“What we need is a critique of visual culture that is alert to the power of images for good and evil and that is capable of discriminating the variety and historical specificity of their uses.”
- W.J.T. Mitchell. Picture Theory (1994).
30 April 2013
Renaissance Photography Prize
I tend to take a reasonably dim view of prize competitions in photography or any other profession, including my own. Most are thoroughly politicized, self-congratulatory in an unseemly way, and work primarily to reinforce tired conventions and practices.
That said, not all competitions are the alike. And I recently received an email from Jo Caldwell, who works with the Renaissance Photography Prize. It seems like a terrifically worthy undertaking. Here is there short self-description. Note - the deadline is nigh!
The Renaissance Photography Prize is an international competition showcasing outstanding photography from emerging or established photographers. Funds raised from entries are donated to support younger women with breast cancer.
Entering gives photographers the chance to have their work judged by some of the top names in the industry as well as being exhibited in London.
There are over £5,000 worth of prizes to be won and the winning series will be published in HotShoe Magazine.
Mother Jones is running this photo essay of work by Bruce Jackson - from a decades long project on prison farms in Texas and Arkansas.
__________ P.S.: In the small world category, it seems that Jackson lives just down the road in Buffalo!
The small town where August lives is in many ways a nice place. It is notorious, however, for having absurdly large numbers of kids who have not been immunized (some not fully, some not at all) against common childhood diseases. Indeed, the school his mom decided he should attend (with no consultation whatsoever from me) is apparently a magnet for families who are vaccine skeptics of one or another sort. Many of the parents seem not to care that common worries about putative links between immunizations and autism disorders are known to be totally bogus. They also seem oblivious to the fact that vaccines work effectively only when levels of immunized children reach a critical mass. (So their own decisions are putting other people's kids at risk too!) Today, a world summit aimed at insuring all kids can get the benefits of vaccines was convened in Abu Dhabi. Here is a testimonial from Desmond Tutu and here is another by Dr. Seth Berkley on why this is crucially important not just for communities but for individual children. And, of course, this is true not just in exotic 'developing' nations but, as this report and the marginal links make clear, in rich capitalist countries too!
"Zambia, 2010 ~ A view from a balloon in the Kafue National park. As the dawn breaks, the water in lakes and small rivers, still warm from the previous day’s sun, vaporizes and condenses to form strange and beautiful fog banks."
I have lifted this image from this slideshow at The New York Times. Salgado is a genius. Newsflash, right?
The Financial Times (ironically enough) has run this touching remembrance of Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm by his daughter Julia.
used to range widely in our chats in those ending years, discussing
everything from gossip, which he loved, to the goings-on in the
political world. He was always completely up to speed. He engaged in the
lives of all of us, his two sons and his daughter, his nine
grandchildren, and his young great-granddaughter. He always asked me
avidly “How’s business?” during each visit, enjoying my tales from the
front line of capitalism. He celebrated every entrepreneurial step
forward but was always a bit anxious, leaving answerphone messages
saying: “It’s Dad. Just checking in to see how you are. Don’t overdo it.
Kiss, kiss.” My dad, the academic historian and giant of “the left”,
and me, his degreeless, politically plural daughter who loves doing
business. I never felt so close to him as towards the end."
I've been listening to the obsessive coverage of Boston on NPR this morning. And beyond the simultaneously necessary and platitudinous reminders that we should not react against any groups ("muslims") I wonder what lessons we might learn. None are on offer on Morning Edition.
There is no question, the marathon bombing was despicable. It is easy and proper to call it an act of terror. A few of things, though.
First, those gun fundamentalists who think they are going to fight off the government when, as they fantasize, it decides to clamp down, are truly hallucinatory. Look at the mobilization of force against the Tsarnaev brothers. All those suburban patriots do not stand a chance. What other ways are there to defend democracy?
Second, Americans are so insulated that they fail to see that such terrorist acts are commonplace. (Susan grew up in Manchester, UK and her family still lives there. Think IRA.) That does not in any way excuse the Boston bombing. But just maybe, this episode should prompt us to see our commonalities with the rest of the world?
