the new Nazi censors

Image result for red skull spiegelman

 

Art Spiegelman … who won a Pulitzer prize for Maus, his story of the Holocaust, has written for Saturday’s Guardian that he was approached by publisher the Folio Society to write an introduction to Marvel: The Golden Age 1939–1949, a collection ranging from Captain America to the Human Torch.

Tracing how “the young Jewish creators of the first superheroes conjured up mythic – almost godlike – secular saviours” to address political issues such as the Great Depression and the second world war, Spiegelman finishes his essay by saying: “In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America.”  (Alison Flood, Guardian, 16 August 2019)

Spiegelman was asked to remove the sentence and when he refused to do so his essay was pulled.  The Marvel Entertainment chairman, the US billionaire Isaac ‘Ike’ Perlmutter, is a close friend of Donald Trump.

Here is Spiegelman’s essay, in full.


 

the anthropocene is a joke

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“On geological timescales, human civilization is an event, not an epoch … The idea of the Anthropocene inflates our own importance by promising eternal geological life to our creations. It is of a thread with our species’ peculiar, self-styled exceptionalism—from the animal kingdom, from nature, from the systems that govern it, and from time itself. This illusion may, in the long run, get us all killed …”

From Peter Brannen’s excellent essay on “the arrogance of the Anthropocene” (Atlantic, August 13, 2019).

Apropos:

The modern era has been dominated by the culminating belief, expressed in different forms, that the world … is a wholly knowable system governed by a finite number of universal laws that man can grasp and rationally direct for his own benefit … This, in turn, gave rise to the proud belief that man, as the pinnacle of everything that exists, was capable of objectively describing, explaining and controlling everything that exists, and of possessing the one and only truth about the world … It was an era of ideologies, doctrines, interpretations of reality, an era where the goal was to find a universal theory of the world, and thus a universal key to unlock its prosperity.

            Communism was the perverse extreme of this trend  … The fall of communism can be regarded as a sign that modern thought—based on the premise that the world is objectively knowable, and that the knowledge so obtained can be absolutely generalized—has come to a final crisis … I think the end of communism is a serious warning to all mankind.  It is a signal that the era of arrogant, absolutive reason is drawing to a close and that it is high time to draw conclusions from that fact.

Václav Havel, Address to World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, 4 February 1992.


 

censorship of artworks in japan

Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung, Statue of Peace (2011). Courtesy fo the artists.Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung, Statue of a Girl of Peace (2011).

 

Another one for the memory hole.

When the Aichi Triennial’s 2019 edition opened to the public on August 1, it included a mini-show titled “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’ ” that dealt with the censorship of artworks in Japan. That section included a work by Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung that dealt explicitly with Japan’s brutal history of ianfu, or comfort women, who were drawn from around Asia, particularly Korea, and forced into sexual slavery during World War II. (This history was not officially acknowledged by Japan until 2015.) Three days after the opening of the show, the triennial’s artistic director Daisuke Tsuda, working with the governor of Aichi Prefecture, closed the section.

In an August 6 open letter posted to Facebook, 72 of the over 90 participating artists decried the decision to close that show, deeming it censorship. A week later, nine of the artists have called for the removal of their artworks in the Triennale for as long as “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” remains closed, “as a public gesture of solidarity with the censored artists.” (Maximilíano Durón Art News 08/13/19).

The artists’ statement reads, in part

Many concerns are shared around the world today, including anxieties related to the increase in terrorism, cutbacks in hiring domestic workers, crime, and making ends meet. Feelings of aversion towards refugees and immigrants have risen to unprecedented heights in the United States and Europe. The United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in 2016. Donald Trump was voted president of the United States under the platform of “America First.” Xenophobic voices have become emboldened here in Japan as well. At the source is anxiety—the anxiety of an uncertain future, and the anxiety of feeling unsafe and vulnerable to danger.

From the STATEMENT BY THE ARTISTS OF AICHI TRIENNALE 2019 ON THE CLOSURE OF AFTER “FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION?”


