Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Under the Table presents three workshops in New York City

Under the Table presents a series of three workshops in New York City with Josh Matthews and Sarah Petersiel! We're excited to offer workshops in our areas of expertise and affinity. All proceeds go towards Under the Table's Summer 2010 Canadian Tour. Canada or bust!

Saturday April 10, 12-3pm

In this workshop we share our process of devising physical and comedic work. We'll explore: generating material for shows and pieces; shaping that material; being a good comedic partner; and building a productive and joyful ensemble.

Great for actors, writers, directors, and collaborative artists of all kinds.

Saturday May 8, 12-3pm

Join us for a look at teaching circus skills to young people and adult beginners. Includes introducing students to juggling equipment, tumbling and spotting, and circus-centered ensemble games. We'll also touch on building up to a culminating circus performance.

Great for teachers/teaching artists, people who'd like to acquire some circus basics, and anyone with a fancy name.

Date TBA (sometime in June)

Enter the realm of theatrical clown in this exploratory workshop! Be patently uncool! Follow your impulses to make mischief! Pursue delight by whatever means necessary! Admit to what's really going on! Be profoundly present!

Great for dentists. And actors/clowns/people interested in unleashing the power of their ridiculousness.

Here is some registration info:

-All workshops to be held at Soundance: 281 North 7th St. in Williamsburg/Brooklyn

-To reserve a spot or for more info, please email:

-Workshops operate on a sliding scale: $30-$500,000,000

Here is some company info:

Under the Table is dedicated to creating original, hilarious, relevant, and accessible works of physical theatre. Based in Brooklyn, NY, the company is fueled by a commitment to the collaborative process of the ensemble.

Since its founding in 2001 by Matt Chapman and Liz Turkel, the company has mounted nine original productions, performing in New York City, across the country and in Europe. The company teaches workshops for high school students, college students, and actors. In 2004 and 2005, Under the Table produced The Free Theatre Project, bringing free physical theatre and social satire to public spaces in New York City.

Visit us at

Here is some info on workshop facilitators Josh and Sarah:

Josh Matthews and Sarah Petersiel are members of the Brooklyn-based ensemble Under the Table. Josh appears, with Artistic Director Matt Chapman, in SOLO: a two-person show, while all three perform in The Only Friends We Have. Josh and Sarah are both teaching artists with the New Victory Theater and Clown Doctors with the Big Apple Circus. Together they have taught workshops at Alfred University, the Virginia Governor School for the Arts, the Berkshire Fringe Festival and Denmark's Move'n'act. Both are graduates of the Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre.

We hope to see you in April, May, June, and beyond!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

AFTER THE GOOD LIFE, AN IMPASSE: Notes on the Cinema of Precarity

The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University
the Barnard Center for Research on Women at Barnard College

A lecture by Lauren Berlant

Notes on the Cinema of Precarity

April 8, Thursday
7 to 8:30 PM

Lauren Berlant, English, University of Chicago

"After the Good Life" works with two films of Laurent Cantet [Ressources humaines/Human Resources (1999) and L'Emploi du Temps/Time Out (2001)] to engage the new affective languages of the contemporary economic atmosphere across Europe: languages of anxiety, contingency, and precarity that take up the space where social democracy, upward mobility, and meritocracy used to reign. What happens to optimism when futurity splinters as a prop for getting through life? How to understand the emergence of this felt crisis in relation to transformations of the good life fantasy? The question reaches broadly, but the archive focuses on a variety of crises in the professional classes, which no longer can delegate precarity to the poor or the citizen sans papiers; its interest is in exploring how a new cinema of precarity stages the end of an era of social obligation and belonging by focusing, microhistorically, on what happens to manner and manners.

Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Professor of English at the University of Chicago. Developing concepts of affective publics since The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life (Chicago, 1991), she has completed a trilogy on national sentimentality, with The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (Duke, 1997), and The Female Complaint: the Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (Duke, 2008). She is also editor of Intimacy (Chicago, 2000), Compassion (Routledge, 2004), On the Case(forthcoming) and, with Lisa Duggan, Our Monica, Ourselves (2001). This talk is from her next book, Cruel Optimism.

NYU Lipton Hall
108 West 3rd Street
between MacDougal and Sullivan Streets

Seating is on a first-come basis; no RSVPs.

This event is free and open to the public. Venue is wheelchair accessible, but please let us know in advance if you need access.

If you need sign language interpretation services or other accommodations, please let us know as soon as possible.

For more information, please call 212-992-9540, email, or visit .

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tenth National Black Writers Conference NYC March 25-28th

Toni Morrison

The Tenth National Black Writers' Conference, first presented in 1986 as a result of the visionary leadership of the late John O. Killens, will be held March 25-28, 2010. Toni Morrison, will be the Honorary Chair. The theme of the National Black Writers' Conference is And Then We Heard the Thunder: Black Writers Reconstructing Memories and Lighting the Way. Through a series of panel discussions, roundtables, author readings and storytelling, the National Black Writers' Conference will use the metaphor of thunder, memory and light to examine the historical representation of the literature of Black writers and the representation of new and future directions for contemporary and emerging literary voices. With Toni Morrison as the Honorary Chair, the National Black Writers' Conference will also honor Amiri Baraka, Kamau Brathwaite and Dr. Edison O. Jackson. Black writers will come from throughout America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa.

The National Black Writers' Conference is a conference dedicated to the exploration of “emerging themes, trends and issues in Black American literature.” It is hosted by the Center for Black Literature at Medgar and attracts writers, scholars, editors, agents, faculty, students and the general public. The 2010 Conference will prove to be a “first” in that this premier Black writers’ event will have the distinction of celebrating its tenth anniversary while being chaired by the prize-winning renowned Black author during a time when the first Black American president is in the White House.