Third, mourning for those killed in the bombings and aiding those injured are appropriate responses. Dancing in the streets is not. The behavior of Bostonians last night was revolting.
Finally, the younger Tsarnaev is a US citizen and has not forfeited that status or the rights that come with it. Recognizing that is a first step toward defending democracy.
I came across this photo of basketball star Brittany Griner here and find it really striking. I also saw Griner - more or less speechless - upon being picked first in the WNBA draft. What a seemingly down to earth young woman. And, if only we had this headline for male athletes or, more generally, when one's sexuality were not headline worthy in the first place!
Yet another fine advert underscoring the idiocy of gun rights fundamentalists and their political minions in Congress. And, before critics bellow about the second amendment, let's recall all of the restrictions on first amendment rights - speech and assembly especially - that they willingly tolerate every single day. Rights are not absolute. Since it is important to leaven one's frustration and anger with humor, here is a terrific send-up of our intrepid leaders in the Senate.
Well, the latest "scandal" among economists is that the research on which austerity policies is predicated has been pretty much completely deflated. That research (claiming to establish that deficits slow economic growth in the longish term) was produced by economists in Cambridge [Carmen Reinhart (Maryland) and Kenneth Rogoff (Harvard)] and corrected - more like demolished - on reexamination by pinkos from down the Turnpike in Amherst [Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts].* You can find a summary of the debate here.
"They [Herndon/Ash/Pollin] find that three main issues stand out. First, Reinhart and Rogoff
selectively exclude years of high debt and average growth. Second, they
use a debatable method to weight the countries. Third, there also
appears to be a coding error that excludes high-debt and average-growth
countries. All three bias in favor of their result, and without them you
don't get their controversial result."
And, beyond the pedestrian errors, there is the issue of taking correlation to imply causation. This point is central to the additional commentary here and here and here at Paul Krugman's blog. He concludes his first post by extending the point beyond the economists to the policy-makers who accepted the research without question:
"If true, this is embarrassing and worse for R-R [Reinhart and Rogoff]. But the really guilty
parties here are all the people who seized on a disputed research
result, knowing nothing about the research, because it said what they
wanted to hear."
Krugman, though, is being too generous by half, at least, since Rogoff himself peddled the disputed findings in public. That said, you can find further reflections on the matter of how policy makers and their mouthpieces in the press embraced the Reinhart-Rogoff position by Peter Frase here at Jacobin. The point? This is a technical debate but one with crucially important political implications.
* Please note:This debate speaks highly of social science research insofar as it includes (or ought to) a built in impetus for critical re-assessment of findings and criticism of both results and policies premised upon them.
P.S.: More discussion here regarding the policy implications. One matter I would like to note is that many mainstreameconomists seem to have simply accepted the Reinhart.Rogoff results. It is plausible to suggest that Herndon/Ash/Pollin stand outside the mainstream - and hence represent an example of the importance of intellectual pluralism.
“The photographs really didn’t have any of the effect that I had
hoped they would. . . . I was hoping to prevent the war. And of course, there was no reaction.
The war started, 100,000 to 200,000 people were killed on all sides and
several million more became refugees." ~ Ron Haviv
One lesson of Rebecca Solnit's book Hope in the Dark comes in the form of a warning: do not prejudge success or failure. I have explored this theme here and here before. This post on Ron Haviv's work at Lens is a terrific reminder of the incredibly important, unintended, unforeseen impact photography can have. It also is a reminder that the moralization of photography is a mistake - after all, one of Haviv's images (lifted above) plays a central role in Susan Sontag's despairing stance in Regarding the Pain of Others. The photographs, on their own, cannot have the sorts of impact Haviv wants, they can only do so when they are taken up and used for this or that purpose by people engaged in political practices or occupying institutions. And that transforms Haviv's ethical predicaments (whether to snap these pictures despite being forbidden to do so, whether to testify in court) into a political problem.
I really could care less about Anthony Weiner - or any of the other similarly "disgraced" members of the NY Congressional delegation over the past few years. Like me and many others, these people have personal foibles. That does not make them heinous. But neither does it mean that an orchestrated media campaign is sufficient to restore some presumed privilege or right to a place in public life. Weiner is best known for a personal train wreck; how does he parley that into political office? Why not get a job, be thankful that you have a smart, talented, attractive woman in your life - despite your best efforts - and a sweet son to raise? That would be a great life.
