Trouble in Paradise

curated by Amy Lipton


May 27 - June 26, 2004

Opening Reception: May 27th from 6 - 8 pm

Van Brunt Gallery
819 Washington Street (in the Meat Market)
New York, NY    


Trouble in Paradise will present works by artists with a focus on issues
of loss in relationship to the natural world.


Artists include: Brian Alfred, Brandon Ballengee, Edward Burtynsky,
David Chow, Dan Ford, Adam Fuss, Joy Garnett, Fariba Hajamadi, Julie
Heffernan, Steve Mumford, Alison Moritsugu, Kirsten Mosher, Alexis
Rockman and others.


In the past three years of the Bush administration we have witnessed a
broad scale effort to unravel decades of hard won environmental
legislation and protections. We are witnessing an assault against our
environment and a battle against the policies that have been put in place
over the past four decades. In their attempt to roll back these regulations,
our current administration reveal their state of denial concerning global
warming, extinction of species, health issues relating to pollution and lack
of clean water and air. These losses are mounting and will continue to
take a terrible toll into the unforeseeable future. Aside from the tragic loss
of humanity in a time of war, wars also take their toll on the environment,
releasing a host of toxic chemistry with conventional and nuclear weapons
and their production, mobilization and proliferation. This thinly disguised
war over terrorism in Iraq can also be looked at for what it really is
about, the desire for control, including that over natural resources and
commodities, namely fossil fuels.


Trouble in Paradise takes a look at the implications of loss in our present
social context using a variety of artworks and sensibilities. The artworks
depict the contrast of the splendor and beauty that are diminishing in our
natural world with the grim reality of what has been lost. The attempt of
this exhibition is not to spark a nostalgic sense of longing for what is
irretrievable, but to incite recognition of what is mostly unimaginable and
the action that can accompany this recognition. Its aim is to bring
awareness to the viewer of the need for protection, preservation and the
preciousness of what remains.


Guest Curator Amy Lipton ran a gallery in New York City from 1986 to
1995. Since then she has been working as an independent curator and is
affiliated with ecoartspace, a non-profit organization whose mission is to
raise environmental awareness through the arts. Her current exhibition,
"Imaging the River" is on view at the Hudson River Museum through
May 23, 2004.


For further information please contact: Rose Burlingham at
212.243.8572 or info@vanbruntgallery.com
                                   
splash archived at:  http://www.newsgrist.net/Splash_Trouble.html


============================
============================
*Snuff Wars*

 

THEWELEIT et al. on the ICONOGRAPHY OF WAR

Art Forum Online
INTERNATIONAL NEWS DIGEST week of 05.17.04
http://www.artforum.com/news/week=200421?sid=9a7bab704aef2866348c29693ad57971#news6892


In the wake of the Iraqi prisoner-abuse scandal, German cultural critics
offered their analyses of the role of iconography in war. Klaus Theweleit,
philosopher and author of the influential Male Fantasies, insists that all
the images must be made public. "It may sound hard, but these pictures
did not really upset me," he said in an interview with the Süddeutsche
Zeitung. "I have these kinds of scenes in my head, from concentration
camps, from splatter, snuff, and porn films. We could repress these
images, but then we give ourselves over to the illusion spread by the
sanitized editions of the daily news: that we live in a half-civilized world."


Sensing a growing conflation of politics and aesthetics, Die Welt's Klaus
Honnef notes that the photographs of Iraqi prisoners seem to mark the
completion of a transition in the imagery of the "war on terror," from Top
Gun–style victory scenes to hellish visions reminiscent of Hieronymus
Bosch's paintings. Die Tageszeitung's Sebastian Moll believes that the
scenes from Abu Ghraib prison are destined to become as emblematic of
the Iraq War as the iconic photograph of children fleeing a village
bombed with napalm is of Vietnam.


Die Zeit offers an interview with media theorist Joseph Vogl, who argues
that traditional wartime photojournalism has been superseded by private
snapshots and home videos with an utterly different documentary value.
"What is presented is not just humiliation," Vogl told Die Zeit. "The
images document the fact that the voices of the prisoners themselves
were never heard. Their testimonies have been extinguished a second
time by these pictures."

============================
============================
*Some Like It Hot*

 

Why Michael Moore's film is giving George Bush the jitters

New Kerala, India: World News
http://news.newkerala.com/world-news/?action=fullnews&id=18247


London, May 21 (ANI): Oscar winning director Michael Moore's new
documentary "Farenheit 911" has sparked a lot of controversy around
the world and has reportedly been giving President Bush sleepless nights.


And according to The Mirror, the reasons for nervousness in the Bush
camp could be many.


The film, says the report reveals that immediately after Nine Eleven,
even though America became a no-fly zone, the only plane that flew out
was the one containing Bin Laden's family, that too on Bush's orders.


