With Estonian photographer Alexander Gronsky:
Other images, from Less Than One, cover a wider area, including Vladivostock (second to last, with the sunbather on the roof).
With Estonian photographer Alexander Gronsky:
Other images, from Less Than One, cover a wider area, including Vladivostock (second to last, with the sunbather on the roof).
A social psychologist explains:
Identity politics, especially what is going on within the academic left, is strange because it is at odds with much of what we know about intergroup relations. Decades ago, psychological scientists established that dividing people into groups and highlighting group differences leads to in-group bias. It also leads to hostility if the groups perceive themselves as fighting over scarce resources. It is human nature to defend one’s in-group and to be suspicious of and hesitant to trust out-groups. Identity politics makes relations between groups worse because it constantly reminds people of their group identity and what distinguishes them from members of other groups. Experimental research also shows that making people feel like victims, which is common in identity politics and on college campuses, increases feelings of entitlement and reduces prosocial behavior.
Feelings of victimhood are also contagious. This is called competitive victimhood. Research shows that when one group is accused of victimizing another group, it causes members of the supposed victimizing group to perceive their own group as victims. Therefore, a lot of identity politics activism is causing harm to intergroup relations. The key to helping members of disadvantaged groups and improving intergroup relations more generally is to focus on what unites people, not what divides them.
Why, I wonder, does Wolfgang Tillmans merit an exhibition at Tate Modern? He's a photographer, but he doesn't seem to be interested in the usual concerns of photography - capturing decisive moments, or recording the world in all its strange glory, or manufacturing timeless arresting images from the messy business of everyday life. There are very few pictures which, of themselves, capture the attention. Instead you have to read the guide to try and understand what's going on.
He's interested in the technology of making pictures, we learn. So, in the first room - the first very first image, in fact - we have Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast. Here's the man himself in a publicity shot in front of it:
From the exhibition catalogue:
Static interference typically appears when an analogue signal is switched off. This can occur when a station's official programme finishes for the night or if a broadcast is censored. In Tillmans Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast 2014 it represents the coexistence of two different generations of technology. The chaotic analogue static was displayed on a digital television, which allowed Tillman's high-resolution digital camera to record the pattern as it really appeared, something that would not have been possible with a traditional cathode ray tube television. This work shows Tillman's interest in questioning what we believe to be true: the seemingly black-and-white image turns out to be extremely colourful when viewed very close up.
If you're thinking, hey, what a great idea, and what a fascinating image - well, you're in luck. There's plenty more where that came from. There are 14 rooms in the exhibition, and it's on till the 11th of June. There's plenty of time to engage further with this "groundbreaking" artist and his works "in an exciting variety of media – photographs, of course, but also video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music – all staged by the artist in characteristically innovative style".
If, on the other hand, the idea of using a high-resolution digital camera to picture an old analogue static interference pattern strikes you as a fatuous conceit, and the resultant image as uninteresting at best, having no relevance whatsoever to the question of "what we believe to be true", then I could be saving you the £12.50 entrance fee.
And no, it's not extremely colourful very close up. I checked.
Then there's Greifbar 29 - one of a number of similar large prints:
From the catalogue:
[T]he abstract Greifbar 2014-15 images are made without a camera. Working in the darkroom, Tillman traces light directly onto photographic paper. The vast swathes of colour are a record of the physical gestures involved in their construction, but also suggest aspects of the body such as hair, or pigmentation of the skin. This reference to the figurative is reflected in the title, which translates as "tangible".
Tillmans has observed that even though these works are made by the artist's hand, they look as though they could be "scientific" evidence of natural processes. For him, this interpretation is important, because it disassociates the works from the traditional gestural technique of painting. That the image is read as a photographic record, and not the result of the artist's brushstroke, is essential to its conceptual meaning.
Its conceptual meaning??
At some point our hero gets tired of sitting around in his studio and heads out into the world. These travel photos, to me, are distinguishable from your average tourist snapshots by their size and the quality of the printing, but by not much else. Sunset night drive, for instance:
A fairly hackneyed shot of Sunset Boulevard by night, you might think. Rest assured, though - Tillmans is not your average traveler:
Tillmans is interested in social life in its broadest sense, encompassing our participation in society. His photographs of individuals and groups are underpinned by his conviction that we are all vulnerable, and that our well-being depends upon knowing that we are not alone in the world....
