Friday, January 11, 2008

Photo LA

Hi everyone!

I hope you all had good holidays and a relaxing break. I mentioned in class that CALARTS students and faculty get a discounted ticket to both photo LA and art LA, which are this and next weekend ( Show your CALARTS ID to purchase $10 tickets to either event, instead of $20 tickets. I will be working at photo LA all weekend, so call me if you have any problems at 718.938.1208.

Also, a friend of my has asked me to forward along the following call for entries. His work with shopdropping has been getting a lot of press recently, and I think this is a good opportunity.

Have a great weekend, and I can't wait to see you all next week!


SHOPDROPPING.NET is now calling on artists, designers, media makers, and creative folks to purchase greeting cards and alter them in any way they see fit. Any form of commercial card, from wedding to graduation to birthday to bereavement, is eligible. But clever and witty will be given preference over easy and distasteful.

Please submit JPEG reproductions of the altered greeting cards to with GREETINGS as the subject line.

All files must be sized to 1024 x 768 at 72 dpi. Each altered card must include the text "" somewhere in the new design. It can be discreet, on the back of the card, and unobtrusive but it must be present.When submitting the cover and inside of the same card please indicate this clearly in the file titles (for example "cover.jpg", "page2.jpg").

The deadline for submissions is April 1st 2008.

Once all of the digital reproductions have been submitted, selected artists will be given the address of a fellow participant to swap cards with. The cards will then be shopdropped back into circulation and the digital reproductions will be featured on SHOPDROPPING.NET. Please do not submit digital files if you do not intend to follow through with the act of shopdropping a fellow participant's work. The digital reproductions are a means to select and document the artworks, but do not replace the act of shopdropping the originals into unsuspecting stores.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Response to Horror

To me the paintings by Fernando Botero represented a more generalized description of the photographs of the soldiers torturing their prisoners. I would not say that I hated them but I'm not really sure how much I liked the paintings. Looking at them did not make me feel even close to how I felt looking at the photographs themselves. But I can understand how they would for others and that I think is extremely important. The idea of torture is one that is easy to overlook and ignore when it is not being thrown in your face and demonstrating it through art is a good way to force people to think about it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What is interesting for me about the paintings is that it seems that the photographs were not as shocking to us as the paintings. We expect to see terrible things through digital media and it takes a painting to shock us. It is easy to skip over an image that we don’t consider art but if it is in a painting we have to consider it and that considering will bring the attention that Abu Ghraib deserves. It does not deserve to be pushed aside the way so many people hoped it would be. Violence has become a joke in entertainment and it takes the paintings to deny the joke and move the violence into a place where we aren’t distracted by the smiling faces of the torturer. The digital photographs of Abu Ghraib are unstoppable but they are different then the paintings done from those images because when the photographs were taken they weren’t intended as art they were intended as a memory and a trophy. All Fernando Botero did was take those photos and change them into something that he created and could control and the paintings do depict horror but they are looking to accomplish something very different from what the original photographs do. Because violence and sex are so prevalent in this digital age we tend to block things out and we are desensitized to the world around us. We have a filter on what we see of our society and our country. I would also agree to both Sontag and Zizek that because of this filter through which America sees its self that allowed for the excuses that followed the suffering of the photographs of Abu Ghraib prison camps. However we shouldn’t be able to use this digital age as an excuse. We are desensitized, violence and sex don’t shock like they used to but that is the time we live in and it doesn’t mean we should live in a state of unawareness being desensitized doesn’t mean we should ignore the grotesque. We are able to distinguish between the television and reality we just have to choose to do so. It seems that part of the United States problem with reality is the way the people sensor themselves they only want to see pictures of horror if in no way are Americans doing anything but being honorable. In the photograph of the falling man people refused to look and no one wanted to claim that man as one of their own because jumping suggested that his will to live wasn’t strong enough. No one wanted to imagine that their loved one was desperate like that in their last minutes. Just as no one wanted to imagine that American solders were torturing the very people we were supposed to protecting from such treatment.
Horror. With things like the tomb of the unknown soldier. attacks on u.s. soil. and basically anything else that has something to do with being unfamiliar with something is grounds to inspire shock fright, and horror. It as well is very depressing given that we have things dedicated to those who have fought for the nation and have been completely lost at war. As for the events in September, to be so horrific that one doesn’t even have to mention a date. year or that you can refer to it as 9/11 is horrific in itself, but that so much shock and so many of us experienced a feeling that has been felt around the world. War has been fought on U.S soil but never within the new times or our life times, which make it historical and burned into our minds. Yeah that wasn’t a war but it was an attack on people that had no involvement. When a soldier is killed its one thing but civilians were supposed to be neutral. Its simply a new era we entered. An era where anyone is fair game and anyone is enemy... Horrifying Eh?

Response to readings

As far as torture and photography go, I believe that Sontag asks an important question, "So, then, is the real issue not the photographs themselves but what the photographs reveal to have happened to ''suspects'' in American custody?" I think that this question can work on many different levels and situations. If you take out: "suspects" in American custody, and fill in your own blank you can see what I mean more clearly. In the situation with the prisoners of Abu Ghrai, I agree with Sontag, that the issue at hand is the photographs and what they reveal. These photographs were not taken for history or honorable documentation. They were taken as "trophies", like Sontag states. They were taken my American soldiers to show their friends and to poke fun at the prisoners. She states "as if the fault or horror lay in the images, not in what they depict" when talking about president Bush's response to these photographs. I feel as if many people feel this way about photographs of terror or horror, but in some cases it is not the photograph that is at fault. The "fault" lie in the real life, the situation that really did happen. That is my take on it anyways.

