Author Archives: DP

Limber Cruelty

During this week of commemoration, being 75 years since the United States dropped two bombs on overwhelmingly civilian populations in Japan, we turn to Elaine Scarry in the pages of the Boston Review.

The entire essay is worth a close read; excerpts below, with archival photos  added by DP.

 

FAT MAN

 

LITTLE BOY

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Words Into Being

This week, among the many books that have sustained us during CovidTimes, we celebrate the voice of Ocean Vuong, both in his “memoir” (in quotes because it is so much more than that!) and in his equally as exhilarating book of poems, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, a title we wish we had found ourselves.

In roaming through various interviews online, we are relieved to find the same exceptional qualities in dialogue with others. Excerpts from one of these (within the worthy On Being project) below, with images relayed from the studio of Chie Hitotsuyama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Experts Agree

Following a week in which fundamental constitutional protections have come under relentless criminal assault from an increasingly violent, extremist and lawless administration, we turn to Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of the forthcoming Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present.

Excerpts from a recent interview below, with images from Robin Bell’s NYC Trump Hotel projections. Relayed from Bell Visuals, we get this week’s title from one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About his projections, Robin Bell says:

“I was reading this thing about when you deal with authoritarian governments, you have to create your own story. If we’re reacting to these people all the time, they can just play us. So, part of the thing is making things that you can laugh at, that you can share, that aren’t just reacting to them.”

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Living the Fall

Now comes Greta Erlich with some of the most insightful and moving words ever written about glaciers, as wildfires continue to rage through the Siberian Arctic, in the midst of a record-shattering heat wave.

Her entire meditation can be found in the pages of the exceptionally worthwhile Orion magazine. Excerpts below, with images from Basia Irland’s revelatory Ice Books project.

 

 

 

 

 

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About her Ice Books, Basia Irland writes:

River water is frozen, carved into the form of a book, embedded with an “ecological language” or “riparian text” consisting of local native seeds, and placed back into the stream. The seeds are released as the ice melts in the current. Those who contribute to or participate in the Ice Book launches are determined by the location. Along the Nisqually River in Washington, for example, Nisqually Tribal Members, salmon restoration specialists, musicians, fifth graders attending WaHeLut Indian School, students and professors from Evergreen State College, Forest Rangers, all joined in the ice book launches. Participants in New Mexico on the Rio Grande have included artists, farmers, acequia majordomos, college students, professors, hydrologists, Pueblo members, and hundreds of interested watershed citizens.

Ice Receding/Books Reseeding emphasizes the necessity of communal effort and scientific knowledge to deal with the complex issues of climate disruption and watershed restoration by releasing seed-laden ephemeral ice sculptures into rivers. I work with stream ecologists, biologists, and botanists to ascertain the best seeds for each specific riparian zone. When an ecosystem is restored and the plants grow along the riverbanks they give back to us by helping sequester carbon, mitigating floods and drought, pollinating other plants, dispersing seeds, holding the banks in place (slowing erosion), creating soil regeneration and preservation, acting as filters for pollutants and debris, supplying leaf-litter (for food and habitat), promoting aesthetic pleasure, and providing shelter/shade for riverside organisms including humans.

 

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The Absent Emergency

In his recently published Being At Large, philosopher Santiago Zabala writes: “In the age of alternative facts, facts have also been framed, that is, stripped of all the interpretative, institutional, and social support they once could count on.”

Navigating an ever-expanding bog of information, detached from contextual grounding while being relentlessly politicized or infused with ideology requires a new sort of engaged hermeneutics to disrupt the authoritarian “call to order”.

Excerpts from a recent interview below, with images relayed from Nancy Cohen’s extraordinary installation, Hackensack Dreaming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On her website, Nancy Cohen writes:

This installation is in no way meant to reproduce the landscape, my inspiration and reference point. I want the viewer to move through “Hackensack Dreaming” discovering and finding connections – compelled by the beauty and the strangeness. Thinking simultaneously of the made and found worlds – of nature (whatever that might be in an artist’s studio in 2014 in urban New Jersey) – a viewer might hopefully become temporarily lost in the contradictions and visual experience.

