Guest blogger João Henriques ٠ Another brick in the wall ٠

A person is more holy than a land, even a holy land, since faced with an affront made to a person, this holy land appears in its nakedness to be but stone and wood. Emmanuel Levinas.

Josef Koudelka has become a mythical name for photography. A myth not only associated with the quality of his photographic production, but also with the fact that he is a member of Magnum Agency, that influential bastion of documentary photography, which brought him an iconic status of the photographer that is also a hero, engagé et résistante. However, the problems that came to be associated with photojournalism and other types of photography are well known. Not only did television ruin the need for long photographic stories, but the ubiquity of the digital capture is also propelling the extinction of a professional approach to the way photographers document events. Nowadays, what matters is the immediacy of the work, more than its quality or the thought that was behind it. If the photographer owned a certain iconographic power, such power was attributed to him not only for his skills, but mostly due to History’s slow pace. However, History has changed gears; it can do without big narratives (or rather, the media exempt her from such burden), connections and ideologies are lost. The event itself lost its importance in favour of a continuous unroll of events, preferably disconnected from any sort of thread between them abstracting and stupefying  reality.

The point of this prologue is to introduce Koudelka’s recent interview for the New York Times. I came across it via an article by Colin Pantall, where Colin dissects Asim Rafiqui’s hot reaction to Koudelka’s interview. The plot is relatively simple: Koudelka was invited to photograph the wall that separates Israel from Palestine and though he initially refused, we was then convinced to do it (at least that’s what  he says to say). The result can be seen in the book “Wall: Israeli and Palestinian Landscapes”, which serves has a motto for the NYT’s interview.

Koudelka begins by stating that he doesn’t usually do many interviews and in the end he also says that what photographers say about their works is of no importance, which is one of two things, either sharp irony or acute ingenuity, since what is done along the interview is precisely constructing and contextualizing his work, precisely one of the vectors that gives way to the emergency and validity of any photographic work, either one agrees with what Koudelka proposes or not.

And what does he propose? First of all, he seems to tack an understanding of landscape that is worthy of someone who has spent the last decades sleeping under a rock. Landscape as the promise of an experience conveyed by the photographer is nowhere to be seen, unless you think of a touristic phenomenology that usually neglects further reflection about the place. “I hope my book is not about my experience”, Koudelka says, an affirmation that appears here contextualized nevertheless shaping the general discourse about his work .

On the other hand, Koudelka needs facts, more on the surface than at a deep level. Such pragmatism values the optical and descriptive qualities of the image but ignores its subjective and narrative dimensions. In his words: “I don’t like picture stories. In fact I think picture stories destroyed all photography.” Such apocalyptic statement seems to be supported by a belief in photography’s lack of narrative potential. However, and here is the source of some confusion, the potential to tell a story is more a result of the way the photographer explores the medium’s capabilities – how he manages to use it in order to convey the way he experienced the place -, than of the story the image “tells”, since an image can only show facts but not interpretations, and facts without interpretations are of no use other than being mere documents, as the Israeli secret services (or Mr Rumsfeld, btw) could have explained. One might think that stories are also made of the possibility to explain something, but such explanations are precisely what kills the story. Contrary to Koudelka’s conservative beliefs we need interpretations in the form of stories instead of explanations, but all this rant against «stories killing photography» might be a position Koudelka holds towards his colleague Alec Soth (and others?), who might be accused of imploding Magnum with his “crazy” quests about the power of narrative, denoting an intestine battle inside the agency.

ba-gaza_SFCG1262911017image by Joe Sacco, from Footnotes in Gaza

Koudelka also seems to ignore landscape from different perspectives of use of the territory, as he considers the main function of the wall erected between Israel and Palestine one of destruction of the landscape. “I found that the destruction of the landscape is very bad” or “I call what is going on in this most holy landscape, which is most holy for a big part of humanity, is the crime against the landscape.” These comments seem to pertain to the aesthetic side, that of the landscape as a “sight”, being the only job of the photographer that of aestheticizing  the entire “mess” that way “fixing” what was formally wrong.

The remaining questions underlying the building of the wall will have to be disconnected from the images just because the photographer says so and others too. Leaning on third party legitimation to defend his idea, Koudelka says: “What is interesting for me is that I showed these books in Israel and everyone told me this book is not a political book — that this is about man and the place. This book is not about conflict”. In landscape photography there are usually no dead bodies, and as Adorno said «the beauty in nature is history standing still and refusing to unfold», adding the fact that Koudelka seems to not have listened a single dissenting voice, but was it supposed to expect any different answer from the Israeli side? As if in denial, Koudelka seems oblivious to the “implicit” contract he signed, that the images from his book are only another step towards the pervasive necessity of legitimacy from the Israeli state, not to mention the legitimacy of the violence and oppression against the Palestinians, who, nevertheless may also have their share of responsibility in the scenario. If the pictorial side of the landscape is served in the book both ways, from the perspective of its uses and consequences the wall seems to be totally one-sided, a sight worthy of the fiction proposed in Truman Show.

