NEWSgrist, Vol.9, no.1

Vol.9, no.1, Jan 5, 2008, 8:04 AM
read it on the blog:


I’m reading Two Lives, Janet Malcolm’s compelling new book about Gertude Stein and Alice B. Toklas that focuses on their time in France during the Occupation; she asks how did this ‘pair of elderly Jewish lesbians escape the Nazis?’ I’ve been a fan of Malcolm’s ever since reading The Journalist and the Murderer

via London Review of Books (12/13/07)

[excerpt of review] Malcolm begins Two Lives, disarmingly enough, with a simple yet troubling set of questions. Riffling one day through the gravy-stained pages of her old copy of The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook — the delightful culinary memoir of 1954 in which Toklas, eight years after her companion’s death, reminisced about ‘Miss Stein’ and the various elaborate meals she (Toklas) had prepared for her and their famous friends– Malcolm was suddenly struck, she relates, by the dearth of information Toklas volunteered about their life during the Occupation. True, in one sense there was no mystery. As Toklas explains, she and Stein spent the Vichy period safely domiciled in the south-eastern part of France known as the Bugey: first, at the comfortable country house at Bilignin, near Belley, in which they had spent their summers in the 1930s; subsequently, in another house, equally picturesque, in Culoz. Anyone with even a passing interest in the pair will almost certainly have seen one or two of the snapshots, now iconic, of Stein at Bilignin before the war: clowning with friends on the ancient stone terrace (in one photo she is holding sheet music and mouthing the words of her favourite song, ‘On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine’), greeting guests from a sunny upstairs window, or relaxing full-length on a stripey deckchair — massive and butch and strangely fashion-forward in her usual voluminous woolly skirt, embroidered vest, thick stockings and men’s sandals. (I myself am the gratified possessor of one of these sun-dappled pix — a sepia-tinted 5 x 7 in which Stein, supine and enormous on said deckchair, appears to be in a sort of Pasiphaë-like embrace — magnificent and unperturbed — with her huge white standard poodle, Basket. Both Stein and the photographer, Carl Van Vechten, have signed it; it is inscribed to Alexander Woollcott. The stunning Basket, alas, has left nary a paw-print.)
Yet something was ‘off’, Malcolm sensed, in Toklas’s account of this protracted rustic sojourn. World wars are seldom propitious for the lovers of haute cuisine, but even so, Toklas’s ration-based recipes from the period (‘A Restricted Veal Loaf’, ‘Swimming Crawfish’) were singularly unenticing; her commentaries crimped and full of ‘painfully forced gaiety’. Awkward questions began to loom. How, wondered Malcolm, had this ‘pair of elderly Jewish lesbians’ escaped the Nazis? Why, when Paris fell in 1940, had they not gone to Switzerland, as friends recommended, or back to the United States? What made them think Bilignin was safe? And why did Toklas say nothing in her memoir — even obliquely — about her and Stein’s Jewishness or the apparent danger they had been in?

Of course, Malcolm writes, in the 1950s ‘one did not go out of one’s way to mention one’s Jewishness. Gentlemanly anti-semitism was still a fact of American life. The fate of Europe’s Jews was known, but the magnitude of the catastrophe had not registered; the term “Holocaust” was not yet in use.’ Yet even granting that, no one, it seemed, grasped the obvious: that the plain fact of Stein and Toklas’s survival, more or less unruffled, was strange. That they had made it through the war unharmed, even as thousands of less fortunate Jewish residents in France — some from the very part of the Unoccupied Zone in which the couple had taken refuge — were being herded onto trains and sent to death camps, seemed a curiously neglected topic.

Much of Two Lives — a book as elegant as it is disconcerting — is devoted to Malcolm’s ensuing investigations into Stein and Toklas’s life in the murky period in question. Readers of other Malcolm productions — In the Freud Archives (1984), The Journalist and the Murderer (1990), The Crime of Sheila McGough (1999), Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey (2001) — will recognise the method: Malcolm offers a sort of reporter’s diary, a circuitous, episodic, highly self-conscious narrative about her own search, ultimately somewhat inconclusive, after the ‘truth’ of the matter. It’s a detective novelist’s technique and one that Malcolm has mastered to perfection. And inevitably it broadens out into something more philosophical. Even as Malcolm reports — drolly — on the intrigue-filled world of Stein-Toklas scholarship, an area of study replete with more than the usual number of literary mavericks, oddballs and feral academics in the grip of obsessive-compulsive disorder, she also provides a canny assessment of Stein’s personality and achievement, the relationship with Toklas, and a telling if melancholy parable of the biographer’s art. [read on…]
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January 05, 2008 at 09:34 AM in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

William Powhida’s NY Enemy/Ally Project!

via, 1/2/08>

The New York Enemy/Ally Project

I am pleased to offer everyone the opportunity to nominate a New York enemy and ally  to be voted on January 10th from 6 – 8pm at Caucus, a group show co-curated by Michael Waugh of Momenta Art. I will then render the results of the vote creating a continuum from good to evil. If the process sounds a bit vague, it is intentionally so. The caucus will determine the direction of the list and whether it is about the art world or not. I think it will be an interesting intersection of art and life. I already have my nominations, but click here to add your nominations.  Please, be judgmental.

