٠ How Rolling Stone alienated the place of the subject ٠


The cover of the August edition of Rolling Stone mag features Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of Boston’s bombers. People are furious. At first sight, that hysteria could be reasonably understood. Given the suffering he allegedly caused, people might not want him to have protagonism (though they like reading about crimes in the newspaper and watch crime TV shows all the time), or is it something else? Might it be that the real problem is that he actually looks familiar, and beautiful, destroying people’s image of what a non-american monster looks like? And does it add that the story told by Janet Reitman gives it a too human dimension, spoiling his condition of being exclusively located in realm of public imagery?

This is a typical problem of what Lacan would call the split-subject, regarding the place of the subject and that of the image plane. It is extremely complex and I’m not even going to try to pretend fully understand the impact of this particular history, since American society is too layered. But let me try, by going thru the news, to draw some parallels between what journalists and bloggers have been saying and how I locate this within Lacan’s moments of perception.

In the New republic Mag, John Judis writtes a short article (with a terrorism TAG?) explaining why he is boycotting those who are boycotting this Rolling Stone edition. He attributes the problem to Tsarnaev looking “exotically attractive”. Another one of New Republic’s writer, Delphine Rodrik, says the problem is his “bedroom eyes” and then goes on to call him an “evildoer” and locating him side by side with Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Charles Masson, etc. What these writers are doing, when they choose to pretend to talk about the subject, is accentuating the void of critical and acute points of view. They too are alienated from the subject. They to are located in the place where they became part of the image.

BPdCn89CMAABA_v.jpg large Tyler Coates, from Flavorwire, writes: But at the end of the day, it’s Reitman’s piece that is the important journalistic artifact, and one that’s now likely to be eclipsed by the controversial cover. This is the fault of Rolling Stone‘s editors, who assumed their cover line calling Dzhokhar Tsarnaev a “monster” would be enough to avoid the accusations that the image sexualized or glamorized him. But more importantly, it’s our fault — the audience — for falling into the trap so obviously set for us: rather than taking time and thinking critically about the images we are delivered on a mass scale, we’ve accepted that a knee-jerky, short-form response is more suitable and more powerful. Fortunately denoting some sort of self-consciousness, but this isn’t the bottom layer.

BPdIHNCCIAIGz7F.jpg largetwitter image by David Draiman

The main thing, as I understand it, is that we perceive life through the position of the observer but the place of the observer coincides with that of the image, so we are “made real” through the eyes of another, who reflects back at us. Because it is easy to displace ourselves from the demands of being conscious of this position, we then react a lot more that we should. We react as if we were automatons and had no will, no critical thought, no whit. We react instead of realizing that the problem of the image in front of us is our own problem with the transference going own between the real and the imaginary.

Adam Gabatt, from the Guardian, quotes Dan Kennedy, professor of journalism: “It works because of cognitive dissonance. We see him looking rather angelic on the cover, and just about every picture we’ve seen of him he looks angelic, that apparently is how he looked,” he told the Guardian. And meanwhile we see the cover type: ‘The bomber. A monster’. So that works well as a really dissonant juxtaposition. To my knowledge this could help understand why people get so heated over this, since what keeps the subject as a hole is the realm of signifiers and significants, and a lot of people act as if they were impaired, as the only thing they could take away from this is that Rolling Stone mag would be equating Tsarnaev with a rock start…

٠ a critique about a movie I’ll never watch ٠

Today I found a new good place on the www – NATIVE APPROPRIATIONS – and having enjoyed a good amount of readings there I decided to bring it here. What follows is a brief preview of a series of posts by Adrienne K. about the latest Hollywood extravaganza featuring Johnny Depp as Tonto. Yes, I’m obviously going to follow Adrienne’s advice and am not going to watch it (not that it had ever crossed my mind to do otherwise).

marty_two_bulls_110208-615x615Why Tonto Matters

We need to demand more. We can’t be complacent with just going to that “excited-happy-place” every time we see any representation of an Indian on screen. We can’t be thankful that 50 Native actors are able to ride around bareback in the background of a film, or be psyched that a big name Hollywood actor put a crow on his head to “honor” us–talk about ongoing colonization of the mind. Our community is so much better than that. We are worth so much more than background roles and misrepresentations.

Ryan [McMahon]also said something that resonated with me beyond this issue alone, quoting his grandmother:

Everything you do, grandson, is going to be political because you’re Anishinabe.

