Buried Letter Press April 2013
Buried Letter Press April 2013 © Buried Letter Press 2011-2013
Cover Image “Brother” By Michael Raney
Buried Letter Press Akron, Ohio
“Brother” Michael Raney 2013
Proper noun: 1. the particular magazine dedicated to innovative and quality criticism of art in all of its various forms, such as literature, music, film and theater, visual art, etc. 2. a provision of encouragement to artists and patrons worldwide
April 2013 Happiness and Other Lies My Mother Told Me by slm young
“Genre” Is a Bad Word by Matthew C. Mackey
Art Survey: The Eyes that Bind and the Ties that Blind by Heather Haden
Feminism in Sin City by Robin Slonina with an introduction by Rob Balla
Happiness and Other Lies My Mother Told Me by slm young When it first appeared on FoxNews.com in February, Suzanne Venker’s op-ed piece “To be happy, we must admit women and men are not ‘equal’” was accompanied by a photograph of a justmarried couple kissing on the Empire State building. (Now, the cut-out gender signs used on restroom doors accompanies the article.) This op-ed only came to my attention because of the mistake that had been made by Fox News by including this particular photograph to accompany an anti-feminist, Conservative opinion piece. The photograph was of same-sex couple, Stephanie Figarelle and Lela McArthur: the first same-sex couple to be married on the Empire State building. The New Civil Rights Movement story by David Badash that discussed this error was circulated on Facebook, which is where I came across it. Like Badash, I enjoyed the karmic irony of Fox News running a photograph that highlights how far we’ve come along with an op-ed that illustrates how far we have to go. Despite disagreeing with virtually everything Venker wrote, I am pleased to have come across the column because it brought to the forefront of my mind the somewhat contrary nature of progress. I’m thinking here about feminism—that ever-controversial, increasingly despised word— and how without it and the ideals it promotes, other ideals I have, such as seeing more same-sex couples have the right to marry, would be even further from our reach. Venker’s op-ed begins where any good piece of writing begins, by quoting a self-help book, and moves quickly into letting the audience know that Venker is not simply writing an opinion column, she is also promoting her own book; one that also sounds a lot like a self-help book. She then spouts off about we women are products of divorce who lack the tools for lasting love because of that damn feminist movement, and then she provides a quote from Rebecca Traister. If you don’t know who Traister is, you won’t get a clue from Venker, so let me tell you: Rebecca Traister is a senior writer for Salon who discusses politics and gender with intelligence and wit, and it seems to me it’s not an accident that Venker is calling Traister out. In September, Traister wrote an article discussing the Republican party’s desire to move the country back to the 1950s, a desire any liberalthinking person became acutely aware of during the last presidential election. Later, Venker writes that rather than continuing the battle of the sexes, we should all try something else on for size: “men and women are equal, but different.” (Italics were Venker’s.) When I read this line, the similar phrase “separate but equal” ran through my head, which is the phrase that allowed for and justified legal segregation, and it made me wonder if this wasn’t a conscious, purposeful choice of words on Venker’s part. She is, after all, the niece of Phyllis Schlafly who is the president and creator of the Conservative group Eagle Forum, which states in its mission that it “exposes the radical feminist” as a means to “…honor the fulltime homemaker and her rights in joint income tax returns [and] … oppose the feminist goals of stereotyping men as a constant danger to women…” I don’t know why I was so appalled to realize the similarity in the language between Venker’s idea of gender inequality and racial segregation; she states clearly in the title that she doesn’t believe men and women are equal; it seems she would be rather pleased to see women somehow segregated, and yet, I still found myself sickened by Venker’s desire to force us all back in the kitchen and boil us all down to the easily made distinctions of “…girls love their dolls and boys just want to kick that ball.” To add to the ridiculousness of the statement, she claims that only those people with children
