Art Against Erasure



On September 26, 2014, a bus full of student teachers from the Raul Isidro Burgos Normal Rural School of Ayotzinapa, while en route to the city of Iguala in the state of Guerrero, came under vicious attack from local police acting on direct orders from the mayor, known for his close ties to the local drug cartel, Guerreros Unidos. Six students were killed, and 43 disappeared.

In one of the endless cruel twists that contort history in the Americas, the students had been on the way to the state capital to petition for funding that would permit a delegation from the school to attend the annual commemoration of the Oct. 2, 1968, Tlatelolco massacre, when government security forces opened fire on student protesters, killing hundreds.

Disappearance represents one of the most extreme forms of violence in the state of exception. Protestors are not just violently suppressed; they are removed from history, transformed into nonentities — erased. In the absence of protest, the wider public then  becomes complicit in a culture of ongoing cleansing, as the dirt of resistance is scrubbed clean from the immaculate narrative of the despotic (or merely criminal) polity.

Yet in this case, the brutal disappearance of the 43 students failed to secure the required silence and intimidation; the mayor and his wife have been forced into hiding, with dozens of local police and other officials arrested as accomplices to murder and other crimes.

Throughout Mexico, many artists have contributed to an online project assuring that the faces of the disappeared are not forgotten. In each gesture of resistance, the caption reads “I (the artist’s name) want to know where (the student’s name) is.”  Below, we relay five of these powerful acts of creative resistance:






The search for the missing students continues, as does the struggle for justice in southern Mexico.

Power and Violence


Revolted by the ongoing carnival of death and chaos staged in the name of slaying the devil, we have been meditating upon Hannah Arendt’s ever-lucid analysis of the relationship between power and violence:


Along a similar pathway of thought, we urge consideration of a recent op-ed by Brad Evans, the founder of the exemplary histories of violence project.

The image below, like the one above, is by Michaël Borremans, whose astonishing work we have only recently discovered, on recommendation from a Belgian correspondent.



More from Evans:


Those who wish to slay the devil need to contemplate the appalling image that resides inside their own mirror.

We look forward to reading Evans’ latest book, Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously, co-authored with Julian Reid. For now, we close with one final image from Borremans, with affirmation for the true, integral power of his art.


An Old Chaos of the Sun

Upon our return from an invigorating visit to the bravely contrarian St. John’s College in Santa Fe,  we submit for DP consideration an assemblage of convivialities in search of a churning potentiality: Blake’s notice to the Nobodaddy; an excerpt from the fecund theopoetics of Catherine Keller; the last lines from Wallace Stevens’ endlessly revealing Sunday Morning, and two evening landscapes from Georgia O’Keeffe.













Wheels of Birds

Every now and again, a book pushes through the muck of contemporary publishing and takes flight. So it is with The Gorgeous Nothings, a book that liberates the exquisite, intricate and at times unbearably painful envelope-writings of Emily Dickinson from the shadowlands of academic specialists. As lovers of ED since early days, we knew the envelope fragments existed, and we even knew a few lines from them; intuitively, perhaps, we even sensed their importance and autonomy as literary objects, clogged only with music. Yet oh my, how we welcome their precise documentation and decipherment here.

Both editors of this magnificent and essential book – Jen Bervin and Marta Werner – are to be commended for the richly adventurous poetic, visual and literary journey they have prepared for readers. We were particularly taken by the essay contributed by Werner, whose writing perfectly embodies the rare qualities that are present in the strange texts themselves. Werner unfolds her thoughts with the sort of bravely speculative and gracious erudition that we do not often associate with our times; and it is this free, unbound spirit that allows her to unseal the mysterious intimacies of the envelopes, joining them in flight. Below, we excerpt (with permission) her final section, with a focus on the envelope-writing identified in the archive as A 821:

mw1 A 821 mw2 A 821 trans

Electrocuting an Elephant

For those who doubt that any technology used against animals will eventually be used on humans as well, we invite contemplation of the short film made by Thomas Alva Edison:


Topsy was electrocuted for the crime of rebelling against circus workers, one of whom had tried to feed her a burning cigarette. Edison, of course, had been executing animals using electricity for many years, beginning with a mass electrocution in 1887. Indeed, newspaper reporting on that grim spectacle marked the first documented use of the term “electrocution”.