It questions the credibility of the American media as the film has
documented various instances of Iraqi people being physically and
sexually abused by the American soldiers, which were known to the
press but had not been revealed.


The film, adds the report, also goes back in history and explains Bush's
close personnel connections with the Bin-Laden family and how Bush
senior had funded the Taliban at one time.


It also claims that George Bush's 2000 win had been doctored and that
Bush is creating a culture of fear to get the gullible American youth to
fight his war. His film also captures the disillusionment and despair of
the soldiers in Iraq.


"We were able to get film crews embedded with American troops without
them knowing it was Michael Moore. They are totally f***ed," says
Moore while explaining why his film is authentic and manages to get
footage which was not otherwise possible.


"Fahrenheit 9/11" starts with Moore saying, "Here they are, the whole
corrupt gang who fixed the 2000 election," as major American business
magnates are seen smirking and preening themselves.


more info:
'Fahrenheit 9/11' Wins Top Prize at Cannes
By A. O. SCOTT
NYTimes, May 22, 2004
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/22/movies/23canne.html


============================
============================
*The “T” Word*


Regarding the Torture of Others
By SUSAN SONTAG
NYTimes, Published: May 23, 2004
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/magazine/23PRISONS.html


I.
For a long time -- at least six decades -- photographs have laid down the
tracks of how important conflicts are judged and remembered. The
Western memory museum is now mostly a visual one. Photographs have
an insuperable power to determine what we recall of events, and it now
seems probable that the defining association of people everywhere with
the war that the United States launched pre-emptively in Iraq last year
will be photographs of the torture of Iraqi prisoners by Americans in the
most infamous of Saddam Hussein's prisons, Abu Ghraib.


The Bush administration and its defenders have chiefly sought to limit a
public-relations disaster -- the dissemination of the photographs -- rather
than deal with the complex crimes of leadership and of policy revealed by
the pictures. There was, first of all, the displacement of the reality onto
the photographs themselves. The administration's initial response was to
say that the president was shocked and disgusted by the photographs –
as if the fault or horror lay in the images, not in what they depict. There
was also the avoidance of the word ''torture.'' The prisoners had possibly
been the objects of ''abuse,'' eventually of ''humiliation'' -- that was the
most to be admitted. ''My impression is that what has been charged thus
far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture,''
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said at a press conference. ''And
therefore I'm not going to address the 'torture' word.''


Words alter, words add, words subtract. It was the strenuous avoidance
of the word ''genocide'' while some 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda were being
slaughtered, over a few weeks' time, by their Hutu neighbors 10 years
ago that indicated the American government had no intention of doing
anything. To refuse to call what took place in Abu Ghraib -- and what has
taken place elsewhere in Iraq and in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo
Bay -- by its true name, torture, is as outrageous as the refusal to call
the Rwandan genocide a genocide. Here is one of the definitions of torture
contained in a convention to which the United States is a signatory: ''any
act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is
intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him
or a third person information or a confession.'' (The definition comes from
the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Similar definitions have existed for
some time in customary law and in treaties, starting with Article 3 –
common to the four Geneva conventions of 1949 -- and many recent
human rights conventions.) The 1984 convention declares, ''No exceptional
circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war,
internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked
as a justification of torture.'' And all covenants on torture specify that it
includes treatment intended to humiliate the victim, like leaving prisoners
naked in cells and corridors.


Whatever actions this administration undertakes to limit the damage of the
widening revelations of the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and
elsewhere -- trials, courts-martial, dishonorable discharges, resignation of
senior military figures and responsible administration officials and
substantial compensation to the victims -- it is probable that the ''torture''
word will continue to be banned. To acknowledge that Americans torture
their prisoners would contradict everything this administration has invited
the public to believe about the virtue of American intentions and America's
right, flowing from that virtue, to undertake unilateral action on the world
stage.


Even when the president was finally compelled, as the damage to
America's reputation everywhere in the world widened and deepened, to
use the ''sorry'' word, the focus of regret still seemed the damage to
America's claim to moral superiority. Yes, President Bush said in
Washington on May 6, standing alongside King Abdullah II of Jordan, he
was ''sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the
humiliation suffered by their families.'' But, he went on, he was ''equally
sorry that people seeing these pictures didn't understand the true nature
and heart of America.''


To have the American effort in Iraq summed up by these images must
seem, to those who saw some justification in a war that did overthrow one
of the monster tyrants of modern times, ''unfair.'' A war, an occupation, is
inevitably a huge tapestry of actions. What makes some actions
representative and others not? The issue is not whether the torture was
done by individuals (i.e., ''not by everybody'') -- but whether it was
systematic. Authorized. Condoned. All acts are done by individuals. The
issue is not whether a majority or a minority of Americans performs such
acts but whether the nature of the policies prosecuted by this
administration and the hierarchies deployed to carry them out makes such
acts likely.