can know such a thing, as if you are somehow inadequate if you don’t have a child, or even worse, if you have chosen not to have a child in favor of, say, a career. Ultimately, Venker’s claim is that the only way women can possibly be happy is to find love, and feminism makes love impossible, which therefore makes happiness impossible for women who “buy into” feminist ideals. In other words, there is only one kind of happiness, and all the other definitions of happiness are lies sold to us by radical feminists whose goal is to undermine America, marriage, and the traditional family. Reading Venker’s column became increasingly painful for me as I considered all the ways in which her life seems to have benefitted from the feminist movement. She has her own website, (which would likely be impossible if she were still considered the property of her husband) and on that website just below the large letters of her name is printed: “author. speaker. wife. mother.” The four words alone illustrate to me that she enjoys all the benefits that women before her have fought to achieve, all the while claiming this same movement has only created “confusion.” If she has the power to be both mother and author, then she should realize that power was out of women’s reach before the feminist movement. I suppose my real problem is that I can’t fathom why feminism has become such a dirty word in our society, and why women seem to be most opposed to aligning themselves with anyone who claims feminist ideals. I first realized the problem with the word feminist more than ten years ago when I was graduate student teaching Freshman Composition at Penn State. We were reading a transcript of a speech given by Adrienne Rich to an all-girls’ school, but rather than connect to the material, the women in my class were all angry. First of all, they claimed, we don’t have to worry about this stuff because men and women are treated totally equal, and second of all, feminists are all angry manhaters. I can’t help but remember the feeling I had then—that I’d been smacked in the face. I was stunned. These were young women who were enrolled in college for the purpose of becoming professional women rather than for the purpose of so many of their mothers, which was to find husbands. I didn’t understand why they hated feminism so much and how they were unable to see that their current academic pursuits were afforded them because of feminism. Unfortunately, while this was my first experience with the terrible evolution of the connotation of the word feminism, it was hardly the last. There was the Rush Limbaugh influence with his use of “femi-Nazi” and there were the oftabused women in media by the media—the one that stands out to me is obviously Hillary Clinton who during her run for the presidential nomination was called a bitch by just about everyone it seemed, though I only have evidence to back up when Glenn Beck said it and when a McCain supporter said it and McCain simply laughed it off. If I’m looking for personal examples, my own mother seemed to hate any woman who was a feminist or demonstrated feminist ideals, and she would often denigrate women, such as Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Hillary Clinton, in front of me. This always bothered me, for the obvious reason that I thought it was terrible that my mother seemed to hate women so much, but it also troubled me because of the contradictory nature I mentioned earlier regarding Venker. My mother taught me to stand up for myself, while at the same time teaching me that doing so made me a “bitch.” I couldn’t understand it; I still don’t. The worst of it, though, is that these seem like ancient examples of the hatred of feminism. Hasn’t the climate for women grown even worse over the last few years? Could any of us have imagined the disgusting quality of the media in regards to, say, women’s reproductive rights in the form of Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut simply because she was to testify in favor of employer-provided birth control? Despite the ability of Limbaugh to always say the worst thing, this seems almost a mild controversy when it is compared to Todd Akin, the Senatorial nominee from Missouri, who stated that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that
whole thing down.” And finally, there is the CNN coverage of the Steubenville rape sentencing, during which the sad and terrible fate of the rapists and their lost football potential was lamented, while the fate of the rape victim or the harm done to her by these young men was completely unacknowledged. I’d like to believe that like many words that move in and out of popularity, feminism will rise again to mean all the beautiful and essential things that women are and can be. I would like to believe that women, especially, will begin to acknowledge that calling yourself a feminist doesn’t mean you must be a bitch or a slut, or that you must hate men and family, but that as a woman, it is your right to have the ability to say no to sex without being called a tease; it is your choice to work outside the home (or not) without being called a bitch; it is your choice to marry or not, to have children or not, without others claiming that you are destroying American values. It is also my belief that until women acknowledge that feminism doesn’t force us to choose or be anything, but that it enables us to have the right to decide for ourselves, then we all will be moving in the wrong direction.
