Friday, October 30, 2009


I was just on Twitter, and I was kind shocked to see that "HIV" was a trending topic. So, curious me checked it out. It looks like Obama is lifting a ban that prevented people with HIV/AIDS from coming into America. I didn't even know such a ban existed. And I feel kinda retarded for it. Such blatant discrimination going on in America. Anyways, that's neither here not there. The reason I wanted to quickly blog about this was because of the outrage coming out of the twitter community. So many people seemed pissed and one even said Obama was stupid. Well, I applaud Obama for taking this step. Here's a snippet from an article at Huff Post:

In 1987, at a time of widespread fear and ignorance about HIV, the Department of Health and Human Services added the disease to the list of communicable diseases that disqualified a person from entering the U.S.

The department tried in 1991 to reverse its decision but was opposed by Congress, which in 1993 went the other way and made HIV infection the only medical condition explicitly listed under immigration law as grounds for inadmissibility to the U.S.

The law effectively has kept out thousands of students, tourists and refugees and has complicated the adoption of children with HIV. No major international AIDS conference has been held in the U.S. since 1993, because HIV-positive activists and researchers cannot enter the country.

Obama said lifting the ban "is a step that will save lives" by encouraging people to get tested and to get treatment.

I think this is a step in the right direction. In class yesterday we actually talked about the term "equality," and what it meant to my students. I didn't realize that the very next day we would see an act of equality working in action. I think we need to realize that people that are affected with this disease are not horrible people. (One twitter comment said people should stop sharing needles, but this directly overlooks that HIV is something that people develop for a number of reasons besides needle sharing or high-risk sexual behavior.)

I think this is a step in the right direction because it is acknowledging that people with AIDS and HIV are citizens of a global community. This is a disease that needs to end!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lee Krasner

I have been reading a lot of the Hamptons while conducting research on the Beales. They always refer to themselves as artists (Little Edie is the dancer, Big Edie is the singer). Well, I picked up a book called Hampton Bohemia to see about some of the artwork coming out of the time period and what not. I've always been a really big fan of Pollock, but for some reason, it had escaped my mind that his wife was also a painter. Lee Krasner's work is amazing! I have started finding some pictures of her. I wonder if there has been an academic study of the hidden women painters behind the famous men who have found their ways into museums and homes around the world.

White Squares
I was particularly fond of this image below, Noon. I think the color is so vibrant, which is so interesting to me when juxtaposed against many of Pollock's paintings that use a lot of black, dark colors. I think she really captured something in this painting. It's named after a time, but for me it really captured this emotion of squishy-ness that I feel after I eat a big meal. It makes me feel very satiated. Not sure where that just came from, but the truth will out, right?


I don't know how but my class devolved today into me showing "The Count Censored." It was like the only thing I could do to grab their attention.

Really, is 9 am that early? I mean, I know it is a struggle, and I don't really like it all that much either. But give me a freaking break.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The need for selection means that every story contains, and is surrounded by, blank spaces, some more significant than others. When we create a fictional world, our decisions include geography, or setting, but also where and when a narrative begins and ends, who it involves and who it doesn’t, which actions and conversations are deemed worthy of inclusion and which aren’t. In a surprising number of novels, the characters are effectively jobless; they have been granted psychic vacations from work by the author. Their occupations might be named, but they have no employers, no colleagues, no pressing work-related obligations; which is to say, they live in a world very different from that of most readers.

Turchi, Peter. Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer. San Antonio, Texas: Trinity University Press, 2004. 42-43.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Gender Possibilities?

This is a similar fantasy to the idea of the mall as a space in which you can shop around for another identity.

But you can't. At the mall, all you can do is use its social spaces, including cyberspace, as supplementary augmentations of aspects of your identity. This is perhaps a minor augmentation, not really as radical as some proponents of virtual identity might claim. You don't become a woman by adopting a female identity in cyberspace if you are a man in real space. Cyberspace has been seen as the site of a certain cross-dressing, or swapping of identities, that can only be phantasmatic and supplementary. But while entering cyberspace does not make the man a woman, it may make him see other possibilities for being a man.

--from "Embodying Space: An Interview with Elizabeth Grosz." by Kim Armitage and Paul Dash. Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space. 22.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grey Gardens Clip

I rewatched Grey Gardens the other night for some note-taking, and today, I am watching the movie with commentary. I am so excited to be dipping back into this movie--my favorite documentary. I am finding out so much. Here's a clip from the beginning.