What initially caught my eye here and made me pay attention to this story - in which The Times is playing its duly appointed role in Weiner's PR campaign - is that the editors have placed Huma Abedin center stage in the cover photo. And, of course, who better to document this blurring of personal and public than Elinor Carucci, a photographer who is a master of that fatuous genre.
Regular readers will know that I think David Levi Strauss arguably is the best critic writing today. Well, let's not put him on the spot; let's just say I find it really difficult to identify a more insightful critic. I also have found the time to disparage the assessments of Ken Johnson who writes on art, and photography in particular, for The New York Times. I will not rehearse my compliments or criticisms here.
Late last year Johnson published a couple of pieces - you can find them here and here - that generated an uproar among artists and critics. Recently, Levi Strauss published this reply to those pieces in Art in America. And here is Johnson's response. I will come back to this fracas. But it is worth noting the controversy.
Over the past week or so, UofR (once again) has been in the press due to the moronic behavior of Steve Landsburg. I noted the fracas here. This morning the University noted that Landsburg has issued an apology.
"I am both sad and sorry that my recent blog post has
distressed so many people so deeply, both on campus and off. I am
particularly sad because many readers got the impression that I was
endorsing rape, while my intent was to say exactly the opposite—namely
that the horror of rape is so great that we should rethink accepted
principles of policy analysis that might sometimes minimize that horror.
This is not the place to rehash those issues, but interested readers
might want to look at the follow-up post where I tried to say things
more clearly. I very much wish I'd said them more clearly in the first
place, and I do very much regret having caused any unnecessary offense."
I have on several occasions posted about FEMEN, a group of young feminists whose protests against sex trafficking and human rights violations are in many ways admirable. Well, al Jezeera has run this report on an initiative "Muslimah Pride Day" organized in response to FEMEN's "Topless Jihad Day." The disagreement here raises all sorts of important issues. There is much hyperbole (as is evident in the comment thread on the al Jazeera story) getting in the way. And I am not especially well situated to comment at the moment. But it surely is important to note the debate.
__________ Update: And here at The New York Times is a report on the dire circumstances that Amina, the Tunisian Femen activist finds herself in.
Update 2 (9 April):A reply to critics by Femen's Inna Shevchenko - here.
There He Goes Again - Steve Landsburg Plays the Fool
"The one lesson I most want my students to learn is this: You can’t just say anything.
It’s important to care about making sense. So I find it particularly
galling when people violate this rule while presenting themselves to the
public as economists." ~ Steve Landsburg
Last year Steve Landsburg, a faculty member in our Economics Department*, created a minor media fracas by channeling Rush Limbaugh's bigoted comments about Sandra Fluke. I commented here several times on Landsburg's sophomoric behavior.
Well, Landsburg is at it again. A short while ago he offered up this more or less incoherent blog post, which he has followed up with this typically condescending and dismissive set of rationalizations. Having offered up a conceptually flawed 'thought experiment' - one that any reasonable person would see not as intellectually intrepid but just inflammatory - Steve seems to opt for the standard 'I've been misunderstood' defense. And he then blames his audience for misunderstanding. Interesting, among the lessons I try to get students to embrace is that if someone misunderstands an argument I advance or point I make, the fault is likely mine, not theirs. The basic presumption, in other words that the burden falls on me to be clear. Not so for Landsburg, apparently.
But let's focus on substance for a moment. When I say Landsburg's initial post is conceptually flawed I have in mind such elementary matters as failing to differentiate intentional from unintentional consequences, failing to see that rape is an act of power from which perpetrators derive 'psychic' benefits, failing to differentiate between the impact of ideas and physical assault, failing to see that in a democracy even erroneous or odd views get weighed in decision-making processes ... The post is not just offensive in its juvenile provocations, it is a mess. I would give my undergraduates maybe a C- if they submitted it in a course.