He's also politically involved. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was, apparently, a key moment in his political awakening:
The year 2003 is the exhibition’s point of departure, representing for Tillmans the moment the world changed, with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations. The social and political form a rich vein throughout the artist’s work.
"I have a feeling that 2003 was a year of destiny," he tells me while we stand in the first room of the exhibition.
"There was an ongoing misunderstanding between the west and the Islamic world, and a pointless war that has repercussions to this day, with the European refugee crisis that's put the EU under threat. It was a very disheartening moment."
An ongoing misunderstanding between the west and the Islamic world? Hmm. Do you sense a profound grasp of the pre-invasion situation vis-a-vis Saddam's vicious Baathist regime, the failing UN sanctions, the genocide of the Kurds and so on? No, me neither.
He ticks all the right boxes, then. And he's very well regarded in art circles. Here's a hagiographic Guardian interview by Sean O'Hagan - "In person, Tillmans, tall and muscular, his hair close-cropped, is an imposing presence...". At the same paper art critic Adrian Searle gives a breathless five-star review to the show - though the Guardian commenters are less complimentary.
Why is he so loved by the art establishment? Well, as we've seen, his work seems to lend itself to all the familiar delights of art exegesis, finding significance in the banal, with a determination to infuse every image with the most profound meaning just because....well, just because they've been produced by Wolfgang Tillmans, who, they all agree, is a great artist.
All photographs are of light, are made by light, although not all are about light. Not all of Tillmans’ photographs are about light either, or about it solely, but looking at a collection of them one gains a sense of its immense importance for him. It is not simply a technical necessity, or a formal device, but rather suggests a transformative process that is fundamental to photography...
One sees throughout Tillmans’ work a longing that moves between engagement and retreat, a fascination for the crowd and all that comes from a shared experience, the ‘sensuous community’, but also those things which reveal themselves only when we find ourselves alone. These are the moments of reflection upon what has come before, an attempt, perhaps, to re-establish the sense of self that had previously been dissolved.
The man does seem to inspire this kind of adulatory verbal incontinence. Indeed the exhibition catalogue is almost one long panegyric to his brilliance:
An acute awareness of fragility endures across Tillmans's practice in all its different forms. Often this is expressed in his attentiveness to textures and surfaces....
The text and tables sculpture Time Mirrored 2017 represents Tillman's interest in connecting the time we live to a broader historical context. He always understands the Now as the history of the future. Events perceived as having happened over a vast gulf of time between us and the past, become tangible when "mathematically mirrored" and connected to more recent periods of time in our living memory.
And so, endlessly, on.
Some of the answer to my original question, then - why does he merit an exhibition at Tate Modern? - is answered in my first paragraph: you have to read the guide to try and understand what's going on. There's nothing the art world likes more than an artist whose work needs to be explained, at length. In fact you could more or less define the difference between a photographer and an artist nowadays by the fact that, with a photographer, you just look and you get it - though perhaps some brief context might be helpful, ie location, or date, or who the portrait's of. With an artist, you look and you think...umm...and you then open up the booklet to have it all explained to you by an art expert who leads you through the correct thought processes so you can gain an understanding of quite how brilliant the artist is - and of course, equally important, gain an appreciation of quite how clever and sensitive the expert is who's responsible for this clever elucidation that you're reading.
But also it just seems to have been accepted that the man is a Very Important Artist, and therefore, by definition, every thing he does must be Great Art, even if we have to struggle a bit and mutter about "conceptual meaning" and an "acute awareness of fragility" and all the rest to justify it.
For the rest of us, not inducted into the rarefied upper reaches of the art world, it is, despite the odd arresting image, an exercise in self-indulgence and pretension.
Interesting interview with BR Myers in Slate. Short answer: what North Korea wants is South Korea. That is, reunification on its own terms. And although we in the West take it for granted that South Korea is now a solid and secure political entity with a powerful economy that could never succumb to its much weaker rogue neighbour, our confidence may be displaced. Look at the current crisis with President Park Geun-hye - or the powerful accommodationist movements within South Korea.