Posted by William at 9:54 AM

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January 04, 2008 at 02:15 PM in Art of Advertising, Art World, Criticism, Current Affairs, Exhibitions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pathetic Fallacy: Weather and Imagination


Strange Weather (1), 2005, 20 x 26 inches. Oil on canvas.

Pathetic Fallacy: Weather and Imagination

January 7 – February 27, 2008

Works by Richard Bosman, Peter Brooke, Fernando Ferreira de Araujo, Malcolm Fenton, Joy Garnett

Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of the Imagination
247 East 82nd Street, New York, NY 10028

Artist’s Reception:
Saturday, January 12, 5:30-7:00pm

Weather and Imagination
January 12, 2008
2:30 PM, at the Center
Participants: Deborah Coen (moderator), Sheila Jasanoff, Anthony Leiserowitz, Stephanie LeMenager, Ben Orlove [more info]

In his five-volume work Modern Painters (1843-60), John Ruskin wrote of the poetic practice of ascribing human characteristics, such as emotions, feelings and sensations, to inanimate objects or to nature, thereby coining the term pathetic fallacy. The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination is pleased to present the exhibition, Pathetic Fallacy: Weather and Imagination, which examines diverse ways in which artists and scientists record, capture and analyze the phenomenology of weather. From the roiling background in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” to Shakespeare’s tempests, weather forms an underlying context across artistic disciplines. How do actual weather conditions affect the sensibility of an artist? How does the climate influence his or her representations, and what of the impact on the viewer? A concurrent display in the Annex will address how scientists, track, quantify, and forecast–via meteorology—the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere.

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
– Mark Twain

Artists Richard Bosman, Peter Brooke, Fernando Ferreira de Araujo, Malcolm Fenton, and Joy Garnett, through painting, photography and printmaking, consider the implications and consequences of weather on human activity, and vice-versa.

Hallie Cohen, Curator

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January 03, 2008 at 11:12 AM in Art World, Current Affairs, Events, Exhibitions, festivalcafe, Panels + lectures, Philosophical…, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Copy Culture: SUPERFLEX

Copy via Rhizome News
Rhizome News: Copy Culture
Open source is a term we most often hear applied to software and intellectual property in the digital realm. The Danish artists SUPERFLEX (Rasmus Nielsen, Jakob Fenger and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen) take open source philosophies and tactics offline and apply them to real world situations. Their work challenges corporate market practice through large-scale DIY projects such as television stations and fuel production plans. One of the most compelling examples of their use of homebrew ‘programming’ is the project GUARANA POWER. Guarana is a caffeine rich berry farmed in South America, often a major ingredient in soft drinks. A large food and beverage conglomerate sought to monopolize the market in Brazil, and with the help of SUPERFLEX and the Power Foundation, one farmer’s co-op stood in direct opposition by bottling their own locally grown and produced soft drink under the label GUARANA POWER. By making their recipe and process freely available, these farmers usurped the proprietary practices of a major corporation. Like their open source applications, another digital convention that SUPERFLEX employs for non-digital purposes is the practice of versioning. The FREE BEER project is an open source recipe for beer (which includes guarana), that can be and has been adapted and improved upon. FREE BEER 3.3 is available as part of their latest exhibition COPYSHOP, recently opened at the Knoxville Gallery of Art. Part exhibition, part workshop, and part, for lack of a better word, copy shop, COPYSHOP acknowledges the importance of open culture, and has made available FREE BEER, Star and Buck Coffee, Black Spot sneakers and other homebrewed alternatives to corporate products. Mindful of the increasingly globalized power structures they live in, SUPERFLEX are not anti-capitalist, but use tools of capitalism to actualize new and progressive ways of thinking about consumer culture. – Caitlin Jones

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January 03, 2008 at 10:30 AM in Art World, Copyfight, Current Affairs, Exhibitions, festivalcafe, Futures, Intellectual Property, Open Source, Philosophical…, Protest, The Gift | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Privacy vs. Piracy: A University Fights Back

31bar190Illus: Harry Campbell<via NYTimes, Sidebar
In the Fight Over Piracy, a Rare Stand for Privacy
Published: December 31, 2007

The record industry got a surprise when it subpoenaed the University of Oregon in September, asking it to identify 17 students who had made available songs from Journey, the Cars, Dire Straits, Sting and Madonna on a file-sharing network.

