According to a source "familiar with North Korean affairs" quoted in the Chosun Ilbo, the North is resorting to desperate measures (including the closure of universities so students can be drafted in as building workers) to pay for the planned extravaganza next year celebrating the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, by which time it has vowed to become "a prosperous and powerful nation". For instance:
The source said the regime is...trying to entice Japanese pensioners of North Korean descent to move back to the North, telling them they can live comfortably in North Korea for just 30,000 yen a month. When the pensioners die, the regime fails to inform the Japanese government and keeps collecting their Japanese pensions of some 120,000 yen per person.
A prosperous and powerful nation indeed.
Nowadays the language of architecture is pretty much international, with the same big names - Foster and Partners, Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Cesar Pelli - using the same glass and steel technology to build almost interchangeable skyscrapers. Back in the day, around the end of the 19th Century, only the US was building high, and those early proto-skyscrapers were just like European buildings, in the Beaux-Arts style say, except they were taller. Like this:
It was a unique American movement. There are still a few around, though most are long gone. This extraordinary tower, the West End Trust Building, was built in 1898 but was demolished in 1928 to make way for the Girard Trust Building, now the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia. Even when it was first built this kind of structure, still using load-bearing masonry walls, was already on the way out: the first steel-framed skyscraper appeared (in Chicago) in 1885.
It's easy to see why they knocked it down. It may have been structurally unsound, of course, though the Monadnock Building, at 20 stories the largest ever load-bearing masonry building (again Chicago), is still standing. But no, it's hardly a thing of beauty. Back in the Twenties, with the rise of Modernism and the influence of architects like Louis Sullivan and his "form follows function" mantra, this must've seemed like some monstrous decadence. But it was kind of magnificent.
Full size here.
Here's a man not afraid to speak out.
Simon Deng was taken as a young 9-year-old boy from his native South Sudan, and spent over three years as a slave in the Islamist North. He gave this speech at the Durban Watch Conference in New York, Sept 22, 2011:
I came here as a friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I came to protest this Durban conference which is based on a set of lies. It is organized by nations who are themselves are guilty of the worst kinds of oppression.
It will not help the victims of racism. It will only isolate and target the Jewish state. It is a tool of the enemies of Israel. The UN has itself become a tool against Israel. For over 50 years, 82 percent of the UN General Assembly emergency meetings have been about condemning one state – Israel. Hitler couldn't have been made happier.
The Durban Conference is an outrage. All decent people will know that....
For over 50 years the indigenous black population of Sudan — Christians and Muslims alike — has been the victims of the brutal, racist Arab Muslim regimes in Khartoum.
In South Sudan, my homeland, about 4 million innocent men, women and children were slaughtered from 1955 to 2005. Seven million were ethnically cleansed and they became the largest refugee group since World War II.
The UN is concerned about the so-called Palestinian refugees. They dedicated a separate agency for them, and they are treated with a special privilege.
Meanwhile, my people, ethnically cleansed, murdered and enslaved, are relatively ignored. The UN refuses to tell the world the truth about the real causes of Sudan's conflicts. Who knows really what is happening in Darfur? It is not a "tribal conflict."
It is a conflict rooted in Arab colonialism well known in north Africa. In Darfur, a region in the Western Sudan, everybody is Muslim. Everybody is Muslim because the Arabs invaded the North of Africa and converted the indigenous people to Islam. In the eyes of the Islamists in Khartoum, the Darfuris are not Muslim enough. And the Darfuris do not want to be Arabized. They love their own African languages and dress and customs. The Arab response is genocide! But nobody at the UN tells the truth about Darfur.
In the Nuba Mountains, another region of Sudan, genocide is taking place as I speak. The Islamist regime in Khartoum is targeting the black Africans – Muslims and Christians. Nobody at the UN has told the truth about the Nuba Mountains.
Do you hear the UN condemn Arab racism against blacks?
