Tag Archives: politics

Paying Artists

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/26/not-paying-artists-gallery-culture-publicaly-funded-exhibitions

ruble

Imagine turning up to work, putting in the hours, doing such a good job that you are roundly admired, patted on the back, congratulated for your work. Imagine the people talking about you, how good you are in your job, and that they admire you. Perhaps even writing about you in the press about how good you are in your job. Imagine that you very often take the job home with you and work well into the night, that your weekends and holidays involve you continuing to work. I’m sure you can imagine it, because it’s not completely uncommon. But could you imagine doing all of this without getting paid?

Imagine doing all of this, without getting paid, yet your employer is a publicly funded organization, the gets its income from the taxpayer and is staffed by people on full salaries, while you yourself have to go back to that same taxpayer and claim benefits.

Who on earth would think that this is an equitable system?

However, research by the A-N has shown that over the past three years, 71% of artists didn’t get paid any kind of a fee for contributions to publicly funded exhibitions. The same research showed that 63% of artists felt forced to reject gallery offers because they couldn’t afford to work for nothing. Which makes you wonder about those who did take up the offer of exhibition: independently wealthy or family funded artists? These are hardly going to be representative.

I wrote recently about representation in the art world, and how the art world is completely unrepresentative of Britain’s cultural mix. But I think that this research revealing the parlous economic state that artists are in, is very important.

We have reached the bizarre situation where a very few London art schools completely dominate the major art prizes (which lead to prestigious gallery signings, biennials and so on). This means that the only people who get chosen for art prizes are people were already fortunate enough to live in London, or are wealthy enough to move to London to study, and pay the insanely exorbitant costs of housing and transport.

But there’s another route to getting exposure, and that is through exhibiting. The national network of publicly funded organizations and institutions, including independent organizations who receive project funding, is supposed to create these opportunities up and down the country. But these are not going to be opportunities if the artist cannot afford to take them.

We accept the idea of ‘pay to play’ in small private galleries, although this itself has a deleterous affect on the art world, because it means that the small galleries which we assume are filled with ‘cutting-edge art’, are actually filled with art made by people wealthy enough and vain enough to cough up upwards of 1000 pounds a week to rent the gallery to showcase themselves.

But nobody expected ‘pay to play’ to be the norm in publicly funded galleries. But it is ‘pay to play’, let’s not make any bones about it. It’s ‘pay to play’, because if you offer me an exhibition opportunity, and you don’t pay me, then you get the benefit of my work, and your increased visitors numbers (which guarantees your continued funding), and people coming to use your cafeteria and whatever other services that you provide, and enhances your public profile. But I’m actually going to have to pay to produce the work and then depending what it is, I may have to pay to frame it, or otherwise arrange delivery and installation. You not asking me to just grab something out of my storage unit and haul it over on the bus.

The A-‘s paying artist campaign is a good one, and I fully support it. The very very very least we can ask from our organizations who have public funding is to reorganize their structures and their budgets and ensure that artists are paid.

However, there’s much more to the problem than simply cash. It is a whole complex disaster that combines elitism, nepotism, notions of cultural superiority and inferiority, sometimes sexism (which runs both ways), inequality, and frankly, I think, just pure blind pigheadedness.

I’m not really sure how we’re going to unravel all of this. Perhaps we shouldn’t bother trying to unravel it. Perhaps we should just take a hammer and smash it.

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This article:

Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel., by Musa Okwonga

following up to my post about Nelson Mandela – I love this article by Musa Okwonga who takes a clear headed and non sentimental view of things.

The other day on Facebook I too exception to those who felt the need to point out that “Mandela was racist” – there are some stupid far right websites that have concocted this lie in order to push their filthy agendas. Okwonga is the perfect riposte to this: Mandela was angry – and had a right to be; Mandela was a fighter – because something as bad as apartheid and the whole global mind set that is emerges from (colonialism!!!) needs to be fought, not cuddled; Mandela was a pragmatist and a strategist. [1]

Mandela was not a saint;  that would have been creepy. He was a man, among many, who knew they had to fight for freedom and justice In doing so he liberated the minds of so many., But as Okwonga points out, there are many more steps to take. The fight for social justice continues.

I don’t agree with Okwonga that capitalism is race based. The rich are getting richer and the poor are not; but I don’t thing that capitalism is racist, I just think that wealth seeks to preserve and perpetuate itself and to do that it has to deny its benefits to most of us. Fanon points out that the postcolonial elites are not going to be any better than the colonial elites, and so it has proved. It’s the concept of the elites themselves, hoarding the wealth and passing it amongst themselves, that counts.

Today the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that almost 13 million Britons are now living in poverty, having suffered a “sustained” and “unprecedented” fall in their living standards. This means that people with jobs working long and hard, are getting poorer. That myth of “work hard and you will make it” has proved to be hollow in this world where the 1% will not give up their entitlement, but seek instead to enslave us further, no matter our race creed or colur.

In South Africa most of that entitlement is racial, but even if you got rid of the self-entitled white rich they would be replaced by self entitled black rich. It’s the system that has to go.