The episode has, predictably enough, now made a splash in the press - look here, here, here, here, here, for instance. Much of the publicity is critical (mocking, even) and was initiated because some outraged students alerted The Gawker. All this criticism - public, mostly reasoned - is wholly appropriate. What is inappropriate is calling for his censure (as this on-line petition does) or disrupting Landsburg's classes. The best way to respond is to argue back in public - whether by showing just how flawed Landsburg's views are or by symbolic collective actions like this:
In this video from fall 2011 the Chancellor at UC Davis - who had whined that she felt threatened by peacefully protesting students - is shamed quite effectively. This is an episode of collective disapproval, no threat, no mayhem, simple shame mobilized to great effect.
I opened this post with a quote from another blog post by Landsburg. I think it is a lesson he needs to learn himself before imparting it to students. His posturing, his attempts at provocation, are truly embarrassing not just to the university but to himself.
Landsburg can say whatever he likes, however ignorant or offensive. But he has no expectation that anyone will treat he or his ideas seriously. He has to expect that others will respond - with arguments, mockery or silence. I hope he gets what he deserves in that regard.
___________ *Please note: Landsburg is hardly an intellectual heavyweight. He is an nontenured faculty member, hired because our 'real' economists think teaching undergraduates is beneath them. His writing is mostly journalistic - a sort of poor man's freakonomics. There is nothing wrong with that. But it is a mistake to think his ideas carry immense weight on campus or anywhere else.
Local Event - Jeanne Theoharis on Rosa Parks ... TODAY!
This afternoon at 4:30 at the Welles-Brown Room of the UofR Library the Douglass Leadership House is presenting a talk by Jeanne Theoharis (CUNY Brooklyn College). The title of the talk is "More Than Tired: Debunking the Myth of Mrs. Rosa Parks." Event details here.
I am a political theorist with neither experience as, nor any real aspiration to be, a photographer. My interest is in the task Mitchell identifies in the passage I quote in the header. It remains, in my estimation, woefully neglected.
Now that the FTC has promulgated rules requiring full disclosure of any possible conflicts of interest, I feel obliged to note that I generally write about photography, books, recordings, and so on that I have paid for myself; if I ever do receive 'complimentary' copies of such works and then write about them, I will state that in the post. Having said that, my judgments about particular publications, (journalistic, artistic, or musical) works, or views are just that - judgments - if you take what I say as an "endorsement," that is your interpretation and you can act on it (or not) as you please. I'd say "caveat emptor!" but you are not actually buying anything here, so it is hard to see any basis for complaint.
"Help Kick Start United in Anger: A History of ACT UP ~ This is a Great Project and God Forbid that they Don't Have to Count Pennies!
"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." ~ Dorothea Lange
"Photography is nothing - it's life that interests me." ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
"Photos always seem to exist as sort of stuffy, unnecessary antiques that we put in a drawer — unless we take them out, put them in current dialogue, and give them relevance." ~ Mark Klett
"The job of the photographer, in my view, is not to catalogue indisputable fact but to try to be coherent about intuition and hope. This is not to say that he is unconcerned with the truth." ~ Robert Adams
"Light, then, .... is indeed a wonderful instrument ..." ~ Mark Rothko
In Thinking About Photography Here Is The Problem, Or Part Of It, At Least
"What the modern means of reproduction have done is destroy the authority of art and to remove it - or rather, to remove the images which they reproduce - from any preserve. For the first time ever, images of art have become ephemeral, ubiquitous, insubstantial, available, valueless, free. They surround us the way language surrounds us. [. . .]