Koudelka is evasive whenever the questions denote a political dimension, putting all the History of engagé photography under a tabula rasa, genre where his images fit and where he is considered a carrier of the humanist approach. In the beginning he says that he would never have gone to those territories, but he did (with a little push, he says…); he also affirms that photographer’s statements are of no matter but he goes on talking about his images – which surely have the formal beauty we are used to see -, almost completely ignoring the reality they represent. At the end, Koudelka says, almost in a glamorous tone, how he dismisses art: “I never use the explanation of ‘art,’ as a matter of fact every time there is the Magnum meeting and they start to talk about art I say: ‘Can we eliminate the word art from the annual meeting? Let’s just talk about photography. What is this art?’”. He might have some reason here, in anthropological terms art and images are different matters but the discourse (and practice) that supports his work in Israel is grounded in the utmost artialization of nature through the use of landscape photography. A landscape given only as a sight, heir of painting, stripped away from use, experience, of any other meaning beyond his private world, “For me it is just enough to look at the pictures.” Unfortunately, such deflection looks like a strategy relegating the focus on the technical and formal capacities of the image (and on authorship, of course…) but not on what they represent. In the end, no more than a modernist position that rests in overall trustworthiness in an understanding of the world through its appearances.

A certain philistine attitude from some photographers, generally supported by the anguish that results from the absence of non-commercial work and of being published at any cost, might lead them to escape the problematic dimensions of the commissioned works, hiding behind the technical aspect of the support, paying homage to the forms but forgetting the content. This sheds a light over Koudelka that could be seen as «give me some money for a book, don’t ask too many questions and it will all be ok», an approach that may be uncomfortable to some of his Magnum partners, with a lesson for future generations that rests mainly on a pragmatic materialism but not much else.

I hope to be mistaken about the romanticism and theatricality of this work about Israel and Palestine. Although we can recognize in the surface of the images their potential to become icons, and so to become triggers for political action – where on the contrary their depth may only unveil falsehoods and selective memories -, Koudelka’s images (and discourse) seem to be of a detached nature which codifies landscape in terms of a romantic and contemplative poetry, a somehow naïf and insufficient approach, concerning a territory and its implications that have been threatening the world peace for far too long.

text by João Henriques.

٠ I say whip it, whip it good ٠

R e s i s t a n t   v i s u a l   c u l t r e  is not about art or traditional activism. It is a method for building a real, living culture. As opposed to a vocation or sentimental pursuit, I think of this field as a way to productively communicate amongst those who are dedicated to social change. It is not about further investigating art history nor about tactics for getting into galleries. If this sounds naively vague that is on purpose. I don’t think we need to be specific and I believe that even a simple analysis of capital and control should be enough to bind a lot of disparate people together. These terms are methods for finding more effective ways to do this.

What follows are a series of terms that I have found many “rads” using. I introduce them in the hopes they lead to more productive discussions.
A. Visual Culture
B. Criticality (Ambiguity)
C. Resistance/Tactics/Strategies
D. Infrastructures of Resonance
E. Material Consequences
F. Legitimation”

[…]

I hope these terms might prove to be constructive. I notice that many of the words are developed in order to manage the tensions between an overtly dominant modernism and an all too relativist post-modernism. They also are attempts to position visual resistance within a framework conducive to the rise of the information economy. Using a more specific vocabulary allows us to avoid the boring pitfalls of“is it art?”or“is it political?”. By avoiding these traps to some degree, hopefully we can move towards developing a radical culture that can actually bust apart the dominance of capital and control.”

excerpt of Contributions to a Resistant Visual Culture Glossary, by Nato Thompson. Not posting the complete article for lack of time but will make it available if anyone asks for it.

٠ Turkey as The place for an historical turn ٠

Two things justify this (another) post about Turkey: first, the fact that today – June 22nd -, confrontations restarted in Istanbul and Ankara, with the police intervening with TOMA’s, tear gas, sound bombs and arresting people; secondly, a text about the Turkish Uprising, by Alain Badiou, posted by Cengiz Erdem @ Senselogic, which would be more than worthy of a single feature, if not for the accompanying events. All photos by George Georgiou, who lived in Turkey for four and a half years and witnessed the geographical, demographic, sociological and political changes taking place. All photos from the series “Young Turks”, taken in the middle of Taksim square, for Panos Pictures.

~

1“A large proportion of the educated youth all across Turkey are currently leading a vast movement against the government’s repressive and reactionary practices. This is a very important moment in what I have called “the rebirth of History.” In many countries around the world, middle school, high school, and university youth, supported by a part of the intellectuals and the middle class, are giving new life to Mao’s famous dictum: “It is right to revolt.” They are occupying squares and streets, symbolic places; they are marching, calling for freedom, “true democracy,” and a new life. They are demanding that the government either change its conservative politics or resign. They are resisting the violent attacks of the state police.