Let’s not forget, the SA government did not put Mandela in  jail because he was a black activist. The jailed him because they believed he was a Communist. It turned out that he wasn’t.

[1] Okwonga says “You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.” BUT LET US NOT FORGET that reggae music itself is not actually a “sit in the sun get stoned feel good” music. It’s revolution music!!!! Even in his most “touchy feely song” One Love, Marley says “Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armagiddyon” It;’s a call to unit, but to unite and FIGHT.

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December 8, 2013 · 11:36 am

what am I doing?

now that I have finished my film TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND everybody is asking me what I am doing next

I am working on a book about visual art and cinema

I am in development for a new film about politics, memory, capitalism, communism, art, teenage angst,  food and hallucinogenics. It’s a documentary.

Let the games begin …

VLC2012-01-15-12h26m50s52

 

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CBC Apologizes for being honest and angry

First, read the article, by James Furlong:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/furlong-trouble-in-natuashish-comes-from-the-top-1.1912842

The CBC issued an apology for the”language used in the article” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/cbc-apologizes-1.1930366

Well I for one welcome the article. It is brutal, yes, but what it describes is even more brutal. Unless brutal language is employed, with no holds barred, who is going to pay attention? The author is rightly incandescent angry about what he has seen in this remote and forsaken place. The article drips with anger and despair. I can’t see any other way to describe this terrible situation. Why whitewash it? A whole community of people is living in degradation and nobody – clearly – knows how to cope with that, not them, not the government, not their so-called leaders, and not the mass of Canadians who have never and will never set foot in these remote Northern locations.

I didn’t find the article “racist” or “prejudiced.” Racist would be saying the people deserve to live like that or that they are just made that way. The contentious bit I guess is the section where the writer says “It’s not the way we are. It’s just the way they are. And because they are that way, they are barely tolerated by most of the white community” – clearly this is addressed to the white community, and points up to the way that the lines of “us” and “them” are drawn. The writer questions this whole presumption of patronization, that “they ” can tolerate living like this while “we” would not.  I found this polemic startling and a big wake up call.

One of Canada’s worst “secrets” is its handling of the aboriginal peoples. We are fortunate in that we still do have a sizeable Aboriginal community across the country, small as the population may be. In recent decades prejudice has been reduced and so we do see Aboriginal people taking on visible roles within the wider community. But to often they are hidden, and the stereotype I grew up with of the “drunken Indian” has yet to disappear. The feeling of “that is they way they are” still exists and it is this comforting thought that we in the south live by, that the author is throwing back in our faces.

Yes, the situation is complicated. But the fact remains that huge sums are spent on Aboriginal affairs yet there seems to be problems with the way these sums are spent and who actually benefits. Anyway, it’s not about the money; more money than that is wasted on worse things. But it’s blood money. When we pay it (via our taxes) it comforts us that “the Indian problem” has gone away. Because “we”  give “them” a bunch of money. And then we get to  see them as ungrateful, incompetent. “What I could do with all that free money! I would not be like them!” and so on.

Ironically, if the CBC had not issued this apology I would not have been aware of the article. It would have been, like the Aboriginal communities in the far North, buried and invisible to the rest of us. But since I’ve seen it, I feel the same burning anger that the writer clearly felt. It’s just not good enough. And what are we going to do? What ARE we going to do?

 

 

 

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Syria – thoughts on intervention

– I seem to be blogging more about politics than I used to. This even though I have a (non political) film out that I want to promote… sigh

If I had any reason to believe that UK, French and US intervention in the Syrian civil war would cause the Civil War to end, atrocities to stop, or any of the obvious desirable outcomes to happen, I would fully support such intervention. However, for whole host of reasons, I have no way of believing that military intervention would be a positive step.

I’m going to give a few of these reasons here, but by no means is this a complete list.

The first reason is the obvious one, Iraq. On the day that the US and the UK announced they were going to consider seriously some kind of intervention, buried at the bottom the front page was very familiar news indeed. This news was that 50 people, I repeat 50 people, were killed in a bomb attack in Baghdad. This is the Baghdad that we liberated from the brutal dictator in the 2003 military intervention. Although our leaders have congratulated themselves that Baghdad today, in 2013, is a better Baghdad than it was five or six years ago, the fact is, it’s much worse Baghdad than it was 12 or 13 years ago. This does not in any way exonerate or excuse the regime of Saddam Hussein. But there is surely a difference between an unpleasant regime and a chaotic ongoing situation where people buying their groceries in a market can be blown up by an armed militia with an agenda that is not only completely unrealizable, but appears to be completely inhuman the same time. We all know that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was, whatever the rights and wrongs of its justifications as an actual fact, as it actually happened, was a total and utter failure. We failed for a great number of reasons. Aside from the countless journalistic reports of this failure which are available, books have been written in recent years. One particularly stands out, which is “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone” – a 2006 book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

I don’t support the idea of intervention in Syria, not because I support Assad – or, more properly speaking the faction led (at least in name) by Assad and the Assad family. But the reasons the Assad dynasty are even there are very complex and unfortunately, like a whole host of horrors such as Gen. Pinochet in Chile, and even Saddam Hussein himself, were maneuvered into their roles by those great saviors Britain, France and or United States. There are countless examples around the world of regimes friendly to our Western powers, yet extremely unfriendly to their own citizens, who are tolerated, supported and for the most part what they do is ignored. Heaven forbid however, if those regimes turn against our Western powers or for whatever reason lose their support. Make no mistake, the support has nothing whatsoever to do with the way the regimes treat their citizens. Let me say this again: Western support for regimes around the world has nothing whatsoever to do with the way those regimes treat their own citizens.