II.
Considered in this light, the photographs are us. That is, they are
representative of the fundamental corruptions of any foreign occupation
together with the Bush adminstration's distinctive policies. The Belgians in
the Congo, the French in Algeria, practiced torture and sexual humiliation
on despised recalcitrant natives. Add to this generic corruption the
mystifying, near-total unpreparedness of the American rulers of Iraq to
deal with the complex realities of the country after its ''liberation.'' And add
to that the overarching, distinctive doctrines of the Bush administration,
namely that the United States has embarked on an endless war and that
those detained in this war are, if the president so decides, ''unlawful
combatants'' -- a policy enunciated by Donald Rumsfeld for Taliban and
Qaeda prisoners as early as January 2002 -- and thus, as Rumsfeld said,
''technically'' they ''do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention,''
and you have a perfect recipe for the cruelties and crimes committed
against the thousands incarcerated without charges or access to lawyers in
American-run prisons that have been set up since the attacks of Sept. 11,
2001.


So, then, is the real issue not the photographs themselves but what the
photographs reveal to have happened to ''suspects'' in American custody?
No: the horror of what is shown in the photographs cannot be separated
from the horror that the photographs were taken -- with the perpetrators
posing, gloating, over their helpless captives. German soldiers in the
Second World War took photographs of the atrocities they were
committing in Poland and Russia, but snapshots in which the executioners
placed themselves among their victims are exceedingly rare, as may be
seen in a book just published, ''Photographing the Holocaust,'' by Janina
Struk. If there is something comparable to what these pictures show it
would be some of the photographs of black victims of lynching taken
between the 1880's and 1930's, which show Americans grinning beneath
the naked mutilated body of a black man or woman hanging behind them
from a tree. The lynching photographs were souvenirs of a collective
action whose participants felt perfectly justified in what they had done.
So are the pictures from Abu Ghraib.


The lynching pictures were in the nature of photographs as trophies –
taken by a photographer in order to be collected, stored in albums,
displayed. The pictures taken by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib,
however, reflect a shift in the use made of pictures -- less objects to be
saved than messages to be disseminated, circulated. A digital camera is
a common possession among soldiers. Where once photographing war
was the province of photojournalists, now the soldiers themselves are all
photographers -- recording their war, their fun, their observations of what
they find picturesque, their atrocities -- and swapping images among
themselves and e-mailing them around the globe.


There is more and more recording of what people do, by themselves. At
least or especially in America, Andy Warhol's ideal of filming real events
in real time -- life isn't edited, why should its record be edited? -- has
become a norm for countless Webcasts, in which people record their day,
each in his or her own reality show. Here I am -- waking and yawning
and stretching, brushing my teeth, making breakfast, getting the kids off
to school. People record all aspects of their lives, store them in computer
files and send the files around. Family life goes with the recording of
family life -- even when, or especially when, the family is in the throes
of crisis and disgrace. Surely the dedicated, incessant home-videoing of
one another, in conversation and monologue, over many years was the
most astonishing material in ''Capturing the Friedmans,'' the recent
documentary by Andrew Jarecki about a Long Island family embroiled in
pedophilia charges.


An erotic life is, for more and more people, that which can be captured in
digital photographs and on video. And perhaps the torture is more
attractive, as something to record, when it has a sexual component. It is
surely revealing, as more Abu Ghraib photographs enter public view, that
torture photographs are interleaved with pornographic images of
American soldiers having sex with one another. In fact, most of the torture
photographs have a sexual theme, as in those showing the coercing of
prisoners to perform, or simulate, sexual acts among themselves. One
exception, already canonical, is the photograph of the man made to stand
on a box, hooded and sprouting wires, reportedly told he would be
electrocuted if he fell off. Yet pictures of prisoners bound in painful
positions, or made to stand with outstretched arms, are infrequent. That
they count as torture cannot be doubted. You have only to look at the
terror on the victim's face, although such ''stress'' fell within the
Pentagon's limits of the acceptable. But most of the pictures seem part
of a larger confluence of torture and pornography: a young woman
leading a naked man around on a leash is classic dominatrix imagery.
And you wonder how much of the sexual tortures inflicted on the inmates
of Abu Ghraib was inspired by the vast repertory of pornographic imagery
available on the Internet -- and which ordinary people, by sending out
Webcasts of themselves, try to emulate.

article continued: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/magazine/23PRISONS.html?pagewanted=2

============================
============================
*Triumph of the Mall*


The US finally unveils its World War II memorial
It has taken almost 60 years to commemorate the
400,000 American soldiers who died in the conflict
By Charmaine Picard


The Art Newspaper, May 22, 2004
http://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/article.asp?idart=11667


A memorial to the American soldiers who died in World War II is to be
formally dedicated in Washington, DC on 29 May, nearly 59 years after
the end of the conflict. Controversy has plagued the construction of the
monument since 1995 and the unveiling itself has been severely criticised.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in uniform, some 4 million
survive, with the youngest veterans believed to be 76 years old.
However, the organisers of the event, severely underestimated the
number of veterans who wished to attend the ceremony with many
being denied tickets.


