Wednesday, September 25, 2013

MacArthur Awards - 2013

The 2013 cohort of MacArthur Award winners has been announced and includes two people whose work I very much admire - photographer/artist Carrie Mae Weems and pianist/composer Vijay Iyer.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova - Pussy Riot, Hunger Strike

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of Pussy Riot, convicted of "hooliganism" in summer 2012 for protesting in a Moscow church, has announced a hunger strike in protest at inhuman conditions of imprisonment. You can find an open letter from Tolokonnikova here at The Guardian.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Republicans and Power Plants

Notice anything about this map? It represents the 50 power plants in the US that are the worst polluters. You should go here to Bill Moyers' site and play with the interactive version. Here is a nugget from the story:
"Our energy comes from 6,000 power plants which together produce about 40 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change. But . . .  the 50 dirtiest power plants in the U.S. are responsible for 30 percent of the energy industry’s CO2 emissions, and a full two percent of all emissions worldwide — these 50 plants were responsible for more climate change than all but six countries in the world."
Back to my initial question. The answer is that virtually all of these plants are in red states. So when I say Republicans are full of hot air, take me literally.

Adjunct Faculty - An Infographic

Monday, September 16, 2013

Abigail Solomon-Godeau on Vivian Maier

"Maier’s life-long picture taking, made primarily in public space, was anything but the hobby of an amateur, despite its private motivation. To what extent this was a function of her asocial existence, her extreme eccentricity, her apparent asexuality, who can say? Like so much else of Maier’s life and work, this is not an answerable question. What one can say is that in some mysterious and indeed, poignant way, Maier lived her adult life through the camera’s lens, a vicarious life in which the camera “eye” and the subjective “I” were inextricably linked. I know of no such other example in the history of photography. But an important point to be made is that like photojournalism, photographing on the street is a quintessentially masculine preserve. The reasons for this are many, and include the masculine prerogatives of active looking, the gendered attributes of public space, the relative vulnerability of women within that space, and the aggressive aspects of photographing unwitting subjects."
I have posted a couple of times here on Vivian Maier and last night this link appeared on my FB news feed (Thanks Meg!) to a critical appreciation of Maier (from which I've lifted the quotation above) by Abigail Solomon-Godeau.

Reading Around

There is a long report in The Detroit Free Press here on the political-economic vicissitudes of the Detroit Institute of the Arts. More generally, The Free Press also ran this extended, eye-opening report on the course of Detroit's political and economic disaster.

Benjamin Sachs (Harvard Law) sketched a new model for union organizing here in The New York Times last week.

In this OpEd at The Los Angeles Times Rebecca Solnit urges us to take the long view on Occupy and its legacy. (A longer version of the essay is here.) And at The Nation Allison Kilkenny offers this lament on where the dissipated movement currently stands.

Economist Dani Rodrik here on the troubles religion poses to Turkish democracy.

Political Scientist Ian Lustick in The New York Times here yesterday on the impossibility of a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Added a bit later:  I meant to include a link to this report from The Brooking Institution - "The Algebra Imperative" - that underscores the work of Bob Moses and his Algebra Project in preparing students for math literacy and, thereby full political and economic citizenship.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Leszek Kolakowski

On a couple of occasions I've posted here about Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish intellectual who died several years ago, and whom I had the great good fortune of having as a teacher during graduate school. This week at The Nation you can find this long, appropriately critical if largely sympathetic, review essay on some of his posthumously published works.

Talking to Labor Unions

You can find transcripts of these remarks by economist Joseph Stiglitz here and Senator Elizabeth Warren here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Habermas Takes a Very Dim View of Merkel

Jurgen Habermas has offered a pungent assessment of the Merkel government here at Spiegel Online International: "Europe is in a state of emergency, and the political power goes to whoever decides on the admission or licensing of topics to be discussed by the public. Germany isn't dancing. It's dozing on a volcano."

Julio Etchart

Relatives of disappeared political prisoners demand justice at rallies in 1985. 
Santiago, Chile.  Photograph © Julio Etchart.