I got particularly worried about this proposed intervention. When I saw the so-called socialist leader of France, François Hollande, making a rousing speech in support of intervention. Fresh from his success in Mali, intervening in what was actually a local conflict and not a Civil War, Holland was obviously feeling very confident. It goes without saying that, whatever your position on this intervention, the situation in Mali was completely different to what is going on in Syria. In any case, the point is that France has a terrible history in Syria, and this history is the key to the current structure of the country, and its current system of governance. It begins with one of those lovely European “agreements” – in this case the Sykes–Picot Agreement – to which those who are subject to the agreement have no part. Of course, the population of the territory now knows Syria did not enjoy the so-called French mandate very much and they objected. It’s never mentioned in the news today the violence with which the French imperialist put down these revolts and the way in which they manipulated the different and quite diverse groups within this former territory of the Ottoman Empire, in order to create a situation that would be convenient for the French, though not at all convenient for the Syrians.

To me it is an obscenity see the president of France even imagining a French military return to the Syrian territory. It was only in 1936 that something resembling an independent Syrian state actually came about, to the reluctance of France. That this independent state was problematic puts it, alongside so many other countries constructed by, and damaged by, European imperialism. The idea that having failed to bring about your ideals in this territory once, even if it was over 80 years ago, you think you have what it takes to have another crack at it, is questionable. I’m not saying that France today is the same country, country was in the 1920s, with the same mentality. However, in historical time 80 odd years isn’t really very long.

The the third reason for me is whether something is dreadful as using chemical weapons could even be stopped within this type of context. Sadly, I really don’t think that it can. I wish that it could be. If it could be. I be the first person cheering on Obama, etc. But let’s be honest, do we really think it would work? In any case, it’s really not clear what exactly is going on in Syria right now. We have to be very very careful of the trust that we put in video evidence, and in reportage. It’s not that it’s necessarily lying is just the full picture is not necessarily clear. Until the picture is clear, any foreign military intervention cannot happen – and Iraq surely taught us this, if nothing else. I’m reminded of the Kosovo intervention the late 90s. At the time this appeared to be a very clear-cut case of aggression led by Serbian leader Milosevic against a beleaguered ethnic group. Blair and Clinton’s intervention was seen to be justified, and was popular. However, the bombing of Belgrade had significant civilian targets. Subsequently, both Kosovo and Serb leaders were indicted for horrific human rights violations, war crimes, and so forth. A number of these are still unresolved. Deeper research and study shows that the Albanian claim to Kosovo was quite problematic, and the Serbian position was not really considered by politicians at the time. It is quite probable that having failed to achieve a decent intervention in Bosnia, NATO wanted to finally punish Serbia. Unfortunately, it is very likely that Kosovo will be judged by history as an unjustifiable intervention.

Lastly, we do need to address the mindset that says that the traditional imperial powers, Britain and France, together with their ally in the United States have the capabilities of doing a meaningful intervention. By that, I mean an intervention that doesn’t just make an impressive military show, but can actually put into place the building blocks of a permanent or at least long-term settlement in the area. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that this could happen. An impressive military show, yes, definitely. But life is not a videogame. It’s not about explosions and tactical successes. It’s very human lives.

The news from Syria is  terrible. It’s very clear that there are not “two sides” in this complex conflict. That aren’t good guys and bad guys. There are people suffering. If we can do anything at all, we can provide aid and we can use whatever power we do have to push as hard as possible for a diplomatic settlement. We could for example make much more of an effort to have good relations with the territories around Syria. “Soft” power – as diplomacy is sometimes called – is not powerful just because has threat of violence behind it. Soft power is power because it potentially has the power of persuasion, reason and rationality behind it

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Filed under history, rants + outrages

YES

Yes I am political

I have views

I know about history

I turn to the history books when i don’t understand what the hell is going on in the world

I usually find answers, though it takes time

I get really annoyed at the way that we the people are constantly hoodwinked and lied to. In every country, on  every continent.

even if we are ‘sheep’ that is not reason for the powerful to abuse our trust like that!

why are we as a species so obsessed with money? why are we willing to kill and self harm endlessly even for the hope of money?

can we ever change?

well, even if you don’t know the answers to these questions, please enjoy the photo I have posted here of Guy Debord (right):Imageand maybe read THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE

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Egypt, colonialism and terror

NB: a very long historical article; I tried to make it as non-“academic” as possible.

eg

Am American friend just posted on her FB that “It is hard to get any decent unfiltered, unbiased information anywhere. “. And that is indeed the situation we are all in. I am getting real time updates via friends and family in Egypt, and these do not tally at all with what the BBC and other major news orgs are pushing out.

