Thursday, September 15, 2011

Note About My New Post at BURNAWAY

You can read my review of Performances in Nearly-Inaccessible Environs, Public and Private over at BURNAWAY.
In the review I briefly touch on the question, "what does it mean to be contemporary?" It's a simple question, but there are significant problems that burble-up when we try to answer it.

Hans Ulrich Obrist's article, "Manifestos for the Future," in e-flux is pretty great reading. As he states,
the phrase “contemporary art” has special currency today, as a commonplace of the media and of society in general. If “contemporary art” has largely replaced “modern art” in the public consciousness, then it is no doubt due in part to the term’s apparent simplicity [....]
But, of course, every work of art, every text, every action is always committed to in the present; and as such is always a product of contemporaneity, right?
The Street Enters The House. Umberto Boccioni (1911)

"Not necessarily," says Giorgio Agamben (with whom I studied this summer at the European Graduate School). As he states in his essay "What Is the Contemporary?" contemporariness is a singular relationship with times in which one lives. "Those who coincide too well with the epoch, those who are perfectly tied to it in every respect, are not contemporaries, precisely because they do not manage to see it; they are not able to firmly hold their gaze on it" (41). It sounds like an easy, off-the-cuff, maybe even elitist, dismissal: there are important people and then there's the rest of the rabble, and they are unimportant and of little currency with which to effect current events. But then Agamben goes on to discuss the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam (whose works we studied this summer in Judith Balso's poetry class—my notes from these classes will be available as soon as I can get them typed-up, promise).

Mandlestam's poetry exemplifies well what I'm getting at in my review of Performances in Nearly-Inaccessible Environs: works of art have a weird temporality. Mendelstam's poetry is written at a particular time in Russia's history, but his poetry speaks to more than only Russianness or 20th centuriness. This is because, for Mandelstam, the relationship between world and language is not fixed; they elide one another. As a result of this slippage, the work of Mandlestam's poems are never finished—they continue to create the worlds they seem to be describing.

This is why I am asking for your help in collecting the documentation of the Performances in Nearly-Inaccessible Environs... series. By allowing the documentation to evaporate, the works are forced closed and that's a shame because I suspect some of those works still have a lot to say about Atlanta and, perhaps more interestingly, about the housing boom that swept-up the country during the Aughts and precipitated this (why aren't we just calling it a depression already) prolonged recession.

As an aside: for those of you not familiar with Giorgio Agamben, maybe you could start by reading the introduction from the editors of a special issue of the journal Theory & Event.

Call for Performance Works (Please Distribute Widely)

I am very excited to have been invited to curate the public works section of the inaugural Off the EDGE contemporary dance event at the Rialto Center for the arts this January.

There will be some very significant dance makers at this week-long event and the opportunity for peer-learning is excellent.

Below is the call for works; my curator's statement is on the second page.
Edge PUBLIC Call for Works

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Tale of Three Terrorists/Freedom Fighters

If it's not entertaining, it's not really happening
The Christian Science Monitor (syndicated by MSNBC) has this cheery story of a Math major from UCLA who has decided to spend his summer vacation—wait for it—fighting with Libyan rebels. How exciting! He's just a young man who knows how to have a "'sick' vacation" as he told his classmates. It's a plucky little story.

But it's hard not to think about Detainees number 001 & 002 at Guantanamo Bay: John Walker Lindh and David Hicks.

Hicks' new book has brought about this uninforming pile of dreck from David Penberthy at The Punch "Maybe Dave Just Shouldn't Have Joined the Taliban." The chief complaint here being that Hicks should have known that the tides of history were going to shift against the former US-sponsored freedom fighters and now the kid's gotta take his lumps for being in support of a currently-unpopular political group that most of his compatriots probably knew next to nothing about before the war spectacle began in 2002. Never mind the serious violations of international law that put Hicks in a US kangaroo court and illegally held by the US government.

What's really compelling, though is the narrative of how John Walker Lindh was acquired by the US military in Afghanistan as told by his father in The Guardian this July. This is a must-read.

The Quebec Provincial Police had to eventually admit that these three terrorists captured during last year's G20 summit in Toronto were actually police operatives used to justify the state of exception and suspension of civil rights.
I'm not saying that either Hicks or Lindh were not morally wrong, although I suspect there was systemic violations of their rights by the US government (just as was the case for dozens of citizens from the UK and Germany, etc.) The truth is neither Lindh nor Hicks were guilty of the crimes for which they were tortured and mistreated and held captive and paraded as bogeymen by the US government. Laws matter, it's what makes a country worth defending and living in; Lindh and Walker were made to serve as homo sacer.