and machinations allow us to reconsider theoretical and historical gambits that would seem most removed from contemporary discussion? Furthermore, where does the machine speak in discourses on colonialism, post-colonialism, gender studies, biopolitics, modernity, manual and intellectual labor, among others?

Possible topics include:
. The writing machine: mechanical/mechanized/automatic generation of texts
. Literature as a machine: human/inhuman texts?
. Colonial machines and machinations: language, administration, religion, military
. Visual studies, art, art history
. Theatrical machineries, performance
. Archiving, immaterial memory, digital literature
. Defining the human: cyborgs, animal-machines, hybridity
. Feminism, gender, queer "machine(s)"
. Virtual realities and gaming
. Networks and mobilities, systems, new media
. Trauma studies
. Critical theory, philosophy, Marxism

We invite proposals from all fields related to Romance Studies and encourage interdisciplinary approaches across a broad range of theoretical and historical perspectives. Presentations will be in English and strictly limited to 20 minutes."

Anonymous abstracts (no longer than 250 words), should be submitted by June 15, 2009 to Ashley Puig-Herz ( and accompanied by an attached cover letter indicating
the title, author's name, affiliation, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

Submissions are accepted
from graduate students only.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: My Life is a Weapon, A Modern History of Suicide Bombing

With My Life is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing Christoph Reuter, a journalist and international correspondent for the German magazine Stern, offers a modern history of suicide terror. Over the course of nine chapters he traces a genealogy of the practice at different points in its history and across several cultures. Chapters on the ancient Persian assassins, suicidal child-soldiers of the Iran/Iraq war, Lebanese Hezbollah, Palestinian Shahids (martyrs), and Japanese kamikazes are considered in parallel with Al-Qaeda and separatist movements in Sri Lanka and Kurdistan. Reuter writes, “This book attempts to piece together, in a logical sequence, what is known about [the origins of suicide terror]—which societies facilitate its development, what conditions are most favorable for its spread, and how the various tactics used have been developed” (6). However, the study that follows is compromised by its founding assumptions: that identifying the origins of suicide terror will shed light on its contemporary purveyors and that some cultures are more hospitable to this practice than others.

In his introduction, Reuter decries the “facile explanations for suicide attacks offered in the Western media” as merely leading to more questions and begins by asking, “If the attacks are to be attributed to radical Islam per se, why have they appeared only in the last twenty years?” (11). Unfortunately, this auspicious beginning is quickly undone as he writes, “Perhaps the thorniest question is how a society can come to tolerate, and indeed foster a practice so opposed to the survival instinct as to be pathological?” (11). The glamor of such a question for a Euro-American audience (no doubt the focus of Reuter’s “we” and “us”) is undeniable—what sort of people are these that destroy themselves to kill others? However, the Islamophobic assumptions that so often underlie this line of inquiry—even on the left—render the answers almost wholly in orientalist terms. Reuter asserts, “Islam, in its political form, is a well-suited ideology for war,” a hyperbolic claim that could as easily be made about Christianity or Judaism and to a similarly banal effect (17). He writes, “Groups from Morocco to Iraq are linked together as though by invisible paths and secret passageways. Thus, injustices perpetrated in Chechnya or on the West Bank can stir up hatred within Morocco and Saudi Arabia, and unintentionally provide aid and comfort to opportunists who stoke the flames of righteous anger elsewhere” (18). In his view, this process, nourished by Islamic mythologizing, has led to the “reinvention of [the] historical archetype” of the martyr (3).

Reuter’s focus on Islam, problematic in any case, compromises his argument rhetorically as well, causing him to make strange leaps, elisions, and outright exclusions in his history of suicide terror. For example, he notes the use of murder by suicide as a battle strategy employed by, among others, ancient Jews in Imperial Rome. Yet, he begins his timeline of the practice in the 11th century with the rise of the Persian assassins, whose cult he describes in some detail. Reuter writes, “The sect disappeared without a trace, leaving behind it no tradition, no religious heritage [and] attracting no pilgrims other than Western journalists” (27). However, a few paragraphs later he flip-flops. “On the one hand, nothing remained of the assassin sect per se. On the other hand, something did survive of them after all—a kind of negative afterimage of their deeds. . . . the popular fear of them and their readiness to die, which had just as disturbing an effect in their time as the suicide killings in New York, Tel Aviv, or Colombo do today” (27). Therefore, Reuter, despite the utter lack of any supporting evidence—which he goes some way himself to point out—elects to draw a direct link between the 11th century assassins and the suicide bombers of our contemporary moment. The lubrication upon which he relies for this astonishing conflation is the notion that Islam itself has remained unchanged across multiple cultures from the Crusades to the present. In fact the only interpretive changes that Reuter notes since the 11th century are those that seem to justify suicide attacks. Thus, he gives tremendous weight to the declarations of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a celebrity TV cleric who has celebrated Palestinian suicide attacks as “the highest form of Jihad” (122). Al-Qaradawi, who has no special authority other than that which is conferred by celebrity, nevertheless offers his own distinction between suicide and martyrdom: “A person who commits suicide kills himself for his own benefit. But a person who becomes a martyr sacrifices himself for the faith and the nation” (122). “This is simply politics,” Reuter writes, “the kind of politics that attempts to give practical decisions and popular opinions some kind of retroactive Islamic legal basis, even if a wholly fabricated one” (125).

His sudden disdain for politics is Reuter’s attempt to parse the religious and secular motivations for suicide attacks, while simultaneously maintaining that Islam is at their root. He writes, “It is no coincidence that such would-be martyrs (who embrace death as they strike out at their enemies) appeared first of all within Islam . . .” (16). What is not clear is exactly which Islam is at the center of Reuter’s concern. He clearly disapproves of “political” Islam but also asserts that suicide bombers reinterpret “traditional” Islam via “torturously reasoned justifications” for martyr operations (64). By making the distinction between “nationalist” and “Islamist” goals of suicide attacks, Reuter assumes that these categories do not imbricate each other or, more properly, that they are homogenous categories in the first place.