 

The gist of it is, that the majority in Egypt, the vast hordes who came out on June 30 demanding the ouster of the MB government, are more afraid of the MB and the islamists than they are of the army. Ergo, they are supporting the army in cracking down on the MB protests. These protests have included many things not reported internationally: the destruction of many churches (to be fair, CNN did report this) and an attack on the UNESCO institution of the Alexandria Library, nearly killing the librarians, (We don’t even need to discuss the morality of a “protest” that attacks a library and tries to kill librarians) for example.

 

That it should come to this equation is of course dreadful. Before 30 of June Egyptian society was growing increasingly horrified by the direction the government was taking, and felt it was driving Egypt to being a totally different country. The president’s exhorting of Egyptians to go and fight Assad in Syria is one example People were appalled Why should we do that? What is Assad to us? And the president standing by seemingly approving an anti-Shia speech that resulted in fanatics attacking and killing a family of Shia, beheading them in the street. I saw the video, it was extremely upsetting. Ordinary citizens feared that if this was the direction the government was going to take Egypt in, it had better be stopped now.

 

Pundits and Western politicians like to point out that they could have waited for elections in November. But this is disingenuous. Even in the precious West, we know that elections do not necessarily deliver justice. Look at Scotland. They have exactly one Conservative MP, because the Scots do not like Tories and do not elect them. This means that Scotland is basically unrepresented in the present UK government, and therefore has no influence in decision that affect it. (there are Liberal Democrat MPs but clearly they are not running the coalition in Westminster) This is how the Westminster system works and if it is unfair, its tough titty because the system more or less works. But it works because so far anyway no British government of any stripe has attempted to do anything truly dangerous inside the country (I mean, Iraq was dangerous but it happened far away).

 

In Egypt people feared that by November the elections would either not be held, or be rigged so that the MB would solidify their hold on power through terror. So, on 30 June they came out to demand change.

 

The result as we have all seen on TV, is that the MB and its supporters are resisting the crackdown, yet most others support it. Many deplore the violence, but an alternative solution has yet to be found. I myself deplore the violence totally, yet the violence is on both sides and when this happens, when protests turn violent or protesters attack civil targets (libraries, churches etc.) it is normal that the state respond with force.

Of course, here in the West the state responds with force even if there is not violence – everybody saw the Occupy clearance in NYC, and elsewhere,  the behavior of the Turkish authorities in Gezi Park. What about our dear ally Bahrain?

However it is not really important what I think, or what you think. We are not in Egypt and we are not Egyptians. As with Syria and Iran, the roots of what is happening today are long and historical and are mired in that unpleasant and little understood and still less acknowledged era we call “colonialism.”

 

Egypt has existed as an integral nation state for at least 7000 years and maybe more. Yet it was only in the beginning of the 19th C that it was “discovered” by Europe. In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte alighted upon the shore of what by then was a fairly sleepy province of the Ottoman Empire, and was amazed by what he found. Aside from starting the practice of shipping great chunks of Egypt’s antiquities over to Europe (which is why you see obelisks and sphinxes in incongruous places like London and St Petersburg), he did bring an army of scholars to explore and catalogue the country. In the mind of Europe, Egypt was “born.”

 

After Napoleon’s defeat by the British, Egypt, by now “on the map” once more, was seized by the Albanian mercenary Muhammad Ali. But unlike most foreigners who have meddled in the country, Ali actual wanted to develop Egypt and make it something great again. He went a long way in starting this process, as did his successors. But they reckoned without the rapacious nature of European capitalism.

 

When the French proposed the canal at Suez, it seemed like a good way to enrich Egypt, and the King was keen. The British banks got involved, and soon it became clear that, like every major public project (Olympics, anyone) it ran massively over budget. Now what the Europeans did here is the absolute root and core of today’s problem They introduced Anglo-French capitalist banking systems into a Muslim society where usury is a sin.

 

The result was not terribly different to what happened to the American natives when the Europeans came and explained the process of material exchange to them. “you give me this land I give you these blankets.” The fact that in the native culture ownership of the land was actually impossible: they did not have the European concept of property. But a deal is a deal said the Europeans from the firing end of a musket – who can argue with fire-power?

 

AP Thornton in his magisterial study (sadly out of print but worth reading if you can get it) THE IMPERIAL IDEA AND ITS ENEMIES has detailed how the (mostly) British and French banks wheedled the King to borrow ever more money, then turning the screws on him. His only response was to tax the people, who rebelled against this. The most perspicacious Egyptians saw clearly that the tax was going right into the European banks, in the form of interest – the rates were exorbitant.

 

People soon showed their dissatisfaction with their King and with European intrusion, and began to form the first nationalist groupings in 1879, with army general Ahmad Urabi a major leader (see a pattern emerging?). The UK and France intervened militarily (another pattern), bombarding Alexandria and crushing Urabi’s Egyptian army at the battle of Tel el-Kebir.