The National Black Writers' Conference has addressed the themes of stereotypes in Black literature, the direction of Black literature, the renaissance in Black literature, access and expanding conversations on race, identity, history and genre Each conference has built upon the previous one celebrating outstanding Black writers through the world.

Notable Off-Site Event:

Spoken Word Poetry Cafe
Staceyann Chin and Willie Perdomo, Featured Poets including Jo Nubian of the great blog
Just Jo Nubian

...If you are in the city, go listen to her read and offer support.

Poetry Reading with a special appearance by Stacy Ann Chin. Please contact Joi M. Sears, Coordinator for additional information at:

Time: 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Location: Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza
Audience: Open - ages High School age & up.
Admission: No Fee Required for viewing.

For more information & Registration
Conference Hotline: 718 270-4811

Email: Center for Black Literature:

Website: Center for Black Literature:

Online Registration Partner:African American Literature Book Club

Friday, March 19, 2010

Three Good Wives

Three Good Wives

16th Mar–28th Mar 2010

Dates & Times
Tues 16 – Sun 28 March (not 22 or 23), 8pm (4pm Sundays, 7pm Fri 26 Mar)

£10 / £8 conc (£5 previews Tues 16 & Wed 17)

Little Angel Theatre
14 Dagmar Passage
Off Cross Street
N1 2DN

An original puppet theater piece that investigates the core themes of waiting, mourning, and healing. These themes are explored through the lens of contemporary US and UK military wives' stories and mytho-historic heroines: Penelope from Homer's Odyssey, Mandodari from the Ramayana, and Scheherazade from The Arabian Nights. The production is inspired by the stories of 21st Century women whose lives have been affected by war. It draws from personal accounts, news and radio stories as well as online social media.

Three Good Wives is a collaborative project developed the performers. Puppet and scenic design by Michael Kelly, sound design by Joemca, and direction by Alissa Mello.

There will be a post-show Q&A with the director on Wed 24 March.
"This production should be seen by all who love theater, science and peace."
- Larry Litt, NY Theatre Wire review of Inkfish's THE BRAIN

This project is made in association with The Little Angel Theatre and is funded in part by a grant from The Jerome Foundation with additional support from The Centre for Excellence in Training for Theatre, The Puppet Center Trust, Battersea Arts Centre, The Pleasance Theatre Islington, and Royal Holloway Department of Drama and Theatre, University of London. Inkfish has been awarded grants from The Jim Henson Foundation, and The Puffin Foundation.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Speak that I can see you (2009) Andrea Pagnes and Verena Stenke



12:00 PM - 8:00 PM
~ FREE! ~ 1st 10 people accepted

This workshop will be free of charge

2-day intensive workshop in Performance Art practice
with Verena Stenke and Andrea Pagnes

to register email: gracexhibitionspace@yahoo

“Never as Always. Now as Always. Here and now. Where I am, I do not know it, I will never know it. In the silence, you don’t know it, you must go on and, even if I can’t, I’ll go”
Samuel Beckett


Tired of looking at things from an usual and obsolete perspective, with few friends, full of memories and remembrances, with a no-limits imagination, pathological, perverted, deprived, deviant, surreal, overwhelmed and overruled by daily prosaic worries and ordinary thoughts, being still beautiful, in a constant journey towards new productions, slowly moving to an end, living into an irreversible crisis, always clutched by doubts, sometimes radiant, other times miserable, feeling to be stuck for an answer, when where is a nowhere or somewhere else, with at least a hope in our hearts, looking at a feeble response, our fragile constituent limits- we invite people to gather together those left things they really care, to share them with us and the others.


To investigate- to look for and find out new, unexpected possibilities to strengthen the process of making. To see - to indicate how to look at things from a different – still responsible – perspective.

To stimulate- to help to touch and overcome personal fragile limits.

To experience and express- to transform one self’s ideas and emotions into a performatic, not theatrical, work throughout different exercises.

To give- to offer keys to understand how a performance artist can approach the social environment and the spiritual development, by touching the fragile limits of one’s own Self- those limits that are not limiting at all, but rather purely constituent of one’s own human nature.

During the various exercises, in different conditions, the participants will be provided with tools to gradually conceive, create and realize a performance, using mainly their own bodies and memories as tools themselves.

The exercises are aimed to touch and develop the most inner human sensors in order to activate memories, to open our perception and to transform pure ideas into a concrete, primarily real action. Further, a specific goal is also to get distance from the mere being “virtuous” by establishing, valuating, and energizing the personal action.


- Comfortable clothes
- One object the participant feels related to (second day)
- One blanket and one cushion (second day)

Actions and exercises are innovative but inspired by Social Theatre, Grotowski, Barba, Leclerc, Dynamic Breathing and Re-Birthing Technique, Martial Arts, Sufi, Panic Theatre / Psycomagic (Jodorowski), Strasberg, Oida and others.

Body & Space / Time & Duration / Tension & Release / Voice & Sound / Emotional Atmosphere / Interactivity / Breath / Archetypes / Rituality / Memory activation / Observation of the silence.


Since 2006 Andrea Pagnes and Verena Stenke work together as VestAndPage.

Combining and crossing their former ways of expressions, - including techniques of make-up artistry, video, installation, poetry and sound - they found within Performance Art the perfect common ground to talk about topics they concern. They wish to arrive with the spectators to an intimate and sensorial shifting of reality and time, touching most inner human sensors.

Their performances and video works are presented at international festivals, exhibitions and encounters in Europe, Asia, South America and the U.S., among which the XIV Biennial BJCEM Skopje 2009, Visions In New York City, Zonadearte Buenos Aires, OPEN ’09 Festival Beijing, PIPAF Manila, Galata Perform Istanbul, Neu Kunsthalle Berlin, Kunsthaus Tacheles Berlin, Art Accion Mexico, Epipiderme Lisbon, LOGE Gallery Berlin, ArtKontakt Albania, Muliqui Prize Kosovo, 53° Venice Biennale, Arte Communications Venice, MyMementoVid Tel Aviv, and others as Human Emotion Project and Transit Station.

