07 On Protest and Mourning

… again, following up on note 05 from today, i find my way to the digital exhibition On Protest and Mourning at the Caribbean Cultural Center & African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) website… i read curator Grace Aneiza Ali’s statement…

Protest is a form of mourning; and mourning is a form of protest. Throughout these images we see a consistent narrative, a shared language, a call to action: we must resist slipping into numbness, we must always cry out against a state’s militarized violence, against the emotional and mental brutalities it wields. And, as a matter of survival, we must always cry out for the Black lives loved and lost.1

… Black Lives Matter…

… relative to the exhibit at The New Museum, i think, CCCADI is better positioned to curate a visual art representation of the oppression, grief and protest of black and brown people…

… i am ambivalent about doing this in the cultural institutions of white patriarchy… i think it is important to have a conversation, a conscience… to admit the wrong of systematic oppression… but i can’t let go of the idea that oppressive cultural and political structures have a huge capacity for self critique without changing… the object of the self critique being to say, we see, we understand… maybe some do, but overall, there is little change as a result…

06 Seph Rodney

… is the critic who wrote the article i mentioned in the previous post… an African American Man with a PhD… this gives him the right to be critical of the exhibition… a white critic might or might not be astute in their critique, but does s/he have standing to make the critique?… then i think, she might, because she too may have felt a certain kind of patriarchal oppression… it’s a morning of puzzling thoughts and reactions… i make my thought process transparent as i grope forward…

05 Curating the Grief of Black and Brown People

there are two exhibitions discussed in this article… the first is what gets my attention… i am interested in the critique of star power rather than the subject of the exhibition… is this my white male privilege rearing an ugly head?…

04 Gary Webb and the CIA

Eighteen years after it was published, “Dark Alliance,” the San Jose Mercury News’s bombshell investigation into links between the cocaine trade, Nicaragua’s Contra rebels, and African American neighborhoods in California, remains one of the most explosive and controversial exposés in American journalism.1

… a new motion picture is set to the story of Gary Webb, who ran afoul of the CIA with an expose on the connection between drugs in African American communities and the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, supported by the American Government as opposition to the Sandinista government in the 1980’s

03 Regarding the Pain of Others, Chapter 5, Susan Sontag

Central to modern expectations, and modern ethical feeling, is the conviction that war is an aberration, if an unstoppable one. That peace is the norm, if an unattainable one. This, of course, is not the way war has been regarded throughout history. War has been the norm and peace the exception.1

… my entire life has been spent in a land that has been largely free of war… i am white, male, middle class, in my 60’s… relative peace and calm has been a luxury throughout my life… military conscription ended when i was old enough, there has been no war since that demanded such conscription… because i am white, the violence of the justice system does not impact me… it is impossible for me to truly comprehend the privilege i have been graced with…

That a gory battlescape could be beautiful—in the sublime or awesome or tragic register of the beautiful—is a commonplace about images of war made by artists. The idea does not sit well when applied to images taken by cameras: to find beauty in war photographs seems heartless. But the landscape of devastation is still a landscape. There is beauty in ruins.2

… people should not detach themselves from their feelings about misfortune and tragedy, theirs or others… the universe is indifferent to it, but people are not always… the closer to home, the more certain it is they won’t be… where is one to find meaning in a universe that churns on, constructing, deconstructing, building up, grinding down… is the best stance one of detachment?… if it is, then what of the human capacity to feel, love, empathize… there is a great emphasis being placed on empathy these days, it is a hopeful stance, one that suggests that we can all just get along… and yet, the evidence is solid in the direction of no, we can’t…

… Sontag talks about photographs taken among the ruins of the trade towers… what is beauty?… does it exist in devastation and death?… the discussion is about the confused powers of photography, the power to document, the power to make most anything beautiful, the position of witness to the truths of the cosmos, sublime and detestable both…

… as example of raising misfortune to artistic aesthetic heights, which crosses over from documentation to exploitation, Sontag offers Sebastião Salgado, who photographs wild animals on the brink of extinction, humans engaged in barely endurable labor that pays a pittance, or roaming the world restively looking for a place to live out their lives with decent prospects for the privilege i have… she notes that his pictures are exhibited in high end galleries and purchased by people with far more means than i have… they are noble savage sorts of photographs… the savage is beautiful so long as they remain the savage… she note also that the people he photographs never have a name… or at least, he hasn’t troubled himself with finding out what it is and identifying them…

 PHOTOGRAPHS OBJECTIFY: they turn an event or a person into something that can be possessed. And photographs are a species of alchemy, for all that they are prized as a transparent account of reality.3

… photographic fact of life… Sontag talks of the current trend to show the shockingly ugly, to provoke emotion, action, or simply catapult the creator into notoriety… this latter is the operating motive of so much these days, to be noticed at all one has to shock… a shock doctrine… as i write this i know i have heard it before and look it up, the title of a book by Naomi Klein where she describes it as the deliberate exploitation of national calamity to put through dubious policies while the people are distracted… hmmm…

All memory is individual, unreproducible—it dies with each person. What is called collective memory is not a remembering but a stipulating: that this is important, and this is the story about how it happened, with the pictures that lock the story in our minds. Ideologies create substantiating archives of images, representative images, which encapsulate common ideas of significance and trigger predictable thoughts, feelings.4

… an extremely important point…

… Sontag discusses the significance to a people of collecting their history and enshrining it in an institutional setting so they can remember the tragic past and celebrate survival in the present… Sontag asks why there is no museum of the sufferings of African Americans (at the time of writing, there are now a number that are in planning or opened as of the writing of this Atlantic article in 2016)…


  1. Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others (p. 74). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition. [return]
  2. Ibid. [return]
  3. Ibid. [return]
  4. Ibid. [return]