The surprise was not that 20-year-olds listen to Sting. It was that the university fought back.

Represented by the state’s attorney general, Hardy Myers, the university filed a blistering motion to quash the subpoena, accusing the industry of misleading the judge, violating student privacy laws and engaging in questionable investigative practices. Cary Sherman, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said the industry had seen “a lot of crazy stuff” filed in response to its lawsuits and subpoenas. “But coming from the office of an attorney general of a state?” Mr. Sherman asked, incredulous. “We found it really surprising and disappointing.”

No one should shed tears for people who steal music and have to face the consequences. But it is nonetheless heartening to see a university decline to become the industry’s police officer and instead to defend the privacy of its students.

The recording industry may not be selling as much music these days, but it has built a pretty impressive and innovative litigation subsidiary.

In the past four years, record companies have sued tens of thousands of people for violating the copyright laws by sharing music on the Internet. The people it sues tend to settle, paying the industry a few thousand dollars rather than risking a potentially ruinous judgment by fighting in court.

“People get pushed into settlements,” said Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group. “The Oregon attorney general is showing what a real fight among equals would look like.”

In his filings, Mr. Myers claimed to be looking for a middle ground.

“Certainly it is appropriate for victims of copyright infringement to lawfully pursue statutory remedies,” Mr. Myers wrote last month. “However, that pursuit must be tempered by basic notions of privacy and due process.”

“The larger issue,” Mr. Myers said, “is whether plaintiffs’ investigative and litigation strategies are appropriate.”

Mr. Myers questioned the tactics of MediaSentry, an investigative company hired by the recording industry. He said the company seemed to use data mining techniques to obtain “private, confidential information unrelated to copyright infringement.” He added that it may have violated an Oregon criminal law requiring investigators to be licensed.

A spokeswoman for MediaSentry said it collected only information that users of peer-to-peer networks make available to anyone who cared to look. She had no comment on the licensing law.

The record companies, in an apoplectic response in court, accused the university of having “a political agenda.” They said that it was protecting people who had broken the law and that it was not entitled to raise privacy and due process arguments on behalf of its students.

“Hundreds of universities and dozens of commercial Internet service providers have responded to the exact same subpoenas,” the record companies’ lawyers wrote.

James Gibson, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said Mr. Myers’s arguments had been raised in other cases and had met with little success. Still, Professor Gibson said, “it’s significant that a public university and its state apparatus is standing up to the R.I.A.A.”

Mr. Sherman, of the recording industry association, predicted that Mr. Myers’s motion would fail and said the industry’s litigation strategy had worked well.<

“The litigation program, as controversial as it is often written up to be, has been very successful in transforming public awareness,” Mr. Sherman said. “Everybody used to think this was legal. Now everybody knows it’s illegal.”

Indeed, the program seems to be expanding, and universities are being asked to play an even bigger role. In February, the association started asking universities to identify students suspected of file sharing and to pass along “prelitigation letters” to them. The association says it has provided some 4,000 such letters to more than 150 colleges and universities. The letters offer the students what they call bargain settlements of about $3,000 if they act fast, by punching in a credit card number at

“The ‘reduced’ settlement amount, in other words, represents the record companies’ savings from cutting out the middleman — our justice system,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a recent report.

The universities are under no legal obligation to pass the letters along, but most do. Those that don’t typically receive subpoenas like the one issued to the University of Oregon.

At least one other public university in Oregon has cooperated with the industry. In 2004, Portland State responded to a record industry subpoena by blandly and efficiently providing the names, addresses, phone numbers and goofy e-mail addresses of two roommates. The university said it could not say which student’s computer was involved, so it fingered both of them.

“We definitely felt betrayed,” said Karen Conway, the mother of one of the roommates. “They readily turned over private information without notifying us. They placed responding to a legal subpoena far above a student’s right to privacy.”

Though her daughter Delaney was blameless, the record companies’ lawyers demanded $4,500. It was, Ms. Conway said, “basically extortion,” and the family was forced to hire a lawyer. The case against Delaney Conway was eventually dropped. Her roommate settled.

Mr. Sherman said the University of Oregon should disclose what it knew and let the legal system sort out the rest. “It’s no different than us subpoenaing Verizon,” he said.

But an institution of higher education has different aspirations and obligations than an Internet service provider, which is why Portland State’s actions are so unsettling. The University of Oregon’s efforts may be doomed, but there is something bracing about them nonetheless.

All the university is saying, after all, is that the record industry must make its case in court before the university will point a finger at one of its own.