“Genre” Is a Bad Word by Matthew C. Mackey Perhaps the 21st century more than any other time in history has seen the most splintering and fracturing of artistic disciplines. Of course in an age when “Supernatural” and “Sea Adventures” are both legitimate genres, it’s no wonder the market is saturated with genre (generic?) pieces. It wasn’t always so. In fact, Homer’s Odyssey is both supernatural and largely a sea adventure. I was shocked when I discovered that a piece of art could be multi-genre. Don’t we already have enough genres? Do we need to keep coming up with more genres in order to be even more definitive? Seriously, what’s next? “Vampire” AND “Werewolf” AND “Romance” genres conflating to make a super “Vamp-Wolf-Love” genre? Wait…Damn you Stephanie Myers! Sadly, it isn’t just entertainment either. Artistic expression across the board is part and parceled to scrutinizing ends. Literature, for example, has been divided into poetry and prose, prose into fiction, nonfiction, each one of these has subgenres, such as science fiction, fantasy, realism, romance…ad infinitum? Or ad nauseum? I won’t even begin to break down music genres. There aren’t enough pages. So, where does that leave us? Genre is a catch 22 in most cases. It is a means of categorizing, which helps our modern minds understand similarities and differences. However, it also limits our ability to “think outside the genre.” The problem with genre is that it restricts the way we perceive art. As does any label, that which it refers to becomes bound by it. We need to be careful how we approach the idea of genre or before long we will separate art students from writing students, film students from architects, novelists from poets, etc. Wait a minute… The end result is commodification born of an organizational structure. For instance, creative writing classes focus and insist on genre and subgenre to the point that institutions have roaming factions of warlike writers out for each other’s blood. Poets are charging the frontlines, fiction writers have adopted a scorched earth policy, and creative nonfiction writers have set their phasers to kill, each protecting their “genre” to their dying breath. Okay, maybe this is a little out of hand, but the idea of genre has in some cases become a wedge between even the closest of camps. So, the next time you or someone you know starts tossing the “G” word around here are a few things to consider. Genre separates. Everything. It is a hole hard to climb out of and a wall hard to climb over. Genre has become an identity and a limit. This isn’t to say that once a niche is found it should be abandoned. Not at all, but it should be approached with caution. The masses want artists to stay in a particular place. After all, we get accustomed to and comfortable with our artists working in their respective genres, but if those artists try and climb out of that pigeon hole or out of the box, we tend ignore, scoff, or dismiss their other pursuits. Take the front man of Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan, for example, or for that matter, Tupac Shakur, and John Lennon. Not only were they incredible musicians, but writers as well. My point is that most people can name an album by Smashing Pumpkins, Tupac, or the Beatles, but won’t be able to name Corgan’s book, Blinking with Fists, Tupac’s The Rose that Grew From Concrete or Lennon’s works, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works. Even fewer people have read them, content to keep their musicians as musicians and their writers as writers. Never the twain shall meet. Of course this isn’t always the case, but for the most part, we appreciate our artists to find out what they’re good at and stick with that. I’m not defending their other artistic pursuits. They need to stand on their own, but let’s not restrict the pursuits by pigeonholing the pursuer. For the reader or consumer, genre gives a nice framework with which to approach art. Oh, this is a poem…now it makes sense. Oh, yes, it’s abstract art, now I get it. What? Even the ability to
“recognize” comes from our steeping in genre. It has line breaks! I know this…wait…it’s a poem, isn’t it? From the reader’s perspective, genre is a schematic device that turns a unique encounter with art into a rehearsal of learned approaches and reactions. Okay, we all know that fiction is not poetry, and poetry is not playwriting, so on so forth, right? I’m just not sure why. In writing workshops, students are taught to BE poets or to BE fiction writers, etc. What the hell does that mean? What does it mean to BE a poet? Oh, you WRITE POETRY. That’s nice. What exactly is poetry again? Yes, of course, form is to be considered for practice. A sculptor will have a different set of tools than a painter, well, maybe. There’s no rule that says there can’t be commerce between disciplines. Take prose poetry for example. Now an established form, it serves as a resistance against dependence upon the traditional use of line and line break. Genre teaches one how to depend. It teaches one how to “read” a particular text and how to “write” a certain composition. Breaking genre allows for independence in practice and perception. Imagine a creative writing course or an art class without genre. Students wouldn’t be learning how to write poetry or prose, paint or sculpt as much as they would be learning how to experience composition without the abstract or physical limitations of genre. Charles Olson quotes Robert Creeley in Projective Verse as having said, “Form is never more than an extension of content.” Find your own form, keep looking for new forms. Experiment and borrow from all forms. Form should serve content, not the other way around as is the case with genre. I’m not saying one can’t write a sci-fi novel, but one shouldn’t worry about writing a sci-fi novel. One should just write what one loves without concern