 

great british priorities

Image result for no sex please we§re british

The Welsh seaside town of Porthcawl is planning to install anti-sex public toilets that would spray occupants with water and sound an alarm.

Violent movement sensors would automatically open the doors and sound high-pitched alarms, with fine water jets soaking the interior. Weight-sensitive floors would ensure only one user could be in a cubicle at a time, to safeguard against “inappropriate sexual activity and vandalism”.

Porthcawl town council is spending £170,000 on the futuristic toilets in Griffin Park, according to WalesOnline. The planning documents detail a range of security features to deter rough sleeping, including an audible warning, combined with lights and heating being switched off.  (Guardian, 16 August 2019).

Priorities in Brexitland.  Keep it up, lads.


 

greater american priorities

Funding fascist environmentalism, US-style.

In the week where Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), rewrote Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty to welcome only “European immigrants escaping class-based prejudice,” “who can stand on their own two feet,” a disturbing long read from the New York Times.

“She was an heiress without a cause — an indifferent student, an unhappy young bride, a miscast socialite. Her most enduring passion was for birds.

But Cordelia Scaife May eventually found her life’s purpose: curbing what she perceived as the lethal threat of overpopulation by trying to shut America’s doors to immigrants.

She believed that the United States was “being invaded on all fronts” by foreigners, who “breed like hamsters” and exhaust natural resources. She thought that the border with Mexico should be sealed and that abortions on demand would contain the swelling masses in developing countries.

An heiress to the Mellon banking and industrial fortune with a half-billion dollars at her disposal, Mrs. May helped create what would become the modern anti-immigration movement.”

Nicholas Kulish and Aug. 14, 2019.  


 

travel warning

Image may contain: text


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These fragments are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

RIP Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison in an undated photo. Her prose, often luminous and incantatory, rings with the cadences of black oral tradition.

Toni Morrison has died at the age of 88, and the language she did is the measure of her life.

What better time to read the wise words of her 1993 Nobel Prize lecture than now?

“The old woman is keenly aware that no intellectual mercenary, nor insatiable dictator, no paid-for politician or demagogue; no counterfeit journalist would be persuaded by her thoughts. There is and will be rousing language to keep citizens armed and arming; slaughtered and slaughtering in the malls, courthouses, post offices, playgrounds, bedrooms and boulevards; stirring, memorializing language to mask the pity and waste of needless death. There will be more diplomatic language to countenance rape, torture, assassination. There is and will be more seductive, mutant language designed to throttle women, to pack their throats like paté-producing geese with their own unsayable, transgressive words; there will be more of the language of surveillance disguised as research; of politics and history calculated to render the suffering of millions mute; language glamorized to thrill the dissatisfied and bereft into assaulting their neighbors; arrogant pseudo-empirical language crafted to lock creative people into cages of inferiority and hopelessness.  Underneath the eloquence, the glamor, the scholarly associations, however stirring or seductive, the heart of such language is languishing, or perhaps not beating at all – if the bird is already dead.”

Read the speech in full here.


 

while on the subject of language

Image result for barack obama mass shootings

A statement from President Barack Obama, posted on twitter on 5 August 2019, in aftermath of deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Image


 

hannah arendt we refugees

“A refugee used to be a person driven to seek refuge because of some act committed or some political opinion held. Well, it is true we have had to seek refuge; but we committed no acts and most of us never dreamt of having any radical opinion. With us the meaning of the term “refugee” has changed. Now “refugees” are those of us who have been so unfortunate as to arrive in a new country without means and have to be helped by Refugee Committees …”

I belatedly came across this beautiful essay by Arendt, titled simply “We Refugees,” which was first published in January 1943 and unfortunately remains as relevant as ever.  Full text here.

