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ABOVE: SHABANDAZ TEA HOUSE, IN THE AFTERNOON, MATANEBI STREET, BAGHDAD, STEVE MUMFORD, WATERCOLOR, 2003. OPPOSITE: BRICK SELLERS OF KABUL , LIDA ABDUL , VIDEO STILL , 2006. COURTESY GALLERIA GIORGIO PERSANO.
Prominent Republican and county legislator Robert Mirch organized a protest against the exhibit outside the Sanctuary on its opening night. Mirch is also in charge of code enforcement in the City of Troy, among other things. On March 11, the Sanctuary received a phone message from the code enforcement office, shutting them down because their main entry doors are an inch too narrow. Coincidence? Iâ€™ll let you decide. The use and abuse of power are forever bound to be part of any meaningful political conversation. (â€œThe price of liberty is eternal vigilance,â€? as Thomas Jefferson once put it.) The New Paltz exhibition clearly makes this point with a series of works by Leon Golub, an artist who (despite the vicissitudes of art world styles) persistently focused his work on the abuses of powerâ€” unblinkingly depicting torturers, mercenaries, and the terrible human cost of their actionsâ€”across more than five decades, and depressingly, it never ceased to be a viable topic for his art. And yet we continue to be led astray, distracted by all manner of bright, shiny things. Ironically, even as the web, camera phones, blogs, and instant messaging would seem to bring the world that much closer to us, we all too often allow all this information to choke off the most important ideas. There is egregious, overt censorship (as in Bilalâ€™s case), but even more insidious is the way the media are used to seduce us into an apathetic, virtual existence. The danger of this seduction is announced most prominently by Carolee Schneemanâ€™s Viet Flakes, a 16 mm film (shown here as video) that pans across images from Vietnamâ€”mothers cradling dead babies, American soldiers, burned villagesâ€”literally bringing these images in and out of focus, sliding across them, restlessly devouring them. These old images summon what is now a past time, a different world, and yet the immediacy of the photographs constantly threatens to punch through. The key element in all this is the point of view, the political consciousness of the viewer. Film and photography are, after all, just technologiesâ€”itâ€™s up to us to decide how to use them, and the information they can provide. If youâ€™re interested in taking action in the real world after reading this, please consider supporting the Sanctuary for Independent Media as they scramble to address the code violations that have shut them down for now. The most basic lesson of the First Amendment is that the proper response to bad speech is more speech. Truly free and independent pressâ€”and artâ€”are key elements in that equation. â€œINTIMACIES OF DISTANT WAR,â€? ON VIEW THROUGH APRIL 13 AT THE SAMUEL DORSKY MUSEUM OF ART, SUNY NEW PALTZ. (845) 257-3844; WWW.NEWPALTZ.EDU/MUSEUM. THE SANCTUARY FOR INDEPENDENT MEDIA, 3361 SIXTH AVENUE, TROY.
(IRING (AAKON TO FRAME YOUR ART