They perform, lecture and give workshops in international venues as the Bitef Teatar (Belgrade), Fabrica Braco de Prata (Lisbon), University La Salette (Santiago-Philippines), Momap (Florence), Deutsches Institute (Florence).

Andrea Pagnes and Verena Stenke

840 BROADWAY, 2nd Floor - Brooklyn
(646) 578-3402

J-M-Z train to Flushing or Myrtle
& walk 3 blocks east from Flushing,
or 3 blocks west from Myrtle
#840 Broadway, 2nd Floor (btwn. Ellery St. & Park Ave.)
entrance left of liquor store - ring top buzzer
call for more directions: (646) 578-3402

"Our mission is the glorification of performance art."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ghetto Biennale: Haiti Screening & Conversation w/ Port-Au-Prince artist André Eugene & Others

Artwork by André Eugene

What: Haiti Screening & Conversation w/ Port-Au-Prince artist André Eugene & Others
When: Thursday 03.18.10
Where: 16Beaver Street, 4th Floor
When: 7:30 pm
Who: Free and open to all

"This Thursday we will have a very special event with Port-Au-Prince based artist André Eugene, who is in New York for a few days during an exceptional visit. After screening Leah Gordon's ‘Atis-Rezistans: The Sculptors of Grand Rue' (34mins), André Eugene, and our other guests Laura Heyman, and Richard Fleming, will answer questions or comments in a general conversation about art and politics in Port-Au-Prince, the recent Ghetto Biennale that happened there, and the aftermath of the tragic earthquake, and the prospects for the future.

We are keeping to 16 Beaver's tradition of not charging anything for this event (our events are always free), a hat will be circulated for those who want to help with contributions for the Grand Rue community, as André Eugene will be flying back directly to Haiti, and is specifically in New
York to buy tents for people who have no shelter for the coming rain season.

The evening is an opportunity to have a group conversation with everyone in New York who knows and cares about Haiti, or art, politics, and international resistance struggles. Please forward and post to your lists."

2. About Port-Au-Prince based artist André Eugene, Laura Heyman, and
Richard Fleming

"André Eugene Andre Eugène is the progenitor of the Grand Rue artist movement in downtown Port au Prince. He fuses the fetish effigy with an apocalyptic futuristic vision. Much of his work is figurative using human skulls for heads and imbued with a bold sense of irony, sexuality and
humor. To learn more on him and the Grand Rue artists, see below text and link (3).

British photographer and filmmaker Leah Gordon first visited Haiti in 1991 and has built an extraordinary body of work over nineteen years. Her work does not merely articulate nostalgia for an authentic popular culture but positively celebrates the vivid potential of contemporary communal creativity in Haiti.

Richard Fleming is a writer and journalist with experience in Haiti. He is the author of 'Walking to Guantánamo'. You can learn more about his work at his blog.

Laura Heyman is an educator, photographer, artist and curator. She was a participant in last December's 'Ghetto Biennale' in Port-Au-Prince and will speak of her work and experience there."

3. About Leah Gordon's film 'Atis Rezistans, The Sculptors of the Grand Rue'

"The Grand Rue Sculptors are a community of artists living in a downtown slum neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This is the newest art community to have emerged in the last ten years. They have produced art that reflects a heightened, Gibsonesque, Lo-Sci-Fi, dystopian view of
their society, culture and religion, and have dragged Haitian art into the 21st century. Jean Herard Celeur, Andre Eugene and Guyodo are at the core of the movement, which contains seven or eight other younger artists, all producing powerful sculptural works. Their work has opened entirely new vistas into the creative possibilities of the Vodou-inspired arts of
Haiti. Their muscular sculptural collages of engine manifolds, computer entrails, TV sets, medical debris, skulls and discarded lumber transforms the detritus of a failing economy into deranged, post-apocalyptic totems."

To read texts, and see images of works about the Grand Rue, and its artists, visit here.

4. About the Ghetto Biennale: A Salon des Refusés for the 21st century (November-December 2009)

Please visit the Ghetto Biennale website for full information on participants, history, ideas, etc.

(The following text is just an introduction. The Biennale already happened, but written in present//future tense)

"What happens when first world art rubs up against third world art? Does it bleed?

In 2009 the 'Sculptors of Grand Rue' plan to hold their first 'Ghetto Biennale'. They are inviting fine artists, filmmakers, academics, photographers, musicians, architects and writers, to come to the Grand Rue area of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to make or witness work that will be shown
or happen, in their neighbourhood. In the words of the writer John Keiffer it will hopefully be a “'third space' event or moment created through a collaboration between artists from radically different backgrounds”. '

'The artists use all the detritus of a post-industrial global economy which uses Haiti as a dumping ground. They return the compliment, creating astounding bricolages and assemblages which express both the despair and the seemingly endless creativity of Haiti and Vodou. I have visited their ateliers on Haiti’s Grand Rue on several occasions over the last four
years. I have had a chance to see their sculptures as they were being wrought from their desperate materials in a scrap yard on this wreck of a street, in this wreck of a city, in this wreck of a country. Saying all that, I would also have to add that, like Haiti, their sculptures seem to
express the boundless creative energy of a people who are simultaneously the economically poorest, and artistically richest culture in the New World.'Professor Donald Cosentino, World Arts and Cultures, University of California-Los Angeles.

Forging a successful arts career is difficult for a downtown Haitian. Refused US entry visas, the Grand Rue sculptors were excluded from a private view of their work in a major museum in Miami. A lack of government support makes them economically excluded from all major
biennales. The artists have responded by hosting the 'Ghetto Biennale', the first arts festival located in a shantytown in the developing world. The event will explore what happens when artists from radically different backgrounds come together. When first world art objectives encounter third world artistic reality, and when Western artists try to make art in the
poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haitian artist, Andre Eugene says, 'the Ghetto Biennale represents positive change in my area and gives us the chance to show another face of life in the ghettos of Port-au-Prince. I think we have much to offer and much to learn.'