 

The result, as we all know is that the British resorted to annexing Egypt, to protect their financial interests and their share of the Canal which allowed the easy shipping to their other colonies in Asia. They did not dare to call it a colony, but it was. Ostensibly annexed in order to sort out the Egyptian finances (i.e. debts to British banks), the British soon started treating the Egyptians like colonised peoples. The brutality of the British occupiers at Tel El-Kebir and later incidents prompted many neutral Egyptians to join the nationalist movement. But it was not just about brutality, which was relatively rare. It was the condescension, the financial rapacity, and above all the disregard and disrespect that the British have for all their colonised peoples that rankled to the heart.

 

The best way to see how this operated is not through reading despatches or official documents, but novels and stories. Algernon Blackwood’s The Wave: An Egyptian Aftermath is a fabulous example (get it free here http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/33876) This is how well to do bourgeois English people viewed, lived in and treated Egypt. Orientalist fantasy for the past, mingles with a general disdain for the modern people, who rarely appear as characters in British fiction set in Egypt. Even Lawrence Durrell’s wonderfully-written Alexandria Quartet betrays the author’s lack of knowledge of, and general uninterest in, Egyptians – apart from a thin layer of mysterious foreigners and doomed Christian aristocrats To get a sense of what the occupation felt like you have to go to Egyptian writers, notably Naguib Mafouz.

 

By the early 20th century Egypt was an occupied country with a strong nationalist movement, but at the same time it was a country that was being rapidly modernised. Industry, cinema, cosmopolitan culture, all were being established and creating a vigorous, diverse and modern society. Egyptians started to make capitalism work for them: figures such as the nationalist industrialist Talaat Harb were in the forefront of creating the modern country. Harb (among countless other ventures) founded Studio Misr the first major Egyptian film studio, establishing Egypt as the world centre of Arab language film-making. And the rise of the Egyptian workers movement also beings here. (It is not reported in western news that worker’s strikes and actions have been constant and ongoing in rejection of both the Mubarak regime and the MB.)

 

It is the murky secrets surround the struggle of Egyptians to rid themselves of the British occupiers that the rots of the MB lie. These roots are indeed murky and for this reason there has always been a distrust toward the MB among some Egyptians. Many questions remain unanswered (http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/18/62/73627/Books/Review/Book-review-A-secret-history-of-Brotherhood-founde.aspx). What was the MB’s relationship with the Nazi party, whom they supported? How instrumental were they in ejecting the Egyptian Jews?

 

Some say that the MB organisation are a British creation. Others assert that, instead, the British found a way to employ them in their favour, to weaken the nationalist Wafd Party and its national unity idea against the British occupation. As a student of British colonial history, I am quite convinced of the latter idea (explored in the book at the above link) which Thornton and other authors suspect also. It fits with the British modus operandi, then and now A few weeks back the Daily Telegraph (the conservative party newspaper) made a throwaway comment that “there is a long standing relationship between the MB and sections of the British government” Which was news to me, given the relentless scaremongering about Islam and so on since 2001, maybe even since 1979 if we count Iran. Yet when I thought about it, it makes sense. Britain and the west in general are really just about money, and they will get in bed with anyone who will ensure they can make money. Of course they have nurtured the MB all through the era of Nasser and probably after. Weird that this rather puts the UK and US on the same side as Zawahiri. Yet this support also must have given a false sense of support to the MB, and like the 19th C Kings before them, put them into a relationship of trust that can only be broken.

 

Yesterday on the news BBC reporter Tim Whewell marvelled that the Egyptian people seem to be so keen on demanding secularism that they are willing for the army to crush the MB. Of course it is far more complex than that, but reporters speak in sound bytes. What I thought was bitterly funny is that he wondered at the fact that “many of them devout Muslims”. Well yes; if you are devout you especially do not want your religion to be made a political football; you do not want terrible things to happen in the name of your religion. If I were a devout Catholic, I’d be more outraged at the things that errant representatives of the Church have done, than would an atheist.

 

Let us not forget the role of the media in not only keeping us under-informed but also in giving us vicarious thrills: “Watch live coverage as Egyptian security forces surround a Cairo mosque full of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi on Saturday as protesters planned fresh marches after street battles left more than 80 dead.” How exciting. So, let us watch people die as a substitute for actual information.

 

The fact is that we in the West are under-informed about what is happening in Egypt. We are even less informed about how the legacy of colonialism runs like a raw, bloody thread through all of this story. And we are even more unformed about the financial deals that have taken place and which lie behind the ostensible support or non-support by our leaders.

 

But the last word really is not mine, it is this:

 

“what is happening in Egypt is now an internal matter, and we are the people of Egypt commissioned Egyptian army and police to deal with the elimination of the terrorist group and will not allow any state whatever to intervene in this matter. Egypt is a sovereign state.”

 

 

Some history

This text was given to me by the Egyptian person who wrote it, a person uninvolved in politics

 

Brief history of Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam

1. Muslim Brotherhood is an Egyptian group founded in 1928 by Hassan ElBanna. We saw in Egypt that the group was a reaction to the collapse of the khelafa of the Ottoman empire, seeking a substitution political formation

2. as the very theory of the MB embraces the concept of khelafa it had to fundamentally reject the notion of the nation state, starting above all with the nation state of Egypt – both because this is where they were, and it’s also because Egypt is the oldest nation state on earth. And therefore they were banned and rejected by Egyptian establishment.