“Whatever else it is,” Reuter writes, “Islam is a belief system filled with infinite possibilities that can legitimate a wide range of practices as and when the need arises. Suicide bombing is one such practice . . .” (117). Tellingly, he does not interrogate the political circumstances under which suicide terror occurs, the arising “need” he alludes to but does not explain. In his chapter on Israel and Palestine, Reuter writes affectingly about the misery of the Palestinian people but never commits to naming its cause. This has the effect of naturalizing Palestinian suffering by framing it as an element of their character (a tactic he employs elsewhere, as when he suggests that affection for the film Titanic is indicative of a Shi’ite predilection for suffering). Reuter quotes Israeli psychologist Ariel Merari on the motivating factors for a suicide attack: “At the end of the day, it comes from the individual himself, from his experiences, from his beliefs” (109).

The reader is thus presented with a self-sustaining model of the suicide-bomber, whose actions, triggered from within by his “beliefs,” occur in a political vacuum. Furthermore, he considers the connections between disparate terrorist enclaves as points in a vast, hidden network of power relations but does not consider the parallels between the political circumstances of each group. Reuter posits that suicide bombing has influenced the collective psychology of Islamic societies via “what German psychologists call the ‘Werther effect,’ in which the [suicide-bomber] becomes an idol whom others strive to emulate”(13). Therefore, “belief” which travels by way of “invisible paths” between Islamic societies has “infected” them with the cult of martyrdom.
While this paradigm cannot account for the role of nationalism and resistance in the practice of suicide bombing, those outside of Islamic societies fall entirely beyond its scope. Nevertheless, he makes an effort to finesse their inclusion in the sequence of his history. To this end, Reuter compares the influence of the samurai on the Japanese kamikazes to that of the Shi’ite defeat at Karbala on modern suicide bombers (whether they are Shi’ite or not). He also reports with sufficient portent that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a secular Marxist group operating in (traditionally Buddhist, currently multi-religious) Sri Lanka, trained with the PLO in the 1970’s, despite the fact that the PLO—also secular and Marxist—has never utilized suicide terror. Nevertheless, Reuter insists, “Islamist influences have undoubtedly been manifest in less direct ways (among the LTTE), especially through extensive global television and radio coverage,” an utterly speculative claim that serves only to fit his current examples into a frame based on his narrow vision of Islam (162).

The growing corpus of books devoted to the phenomenon of suicide terror all work within (or against) the matrix of assumptions that pervade western representations of Islam. Reuter’s book, while arguably well intentioned, is typical of those generated by journalists who specialize in this topic. As with Barbara Victor’s execrable Army of Roses, clichés and journalese take the place of scholarly analysis, a phenomenon that reinforces and legitimizes orientalist tropes. Significantly, the only comprehensive survey of data about the worldwide phenomenon of suicide terror, political scientist Robert A. Pape’s Dying to Win: the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terror, explicitly states that Islam—fundamentalist or otherwise—is not a primary motivating factor in the practice.

Reuter’s original premise, exploring “an opponent who . . . has moved outside all the conventional rules of power and war in which we have always trusted,” is fascinating but his penchant for mapping the indirect “secret passageways” of inter and intra-cultural influence take him far afield his original questions (2). As a result Christoph Reuter has—unintentionally—constructed a history that reveals a good deal more about contemporary Western ambivalence toward Islam than about suicide attacks and those who carry them out.

* A version of this essay appears in Arab Studies Journal (Fall 2004/Spring 2005)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seven Jewish Children: LES Festival of the Arts

Photo of the Original London cast at the Royal Court Theatre

Theaters Against War presents:

Seven Jewish Children
by Caryl Churchill
Featuring Lindsay Hockaday, Brian Jones, Daren Kelly, Cynthia Mace, & Brian Pickett

Saturday, May 23, 8 pm
The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts
Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue between East 9th and East 10th Streets
New York, NY

The Lower East Side Festival is a totally free festival. As per the playwright's request, a collection for Medical Aid to Palestine will be taken up at the end of Seven Jewish Children in lieu of royalty fees.

"Caryl Churchill's 10-minute play was written in response to the recent tragic events in Gaza. It...confirms theatre's ability to react more rapidly than any other art form to global politics....[and] suggests that Israeli children are subject to a barrage of contradictory information about past and present... What she captures, in remarkably condensed poetic form, is the transition that has overtaken Israel, to the point where security has become the pretext for indiscriminate slaughter. Avoiding overt didacticism, her play becomes a heartfelt lamentation for the future generations who will themselves become victims of the attempted military suppression of Hamas." -- Michael Billington, The Guardian (February 11, 2009)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Review: Army of Roses, Inside the Secret World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers

Barbara Victor takes the title of her book, Army of Roses, Inside the Secret World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers, from remarks made by Yasser Arafat before a group of over a thousand Palestinian women at his compound in Ramallah on January 27, 2002. “Women and men are equal,” he proclaimed, “you are my army of roses that will crush Israeli tanks.” Barbara Victor’s work as a journalist has taken her through the Middle East since the early Eighties. The backdrop of her experiences there forms the seed of this book (sensationally titled Les Femmes Kamikazes in its European printing). Victor also directed an accompanying documentary film—also called Les Femmes Kamikazes—that parallels her book. The bases of her research are interviews conducted with the families of four shahidas, the Arabic word for female suicide bombers. She also interviews a host of Israeli “terrorism experts”, (a problematic tactic, as their expertise exclusively supports Zionist ideology) as well as journalists, members of the Israeli secret police and psychologists on both sides of the Green Line. Prefaced with a foreword by Christopher Dickey, Newsweek’s Paris bureau chief and Middle East editor, the 20 short chapters of her book tell the stories of the shahidas (Arabic for female martyrs), and other women who have taken an active role in the uprising.