These are the features of what I have called an immediate uprising: one of the potential forces of popular revolutionary political action – in this case, the educated youth and a part of the salaried petty bourgeoisie – rises up, in its own name, against the reactionary state. I enthusiastically say: it is right to do so! But in so doing it opens up the problem of the duration and the scope of its uprising. It is right to take action, but what is the real reason for it in terms of thinking, and for the future?

The whole problem is whether this courageous uprising is capable of opening the way for a genuine historical riot. A riot is historical – as was the case only in Tunisia and Egypt, where the outcome of the struggle has still not been determined – when it brings together, under shared slogans, not just one but several potential actors of a new revolutionary politics: for example, in addition to the educated youth and middle class, large sectors of working-class youth, workers, women of the people, low-level employees, and so on. This move beyond the immediate riot toward a mass protest movement creates the possibility for a new type of organized politics, a politics that is durable, that merges the force of the people with the sharing of political ideas, and that thereby becomes capable of changing the overall situation of the country in question.

3I know that a number of our Turkish friends are perfectly aware of this problem. They know three things in particular: that there must be no mistake about contradictions; that the movement mustn’t pursue the path of a “desire for the West;” and that it is above all necessary to join with the popular masses in inventing, with people other than themselves – with workers, minor employees, women of the people, farmers, unemployed people, foreigners, and so on – forms of political organization that are currently unknown.

For example, is the main contradiction in Turkey today between the conservative Muslim religion and freedom of thought? We know it is dangerous to think so, even and above all if this is a widespread idea in the countries of capitalist Europe. Of course, the current Turkish government openly claims allegiance to the dominant religion. It is the Muslim religion, but ultimately that’s only a minor issue: even today, Germany is governed by Christian democracy, the President of the United States takes the oath of office on the Bible, President Putin, in Russia, constantly panders to the Orthodox clergy, and the Israeli government constantly exploits the Jewish religion. Reactionaries have always and everywhere used religion to rally a part of the popular masses to their government; there’s nothing particularly “Muslim” about this. And it should in no way lead to regarding the opposition between religion and freedom of thought as the main contradiction of the current situation in Turkey. What should be made clear is that the exploitation of religion serves precisely to conceal the real political questions, to overshadow the basic conflict between the emancipation of the popular masses and the oligarchical development of Turkish capitalism. Experience shows that religion, as personal, private belief, is by no means incompatible with commitment to a politics of emancipation. It is surely in this tolerant direction, which requires only that religion and state power not be confused and that people distinguish in themselves between religious belief and political conviction, that the uprising currently underway must move in order to acquire the stature of a historical riot and invent a new political path.

Similarly, our friends are perfectly aware that what is currently being created in Turkey cannot be the desire for what already exists in the rich, powerful countries like the United States, Germany and France. The word “democracy” in this regard is ambiguous. Do people want to invent a new organization of society, headed toward genuine equality? Do they want to overthrow the capitalist oligarchy of which the “religious” government is the servant but of which anti-religious factions, in Turkey as in France, have been, and can become again, the no less efficient servants? Or do they only want to live the way the middle class lives in the major Western countries? Is the action being guided by the Idea of popular emancipation and equality? Or by a desire to create a solidly established middle class that will be the mainstay of a Western-style “democracy,” that is, completely subject to the authority of Capital? Do they want a democracy in its genuine political meaning, namely, a real power of the people imposing its rule on landlords and the wealthy, or “democracy” in its current Western meaning: consensus around the most ruthless capitalism, provided that a middle class can benefit from it and live and speak as it wishes, since the essential mechanism of business, imperialism, and the destruction of the world won’t be tampered with? This choice will determine whether the current uprising is just a modernization of Turkish capitalism and its integration into the world market, or whether it is truly oriented toward a creative politics of emancipation, giving new impetus to the universal history of Communism.

2And the ultimate criterion for all this is actually quite simple: the educated youth must take the steps that will bring them closer to the other potential actors of a historical riot. They must spread their movement’s enthusiasm beyond their own social existence. They must create the means of living with the broad popular masses, of sharing the thoughts and practical innovations of the new politics with them. They must give up the temptation to adopt, for their own benefit, the “Western” conception of democracy, meaning: the simple, self-serving desire for a middle class to exist in Turkey as an electoral and falsely democratic client of an oligarchic power integrated into the world market of capital and commodities. This is called: liaison with the masses. Without it, the admirable current revolt will end in a subtler and more dangerous form of subservience: the kind we are familiar with in our old capitalist countries.

We intellectuals and militants in France and other rich countries of the imperialist West implore our Turkish friends to avoid creating a situation like ours in their country. To you, our dear Turkish friends, we say: the greatest favor you can do for us is to prove that your uprising is taking you to a different place from ours, that it is creating a situation whereby the material and intellectual corruption in which our sick old countries are languishing today will be impossible.