North Korea needs the capability to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons in order to pressure both adversaries into signing peace treaties. This is the only grand bargain it has ever wanted. It has already made clear that a treaty with the South would require ending its ban on pro-North political agitation. The treaty with Washington would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the peninsula. The next step, as Pyongyang has often explained, would be some form of the North–South confederation it has advocated since 1960. One would have to be very naïve not to know what would happen next. As Kim Il-Sung told his Bulgarian counterpart Todor Zhivkov in 1973, “If they listen to us, and a confederation is established, South Korea will be done with.”
Western soft-liners keep saying the U.S. must finally negotiate a peace treaty with Pyongyang. That’s where their op-eds conveniently end. These people show no awareness of what such a treaty would have to entail. Are they in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops? If so they should come right out and say so, instead of pretending North Korea will content itself with the security guarantees it has rejected for decades. Many observers believe that the stronger the North Koreans get, the more reasonable they will become. Whenever I think I’ve seen the height of American wishful thinking, I find out it can get even sillier....
Having lived in South Korea for the past 15 years, I don’t share most Americans’ confidence that it will always choose America over a North-supporting China. My own impression—bolstered by the ongoing controversy surrounding the stationing of the THAAD missile defense system—is that a growing number of South Koreans would rather see their state’s security compromised than risk their own prosperity.
Let’s not overestimate South Koreans’ attachment to their own state, which a sizable but influential minority still considers illegitimate. The most popular movie in Seoul at the moment is a thriller about a joint North–South effort to catch a criminal ring of North Korean defectors. That plot tells you something right there. The main North Korean character is played for cool by a handsome Tom Cruise type, while his South Korean counterpart is a homely, tired-looking figure of fun. There is a tradition of this sort of casting. The subtext: Serving the North is glamorous; serving the South, not so much. Let’s keep in mind that Kim Jong-un is watching these movies too....
[W]e must stop focusing on short-term shifts and nuances in North Korean propaganda and instead grasp the fundamental consistency its ideology has maintained since 1945. We have to take that ideology seriously, however absurd the personality cult may seem. To a radical Korean nationalist, the division of the nation, the race, is an intolerable state of affairs. So too is the continued presence of the foreign army that effected that division in the first place.
Were Kim Jong-un to share our own leader’s love of slogan caps, his would read: Make Korea Whole Again. Unification is not just central to the North’s ideology, but the only sure and lasting solution to its security problem. That makes the nuclear crisis all that more difficult to solve. But we will never get anywhere if we don’t face up to the true and frightening nature of the North’s goals. For decades our politicians and cartoonists have mocked North Korean leaders as squalling babies who wave missiles around just to get our attention. We’re the ones who need to grow up.
Sunday's BBC4 documentary Tom Waits: Tales from a Cracked Jukebox made me reconsider my views.
I'd always had Waits down as, basically, a poseur: a middle-class son of teachers who adopted the world-weary persona of a down-and-out drunk, singing of hard times and urban desolation with an absurdly mannered over-the-top gravel voice, chain-smoking the while and adopting suitably anguished expressions: a barfly exploring the underside of LA like Charles Bukowski, without - unlike Bukowski - actually living the life.
I wrote about him a while back, quoting Stewart Lee:
Waits is just an actor pedalling a watered-down, glammed-up, version of the genuinely avant-garde artists that he’s co-opted, such as Captain Beefheart, but in a vaudevillian form that places his invented persona in inverted commas and ensures, rather than marginal cult status, commissions from arts houses and the adulation of thrill-seeking squares who’d be scared by the real thing.
Well....now I'd say that's a little unfair. Waits can't really be accused of selling out or popularising. He's hardly a household name; he's not playing Vegas. Yes, his Way Down in the Hole was featured as a theme in The Wire, but he's always refused to let his songs be used in commercials, even going to the courts to protect his image - "Apparently, the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad—ideally, naked and purring on the hood of a new car...I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor."