for convention. Be true to the work, not the convention of genre. Genre is such a controlling factor not only in the artistic community, but also in the publication world. Publishers, journals, presses, etc. have become increasingly niche. The market has been busted so wide open that there are journals which only publish animal fiction or pirate poetry, fantasy art, etc. Are those genres? What the hell is pirate poetry? Animal fiction? According to Merriman-Webster, fantasy is “a creation of the imaginative faculty whether expressed or merely conceived.” Sounds exactly like every single artistic endeavor. “Fantasy” as a genre, however, refers to anything in the realm of …goblins? Fantasy is best described as a “you’ll know it when you see it genre.” I suppose the same is true of pirate poetry. So, why the labels? Labels often make it easier for creative types to find a place appropriate for their work, a place where they can be welcomed by others who share similar interests. Belonging is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong, but one shouldn’t forfeit the range of his or her talent for the sake of belonging. It’s important that artists find like minds, but it’s really important that they reach out to other minds as well. Probably the most pervasive use of genre is through the commodification of art. Genre is marketable. Vamp-Wolf-Romance is easy to sell because it’s so specific, especially after the success of the Twilight series. People want to capitalize. I think the genre is actually called Paranormal or Supernatural Romance, but hey, that’s not quite as definitive as mentioning all the wild werewolf and vampire love. I want to be specific so I know exactly what I’m getting, no surprises damn it. I want what I want when I want it. The marketing industry is aware how easy it is to sell something as long as it “fits” into a certain demand, so they make things fit. The problem is what happens to all the great stuff that resists genre. I’d be curious as to see what “genre” Ezra Pound’s Cantos would fit into, and yet, it stands as one of the most foundational and controversial works of modern literature. Unfortunately, the more art gets parceled out through genre, spread out, spread thin, the less depth there is to the artistic world. More and more artists are met with the problem of creating
versus producing. The audience is becoming more and more automatic in their approach and reaction to art. Genre is increasingly used as a means to define and standardize. The nature of genre is to separate. For artists, it becomes a matter of resisting compartmentalization and restraint. Genre is a tyrant, continually oppressing the free experience of art. Do away with restriction and what is left is possibility. Let artists pursue the height and reach of their talents without the control of commodification or comfort.
Art Survey: The Eyes that Bind and the Ties that Blind by Heather Haden Last month, Founding Editor Matthew Mackey questioned the tourism within MFA programs in his article, “MFA: The Tourist Trap,” whereby students of educational institutions often turn their studies into the realm of spectacle and risk ignorance of site authenticity, its origins and history. Ultimately, students can easily jeopardize seeing the reality of the world around them in such instances and may become blinded to reality while eyes are wide open to so much sensationalism. Tourism largely focuses on the devouring gaze comprised largely of admiring looks rather than that of scrutiny, and often revolves around architectural sites. This summer, as I travel to Italy on my own graduate study trip, I will be tempted to ogle the Doge’s Palace in Venice, its seat of government decadently sculpted in Gothic ornamentation, risking my own fall into the tourist trap. Yet toward this particular site, as a student of art history, I equally engage the appeal of the visual while directing my attention to the palace’s origins as an institution of government. When the term institution comes to mind, one may think of an establishment marked by architectural existence such as the Venetian Doge’s Palace. Perhaps a university square, with its myriad buildings, or an asylum with its white-washed interior springs to mind. All of these are physical structures yet their impact is not contained in the realm of the material as evidenced elsewhere by the tourist gaze that washes over the Eiffel Tower or the Parthenon, whose oculus stares right back in earnest. Yet in society at large, and in regulating the sheer global throng, the institution exists for the sole purpose of reform (cultural, behavioral, political economical), manifested through actions and behaviors that are observed by the executers of reform (teachers, doctors, etc.) to create a spectrum that slides between the dichotomy of normal and abnormal. It is this very observation that is the tool of the “normative judgment” of the institution. Yet, the observational gaze is no longer limited to the naked eye nor to the coexistence of subject and object in close physical proximity, such as victims under the Spanish Inquisition under a blinding light. Instead, technology now allows subject and object to interact indirectly and even without detection through proximities that may be temporally close but physically distant. An example of this would be using a lightning fast bandwidth to chat with someone on the other side of the globe or through the remote control of “big brother” drones that have littered the media and the atmosphere as of late. As our technological capabilities continually grow, the idea of the institution has dramatically evolved. Today, the institution is not limited to the visible establishment such as a schoolhouse or a municipal building, but instead the most modern of institutions exert their power through unseen vehicles that invert the “invisible hand” of government. One of the twentieth century philosophers most interested in understanding the role of the institution in society and its part in shaping public consciousness was the French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984). Of particular interest to Foucault were the relationship of the institutions of state and the everyman and the more humane way of disciplining and generally exercising power over miscreants deemed abnormal through the process of normative judgment. He explored the ideas of discipline, the penitentiary, and the gaze in his 1975 book, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison and his tripartite model of modern power was comprised of “hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment, and the examination.”i