The art of the past no longer exists as it once did. It's authority is lost. In its place there is a language of images. What matters now is who uses that language for what purpose." ~ John Berger
"[P]hotographs depend for their meaning on networks of authority. The image supplies little in itself. What counts is its use and the power to fix a particular interpretation of the events, objects or people depicted. Some people, and especially some institutions, have much more clout in this processs than others do." ~ Steve Edwards
"The first question must always be: Who is using this photograph, and to what end?" ~ David Levi Strauss
"By contrast, almost all writing about photography in our times tends to begin with the alleged nature of the product rather than with its production and use." ~ Patrick Maynard
"The Arithmetic of Compassion: Rethinking the Politics of Photography" British Journal of Political Science (2011)
"Review of Mark Reinhardt, et. al Beautiful Suffering: Photography & the Traffic in Pain" Journal of Politics (2007)
Assorted Artists, Authors, Thinkers, Provocateurs
"Apolitical art and artless politics are the fruit of a divide-and- conquer strategy that weakens both; art and politics ignite each other and need each other." ~ Rebecca Solnit
"... hard and fast categories ... tend to be instruments used by the victors." ~ Václav Havel (1986)
"The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude." ~ George Orwell (1946)
"Can it still be controversial to say that an apparently disengaged poetics may also speak a political language - of self-enclosed complacency, passivity, opportunism, false neutrality . . . ?" ~ Adrienne Rich (2006)
"I think art always is political, one way or another. That is, on purpose or by default." ~ Allan Sekula (2005)
“Those who say that art should not propagate doctrines usually refer to doctrines that are opposed to their own.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges (1952)
"My position is that you cannot work towards peace being peaceful. If the peace is to be one where everybody’s quiet and doesn’t open up ... share what’s unspeakable ... offer unsolicited criticism ... defend others’ rights to speak and encourage discourse — that peace is worth nothing. It reminds me of the kind of peace that was secured in my old country under the Communist regime. That is the death of democracy. That might have consequences as bad as war—bloody war and conflict. So, to prevent the world from bloody conflict, we must sustain a certain kind of adversarial life in which we are struggling with our problems in public." ~ Krzysztof Wodiczko
“I am interested in a political art, that is to say an art of ambiguity, contradiction, uncompleted gestures, and uncertain endings; an art (and a politics) in which optimism is kept in check and nihilism at bay.” ~ William Kentridge (1998)
"The function of art has always been to break through the crust of conventionalized and routine consciousness." ~ John Dewey (1927)
Paris Review: Is it a concern to effect social change with your plays?
August Wilson: I don’t write particularly to effect social change. I believe writing can do that, but that’s not why I write. I work as an artist. All art is political in the sense that it serves someone’s politics. Here in America whites have a particular view of blacks. I think my plays offer them a different way to look at black Americans. For instance, in Fences they see a garbage man, a person they don’t really look at, although they see a garbage man every day. By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbage man’s life is affected by the same things—love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives.
Paris Review: How would that same play, Fences, affect a black audience?
August Wilson: Blacks see the content of their lives being elevated into art. They don’t always know that it is possible, and it’s important for them to know that.
New Corporate Friendly Postal Regulations Threaten Independent Media
NEWS ABOUT RIGHTS OF PHOTOGRAPHERS IN NYC
News, Comment, Letters & Arts- And I surely do not mean "fair and balanced"!
"Most of all photography is probably an instrument for showing things, a device for displaying them." - Urs Stahel
"The most political decision you make is where you direct people's eyes. In other words, what you show people, day in and day out, is political. . . . And the most politically indoctrinating thing you can do to a human being is to show her, every day, that there can be no change." ~ Wim Wenders
"Democracy is a proposal (rarely realised) about decision making; it has little to do with election campaigns. Its promise is that political decisions be made after, and in the light of, consultation with the governed. This is dependent upon the governed being adequately informed about the issues in question, and upon the decision makers having the capacity and will to listen and take account of what they have heard. Democracy should not be confused with the “freedom” of binary choices, the publication of opinion polls or the crowding of people into statistics. These are its pretense.
Today the fundamental decisions, which effect the unnecessary pain increasingly suffered across the planet, have been and are taken unilaterally without any open consultation or participation." ~ John Berger
Inclusion, Exclusion & the Politics of Photography
"I have said that a photograph bears witness to a human choice being exercised. The choice is not between photographing x and y, but between photographing at x moment or y moment. . . . What varies is the intensity with which we are made aware of the poles of absence and presence. Between these two poles photography finds its proper meaning. ... A photograph, while recording what has been seen, always and by its nature refers to what is not seen. It isolates, preserves and presents a moment taken from a continuum. ... Hence the necessity of our understanding a weapon we can use and which can be used against us." ~ John Berger
Photography Magazines, Etcetera - Print and OnLine
If We Use Photography to Help us Think, How Should We Understand the Processes of Thinking?