Fortunately, I know that in contemporary Turkey, among all our Turkish friends, the means exist to avoid the erroneous desire to be like us. This great country, with its long, tormented history, can and must surprise us. It is the ideal place for a great historical and political innovation to occur.

Long live the uprising of Turkish youth and their allies! Long live the creation of a new source of future politics!”

CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!

┐ Can a symbolic image become a code? └

pmThis image is from yesterday’s official communication by the Portuguese PM about new austerity measures. It shows a reporter wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt. I know it is symbolic but I like to imagine it could be a code, a message given to rise a sort of underground army. Yes, I know, sci-fi, maybe I’ve seen “The Fight Club” too many times, but we need to believe we can take this government down, or else we’ll go mental. In the climax of our national anthem it reads “às armas”, aux armes!!! It doesn’t get more symbolic than this.
The video starts at the moment when the editor chooses to change angle to show the reporter. Thank you both!

┐ Jenny Holzer, You Must Disagree With Authority Figures* └

06-large© Jenny Holzer, Truism Projection, Venice 1999

06-largefg© Jenny Holzer, Truism Projection, Buenos Aires, 2000

holzer-035© Jenny Holzer, Truism Projection, New York

lustmord-1993-95jenny-holzer-selection-from-lustmord-in-new-york-exhibition-engraved-in-silver-bands-1993-95-via-the-whitney-museum-of-american-artholzer-008© Jenny Holzer, in collaboration with Tibor Kalman, Lustmord, 1993-94
Photographs of handwriting in ink on skin

“In many of her works Jenny Holzer explores political themes, in particular abuses of power and atrocities of war. In her series ‘Lustmord’ (1993-94) – meaning rape murder in German – Holzer created a number of works addressing war crimes in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, in particular the violent physical abuse, rape and murder of women that occurred. In this series Holzer displays photographs of text on human skin, some of which includes women’s blood mixed with ink.

Holzer often creates tension by conveying bold statements and the use of contradictory terms and viewpoints. She deals with the public and the private, fact and fiction, the universal and the particular, and the body, including body politics. In ‘PROTECT PROTECT’, for example, Lustmord Table (1994) also references torture and bodily harm. In this work Holzer displays human bones with silver bands impressed with words by rape victims, perpetrators and witnesses. (…)

Many of Holzers work focus on unnecessary cruelty. She wants people to react and recoil. Holzer would like there to be less fear and cruelty in the world and her work is an expression of her empathy with human suffering and injustice. She is also exploring human fallibility, situational ethics and self-reflection, whilst often focusing on universal questions.” via acca education

holzer-lustmord© Jenny Holzer, Lustmord Table, 1994

* One of Jenny Holzer’s Truisms (1978-1983). Other truisms can be seen here and projections here

┐ Filippo Minelli └

fimi© Filippo Minelli, from Contradictions, ongoing. Project realized (until now) between Cambodia, Vietnam, Mali, China, Italy.

8353973472_ed51443ee6_c5245750451_fe8e9ec71f_b6411632365_ca94b06888_b7394008588_b64c63ca2e_c© Filippo Minelli, all from the project Silence/Shapes, 2010-ongoing

“I started the ongoing series Silence/Shapes in early 2010 to give a physical shape to silence. To realize my idea I chose the chemicals used to create smoke bombs, a medium traditionally devoted to create chaos in political demonstrations, and to juxtapose it with landscapes and natural environments with overtones typical of the romantic and sublime landscape painting of the 19th century.

These environments become composition-relevant in the process and there’s a conceptual side lurking in the work, in which non-object, formalist compositions, due to their location in public space, are open to political interpretations. Social relationships are reflected in the confrontations between color and landscape, individual positions are contrasted with, or inserted into, communal structures; personal imaginations encounter collective image culture.

The aim is to show what is invisible for its own nature. Besides the religious aspects concerning what most of the religions call the ‘hidden manifest’, the political choice of using a violent medium in these landscapes states that beauty can be found in clashing visions.”


www.filippominelli.com

┐ Tomas Young’s last letter └

richards-2richards-4from Eugene Richard‘s series War is Personal

Days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Tomas Young, then a 22-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., made a decision repeated by many other Americans around the country: He was going to enlist in the military in hopes of getting even with the enemies who had helped coordinate the deaths of nearly 3,000 men, women and children.
Less than three years later, Young’s Army service placed him not in Afghanistan — where then-President George W. Bush had told the nation the terrorist plot had originated — but in Iraq. On April 4, 2004, just five days into his first tour, Young’s convoy was attacked by insurgents. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spine. Another struck his knee. Young would never walk again, and in fact, for the next nearly nine years, he would suffer a number of medical setbacks that allowed him to survive only with the help of extensive medical procedures and the care of his wife, Claudia.
The incident turned Young into one of the most vocal veteran critics of the Iraq War. He has, however, saved his most powerful criticism for what he claims will be his last. Young says he’ll die soon, but not before writing a letter to Bush and former Vice President Cheney on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War.