A novelist and non-fiction author, Barbara Victor has made women her topic in the past, with subjects as diverse as Madonna and Hanan Asrawi. It is hard not see that the extremes represented by those previous subjects haunting this work as well--perhaps not the benefit of her argument. For example, Victor’s preoccupation with the physical appearance of her subjects has an odd relationship with the Western feminist principles that her book purports to espouse. Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber in history is described as having “perfect makeup” and “beautifully manicured nails” to match the “smart, western-style coat” she wore on her final trip to the mall. Victor reports that, according to the sales clerk who survived the blast, Idris was trying to free her knapsack from the doorway of a store while watching herself reapply makeup in a compact when it suddenly exploded. Darine Aisha, the second shahida in history is described as having had “a captivating smile” while Ayat Al-Akhras—the third—wore makeup and “smart, western clothes.” Victor uses the language of western fashion and style to suggest something of the interior lives of the women she profiles, a rhetorically dubious and politically retrograde tactic. There may be something worth exploring in the ways these women choose to present themselves but Victor isn’t interested in the larger implications of these choices. For example, she writes about “Zina” (a pseudonym) who wore a halter-top and tight pants to aid a male suicide bomber in completing his mission and initially eluded capture by miming an exaggerated cell phone conversation to convince patrolling Israeli soldiers she was an American tourist. This suggests that rather than an unconscious longing for western freedoms represented by makeup and clothing that Muslim Palestinian women are acutely aware of the way that western styles render them invisible.

But Victor refuses to acknowledge the political agency of their choices, portraying the shahidas instead as young women with “personal problems” who were exploited by male relatives into sacrificing themselves. She cites the now-familiar boogeyman of "fundamentalist Islam" as the prime motivator in this phenomenon. However, this "victim" narrative often runs counter to the testimony that she collects from the surviving families and friends of the martyred women. For example, Wafa Idris’ mother Mabrook contends that her daughter was motivated “more by nationalistic fervor than religion.” And Victor reports that Idris was known for having an “independent mind and a profound feeling of resentment toward the occupation.” In another example, Darine Aisha, a “brilliant” student of English literature at Al-Najah University, became a shahida after being sexually humiliated by Israeli border guards. The guards taunted her, tore off her headscarf and forced her to kiss and embrace her male cousin in front of a crowd of Palestinians waiting to cross into Israel. Aisha tried to defend herself but ultimately acquiesced so that the guards would allow a nearby woman with a dying infant in need of medical attention to pass. A deeply religious woman she was also, according to her friends “a feminist in the true sense of the word”, once having won an essay contest by writing “I am a Muslim woman who believes her body belongs to her alone, which means how I look should not play a role in who I am or what response I evoke from people who meet me. Wearing the hijab gives me freedom, because my physical appearance is not an issue.” This statement shouldn’t be interpreted as a universal defense of the veil but rather proof that the woman who wore it knew what she was doing with her life…and her death.

Victor positions the testimony of the Palestinians who knew the shahidas against the assertions of Israeli “experts” who consistently blame “fanatical” religious practices and argue that the status of women in Palestinian society are truly responsible for their actions-- as opposed to the host of issues raised by living under Israeli occupation. For example, Mira Tzoreff, an Israeli academic says “(Palestinians) are living in a not very democratic surrounding…This is a reactive national culture, a collective atmosphere. We are talking about post-modern versus nationalistic, and that makes all the difference. People cannot stand alone or think for themselves…they must have a national explanation, and that is to see Israel and the United States as the ultimate enemy….” Setting aside for a moment the bitter irony of an Israeli representative referring to Palestine as "reactive national culture", this capacity for projection, abetted by an utter lack of self-reflection, captures perfectly the problems inherent in relying on Israeli experts to deconstruct the modern phenomenon of suicide terror, which is a response to their countries' occupation of Palestine: it is comparable to asking the fox to describe for you the taste of chicken. Further, statements like this one reveal the Orientalist character that mars Army of Roses as a work of serious scholarship, although it provides a revealing (if unintended) view of the misapprehensions underlying this conflict. The Israeli academic describes the Intifada as the longing for a “national explanation,” while the Palestinians themselves describe it as the longing for a nation.

Again and again throughout her book her Palestinian informants point to the Israeli occupation as the main motivator in the phenomenon of suicide bombing (by either sex) but Victor, untroubled by their testimony, continually returns to her original thesis: that Palestinian society uses "fundamentalist Islam" to shame troubled girls into killing themselves. In her introduction, Victor recalls touring the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut in 1982 after the Lebanese Christian Militia and Israeli army massacred thousands of Palestinian occupants. She encountered a woman there who was the sole survivor of her family. The woman answered her questions “in surprisingly good English” telling her “You American women talk constantly of equality. Well, you can take a lesson from us Palestinian women. We die in equal numbers to the men.”

Perhaps if she had listened to her Barbara Victor would have written another sort of book.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Benefit Event: An Exhibition of Paintings by Orphaned Children in Lebanon

Alwan for the Arts Presents:

Benefit Event: Paintings by Children from SOS Villages in Lebanon at Mark Hachem Gallery
Wed, May 20, 2009 6:00 pm at Galerie Mark Hachem

Mark Hachem Galerie d’Art Contemporain
988 Madison Ave New York, NY 10021

An exhibition of paintings by orphaned Lebanese children. Come support the cause and enjoy remarkable children's artwork.

“5 April 2009, Beirut (Lebanon) – This is the story of a truly epic journey, a once in a lifetime experience for two Brits to run across a Middle Eastern country, to stage a unique running event with the backing of a nation to bring support to a most noble humanitarian cause, the SOS Children’s Villages. The ultimate success of what was grandly titled the Trans Lebanon Ultra 09 (TLU) project proved to be a master class in teamwork, an example of what can be achieved when a collective group of like minded individuals comes together with a single vision, with unwavering determination and endless enthusiasm to see the common goal achieved.”