Malaysian artist, Simryn Gill, has said of her potential involvement in the 'Ghetto Biennale'.'The making of things, in the way that you describe Haitian artists doing, is very energising and attracting for me. Sometime it feels like we have left so behind us the acts of actually making,
forming, transforming materials with passion and courage, and art has become a kind of domain of cleverness, even timidity, in case we somehow show ourselves up in too much eagerness or insufficient wit or skill by making forms.'"

Kathy Acker, Andre Breton, Maya Deren, Katherine Dunham, Graham Greene, Jerzy Grotowski, Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, & Genesis P.Orridge all visited Haiti and made work inspired by their visit.
16 Beaver Group
16 Beaver Street, 4th / 5th fl.
New York, NY 10004

for directions/subscriptions/info visit:

4,5 Bowling Green
R,W Whitehall
2,3 Wall Street
J,M Broad Street
1,9 South Ferry

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rest in Peace Rachel Corrie (d. March 16, 2003)

Rachel Corrie (1979-2003)

Seven years ago today American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza. She was attempting to block the IDF from knocking down a Palestinian home using nonviolent passive resistance when she was run down by an oncoming IDF bulldozer... which then backed up over her. The incident was witnessed by a group of international activists. Richard Pursell, who was one of Corrie's fellow activists in the International Solidarity Movement, described the incident in a recent article in the Guardian UK. Guardian reporter Rory McCarthy reports from Haifa,

"Purssell, a Briton, now working as a landscape gardener, said he volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to witness events in the occupied Palestinian territories for himself. In Rafah he had been hoping to prevent the Israeli military from demolishing Palestinian homes. The organisation was strictly non violent, he said. 'Our role was to support Palestinian non-violent resistance.'

On the day of her death, 16 March 2003, Corrie was with seven other activists, including Purssell, in Rafah, close to the Israeli-guarded border with Egypt. They saw an Israeli military armoured Caterpillar D9 bulldozer approaching the house of a Palestinian doctor.

Purssell described how the bulldozer approached at a fast walking pace, its blade down and gathering a pile of soil in its path. When the bulldozer was 20 metres from the house Corrie, who like the others was wearing an orange fluorescent jacket, climbed on to the soil in front of it and stood 'looking into the cab of the bulldozer'.

'The bulldozer continued to move forward,' Purssell said. 'Rachel turned to come back down the slope. The earth is still moving and as she nears the bottom of the pile something happened which causes her to fall forward. The bulldozer continued to move forward and Rachel disappeared from view under the moving earth.'

The bulldozer continued forward four metres as the activists began to run forward and shout at the driver.

'It passed the point where Rachel fell, it stopped and reversed back along the track it first made. Rachel was lying on the earth,' Purssell said. 'She was still breathing.' Corrie was severely injured and died shortly afterwards.

The Israeli military says it bears no responsibility for Corrie's death. A month after her death the military said an investigation had determined its troops were not to blame; the driver of the bulldozer had not seen her and had not intentionally run her over. It accused Corrie and the ISM of behaviour that was 'illegal, irresponsible and dangerous'."

So, obviously she was asking for it. After all she was standing there is a bright orange safety vest, what did she think would happen?

McCarthy reports that Corrie's parents have initiated a civil case against Israel. The Corrie family lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, (dum, dum, dum!) said he would argue that Corrie's death was due either to gross negligence by the Israeli military or that it was intended. If the Israeli state is found responsible, the family will press for damages.

I would like to end with something positive. I don't want to be cynical because Rachel wasn't cynical... but I just can't. Not today.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Summer 2010: Art and Resistance

Jesusa Rodriguez. photo by Julio Pantoja

The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics


Summer 2010: Art and Resistance

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

July 19–August 6, 2010

Taught by Diana Taylor, Jesusa Rodríguez (Resistencia Creativa, Mexico), and Lorie Novak

This course explores the many ways in which artists and activists use art (performance, mural paintings, graffiti, writing, music) to make a social intervention in the Americas. We begin the course by examining several theories about art and activism (from Plato and Aristotle to Brecht, Boal, Buenaventura, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Foucault, among others) and then focus on issues of agency, space, event, and audience in relation to major political movements (revolution, dictatorship, democracy, globalization, and human rights) as seen in the work of major practitioners. Jesusa Rodriguez will lead an intensive one-week performance workshop as part of the course. Lorie Novak will discuss the use of the Internet as a site for activism, doumentation, and research, and will assist students in conceptualizing and realizing web-based projects. Performances, video screenings, guest lectures, and visits to FOMMA, Chiapas Media Project, a Zapatista community and other activist projects will provide an additional dimension to the questions raised by the theoretical readings and discussions. Students are encouraged to explore possibilities for practice-based research, develop their own sites of investigation, and share their work in a final presentation.

Students from all member institutions of the Hemispheric Institute are encouraged to apply. NYU students can take the course for 4 pts of graduate credit through the Department of Performance Studies, and students from other institutions can take the course for credit as independent study in their home universities. Students from non-member institutions will be considered for admission, though priority will be given to graduate students from member institutions.

Although bilinguality (English-Spanish) is a plus, it is not required. Students are encouraged to bring laptops and digital cameras to use for their projects.

Lab fee $1000

A lab fee will apply to all—$1000 for students in the U.S. Canada, and Europe, and $250 for those in Latin America. While housing and travel costs are separate, the Hemispheric Institute is negotiating very reasonable costs for room and board. All local expenses (performances, lectures, travel to local sites, etc., will be covered by the lab fee).