In 1890, a man named William Kemmler became the first human to “ride the lightning” upon the electric chair. The date was August 6, which would eventually become the same date for Hiroshima Day, as the age of electricity mutated into the age of radiation.

In related research, we also invite contemplation of an extraordinary essay by Lisa Guenther who, among other critical histories, draws our attention to the striking similarity between the photos of trophies at Abu Ghraib and photos of safari corpses. We recommend the entire essay, while borrowing two of the photos she includes therein (captions added by DP):





Reduction of humans into animals (“like dogs”, etc.) will continue so long as animals are treated as nothing more than meat. As we have long maintained, human rights and animal rights are connected at the deepest levels of ontology. We ignore these connections at our extreme peril.

A Chasm in the Present

As we continue to explore the rich philosophical overtones within the subtle and complex thought of Giorgio Agamben, we came across an interview on the Verso website. We pick up the thread following Agamben’s suggestion that humanity, always a work in process, must measure itself against the past through an archeological scrutiny of religion and law.

The images are from the hand and eye of the tremendously undervalued Eli Levin, an artist once thrown out of art school for his refusal to accept the sovereignty of abstraction. Strangely, he insisted on painting and drawing what he saw.


Standing Prisoner









The Paradox of Wonder

While tracking a few Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin references, we stumbled across an excellent essay by philosopher of science Lorraine  Daston.  If philosophy begins in wonder, is the end of inquiry already inscribed within the beginning? Below follow three brief excerpts, with images added by DP:








Scots Wha Hae

One of our core theses here at DP proposes that civic engagement in what used to be called “the public sphere” increases when power is most dispersed. Though we are aware that small groups often behave in ways that are equally as dysfunctional as large aggregations; and that small is not always beautiful; and that human politics will never be far removed from the sausage factory; nonetheless, we strongly endorse all campaigns for local, regional autonomy and political independence.

Among the more astute commentaries firing up the web regarding today’s referendum on the future of Scotland, we find Adam Ramsay in the Guardian:


Let us hope that Mr. Ramsay does indeed have his hand on the pulse of Scottish youth. Cat Boyd of Radical Yes suggests that he is on to something:


And here is an excerpt from a stirring open letter to the future children of Scotland from Claire MacGillivray in Bella Caledonia:


The results will soon be in.


UPDATE SEPTEMBER 19: The “no” voters prevailed, with 55% of the total. Given the powerful corporate, media and ruling “elites” arrayed against independence, the result is hardly surprising. Yet the desire for autonomy has expressed itself in myriad ways, and we suspect that the experience of the past several months will shape Scottish culture and politics for many years to come. As Ms. Boyd says in the video above: “It can’t be put back in the bottle.”


Flowering Light



We pause today to note the untimely departure from the material world of our friend and colleague, Martin Harrison. As poet, philosopher and radiomaker, Martin Harrison’s creativity began in the art of conversation, vividly engaged, fingers flashing, and then that fine tenor voice of his, so open and warm, so often on the edge of laughter. And if he sensed a moment’s hesitation, he would jump in with a high-pitched “yes yes yes”, propelling dialogue forward, embracing every moment of the exchange.

Like all great poets, Harrison’s ears were finely tuned for nuances within every sound, from warblers to warmongers. He knew how to play with words, and he also loved it when words played with him. Though a man of immense knowledge and refinement, he hated pretense and posturing of any kind; he lived for simplicity, sensuality, black olives, red wine, walks in the woods, friendship, joy.

Above all else, Martin Harrison was a lover of the land, all the land; and a lover of life – all of life; a lover of poetry, language, ideas and every sounding thing. We will listen for his voice in the winds, and in the woods, and on the airwaves; an excellent radio tribute, Vale Martin Harrison, can be heard here. For now, we also listen for him in the two poems that follow:






The Perennial Philosophy

During this period where the most violent mammals ever to walk upon the planet earth appear to be entering a downward spiral of chaos and destruction, we have been turning to the writings of Karen Armstrong. Consider the following passage from her lucid study, A Short History of Myth:




Let us pray to the Gods, all the Gods, that we learn right action in this world of the living, through an embrace of all that which is richer, stronger and more enduring than our fleeting human existence. Let us create new myths from the immanence of our own disappearance; and let this new mythology resound with compassion at its heart.



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