To Foucault, the ideal architectural model of an institution was embodied in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon model of imprisonment that was established during the late 18th century during the Second Empire period of the Enlightenment (Fig. 1). Etymologically, Panopticon means “to see all.” Functionally and architecturally, the Panopticon corresponds with a circular design that would enable a central watchman, surrounded by a circular configuration of cells, to see each prisoner while prohibiting the prisoners from seeing each other or the watchman. Not knowing when they were being observed, the inmates had to assume that they were constantly being scrutinized, thereby engaging a self- Figure 1. Jeremy Bentham's late 18th regulating disciplinary regimen from within. In this model, prisoners century Panopticon Design. essentially ordered themselves and engaged their consciousness towards what would ultimately be social reform from the inside out. While Bentham’s Panopticon was never brought to fruition, prison architects have since laid claim to modeling their layout after Bentham’s design, for example the Prison Presidio Modelo in Cuba (Fig. 2). Bentham’s theoretical conception and blueprints, however, not only affected Foucault, who found the Panopticon to be the ideal disciplinary model, but the all-observant gaze has been used in spaces beyond walls and the reach of the late 18th Figure 2. Prison Presidio Modelo, Cuba, century human imagination due to scientific advancement and the whose architects cite the Panopticon space race. architectural model. The notion of space and motion that initially existed in the late 18th century when Bentham conceived the Panopticon have since undergone radical transformation, and thus the assertion of the institution has paralleled this evolution. Before we can discuss the modern day notion of the spectacle, let us first examine the idea of monitoring that existed in 19th century societies. Urban planning, the overhaul of tangles of streets into a reconfigured grid, allowed for a more streamlined, transparent society in which everything was logically ordered and in clear view. Transportation from one site to another took place by horsedrawn buggy and by foot, and later the automobile. Pedestrian traffic from point A to B was conventional and easily regulated. In 19th century French society, the flâneur was considered to be a man about town and of the world who would dress in dandyish fashion and parade the 19th century Parisian grid of streets. This cultural emblem has been epitomized in Gustave Caillebotte’s 1877 Paris Street, Rainy Day (Fig. 3). He was the mascot of modernity; he talked the talk and walked the walk. In terms of the talk of 2013, wherever he went he left a wide berth of admiring onlookers because of his “swag so wide.” His sense of identity was largely based on the way passersby would acknowledge him through the act of looking, therefore objectifying him. The plane of observation could be from windows, from street corners, from any point in town; yet, even if onlookers occupied, in terms of hierarchical observation, a watchtower located higher
Figure 3. Gustave Caillebotte's 1877 Paris Street, Rainy Day. Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
than the flâneur, by sacrificing their gaze to him, he held the power and in turn shaped the consciousness of his viewers. In the next century and a half, the naked eye would be aided by the invention of the electron microscope, the large reflecting telescope, and Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite, increasingly aiding man in gazing inward and outward, yet never reflexively upon himself and his existence writ large. That is, until 1968 when society’s conception of the watchful gaze was brought to a screeching halt with one of the most riveting pieces of art from the twentieth century and in Foucault’s lifetime: Earthrise (Fig. 4). For the first time, a human imaged the earth, the site of all previous subject-object relations on the Figure 4. Earthrise, 1968. Photograph by William Andres aboard Apollo 8 lunar orbit. same existential plane, from without. William Andres, aboard Apollo 8, captured the photograph during the first lunar orbit of a manned spacecraft. This is perhaps the ultimate example of hierarchical observation of a global body-politic. Rather than the centrally positioned watchman in Bentham’s model, observing prisoners by rotating his viewpoint from within a central tower, Andres and his fellow Apollo 8 astronauts gazed at the world from without, observing the planet as they, imprisoned in their craft, revolved around the moon gazing upon an earth-bound populace. The earth became the “field of documentation,” the object of the gaze, and the entire world fell victim to the voyeurism of watchmen manning a deep space watchtower from which no one on earth could tell (save the media sensationalism that announced that the astronauts would be in space) that they were being surveyed. It goes without saying that individuals could not be made out from such a distance with the astronauts’ naked eyes, but