Truth in Advertising: The US

Truth in Advertising: The US is Walking a Scary Line, and Thomas Friedman
Granted, the Paletinians are subjugated by the military powers of Israel. However, as Thomas Friedman well argues below, it’s quite scary when the United States (the world’s oldest and largest supporter of democracy in the Middle East) votes against Israel in the Security Council. This is, to me, a shift in global policy of massive proportions. Why is no one point this out? More fearful to me is that, with Israel let go, Jews in the US and perhaps then Canada will be considered illegitimate neighbors, as they once were only 60 years ago in democratic nations across the ocean.
Paranoid? Absolutely. But remember: the Berlin Wall fell in one day. The Soviet Union is now a pile of cute rubble. And Afghanistan is now under the control of an intellectual moderate while the World Trade Center lies in ruins and the Pentagon undergoes repair. National policy changes quickly and the U.S. response to this fight/war does not bode well for Jews, here or in Israel, IMHO. It’s more than problematic.. It’s time to rethink, for Jews, once again, our diasporic dilemma. More:
March 31, 2002 – New York Times
Suicidal Lies
The outcome of the war now under way between the Israelis and Palestinians is vital to the security of every American, and indeed, I believe, to all of civilization. Why? Quite simply because Palestinians are testing out a whole new form of warfare, using suicide bombers — strapped with dynamite and dressed as Israelis — to achieve their political aims. And it is working.
Israelis are terrified. And Palestinians, although this strategy has wrecked their society, feel a rising sense of empowerment. They feel they finally have a weapon that creates a balance of power with Israel, and maybe, in their fantasies, can defeat Israel. As Ismail Haniya, a Hamas leader, said in The Washington Post, Palestinians have Israelis on the run now because they have found their weak spot. Jews, he said, “love life more than any other people, and they prefer not to die.” So Palestinian suicide bombers are ideal for dealing with them. That is really sick.
The world must understand that the Palestinians have not chosen suicide bombing out of “desperation” stemming from the Israeli occupation. That is a huge lie. Why? To begin with, a lot of other people in the world are desperate, yet they have not gone around strapping dynamite to themselves. More important, President Clinton offered the Palestinians a peace plan that could have ended their “desperate” occupation, and Yasir Arafat walked away. Still more important, the Palestinians have long had a tactical alternative to suicide: nonviolent resistance, à la Gandhi. A nonviolent Palestinian movement appealing to the conscience of the Israeli silent majority would have delivered a Palestinian state 30 years ago, but they have rejected that strategy, too.
The reason the Palestinians have not adopted these alternatives is because they actually want to win their independence in blood and fire. All they can agree on as a community is what they want to destroy, not what they want to build. Have you ever heard Mr. Arafat talk about what sort of education system or economy he would prefer, what sort of constitution he wants? No, because Mr. Arafat is not interested in the content of a Palestinian state, only the contours.
Let’s be very clear: Palestinians have adopted suicide bombing as a strategic choice, not out of desperation. This threatens all civilization because if suicide bombing is allowed to work in Israel, then, like hijacking and airplane bombing, it will be copied and will eventually lead to a bomber strapped with a nuclear device threatening entire nations. That is why the whole world must see this Palestinian suicide strategy defeated.
But how? This kind of terrorism can be curbed only by self-restraint and repudiation by the community itself. No foreign army can stop small groups ready to kill themselves. How do we produce that deterrence among Palestinians? First, Israel needs to deliver a military blow that clearly shows terror will not pay. Second, America needs to make clear that suicide bombing is not Israel’s problem alone. To that end, the U.S. should declare that while it respects the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism, it will have no dealings with the Palestinian leadership as long as it tolerates suicide bombings. Further, we should make clear that Arab leaders whose media call suicide bombers “martyrs” aren’t welcome in the U.S.
Third, Israel must tell the Palestinian people that it is ready to resume talks where they left off with Mr. Clinton, before this intifada. Those talks were 90 percent of the way toward ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state. Fourth, U.S. or NATO troops must guarantee any Israeli-Palestinian border.
“The Spanish Civil War was the place where the major powers all tested out their new weapons before World War II,” said the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi. “Well, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today is the Spanish Civil War for the 21st century. A big test is taking place of whether suicide terrorism can succeed as a strategy for liberation. It must be defeated, but that requires more than a military strategy.”
The Palestinians are so blinded by their narcissistic rage that they have lost sight of the basic truth civilization is built on: the sacredness of every human life, starting with your own. If America, the only reality check left, doesn’t use every ounce of energy to halt this madness and call it by its real name, then it will spread. The Devil is dancing in the Middle East, and he’s dancing our way.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

I see that I'm now

I see that I’m now a user of the “pro2” server of Blogger Pro. Very cool that Blogger is doing so well. I just wish “ev” would figure out a way to make his toolbars in Mac more user friendly. Who the hell wants to type in a href=”…. all the time. Half the time I can’t even find the “=” sign. What are we, coders?
I want to make another plug for Nutshell, a toolbar that sits in your IE 5.5+ toolbar and makes Google and Amazon searches excellent. Kottke, of course, found it.
Speaking of Amazon, here’s a shameless plug for my friend, Professor Richard Lee, who has his book on medieval philosophy there — I designed the cover. Oh, did I mention, there’s only ONE left (at Amazon)?