What you find on the pages of the New York Times, or in the record of the UN condemnations is "Israeli crimes" and Palestinian suffering. My people have been driven off the front pages because of the exaggerations about Palestinian suffering. What Israel does is portrayed as a Western sin. But the truth is that the real sin happens when the West abandons us: the victims of Arab/Islamic apartheid.
Chattel slavery was practiced for centuries in Sudan. It was revived as a tool of war in the early 90s. Khartoum declared jihad against my people and this legitimized taking slaves as war booty. Arab militias were sent to destroy Southern villages and were encouraged to take African women and children as slaves. We believe that up to 200,000 were kidnapped, brought to the North and sold into slavery.
I am a living proof of this crime against humanity.
Needs to be read in full.
Tate Modern's Unilever Series presents art works in the Turbine Hall. It's a difficult challenge no doubt, but artists are supposed to be gifted with imagination, so it's more than a little disappointing that only one effort so far, Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project, really managed to do something exciting with that huge space. Since then we've had the bathos of Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth, aka The Crack (my take here), Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds, plus a few more.....not forgetting, of course, that piano.
With Miroslav Bolka's How It Is - coming soon after Carsten Höller's Slides - I suggested that we might be seeing a the birth of a new art movement, Funfairism, where artists try to emulate the feel of an amusement park; but for the intellectual classes who'd never dream of going to Alton Towers. A bit of excitement, something out of the ordinary: the gallery and the funfair after all are in the same business nowadays, looking to brighten up our leisure time, so it's surely no surprise when artists faced with the challenge of the Turbine Hall look to the playground for inspiration.
Well, now we have the latest in the Series, from Tacita Dean, and I think I may be on to something. Not that that's the artist's intention - she takes herself far too seriously - but that's the way it's turned out.
It's an 11 minute film - called, dramatically, FILM - made on analogue 35mm film, with those perforations down the sides. It therefore continues that old avant-garde tradition whereby grainy blurred out-of-focus film using yesterday's technology signifies integrity and a subversion of all that boring linear well-produced commercial tat. It's projected on a large screen at the far end of the Turbine Hall.
Having sat right through it I can say that it is, on the whole, remarkably uninteresting. Some trees, some fountains, some colours flashing on and off: you could perhaps excuse it all if it were the effort of a first year student on a Media Studies course, but surely not for a leading artist on such a prestigious project.
The actual artwork may be poor, but it's with the accompanying text that Dean shows herself to be a modern master:
Film is time made manifest: time as physical length - 24 frames per second, 16 frames in a 35mm foot. It is still images beguiled into movement by movement and is eternally magical. The time in my films is the time of film itself. I cut my films on a Steenbeck cutting table. I always work alone. I physically splice the print and stick it together with tape. It is these days and weeks of concentrated labour which are at the heart of my creative process, and how I mould and make the films. Film is my working material and I need the stuff of film like a painter needs paint.
I chose to make an experimental film inside the camera, and so revive spontaneity and risk. I wanted to show film as film can be, and use no post-production other than my normal editing process and the grading that happens in the lab. I chose to have the film happen inside the notional cinematic space of the Turbine Hall: Turbine Hall as film strip, and conflate the imagined with the real in the wonder space that is experimental film.
FILM is a visual poem. I found its rhythm and metre from the material itself, relying not only on the images I had, but on what is normally considered waste: the picture fading at the end of a roll, the shimmering metamorphosis of a colour filter change and the flash frames of over-exposure as the camera stops and starts. FILM is about film, and in the end I let the material's intrinsic magic be my guide.
"The time in my films is the time of film itself." Um...no. Sorry. But I do like it when people conflate the imagined with the real.
We get the message, anyway. We're told that this is an important work of art put together after a lengthy creative process - and that's what matters, even if we may not be able to see any actual worth in the end result.