seeing the entire world at once would prove tantamount to developments to come that would turn a moment of awe into a future that now threatens our privacy. The space race in total would lead to the very technology that would eventually facilitate the internet, and its eventual public accessibility made companies like AOL a household name by the mid-1990s. With America on line, traditional ways of surveying the public were on the line and implementations like cookies were introduced to track the new field of observation existing not in the world of the material, per se, but now in the realm of the immaterial Ethernet. Enter the twentieth-century cyber flâneur through the vehicles of Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and exist, stage left, privacy. Through the use of these media, we have enacted a self-referential institution. Like watchmen surveying prisoners in the Panopticon, we become the watchmen of ourselves and others, recording our every move through force-feeding it to a public forum. If 1968 was the end of a more limited view of global consciousness, we have become postapocalyptic versions of our previously more privately constructed selves. At the same time that we create our own news and survey the news of our peers, such license tempts our attention spans, resulting in lackadaisical work ethics and global ignorance sacrificed to extra-local expertise, thereby erecting invisible walls. Via social networking we sit in a cubicle, a cell in its own right, behind a celllike computer screen, stationary yet mobile through hyperlinks that defy space and time. Social consciousness can be easily skewed through dishonest representation online, be it representing oneself through the guise of another by using a picture of someone else, fabricating information, or creating an alter-ego. Programs like Second Life allow escape from the institution of the world into arguably a second institution, yet one that is made to order. We transubstantiate ourselves into an online identity that may be reduced to a system of binary coordinates. Not only are these online
representations turned into data, but the creation of an asynchronous identity upon which we increasingly rely for self-definition subverts the sense of spectacle in the present reality, in the world outside the computer screen. Everything has turned into a Kodak moment, snapshot, captured and, (don’t forget the filter!) quickly uploaded to the internet. It is deferred action: capture now, appreciate later. We are interdimensional flâneurs in our own rites, yet because of the modern day technological, all-pervasive institution, we constantly evade our own present while imprisoning ourselves in a paradoxical Panopticon of simultaneous liberation and confinement. Bentham believed that power should be unable to be detected. Today our government has broken through the walls of the panoptical and has revolutionized the watchtower. It is difficult to watch the news today without witnessing a segment on drones, also known as UAVS (unmanned aerial vehicles). Articles have sprung up across the web claiming that, in our near future, we will be under the invisible force of scrutiny manifest in drones disguised as mosquitoes and birds. The benefit of drone technology is today used primarily and to great effect in war zones for surveillance, such as the UK's drone appropriately named "Watchkeeper." Yet, as Lev Grossman recently wrote in Time Magazine online in "Drone Home" on February 11th, 2013, "A drone isn't just a tool; when you use it you see and act through it — you inhabit it. It expands the reach of your body and senses in much the same way that the Internet expands your mind. The Net extends our virtual presence; drones extend our physical presence."ii It also extends Bentham and Foucault’s conception of power to what I believe they would have considered its ideal conclusion. Discussing Obamas' request to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for integration of drones into the realm of the everyman (and into our social consciousness), Grossman continues, "Drones are an enormously powerful, disruptive technology that rewrites rules wherever it goes. Now the drones are coming home to roost." These eyes rewrite the rules of sight and combine an invisible hand that can reach out and even take a DNA sample. Robert Johnson, writing for Business Insider last October in his article, "MicroDrones Combined with DNA Hacking Could Create a Very Scary Future," describes the mechanism that would enable a mosquito-like drone (Fig 5.) to land upon a civilian and quickly inject a needle to extract a sample of DNA in such a way that it would feel no differently than a normal mosquito bite.iii Would it leave the same small raised welt accompanied with that Figure 5. Mosquito Drone. maddening itch? I doubt it, but for as much as I hate the thought of actual mosquitoes invading my skin, the thought of mosquito drones invading my privacy and sampling the very core of my being is, to say the least, frightening for its implications for future privacy. Tomorrow seems to hold no reverence for sacred space. Sure, there are many advantages to drone usage. For example, Johnson's article includes information on how drones may help virologists implement new vaccines that will cure disease. Perhaps, though, this could also be used to heighten biochemical warfare from what we witnessed in the SARS scare in the past decade. In his Times article, Grossman also describes how the drones can (and already are) be used for artistic licensure by filming from a great distance, an elaboration on Earthrise. Chris Francescani elaborates on this and other possibilities in his Reuters article from March 3rd of this year, "From Hollywood to Kansas, drones are flying under the radar."iv Regulations permitting, in 2015 we will, like it or not, be sharing airspace with the watchmen.
