26 Nov

In lieu of the annual Black Friday radio broadcast, I present to you a shorter (relatively speaking) playlist:

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Play on 11/27/15, midnight
Runtime: 3:04:00

I will be out of town and unable to do the show, but it works out since this turned out to be more of a summary or revisit of stuff that’s stuck in my head for the last few years. It’s also slightly more mainstream than the usual show, so I suppose there’s some moral good that comes of not putting it on non-profit radio.

I’d list all the songs, but, first, that’d ruin the surprise, and second, that would be a very long block of text. (And third, some people have a very annoying habit of reading through a playlist to determine its “quality” instead of listening to experience the “journey,” as it were.)

Enjoy! (maybe?)

Looking for Alice

24 Nov

Sian Davey

My daughter Alice, born with Downs Syndrome, is no different to any other human being. She feels what you and I feel. However, our society does not acknowledge this and her very existence is given little or no value…

I was deeply shocked when Alice was born as an ‘imperfect’ baby. It was not what I had expected. Our first experiences in hospital did little to diffuse this… On reflection I saw that Alice was feeling my rejection of her and that caused me further pain. I saw that the responsibility lay with me; I had to dig deep into my own prejudices and shine a light on them. The result was that as my fear dissolved I fell in love with my daughter. We all did.

This project is for her, for Alice.

weekend silliness: Try

22 Nov

Delta 5 knows about the difficulty of explaining your art to other people?

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Dance it out!

Sontag says: sympathy is not enough

20 Nov

People can turn off not just because a steady diet of images of violence has made them indifferent but because they are afraid. It is because, say, the war in Bosnia didn’t stop, because leaders claimed it was an intractable situation, that people abroad may have switched off the terrible images. It is because a war doesn’t seem as if it can be stopped that people become less responsive to the horrors. Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question is what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated.

“And it is not necessarily better to be moved. Sentimentality, notoriously, is entirely compatible with a taste for brutality and worse… If we consider what emotions would be desirable, it seems too simple to elect sympathy… So far as we feel sympathy, we feel we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence. It can be (for all our good intentions) an impertinent – if not inappropriate – response. To set aside the sympathy we extend to others beset by war and murderous politics for a reflection of how our privileges are located on the same map as their suffering, and may be linked to their suffering, as the wealth of some may imply the destitution of others, is a task for which the painful, stirring images supply only an initial spark.

…That news about war is now disseminated worldwide does not mean that the capacity to think about the suffering of people far away is significantly larger. In modern life – a life in which there is a superfluity of things to which we are invited to pay attention – it seems normal to turn away from images that simply make us feel bad. But it is probably not true that people are responding less.

That we are not totally transformed, that we can turn away, turn the page, switch the channel, does not impugn the ethical value of an assault by images. It is not a defect that we are not seared, that we do not suffer enough, when we see these images. Neither is the photograph supposed to repair our ignorance about the history and causes of the suffering it picks out and frames. Such images cannot be more than an invitation to pay attention, to reflect, to learn, to examine the rationalizations for mass suffering offered by established powers. Who caused what the picture shows? Who is responsible? Is it excusable? Was it inevitable? Is there some state of affairs which we have accepted up to now that ought to be challenged? All this, with the understanding that moral indignation, like compassion, cannot dictate a course of action.

– Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

Sontag says: we like it

19 Nov

The iconography of suffering has a long pedigree. The sufferings most often deemed worthy of representation are those understood to be the product of wrath, divine or human… The viewer may commiserate with the sufferer’s pain but these are destinies beyond deploring or contesting.

It seems that the appetite for pictures showing bodies in pain is as keen, almost, as the desire for ones that show bodies naked. For many centuries, in Christian art, depictions of hell offered both of the elemental satisfactions… There is the satisfaction of being able to look at the image without flinching. There is the pleasure of flinching.

The gruesome invites us to be either spectators or cowards. Those with the stomach to look are playing a role authorized by many glorious depictions of suffering. Torment, a canonical subject in art, is often represented in painting as a spectacle, something being watched by other people.

Edmund Burke observed that people like to look at images of suffering. “I am convinced we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others,” he wrote in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. “There is no spectacle we so eagerly pursue, as that of some uncommon and grievous calamity.” William Hazlitt, in his essay on Shakespeare’s Iago and the attraction of villainy on the stage, asks, “Why do we always read the accounts in the newspapers of dreadful fires and shocking murders?” Because, he answers, “love of mischief,” love of cruelty, is as natural to human beings as is sympathy.

– Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

Sontag says: no surprises

18 Nov

To designate a hell is not to tell us anything about how to extract people from that hell, how to moderate hell’s flames. Still, it seems a good in itself to acknowledge, to have enlarged, one’s sense of how much suffering caused by human wickedness there is in the world we share with others. Someone who is perennially surprised that depravity exists, who continues to feel disillusioned (even incredulous) when confronted with evidence of what humans are capable of inflicting in the way of gruesome, hands-on cruelties upon other humans, has not reached moral or psychological adulthood.

No one after a certain age has the right to this kind of innocence, of superficiality, to this degree of ignorance, or amnesia.

There now exists a vast repository of images that make it harder to maintain this kind of moral defectiveness. Let the atrocious images haunt us. Even if they are only tokens, and cannot possibly encompass most of the reality to which they refer, they still perform a vital function. The images say: This is what human beings are capable of doing – may volunteer to do, enthusiastically, self-righteously. Don’t forget.

This is not quite the same as asking people to remember a particularly monstrous bout of evil. Perhaps too much value is assigned to memory, not enough to thinking. Remembering is an ethical act, has ethical value in and of itself. Memory is, achingly, the only relation we can have with the dead. Heartlessness and amnesia seem to go together. But history gives contradictory signals about the value of remembering. There is simply too much injustice in the world. And too much remembering embitters. To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited.

– Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

Sontag says: exotics

17 Nov

Generally, the grievously injured bodies shown in published photographs are from Asia or Africa. This journalistic custom inherits the centuries-old practice of exhibiting exotic – that is, colonized – human beings: Africans and denizens of remote Asian countries were displayed like zoo animals in ethnological exhbitions mounted in London, Paris, and other European capitals from the sixteenth until the early twentieth century. The exhibition in photographs of cruelties inflicted on those with darker complexions in exotic countries continues… oblivious to the considerations that deter such displays of our own victims of violence; for the other, even when not an enemy, is regarded only as someone to be seen, not someone (like us) who also sees.

– Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

“et vive la France”

14 Nov

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My Best Thing

13 Nov

My Best Thing, Frances Stark

Yoshua Okon

11 Nov

Yoshua Okon documents (or more accurately, orchestrates) re-enactment in a much more ambiguous and interesting way than most other artists dealing with re-enactments. A lot to think about here.

Octopus, is a 4 channel video installation. Inserted within the US tradition of civil war re-enactments, Octopus re-enacts the Guatemalan civil war. Except, civil war re-enactments traditionally take place in the actual fields where historical battles happened and are performed by people who did not actually fight in the war. Instead, for this occasion the site responds to a symbolic nature: the battlefield is relocated to US soil at a Home Depot parking lot in Los Angeles. And it is performed by the actual combatants who, during the 1990s fought in the war that is being re-enacted: a dozen members of the Los Angeles Mayan community, all recent undocumented immigrants who gather to look for work as day laborers at the same parking lot where the shoot takes place.

The piece focuses on Ciudad Juárez as a maquiladora site and on its role within the global context. It is a detailed construction of Bergson, a fictitious factory that produces canned laughter for sitcoms. For it, dozens of ex-maquiladora workers were hired both as part of the research process and as actors. Canned Laughter alludes to mechanized processes and to slavery in the age of globalization as well as to the impossibility to translate and reproduce true emotions though technological means.

In 2014, Oracle, Arizona, was the arena for the largest-yet protest against the entrance of unaccompanied children from Central America into the U.S. During Okón’s first trip to Oracle he spoke to the leaders who orchestrated the protest. They agreed to gather those that participated in the protest, in order for Okón to create a live reenactment based on what happened from their ideological perspective as well as to create extra scenes. Oracle also includes a video of a chorus where 9 of the immigrant children sing a modified version of the US Marin’s [sic] Hymn. The original hymn glorifies US invasions around the world. For the new version, the children narrate the US invasion to Guatemala placing special emphasis in the complicity of the government with transnational corporations.

He even dares to tackle Mexican neo-Nazis in Bocanegra. I don’t know what to say as an analysis of that work, except that perhaps it’s enough of an alarm bell to show that groups of people still think that way.