I had this dream the other night that people actually became more cohesive and unified because of and through music. Chuck this up to too much positive thought (I really need to read Ehrenreich’s new book, Bright Sided) or perhaps way too much GLEE, but I really think that music can bring us together.

I started singing the Beatles’s song “Come Together” in class the other day, and my students were receptive to the idea. We were doing a sort of informal mid-term evaluation of the class, and so discussion was sort of all over the place. At some point, I deformed into “True Confessions” moment and started talking about this dream I had.

It was of a society that was completely devoid of art. So I was sitting in this huge college auditorium, and this envoy from our world was there and was projecting film titles that she was going to transport into our collective unconscious. Well, she started singing, and people in the audience were shocked—beggging her to continue. Really weird, I know, but it was a dream?! Anyways, music actually, literally brought together people in my dream. Students started singing, and people would gather around this minstrel voices roaming the campus. People cried at the beauty of music. People danced the rhythms of the body.

Maybe GLEE is finally starting to get to me. But I really do think that music is such a unique force in society. I don’t know where this was really going, and I’m not sure what I got here but …

Monday, October 19, 2009

In the introduction to Primate Visions, Donna Haraway states that she will use “potent verbal and visual images” to show how primates have been manipulated by human culture to explore relationships between numerous binaries such as nature/culture and sex/gender (2). For Haraway, the symbolic and the real figures of primates become a vehicle to explore these rigid binary distinctions because, as she claims, “Primates existing at the boundaries of so many hopes and interests are wonderful subjects with whom to explore the permeability of walls, the reconstitution of boundaries, the distaste for endless socially enforced dualisms” (3). Haraway’s inclusion of these (visual) representations of primates further elucidates the connections between visuality and the construction of knowledge, yet her inclusion and erasure of certain images leaves me wanting more. Juxtaposing Palmore’s Reclining Nude, a poster created by the Guerilla Girls, and the absent/false image of Carl Akeley’s triumph, I will demonstrate the ways in which Haraway’s argument can sustain itself and erase itself, and by creating a continuum—or rather a triangular relationship—of these images, I aim to show how Haraway’s visual element falls short of producing her desired attempt to make bitter these “enforced dualisms” by forefronting a discussion of absence/presence in these images and their contexts.

“Primatology is Simian Orientalism,” a major segment of Haraway’s introduction, is the only subsection that features a visual image—Tom Palmore’s Reclining Nude. Haraway writes, “Sex and the west are axiomatic in biology and anthropology. Under the guiding logic of these complex dualisms, western primatology is simian orientalism. [Figure 1.1]” (10). This is the only introduction or context for Palmore’s painting. Conceivably, this could be a stylistic move. If “sex and the west are axiomatic” in certain discourses, it is only logical that this statement is suggested in Palmore’s painting according to the text. Yet, the absence of context to this painting suggests pure presence; it just is nothing is needed to buttress its inclusion in this section. Turning to Marx’s phrase—“They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented” (10)—allows for a connection between Orientalism and primatology and the insertion of Palmore’s Nude. The primates cannot represent themselves in art, and thus humanity must do it for them. As a result, Palmore’s painting is “axiomatic” and sheer presence marked only by the absence of context and description.

In contrast to this image of Palmore, I turn to Haraway’s chapter on “Teddy Bear Patriarchy” and more specifically on her discussion of Delia Akeley’s biography of her husband. The discussion and presentation of Delia’s Jungle Portraits is marked by an absence in a similar way that Palmore’s work is marked by presence. Of importance here is the absent photograph of Carl Akeley’s restored morale, a photo that is a lie or hoax perpetuated by Delia: “Delia produced a biographical effect at odds with the official histories; she showed the messiness behind the ‘unified truth’ of natural history museums” (50). Haraway’s investigation of this image seems to compliment her discussion of truth/fiction—another important binary she explores—and yet its “absence” from her text is marked by the complimentary contexts and analysis of its perpetuating lie concerning manhood and adventure. This photo remains a lie/hoax in Delia’s text, but Haraway shows the way in which it discloses a fact: “The accompanying photos in the archive suggest a version of reality, a biography of Africa, which the Museum and its official representatives did not want displayed in their Halls or educational publications” (50).