The way we represent ourselves is, therefore, inherently political. These “trivial” issues are representative of deeper, darker, larger issues within Indian Country. For those who live in predominantly Native communities, fighting against cultural appropriation and misrepresentation may seem like the cause of a privileged few who can sit in their ivory towers and point fingers all day, ignoring the “real” issues in Indian Country. I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it as many times as I can until it sticks:

Yes, unequivocally, we have big things to tackle in Indian Country. We have pressing and dire issues that are taking the lives of our men and women everyday, and I am in absolutely no way minimizing this reality. But we also live in a state of active colonialism. In order to justify the genocide against Native peoples in this country, we must be painted as inferior–that’s the colonial game. These images continue that process. The dominant culture therefore continues to marginalize our peoples, to ignore and erase our existence. We are taught everyday, explicitly in classrooms, and implicitly through messages from the media, that our cultures are something of the past, something that exists in negative contrast to “western” values, and something that can be commodified and enjoyed by anyone with $20 to buy a cheap plastic headdress. These stereotypical images like Johnny Depp’s Tonto feed into this ongoing cycle, and until we demand more, our contemporary existence (and therefore the “real” problems in Indian Country) simply doesn’t exist in the minds of the dominant culture.

the-lone-ranger-johnny-depp-600x337I saw The Lone Ranger so you don’t have to

The very first scene we are presented with an image of a Native person, in a museum–which presumably we’re supposed to critique, but there’s no questioning of Tonto’s position there. To me it reinforces the idea that all the Indians are dead, relics of the past, which is actually a theme throughout. […]

Finally we come to the end of the story. Tonto finishes telling it all to the little boy in the museum, and we see that he has put on a suit, holds a suitcase, and places a bowler hat over his crow (which he has continued to “feed” throughout the film). The boy gets momentarily distracted, turns back, and OMG again, Tonto’s gone! In return, a (live) crow flies out of the exhibit and at the screen. Then we cut to credits. Then, a few minutes later, we see Tonto wandering off into the vastness of Monument Valley, hobbling along, carrying his suitcase. He continues to walk, back to the camera, for the next 10 minutes as the credits go on, and on, and on. I guess we’re to assume his time as a “Noble Savage” has passed, and he’s returning to his unbridled wilderness, alone–but dressed as a white guy this time? This, like most of the movie, didn’t make any sense.

The-Lone-Ranger-2013-Johnny-DeppJohnny Depp as Cultural Appropriation Jack Sparrow…I mean Tonto.

The Tonto costume is a mish-mash of stereotypical Indian garb, a Plains-style breastplate with a southwest-style headband (minus the effing bird), random feathers and beads–but the face paint that makes him look evil, forlorn, and angry all at once is a nice touch. Then, the fact that the publicity photo shows the “wild” and “unruly” (ok, I’ll say it, “savage”) Tonto behind the clean, polished, (and white) Lone Ranger is a great “honoring” to Native people too, and shows how much agency Tonto has, right? (/sarcasm)”

iamcrow75procent3Johnny Depp as Tonto: I’m still not feeling “honored”

Johnny Depp decided to “honor” Native peoples and “reinvent” our role in hollywood by relying on the most tired and stereotypical tropes imaginable. On his “inspiration” for Tonto’s makeup:

«I’d actually seen a painting by an artist named Kirby Sattler, and looked at the face of this warrior and thought: That’s it. The stripes down the face and across the eyes … it seemed to me like you could almost see the separate sections of the individual, if you know what I mean.»

Though that quote makes absolutely no sense (“separate sections of the individual?), the picture in reference is below. The connection between the Sattler painting and Depp’s costuming was actually caught quickly in March by some fans of the Native Appropriations facebook page, one of whom even took the time to call Sattler’s studio. The PR rep on the phone assured her to wait until the movie came out and that she was certain “everything would be done in an appropriate manner.” I guess “appropriate” is relative?

Armie Hammer apparently talked to some Natives who love Lone Ranger

Do I wish we lived in a society where Natives were more visible and it wasn’t such a freaking novelty that someone wants to make a movie with us? Do I wish we the resources and publicity to get the same amount of attention on our own media? Do I wish that we had other economic ventures on our reservations that could provide jobs without having to become a Hollywood stereotype? yes, yes, and yes. I think we deserve much more.

٠ Candy, Candy, Candy I can’t let you go ٠

candy_magazine_luke_worrallCover Candy, issue #1

04-Paper_Weight_Cover_CandyCover Candy, issue #2

Luis Venegas, the Madrid-based editor of fashion and art publications including Fanzine 137, has launched his latest. Called Candy, Venegas describes the publication as the first “Transversal Style” magazine: “the first fashion magazine ever completely dedicated to celebrating transvestism, transexuality, cross dressing and androgyny, in all its manifestations.

Writes Venegas: “Never before in history, have men and women had so many opportunities for body modification, or so many ways to change their appearance from head to toe: from the softest options like make up, to permanent transformations courtesy of the surgeons’ knife. Now the 21st Century is truly underway, there’s no need to justify ourselves, only the ability and need to celebrate the diversity of lifestyles and options, the freedom to choose on every level. The possibilities are as infinite as the amount of people there are in this world. CANDY is a magazine for everybody. A space for individual freedom, and a publication that pushes people to take on the persona of what they always wanted to be.” text via towleroad

candy__oPtCover Candy, issue #3. Chloë Sevigny, dressed as Terry Richardson, shot by Terry himself.

Candy_4-cover-MDXCover Candy, issue #4.Tilda Swinton shot by Xevi Muntané

1355875358751.cachedCover Candy, issue #5.

