Little time this week, unfortunately, for me to keep up with the Pussy Riot conviction (as promised here) or anything else. But I recommend Charles Cameron’s series of posts (six so far, and counting) over at Zenpundit, including his annotated summary of their closing statements. The statements themselves are very lucid and articulate, as one should expect from women who can quote Rosi Braidotti *AND* Nicolai Berdyaev.
To get a sense of what the PR girls are up against, have a listen to radical traditionalist philosopher Aleksandr Dugin on the “holy war” Pussy Riot have started. “Geopolitician” Dugin’s political advice gets into Putin’s inner circles, even if Dugin’s attitudes toward Putin himself have sometimes been ambivalent.
BLDGBLOG‘s Geoff Manaugh raises challenging questions about Franco-Tunisian “undercover photographer” and graffiti/poster artist JR‘s exhibition of photos called The Hills Have Eyes. JR’s story is that he found a camera on a Paris subway station platform in the year 2000 and has since gone around photographing suburban ghetto rioters in Paris, impoverished and abused women in Africa, break-dancers, graffiti artists, snowboarders, and other outsiders, and pasting photo blow-ups of his work on city walls and in war zones around the world. He has taken close-ups of Israeli and Palestinian faces, then pasted these as huge posters on the Wall separating Israel from the West Bank. “The Hills Have Eyes” plasters the walls of favelas in Rio de Janeiro with the eyes of their dwellers.
In the tradition of artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, there’s an element of the ghetto speaking back in his work. There’s the raw energy and intensity, the racial otherness and sense of mystery about his own identity. And there’s also the whiff here of the art world canonizing an artist from the slums, so that one wonders who is patting themselves on the back for their liberal inclusiveness and who is selling himself with cheap labor from friends on the street. Manaugh asks:
“Are you visually transforming the ghetto so that those who live in the city below no longer have to look up and see themselves surrounded by blight? They will see, instead, a hot new contemporary artist on display? Or could you visually augment the favela in a way that positively impacts both the self-image of, and the quality of life for, the people living there while not erasing the presence of that ghetto from the visual awareness of the central city dwellers?”
And, I would add, isn’t Manaugh’s (and my) raising these questions unfair in relation to JR unless they are raised all the more in relation to other artists whose race or social class origins are more typical of the art world? Some of the comments on Manaugh’s blog suggest as much, i.e., that just because someone is good at what they do doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make a good living at it.
But there’s also something about the message here that undercuts the art world’s individualism and reaches to, and preaches for, a global level of common humanity.