And he writes and performs some fine songs - even if, as here, he owes a lot to Brecht/Weill:
But, mainly, I'm no longer bothered about this poseur business. So what if he wants to adopt the persona of an LA beat hipster? If it works for him - and it clearly does - then good luck. We British have a particular horror of people pretending to be who they're not; especially the unforgivable sin of middle class people trying to make out they're working class ("mockney" etc.). Americans, bless 'em, aren't so hung up on such things. People can invent themselves.
Besides, it's all an act. He's a performer. And it's a performance he's grown into. What might have seemed forced in his twenties is much less so as he hits late middle-age.
In case we didn't get the Netanyahu=Hitler message, see the swastika at the lower right there.
Pro-Palestinian and antisemitic, as we see here with the PSC, are increasingly synonymous.
A man who received death threats after renouncing his faith wants to reach out to other people like him.
Imtiaz Shams grew up in a Muslim family in Ilford in the late 1990s and early 2000s, going to school in Hainault and Seven Kings.
The 28-year-old says he was “very religious” as a youngster, always reading books about Islam and going to the mosque.
But as he approached his twenties, Mr Shams started to question things.
He said: “Every Muslim has questions about their faith when they they’re growing up, and that’s totally fine.
“But as I got older and my critical thinking developed, I started to doubt whether the answers I was getting really made sense anymore.”
Despite having doubts, Mr Shams did not actually consider leaving his faith until several years later.
He said: “Even though I wanted to leave, I had absolutely no idea how.
“I didn’t know anyone who had left Islam, I didn’t even know it was something people did.
“But in reality, lots of people feel the same as I did, they’re just not out to their families and the community.
“A lot of non-Muslims aren’t out because they think it’s not worth the abuse they’d face.”
He added: “I’ve had two death threats in the past three months – but it’s not just extreme stuff like that, it’s how people’s interactions with you change too.
“They ignore you, try to keep their children away from you..."
London, in the 21st century.
[Photos: Guido van Helten]
Important work by David Collier, who finds - to no one's surprise - that the PSC is riddled with antisemitism:
I have just concluded an in-depth investigation into antisemitism inside The Palestine Solidarity Campaign that has spanned months but drew on several years of underlying research. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) claims to be “the biggest organisation in the UK dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights.” The PSC patrons include: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Pat Gaffney, Rev Garth, Ken Loach, Dr Ilan Pappe, Hilary & Steven Rose, Alexi Sayle, Baroness Tonge of Kew, and Betty Hunter. It partners with many of the largest unions in the UK.
The result of this research is an eighty-page report, that focuses on seventeen separate PSC branches across England and Wales, and culminated with an in-depth case study of a mass demonstration in London. The full report can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
In truth, I stopped the detailed analysis at seventeen branches simply because I was inundated with material....
When I refer to antisemitism within this study, I avoided *all references to the conflict*. We all know the trick is to deflect accusations of antisemitism with a false cry about criticism of Israeli policy. I set out to avoid this. I was only interested in those pushing conspiracy theory, holocaust denial or classic antisemitic tropes. The argument that antisemitism is about legitimate criticism of Israel simply has no weight against this research. The bar for antisemitism that was used is unnaturally high. As an example, if the worst I found was an activist suggesting Israel should be destroyed, is committing genocide and Zionists are all Nazis, that activist *would not* have made the grade for this research. Let that fact sink in.
The ‘antisemitism’ referred to here is *ONLY* ‘hard core’ antisemitism. Examples include: USA controlled by Zionists; Jews responsible for 9/11; the Paris Bataclan massacre was a ‘false flag’ to increase support for Israel; Ashkenazi Jews are fake; Zionist Jews support ISIS; Jewish Zionists stir up fake antisemitism; many varieties of Holocaust Denial; Israel harvests organs from the dead; Israel harvests organs from the living; Mossad wanted to assassinate Obama; the BBC is ‘the Zionist Broadcasting Corporation’, ‘Zionist tentacles’ controlling Parliament; Mossad did 7/7/2005 in London; Kristallnacht instigated by Communist and Freemason Jews to promote War against Germany; Babylonian Talmud advocates sex with child age three; Goyim bloodshed ritual by the Talmudic worshipers [sic] of Moloch, the children holocaust bloodthirsty monster…..