Download Application

The deadline for applications is May 1, 2010.

Download the announcement (PDF)


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Analysis: "Welcome to Israel, Joe!" by Yousef Munayyer

Reuters/ Ronen Zvulen

Analysis: "Welcome to Israel, Joe!"

by Yousef Munayyer

Originally posted at the Palestine Center

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Palestine Center Brief No. 193 (11 March 2010)

By Yousef Munayyer

When he visited the Middle East, then Senator Barack Obama had a rude awakening. He was on the ritual visit for American presidential candidates to Israel, which usually consist of touring sites of significance to Jews and declaring support for the state of Israel. This is important for American politicians who pay homage to an influential pro-Israel lobby, and it was even more important for President Obama. His background, his middle name, his father’s religion and his associations with Arabs and Muslims made him a target of critics who claimed he would be soft on security.

So, with a yarmulke upon his head, Barack Hussein Obama recited prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. But before his prayers could transcend the clouds and make it up to heaven, Obama was reminded just what he was getting into. In the crowd of onlookers and media that had formed around him, a heckler yelled out, “Jerusalem is ours, Obama. Jerusalem is not for sale, Obama.”

Though it is doubtful that the unidentified heckler was Binyamin Netanyahu, the current Israeli prime minister, the same message was sent to the Obama administration this week from the Israeli government. After months of disagreement with the Israelis over their settlement policy, Vice President Joe Biden became the highest ranking Obama administration official to visit Israel and he was greeted by the announcement of 1,600 new settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

Welcome to Israel, Joe.

Whether from hecklers or through government declarations the message from Israel to Washington is clear: we’ll take what we want and you cannot stop us. The problem is the message from Washington to Israel has been far too ambiguous. The Israeli government, addicted to gobbling up Palestinian land, is taking every opportunity to exploit this ambiguity and embarrass American and Palestinian officials while they are at it. Some argue that the Obama administration made a strategic mistake by raising expectations before guaranteeing full Israeli compliance with a settlement freeze. They are only partially right. The Obama administration was, in fact, right to raise expectations and capitalize on a wave of good faith resulting from a historic election welcomed around the world and in the Middle East in particular. The strategic mistake, and a big one at that, was the failure to apply the necessary pressure on Israel to force compliance with a full settlement freeze.

It has been said that to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results is insanity. Why then should the United States expect anything other than continued Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and in Jerusalem without applying the necessary sanctions to modify Israeli behavior? It is very clear, given the insulting announcement that the Israelis greeted Vice President Biden with, that asking them politely is simply not working.
For two decades of “peace process” the United States has failed to pressure Israel and, low and behold during this time period, settlements have only grown in size and population. In the last 20 years, the number of settlers on occupied Palestinian land has doubled and walls have been built around these Israeli colonies creating a near inextricable reality. If this doesn’t change, nothing will stop Israel from completing its colonial project and the world will continue to live with an apartheid state in its midst.

The tools for change have always been in Washington but domestic politics have always made selecting to use these tools unpopular choices. The U.S. Congress is staunchly pro-Israel and looks at the Middle East blindly following the whims of influential pro-Israel lobbies. Therefore, the Executive Branch will have to take unilateral steps to change the tone. The president has multiple tools at his disposal through the State Department, like the American vote in the Security Council, for example, which has been the single veto on nearly 40 occasions to save Israel from condemnation.

Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to be visiting DC at the end of this month; interestingly President Obama is conveniently scheduled to be traveling at the same time. Wouldn’t it be fitting for the White House to take a page from Israel’s book and announce a halt to U.S. support while the Israeli prime minister is in Washington?

Maybe, just maybe, if we communicated with the Israelis through a method they are familiar with they will finally get the message.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Center. This policy brief may be used without permission but with proper attribution to the Center.

Monday, March 8, 2010

This is Worldtown Magazine Feature on Me

Garrotte (Sex Doll) Joseph Shahadi,
Digital C-Print 24" x 30" from the series
TV Eros

Speaking of shameless self-promotion...

The web magazine This is Worldtown has done a feature on me and my artwork illustrated with images from my series TV Eros. TIWT founders Sana Malik and Ausma Malik write,

"Representations of youth from immigrant and ethnic minority backgrounds are usually created in the context of crisis, as so-called failures of integration, or as ethnicized trends in fashion and music. This is Worldtown aims to challenge this notion and the inauthentic representations of this generation which are often lumped together merely on the basis of race, religion or background.

As a webzine, This is Worldtown offers an edgy take on our collective yet varied experiences by providing features on politics, popular culture and individual perspectives."

And in the feature on my work I write,

"I have always been fascinated with in-between states. I think that is partly my personality and partly because I’m Arab American: in the culture but not of it. My grandparents immigrated to the US from Lebanon at the beginning of the 20th century and I grew up watching cartoons, reading comic books and drawing in my sketchpad, dreaming. When I was a kid my father called me into his workshop in the garage and showed me an old National Geographic pictorial of Beirut from before it was broken into a million pieces. We stood there flipping through it and he said, “This is what it looked like…it was beautiful” A few years later my dad was dead and like Beirut he was only alive for me in pictures. In the world of pictures, nothing ever goes all the way away. But it does. And we are between the two, staying and going, always. We are lousy with ghosts.

I grew up to be an artist to try and make sense of this."

... Go and check out the magazine and leave a comment.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Link Round Up: Israeli Apartheid Week Edition

Israeli Apartheid Week gets a lot of coverage elsewhere so I didn't focus on it this year but I thought I'd do a link round up that covered some of the themes and events around the occupation in the last year. This is by no means comprehensive, and some of these links are a few months old, but I thought taken together they paint a picture of the current arguments against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

1) Pushing the boundaries of identity: an interview with Jennifer Jajeh

Electronic Intfifada (ei) has published a great interview with actress, playwright and performer Jennifer Jajeh about her one-woman show I Heart Hamas and Other Things I am Afraid to Tell You, which premiered at the New York Fringe Festival in 2008. Jajeh has subsequently performed her show all over the United States and ei contributor Uda Olabarria Walker interviewed her before a Minneapolis performance. The interview is really interesting but I was particularly taken with the eloquent way Jajeh addresses the -- internal and external-- pressures on how she identifies and represents herself.

