A quick note — more of an observation, really, or a re-directing of attention, but I was looking at my blog reader today and found a wonderful thematic coincidence on the Art Asia Pacific blog and Granta. Today, Art Asia Pacific reflected on Global Art Forum 6, remarking in particular:
There’s something about the immediacy and urgency of writing against the present that can be panic-inducing; paralyzing even.
It feels as if we should be quicker than we are. We should be able to respond more efficiently. It should be easier by now. Our brain’s functionality should be in sync with the latest social media apps on our Blackberrys, tablets and Mac books—so that we can not only multitask, “double-screen” and consume information (both virtual and real) at the rate of several giga-Hertz per second—but also analyze it, digest it and produce a meaningful reaction to it immediately. Except that’s not exactly how our cerebral cortex works; there is a lot more complexity involved—and maybe there is a saving grace in that somewhere.
The pressure to keep up with, and contextualize the arts within, the most up-to-date socio-political happenings was cited and critiqued at the recent discussion series, Global Art Forum_6. Part of the titan that has become Art Dubai and its collateral programming, this year’s forum was titled “The Medium of Media,” and for this second installment writers Rayya Badran, Rijin Sahakian, Shahira Issa and myself were invited as “forum fellows” to reflect on issues in the fair. Art critic and forum fellows mentor Kaelen Wilson-Goldie talked about an almost expected reflex to situate art within contemporary politics (or politics within contemporary art), with particular reference to Lebanon and Syria. Such a reflex has been intensified by two things in recent times: the conflicts and uprisings of the Arab Spring, and the penetrating and shifting role of instant online media in news reportage.
The post goes on to question the capacity of art to respond, quickly and critically on its own contemporary times, particularly when our times are mediated at such a rapid pace. Author Jyoti Dhar suggests that perhaps art’s function is to slow us down, to demand a pause.
Seemingly to that point, Granta posted an article by Mishka Henner about the censorship of google earth — particularly in regards to the Dutch government:
When Google introduced its free satellite imagery service to the world in 2005, views of our planet previously accessible only to astronauts and professional surveyors were suddenly available to anyone with an internet connection. Yet the vistas revealed by this technology were not universally embraced.
Governments concerned about the sudden visibility of political, economic and military locations exerted considerable influence on suppliers of this imagery to censor sites deemed vital to national security. This form of censorship continues today, and techniques vary from country to country with preferred methods generally including use of digital cloning, blurring, pixelization and whitening out sites of interest.
Surprisingly, one of the most vociferous of all governments to enforce this form of censorship were the Dutch, hiding hundreds of significant sites including royal palaces, fuel depots and army barracks throughout their relatively small country. The Dutch method of censorship is notable for its stylistic inventiveness compared to other countries: imposing bold, multi-coloured polygons over sites rather than the subtler and more standard techniques employed elsewhere. The result is a landscape occasionally punctuated by sharp aesthetic contrasts between secret sites and the rural and urban environments surrounding them.
There is something so stunning about these images (there are more on Granta’s site) — seemingly crude and colorful, as in a decorative obliteration: A kind of purposeful withholding. But it creates a pause, demanding time from the viewer as it presents something unexpected. It looks like a painting in gouache!
The Andy Warhol Foundation has sent a letter to Wayne Clough, The Smithsonian Institution’s Secretary, demanding the reinstatement of the censored David Wojnarovicz piece in the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture exhibition. If the work is not reinstated, The Warhol Foundation says it will cease funding all future Smithsonian Institution Exhibitions. Here’s the text of the letter, which the Warhol Foundation posted on its website today as a press release:
December 13, 2010
For Immediate Release
Contact Joel Wachs, President, 212.387.7555
The following letter was sent today by The Andy Warhol Foundation to Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution:
December 13, 2010
Mr. Wayne Clough
SIB Office of the Secretary
PO Box 37012
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
Dear Mr. Clough,
The Warhol Foundation is proud to have been a lead supporter of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, but we strongly condemn the decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly from the exhibition. Such blatant censorship is unconscionable. It is inimical to everything the Smithsonian Institution should stand for, and everything the Andy Warhol Foundation does stand for.
Although we have enjoyed our growing relationship during the past three years, and have given more than $375,000 to fund several exhibitions at various Smithsonian institutions, we cannot stand by and watch the Smithsonian bow to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibition out of ignorance, hatred and fear.