Online: Documents and an archive of Adam Liptak’s articles:


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January 03, 2008 at 10:07 AM in Copyfight, Current Affairs, Intellectual Property, Law, Music, P2P, Protest | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)



Photo: Zahid Hussein/Reuters. At the funeral of Benazir Bhutto, supporters thronged the route to the white marble mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh. More Photos >

via SHOBAK [e-list]; posted by Naeem Mohaiemen, Fri Dec 28 08:47:29 CET 2007
Assassins, A South Asia Story
Since 1971, Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) has framed much of its political reality in opposition to the idea of Pakistan. Some things I have heard over the years: “We will never allow Bangladesh to become Pakistan”, “Why did we bother leaving Pakistan if we are going down the Islamic path as well?”, “Thank god we’re not with Pakistan”, etc.

The scars of the 1971 genocide run deep. Periodically wounds flare up, such as when Islamist groups with ties to death squads in 1971 claim it was “civil war” not “genocide”. 

My khalato bon (cousin) has direct memories of 1971 and even refuses to eat dried fruit or nuts if she discovers it was imported from Pakistan. She once said to me “Pakistan, ota ekta desh holo naki?” (Pakistan, is that even a country?). This reminds me of the (urban legend?) of post-WWII Jewish consumers who refused to buy the Volkswagen. There is of course little comfort from our nationalist defenses. Yes we are not Pakistan, but it would not take much to tip
the scale. It is only geography (non-adjacency to Afghanistan, no stake in Kashmir) that rescued us from Indo-Pak nuclear brinkmanship and American-Soviet pawn moves. Tariq Ali once wrote that Pakistan was the “used condom” from the Afghan war that America had fished out of the toilet after 9/11.

With yesterday’s assassination of Benazir, again the Pakistan shadow over Bangladesh. Palpable jitters on the Dhaka streets. How long before Bangladesh gets engulfed by similar syndromes?

Meanwhile, two blog entries.
Assassins, A South Asia Story 

Assassination Alley

shobak mailing list


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December 28, 2007 at 09:59 AM in Current Affairs, Protest | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Infernal, dark as the grave

21sweeney600the credits alone are a work of art…
It may seem strange that I am praising a work of such unremitting savagery. I confess that I’m a little startled myself, but it’s been a long time since a movie gave me nightmares. And the unsettling power of “Sweeney Todd” comes above all from its bracing refusal of any sentimental consolation, from Mr. Burton’s willingness to push the most dreadful implications of Mr. Sondheim’s story to their blackest conclusions.

“Sweeney Todd” is a fable about a world from which the possibility of justice has vanished, replaced on one hand by vain and arbitrary power, on the other by a righteous fury that quickly spirals into madness. There may be a suggestion of hopefulness near the end, but you don’t see hope on the screen. What you see is as dark as the grave. What you hear — some of the finest stage music of the past 40 years — is equally infernal, except that you might just as well call it heavenly.

[A.O. Scott, for the NYTimes]

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December 24, 2007 at 12:03 PM in Current Affairs, festivalcafe, Film, Music, Performance, Philosophical… | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The NY State of Things

David Hammons
African-American Flag, 1990
Dyed cotton fabric
Courtesy of Ellipse Foundation — Contemporary Art Collection
via NYTimes, Art Review | ‘New York States of Mind’
Never Mind the Map: Sometimes New York City Is More of an Idea
Published: December 21, 2007
Oh, say can you see? With its red and black stripes and black stars on a green field, David Hammons’s beautiful “African-American Flag” hangs high over the central exhibition space of “New York States of Mind” at the Queens Museum of Art.Thus placed, the flag seems more than an elegantly mordant comment on race in America. It reads as the symbol of a separate country, a land where conservative American values are inverted, where liberal tolerance and reckless creative ambition thrive, and where dissent is valued as highly as consent. A country called New York City.

It is this view of New York that the curator Shaheen Merali wanted to frame when he organized this exhibition for the House of World Cultures, in Berlin, where he leads the department of exhibitions, film and new media, and where the show was on view earlier this year.

“The metropolis of New York differentiates itself from the rest of the United States in dialectical opposition,” announces Mr. Merali in his opaquely worded but politically obvious introductory wall text.

The show, which includes about 30 artists who live in or have lived in New York, is too small, narrow, uneven and confusing to live up to its grand idea. Focusing on cerebral, tendentious works, it comes off as more didactic and ideological than imaginatively adventurous. What’s more, it seems less about New York than about the trendy interests of the international curator set.

Still, this is an interesting, provocative exhibition. If you want to have a lively argument about the true nature of New York art, it’s a good place to start.

[read on…]

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December 22, 2007 at 10:12 AM in Criticism, Exhibitions, festivalcafe, Museums | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)