Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Art as Activism, Part 2

"We are the people who run this county. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to stop this war. Raise hell."—Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins was given a memorial service, and her name is already passing out of the headlines. I assume she'd prefer it that way: fame was never her god, but often the victim of her knife-edged humor. And sentimentality was always repulsive to her. Those of us who love her work will remember her after the mass media and the powerful whom she regularly harried have all forgotten. Here are a few links that are worth attention to any who admired this lady's prescient political insight, humor, and relentless pursuit of truth.

  • Krugman wrote a very fine piece to Molly's memory, which deserves quotation:

    Molly never lost sight of two eternal truths: rulers lie, and the times when people are most afraid to challenge authority are also the times when it’s most important to do just that. And the fact that she remembered these truths explains something I haven’t seen pointed out in any of the tributes: her extraordinary prescience on the central political issue of our time.

  • Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones offers this piece, appropriately titled "Death of a Hellraiser".

  • And NPR has this page, which includes audio and text files of Ivins at her best.


    Now, to Part 2 of Terry McKenna's piece about activism, art, and Iraq.

    So… what story will art hope to tell us about Iraq? By art, I’m including both works now considered “serious” or high art, and popular works; thus movies (even TV like Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show) but also Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw.

    First, some background: The following three works demonstrate the change in meaning that occurs as time removes the original audience and replaces it with new viewers. The artist who produced the first two works lived in mid 16th century Flanders. He produced a number of politically sensitive drawings and asked his wife to destroy them upon his death.. The artist, Peter Bruegel, is one whose works I admire more than almost all other western painters. Even so, some of what his contemporaries saw is missing for me.

    Contrast both with the following photograph. It’s well known, but from a technical standpoint, perhaps no better made than hundreds of equally contemporary images. But in terms of the story it tells – and my ability to grasp the story, it stands out as a remarkable image.

    It took almost two decades for the US to begin to write the story of the Viet Nam War. Hopefully we won’t wait as long to deal with our present tragedy.

    Let's imagine it as a drama: It could very well begin with a secret conspiracy between the president and his close advisors (including a Darth Vader like Dick Cheney). They might be seen hatching a plan to mislead Congress into giving the president authority to go to war. The public pretense is that by threatening war, the US will force Saddam Hussein to agree to allow weapons inspections. But it turns out the inspections are also just a gambit; the president and his men want to go to war regardless, so when the inspectors are about to reveal the absence of WMD’s – the president tells the inspectors to back off, and he goes to war anyway.

    Act one would probably include the aerial bombing campaign and end with the capture of Baghdad.

    Most plays are three act affairs, though the Iraq war may surely deserve something on the scale of Wagner – or Homer. Still in a standard play, the middle act (Act 2) could start after the president’s Mission Accomplished speech. In such a play, I’d end Act 2 with the destruction the Al-Askari Mosque.

    If you were looking for a traditional heroic ending, you could conclude Act 3 with last Fall’s Democratic victory. On the other hand, if you wanted an existential drama, surely there are facts enough to create a plot line as troubling as Camus’ The Stranger.

    —T. McKenna


    Tomorrow, for Geek Wednesday, we'll have more Webby Award nominees featured, along with more on Ubutnu Linux and my latest tangle with IE 7 and a report on its injured master, Uncle Bill. So geek out with us tomorrow here at Daily rEv.

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