Palmore’s Reclning Nude and Delia’s absent photo are two instances in which Haraway’s text perpetuates this binary distinction between absence and presence. By including Palmore, Haraway engenders and creates a certain truth/lie—that of the axiomatic West—whereas with the Akeley she creates a lie/truth—that of Museum culture’s purposeful elision of reality to produce particular forms of masculinity. By introducing a third term into this binary distinction I have highlighted in Haraway’s text, I would like to show how the Guerrilla Girls’s poster, Get Naked, uses the binary of absence/presence to be “especially productive and especially problematic” and in so doing complicate Haraway’s binary (Haraway 12).

Get Naked first premiered in 1989 on NYC buses after being rejected as a billboard commissioned for the Public Art Fund. In ways that Haraway’s text and images cannot do, this poster manages to rupture distinctions between absence/presence and truth/lie. The inclusion of the gorilla image on the head of Ingres’s Odalisque creates a fiction. Likewise, the Guerilla Girls “assumed the names of dead women artists and wore gorilla masks in public, concealing their identities and focusing on the issues rather than their personalities.”5 Thus, the Guerilla Girls enact a fiction, and by seizing hold a slippage in language that occurs between the connections of gorilla and guerilla, they are able to “productively” use the image of the primate to further their cause and agenda. This can be contrasted with the factual, which is represented in the words of their poster. In this single, consolidated space, the Guerilla Girls are able to create an absence and presence that marks out the way in which the female body is ever-present—in the form of the nude subject—and absent—in the form of female artists.

By acknowledging how extremely “productive” the Get Naked poster is, I also acknowledge how “problematic” this poster and the position of the Guerilla Girls can be. In fact, this co-opting of the image of the gorilla resembles an Orientalist approach, in which the dominant position uses the subordinate position as a resource for/of power. Thus, the Guerilla Girls can easily adopt a gorilla/guerilla identity because of their position of power over primates and as academics or art critics. Also, the use of the mask and the creation of fictional identities shows how “mobile” the Guerilla Girls can be (Haraway 10); anyone could wear a mask. This position and poster, then, uses the primate in a way that is at once “popular, important, marvelously varied, and controversial” (3). While they are making an audience aware of a deficiency of female artists in museums, they do it at the expense of the gorilla.

Haraway’s inclusion of arresting images is important because it shows how our visual representation of primates has shaped the discourses of primatology and humanity. The silent distinction between absence/presence in Haraway’s text stands in contrast to the poster because of its use of image and text to correspond to one another, something that is lacking in the two Haraway “images.” By introducing a third term—the Guerilla Girl’s poster—into the continuum of Haraway’s images, we can see how Haraway’s exploration of binary opposition creates another one between absence/presence that is elided in her inclusion of the Palmore and Delia’s photo. Haraway’s text and images rely on binaries in order to be presented; thus, her work can be critiqued for the binaries that she overtly overlooks or manipulates in order to explore the primate’s liminal position.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"On a Sailing Ship"

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the things you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream."

Once again I have cracked open A Year in Art. Today's picture is "On a Sailing Ship" by Caspar David Friedrich, painted 1819.

It reminds me of this amazing quote by Foucault about ships: "the boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea and that, from port to port, from tack to tack, from brothel to brothel, it goes as far as the colonies in search of the most precious treasures they conceal in their gardens, you will understand why the boat has not only been for our civilization, from the sixteenth century until the present, the great instrument of economic development ..., but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the form of pirates." (from "Of Other Spaces")

Thursday, October 1, 2009

If It Be Your Will

I was watching this documentary recently called Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. This is a cover of his song “If It Be Your Will” by Antony Hegarty. I thought this was just a really amazing song.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video on YouTube that let me copy the original video from the documentary. I did find this video instead, which is very interesting. I think there is a bit of La Chien Andolou in there.

Leonard Cohen, for those of you who don’t know, is a Canadian singer/songwriter and poet. His most famous song is probably, “Hallelujah,” which has over twenty covers.

Here are two poems:

I Wonder How Many People in This City from The Spice-Box of Earth

I wonder how many people in this city
live in furnished rooms.
Late at night when i look out at the buildings
I swear I see a face in every window
looking back at me
and when I turn away
I wonder how many go back to their desks
and write this down.

Poem 111 ("Each man ...") from The Energy of Slaves

Each man
has a way to betray
the revolution
This is mine