"605. One of the most dangerous ideas for a philosopher is, oddly enough, that we think with or in our heads.
606. The idea of thinking as a process in the head, in a completely enclosed space, gives him something occult.
607. Is thinking a specific organic process of the mind, so to speak - as it were chewing and digesting in the mind? Can we replace it by an inorganic process that fulfills the same end, as it were a prosthetic apparatus for thinking? How should we have to imagine a prosthetic organ of thought?" ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
"If one takes the view ... that human mental activity depends for its full expression upon being linked to a cultural tool kit - a set of prosthetic devices, so to speak - then we are well advised when studying mental activity to take into account the tools employed in that activity." ~ Jerome Bruner
"...[H]uman thought is basically both social and public - ... its natural habitat is the house yard, the marketplace, and the town square. Thinking consists not of 'happenings in the head' (though happenings there and elsewhere are necessary for it to occur) but of a traffic in what have been called by G.H. Mead and others, significant symbols - words for the most part but also gestures, drawings, musical sounds, mechanical devices like clocks, or natural objects like jewels - anything, in fact, that is disengaged from its mere actuality and used to impose meaning on experience. From the point of view of any particular individual, such symbols are largely given. ... While she lives she uses them, or some of them, sometimes deliberately and with care, most often spontaneously and with ease, but always with the same end in view: to put a construction upon the events through which she lives, to orient herself within 'the ongoing course of experienced things,' to adopt a vivid phrase of Johns Dewey's." ~ Clifford Geertz
Electronic Frontier Foundation: Support Bloggers' Rights
Resources For Bloggers Needing Anonymity
"Just the Facts Ma'am"?
"Many persons seem to suppose that facts carry their meaning along with themselves on their face. Accumulate enough of them and their interpretation stares out at you. ... But ... no one is ever forced by just the collection of facts to accept a particular theory of their meaning, so long as one retains intact some other doctrine by which he can marshall them. Only when the facts are allowed free play for the suggestion of new points of view is any significant conversion of conviction as to meaning possible. ... In any event, social philosophy exhibits an immense gap between facts and doctrines." ~ John Dewey (1927)
"When the right-wing noise machine starts promoting another alleged scandal, you shouldn’t suspect that it’s fake — you should presume that it’s fake, until further evidence becomes available." ~ Paul Krugman (2010)
Dewey is Right, But So Is Krugman ~ It Is Good to Know if Someone is Simply Making Stuff Up!
"It's odd I suppose, ... but I have always had an aversion to the marriage of music and politics. Leaving the discussion of instrumental music aside, I have always admired songwriters, wished I could have been one myself. I love a song that tells a story, and when it tells of a man's suffering or a woman's hopelessness or dreams, one can certainly argue the case for political meaning, and in fact I would. But when people start telling me how to change the world over a G-major chord, that's when I generally leave the room. With all due respect, I always felt Joan Baez's 'I Dreamed I saw Joe Hill' was the moment in the movie 'Woodstock' to go out and get popcorn. It's a long movie after all. I was waiting for Sly and the Family Stone and I still am - "I want to take you higher - baby, baby, baby light my fire" - now there's a message!" ~ Wayne Horvitz
"Music speaks. It speaks in its own language differently to each of us. I believe in music as a contribution to the discussion about who we are and where we are headed. ... The unruly thing about music is that it demands its own meanings that are beyond any explanation. You might be able to decipher the nuts and bolts, but in the end, you can't unscramble the mystery of how music makes you feel. That's why I don't often write about my music. Words can so often obscure the feelings and the sense of music. Music is not an argument, it lives in its own universe and refuses to be pinned down." ~ Dave Douglas
" ... the questions a photographer raises may be more profound than the answers the medium permits." ~ Rebecca Solnit
"Because, you know, the photographs . . . are more a question than a reply." ~ Sebastião Salgado
"A picture can be an answer as well as a question but if you can't answer your question try to question your question. There are clever questions and stupid answers as well as stupid questions and clever answers. There can be questions without answers but no answers without questions." ~ Ernst Haas