Tomas prepared things so that he will be gone this next April. Here is his last letter, as published in Truthdig, a MUST READ:

“I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.”

┐ Breaking Point …………………………………………………………………………….└

manif_2M_5 copy© Sofia Silva, 2M Demonstration @ Lisbon, 2013

It’s definitely the last time we hit the streets peacefully. There’s no turning back from here. “almost 24 hours after these events neither the President nor the government spoke about the massive demonstrations.”

If you want to read a brief description (in english) of what happened yesterday see here

┐ Photographs from inside the Israeli army └

osher_naked_gun_in_crotch

“…Israeli soldiers’ use of social media has given a unique insight into an “army” that functions more like a rabble – with soldiers misusing weapons, breaking laws, and expressing violent and extreme views and posting images of themselves doing it online.

A case in point is Osher Maman, another 20-year-old Israeli soldier currently enlisted in the “elite” Golani Brigade.

Maman’s Instagram account currently includes 549 images which show, among other things, images of him mishandling weapons and breaking military laws. The earliest date from April 2012 and the most recent from today. An illustrative selection – with tags where he included them – are used throughout this post. Maman also expresses deeply racist and even genocidal views towards Palestinians and Arabs. (Note: following publication of this article, Maman has deleted his various social media accounts).bullet_art green_tips_0

What does it mean that the Israeli army recruits a soldier, with a dubious history, who is stupid enough to post images of himself committing more criminal offenses?

Is this a man who should be handling – playing with – lethal weapons in any circumstances? Or does it mean that this Most Moral Army so lacks discipline that soldiers like Maman can break the law without fear of consequences?

A lust for violence and genocidal hatred of Arabs

Osher Maman freely expresses his deep, even genocidal hatred of Palestinians and his desire to see them oppressed and killed. Responding to a comment on one of his images, for example, Maman told the commenter

Lmao for all I care you can comment all my pictures, you’re still a fucking Arab pile of shit, you even smell like it. You’re never going to win over israel (the chosen people) bc you’re a bunch of slaves, shit I probably am the slave master of some Arab who’s related to you… An you all will stay trapped in gaza and every little shittt village that you Palestinians have inside of israel. And you will continue to go to our jails and to have your houses broken in to. Basically your life will be shit until you all die, so go ahead and have fun commenting on my pictures of that’s going to make your death a little better…”

excerpt of the article Stoned, naked, armed and dangerous: more disturbing images from an Israeli soldier’s Instagram, by Ali Abunimah on electronic intifada. continue reading here

Another interesting article about the use of pictures and social media in the context of war The Instagram War: Gaza & Israel, 2012 byMichael Shaw here

┐ Africa in its primitivist discourse, (obviously) as seen by the west └

The Golden Phallus, 1989© Rotimi Fani-Kayode, The Golden Phallus, 1989

kayode8© Rotimi Fani-Kayode

Zebra_Katz_Alison_Brady_3© Zebra Katz, photo by Alison Brady

Fani-Kayode-Bronze-Head© Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Bronze Head, 1987

Enwezor_interview© Jane Alexander, The Butcher Boys, 1985-86.

“If, however, the Tate Modern were an institution working beyond the smug reflex of Western museological authority, it would have found right in its own context work of artists like Rotimi Fani-Kayode, the Nigerian- British photographer whose work—formally and conceptually—involves a long, rigorous excursus into the distinction between the nude and nakedness as it concerns the African body. The analytic content, not to say the formal and aesthetic contradictions that Fani-Kayode’s photographic work introduces us to about the black body in contrast to the modernist nude, is quite telling. More substantial is its awareness of the conflicted relationship the black body7 has to Western representation and its museum discourse. This makes the absence of works like his in the Nude/Action/Body section of the Tate Modern the more glaring. We can substitute Fani-Kayode with any number of other practitioners, but he is important for my analysis for the more specific reason of his Africanness, his conceptual usage of that Africanness in his imagery, and his collapse of the fraught idea of nakedness and the nude in his photographic representation. Fani-Kayode’s pictures also conceive of the black body (in his
case the black male body with its homoerotic inferences) as a vessel for idealization, as a desiring and desir- able subject, and as self- conscious in the face of the reduction of the black body as pure object of ethnographic spectacle. All these critical turns in his work make the Tate Modern’s inattention to strong, critical work on the nude and the body by artists such as Fani-Kayode all the more troubling, because it is precisely works like his that have brought to crisis those natural- ized conventions of otherness, which throughout history of modern art have been the stock-in-trade of modernism. Whatever its excuses for excluding some of these artists from its presentation, we should discount Tate Mod- ern’s monologue on the matter of the ethnographic films. Accompanying the extracts, which also manifest a characteristic double- speak, the label expounds on the matter of the films’ presence in the gallery:


European audiences in the early 20th century gained experience of Africa through documentary films. Generally these conformed to stereotyped notions about African cultures. An ethnographic film of 1910, for instance, concentrates on the skills and customs of the Senegalese, while Voyage to the Congo, by filmmaker Marc Allégret and writer André Gide perpetuates preconceptions about life in the ‘bush’. However, the self-awareness displayed by those under scrutiny, glimpsed observing the filmmakers subverts the supposed objectivity of the film.