Last week the Foundation published a statement on its website www.warholfoundation.org, condemning the National Portrait Gallery’s removal of the work and on Friday our Board of Directors met to discuss the long-term implications of the Museum’s behavior on the Foundation’s relationship with the Smithsonian Institution. After careful consideration, the Board voted unanimously to demand that you restore the censored work immediately, or the Warhol Foundation will cease funding future exhibitions at all Smithsonian institutions.
I regret that you have put us in this position, but there is no other course we can take. For the arts to flourish the arts must be free, and the decision to censor this important work is in stark opposition to our mission to defend freedom of expression wherever and whenever it is under attack.
cc: Ms. Patricia Stonesifer, Smithsonian Chairwoman of the Board
Directors of Smithsonian Institution museums
Board Chairs of Smithsonian Institution museums
March 30, 2008 · Print This Article
San Francisco Art Institute has canceled closed the controversial Abdessemed exhibition as well as the public forum. The exhibition was curated by Hou Hanru, who was interviewed by us in Episode 129.
From the SFAI Website:
In response to a series of violent threats by animal-rights extremists, the San Francisco Art Institute announced today that the public discussion on Adel Abdessemed’s exhibition Don’t Trust Me, scheduled for Monday, 31 March, has been canceled. For the same reasons, the exhibition itself, which was temporarily suspended on Wednesday, 26 March, has now been permanently closed.
“We unconditionally repudiate these threats against SFAI,” stated President Chris Bratton: “My first concern is with the safety and security of SFAI’s students, faculty, staff, and their families, as well as members of the public that regularly visit the campus. In light of the violent threats by extremists against this institution, we are unfortunately forced to cancel any public discussion or display regarding this artwork.”
Soon after it opened, the Abdessemed exhibition became the subject of an orchestrated campaign by a number of animal-rights groups, including Animal Liberation Front (ALF), In Defense of Animals (IDA), and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). One result of this campaign was a parallel onslaught of explicit death threats and threats of sexual violence against SFAI staff members and their families. The swift escalation from controversy to credible threats has regrettably forced SFAI to make a decision unprecedented in its 137-year history.
“Though we’ve decided to take this action,” continued President Bratton, “SFAI stands behind the exhibition as an instance of a long-standing and serious commitment, on SFAI’s part, to reflection on, and free and open discussion of, contemporary global art and culture. As an institution, we take seriously our responsibility to encourage and promote such dialogue.”
“The artist,” continued President Bratton, “participated in an already-existing circuit of food production in a rural community in Mexico. The animals were raised for food, purchased, and professionally slaughtered. In fact, what causes the controversy is that Abdessemed, an artist, entered this exchange, filmed it, and exhibited it.”
“Here, then, is a case where highly local assumptions about how things are produced have come to inform how the world itself is seen. In general, consumption in the US is fueled by things produced out of sight and from far away. In many cultures, particularly those of the global south including Mexico, the killing of animals for food is often direct and present, not concealed from sight as is the case of industrialized food production here. This distinction is certainly relevant to Don’t Trust Me. Admittedly, this is an uncomfortable confrontation for some, but is nevertheless a real condition not only for animals, but also for the people whose lives are bound up with them. Simply stated, it is an outrage that threats of violence have, in this case, succeeded in derailing a public debate on issues that are critical to our everyday lives.”
The press release can be found here.
Via B. Blagojević for ArtCal “Iraqi American video artist Wafaa Bilal’s recent exhibition at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, Virtual Jihadi, was closed by the University’s administration a day after its initial opening on 5 March 2008.
A conservative commentator on the state payroll called for protests to Bilal’s exhibition before its opening in the pages of the Troy Record, citing a work based on an incendiary video game exhibited in a university art gallery.
The offending work, a video in which Bilal depicts himself as an Iraqi civilian radicalized by his brother’s death and driven to join an Al-Qaidea in Iraq cell as a suicide bomber, positions the artist’s character in an interactive video game called The Night of Bush Capturing, an Islamist détournement of Hunt for Saddam, an American first person shooter in which a protagonist U.S. soldier makes his way through a virtual world populated by stereotypical Iraqi men in an Odyssean journey to “hunt” and kill former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. RPI cited concerns that Balil’s work may make use of university resources to ‘provide a platform for what may be a product of a terrorist organization or which suggests violence directed toward the president of the United States and his family.’
Following the censoring of the exhibition at the university art gallery, Balil seems to have been blacklisted from campus and denied access to university buidlings, despite being RPI’s current artist in residence and being assured by the university president that he remains a welcome member of the community regardless of the recent controversy. Balil describes this and more in a recent video interview.”
To view the rest of the article please visit ArtCal