3. for being kept in the dark and banned since their existence they had to depend on foreign help for their funding and exile existence outside Egypt; therefore over the years they collaborated against Egypt with every foreign secret service that we know. That includes collaborating with the Nazis against the British and the Jews in Egypt.

4. Both President Nasser and President Sadat, who were in their early political life members of the MB, knew the kind of danger that ideology represented, and kept the lid on them most of the time.

5. In the early 1950s Egyptian philosophy scholar Said Kotb was awarded his PhD in the USA for writing the second phase of Hassan El Banna’s theory, which subsequently led the way to political Islam as we now know it. Although Kotb was executed by President Nasser, his influence lived on and spread outside Egypt and that is why the first postage stamp of the Irani Revolution of 1979 has a picture of the Egyptian Kotb on it, not Khomeini

6. during the late 1970s and 80s the CIA recognised the power of political Islam as a tool of fighting social and Marxist influence coming from the eastern bloc during the cold war (basically the idea being, if the masses can go Islamist they will never look at Communism)

7. That was Sadat’s mistake: agreeing to this deal and letting them loose in Egyptian society – starting with the university union elections, thinking that he can keep them under control and get them back to the closet when he wants. That was proven wrong on the 6th of Oct 1981 when they collaborated with ex president Mubarak and many foreign secret services to assassinate President Sadat.

8. In the 1980s and early 90s Egypt, especially Cairo, experienced an IRA-like wave of bombing organised and led by MB and new-born Islamic groups and sub-branches. They all launched assassinations on some of Egypt’s finest writers and thinkers. They stabbed Egypt’s biggest writer and Nobel prize winner Naguib Mahfouz in the neck. Luckily he survived. But the secular economist and intellectual Farag Fouda, like many others, did not survive the attack.

9. Also, during the 1980s, Mubarak was encouraged by the CIA to release these criminals from jail to send them all over the middle east spreading their ideology, fighting and recruiting fighters from around the middle east to fight the Russians in Afghanistan (1979-1989).

10. After 9/11 Mubarak with Britain and America found that the MB is a convenient tool to help n polarising society and dividing it, to create evidence that justified George Bush’s “war on terror.” This period was very interesting as all the enemies that America and its allies seemed to be fighting were actually all made by the American system headed by the CIA: such as the Political Islamism in general, Saddam Hussein (CIA number 1 guy in Iraq), Bin Laden CIA Number 1 “freedom fighter” who hid for years in the tunnels designed by the Americans to fight the Russians!

11. With the start of the second decade of the 21st century, all nations on earth started to get agitated on the street because of the way they are governed under the name of “democracy”. Their leaders spend their budgets on “holy wars” that serve only Anglo-american corporations – it is done in our name, and the name of democracy. While we are starving, having no medicine, no job, no education. All over the planet, and that includes many places in the USA.

12. Egypt was one of those countries that wanted to join this global liberation movement. Because Egypt is in the “middle east” their actions suddenly became designated and labelled “Arab spring” to disconnect it from the global cause. And when the Egyptians peacefully managed to move a military dictator, the whole revolution was hijacked as they were given in the “election” no choice but to choose between a member of Mubarak’s cabinet or a member of the MB. Of course you are crazy if you vote for a member of the Mubarak government again! Therefore the MB won by a minute majority. Now its clear this was intended to set an example to what is to come in any other stage for “democracy” in the middle east.

13. It is important to be aware that the support by the USA for the MB is similar to their original support for Saddam. They are keen on creating and exploiting Sunni-Shia division as a tool against Shia Iran. As a so-called Sunni group, the MB is potentially an ally against Iran. By the way, the Sunni-Shia division has never been part of the Egyptian consciousness.

14. During the last 2 years Egyptians watched their society being dominated and destroyed every minute by a minority of freaks who used every single old tool to harass the nation and to kill the freedom of speech, as well as inventing new tools of horror such as gang bang and deliberate sexual harassment of Egyptian women on the street, a phenomena that never existed in Egyptian society before the last six years.

15. Between the 29th of June and the 3rd of July 2013 more than 30 million Egyptians from all walks of life gathered in the streets of Egypt creating the biggest political human gathering in political history (said The Guardian) and demanded to take control of their country. And they did. Helped and supported by the Egyptian army which is part of the nation for thousands of years. The army did not start the protest; the army did not joint the protest; the army stepped in after it was clear the protest was bigger than anything ever seen and that it was not possible for the people to just go back. And for those who don’t know, every single Egyptian male spends at least a year of his life as a member of the army; we are all army). The people gathered to overthrow Morsi and to kill and bury the MB as an ideology forever.

16. Egyptians are farmers by nature. They know how to grow a tree, they know how to protect a field and they know how to chop any evil plant that might find its way into their field trying to corrupt their crops. The MB, as an organisation and as an ideology, is the root of a tree that branched widely in over 40 countries from the USA to the mountains of Tora Bora . We Egyptians know that to kill an evil tree you destroy the roots. And the rest of the branches will just die out.

