Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm co-curator with Jack Tilton of an exhibition on fabric as image and form. Antiquities and old masters to contemporary. Partial list:
Engravings and etchings by Durer, Rubens, Rembrandt, Goya; Ukiyo-e by Torii Kiyomasu and Katsukawa Shuncho (early and late 18th century); Khmer figure in sandstone (6th century); John Chamberlain, Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, David Hammons and Richard Tuttle. We're waiting to hear about Rodin (see below) and Juan Muñoz. Photographs by Imogen Cunningham, André Kertész, Barbara Morgan (of Martha Graham), and James Welling. Two dresses: by Madame Grés (from 1953) and Issey Miyake. Some younger artists; we're still talking with architects. All on very short notice (the gaps are obvious) but it should be a good show. No opening but should be up by the end of next week.
Jack Tilton Gallery 8 East 76th St.

Also Opening Friday May 6th. Thomas Erben 15 Years.
Helena Almeida, Oladélé Bamgboyé, Preston Scott Cohen, Ala Dehghan, Seth Edenbaum, Fang Lijun, Chitra Ganesh, Vincent Geyskens, Barbad Golshiri, Blalla Hallmann, Lyle Ashton Harris, Jutta Koether,Matthias Müller, Yamini Nayar, Dona Nelson, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Adrian Piper, Raha Raissnia, Sarah Rossiter, Hubert Schmalix, Jenny Scobel, Tejal Shah, Shanna Waddell, Tom Wood, Rose Wylie and Haeri Yoo.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Egypt emerging from the revolution that toppled President Husni Mubarak is more religious and less friendly to the U.S. and Israel, even as support for democracy and human rights is strong, a wide-ranging poll released by the Pew Research Center on Monday found.
QUESTION: Did Tom Donilon raise the Bahrain issue in his discussion with King Abdullah --
MR. TONER: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the White House.
Courtesy AA


Friday, April 22, 2011

The Independent
The British Government saw Iraqi oil as "vital" to the UK's long-term energy security, and the effective privatisation of its oil industry was central to the post-invasion plan for the country, according to previously unseen Whitehall documents.

The UK was already working behind the scenes to ensure British companies did not lose out to competitors in the region, reveal strategy papers that were discussed at the highest level across Whitehall just days after President George W Bush declared "mission accomplished" in May 2003.

Despite Tony Blair and his ministers' public insistence that Iraq's vast oil reserves – then estimated at 112 billion barrels – were a matter for the Iraqis alone, officials warned a meeting of the "inter-departmental Oil Sector Liaison Group (OSLG)" that appearing "gratuitously exploitative" in its policy goals – which included the aim to "maximise benefit to British industry and thus British employment/economy" – could "backfire politically".

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jenin residents claim public opinion turned on director for performing plays that went against Islamic conservative values
I'd wondered about that. The decision to perform Animal Farm unaltered seemed just stupid: liberal self-romance.
Still sad.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reposted from 2008:

Apropos academic perversity and the absolute bourgeois.
Jeff Wall
Tim Clark, being tried in absentia: [scroll down at bit]
Thomas Struth

Thomas Struth, The Hirose Family, Hiroshima

The Smith Family, Fife, Scotland

Jeff Wall The Flooded Grave, Transparency in lightbox
228.5 x 282 (90" x 111") Details here

Struth's portraits, his best work, aren't perverse at all but humane in expressing an honest conservatism, slightly sad, with no pretense of radicality except in the sense perhaps that honestly is radical. Although he sees behind poses and postures he renders his subjects' humanity, not just their function, and this has the effect of humanizing the status quo. He's as respectful of his subjects as they are of themselves and most often they return that respect; even the arrogant ones express pride partly at being photographed. At the very least they return a gaze. A few show both arrogance and feigned indifference and these works suffer from a lack of cooperation, literally of communication and thus collaboration. The subjects look as if at themselves in a mirror. Most of these are Americans.

There's a control-freak quality to Clark's language and to Wall's photo-constructions; it began to bother me first in Clark. Both claim to represent the world, as we all do in our speech, but there's a hyper-determinism that's not so much conservative as brilliantly reactionary [a few years ago I would never have thought of linking those two words] in the sense that hypocrisy is reactive. But maybe it's just a contradiction heightened to the point of an electric buzz. Struth is less conflicted: he's warmer. I began to feel aware of this, and that I was beginning to tire of pure contradiction as a theme, only in the past few years. I've always hated Borges as an illustrator and a fascist, but I need to read Nabokov. I've read enough of him to recognize crystalline language but in the context of the literary academy it's a form of art. I've always hated conceptualism, but there is such a thing as the poetry of ideas. I'm growing tired of that, just as I've begun to realize that it's always been my major interest.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

David Hammons, In the Hood,  Rodin, Monument to Balzac
In a month, maybe. They make a good pair.