While we are at it, here are a number of other attempts to characterize a refugee, from a conversation among people fleeing France on a boat from Bayonne to Casablanca at the end of June 1941.  The conversation is related in Adolf Hoffmeister’s book Unwilling Tourist, a lightly fictionalized account of his own experience during WW2, which was originally published in New York in 1941 the title The Animals Are in Cages:

“The refugee is a homeless man who searches everywhere he goes for that which he has lost in some far-distant place.  And the officers keep saying: ‘Now you’re warm.  Warmer.  Still warmer. Hot!  No … colder … still colder …'”

            “The refugee is the one honest man whose papers can never be in order, and, therefore, the police constantly demand that he show them.”

            “A refugee is a man who embarrasses only those who have not yet been refugees.”

            “A refugee is an unwilling tourist.”

            “Being a refugee is the occupation of the patriot, for the time being.”

            “A refugee is one who runs from country to country with but one desire—to sit quietly at home.”

            “A refugee is one who runs away because he has done something good.  So each port he enters suspects, a priori, that he will do something bad.”

            “A refugee is the poor relative who likes to tell over and over how rich he was.”

            “The refugee is the man forever on his way home.”

            “The refugee is the too-faithful lover, who, fleeing through the world, loses each new love when he calls her by the name of his beloved wife.”

            “The refugee is a man with a center of gravity outside his body.”

            “The refugee is a being without money or fatherland, but with, alas, a body.”

            “A refugee is a lover who abandons his love, wanting her only the way she used to be.”

            “The refugee is the man who cannot stay at home because he belongs sometimes to yesterday, sometimes to tomorrow, but never to today.”


 

translators saving the world

Image result for Olga Tokarczuk

“There is no worse affliction than the loss of a person’s private language, its replacement with the communal one. Politicians, officials, academics, and priests may all suffer from this. And the only possible form of therapy for this affliction is literature: coming into contact with the private languages of artists permits the reader to strengthen her resistance to an instrumentalizing vision of the world. This is a powerful argument for reading literature (the classics, too), for literature demonstrates that collective languages once functioned differently, and in conjunction with this, other visions of the world arose. It is precisely because of this that it is worth reading—in order to behold those other visions and to be reassured that our world is only one of many possible worlds and that we are surely not confined to it forever.

The responsibility of the translator is equal to that of the writer. Both stand guard over one of the most important phenomena of human civilization—the possibility of transmitting the most intimate individual experience to others, and of making communal that experience in the astonishing act of cultural creation.”

From Olga Tokarczuk’s essay How Translators Are Saving the World


 

eastern blocks

“Eastern Blocks is a photographic journey through the cityscapes of the former Eastern Bloc, inviting readers to explore the districts and peripheries that became a playground for mass housing development after WW2, including objects like houses ‘on chicken legs’, soviet ‘flying saucers’ or hammer-shaped tower blocks.

Showcasing modernist and brutalist architecture scattered around the cities of Moscow, (East) Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest, Kyiv and Saint Petersburg, the book contains over 100 photographs taken by Zupagrafika throughout the last decade as a reference archive for their illustrated books and kits, with special contributions by local photographers. Divided into 6 chapters, Eastern Blocks includes a foreword by writer and journalist Christopher Beanland, orientative maps, index of architects and informative texts on the featured cities and constructions.”


 

social housing in Norwich, UK

norwich

“Rows of glossy black tiles glisten in the afternoon sun, dripping down the facades like a neatly controlled oil slick. They cap a long row of milky brick houses, whose walls curve gently around the corners at the end of the street, dissolving into perforated brick balustrades, marking the presence of hidden rooftop patios. A planted alley runs between the backs of the terraced houses, dotted with communal tables and benches, where neighbours are sitting down to an outdoor meal.

This is Goldsmith Street, a new development of around 100 homes, built by Norwich city council, without a profit-hungry developer in sight. They are not homes that fit into the murky class of “affordable”, or the multitude of “intermediate” tenures. This is proper social housing, rented from the council with secure tenancies at fixed rents. Not only that, it is some of the most energy-efficient housing ever built in the UK.”

Guardian


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These fragments are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.