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Thornton, A.P. The Imperial Idea and its Enemies (1959), Doctrines of Imperialism (1965)

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The Naked Truth (or, big sexy world, is it?)

Nude Greek

Thirteen years ago, he was an up and coming artist, spreading his talents across various media. Painter, graphic artist, film-maker, dancer, actor and performance artist – these are just the things I saw him doing. Handsome and charming, his performances in particular were intense and riveting. And sometimes – not always – he did them naked.

Like that of many young artists in the late 1990s and early 2000s, his art was often about the body, about its vulnerability, about movement, about endurance. It was not about sex or sexuality. For a brief moment there appeared to be a general understanding that nudity was not “dirty” or sexy. That an artist or actor or performer could be nude in the same way a statue in a museum could be nude.

Actually, in the world of art and art appreciation I’d say attitudes have not changed, but outside of those rarefied circles they certainly have.

In 2009 Richard Prince’s piece Spiritual America (1983) was removed from “Pop Life, Art in a Material World”. The Tate removed it after a visit by the police. This was unusual; in western society over the past fifty years or so outright censorship is very rare. Police are normally not involved unless there is evidence an actual crime. In Prince’s case the provenance of the work is both well documented and more than acknowledged by Prince; in fact the provenance is the whole point. The work is a 1976 Playboy nude photograph of a heavily made-up prepubescent girl (an actress) which was authorised by the girl’s mother as a commercial venture. To my mind it is an absolutely necessary piece of work to be on display. It tells us everything need to know about Western sexual attitudes in that era. (It tell us about the current British Light Entertainment scandal when Jimmy Saville and other entertainers have been guilty of rape and exploitation of children throughout the 60s and 70s.) It tell us that sexualisation of children, and the whole porno-cratic ideal, is not glamorous and clever but sad and tawdry. And about money. Spiritual America is an unpleasant art work but a necessary one. It forces us to look and then think. And so it was strange and horrible that the police removed it.1

This is important because Prince’s piece was made in 1983 after he appropriated the original photograph, and has been shown numerous times since then. After the removal it appeared on the web, where clearly it reached many more people than would ever pay to see Pop Life. What happened between 1983 and 2009? The picture was awful in 1976, vile in 1983 but by 2009 it is itself a crime? Did the Taliban take control?

Hardly. The New Puritanism in the museum has not been matched by any kind of reining in of social behaviour. The exploitation of children continues. Politicians and the media continue to score points for themselves with periodic self serving ‘crusades.’ Little has changed.

So, thirteen years ago it was perfectly all right and perfectly fashionable for an artist or an actor to appear nude. It probably still is. But this breezy assumption does not take into account what happens when for whatever reason you are no longer and artist or an actor. Thirteen years ago if you met someone who used to be an actor and did a few nude scenes, unless you had the video tape, you’d never get to see it. It’s hard to believe it but in 2000 relatively few people had the internet at home. It existed but it was expensive and insanely slow. Low grade videos, small photos and no interactivity. Broadband barely existed; it only became available in the UK in 2000, and this was far too expensive for most. Ofcom (UK Office of Communications) notes that “If you travelled back in time to 1999 and stopped the first person you met, it’s quite possible they’d have yet to try out the internet.”

Fast forward from 2000 to 2013. The dynamic young artist is now a middling-aged school teacher. Perhaps not his first choice, but Saatchi never came calling. Bills have to be paid. The Bohemian antics of thirteen years ago are long forgotten. And then comes the phone call. “It has come to our attention that there are salacious images of you on the Internet.” What? Our hero is bemused. He cannot think what they mean. He agrees to the meeting with the Governors, and rushes to his website to see what on earth it can possibly mean. No, the site is clean – just photos of his paintings, which he sells from time to time. Flickr – nope just family stuff. Picnics. Facebook? He has exactly two photos on it, one of a work party and the other of a particularly impressive burger. He doesn’t tweet and has no time to blog.

He goes to the meeting and is confronted with photos and video he had forgotten about – because they dated from 2000. Photos from obscure art festivals, and a short film in a film maker’s archive. He does not own these sites and has no control over the content. Do the governors understand that? No, they don’t. Children can find this stuff and can be harmed by it, is the line. He realises that even if they are not right about the harm (from a vague non-erect pixelated penis), the fact that this stuff has surfaced means that it’s going to be difficult for him to take control of the situation at work. The school does not seem prepared to back him up and perhaps making it a ‘teaching moment’. He promises to try to remove the offending images though he does not really know how.

More nudity:

Nude Catalan

breath | Originally uploaded by artsite

With Richard Prince it was easy. The police came, threatened the Tate’s workers, who promptly removed the picture. Though no doubt the Tate workers were traumatized, it was a matter easily rectified. With the case of our man though, it was not. He is currently trying to get various websites around the world, none of which he has any relationship with, to remove or hide the images. Legally, none of them has to. Some of them won’t want to, since they are part of an institution’s archive and therefore are valuable to the institution. I know about this because he approached me, about one of my films. I was able and willing to hide my content behind a password but some of the images of my work are on sites that I don’t own, film festivals etc.