Patronize Independent Purveyors of Books & Music - Help Maintain our Intellectual & Cultural Ecology - Nearly All These Places Take Orders OnLine
YOU WON'T EVER BE DECISIVE IN THE OUTCOME, BUT YOU CAN VOICE YOUR VIEWS AND CONTRIBUTE TO THE CACAPHONY ~ SO REGISTER, FIND A CANDIDATE, HOWEVER HOPELESS THEIR CHANCES, AND VOTE
Cool Designs and Other Things (More to Follow)
"The best art makes your head spin with questions. Perhaps this is the fundamental distinction between pure art and pure design. While great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear." ~ John Maeda
"I don't bring an essentialist view to my background as a designer. But design gave me an opportunity to observe and learn about the social politics of production, distribution, and use. Use is very important." ~ Krzystof Wodiczko
“I don’t think it is the function of art to be pleasing. ... Art is not democratic.” ~ Richard Serra
"We may distinguish between two types of imaginative process: the one starts with the word and arrives at the visual image and the one starts with the visual image and arrives at its verbal expression." ~ Italo Calvino
"There is something embarrassing in ... the way in which, ... turning suffering into images, harsh and uncompromising though they are, ... wounds the shame we feel in the presence of the victims. For these victims are used to create something, works of art, that are thrown to the consumption of a world which destroyed them. The so-called artistic representation of the sheer physical pain of people beaten to the ground by rifle-butts contains, however remotely, the power to elicit enjoyment out of it. The moral of this art, not to forget for a single instant, slithers into the abyss of its opposite. The aesthetic principle of stylization ... makes an unthinkable fate appear to have had some meaning; it is transfigured, something of its horror removed. This alone does an injustice to the victims; yet no art which tried to evade them could confront the claims of justice." ~ T.W. Adorno
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise." ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
"A photograph is a moral decision taken in one eighth of a second, or one sixteenth, or one one-hundred-and-twenty-eighth. Snap your fingers; a snapshot's faster." ~ Salman Rushdie
"I cannot find any good use for the term postmodernism. ... I have no idea what is supposed to make a painting, or a novel, or a political attitude, "postmodern." ~ Richard Rorty
"The greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different." ~ Roberto Mangabeira Unger
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." ~ Arundhati Roy
 "A limited imagination defends itself against recognizing the world as a system of connected vessels; it also is incapable of moving beyond the familiar."
 "Great numbers, however, cause particular difficulties for our imagination. As if we observe humanity in a way that is not permitted for humans, and allowed only to gods. ... In other words, they can think in categories of masses. A million people more, a million less - what difference does it make?" ~ Czeslaw Milosz
"Politics depends, to a great extent, on judging what is actual relative to what is possible. [. . .] However, we have an inherently weak grasp of what is 'possible' and most societies are not set up so as naturally to improve this, or to make us aware of possibilities we may have ignored or taken with insufficient seriousness." ~ Raymond Geuss
"Start doing the things you think should be done, and start being what you think society should become. Do you believe in free speech? Then speak freely. Do you love the truth? Then tell it. Do you believe in an open society? Then act in the open. Do you believe in a decent and humane society? Then behave decently and humanely." ~ Adam Michnik
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I allow comments on nearly all posts. In fact, I encourage comments and usually am happy to offer replies. That said, I will feel free to enforce standards of civility here.
I am completely willing to delete boorish comments ~ e.g., those involving name-calling, cursing, or that are generally disrespectful toward me or other readers. The same goes, especially, for various forms of bigotry. The same goes for comments that are not germane to the post or comment thread.
Except in very rare instances, I do not publish anonymous comments. Experience suggests that unless a reader is willing to identify himself and take responsibility for his views, he too often proves willing to act like an ass. (Apologies for the gendered language, but it seems appropriate in this context.) So, like boorish, anonymous is a more or less direct route to comment oblivion. Life is too short.
I treat this blog like I treat my living room. If you come here and act like an ass, I'll show you the door. And, as is true of my living room (& yours no doubt, too), I am the sole judge of what counts as acting like an ass. Fair warning.