Jennifer Jajeh says, "I grew up with a split life, half Palestinian and half American --where the two identities were very separate -- to becoming an adult and combining the two. It wasn't until I went to Palestine that I really figured out what it meant for me to be Palestinian on a personal level and what part of that identity felt vital for me. As far as becoming radicalized, it first had to do with pure anger at what I experienced on the ground in Palestine, but now it's about challenging the status quo both externally and within the Palestinian community about what it means to be Palestinian and raising the difficult questions. It was also really important for me to claim my space as a Palestinian woman and look into what it means to be a woman in my community and what the role of women is in the struggle inside and outside that space. So, part of becoming radicalized was also about being a Palestinian woman who openly challenges my own community's ideas about women's roles, sexual mores and religious affiliations and divides. This has been really liberating... The second half of the show is about me coming to terms with the political part of my identity when I go back to Ramallah at the beginning of the second [Palestinian] intifada. But still, the politics are not the only thing that defines me as a Palestinian. There are a variety of Palestinian experiences and if I can get people to sit down and listen to just one of them for an hour and a half, I see it as a major accomplishment. If I have been able to create the space for people to explore the complexity of identity, I have also done well. This is what I'm trying to do with the show; explore identity and raise questions, not push a political agenda."

Of course, I'd argue that raising questions about identity, especially in an Arab/American context-- and extra-especially in relation to the Intifada, is a political agenda in the best sense. But I understand and agree with Jajeh's larger point: it is exhausting to have to always deal with the reduction of your entire identity to an image defined by other people's political notions.

For more information about Jennifer Jajeh and I Heart Hamas check out her website.

It's Not about Islam & Judaism, It's About Anti-Colonialism, Territory, Liberation, and Lives

Washington Note has published a guest note by journalist and Middle East expert Nir Rosen, responding to the "outrageous oped by Efraim Karsh" in the February 28th Sunday New York Times. It is incredibly frustrating to read the usual fear mongering in the overwhelming majority of the mainstream press about Palestine/Israel... and the Karsh Op Ed rehearses most of the usual Zionist "lies, distortions and mistakes" on the topic. Which is why Rosen's response is so minty fresh in its perfect directness.

Rosen writes, "Karsh mentions some sort of '100-year war between Arabs and Jews.' There is no 100 year war between Arabs and Jews. There is a 100 year colonial struggle between Zionist Jews and the Palestinian people (and briefly the Lebanese as well).

He hopes that the 'Islamic nation can make peace with the idea of Jewish statehood in the House of Islam.' Its not about Jewish statehood in the house of Islam.

Its about Zionist Jewish settlers dispossessing the Palestinians and occupying Palestinian land. And killing Palestinians. Its not a religious conflict. Its a territorial one, an anti-colonial one, a national liberation struggle, even if the discourse used these days to describe it is often religious.

'Muslim states threaten Israel's existence not so much out of concern for the Palestinians, but rather as part of a holy war to prevent the loss of a part of the House of Islam,' he says. He is lying. Who is he talking about? Iran?

Even if that was a real threat and not merely grandstanding, who else is there? the Saudis, the Turks, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and others all collaborate with Israel. Syria?

Hardly a threat and eager for peace as long as it can regain the occupied Golan heights. And the Israeli police force could conquer Syria in a few hours. Hizballah? Not a state and not trying to destroy Israel but merely protect Lebanese territory.

Hizballah threatens a bloody revenge if Israel attacks Lebanon, but that's it. And he is also lying when he says that Muslim states believe in some kind of holy war to prevent the loss of a part of the house of Islam. Which Muslim state? Nobody talks like this or says these things... Karsh is a third rate academic who clearly has not visited much of the "Muslim World" about which he writes with generalizations, clichés, racism, Orientalism and a right wing pro Israeli agenda."

Um, word.

3) Palestine-- The View from South Africa

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign has reprinted an essay by Alain Gresh from Le Monde Diplomatique, which is unfortunately only available to subscribers. On the occasion of the 2009 Israeli assault on Gaza Gresh explores the historical connections between Apartheid South Africa and Israel. He writes, " The bedrock of the relationship between the two countries was in the first instance economic, under the aegis of the Histadrut (the 'socialist' trade union congress), which controlled a significant part of the Israeli economy during the 1970s and 1980s. Through the Hevrat Haovdim company, it enjoyed a quasi-monopoly over trade with South Africa. The kibbutzim played a part too: the Lohamei Hagetot ('fighters of the ghetto') kibbutz, founded by Jews from eastern Europe who had fought the Nazis, ran the Kama chemical plant in the Kwazulu Bantustan.

When it came to the military and security, the alliance between the two countries took on a strategic dimension. Israel helped South Africa become a nuclear power.

The Israeli military attaché in Pretoria was a high-ranking officer who was a member of the General Staff Forum (the only other Israeli military attaché to hold such high rank was based in Washington). Israeli arms were manufactured under license in South Africa... (And) Brigadier 'Rooi Rus' Swanepoel, the main interrogator in the Rivonia trial of 1964 at which Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment, was a regular guest of the Israelis in the 1970s. Swanepoel, who set up the counter-insurrection squads in Namibia, was known as the 'beast of Soweto' for the way in which he crushed the revolt in the township leading to the loss of hundreds of lives. Uri Dan, meanwhile, a journalist and adviser to Ariel Sharon, proclaimed his admiration for the South African army."