As informed by the article by Tom Junod, in the image of the Falling Man from 9-11 many people were shocked and appalled that this photograph was released to the public. I feel as this image should not have been sheltered or avoided, it was something that really happened, an aspect from a real life situation. I can see why people would have an issue with it, but just because something is shocking, in my opinion, does not mean it should be kept hidden.

Slavoj Zizek explores theories about the "real" and the "projected real" that I have often thought about. It is sometimes hard to feel real life as a shocking or phenomenal experience when we see these images depicting real life all around us, everywhere we go. In commercials, movies, video games, advertisements etc. It almost seems as if real life is no longer real. I was thinking about this lately with that new Sean Penn film, "Into the Wild" or whatever the name was, I have yet to actually see it. Anyways, I feel as if people no longer need to act on certain desires or impulses because it's so much easier to pay twelve dollars and sit and watch someone else doing the things that you thought of. With bigger and more important issues at hand, I feel as if this thought process works all the same. Take any of Michael Moore's films for instance. People often agree with his politics and concerns, everyone goes to see his films, but they never do anything! I am guilty of it too...I believe we all are. For some reason and for some people the world is easier to understand, easier to think about, just easier when your watching it on a screen.

In the
All three articles and even the podcast seemed to be dealing with the importance of media and its influence on the actor, the viewer, the artist, etc. Abu Ghraib began as a moment of torture. In a room full of people, prisoners were forced into pain and suffering. Then Abu Ghraib became the images produced in that moment. People all around the world began to understand the torture in terms of a few still images, filling in the blanks as each individual saw fit. The Bush administration carefully chose their words as they reinforced the [art] object as the moment instead of the representation of the moment. A discussion was formed and the image became an idea or a symbol of the war and U.S. occupation in Iraq. People contemplated the role of the military officials and (as Laqueur pointed out) whether or not the acts of torture were systemic. And finally, the discussion transformed into the painting, where the imagery is far removed from what it actually was. This snowball effect is the product of a situation where people were so shocked and bothered, that a continued large scale response occurs.

Susan Sontag brought up many interesting points about the photo objects themselves. The important point that, "the horror of what is shown in the photographs cannot be separated from the horror that the photographs were taken-- with the perpetrators posing, gloating, over their helpless captives." And that it becomes a much more common phenomenon when one considers the amount of digital pictures in circulation through email from soldier to soldier. Her citing of the Bush administration's outrage over the matter (mirrored in the panel discussion when the host quotes Rumsfeld as having said that the worst moment in his six year run was when the Abu Ghraib pictures became public) is so telling of the government's understanding of what is really going on vs. what we all should know.

I felt that Slavoj Zizek's writing about 9/11 and the government's utilization of our Hollywood induced paranoia was a very refreshing take on the played out and over dramatized event that occurred years ago. It border-lined on a conspiracy theory with its references to the Truman Show- where we realize late in life that our whole perception of reality was some sick pervert's way of getting ratings... or keeping us in a blissful naivete. He was brilliant for exposing the culture of fear that 9/11 so easily reinforced.

And the Falling Man article, in this context, gives insight into the power of editing (like the power of the US government to open all the letters that came home from WWII and delete any unwanted information as Sontag brought up). The power of the choice between each little negative or pdf file, that can change the world (or divide it). The exploit of the ridiculous search for who the falling man was exactly, and how knowing does not change the image at all.

The point is that it is the existence of the photographs in the public sphere that can change a public perception. They do not have to be around for long and they can be ripped to shreds by public speakers, but once they have been seen they are not forgotten. As Sontag wrote in On Photography, one does not exist until they have been photographed. In our culture, we allow ourselves to live happily unknowing, despite what people say. But once we have seen something in a photograph, it enters our media history, that we care so deeply about.

if it isn't happening to americans is it happening? or i guess a better question is 'is it torture if these people are "terrorists"? i guess thats how some people see it. wheres humanity? and in the case of the smiling soldiers... what are they getting at with their smiles? the bush quotes made me even more disappointed/embarrassed... for example "i want you to know when we talk about war, we talk about peace." is he kidding? action is irreversible. humiliating these people, and torturing them was the real terror. there is no remorse on the woman's face as she smiles dumbly at the camera while posing by a prisoner. sontag brings good points up, such as stepping around words we don't want to use, like the word torture. these photos were meant to be shown. grab your camera phone! its time for a lynching! what a world.
this was about the 'falling man' photo taken on 9/11. this basically centered around peoples reactions to this photo. either the disgust and hatred of this photo, mixed with trying to identify the man who is invariably frozen in mid-air forever. some people refused to think of the possibility that this man was their own loved one. this photo is haunting to many people, you can't quite get it out of your head. it is the struggle of wanting to identify this person, and not wanting to cross the line at the same time. when is asking too much? memory or exploitation?
big brother
i think we've all had that paranoid "wow, i wonder if my life is the truman show." moment. zizek explores the real and the fantasy in this essay. zizeck writes about the way americans think attacks like 9-11 wont happen to us. they happen to other countries.. he talks about the difference between real and television. how americans are always waiting for something to happen like it does on tv, a fantasy. but when it happens they deny it. we're so blindsided by hollywood, and the appeal of the unreal.