-Jackson Griffith & John Tyszkiewicz

About SOS:

The Lebanese Association of SOS Children's Villages family-based child care strategy emphasizes family relationships; each individual in an SOS family takes a unique supporting identity and a sense of belonging. The bonds between the children among each other and their SOS mother last long after they leave the SOS Children's Villages and become independent adults in life.

Each child joins a family of 7 to 9 brothers and sisters with an SOS mother in their own home. The SOS Mother is responsible for her own family and house, manages her own financial spending and contributes into the well development of every child. As professional-care givers, and with the support of the village director and the village pedagogical team, SOS mothers provide the best alternative care for the children and relate to them with the same duty and joys of every other natural mother.

For more information about SOS, please visit:

or call Alwan: (646) 732 3261

This event is under the Patronage of the Consulate General of Lebanon in New York with the support of Alwan for the Arts, SEAL & Mark Hachem, Galerie d’Art Contemporain.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

After the Chinese Taste: Orientalist Scenarios Then, as Now

Chinoiserie Corner Cupboard by Chippendale, 1768.

In his excellent book New York Before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882, John Kuo Wei Tchen explores the dramatic shift in representations of Chinese people in the United States throughout the 19th century which, he argues, are essential to the development of modern "white" identity. Tchen expands the theoretical framework first articulated by the late Arab/American critic Edward Said in his Orientalism, which famously illuminated the fear, loathing and desire of the West for the East, to include cultural phenomena intrinsic to US American life. In so doing he argues that Orientalism has been instrumental in forming US American cultural identity. Writing in 1999, Tchen modestly offers his study as an attempt to tease out “subtle patterns” in U.S. history. But the academic discretion he employs in framing his argument belies its power and, in a post 9/11 world seems almost quaint: There is no question that Orientalist scenarios are shaping our contemporary historical moment.

Beginning in the colonial period, Tchen describes the struggle to establish a distinct American identity in Orientalist terms. He writes, “The beginnings of U.S. modernity in (the) decades after the revolution… were characterized by the rise of self-made men and radical changes in everyday economic, political and social life.” The flux of this period was mediated through Chinese consumable goods as US American identities, caught between the modes of patrician Europe and the needs of the new nation, cohered. Tchen emphasizes the passion for collecting Chinese porcelain, which became known as “china” and the merchants who sold it “Chinamen and women.” In this way oriental objects came to represent Asian people, a conflation that persists. Tchen writes,

When they couldn’t get the authentic goods, Europeans and some Americans made copies ‘after the Chinese taste.’ …These were the creations of craftsmen who had no firsthand experience of a distant and highly romanticized ‘Cathay.’ Gold-embroidered tapestries of small people living in a willow-patterned world, elaborate gardens with ‘gossamer pavilions,’ architecture with pagoda-style roofs, faux porcelains, fantastic latticework, fanciful stage sets, lacquered furniture, and various other decorative notions formed the material expression of this European orientalism.

So, uncomplicated by the presence of actual Chinese people, colonial Americans made aesthetic choices based on a lack of knowledge of Chinese culture. This paradox, an ancient Orientalist strategy remade for the new world, is an exercise of the privilege that is a foundational feature of ‘white’ identity. An excellent example of the ways in which ethnic cultural representations function as a nationalist project, the presence of Chinese things, and their substitution for Chinese people, is an absence that performs, making visible the desire for an exotic "Other" to shore up an essentialized, normative self.

But while the “tasteful display” of oriental objects signified wealth and class in Europe and colonial America such “luxury and profuseness” was viewed by some as cause for alarm. For example, British novelist Tobias Smollet warned that oriental luxuries were harbingers of “Indigence and Effeminacy: which prepared the Minds of the People for Corruption (and) Subjugation.” Instead of status appeal, Smollet and his contemporaries read a threat into the absence of actual Chinese people that such luxury items represented. His use of feminine terms as a frame for moral degeneracy that prefigures a “fall” is sexist language that is not exclusive to orientalist scenarios but nonetheless often finds its expression there--especially to whip up fears of "subjugation". Western representations of the Eastern Other often vacillate between degenerate effeminacy and a robust, sexually threatening vitality: an iteration that Tchen describes as the “Chinese devil man.” In our contemporary moment, Western cultural representations of Asian men have stabilized at the other extreme, with Asian men most often portrayed as sexless nerds, with the sexual threat they originally represented distributed to other Eastern "Others", like Arabs for example. But it is important to note that this representation was originally attached to Chinese men (and by extension other Asians) in the United States. So representing Asian men as neutered is another way of controlling their potential threat.

Tchen notes that despite warnings like Smollet's the fashion for oriental objects ran unabated in colonial America. He writes, “Average Americans chafed at any sumptuary limits on consumables deemed foreign and therefore taboo.” This early American exercise in white privilege is a scenario that plays itself out in our current moment not over Chinese tea, but Middle Eastern oil. Even as racialized representations of Arabs—which echo the effeminate/hyper-masculine representations of the 19th century Chinese—abound in our culture, the hunger for Middle Eastern oil only grows. As in the “American century” our “desire for ‘oriental’ goods (is) stronger than the threat of ‘oriental despotism.’”