I am not in London. But if I were, I'd hunt down this exhibition of work by photo journalist Julio Etchart - images documenting Chile after the 1973 coup that made the country safe for capitalism and dictatorship. It runs through 9/20.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Inequality in the US - Party Like It's 1928!

Just in case you figured the political economic situation here in the U.S.A. is improving or might in the medium-to-long run, have a look at this news report.

More here at The New York Times.

And there is an interesting discussion of issues and remedies here at The Times too.

And, for those who think 'so what?' and shrug, Joseph Stiglitz offers some reasons here.

Krugman blog: here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Michel Foucault Meets Gary King (with Big Data and Statistics) in China

In his work Discipline & Punish, Michel Foucault details the historical emergence and ongoing operation of what he calls disciplinary power. Such power works via surveillance and monitoring, and ultimately, by recruiting agents to perform such functions for and on themselves. In particular it operates by disrupting horizontal, reciprocal communication and sustaining hierarchical, fragmented communications.

As it emerged, Foucault suggests, such discipline faced a difficult task. On his account it must:
master all the forces that are formed from the very constitution of an organized multiplicity; it must neutralize the effects of counter-power that spring from them and which form a resistance to the power that wishes to dominate it: agitations, revolts, spontaneous organizations, coalitions-anything that may establish horizontal conjunctions. Hence the fact that the disciplines use procedures of partitioning and verticality, that they introduce, between the different elements at the same level, as solid separations as possible, that they define compact hierarchal networks, in short that they oppose to the intrinsic, adverse force of multiplicity the technique of a continuous, individualizing pyramid (Discipline & Punish, 219-20).
This morning NPR ran this story on (statistical) research by political scientist Gary King regarding the operation of censorship in China. Now I've not read the actual papers. But here is what the NPR report claims:
King has just completed two studies that peer into the Chinese censorship machine — including a field experiment within China that was conducted with extraordinary secrecy. Together, the studies refute popular intuitions about what Chinese censors are after.

The censors actually permit "vitriolic criticism" of China's leaders and governmental policies, King and his colleagues — Jennifer Pan and Margaret Roberts — found. But the censors crack down heavily on any move to get people physically mobilized to act on such criticism.
"What they're after is any attempt to move people," King says. "Any attempt to [motivate] collective action."
This sounds like a partial confirmation of a Foucauldian view of power.*  The censors monitor and and disrupt communications precisely in order to preempt "horizontal conjunctions" that might sustain coordinated resistance to the regime.
* Indeed, the experimental portion of this research suggests that King and his co-authors anticipated the possibility that many Chinese citizens have indeed begun to monitor themselves and not even post potentially problematic items on social media.

P.S.: For my own views on Foucault see - "Communication, Criticism & the Postmodern Consensus," Political Theory (1997).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Say It Ain't So, Jackie Chan!

Among my fondest memories from the years when my oldest sons Jeffrey and Douglas were little are of watching Jackie Chan movies. The movies are so goofy that they'd send the boys into peals of joyous laughter.  Turns out that Jackie is considerably less critical of the Chinese regime than is Ai Weiwei, and their differences are making a bit of a splash in the press. Like here at The Guardian. I have to say this is disappointing. But it won't stop me from watching Chan's movies with August and (soon enough) Esme.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Obama's One-sided Condemnation of Using Chemical Weapons

"Of course, even as we focused on our shared prosperity — and although the primary task of the G-20 is to focus on our joint efforts to boost the global economy — we did also discuss a grave threat to our shared security: And that’s the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. And what I’ve been emphasizing and will continue to stress is that the Assad regime’s brazen use of chemical weapons isn’t just a Syrian tragedy, it’s a threat to global peace and security.

Syria’s escalating use of chemical weapons threatens its neighbors, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel. It threatens to further destabilize the Middle East. It increases the risk that these weapons will fall into the hands of terrorist groups. But more broadly, it threatens to unravel the international norm against chemical weapons embraced by 189 nations,, and those nations represent 98 percent of the world’s people.

Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations, that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence. And that’s not the world that we want to live in. This is why nations around the world have condemned Syria for this attack, and called for action. I’ve been encouraged by discussions with my fellow leaders this week. There is a growing recognition that the world cannot stand idly by. Here in St. Petersburg leaders from Europe, Asia and the Middle East have come together to say that the international norm of the use against chemical weapons must be upheld, and that the Assad regime used these weapons on its own people, and that, as a consequence, there needs to be a strong response."
This is a sanctimonious and hypocritical statement on the Syrian use of chemical weapons taken from Obama's statement at the post-G20 Summit news conference yesterday. Now, I am not defending the Syrian use of chemical weapons. Far from it. The Asad regime is despicable. And much of the opposition at best is barely less so. The problem is that Obama's condemnation ought to start at home. He ought to be pursuing the officials, military and civilian, responsible for the use of chemical weapons by American forces in Iraq. To the best of my knowledge the mainstream American media have not as much as mentioned this matter. You can find reports here and here and here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Marina Abramović ~ Latter Day P.T. Barnum

I have posted here numerous times on the fatuous Marina Abramović. NPR recently ran this too credulous interview with her in which she simply reinforced my view that she is full of it. That is not really the point here. Instead, I recommend this essay on the exploitative approach she takes to those who participate in her projects. I wonder how many of the repeat customers at her much heralded MOMA sit-in a couple of years back were paid paltry sums to fabricate "authentic" emotional responses to her gaze?

Uptake: Jurich on Aranda and his Critics, Including Me

Fatima & Zayad, Yemen, 2011. Photograph © Samuel Aranda/Corbis.

The nice folks* at afterimage sent me a copy of their Summer 2013 issue (40:5) which contains an essay "What Do Subjects Want?" by Joscelyn Jurich. The essay assesses the critical response to the World Press Photo designation of Samuel Aranda's image (above) as Photo of the Year for 2011. Among the critical commentaries Jurich discusses is my initial, quite negative post on the WPP jury decision. I have followed up on that assessment - prompted mostly by well-deserved push back from Nina Berman, who served on the WPP jury - especially here, but here too.

My immediate response to the Jurich essay [pdf here]  is that what the 'subjects want,' what their personal feelings are, is largely beside the point in this instance. The essay concludes with reports that Fatima Al-Qaws, the now-not-anonymous woman in Aranda's photograph, is heartened by and proud of the way Aranda depicts her. That is a second order effect. Welcome, perhaps, yet even that is something to be discussed. But the award from WPP was for Aranda's putative success at addressing his primary audience - readers of The New York Times and other (primarily) western outlets. Jurich seems more sanguine than me about the impact the image may have had on that audience. My complaints about the image and the prize designation address that matter and what I continue to see as their de-politicizing thrust.
* Thanks Lucia! I hope you are well.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

FEMEN Troubles? (2)

And today The Guardian is running this forthright reply by Inna Shevchenko to those scandalized by recent reports about the emergence of FEMEN.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FEMEN Troubles?

Today The Guardian raises disturbing questions about the motivations and internal organization of the Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What is Philosophy of Science Good For?

Over the past week or so I've not posted at all. In my day job I teach political theory at the University of Rochester. And last week was the annual convention of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Chicago. Susan and I went to give a joint paper and August came along for the fun - quite literally. Susan took him to the zoo and the natural history museum, he and I went swimming every day, and during our paper presentation he sat in the back of the room guffawing at Epic which he was watching on my laptop. On Saturday and Sunday I flew cross country and back so that he could be back in Oregon for the start of school today. Today was the first day of classes for me too. Hence the dearth of posts.