Even Times art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston, normally effusive in her praise of the latest modern master, is less than impressed (£):
FILM is a eulogy to the medium in which it is made. It is a homage to the all-but-dead processes of a pre-digital age in which the unspooling filmstrip presents images which have been created inside a camera (rather than through post-production practices), complete with all their fadeouts and light flashes, their scratches, splicings and blurs. Dean needs “the stuff of film as a painter needs the stuff of paint”, she says. Her piece is a cry in an increasingly digitised age to preserve the processes — to continue manufacturing the materials and funding the laboratories — that make projects such as this latest Tate commission possible.
The trouble is that the main point of this piece is also its main problem. The message is conveyed at the cost of artistic content. Those intimately familiar with the medium of film may tune in to the complexities of Dean’s passionate contribution. But the broader public are more likely to feel flummoxed.
What on earth is it all about? The mind scurries hither and thither trying to make sense of fragments. But, for all that flashes of understanding might momentarily dawn, In the main it remains an enigma, only to be made sense of when accompanying texts have been read. Only then does the work start to accrue the richness and resonance, the sense of meditative profundity and playful subtlety which have become the hallmark of Dean’s until-now most impressive oeuvre.
We note that Rachel herself, of course, appreciates the "the richness and resonance, the sense of meditative profundity and playful subtlety", but only after reading the accompanying text. And she's a sensitive and intelligent observer, obviously. The rest of us - the broader public - may not be so perspicacious.
There's a long bench set in front of the screen, for the audience, 40 yards or so back. When I was there it was almost entirely filled with mothers and toddlers. The mothers were sitting down, chatting, prams parked to the side, while the toddlers raced up and down to the screen, screaming and shouting, posing in the glare of the projector. It was like a playground. It was a playground. The antics of the kids were certainly more entertaining that the action on the screen.
So Funfairism triumphs again. It was clearly not Dean's intention, but that's how it's turned out: an excitingly different environment for toddlers to amuse themselves, while their parents feel good about going to an art gallery rather than mixing it with the common people at the playground in the local park. With space for children to play being daily eroded by the pace of modern life, we have here a colourful background for youngsters to romp around and play in safety, while their grateful parents can relax and put their feet up.
Perhaps it's the nature of the Turbine Hall. Perhaps, as I suggested before, they should just forget about all these artworks, and turn it into a permanent play space and funfair.
From the 2011 Pan American Games, at In Focus:
Cyclists compete in a qualifying round of the men's keirin first heat cycling competition at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, on October 20, 2011.
The winner was disqualified, after complaints from the other competitors, when a post-race examination established that his bicycle failed to meet statutory requirements.
The ever-vigilant Saudi Religious Police have been busy again:
A disturbing discovery was made in Saudi Arabia on Sunday by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Gulf Kingdom’s religious police. Offensive toy guns were found for sale at a market in Jeddah and almost 1,500 were seized by police when it was discovered they issued anti-Islam sounds.
Emirates 247 reported that Commission spokesman Turki Al Zahrani said,
“The guns were found to be issuing sounds which are considered mocking and offending against the Prophet’s wife.”
He was referring to Aisha, the venerated six year old bride of the Prophet Muhammad....
The toys were manufactured in China and Zahrani said that the toys are mainly sold by Asians who are unaware that the Arabic sounds issued by the guns are offensive to Islam.
Alas, it's not just Saudi Arabia:
An Emirati social expert and activist shopping in a local market stumbled across Chinese-made toy guns that issue sounds mocking Islam and called on authorities to take action against such products.
The discovery came a few days after Saudi authorities said they seized nearly 1,500 Chinese-made toy guns issuing sounds that mock and insult Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).
Mariam Al Ahmadi, a well-known social activist in Abu Dhabi, said she found the toy guns at some shops in Bani Yas, just outside Abu Dhabi city.
Quoted by the Dubai-based 'Emarat Al Youm' Arabic language daily, Mariam said she had reported the guns to the police and called for immediate measures.“I call upon the police and other competent authorities to investigate how these anti-Islam guns found their way into the UAE market and to take action against all those who had brought them in,” she said.
The importers of these blasphemous toys could, apparently, face jail terms of up to 5 years.