When actual Chinese people arrived in New York the imaginary oriental constructs engendered by these scenarios awaited them. To illustrate the impact New York's burgeoning commercial culture had on promoting representations of China and the Chinese, Tchen describes the sensation made by the appearance of a Chinese junk called The Keying in New York Harbor in July of 1847. The newspaper accounts of the event capture the excitement the presence of actual Chinese people engendered among “respectable” New Yorkers who’d dreamed of an imaginary China, evoked by their objects. New Yorkers and tourists, charged twenty-five cents apiece for the privilege of viewing the Chinese sailors contained therein, happily thronged to the Battery for the spectacle. A paternal attitude prevails in these accounts as Tchen quotes, from the New York Herald “ No, our friends with the unpronounceable names and astonishment proof countenances, must not be allowed to go, at least until we have all seen and appreciated them.” We see here that the infamous stereotype of Chinese inscrutability echoes Thomas Jefferson’s ruminations on the properties of black skin in his Notes on Virginia. Just as Jefferson longed to find a blush in black skin, betraying his longing to locate shame and desire in the African other, so does the writer of the Herald article long to see his own astonishment reflected back at him in the faces of the Chinese sailors.

That a labor conflict which developed between the Chinese crew and their white captain was settled equitably in a New York court does not belie, but rather makes even stranger the fantastic newspaper reports that swirled around the Chinese as they continued to assert their presence in the city. Tchen writes,

The Herald’s proclivity for entertainment was counterbalanced by the American Magazine’s all-consuming focus on demonstrations of Christian benevolence, and neither discourse paid much attention to the Chinese sailors’ actual experiences. In both cases, the coverage served mainly to promote in a popular format a particular set of moral values and a particular point of view. Whether sensational or moralistic, the journalistic coverage of the ship and the exhibition within was a characteristic expression of the commercially driven form of orientalism.

So we can see that the presence of actual Chinese people in New York did little to alter the orientalist scenarios already in place. The Chinese arrived in New York and stepped into parts that were written for them in their absence, and without their consent. And the twin discourses engendered by the fad for oriental objects, paternal delight and moral indignation—so often two sides of the same coin—remained in play, essentially negating the living presence of actual Chinese people. The disappearance of The Keying’s Chinese sailors into the oriental imagination of 19th century New York makes visible the uses of fear and desire of Eastern Others in the construction of white identities.

Tchen argues that the tragic case of Quimbo Appo, a Chinese-American man jailed after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act marked the drift of the nation's attitude from patronizing affection to loathing mistrust of the Chinese. I'd add that it also shows the orientalist scenarios indicated by Tchen in New York Before Chinatown still have currency. According to Tchen, Appo’s “fall from grace” (he’d been a successful businessman and comparatively assimilated New Yorker) embodies the “profound shift in the attitude of New Yorkers toward the Chinese and the imagined 'Indies.'" In and out of prison for various violent crimes against whites, Appo was ultimately transferred to the Mattewan facility for the criminally insane.

Appo’s paranoia ran rampant and he constantly accused invisible foes, blaming them for his plight. Tchen notes that, despite the escalating violence that characterized his later life, there is no way to tell whether Appo was truly insane when he entered Mattewan although he most surely became unhinged as a result of this incarceration. Frequently drugged and hallucinating, Appo’s wild accusations nevertheless accurately described the racial matrix in which he found himself. His delusions, were, Tchen writes, “Grounded in actual power dynamics occurring in Lower Manhattan.” In other words, the fact that he understood and could articulate the racial hierarchy that pitted him against Irish Fenians, Democrats and politicians who were all players in 19th century lower Manhattan speaks as much for his sanity as his madness.

The newspaper accounts of Appo’s story reveal the final iteration of orientalist scenarios of force and dispossession: demonization. The New York Times characterized Appo as an individual “of little or no education and…an inferior order of development, resembling in many aspects a child. “ Here we see the paternal affection of an earlier era taken to its ugliest extreme. Horace Greeley of The New York Tribune characterized Appo's actions as being “an instance of the uncurbed barbarian temper of the East brought into collision with the colder habits of our Saxon civilization.” We can see this scenario repeated in our contemporary moment in the discourse around the war in Iraq. The Iraqi people—and by extension all Arabs/Iranians/South Asians—are alternately portrayed as grateful children and ruthless barbarians.

In New York Before Chinatown John Kuo Wei Tchen traces the shift from the colonial fad for Chinese luxury goods, to a market-mediated antebellum period of “relatively open, complex and countervailing representations,” to the post-Reconstruction period of “criminalization, ghettoization, and political exclusion.” This pattern of orientalist imagining Eastern "Others" from paternalistic delight, to sexual fear (characterized by moral outrage) to demonization (characterized by physical and or mental abjection) plays itself out in the past via Tchen’s study... and in the present through the ethno-racist tropes in U.S. foreign policy. Astonishingly similar rhetoric to the historical examples Tchen describes was used by the Bush administration to justify everything from the Iraq War and the legalization of torture, which overhwlemingly targeted Arabs and Muslims, to the abrogation of civil rights for all Americans. In other words, the arguments John Kuo Wei Tchen makes in New York Before Chinatown have, through the events of the past several years, become overt expressions of the material culture of the United States.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Courtesy of Adalah-NY:

Tell Leonard Cohen to CANCEL HIS PERFORMANCE IN ISRAEL, following the lead of cultural figures like Bono, Bjork, Roger Waters, Jean Luc Dugard, Adrienne Rich, and others. Place: Meet at Southeast Corner of 50th and 6th Avenue
(Across from Radio City Music Hall)

Time: 7:00 to 8:30 PM, Sunday, May 17th

This week marks the 61st anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. For Palestinians, this is the Nakba, or catastrophe. The Nakba is not just a historical event, but an ongoing process. What began with the destruction of more than 530 Palestinian villages and the displacement of more than 800,000 Palestinians, continues today as ongoing occupation and oppression. What can we do? Palestinian civil society calls on ALL of us to boycott Israel until it recognizes the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law by ending occupation, ensuring full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respecting and promoting Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes. Leonard Cohen is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on September 24, 2009 despite this boycott. Israel relies on performers like Leonard Cohen to whitewash its policies in the face of a growing worldwide movement to hold Israel accountable. By performing in Israel, Cohen is legitimizing the Nakba and 61 years of oppression of the Palestinian people.