4) Tutu to Haaretz: Arabs Paying the Price of the Holocaust

Haaretz correspondent Akiva Eldar reported on Tutu's response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement in Germany last August that "the lesson of the Holocaust is that Israel should always defend itself." Tutu responded to this assertion, which justifies the occupation of Palestine (among other things ::cough::) saying, "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."

Eldar writes, quoting the Nobel Prize laureate, " 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. (Tutu said) '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... (Under Apartheid black South Africans) 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...

(Tutu concluded) I hope your society will evolve."

5) Taher Herzallah: Heckling Israeli ambassador at UCI was right

The Orange County Register published this op ed by Taher Herzallah, the University of California at Riverside student who was among the protesters who booed the Israeli Ambassador when he spoke at UCI. Herzallah, who grew up in Gaza, writes, "I know the pain of Israel's brutal military tactics firsthand. Three members of my immediate family were killed in Gaza last year during 'Operation Cast Lead,' in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,300 wounded. Since then, Israel has launched a massive propaganda campaign to transform its image from a war machine to a victimized democracy. Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, represents the face of this campaign.

During his recent appearance at UC Irvine, I took a stand against Oren and the brutal state he represents. I spoke out well within the bounds of my right to free speech and in the peaceful, nonviolent manner adopted by the likes of Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since that day, I, along with the other protestors, have been dubbed by the media as the 'Irvine 11'... Time and again, hecklers and protestors have been afforded their full First Amendment right of freedom of speech, including at UCI. I cherish this American tradition and am consequently troubled that I am not afforded the same protections as students elsewhere voicing their dissent. Today, I face criminal and university disciplinary action. I suspect that I am being punished because of strict limits on pro-Palestinian speech."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Jig Is Up at the Dog Park

Dog Park by Michael Johnson

(The image of "Dog Park" is available on notecards, t-shirts and other gift items.
The proceeds go to the Land of PureGold Foundation, Inc. to raise money for cancer research in dogs.

I have lived in New York for years and I still have no idea who my neighbors are... and vice-versa. (One day last year I came home at the same time as my neighbor-- a woman I know only as Asian Businesswoman-- who asked me when I'd moved into the building and when I said "Eight years ago" she nodded curtly, went into her apartment and closed the door.) I am A-okay with that. New York is a lot of work, socially speaking. There are way too many people living here and sometimes it feels like they are all on the same subway car. Also, because of my work, my life is filled with intense interactions about racial and ethnic identity, art, politics, and culture etc. so when I come home I need some space around me to relax. It sounds self-indulgent, and maybe it is, but I often have nothing left for hi-bye-can-you-believe-this-weather with random people. And it has always seemed perfectly mutual.

But then I got a dog.

Now smiling strangers approach me with alarming regularity: I may as well live in Mayberry. For the dog, who assumes that everyone loves him and accepts compliments on his beauty as a matter of course, this is perfectly natural, but I find it disconcerting... Unless I am at the dog park, standing around with the other schmucks who love their dogs too much. At the dog park I will happily engage in mindless small talk about the respective merits of various brands of expensive, premium dog food. At the dog park I am the Noel Coward of boring, dog-related conversations. Of course, it doesn't hurt that my dog is such a joker. He races around acting the fool, trying to get the other dogs to chase him, stealing mittens out of pockets and shoving his snout into the behinds of women I do not know, prompting laughter and apologies.

Dog parks have their own social ecology; relationships are defined by whose dog plays with whose, who remembers to bring water, who pretends not to see when their dog poops at the other end of the park so they can stay seated under the tree, etc. etc. We see each other around the same time every day, watch each others dogs and share responsibility for keeping them safe. So despite my best efforts at amused detachment, I have kind of gotten to know these people.

Kind of.

I don't actually know their names. I think of them as Russian Girl And Her Boyfriend, Guy With A Baseball Cap, Old Guy and Other Old Guy etc. This half-knowing is pleasant. We don't talk about anything important. We tell funny stories, give and take dog advice and take turns watching the dogs run around in a circle. It's nice.

So the other day in the park, as my dog was racing around I wandered over to Middle Aged Hippie With An Androgynous Biracial Child who was chatting with Old Guy about... Middle Eastern politics. Ruh-roh. Old Guy was saying something along the lines of "... those people can't be trusted" (who could he be talking about? ) and Middle Aged Hippie protested, "But...uh, what about the Lebanese, for example?"

And before I could stop myself--or maybe to stop them, I'm not sure-- I piped up and said "I am, actually. Lebanese."

They both looked at me. "Well, " I thought, "The jig is up." When I was a kid I was very jealous of people with darker skin and more initially obvious ethnic differences, because even if it is bad news, they always know where they stand with people right away. With me, especially in neutral-seeming situations like this, there is always a point where my "other-ness" becomes apparent and I can never predict how it'll go.

Middle Aged Hippie asked immediately , "Are you a Muslim or a Christian?"

Here we go.

"I'm Christian. A Maronite Catholic." He nodded as if I'd given the right answer, while Old Guy narrowed his eyes at me and said nothing. I could feel a door closing in him. Before it could get any more awkward Russian Girl strolled up and said, smiling, "Lebanese? My boyfriend is Lebanese."

(I made the mental adjustment; Russian Girl and Her Lebanese Boyfriend)

"Yeah," I said, "We're everywhere."