The Tate Modern in this supplementary discourse imputes both the manufacture and consumption of the stereotype to some past European documentary films and audiences, which is to say that the business of such stereotypes lies in the past, even if it has now been exhumed before a contemporary European audience for the purposes of explaining modernism’s penchant for deracinating the African subject. But if the discourse of the stereotype as implied is now behind us, is its resuscitation an act of mimicry or is it, as Homi Bhabha has written, an act of anxious repetition of the stereotype (in “The Other Question”) that folds back into the logic for excluding African artists in the gallery arrangement? Does the repetition of the stereotype caught, if you will, in a discursive double-maneuver posit an awareness of the problem of the stereotype for contemporary transnational audiences or does the museum’s label present us with a more profound question in which the wall text causally explains and masks what is absent in the historical reorganization of the museum’s memory cum history? One conclusion can be drawn from this unconvincing explanatory maneuver: more than anything, it entrenches European modernist appropriation and instrumentalization of Africa in its primitivist discourse to which the Tate Modern in the twenty-fi rst century is a logical heir.”

excerpt of The Postcolonial Constellation: Contemporary Art in a State of Permanent Transition, by Okwui Enwezor, “in Research in African Literatures” Vol. 34, No. 4 Winter 2003: 57–82

┐ WR: Mysteries of the Organism └

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“As for Wilhelm Reich himself, upon whose ideas and career the film is largely based, today he seems less like a sex radical than like a crypto-conservative without knowing it. Reich’s glorification of the orgasm is actually quite heteronormative and prescriptive, as well as being entirely caught up within the discursive deployment of sexuality-as-liberation, described and denaturalized by Foucault. (Indeed, as far back as the 1950s, Norman O. Brown had already denounced Reich’s privileging of “normal adult genital sexuality” over the multiple potentials of “polymorphous perversity”). Reich’s later ideas about orgone energy, for which he was prosecuted and persecuted by the US government, and which (in the late 1950s and the 1960s) had a correspondingly subversive prestige among writers and intellectuals (like Norman Mailer and William Burroughs), today seem little more than variants of today’s fashionable (and entirely conformist) New Age beliefs.

Where does all this leave WR: Mysteries of the Organism? I’ve been suggesting that the ideas and practices which make up the film’s subject matter have all been tarnished by the passage of time. In a certain sense, this means that what Makavejev proposed, in 1971, as images of liberation, have now become parts of everyday experience, in all their banality and obviousness, and have turned out not to be liberating at all. But I am trying to suggest that, in an important way, this only makes the film more visionary and more relevant. And this, of course, has as much to do with the film’s form and dynamics as with its overt content. WR begins as a sort-of documentary about Wilhelm Reich. But other strands quickly get woven in, and Makavejev’s montage becomes increasingly dense and delirious as the film proceeds.

(…)

Makavejev, however, is neither as didactic as Eisenstein, nor as contemplative as Godard. Rather, he pushes intellectual montage in the direction of what I can best call a kind of energizing of potentialities (of what Deleuze would call the virtual, or what Whitehead would call the “mental pole” of a concrescence). Makavejev is concerned with multipying potentialities, even (or especially) when these potentialities (obviously) cannot all be realized (since they are “incompossible” with one another), and when they lead to an impasse. Which is why the film can both enthusiastically celebrate the potentials of free sexuality, and envision the way such a “liberated” sexuality is only a pseudo-liberation, as it issues either in rampant consumerism (the American way), or in the exaltation of a sort of phallic totalitarianism (which applies, in different ways, to both Stalin and Hitler), or to the panicked reassertion of male privilege via murder (Vladimir Ilyich loses his self-possession when he gives way to orgasm and to his desire for Milena; which is why, in classic masculine-domination mode, just like in all those American film noirs, he punishes the woman for having allured him).

