Friday, May 12, 2023

Inbox 5/1 HRW: Joint Statement: UAE Human Rights Record Ahead of COP28 

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) continue their sustained assault on human rights and freedoms, including targeting human rights activists, enacting repressive laws, and using the criminal justice system as a tool to eliminate the human rights movement. These policies have led to the closure of civic space, severe restrictions on freedom of expression, both online and offline, and the criminalization of peaceful dissent.

For more than 10 years, UAE authorities have been unjustly detaining at least 60 Emirati human rights defenders, civil society activists, and political dissidents who were arrested in 2012 because of their demands for reform and democracy or their affiliation with the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah). Some from this group, which are commonly known as the "UAE 94" because of the number of defendants in their mass trial, were subjected to enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment. They were sentenced to between 7 and 15 years in prison during a trial in 2013 that failed to meet minimum fair trial standards.

More than three-quarters of these prisoners have completed their sentences yet remain in arbitrary detention to date. UAE authorities refuse to release them, alleging that they continue to pose a "terrorist threat," based on vague laws that allow their indefinite detention, in flagrant violation of international human rights law

Taken Hostage in the UAE. Modern slavery

Inbox 5/10, from Artforum. Must See: The Sharjah Biennial 

AT THE DAWN OF THE CENTURY, no special sign presaged Sharjah’s rise to its present status as an artistic incubator and arguably today’s most influential hub of research and creation focused on what is now called the Global South. Yes, its ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, launched the Sharjah Biennial in 1993. But in its early editions, the exhibition was relatively staid, presenting neo-modernist art from Arab and Muslim countries on the national-pavilion model. Compared with glitzy Dubai, the city of Sharjah, capital of the eponymous emirate, was (and remains) low-rise and conservative despite the influx of wealth from oil and gas.

In 2002, Hoor Al Qasimi, the sheikh’s youngest daughter, who studied at London’s Slade School of Fine Art and Royal College of Art, visited Documenta 11 in Kassel, which Okwui Enwezor curated. That exhibition was decentralized, with earlier programs in Vienna, New Delhi, Saint Lucia, and Lagos all feeding into the main show. It embraced collectives and research-based practices. It afforded each artist space to articulate their vision rather than imposing a tightly sequenced curatorial narrative. And although it included white European and North American artists, its roster leaned hard toward what Enwezor called the “postcolonial constellation,” with its diasporic tendrils....

Every artist expresses a subject position within Enwezor’s “postcolonial constellation,” and if you miss white Euro-American perspectives, you are welcome to seek them elsewhere. 

Woke authoritarian mercantilist capitalism. Israel and the US approve: The Abraham Accords

Inbox today from Artforum,

Sculptor Tom Sachs today wrote to the New York Times to offer a public apology regarding his alleged treatment of staff. The apology arrived in the wake of Nike’s confirmation that it was “not working with Tom’s studio at this time and [has] no release dates planned.” Sachs, whose work investigates the various intersections of fashion, consumerism, science, and the military, had since 2012 collaborated with the footwear giant to create sneakers. The shoes were so sought after that they often achieved several times their original price on the resale market.

The New York–based contemporary artist, whose works have commanded gallery prices of $300,000, saw his empire rocked after the February publication of a help-wanted ad on the website of the nonprofit New York Foundation for the Arts sparked contempt, criticism, and, perhaps worst of all, conversation. The ad, posted anonymously by an “Art World Family” seeking an executive personal assistant, was reposted by Emily Colucci on her blog, where it drew attention for its excruciating and lengthy description of the many tasks required of the person who would “make life easier for the couple in every way possible.”

 “‘We want you to be a personal assistant, we want you to be an executive assistant, but we also want you to do all kinds of liaising with our staff,’ which sounds to me like three jobs,” painter Emily Mae Smith told the Times a few days after the ad went up. “Oh, and babysitting?”

“That’s a job where, if you’re hired, it’s a countdown to being fired,” poet and performer Soren Stockman, an executive assistant, told the paper. “This person wants to never be affected by anything irritating. There’s no way to fill that need for someone.”

"Research" and "investigation". Sachs was the first artist I knew to get a PR person. But again this is the time when art was becoming fashion, and "conceptualism" was becoming design. The Sharjah Biennial is less art than style sold on money and lies. Without either there'd be only a smaller regional audience, and who knows what you'd find under the surface.  Film festivals in Iran are more serious, because more local, and because films, like books, aren't luxury commodities, so conspicuous consumption is effect not cause.

The politics of design is either conservative—fashion and furniture—or reactionary. "The research model" is reactionary. 

Picasso in 1923

I can hardly understand the importance given to the word research in connection with modern painting. 

And 1927

...Moreover. this feeling for exactitude is one I have always held onto in my researches. 

The beginning of his slide into kitsch.

"The Design Economy"  

"...poet and performer Soren Stockman, an executive assistant,"

Soren Stockman's LinkedIn page

Award-winning poet with over a decade of high level administrative experience supporting the top professionals in their field in New York City and beyond. Organized events attended by thousands on three continents featuring today's most celebrated and accomplished artists and executives. Excels at front facing work as well as managing an office's internal operations. Intuitive and anticipatory to the needs of others, as well as to the needs of a given task or project. I am precise and sensitive in both verbal and written communication. I'm a people person.  

Executive Assistant Ares Management Corporation

Krugman in 2010, late to the game: "Pretty soon, we’ll be having serious, completely un-self-conscious discussions in major magazines about the servant problem."

Crooked Timber in 2007: 24 hour nanny service for college professors, linked in 2012.
More from 2012: a list, including the above, and another.
Most of the people I've known who've made the choice to be servants extend the logic of servant and master to their political morality. People who like to serve want to be cared for. The worst snobs are not the masters but the direct servants of the powerful. George Will and David Brooks have the arrogance not of rulers but of their attendants. Their anger is directed mostly at this who refuse to serve.


Historically, cosmopolitanism is an assumption of universalism only as overlaying the particular. It's the acceptance of contradiction, not the assumption that it can, will, or even should be overcome. Technocracy cannot value the particular. It couldn't function if it did, and overdetermined particularism as narcissism is blowback. 

Related from 2016, Zadie Smith, novelist for bankers, and Remains of the Day.

From 2005, Didion, her servants, and the scene Lorentzen likes to memorialize.

The post just below, the servant Stangl.

Sachs was the worst of an extended crew that included Peter Dinklage, who no doubt now has servants. It's a job. The choice as career is something else.

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