Israel Oh man, I don't

Oh man, I don’t like the fact that the US is not on its side right now in this one. I think they went too far with Arafat but look, he pushed their buttons. All the man had to do was once, publicly, on a public stage, say “This will not stand, I will stand for it, and there must be a stop to Palestinian violence against civilians.” He never did that, and he is now suffering from his stupidity and arrogance. I’m afraid he will become a martyr and then we’ll have real trouble.
I’m mostly worried about Israel’s little existence right now and whether it will be around 10 years from now. The Palestinians, while completely powerless and political pawns for the past 30 years, must also realize that Israel is their neighbor. The old Woody Allen line applies: “The lion will someday lie down with the lamb. Except the lamb won’t get much sleep.” In this case, my fear is that the lamb is the Israelis.

More on Mirroring Evil This

More on Mirroring Evil
This is a great little piece of work by Peter Schjeldahl about the Jewish Museum’s “controversial” show. I actually think he’s right on. (And I am hoping to be writing about Polish artists and their visionary strength with regard to the Holocaust sometime soon.)
March 29, 2002 | home – The New Yorker.
The Jewish Museum revisits the Nazis.
Issue of 2002-04-01
Posted 2002-03-25
Ten years ago, Bruce Nauman was asked by officials in Hannover, Germany, to conceive a Holocaust memorial for their city. He came up with an idea that has become a cherished legend in the art world, although he eventually decided against proposing it. The work would feature a sign that said, “We are sorry for what we did, and we promise not to do it again.” When I tell people about this, they invariably crack up. What’s so hilarious? I think it’s the succinctness of the statement: Nauman isolated the two emotions—remorse and repentance—that are the rhetorical burden of any German memorial to the Holocaust, and he stripped them of folderol. When you think about it, for fifty-seven years an apology and an assurance have been what the world has wanted to hear from Germany and, really, all that the world has wanted to hear. Whatever else might be said has belonged to the victims. Of course, with the dying out of the Second World War generation, this state of affairs was bound to change. Today, both direct responsibility and proprietary grievance regarding the Holocaust are expiring like patents, and the business of reflecting on it has become a free-for-all.
An unsurprising controversy surrounded the Jewish Museum’s daring exhibition “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/ Recent Art” well before it opened, on March 17th. The show represents thirteen mostly young, little-known conceptual artists from seven countries and makes a case, in the words of its curator, Norman Kleeblatt, for “works in which viewers would encounter the perpetrators face to face in scenarios in which ethical and moral issues cannot be easily resolved.” The idea of artists making clever works about the Holocaust struck many observers as an unacceptable offense to the sensitivities, even posthumous ones, of survivors. Others countered by ritually endorsing art’s mission to challenge conventional thinking—a conventional thought if ever there was one. Few took account of the show’s unacknowledged but obvious inspiration: “The Producers.” Now, I am among those who deem “The Producers,” on either stage or screen, the funniest thing that ever was. Its effect is what a baby feels while playing peekaboo: laughter as an explosive release from anxiety. We were afraid that Adolf Hitler would keep making us feel bad forever, but you know what? He’s dead, and we’re not. In “Mirroring Evil,” only one of the nineteen works has a Brooksian zing to it, but the show plainly owes its timing to Max Bialystock’s reign on Broadway.
Talk about bad taste? Let’s. Most of “Mirroring Evil” fails not out of irreverence but out of inchoate earnestness. Take Zbigniew Libera’s “Lego Concentration Camp Set,” which consists of seven imprinted boxes picturing what the title describes. Rather than flip off fear, this lugubrious sally diffuses it, contaminating an excellent toy to no cogent end. There are significant and trivial varieties of shock in art. The significant kind—the onset of Impressionism, Marcel Duchamp’s urinal, “Springtime for Hitler”—abruptly heralds a sea change in culture. Trivial shock diddles the status quo, altering nothing. It’s very easy to achieve: just cross discordant wires and dig the fleeting spark. The show’s artists do this by short-circuiting Nazism with references to childhood (Libera’s Lego piece), commerce (Libera again), and sex. Sex especially. Dilettantish sadomasochism—giddily eroticizing themes of cruel power—abounds at the Jewish Museum.
Piotr Uklanski, from Poland, displays a hundred and forty-seven alluring color prints of actors in Nazi roles. (Clint Eastwood musters a terrific look; David Niven is pathetic.) Less entertaining is a video montage by Maciej Toporowicz, another Polish artist, that includes shots of Calvin Klein ads and body-beautiful Nazi propaganda. What these things have in common—solemn smut—is simply insufficient. (Why this seemingly irresistible urge to pair Nazism with consumer goods, as if they partook of a common essence? When the artist Tom Sachs displays a model concentration camp made from a Prada box, isn’t he holding the power of Prada in excessive awe? And when the English artist Alan Schechner digitally inserts himself, holding a Diet Coke can, in a picture of Buchenwald inmates, I quit.) The Israeli Roee Rosen contributes an extended fantasy, in words and drawings, about Eva Braun’s having goodbye sex with Hitler in the bunker; it seems to have been fine, shivery fun for the artist. Over all, the show suggests an emergency ward for cases of toxic narcissism.
The day is enlivened, if not saved, by a piece that recalls both Brooks and Nauman. For “Hebrew Lesson,” a repeating thirteen-second video, the Israeli artist Boaz Arad spliced together isolated words and syllables from films of Hitler’s speeches to create a herky-jerky but intelligible sentence in Hebrew: “Shalom, Yerushalayim, ani mitnatzel” (“Hello, Jerusalem, I apologize”). Shots of the dictator in impressive settings flash by. At the video’s end, he is glimpsed ducking his head and smoothing his hair with both hands, in that self-adoring, epicene way he had. Delivering a touch of the sublime, Arad deals successfully with a crucial issue that the other artists in “Mirroring Evil” furtively exploit: Nazism’s aesthetic appeal.
I think that we could save ourselves a great deal of intellectual backing and filling by accepting Nazism—along with everything else that it was—as one of the twentieth century’s major stylistic movements. Leni Riefenstahl’s films, Albert Speer’s architecture, the choreographed rallies, those uniforms, and the Nazi flag were creative feats. Why pretend otherwise? Giving the Devil his due is an intelligent preparation for defeating him. The bulk of the work in “Mirroring Evil” smugly suggests that we are in denial about Nazism’s seductive resources. The more conscious we are of the limited but potent attraction of Nazi culture, the less its redolence will strike third-rate artists as a surefire ticket to sensation.