That is to say, in comparison to either Eisenstein or Godard, Makavejev’s intellectual montage is… more intellectual, more world-significant in its ramifications. (None of this should be seen as criticism of Godard, for whom I maintain an undying love and allegiance). But, besides being more intellectual, Makavejev is also (how to best put this?) more material — no, rather, more corporeal, more deeply embodied, than Godard (or Eisentstein). This has much to do with Reich, whose insistence on the embodiment of affects and desires is perhaps the most significant and powerful aspect of his theories. Reich, for instance, thought and wrote at great length about how repressions and conflicts and erotic positions are manifested, not just in linguistic and intellectual symptoms (as per Freud), but also very much in bodily postures and gestures, in what might be called the visceral forms of expression. (This non-linguistic dimension is precisely what the Lacanians ignore, systematically and on principle). This aspect of Reich’s theory is in fact explained to us, on screen, by a Reichian analyst (Alexander Lowen, if I am remembering correctly).

Following this principle, Makavejev’s montage is as visceral as it is intellectual. The sexual scenes in WR have generally been the ones that have caused the most controversy: in the dvd of the film that I showed my class, during the plaster-casting scene the man’s erect penis is obscured by a ridiculous sort-of psychedelic efflorescence special effect. This is something that wasn’t there when I viewed the film years ago; it was added to the film by Makavejev in 1991 (he proclaimed it an “improvement” ) in order to satisfy British censorship regulations (is WR the only Eastern-bloc film that has been thus censored both by a Communist country and by a capitalist one?). But in fact, the most physically jolting scenes in the film are not directly sexual at all — they are documentary scenes of Reichian therapy, showing patients violently thrashing and convulsing their bodies while yelling things like “give it to me.” source: The Pinocchio Theory

┐ Democracy Deficit └

© Sofia Silva, Democracy Deficit (wip detail), from the series The Protester, 2012

from left top right it reads “Bread”, “Peace”, “Housing”, “Health”, “Education”

┐ Jason Florio └

© Jason Florio, KNLA – Karen National Liberation Army freedom fighter (left) + KNLA fighter carrying wood (right), from the series Burma, from the project Blackout History

© Jason Florio, Karen Civilians, from the series Burma, from the project Blackout History

© Jason Florio, KNLA – Karen National Liberation Army cook with bamboo water jugs on his back (left) +
KNLA – Karen National Liberation Army fighter (right), from the series Burma, from the project Blackout History

“For 62 years, in what is now the world’s longest ongoing conflict, the ill-fed and ill-equipped people of Karen have been fighting for an independent homeland against the ruling Burmese military government. “The Karen people have been locked in a David-and-Goliath conflict with a powerful authoritarian regime that seeks to push the Karen people off the map. The junta is applying a brutal, systematic policy of murder, rape, forced labor and wholesale destruction of Karen villages,” reports the award-winning photographer.


Working on assignment in the Karen State in 2010, Florio was enamored by the calm resilience of the Karen people, both soldiers and civilians, of who all seem to possess a quiet determination. Florio was so moved by the stoic and serene nature of the Karen people, and horrified by their stories of the human rights violations against them. Self -funded, he decided to return in February 2011, to bring the face of the Karen people and their under reported struggle for survival against the brutal junta, to a wider audience.”

More of Jason’s work here

┐ Freedom Fighters └

© Sofia Silva, Freedom Fighters (wip detail), from the series The Protester, 2012

the rest of the videos from the conference via The Public School (along with other great lectures, interviews, etc)

┐ Blindness └

all photos © Adam Hinton in Gaza, 2012

all drawings © Joe Sacco, taken from Footnotes in Gaza, 2010. An interview with Joe Sacco about the book and the massacres reported in it here

Articles about the Palestine/Israle conflict can be accessed via Stop the War Coalition

┐ الحرية لفلسطين └

© Sofia Silva, qui sème la misère, récolte la colère (wip detail), from the series The Protester, 2012

Freedom for Palestine

Resistance Égalité

Free Palestine canalblog

┐ Linda Forsell – Life’s a Blast └

Professor Noam Chomsky on his recent trip to the Gaza Strip, where he publicly called on Israel to put an end to the blockade on the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave. “[Gaza] is a lesson for people from the West,” Chomsky says. “If they can struggle on under really harsh and brutal conditions, it tells us we ought to be doing a lot more.”. Video here

© Linda Forsell, A Palestinian teenage boy uses a slingshot to cast stones at Israeli soldiers, from the project Life’s a Blast, Ni’lin, 2008

© Linda Forsell, A Palestinian man on the beach in the Gaza Strip., from the project Life’s a Blast, 2010

It’s fair to speculate that all photography surfacing from Israel and Palestine is about land. Knowing what we do about land disputes, settlements and segregation in the region, it’s difficult not to ascribe images a political position favoring the land claims of either the Israelis or Palestinians. This is understandable in a climate of contemporary opinion that has roundly rejected the idea of photography and photographer as objective agents.

Linda Forsell’s photographs are not landscape photographs in the traditional sense. However, the beguiling vignettes within the pages of this book do return us to issues of land, and to the discomfiting realisation that no one in Israel or Palestine has a grounded or reliable relationship to the land.