We had two pieces by Hammons, but we didn't get the Rodin. We were looking for a study, but not enough time. I wanted a year; I got a month.
Flow of African migrants poses dilemma
No state founded on ethnic separatism can claim to be either modern or liberal.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Letter to President Obama from
Zainab Alkhawaja

Obama replies
I hope that explains things.
4/13. Obama writes another letter
Shorter John Quiggin:
"I was thinking about reinventing the wheel, but someone beat me to it."
As'ad AbuKhalil is a bourgeois who styles himself a leftist intellectual, following the model of modernist as revolutionary aristocrat. At his worst he's an arrogant teenage boy who confuses love for himself with love for humanity, oblivious to the possibility of their confusion.
Arab regimes (and Iran) often warn against change and revolutions: they try to scare us by warning of the potential for chaos. I say: we should work for the overthrow of all those regimes (Arab regimes and Iran) because chaos is far superior to those regime [sic]. At least, under chaos there is a stronger chance for change and sabotage (sabotage of oppression and injustice and occupation and conspiracies).
By that logic the half thought out invasion of Iraq was better for the future of its people than either a carefully planned and successful one or none at all, and a Pakistan in chaos, with nuclear weapons unaccounted for, is better than a stable dictatorship.

I read AbuKhalil as a reporter of fact, not as an intellectual. As an intellectual he's an ass.
I admire the brave Syrian communists that you struggled with against [sic] the Syrian repressive state, but you can state with a straight face that the struggle was for "democracy"? Is this a retroactive revisionism? Come on. Arab communists fought for social justice, workers' victory, the dictatorship of the proletariat, revolution, and liberation but not for democracy. Of course, no [sic] everyone wants democracy, even the lousy Muslim Brotherhood.
The age of Modernism is done.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"The first thing we will do is escalate the military resistance activity and reactivate the Mahdi Army in a new statement which will be published later,” Mr. Sadr’s representative, Salah al-Obaidi, told the crowd. “Second is to escalate the peaceful and public resistance through sit-ins.”
Also: Goldstone
Recent posts at Arabist

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Friday, April 08, 2011


SEC. GATES: We had a very good meeting. We met for about an hour and a half, one-on-one. It was an extremely cordial warm meeting. I think the relationship is in a good place. We talked about developments all over the region. We obviously talked about Iran....
Q. Did you talk about the Saudi troops in Bahrain? Did you raise that as an issue?

Dennett on "chmess" [pdf]
Philosophy is an a priori discipline, like mathematics, or at least it has an a priori methodology at its core, and this fact cuts two ways. On the one hand, it excuses philosophers from spending tedious hours in the lab or the field, and from learning data-gathering techniques, statistical methods, geography, history, foreign languages....., empirical science, so they have plenty of time for honing their philosophical skills. On the other hand, as is often noted, you can make philosophy out of just about anything, and this is not always a blessing. The point of this little essay is to alert graduate students entering the field to a way in which the very freedom and abstractness of philosophy can be a weakness.

Consider, as a paradigm of a priori truths, the truths of chess. It is an empirical fact that people play chess, and there are mountains of other empirical facts about chess, about how people have been playing it for centuries, often use handsomely carved pieces on inlaid boards, and so forth. No knowledge of these empirical facts plays an indispensable role in the activity of working out the a priori truths of chess, which also exist in abundance. All you need to know are the rules of the game.

...Some philosophical research projects-or problematics, to speak with the more literary types-are rather like working out the truths of chess. A set of mutually agreed upon rules are presupposed-and seldom discussed-and the implications of those rules are worked out, articulated, debated, refined. So far, so good. But some philosophical research projects are more like working out the truths of chmess. Chmess is just like chess except that the king can move two squares in any direction, not one. I just invented it-though no doubt others have explored it in depth to see if it is worth playing. Probably it isn't.

...One good test to make sure you're not just exploring the higher order truths of chmess is to see if people aside from philosophers actually play the game.
Can anybody outside of academic philosophy be made to care whether you're right about whether Jones's counterexample works against Smith's principle? Another good test is to try to teach the stuff to uninitiated undergraduates. If they don't "get it," you really should consider the hypothesis that you're following a self-supporting community of experts into an artifactual trap.

...Of course some people are quite content to find a congenial group of smart people with whom to share "the fun of discovery, the pleasures of cooperation, and the satisfaction of reaching agreement." as John Austin once put it, without worrying about whether the joint task is worth doing. And if enough people do it, it eventually becomes a phenomenon in its own right, worth studying. As Burton Dreben used to say to the graduate students at Harvard, "Philosophy is garbage, but the history of garbage is scholarship." Some garbage is more important than other garbage, however, and it's hard to decide which of it is worthy of scholarship.
The following is adapted from my comment elsewhere

"Philosophy is garbage, but the history of garbage is scholarship."
The original quote, courtesy of Anthony Grafton
Scholem's absolute rigor and integrity--as well as his dedication to the study of magic--inspired Saul Lieberman, an authority on the Talmud, to offer the greatest backhanded tribute in the history of scholarly irony when introducing him at the Jewish Theological Seminary: "You know that I believe that mysticism is nonsense, total and complete nonsense, but the history of nonsense is scholarship. And the man who is about to speak knows more about the history of nonsense than anyone has ever known."
According to Dennett the only difference between chess and chmess is that chess has a history. Chmess is to chess as a cult is to a religion; old whores, like old buildings gain respectability, which explains the failure of Esperanto to win out over French: a lack of richness or depth of reference, or more simply "depth"
"Impatience with the long haul of technical reflection is a form of shallowness, often thinly disguised by histrionic advocacy of depth."
Timothy Williamson
"Philosophy is an a priori discipline, like mathematics, or at least it has an a priori methodology at its core."