Artists Based on what I

Based on what I saw yesterday (see below), here’s a short list of artists I’d like to see more of:
Christian Jankowski – blurring the line between fictive video and documentary religious television programming
Evan Holloway – a man taking many drugs creating beautiful three-dimensional hallucinations
Margaret Kilgallen – her death still does not make sense to me and her hand and eyes were masterful
Joe Gibbons – documentary that really does try to show us what it is like to be what we think we are, incredible video
Boaz Arad – making Hitler apologize for his crimes is nothing short of sensitively smart
Piotr Uklanski – another example in which Poles are better at making art about genocide than Americans, French, or Brits

Art I went to see

I went to see both the Whitney Biennial today and the Jewish Museum show called “Mirroring Evil.” I went with my ol’ pal, Mary, who is probably closer to me with regard to aesthetic sensibility and sensitivity than almost anyone.
Revelations were as follows:
1. The Biennial was almost completely lackluster save for a few video pieces by a guy named Janowicz in which he fakely or not recreated an evangelical television show while the artist lay on the pulpit, video camera in hand. Very hard to explain but quite mesmerizing and brilliant — so complete with irony that it was serious.
2. I’m now no longer moving forward in making art but up and down. In fact, as Mary said, the axis changes or has changed when you reach our near middle age of 30-middle-something. Instead of the horizontal, you go vertical, deeper into yourself and your own definition of self and higher into greater realms of increasingly spiritual difficulty.
3. Further to this, I made the realization that I am really only interested in art that either attempts to connect with the spiritual or psychic depths of the world or demonstrates a certain inability to connect or misconnect with that same thing. It’s the faith or faithful ambivalence of art-making that I’m really dedicated to — in fact, it’s always been that way, but now I just have no time for critique of commodity fetishism, illustrations of race baiting, or pointing out the fallacies of 1960s hippie culture.
4. Someone needs to write (very soon) a piece about the Jewish Museum and its inability to focus on work that is actually revelatory about the Holocaust and its horrors. I mean, art should rarely be about something as horrific as the Holocaust anyway. But the reality is that the best art in the show is by Polish artists — the ones closest to the horror that was and continues to be in the backyard.
5. I really thought Maciej’s work was a breakthrough at the show — it showed a rich video tapestry of 1990s commercial fashion photography interpolating 1940s commercial fascism photography and film. So much more rich than his ealier pieces ten years ago – I am a newfound fan.