Now, trying to help him, I see that a particularly hideous situation is unfolding. How many artists from the late 90s and early 2000s have images of themselves in positions that today might be considered compromising? Huge numbers. Virtually every performer I worked with in that era used nudity. I look at my own back catalogue and I find several other cases where I used an actor or performer – and there they are, nude on the Internet. Still photographs, too; whole series. Some of these sites aren’t mine; they belong to the curator or the exhibiting organisation. Should I remove all the ones I can remove? After all, it’s my work. And the arrangement was entered into freely. And what of the performers? Are they just to erase their creative past?

The funny – ok, unfunny – thing is that despite this insistence that children not be harmed by fuzzy low quality images of their teacher as a youth doing performance art, despite this righteous prudery, nobody sees to give a crap about what the actual kids are actually doing. The rapes, the exploitations, the neglect; the coarse sexualisation of childhood, the brutalities of social media, the ever present sexual (and otherwise) bullying .. all of this continues with impunity. But if the teacher just gets rid of his web page then it will all be okay.

There’s no space for an honest in class discussion of things like, what is nudity in art? What is performance art? Even, how we do change as we go through the course of our lives? No, no time for that. Just a big bucket of snow white paint and a massive brush, thank you very much.

Even a criminal conviction is considered spent after a while, but Internet images, apparently, brand you a sinner for all time.

nude communist

Nude Communist

 

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unanswered questions

bul

I have been without internet for  a month, except on my phone which is too basic to bother with blogging or anything other than the basics. It showed me that life in today’s Britain is highly dependent upon everyone having Internet as most services and info is delivered that way, and most human communication too.  Probably not a good thing, but until I finally get to move to that Greek Island I dream of, it’s what I have to deal with.

Anyway despite being busy with moving I did have time to think and ruminate and I have come up with a few niggling questions that have popped into my head over the past month. I’ll post them here, and I will add to them so this post is actually a live feed, for now.

here goes:

Why are THE CLASH’s lyrics still utterly timely and not dated at all?

 

Why is Patti Smith still the greatest feminist, and feminine, icon alive?

 

Why is Patti not in fact an icon at all, but a living breathing artist of the highest type?

 

Why are there 11 spoons of refined sugar in a can of Coke whereas nobody would EVER put 11 spoons of sugar in any drink they made themselves (e.g. lemonade, tea, coffee)?

 

Why was a homeless man left to freeze to death outside a boarded up house that he was earlier prevented from sheltering in, duing one of the worst winters in recent history?

 

Why did Ang Lee get an Oscar for Life of Pi (awful) and not for Lust, Caution (awesome)?

 

Why do we preach the virtues of the free market, yet instead practice an economics dominated utterly by oligarchs, xenophobes and kleptocrats?

 

How come the kids who rioted and stole shoes in summer 2011 got jail time, and the bankers who stole their (our) future got bonuses?

 

Why is every useful store closing and being replaced by a restaurant? How much eating out do we really need to do?

 

Why did they tell us that our abuse of the environment will result in something called “global warming?” Everybody in the northern part of the globe (the rich exploiting part) privately though “YEAH!” dreaming of the sunny Mediterraneanization of the Outer Hebrides. Now however, as we shudder in the cold, we realise scientists ought to have said “Messing the environment will result in REALY BAD WEATHER ALL THE TIME.”

 

How come what started out as a light-hearted list has got so political? Am I angry?

 

 

 

 

 

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Let the Merzbarn sink back into the Cumbrian Soil

Today the Guardian published a story about the fact that the Merzbarn has had its funding cut, and may have to close as a place for visitors to come and see the last work of the mercurial Dadaist Kurt Schwitters.

I’ve never been to the Merzbarn, but I’ve never been to Cumbria at all.

Schwitters was a Dadaist and as such a radical rejector of systems and institutions of the state,and of the art supported and promoted by those states and instituons . Hugo Ball once said that “art is not an end in itself … but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.”

By Deutsch: Genja Jonas (bereits 1938 verstorben) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


My feeling is that we get the art that we deserve. if we as a culture do not have it in us to value and learn from Schwitters and Merz, then let us not fetishize his works, let us allow them to drift back into the soil from whence they came.

It is interesting that with all of the filthy, corrupt venal and putrid money coming into art from the most vilest and most loathsome sources *, none of it makes its way to preserving stuff like the Merzbarn. Amusing to see the most prominent and wealthiest artists in the country donating their “ARTWORK” to be sold to raise funds (don’t dig into your pocket or anything) but no involvement, no speaking out.

Perhaps that’s as it should be. Schwitters and the Dada were really radical, oppositionists. They hated the filth and brutality of the world they found themselves in. They used art to express this rejection, worked toward new ways of seeing and thinking. Dada was anti-bourgeois and radical. The fact that it spawned lots of unradical, art school wank in the late C20th is immaterial.

After the Great War, Schwitters wrote that “Everything had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments; and this is Merz. It was like a revolution within me, not as it was, but as it should have been.”

Fümms bö!

*e.g. raping national resources and impoverishing the people; arms manufacturing and dealing; hedge fund exploitation; manufacturing and marketing poisons etc.  Makes the Medici and the Sforza look like fuzzy kitties.

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