Monday, June 07, 2004
I was thumbing through the 50th issue of Juxtapoz magazine and found a card that had been inserted to advertise a gallery show in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. One of the images on the card was a mutation of the infamous photo of the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner by General Loan during the Tet Offensive in 1968. I suspect we will soon begin to see the infiltration of the Abu Ghraib prison photos into conceptual art and punk rock album covers. Compared to the 1968 photograph, the Abu Ghraib photos are even more dehumanizing since the prisoners are generally hooded, unable to even exhibit a grimace of pain. On a recent edition of Amy Goodman's radio show, Democracy Now, it was reported that a student in Boston was arrested for recreating the image of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner perched on a box with wires tied to his fingers, by costuming himself and creating a sort of "living tableau" on the sidewalk outside a military recruiting office. He was arrested on the grounds that the wires he attached to his hands appeared to the police that they might have been the apparatus of an explosive device. It's astounding to me that the authorities feign a lack of recognition of their own creations, while we watch these images transform into memes. Authoritarian regimes provide great fodder for incisive, angry, heart-rending music and art - at least until the arrests and persecution begin to shut down the artists and thereby close down our collective conscience. For more, see Jamie's post at www.semioclast.com on the arrest of an art professor and member of Critical Art Ensemble in Buffalo, NY.