Despite the benefits, the future shared airspace is disconcerting to say the least. The difference between model aviation hobbyists and the use of drones for public surveillance is a wider gap to which many of the articles I have read are unwilling to attest. My father, for example, has built and flown model airplanes and helicopters since before I was born and takes great delight in going to the flying field to use a remote controller to great finesse, resulting in a small aircraft turning into a ballerina doing pirouettes in the sky. There are even smaller versions of these gadgets that can fit in the palm of your hand and zip around the dinner table. At a Christmas gathering two years ago, my dad brought his miniature helicopter and at the end of the feast carefully hovered his miniature aerial machine in front of each candlestick. The air current created by the tiny helicopter blades blew out each flame. In my consciousness, I equate these technological gadgets as toys and, on the other side of the spectrum, as tools for warfare: respectively the realm of the private and the realm of that which threatens our freedom as a national body-politic. To overlap those realms, while successfully fulfilling Bentham's Panopticon in the modern age, does not succeed in easing the many concerns the public is navigating while waiting for answers. At present, the benefits do not outweigh the cautionary. The future of surveillance and power is not simply a matter of sight, but a matter of jeopardizing the integrity of our unalienable rights by aircrafts alien to our detection, intentionally unidentifiable flying objects. As a society, we cannot simply wait and see lest our cultural consciousness turn to unconsciousness.
Source Notes: 1 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/foucault/#3.3 1 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2135132,00.html 1 http://www.businessinsider.com/government-collected-dna-and-future-micro-drones-are-downright-scary-2012-10 1 http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-usa-drones-domestic-idUSBRE92206M20130303 Image Notes: Figure 1: http://www.digitalcrossrhodes.com/2009/10/panopticon/ Figure 2 : http://ict4accountability.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/panopticon.jpg Figure 3 : http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/20684 Figure 4 : http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_102.html
Figure 5 : http://www.businessinsider.com/the-future-of-micro-drones-is-getting-pretty-scary-according-toalan-lovejoy-2012-6
Feminism in Sin City by Robin Slonina with an introduction by Rob Balla Just last month, a number of vocal townspeople in Okuizumo, Japan demanded that two reproductions of classic sculptures on display in public parks be clothed. Specifically, they wanted to put some pants on Michelangelo’s David and a shirt on the Venus de Milo. As an arts community, we are familiar with many works of art which feature representations of the nude human form, and we usually think nothing of this nudity in sculpture (Rodin’s The Kiss) or painting (Botticelli’s Birth of Venus). However, for almost as long as artists have been depicting the human body in art, there have been those decrying this as obscene, vulgar, pornographic, sinful, or oppressive. Artists and the arts community commonly dismiss these claims as outlandish or baseless; what may be a more valid objection is that depictions of the nude female form in particular degrade, objectify, or demean women in some way. Clearly this is a touchy situation and one well worthy of exploration, but let’s complicate things by looking at the human body not as the subject matter of art (painting and sculpture), not as the medium of art (dance and song), but as the canvas. While humans have painted grand works of art, lots of them nudes, on everything from cave walls, to wooden boards, to stretched canvases, to cathedral ceilings, we have also decorated our bodies in a myriad of ways: piercings, tattoos, scars, and even paints. When the body is the subject, it is easily considered high art; while when the body is the canvas for the art, it is considered base. Why are paintings of the nude body acceptable, but not painting ON the nude body? What follows are the words of Robin Slonina who owns the largest body paint company in the United States: Skin City Body Painting in Las Vegas. She was gracious enough to share her thoughts with Buried Letter Press. *** I am an artist, business owner, body painter and feminist. I imagine some people might perceive worlds colliding in that statement! I am also a modern woman who does not understand how “feminism” has become a dirty word – especially among women. I have an early memory of my father chatting with a fellow blue-collar worker. After some now-forgotten statement my father made, his co-worker looked at him strangely and said, “You sound like a feminist.” I’ll never forget my dad’s startled look back at him as he exclaimed, “Well of course I’m a feminist – I’ve got three daughters!” The obviousness of owning up to being the “new f-word” when you simply believe in equal rights for women still makes me smile. That early