Learn more about the boycott and the ongoing activities of Adalah-NY, The Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East at

Friday, May 15, 2009

TONIGHT: Guillermo Gómez-Peña Performance/Lecture

Multiple Journeys: The life and work of Gómez-Peña

A lecture/performance by Guillermo Gómez-Peña

Multiple Journeys: the life and work of Gómez-Peña invokes text and historical photographs to chronicle the performance art practice of post-Mexican writer, artist and activist Guillermo Gómez-Peña. By tracing his family life as well as his past 30 years in performance, visual and literary forms, the artist will discuss his work in context to the larger evolution of the field as well as to the main political and social events of the times.

May 15th, 2009 at 6pm
Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics
20 Cooper Square, 5th floor Conference Room
New York, NY 10003
(free, photo id required)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Calls For Papers: IJPADM & Real Virtual


1) International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media: DANCING ACROSS FILM, TELEVISION AND THE DIGITAL SCREEN

The contemporary visual landscape is littered with images of performing bodies located in multiple screen contexts, from dedicated art dance film festivals through to prime time reality television shows. The potential for dance to achieve on-screen viewing figures scarcely imaginable in comparison to theatre dance audiences is evidenced by the YouTube clip, Evolution of Dance, a whirlwind demonstration of popular dance through the decades, which received 76.7 million hits. This special edition of the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media explores both contemporary and historical enquiry into the production and reception of performing bodies across the film, television and digital screen. Possible questions that might inform this critical discourse regarding screen dance research are:

What is the relationship between economics and screen dance production and how does the performing body operate as a vehicle of commercialisation and promotion within these sites?
To what extent is screen dance shaped by the politics and policy of commissioning editors and executive producers and what relationship do guerrilla filmmakers have to this official framework of production?

How do the multiple contexts for screen performance inform the aesthetics of dance on screen and how do they create different spectatorship experiences? What is the impact of new and extant film-making technologies on the performing body and how has this changed understandings of dance-making? How is dance mediated and re-presented in order to achieve popular appeal and in what ways does this reproduce or challenge cultural assumptions about dance? Given the global circulation of screen dance images, how are these representations understood within localised contexts of reception?

IJPADM is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal drawing contributions from a wide range of researchers and practitioners who are placed at the rapidly developing interface of new technologies with performance arts. Given the interdisciplinary nature of screen dance practice, proposals are invited from artists, scholars and professionals working across the fields of dance and performance studies, film, television and media studies, cultural studies, history and other related disciplines.

All papers must be submitted by 1st July 2009
Intended publication date: December 2009.
Details for submissions and notes for contributors can be found at:

All papers are to be submitted to Dr Sherril Dodds, Guest Editor.

Dr Sherril Dodds, Department of Dance, Film and Theatre Studies, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH

General enquiries can be addressed to Dave Collins, Editor.

2) Real Virtual is a new French online journal, based out of Sorbonne Research Training Center (CIES-Sorbonne), devoted to the study of the digital image and practices. It is an interdisciplinary and international journal, that will feature the works of artists as well as academics.
We invite scholars and practitioners to submit papers for the first issue of the journal, on the topic of the digital "texture".

Please send all submissions to
Deadline : June 30th.

Clélia Barbut
Visiting Scholar, NYU
PhD, Univ. Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Music: Sublime, I Love My Dog

The weirdest thing happened. I got a dog.

Here is what happened: The other day I was hanging out at my best friend Ant's watching TV (we were planning on going to see Wolverine) and I heard whining outside on his deck. So he went to check and... There was this dog. Beautiful, black lab mix. About a year old. Big, but still a puppy. Floppy ears and giant paws. Little scar across his snout. Sweet disposition. We blew off the movie and spent three hours scratching mystery dog on his belly.

And then his owner showed up and took him home.

Two days later I get a call from Ant, "Guess who is back?" Apparently he got out again, and made a beeline for Ant's backdoor. But he was on his way to an audition so he asked me to keep an eye on him. I live three blocks away so I came right over and got to hang out with mystery dog again for a few hours... And then his owner showed up and took him away again. Turns out, he'd only had him for a few days and he was having trouble adjusting because the guy is a cop who is away eight plus hours at a time. And the dog is a rescue with separation anxiety who was wrecking his place before managing to wriggle out a back window to escape. Apparently the cop had already gotten rid of a dog because of his schedule and I was sure he was going to do the same with this dog too. My dog. And I thought, "No way." Ant and I both wanted to take him in but practically speaking neither one of us could really take care of a rescue dog by ourselves either. We knew that if this dog went back to the shelter that his chances of getting adopted again were really small though. And he was too special. So we began to talk seriously about sharing him and splitting the responsibilities.

Ant told his neighbor to let him know first if he planned to give him up and the cop took him up on it almost immediately. Now I am writing this and the dog is sacked out at my feet with his paw thrown across his eyes. You remember that scene from Raising Arizona where Nicolas Cage hands the stolen baby to Holly Hunter and she bursts into tears and says "I LOVE HIM SO MUCH" ? Well, that is how I feel about this freaking dog I was not planning on.

Thing is, I knew from the second I saw him that this was my dog. I just knew.

So now I have a dog. Okay, a time-share interest in a dog, but still.

His name is Rocket. Look at that face. What would you do?