In considering the surety of land-claims – claims backed with violence – in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, it may seem absurd to describe peoples’ connections to land as without root. Perhaps, the word ‘ambiguous’ more faithfully describes the disconnect. Between the certainty of established political positions and the uncertainty of physical existence in the region there exists a vast gulf of ambiguity.

Life’s A Blast is a challenge to convention and photographic authority, a sustained and deliberate visual wobble.

Within a photograph of an older man teetering atop a wall, the wobble is literal. In the photographs of children wielding weapons and playing among destroyed buildings, the imbalance is allegorical. Men, women and children in Forsell’s work maintain relationships among themselves, but struggle to find their feet.

The tropes of photography – particularly photojournalism – in Israel and Palestine are well known; the checkpoint; the rock-slinging youth; the huddled mother; the wall; the distant settlements on a desert hillside; the coffin raised high at a funeral; and – perhaps with most appearances on international newspaper front pages – the flag. The flag is often accompanied by some billowing smoke.

These tropes persist because, within the boundaries of a news story, these scenes are the illustrative of the quote/unquote action. As consumers of images, we must keep at the forefront of our minds that living in Israel and Palestine goes on outside the boundaries of news column inches.

excerpt of Pete Brook’s essay published along Linda’s images in the book Life’s a Blast. continue reading here.

Live updates of the events in Gaza TODAY, 15th November 2012, via The Guardian

more of Linda’s work here

┐ Gold Srike └

© Sofia Silva, Stop messing with my life (detail), from the series The Protester, 2012

To all authoritarian regimes insisting on a capitalist structure and austerity measures: vaffanculo!

Live updates about the European strike journey via The Guardian and Libcom.org

┐ an unwelcome guest └

© REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis, A masked protester holds a metal bar during a violent demonstration in Syntagma square in central Athens

OPEN LETTER TO ANGELA MERKEL

Dear chancellor Merkel,

We start by saying we address you only as chancellor of Germany. We did not vote for you and do not acknowledge the existence of a chancellor of Europe. We, the subscribers of this open letter, write to you as free citizens. Citizens of a country you wish to visit on the next 12th of November, as well as citizens in solidarity with all the countries attacked by austerity. Due to the character of the announced visit, those who have to struggle daily with the dire economic and social situation in Portugal, must stress that you are not welcome. You should be considered persona non grata in Portuguese territory because you clearly come to interfere with the Portuguese State’s decisions without being democratically mandated by those who live here.

Even so, because our government has of late ceased to obide with the laws of this country and its Republican constitution, we address this letter directly to you. The presence of many great businessman in your entourage is an outrage. Under the guise of “foreign investment”, you will bring a group of people that will come to plunder the ruins in which your policies have left the Portuguese economy, as well as those of Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain. Your delegation is composed not only by those who have coerced the Portuguese state, with the connivance of its government, to privatize it’s property and most valuable assets, but also by the potential beneficiaries of those properties and assets, bought today at fire-sale prices.

This letter cannot and should not be seen as any sort of nationalist of chauvinist vindication – it’s a direct address to you as the chief promoter of the Neoliberal doctrine which is ruining Europe. We do not address the German people who have all the democratic legitimacy to elect whomever they want for their representative offices. However, in this country where we live, your name was never on any ballot. We did not elect you. As such, we do not recognize you the right to represent us and even less the right to make political decisions on our behalf.

And we are not alone. On the 14th of November, two days after your announced visit, we will rise with several others in a general strike which will include many European countries. It will be a strike against the governments which have betrayed and still betray the trust the citizens deposited on them, a strike against the austerity applied by them. But do not delude yourself, chancellor. It will be a strike against the austerity imposed by the troika and against all those which intend to transform it into an authoritarian regime. It will be a strike against you, Mme. Merkel. And if we salute the people of Greece, Spain, Italy Cyprus and Malta, we also salute the German people who suffer with us. We know very well that the Wirtschaftswunder, Germany’s “economical miracle”, was built on the basis of successive debt pardons by its main creditors. We know that the supposed current German economic thrust is built on a brutal crackdown on wages for over 10 years and the massive promotion of precarious labour, temporary and low-wage work that afflicts a great part of the German people. That also shows the perspective you, chancellor Merkel, have for your own country.

It’s very likely that you won’t reply. And it’s probable that the Portuguese government, subservient, weak and feeble, will receive you with flowers and applause. But the truth, chancellor, is that the majority of the Portuguese population blatantly disapproves of this government and the way in which it is destroying the country, supported by the troika and yourself. Even if you choose a secret route and a private airport to get away from the demonstrations against your visit, you have to know that they will occur all around the country. And they will be protests against you and what you represent. Your entourage may try and ignore us. The European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank may try to ignore the streets. But we are more and more, Mme. Merkel. Here and in all countries. Our protests will be stronger and stronger. We become more aware of reality every day. The stories you have all told us were always awkward and now we know they were full-out lies.

We have awaken, Mme. Merkel. You are an unwelcome guest.