introduction to feminism was enhanced as I made my way through life and attended art school in Chicago. I befriended many feminist artists and activists, and I interned at and eventually joined some prominent feminist art galleries. No one was more surprised than I when the twisting path of life landed me in Las Vegas, running the largest body painting company in the country. Because of my feminist viewpoint, I have thought long and hard about the issue of the objectification of women, and what it means in my chosen line of work. I wish I could say that all of my body paintings are masterworks with the goal of fine art at their core. Running a successful business means this lofty goal simply isn’t realistic – many jobs consist of nothing more than painting company logos on spokes models. Of course, my team of artists and I take great pride in our work, and we will happily bring the highest craftsmanship to even the simplest designs, but we all secretly relish those adventurous clients, charity events, or teaching demonstrations where we can really get creative and produce truly fine art on our living canvases. I run a commercial business, however, and ultimately, the designs depend on my clients’ needs and budgets. I also wish I could say that we always paint on accurate examples of the average human form, celebrating the beauty in everyone. We certainly have successfully painted countless private clients of every imaginable shape and size. But on professional jobs when I hire the models, we generally do paint genetically-blessed, female models that fit into the current culturally-perceived mold of “attractive” because it draws the consumer’s eye and satisfies my clients. This is where most fellow feminists cry foul. They claim - even though I am a woman-run business employing an 85% female workforce of almost 100 free-lance artists, models and performers - that I am adding to the problem, not the solution of the objectification of women in society. I do take this criticism seriously, but ultimately I end up having to trust my own gut. What we do simply doesn’t feel wrong, even when subjected to my life-long ingrained feminist sensibilities. All the women I work with are smart and empowered, exuding a strong sense of free will in choosing to be a part of this industry. I also trust my overwhelming feeling that it is FUN. After 7 years, we all still love what we do. Moving beyond my gut feelings, I have grappled with more thoughtful justifications of my work. Why do we love to gaze at naked women? It seems to be human nature to celebrate the young, nubile members of our species as a way to glorify procreation – which one could argue is the most basic urge of any species, including the human one. Human beauty has been represented in art (according to the prevailing tastes of the times) for as long as culture has been recorded, and the style and tone with which this “beauty” is depicted is a cultural watermark of where a given society stands at a given time. In essence, the art that a society creates is a reflection of that society. To my mind, the perceived objectification of women in art and media is a symptom of inequality and not the cause. Yes, women suffer more objectification because they have traditionally been more disempowered, but it seems to me that women are also more universally appealing and non-threatening to look at by both sexes. Perhaps this is because it is hard-wired into all infants to turn to the female form for nourishment and comfort. We are all born with an innate appreciation for breasts! It would be wonderful if this intrinsic appreciation for the female body were not overlaid with all the societal injustices that women have to suffer, but that is not the world we live in – yet. Even when we reach this dream of perfect equality, I don’t necessarily think that we will stop depicting beautiful bodies in art and media. It seems more likely that there will be equal opportunity
objectification! I remember a time in pop-culture history as recently as 1991 when an advertisement of “Marky” Mark Wahlberg in Calvin Klein underwear was touted as one of the first major ad campaigns to turn the tables and objectify men for a change. Now look at the busloads of hairless, washboard stomachs to which men can compare themselves. With this growing visual onslaught of photo-shopped perfection, it becomes our duty to attach our self-esteem to our spirits, talents and integrity, while constantly teaching our daughters (and sons) to do the same. Our tolerance for showing and viewing naked skin ebbs and flows with the times, but it seems to grow more relaxed as modern society evolves. I personally have had some great experiences being semi-naked in public during adventures to Burning Man, Rainbow Gatherings, and the World Naked Bike Ride. Within the contexts of these safe zones for women, the experiences were liberating and fun! How I wish the whole world were a safe zone for women, so this debate would not need to take place… In the meantime, I see it is our job as women to combat inequality as we see fit. For me, this means smashing my head through every glass ceiling I encounter and running a successful body paint business in the City of Sin – for others it means calling me a part of the problem. I applaud anyone, male or female, who speaks their mind and joins in this debate – no matter what they think of me and my work. I am proud of my business, and I am grateful to live in a free country where I can do what I love. I am also grateful to all the hard-core feminists before me who made my smorgasbord of choices possible – even if they might not agree with the ones I’ve made. And I love my loudmouth sisters who keep thing interesting by calling them like they see them – even if they call me out. See more of Ms. Slonina’s body paint work!
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