This latest PR debacle, follows years of objections from campaigners,
such as Judy Scott Feldman, chairwoman of the National Coalition to
Save Our Mall, who have described the design as imperial, triumphal,
and even Fascist. Although there has been unanimous support for an
appropriate memorial, critics of the project have objected to virtually
every aspect of the monument from its massive scale and classically-
inspired architecture to its placement on the National Mall, a meadow-
like swath of land that is used as a rallying point for political
demonstrations and provides sweeping and unobstructed vistas from
the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.


Designed by the Austrian-born architect Friedrich St Florian, the vast
memorial plaza is entered through two 43-foot arches decorated with
bronze laurels, wreaths and eagles. At the centre of the space is a
wall with 4,000 sculpted gold stars to honour the 400,000 Americans
who died in battle.


Legislation to construct the World War II memorial was introduced in
December 1987, nearly 20 years after the idea for a Vietnam War
memorial was first proposed.


Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Betsy Glick, spokeswoman for the
Monuments Commission, said that, over the years, World War II
veterans have not suffered from the same stigma associated with the
Vietnam and other historically unpopular campaigns, which helps explain
why the construction of a World War II memorial lacked the same
political urgency as the project to construct a Vietnam Memorial
(inaugurated in 1982) or the Vietnam Woman’s Memorial (inaugurated
in 1993).


After several years of fundraising, public hearings, and a lawsuit filed
by the National Coalition opposition group, President George W. Bush
signed legislation into law on 28 May 2001 ordering construction on the
memorial to begin without further delay and effectively overriding any
further dissent.


The dedication ceremony will be accompanied by a series of events
and exhibitions including a Norman Rockwell show at the Corcoran
Gallery of Art (until 7 September).

============================
============================
*Beyond Memory*
 
Memorial Din
by Tyler Green


Artnet Magazine, May 18, 2004
http://artnet.com/magazine/news/green/green5-18-04.asp


America deserves a National World War II Memorial that is better than
this. Maybe we can tear it down and start again.


While the dedication ceremony for the new National World War II
Memorial in Washington, D.C., is still to come -- it’s slated for May 29,
2004, at the start of the Memorial Day weekend -- the memorial itself
opened to the public several weeks ago. An oblong $175 million plaza,
flanked by two 43-foot-tall arched gates and 56 granite columns, each
holding a pair of bronze wreaths, surrounding an oval reflecting pool
with fountains, it is the strangest, ugliest major memorial in Washington.


The new monument feels as if a Fascist architect had designed a food
court for the Mall of America, and then accidentally shipped it to
Washington, where it was installed on a 7.4-acre plot located on the
National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln
Memorial.


A memorial to some of America’s greatest war-time heroes should
provide a place for contemplation and appreciation of the sacrifices
made by those who fought for the freedom of not just America but of
the entire world. And, as vague and jingoistic as this notion may sound,
such a memorial should look and feel American. It should be a place
that, when experienced, gives rise to thoughts of country and service.


Nothing like that can be found here. The plentiful fountains and running
water create a din that drowns out all but the loudest conversations, let
alone allow quiet contemplation. (This is not the gently running water that
contributes to the serene spaces at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt
memorial. These fountains belong at your local Six Flags.) The wide open
space in the center of the memorial allows it to serve as a run-around for
the children of visitors, further destroying the opportunity for
introspection. Only the size of the $175-million memorial is even remotely
American -- the design, by Friedrich St. Florian (whhose first large-scale
project was the Providence Place Mall, according to Los Angeles Times
critic Christopehr Knight), puts a premium on size. This is a memorial
meant to be photographed, not absorbed.


In fact, there is nothing about the memorial design that seems to have
much to do with World War II. Sure, there are some engravings that talk
about the war, but is there anything about granite pillars and arches and
bronze wreaths that tie them specifically to World War II? This
architecture could commemorate those who lost their lives fighting on
behalf of the Revolutionary War, or Greenpeace, or virtually anything
else. There is no history here. In fact, this memorial is an amalgamation
of designs -- it incorporates bits of several other D..C. memorials and little
that is unique to the National World War II Memorial.


The memory of the sacrifices Americans made in World War II lives on in
the minds of people who experienced the war. Ideally, a worthy memorial
extends memory beyond the generation that lived with the people and
through the event being memorialized. (Is there a better example of this,
anywhere, than the Vietnam Veterans Memorial?). It’s a national shame
that the National World War II Memorial doesn’t come close to
accomplishing this goal.


TYLER GREEN writes about art from Washington. His blog can be found
at http://www.artsjournal.com/man

 

 

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