Rocket the dog, woozy from a nap

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bill Maher, Fareed Zakaria and The Politics of Pronunciation

I have a love/hate relationship with Bill Maher because I think he represents both the best and worst aspects of the newest generation of political comedians. During the bleakest hours of the Bush administration Maher was often a welcome voice crying in the wilderness about any number of conservative excesses. But just as often Maher goes for the easy joke at the expense of politics. His attitudes toward women are legendarily bad (although, to be fair he is generally more respectful of his female guests than, say, Charlie Rose, who never met a woman he didn't interrupt mid-sentence). In general Maher is pretty shitty on Arabs and Muslims too, regularly parroting the same centuries-old Orientalist/Islamophobic scenarios as any Fox talking head. His anti-religion schtick in particular is (as with Hitchens and Dawkins) dependent on an almost pathological Islamophobia about which he refuses to be dissuaded. So, you know, I watch Real Time with the side-eye at the ready.

It is always interesting to see how Maher's guests deal with Real Time's trap-door dynamic: One second you may be making your way through a serious conversation about the economy and the next the floor gives way and you have landed on a pile of dick jokes designed to allow Maher to remind himself (and you) that he is really in charge here. It is, with very few exceptions, always especially painful for me to see actors try to keep up... it's like watching a dog walk on two legs. A recent Real Time appearance by Kerry Washington, whose points about the Obama administration were almost entirely overshadowed by her crazy-eyes, is a sad example of this.

Fareed Zakaria, Richard Engel and Barney Frank (D-MA) shared the panel on Real Time's May 1st episode and their facility in navigating the hybrid news/comedy format was fascinating to observe. Frank, who now more than ever represents the Clintonian old guard within the Democratic Party, crossed the line into grotesque self-parody. (Note to Barney: Your uncanny resemblance to Buddy Hackett notwithstanding, leave the jokes to Maher, okay? You are very, very creepy when you try to be funny). NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Engel, who it must be said has a beautiful head of hair going for him, looked a bit like Steve Trevor seconds before Wonder Woman comes crashing through a window: handsomely at sea in the face of the shifting comedic tides. While Zakaria seemed amused by the spectacle and gracefully adjusted to the often abrupt shifts in tone. However, even he felt compelled to make with the funny, when he suggested with a smirk that the efforts undertaken by politicians and media professionals to pronounce Afghanistan and Pakistan correctly--as in "Eff-GAHn-i-stan" and "PAHk-i-stan"--is an attempt to be "ethnically cool." He compared this to liberal efforts to say "Nigeh-RAHG-wah" (ie. Nicaragua) in the 1980s. Of course Zakaria, who is Indian, gave himself a pass here by saying that these pronunciations came easily to him because he comes from that part of the world. The rest of the panel seemed uncomfortable with this observation as Engel, who was there hawking his upcoming book, War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq, defended his proper pronunciation by saying that he'd spent significant time in the region. Zakaria argued that Americans anglicize the names of European countries as a matter of course, making no special effort to say "FrAHnce" instead of France, for example. The implication being that the special emphasis on pronunciation highlights foreignness, rather than the reverse.

Frank, who by this time was imagining a rim-shot after every bon-mot, piped up that certain of his constituents were very comfortable saying "Yisroel" as a matter of course, which gave Maher the opportunity to shift the conversation away from this awkward comedic non-starter and on to Israel. Rather than follow him in that shift (in which Frank defended Israel to a comic degree and Zakaria and even Maher (!) called him on it) I'd like to linger on this uncomfortable exchange about pronunciation. (For your reference the video at the top of this post contains this brief exchange starting at around 6:55. UPDATE: The video link is dead so I replaced it with a photograph of Fareed Zakaria in which he looks a lot like one of the Thunderbird puppets. Just saying.).

As a progressive I am always on board to deconstruct liberal guilt for its hidden racism and ethnocentrism, but I am not convinced that Zakaria is right about this. I am also old enough to remember the earnest Spanish pronunciation employed by liberal activists working around Central American issues.

But, so what?

Is it really fair to torment liberals over their...admittedly sometimes clumsy... attempts at cultural respect? Or perhaps more to the point, is it really productive? Since the first Bush administration, mispronunciation has been willfully employed to assert rhetorical superiority over Arab and Muslim subjects. Am I the only one who remembers that George H.W. Bush----in a move that made more than one gay friend of mine arch an eyebrow-- renamed Saddam Hussein "Sodom"? And is it possible to hear the default American mispronunciations "EYE-rack" and "EYE-ran" without hearing George W. Bush's folksy/wounded/proud voice in your head? Is it really so ridiculous to ask that if we are sending young American men and women to fight and die in a foreign country that we learn to say its name correctly? Is "EAR-ock" really such a devastating compromise for American tongues and ears? Or even, when anglicized as Zakaria suggests, "EAR-ack"? I don't think so.

So I wonder: what is gained by mocking well-intentioned liberals when they make an effort?

By positioning himself as a native informant Zakaria whipped out his authenticity card and slapped it down on the table. I like Zakaria for lots of reasons--many of which can be observed in the video above-- but that is as much of a bullshit move as willfully mispronouncing "foreign" names as a way of asserting cultural authority. In fact, of these strategies the one that bothers me least is an earnest attempt to connect.


UPDATE: This has been cross-posted by our friends at Racialicious.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) Open Studios

International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) cordially invites you to its spring Open Studios.

A four-day exhibition of international contemporary art, this event presents work by the 27 artists and artist groups currently in residence at ISCP. The current residents represent an inspiring and wide range of conceptual interests and fresh artistic choices. These include hybrids, cross sections and traditional approaches to painting, drawing, video, performance, sculpture, sound, installation, artists- books and architecture.

Founded in 1994, ISCP has hosted more than 800 artists and curators who have significantly contributed to New York's art community. The program is designed to connect the ISCP participants to local institutions, key professionals, and a broad range of international visitors. The interaction between artists, curators and critics at ISCP creates opportunities that support every stage of artistic production and development, offering a range of crucial, career advancing exchanges such as master class level critique, exhibition participation, long-term collaborations and gallery representation. ISCP continues to expand its programming to accommodate new directions in global artistic expression, and is pleased to open a new floor of studios and additional public programs in 2009.