And then our dogs ran up in a tangle of tongues and legs and our attention shifted to them. I made an effort to smile and drifted away from their conversation, stung. It sounds ridiculous to say but the dog park had seemed almost Utopian, all different breeds running around, having a good time together. And their people, all gathered for the same purpose and united in our love for our pets, seemed like a reflection of this. But I was wrong. The world isn't outside the dog park, the dog park is in the world. And, stupidly, I felt the loss of it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Smearing of Rashad Hussain by Marc Lynch

The Smearing of Rashad Hussain

by Marc Lynch

originally published at Foreign Policy magazine

"Rashad Hussain's appointment as the Obama administration's envoy to the Organization of Islamic Countries, part of the broader strategy of outreach to the Muslim world, was as welcome as it was overdue. Hussain, a lawyer who had been working in the White House counsel's office and also working with the NSC on Muslim engagement, seemed an excellent pick. The announcement in Doha showed a renewed sense of urgency about delivering on the promise of Obama's Cairo speech to the Muslim world. It is good to see a Muslim appointed to such a position. After the failed Christmas bombing most would agree that the task of combatting violent extremism is as urgent a national security priority as ever.

But then, an all-too-familiar script began to play out. A paper-thin but insinuation-heavy hit piece laid out the template for a rapidly unfolding smear campaign: damning him by association for appearances at various events sponsored by Muslim organizations, for being on the "wrong" side of a number of controversial trials of Muslims (as if there were only one legitimate perspective on those hotly contested issues), and of allegedly doctoring the record of comments about Sami al-Arian (see Daveed Gartenstein-Ross's detailed, rigorous analysis of the textual evidence which decisively debunks the charge). The hit piece was quickly picked up by the noise machine and disseminated through a range of right wing blogs and websites, migrating seamlessly to Fox News and Politico, and becoming the fodder for another manufactured scandal of the day. Within days, it has become standard to describe Hussain as a "terrorist sympathizer"... and the hate is flowing. It is no less despicable for being so commonplace.

One irony is that Hussain is actually one of those Muslims who has been speaking out against extremism, forcefully and eloquently, and whose role in Muslim engagement was explicitly focused on building alliances with Muslims around the world to marginalize al-Qaeda. In a Brookings paper published in 2008, Hussain wrote that "[T]he terrorist ideology is advocated by small, fringe groups and rejected by a vast majority of Muslims . . . as American policymakers and leaders have recognized, Islam rejects terrorism." He argued that "there exists a near-unanimous, overwhelmingly accepted view among Islamic scholars rejecting terrorism and the practice of takfir to justify terrorism." He went on to argue that "If the global coalition to stop Al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups is to succeed, it must convince potential terrorists that Islam requires them to reject terrorism." Indeed, he argued, "The most paramount task for the global counterterrorism coalition is to emphasize that engaging in terrorism is antithetical to the shari’ah, or Islamic law." This is not a close call.

That a Muslim who has written so powerfully against extremism and terrorism is nevertheless so casually tarred as a terrorist sympathizer is shameful. It is also strategically dangerous. Those serious about counter-terrorism and combatting violent extremism now mostly understand that such campaigns also have the potential to deal a sharp blow against U.S. efforts to combat violent extremism and to counter al-Qaeda's narrative. It threatens to offer ammunition to al-Qaeda's claim that the U.S. is at war with Islam, not with "extremism", and to sabotage Obama's efforts to establish a new narrative. Hussain's critics know perfectly well that he's not a terrorist and doesn't support terrorism, and probably understand that their campaign against him will have a negative impact on the Muslim community in America and beyond. Evidently they don't care.

Fortunately, the story doesn't end there. The bright spot in this sordid affair has been the willingness of a few national security experts on the hawkish side of the spectrum to stand up in public and denounce the railroading of Hussain. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, wrote a powerful personal defense of Hussein as primarily motivated by civil liberties concerns, not by Islamism. He took that defense on TV, where he had to face the wild-eyed insanity of Frank Gaffney (apparently, memorizing the Quran is evidence of extremism) and to confont head-on the madness of the anti-Islamic post-9/11 fringe. Some other conservative national security experts rose to Gartenstein-Ross's defense -- I'll single out Max Boot and Eli Lake, though they certainly aren't the only ones. For others, well, welcome to the Islamofascist stealth jihad, ya Daveed.

The response of these national security conservatives has been heartening. There's more and more understanding of the importance of disaggregating the challenge, placing al-Qaeda and the jihadist movement as a dangerous but tiny fringe movement rather than lumping together all Islamists or Muslims. Pushing back against this campaign is important just as it was essential to not over-react after Fort Hood or the Christmas bombing. So is the response of the White House, which has stood fast against the smears rather than folding at the first sign of an attack. Hopefully both national-security conservatives and the White House will continue to do so. If sensible people stand up against these contemptible smears, it could send a powerful message that the days of such intimidation and smear campaigns are past. Let's hope."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Joseph Keckler Performance/Artist Talk at New York University

Joseph Keckler by Gian Maria Annovi

NYU's Department of Performance Studies presents the first event in this year's Performance Studies Lecture Forum: JOSEPH KECKLER.

Joseph Keckler is a performance artist, writer, and singer. His work explores the gap between theater and life, establishing unexpected connections between art, identity, and contemporary alienation. In his performances, he fuses story-telling with an elastic, classically trained, and chameleonic three-octave voice to create one-person fantasias which bring the banal to operatic intensity. Keckler’s pieces have been featured on NPR, The Sundance Channel, and, and he has performed at HERE, Living Theater, Galapagos Art Space, London’s Duckie, Abron Arts Center, SF MOMA, The Player’s Club, Dixon Place, The Guggenheim, as well as other venues in New York City, nationally, and abroad.

Please join us on TUESDAY MARCH 2ND, 7-8:30PM to see Joseph Keckler discuss and perform his work.

Located in the Performance Studies Studio at Tisch School of the Arts (721 Broadway, 6th Floor)

FREE. Reception (with free food and drinks!) following talk.

No reservations required for NYU students and faculty.
Non NYU-affiliated folks please RSVP to:

The Performance Studies Lecture Forum is a series of evening events featuring preeminent scholars and practitioners in the fields of art and performance. The events are presented on weekday evenings in the department's studio space, and are designed to create an informal and intimate setting for intellectual exchange among artists, students and scholars.