The air is swarming with

The air is swarming with pieces about the Jewish Museum and the work of a number of artists I admire, including Maciej Toporowicz. As a record of this, take a look at this Op-Ed from the New York Times, dated Friday, March 22, 2002:
The Art of Banality
March 22, 2002
Few exhibitions of contemporary art have come into the
world more shrouded in exegesis than “Mirroring Evil: Nazi
Imagery/Recent Art,” which opened last week at the Jewish
Museum in Manhattan. The catalog is a briar patch of
rhetorical questions and explanatory negotiations, and that
spirit is echoed on the wall text in the gallery rooms. The
exhibition reads as though its real purpose were to watch
the reactions of viewers, as though this were mainly an
exhibition about the act of exhibiting. This seems awfully
devious in a room where Prada, Chanel, the swastika and the
Führer’s mustache intermingle in some all-too-simple
Several of the artists seem determined to persuade viewers
of an equivalence between the icons of the Third Reich and
those of global capitalism. But too often Hitler merely
provides a lens for looking at the problem of celebrity. In
“Obsession,” a film by Maciej Toporowicz, film clips from
“The Night Porter,” “The Damned” and Leni Riefenstahl’s
work bleed into ads for Calvin Klein perfumes starring Kate
Moss. This is history as resemblance. There is a vague
facial similarity between Ms. Moss and Charlotte Rampling,
who played a camp survivor in “The Night Porter,” but the
real allusion lies in their thinness.
If there is bankruptcy here, it lies in the kind of
commentary that accompanies a film like “Obsession.” “Whom
do we blame for the imagery that fascinates us?” asks
Norman Kleeblatt, the curator of this exhibition. “Why do
we continue to look? What makes us voyeurs?” This tone is
all too familiar to audiences of contemporary art these
days. It presupposes the fundamental innocence of the
artist and the collusive guilt of the viewer, who has had
the indecency to stop and look.
In a way, the most these artists can do, when it comes to
transforming the imagery of the Third Reich, is to suggest
how profoundly our culture has itself transformed that
imagery since the early 1940’s. Yet these artists have the
collective disadvantage of working in the shadow of
“Hogan’s Heroes” and “The Producers,” as well as in the far
more forbidding shadow of the kind of fervent anti-Semitism
evident recently in an article in a Saudi Arabian newspaper
repeating the so-called “blood libel” against Jews. There
is a stunning imbalance between such real-world hostility,
of which Nazism was the nadir, and the self-evident
juxtapositions that tend to rule the art in this
exhibition. Many people have worried that the show would
offend. But the only thing offensive about it is the way
its creators have self-consciously positioned it in a
tradition of “scandalous” exhibitions.

Zbigniew Libera I met the

Zbigniew Libera
I met the artist (currently of infamous record at the Jewish Museum in New York) Zbigniew Libera in Warsaw in 1997. I purposely sought him out at the time to write an article about his piece, Lego Concentration Camp. The controversy over his work at the new exhibition called <a href="" target="_top"Mirroring Evil is coming at the right time in our own cultural history, now that we are removed from the innocence of rediscovering the evility of the Holocaust.
In 1997 when we met, Zbigniew could see the ways and means in which the Holocaust was being utilized by Hollywood and many others to generate business, to refine target audiences, to provide test-beds for new products. “The Holocaust,” as a cultural commodity, has largely been let go now, thanks to the new focus on terrorism, a real and actual threat to our lives. The Holocaust, on the other hand, is now able to inform everything we do and think in this new era of chilling uncertainty, faith, and dogged perseverence in the face of evil. In the coming weeks, will showcase the work of Maciej Toporowicz, another artist in Mirroring Evil.
Please “stay tuned.”

That Six Month Thing Shoot:

That Six Month Thing
Shoot: I deleted accidentally what I had just written. Here:
You may recall that it was almost exactly 6 months ago that I wrote this post, in which everyone I knew was out of their friggin minds with fear.
A colleague at OVEN Digital at the time had a father who was a high-ranking government employee. The colleague warned us to stay put that weekend.
I remember trying desparately to decide whether to take the Verrazano Bridge out of town on the weekend for fear that 1. the bridge would be blown up or crashed; or, 2. once out of Brooklyn, I would never be home because the city would be going through mayhem. I also remember taking the bridge and watching my white knuckles turn clear. I’m only bringing this up because I don’t want to ever have to do that again.
That’s what these six months are for, I hope, and not to sell us bad memories of future devilish deeds.