٠ Harmony Korine’s pop poem ٠

spring-breakers-ski-maskI’ve recently watched Spring Breakers and was very surprised. I was writing down a couple of thoughts when I saw João Henriques’ post about that image with Madonna, so I decided to make a post, since the issues have a lot to do with one another. It’s about pop culture, for sure, about contemporary icons, about guns as symbols of power and masculinity (and about their phallic symbolism of course), but it is also about these female heroines in Korine’s movie and what is happening with the feminist movement or should I jump ahead and call it pseudo-feminism?

First and foremost it should be said that Harmony is his own master. He almost comes forward as authentic. Apart from Kids (1995), which he wrote and Larry Clark directed, his other movies were really far out experimental, subjective and visual trips. But then there’s this.

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a pop poem (in his own terms). I’ll add it is a poem of the best kind, it is art. In being a poem it is not about the words that make its form or its content but about the sound that makes the linguistic understanding once it is read, listened or seen by the receptor’s mind. In “Art, Inactivity, Politics” (2007), Giorgio Agamben asks: What in fact is a poem if not a linguistic operation which renders language inoperative by de‑activating its communicative and informative functions in order to open it to a new possible use?

spring-breakers-sb_mm_03278_rgbSpring Breakers, besides being about that alien-like holidays the americans have while “we” are on easter break, it’s about a rite of passage of 4 girls who, along with James Franco’s gangsta character, Alien, are the main characters of the movie. Selena Gomez plays one of the four, Faith, the one who has a religious education and turns out to be more quiet, afraid ans super-ego friendly than the others. In a scene where she’s at church we can hear someone saying that temptations present themselves with a way out. It seems like her character was enlightened by it.

Soon in the narrative we know the girls are badass, since they robe a store to get money to go on Spring Break. While on holidays, partying hard, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, they get arrested. They wear bikinis thru out almost the entire movie, even when they go to court. Alien bails them out. He is a proper gangsta with golden teeth and all, big house, fast cars, lot of cash, lot of guns, babes, and he even has the ATL twins working for him. Except for Faith, the other 3 girls stick around and then Korine’s fantasies come to life. He puts the 3 in bikinis and wearing pink ski masks (Korine’s iconic take on pussy-riot, no mistake here), holding big guns, standing next to Alien at a sunset-side piano and singing Britney Spears’ ballad “Everytime”. It’s fucking unforgettable! It’s hyper-stylized! It’s superficial! It’s about hipper-aestetization and superficiality, about the look of things, about the idea of power, how easy it is to grab someone’s attention and make him/her feel submissive, as if the one giving the statement is always in a higher moral position to lead the way.

Being that the theme is superficiality, lets go ahead and introduce the simplest idea ever of what feminism is by repeating what the majority of the media are saying: that chicks with guns is an exercise of female empowerment. Could it be more literal? Yeah, yeah, the guns stand for the guys cocks, so it’s like they’re holding their weapons which, per se, should be read as saying that the only important thing in a man is his sexuality and that a woman isn’t good enough if she is not in control of her own body and his. Gender equality? Forget it. Just see Feman. Feminism, so they should think, is not about gender equality in social, political, emotional, private and public opportunities and affairs, it seems to be about showing that women are the greatest. As I see it, that’s what Madonna stands for. Unfortunately for them, things are much more complicated and this is getting too big. Just watch the movie if you can, it’s a breath of fresh air to say the least.

┐ Johann Rousselot └

© Johann Rousselot, Degage espece de chien. Benghazi, Libye, Mars 2011

© Johann Rousselot, Massacre d’innocents – Liberte – Sois patient Khadafi, tu es en train de creuser ta tombe. Benghazi, Libye, Mars 2011.

© Johann Rousselot, Maintenant je suis un humain libre – La grace de dieu pour les martyrs du 17 fevrier. Benghazi, Libye, Mars 2011.

These photographs from Libya are part of a bigger project, called Colères. Note from the author:

“Portraits réalisés à Benghazi et vers la ligne de front à Brega. Tous les graffitis et slogans ont été trouvés sur les murs de la ville ou à l’intérieur du centre des médias sur la place de la Mahkama à Benghazi. Qui ont donné la direction principale de l’inspiration graphique de cette série.Montages et collages réalisés en post-production.”

NOTE: be advised this video compilation contains some images that are very graphic and may disturb some viewers.
Russelot’s edit is not gratuitously violent, his video also carries interviews and includes a particularly chilling slideshow of personal images found on the cell phone of one of Assad’s bully-boy militiamen.
It is hard to watch these brutal accounts coming out of Syria via personal cell phone and home video clips. Hard because these images are shockingly graphic and unforgiving. And difficult too, because this happened yesterday, it happened today and it will happen again tomorrow – unnoticed or unremarked on by the world at large.
Where fresh hopes of spring turned into a listless summer of dreaming, a darkenning realism is prevalent in autumn it would seem. Not all dictators are equal and not all aspirations for freedom are supported.

More of Johann’s work here