‘Police, police, thank you’

June 16, 2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

I wanted quickly to follow up on a few past posts.

Artist Torreya Commings responded to ‘On Graduate Exhibitions.’ Having finished her MFA at CCA in May, she said of her experience of the grad exhibition, “It’s a very strange situation… not exactly a “show,” not exactly a “test,” still colored by the liminal status of “student” but with rumors of “making it” or being “picked up” flying around. I’m glad it’s over with, mostly.” In ‘A day is as long as a year,’ I wrote a bit about Jia Zhangke’s great film ‘The World.’ The New Yorker posted on their website clips from a few of the director’s films, including Platform, Unknown Pleasures, and Still Life, to accompany a profile in early May by Evan Osnos. It’s a tidy summary of what’s good about Jia’s work, if you need one.

Modern Art Notes posted a two part interview with Tim Clark, on the occasion of his Mellon lectures, which I wrote about here. In the second installment, a compelling passage on Guernica: “[N]ever has a picture been more explicitly about the end of a certain kind of secure interiority, the kind of ripping-apart of the world.”

KPFA has, in their archives, a recorded interview with Clark and Joseph Matthews from 2005, soon after their collective Retort published on Verso their book Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (an early version here). It’s no substitute for the book, of course, but the interview is a bracing context for ‘Picasso and Truth.’

A favorite moment comes early on, as C.S. Sung begins the interview. “Afflicted Powers contains the following statement: ‘Spectacularly, the American state suffered a defeat on September 11.’ What does that mean?” Tim replies, “Right. OK, you’re going to get quite an answer from me…” The text from Retort’s 2006 broadsheet, “All Quiet on the Eastern Front” is here. It’s appalling to revisit this one in view of how little the situation has changed in the three years since. The outrageous Iraq war grinds on with no end in sight.

Last week Joseph Del Pesco and I wrote about Artforum and e-flux’s “Call for Art Historical Knowledge,” and mentioned in conclusion that we “sent on May 25 an email asking Art & Education for some clarifications on these matters, but haven’t yet received a reply.” We still haven’t, but Joseph did receive a pleasant note from an assistant editor at Artforum, telling us answers were coming.

Meanwhile, in Iran, protesters shout “Police, police, thank you,” as they’re beaten and slaughtered at Tehran University and Enqelab Square. It’s hard to think about anything else – to think about art. A thousand thoughts crowd in. State power and state violence; the power of the crowd; strength in numbers or strength in documents;  the weakness in images, and the weakness of empathy at a sickening distance; the impotence of solidarity-en-Facebook and the resonance with Guernica; piteous appeals for help in the comments boxes of American websites. “Mr Obama please HELP US/we are in big warning/our students are killing by Ahmadi suporters/helppppppp ussss.”

Maybe bits soon on Sherrie Levine, Otl Aicher, and Kai Althoff.

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