In any case, among the things I'm preoccupied with - I'm working on a book on the topic - is how social scientists use models. So I found this post at the Opinionater blog by philosophers Alex Rosenberg and Tyler Curtain entertaining. Their argument is pretty thoroughly wrongheaded. It might be persuasive if, like them, we accept predictive success as the most important or even sole criterion for assessing the performance and progress of a science. Paul Krugman insists that they misjudge economists' success on that dimension and so are wrong on their own grounds. I think that is the wrong response, in part because it is unclear whether the work to which he refers actually predicts in the way Rosenberg and Curtain demand. There is good reason to challenge the overriding priority they ascribe to empirical performance. Other philosophers of science - Larry Laudan and Phillip Kitcher, for instance - insist that if our criteria of scientific performance and progress are properly attuned to scientific practice, they must be multidimensional in the sense of countenancing conceptual and technical as well as empirical progress.That seems especially crucial in talking about political economy. After all, there are many extremely influential models in political economy that make no predictions at all. And their are prominent political economists who doubt that the models they construct can be predictive in the first place. Rosenberg and Curtain have nothing to say about such work other than to banish it from the domain they proclaim scientific. In trying to legislate as they do, they make us wonder what philosophy might be good for.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Rebecca Solnit & Rebecca Snedeker Unfathomable CIty - A New Orleans Atlas

I am not sure how Rebecca Solnit manages to turn out so much work or such uniformly high quality. But she does. And I am grateful. This forthcoming atlas of New Orleans promises to be provocative and beautiful. You can find publication details here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Distance - A View

“I don’t get up close and cuddly with my subjects. I didn’t follow these people home. It’s not a documentary.  . . . I think it’s all an illusion; That there’s a perfect rapport established in the best work is false.”~ Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Business Insider Scandallized to Discover Sexism in Fashion Advertising

It seems from this report that the nice folks at Business Insider are simply shocked! ... and, of course, appropriately dismayed . . . to discover that purveyors of fashion are sexist. Apparently, the purveyors depict male and female models differently, even when advertising the same item of clothing. In this instance, the offending company, of course, is American Apparel.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Unions and Socialists: The Folks who Brought you ... the 1963 March On Washington

Where did all those people come from? As part of my ongoing effort here to resist sanitized depictions of American political history, let's recall that the March on Washington, yeah the event where MLK gave his "I Have a Dream" speech, was brought to you by trade unions and socialists.

My LEGO Wizard

This is August, my LEGO wizard, with his latest creation. He is 7, the set is rated for 16+ and we figured it would take him forever to build. The things has 1334 pieces to it.  So, I'm not hear to brag (at least not totally) but to wonder how I can afford to keep the boy in colorful plastic pieces.

Being Here ~ Radhika Philip

This new book consists of interviews Radhika Philip has done with jazz musicians in NYC. Her aim is to explore the creative processes and practices that inform improvisation rather than to compile endearing anecdotes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

500 is in the US... Portland & Los Angeles

I have just arrived in Portland, Oregon where I am invited to review portfolio's in the next four days at the PhotoLucida Portfolio Reviews. Already I have had the pleasure to meet several photographers that are on this website.

After the intense four days of reviewing I will be heading to Los Angeles. Mopla (Month of Photography Los Angeles) invited me to create a special projection to be shown on April 25 and 27, which is also the closing night party. I have chosen the theme Sublime & Divine; A Painter's Eye. If you are in the neighbourhood, make sure to check it out. See the video above for the trailer.
The projection includes photographers alexandfelix, Jeff Bark, Laurence Demaison, Thomas Devaux, Eliot Lee Hazel, Billy Kidd, Nico Krijno, Richard Learoyd, Adeline Mai, Sayaka Maruyama, Maxwell Snow, Christian Tagliavini, Pim Top, Nicol Vizioli.

A lot has happened since my last post on this blog / website, and unfortunately you still have to be a little patient to find out about the last 45 photographers that will be completing the list. Both in my personal life and my photographic career a lot has occurred.
It is amazing to see that there are still a lot of photographers e-mailing their suggestions. Do not hesitate to e-mail if you haven't done so yet.

Do you want a tailor-made 500 Photographers projection at your photography event or are you interested in creating an exhibition? Do you need a curator or editor for a magazine, book or any other publication? Do not hesitate to contact me. I am also available for lectures and portfolio reviews. Is there any other way you think we can work together, let me know!