Such is the magnificent art that keeps up slogging through the info-bog here at DP.

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On Stolen Land

Now comes the voice of NDN Collective President Nick Tilsen, speaking in resistance and rejection of the planned presidential “independence celebration” on lands sacred to the Lakota.

Excepts from yesterday’s excellent Democracy Now interview below, with images relayed from the NDN website. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A more detailed press release from the NDN Collective, on behalf of the Lakota, can be found here.

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In 2016, Mathew Shaer, writing in that noted organ of radical communism The Smithsonian Magazine, provided informative texture on white supremacist “artist” and rumored Klansman Gutzon Borglum:

Dedicated 75 years ago this month, Mount Rushmore was intended by its creator, Gutzon Borglum, to be a celebration of not only these four presidents but also the nation’s unprecedented greatness. “This colossus is our mark,” he wrote with typical bombast. Yet Borglum’s own sordid story shows that this beloved site is also a testament to the ego and ugly ambition that undergird even our best-known triumphs.

In 1914, Borglum was a sculptor in Connecticut of modest acclaim when he received an inquiry from the elderly president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, C. Helen Plane, about building a “shrine to the South” near Atlanta. When he first glimpsed “the virgin stone” of his canvas, a quartz hump called Stone Mountain, Borglum later recalled, “I saw the thing I had been dreaming of all my life.” He sketched out a vast sculpture of generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and was hired.

The son of polygamist Mormons from Idaho, Borglum had no ties to the Confederacy, but he had white supremacist leanings. In letters he fretted about a “mongrel horde” overrunning the “Nordic” purity of the West, and once said, “I would not trust an Indian, off-hand, 9 out of 10, where I would not trust a white man 1 out of 10.”

 

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Body of Proof

We had intended to explore the ominous acceleration of the Great Melt presently in play throughout the Arctic Circle, yet another voice caught our ears, and held them: that of Caroline Randall Williams. Author of the exceptional hybrid text Lucy Negro Redux, Williams addresses the issue of Confederate monuments in today’s NYT.

Excerpts below, with an interwoven image relayed from Stephen Haye’s installation, Cash Crop, about which we have more to say in a future DP.

 

 

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Through a range of forms and voices, Lucy Negro Redux explores the possibility, if not the likelihood, that the “dark lady” so vibrantly brought to life in Shakespeare’s sonnets was of African descent. The book has since been adapted for the stage by the Nashville Ballet, with an informative documentary précis below:

 

 

We close with a few words from the text:

“I am a potato, a beetroot. Not a precious bird or jewel, but a dirt-dug tube. Rustle me up, rub me all over, and I will muddle your interiors with flecks of brown earth.”

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A Gaudy Illusion

On this most auspicious Juneteenth, we relay the voice of Tamara Winfrey-Harris, author of The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America.  Excerpts from her op-ed below:

 

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The reference to Ellison descends from his unfinished novel, Juneteenth:

“Words of Emancipation didn’t arrive until the middle of June so they called it Juneteenth. So that was it, the night of Juneteenth celebration, his mind went on. The celebration of a gaudy illusion.

 

We are reminded of another Ellison quote, this one from Invisible Man:

“The clock ticked with empty urgency, as though trying to catch up with the time. In the street a siren howled.”

 

With that siren still howling, we close with the voice of Martha Redbone singing, No More Auction Blocks:

 

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Everything Hurts

This week, we turn to Harvard history professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad, whose The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Urban America was re-released in 2019.   Exposing the weaponization of crime statistics against black Americans, Muhammad meticulously documents how we arrived at this historic breaking point within the endless cycles of failed reform.

Below, excerpts from an interview on Democracy Now; images are George Floyd’s airborne words, inscribed against the sky as directed by artist Jammie Holmes, whose work we shall explore more thoroughly in a future DP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Time For A Reckoning

This week, we bend an ear to the lucid voice of Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery Atlanta, home to what is in our view the most important and most powerful work of public art in North America: the National Memorial to Peace and Justice.

The entire New Yorker interview is worth a close reading; except below, with images relayed from the website of EJI.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAISE UP!