ISCP presents Open Studios twice a year to give the public, art professionals and other art enthusiasts access to cutting-edge contemporary art from around the world. Free to the public, these events provide an exclusive peek into the production, process and personal archives of globally celebrated artists, many of them showing their work in New York for the first time. They are:

Javier Arce (Spain)

Olivier Babin (France)

Maria Bussmann (Austria)

Christian Capurro (Australia)

Naia del Castillo (Spain)

Szu-Han Chen (Taiwan)

Lilibeth Cuenca (Denmark)

Koenraad Dedobbeleer (Belgium)

Charlotte Dumas (The Netherlands)

Michael Höpfner (Austria)

Akino Kondoh (Japan)

Kasper Kovitz (Austria)

Pei-Yu Lai (Taiwan)

Manuela Lalic (Canada) Lotte Lindner & Till Steinbrenner (Germany)

Liisa Lounila (Finland)

Patricia Martín (Mexico)

Javier Martin de Frutos (Spain)

Svätopluk Mikyta (Slovakia)

Are Mokkelbost (Norway)

Melvin Moti (The Netherlands)

Patrick Nilsson (Sweden)

Bjargey Ólafsdóttir (Iceland)

Jochen Plogsties (Germany)

Leonard Qylafi (Albania)

Antonio Rovaldi (Italy)

Miha -trukelj (Slovenia)

Chaw Ei Thein (Burma)

FRIDAY, MAY 8 Press Preview: 5 - 7 PM; Opening Reception: 7 - 9 PM

SATURDAY, MAY 9, 12 - 6 PM

SUNDAY, MAY 10, 12 - 6 PM

MONDAY, MAY 11, 2 - 8 PM

1040 Metropolitan Avenue, 3rd Fl.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
phone 718 387 2900

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cold Cinema: Films by Liz Wendelbo

Liz Wendelbo, OPTICKS V, C-print, 20 x 24'', 2005

Liz Wendelbo is an artist who makes photographs, video, music and performance. Born in Norway, Wendelbo is a key member of the NYC minimal electronic music scene as a member of Xeno and Oaklander. Anthology Film Archives is showing a series of her short films, titled OPTICKS 1-x1v on May 23 at 7:30pm. AFA's website writes of Wendelbo, in reference to her upcoming showing there,
Born in the dark era that is the new millennium in New York, the ‘cold cinema’ of Liz Wendelbo is a return to analogue film. Originating from the NY Minimal Electronics music scene (Xeno & Oaklander), Wendelbo engages in a form of filmmaking that predicates resistance to cinema as a virtual medium. Her latest work is a series of short three-minute films entitled OPTICKS. Her films explore themes of darkness, rituals, Goth iconography, and film as a medium, with melancholy and restraint. With a fondness for obsolete technology, she uses 16mm and double-8mm as her shooting medium of choice, in both color and black-and-white.

OPTICKS is structured in a modular way: the short films are numbered one through fourteen and are interchangeable. Three sections surface overall – the abstract optical experiments of the MAXWELL TARTAN RIBBON series (a 19th-century Scottish physicist, Maxwell ‘projected’ the first color photograph using Newton’s color theory in 1861 – the image was a tartan ribbon); the dance- and movement-based Goth RITUALS series; and the ‘film-as-historical-document’ framework of World War II, industrial, and personal found footage of the EXCAVATION and COLUMNS series.

2008, 3 minutes x 14, 16mm, color/b&w, sound. Editing by Taylor Thompson; music by Sean McBride.

Total running time: ca. 50 minutes.

Upcoming Showings:
Saturday May 23 7:30 PM

Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 505-5181

Friday, May 1, 2009

Raymond Salvatore Harmon, "Dweller on the Threshold": Transcendental Video Installations and Paintings

Raymond Salvatore Harmon
"Dweller on the Threshold"
Transcendental Video Installations and Paintings
Organized by Pendu Org Arts & Actions

Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 6pm
Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 11:00pm

Exhibition will remain on view from May 16 -
June 6

Saturday, May 16 - Opening @ 5pm with a performance by CM*Chaos Majik and video by Raymond Salvatore Harmon

Sunday, May 17 @ 6pm - Raymond Salvatore Harmon will deliver a lecture entitled "On the Nature of Light: The Cinematic Experience as Occult Ritual"

Raymond Salvatore Harmon is a cross genre media artist, filmmaker, sound artist, and record producer whose work has defied categorization for the past decade. As a new media artist and experimental filmmaker his work pushes at the boundaries between anthropological study, philosophic discourse, and contemporary art. With a CV extending from performance based 16mm and 8mm film to video circuit-bending and analog feedback installations as well as sound and visual conceptual installations and guerrilla media actions.

As an experimental filmmaker his work is abstract, are accompanied by his own electronic compositions as well as those of his various collaborators. His recent works include full scale immersive video and sound environments, large format digital prints that are then hand manipulated and painted on, and live video performances.

Many of Harmon's films contain layered subliminal content, the source of this content is often derived from occult and mystical texts. Utilizing texts such as the Gates of Light (an early work of Hebraic mysticism, kabbalah) and Aleister Crowley's Book of Lies, Harmon's occult based films work as advanced meditative tools for use in occult rituals and the expansion of the conscious mind.

Compared to experimental film maker Stan Brakhage and the painter Mark Rothko, Harmon's use of abstract imagery is more directly influenced by the works of Harry Smith (both as a filmmaker and archivist) and Nam June Paik. Much of the philosophical discourse concerning the alchemical/mystical influences in Harmon's occult filmworks (YHVH, Tree of Knowledge/Tree of Life, Elementals) mentions the works of 17th century English author Thomas Vaughan and the anonymous 13th century English mystical text "The Cloud of Unknowing".

Hosted by Secret Project Robot
@ Monster Island
210 Kent Ave (entrance on river street)
Brooklyn, NY 11211