"...Some philosophical research projects-or problematics, to speak with the more literary types-are rather like working out the truths of chess."
If Dennett agrees with the equivalence of philosophy to garbage and of the history to scholarship, how can he defend garbage at the expense of scholarship? Philosophy he says, "excuses philosophers from ...learning data-gathering techniques, statistical methods, geography, history, foreign languages...., empirical science." The study of history is empiricism. Philosophy at its best is like mathematics, chess, literary theory, and Catholic theology. Given the doctrines of the Church, how many angels can fit on the head of a pin? At its worst it's the formal analysis of things no one will care about in the future. Back again to Alex Rosenberg, Quine, and Descartes. History defeats them and Dennett as well.
Baseball is nonsense but the history of baseball is scholarship. Literature is nonsense. Art is nonsense. Law is nonsense. Philosophy is nonsense. Culture is nonsense. We're back to the structure and function of formalized social interaction, to the aporias of preference and the historical study of preference. Scholarship is nonsense as well but a study of the past makes for a more intelligent politics in the present.

I'd never read that piece before yesterday, though I'd heard of it of course. It's an amazing bit of work.
update: and I ignored the digs at Austin.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

FP Morning Brief
Top story: Following Saudi Arabia's intervention in Bahrain last month, Bahrain's ruling family has cracked down on the nascent protest movement. Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has instituted emergency laws that give the government's security forces the right to search houses without a warrant, dissolve political parties, and arrest those who participated in the protest movement.

After the government crushed the large-scale demonstrations and the protesters' encampment in Manama's Pearl Square, the opposition has had to adjust its strategy. The protest movement now relies on smaller demonstrations in Bahrain's outlying villages. Nevertheless, human rights activists have reported that 26 people have been killed, 300 have been imprisoned, and at least 35 people are missing in the three weeks since the crackdown began in earnest.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Saudi King Abdullah on Wednesday, in an attempt to repair relations between the two countries that had frayed badly in recent days. Gates told reporters that he declined to raise the issue of Saudi Arabia's intervention in Bahrain with the king.

NATO airstrike hits rebels: A NATO airstrike in eastern Libya mistakenly targeted a group of Libyan rebels, killing 13.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Reuters via FLC
"I'm not sure it can be amended," Rice told a congressional hearing. "What we want to see is for it to disappear and no longer be a subject of discussion and debate in the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly or beyond." .... Rice told lawmakers the United States repudiated the Goldstone report as "deeply flawed" when it first emerged....
1,400 Palestinians were killed ... "
WASHINGTON – South African jurist Richard Goldstone said Tuesday that he did not plan to seek nullification of his highly critical U.N. report on Israel's 2008-2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip and asserted that claims to the contrary by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai were false.

...Goldstone said, however, that he never discussed the report with Yishai in the telephone conversation. Israeli leaders have called for the report to be retracted since it was issued in 2009.

"There was absolutely no discussion about the Goldstone report on the call," the jurist said in a telephone interview from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
The Freedom Theatre

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Ai Weiwei
What I said before

Ai will show you blueprints, sign a contract, take the check, and build something different and cheaper -paying for a wall of glass you’ll get three foot windows- and pocket the difference with his contractor. There are people for more deserving of release from Chinese prisons on grounds of conscience, but not impact. He’s a rock star with fans and acolytes and when he chooses to cause trouble he can do it.

Ai is a trickster capitalist, a Duchampian con man as oligarch. I don’t have to like him to like his work. But I don’t have to approve of it to like it.

Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995
Juliano Mer-Khamis

"...nudges the reader towards the Montaignian attitude of sceptical curiosity about self, others and the world."

Tag = Determinism,
with a capital motherfucking "D"

Sunday, April 03, 2011


Friday, April 01, 2011

Andreas Gursky, Bahrain I, 2005 

Willem de Kooning, Untitled, 1984

The decadence of mannerism presents as the self-narrativizing of a concrete idealism, attempting to inoculate itself against increasingly dominant narrative (relativist) culture. Mannerism is the model of aristocratic art in an age of incipient democracy. The baroque is the same model of conservatism in the age of a fully ascendant democracy: the age of theater.
de Kooning in the end was a mannerist, not a modernist.
fn1, The events in Libya have also started a new round of claims about the persistence or otherwise of US hegemony, clearly a related topic. As Phil Arena says here, it’s essentially a Rorschach test, with everyone seeing what they want to see.
Pathological as ever