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Archive for the ‘Border Violations’ Category

I’ve just seen the 2008 movie “Skin,” based on the life of South African Sandra Laing. And what a life she has lived! Born in 1955 to two apparently Caucasian parents in Apartheid South Africa, Sandra has decidedly non-white features and a skin color several shades darker than her Afrikaner parents. At a time when DNA testing was not yet developed, the parents lived with rumors that the mother had slept with a black man, which, of course, would make the Apartheid-supporting, politically conservative father an especially insulted cuckold. (We now know that 11% of Afrikaners have non-white ancestors.) Rather than acknowledge his daughter’s clearly non-white looks, Leon Laing—who apparently loved his daughter very much—insisted on her whiteness and insisted on white society treating her as white. He successfully challenged the nation’s racial classifications and managed to get his daughter officially designated as white in 1967, but his daughter’s actual experience didn’t improve. People’s responses were based on what they saw and what they saw was a light-skinned black girl—a mixed race child. (more…)

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rirkrit-tiravanijaI live across the street from an empty lot—two, actually. The first (let’s call it “Lot A”) is directly across the street and faces the front entrance to my apartment building. For twenty years it has been advertised as the site of a new coop building project. The ramshackle and weather-beaten plywood barrier that fronts the property is “secured” by a chained link gate with huge gaps on either side where people can, and do, enter.

The second lot (“Lot B”) is on a side street. From my fourth floor perch I look down on its cement perimeter with the embedded metal fence that marks an intended outdoor parking lot. At the front, a paved drive barely makes it past the padlocked gate before fading to dirt road and grass. In the middle of Lot B there are several mature of trees and scattered weed-bushes. Someone mows the abundant grass regularly. (more…)

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Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century"  by Donna HarawayIf I were writing a blog about Brad Pitt or David Archuleta (America’s former Really Cute American Idol), instead of a blog about political and intellectual territories re-envisioned through art practice, I would never mention Barack Obama. The sexiest man alive (meaning Pitt rather than Obama, though a strong case could be made for Obama rather than Pitt), might share with us the fastest way to lose ten pounds so I can outrun the tax collector in 2009, though President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama (Say it loud! Say it proud!) promises a refund and a tax cut since the economy’s wheels have come off, and who has money to pay taxes anyway? Certainly not me.

After referring to the news of a remarkable honeyed bandage curing one man’s rotting limb, I might launch into expletives about Bernie Madoff ponziing his way through a million-trillion-gazillion dollars while eating caviar and having his nails done. If my blog were not about art practices as they are affected by the constant re-drawing of geopolitical, socio-political and socio-economic states, I might report on the increasing number of cyborgs in our midst. They walk among us, blatantly, with their machine parts indistinguishable from their meat parts: pacemakers coupled to hearts, dental implants screwed and glued into jaws, injected “smart tags” barely visible under real or synthetic skin over a computerized titanium leg provided by the US government for your service in Iraq. (more…)

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"Ghost Station" Ed Roos

October 17, 2008—The Train Is Coming. And With It More Ads, a New York Times article, reports that the MTA plans to sell every NYC subway surface to the highest bidder. They need the money. Advertising — lots of it — is going to appear on every below-ground surface New Yorkers pass, from the round pillars on the subway platforms to the entire interior surface of subway cars. Ad agencies are considering ways to reach even the hardest-to-reach spots with the use of projectors. No surface will go unsold — not even the tunnel surfaces between stations. Advertisers plan to line them with printed ad images that will merge into a movie reel effect as your train zooms along.

Which begs the question: Isn’t advertising on such a massive scale a form of graffiti? Isn’t it a greater transgression than any spray-painted tag? The MTA is making a huge amount of money at the expense of the commuters. Say what you want about graffiti by private citizens, at least it’s varied, surprising — and original! Think of all the influences graffiti has had on art practice and typography. And think of all the influences graphic design has had on graffiti! (more…)

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Roland Emmerich. He’s the big-budget director of “Independence Day,” “Universal Soldier” and “Eight-Legged Freaks.” I came across an article on Emmerich and his design aesthetic in the New York Times’ August 7, 2008 Home section.

The Times devoted two whole pages and thirteen photos to the redesign of Emmerich’s townhouse in the “buttoned-up” Knightsbridge section of London. Apparently he redesigned the place primarily to shock his neighbors. It’s not a townhouse anymore; it’s a fun house of cultural and pop-cultural references: Mao Tse-Tung, Pope John Paul II, pseudo Renaissance paintings, Barbie dolls and Philippe Starck chairs… If it shocks the neighbors, he’s happy. Whatever…

But what about the miniaturized diorama tables in the living room? The ones that Emmerich commissioned from his movie prop department. The ones that depict, in the Times’ words, “notorious events”? (more…)

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A. Culture-Jamming:
Stop watching the SNL Obama / Clinton split “campaign ad.” (Then you won’t laugh so hard you pee yourself.)

B. Performance Art:
Stop watching the Chris Matthews grilling of right-winger Kevin James, who hasn’t got a clue who Neville Chamberlain is. (Then you won’t laugh so hard you wet your pants.)

C. Theater of the Absurd:
Stop thinking about Hillary Clinton’s continuing “campaign” for the presidency. After all, she deserves the nomination, right? Besides, she’s the only one who’s reaching white people. (Really. Stop thinking about it. It’ll just piss you off.)

D. Art Exhibition:
Forget about politics and check out some really good bad art. It ain’t bad when it’s this good. (Besides, it’s hung near the bathroom.)

Above: Running Mates by Anonymous, acrylic on canvas. (I made that up.)

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In my recent post on American artists who work small scale, I forgot to mention photographer David Levinthal. He works with small-scale figures (often toys), but the final artifact is usually a 20 x 24 inch Polaroid. Polaroid film has a particularly malleable and atmospheric quality that’s magnified when using a macro lens in combination with a shallow depth of field. The effect is cinematic.

Levinthal takes as his subject the myths that preoccupy America and the West. His series titles say it all: Modern Romance, American Beauties, The Wild West, Barbie, Baseball. His minstrel series (Blackface), his re-imagining of the Holocaust (Mein Kampf) and his WWII “documentary” war images (Hitler Moves East, co-created with Garry Trudeau) have been controversial, though critically acclaimed. (more…)

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