Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The spectacle of the crashed passenger plane MH17 spread across a ten kilometer radius in Ukraine, the charred ground and burnt bodily remains, the destroyed, scattered debris of the remains of the bent and broken plane, the passenger’s passports, carry bags, toys and clothing, together with fallen bodies eventually found in a sea of bright yellow sunflowers, has flashed across our screens. With each image, blackened earth, flames and smoldering objects that conceals the identity of human or machine parts. The indelible images of those poor souls enveloped in black body bags, black, black, the sky filled with dark acrid smoke from the impact and crash, the bags with corpses stacked unceremoniously on the side of the road. Such a contrast to that of the disappearance of MH370 in which there were no bodies and no plane found.
In those first moments when the news flashed on our screens, explained as destroyed by a surface to air missile, we imagined that the people along with the plane had been incinerated either on impact or cremated in the fiery blaze. The horror of the reality extended and explained by eyewitness reports from people who had seen passengers falling from the sky and their sudden catastrophic impact on the ground. Some would be found in the wreckage, some in the field, others amidst flowers.
How can we forget images of those who picked through the graveyard of blackened earth, a pit of unidentified objects, trampled upon and sometimes plundered for anything of value, as though those involved were concerned only with their own benefit, disregarding the fact that all the objects of the passengers would be of ultimate value to their friends and relations since those things were owned by them or worn by them and were the last things closest to them at their death, and not just ill gotten gains to be salvaged by a callous mob.
As tragic as this was, and still is, on the same day the Israel attack on the Palestinians and the countless deaths of innocent women and children ~ collateral damage like the innocent passengers travelling on board MH17. There are those who will say that the MH17 disaster is different for the passengers did not live in a war zone, but were accidentally drawn into a war not of their making. But is it different? Would not those that died, also have looked into each other’s eyes, or held the hand of their loved ones seconds before death (a statement made by the Netherlands about his dead compatriots this morning)?
The International AIDS conference held in Melbourne virtually coincided with the downing of flight MH17 and although it was brought into focus by the fact that six delegates who were to attend the conference were killed in the tragedy, news regarding the continuing battle against HIV/AIDS, the success of curing TB (a disease that kills many of those suffering with AIDS) and the challenges of educating and treating the millions of people who die in Africa (and elsewhere in the world), took a back seat to the repetitive footage of the circumstances of MH17 and the now blow by blow progression of attempts by various governments to bring those responsible to account. The spectacle continues on the world stage.
It’s understandable of course, for the media to flood our screens with information about the Australians who were killed in the crash (some calling it a murderous act, others say the passengers died through terrorism), for the reportage is personalized, the bodies then, not just anonymous pieces of flesh and bone or lumpy forms contained within plastic, they are someone like you or me, unlike those anonymous 36 million people who have died from AIDS or AIDS related conditions worldwide in the past thirty years and the 35 million (over 24,000 people in Australia) who continue to be inflicted and infected with the disease and who still feel stigmatized by their condition.
We continue to watch the spectacle of MH17, a morbid fascination or, a way to allow the horror to seep into our perhaps desensitized psyche? It is after all just another disaster and we’ve seen so many through our lifetimes.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
I went to the wonderfully informative and entertaining exhibition at the State Library of Victoria called Les Misérables: from page to stage today and attendees were permitted to play dress ups with the costumes from the Melbourne performance. Here's selfie in Javert's costume. I loved seeing Victor Hugo's original script....amazing, but there is so much more to see, I think the exhibition is on until October.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
CALL FOR WORKS: THEME ‘ANYTHNG BUT HUMAN’
Humans have been called death machines, genetically programmed to self destruct through a disposition to the onslaught of particular diseases. Our history tells us that we have inflicted death and damage on other human beings and creatures in our environment. Our bodies ~ more bacterial than human are periodically invaded by dangerous viruses. We create death machines capable of destroying individuals, populations and the environment. We elevate the notion of the human ~ its intellect and achievement and yet many see human life as worthless, viewed purely in terms of its use value, as pure commodity. What is this hu(man) then in this world in which the female is still the poorest of all individuals, are subject in many countries to rape, abuse, under-age marriage and slavery, where they are still the primary object of the pornographic imagination and the object in cinematic as well as game play scenarios, of attack, mutilation and humiliation? Some individuals and cultures elevate animus (spirit) above the human (homo-sapien ~ of the earth) and the value that they place on the notion of the afterlife inspires them to suppress, oppress or attempt to eradicate those who do not value their values, especially the beyond human expression of another worldly state. Likewise, those who do not applaud the notion of the resurrection of the spirit, adhere to and promote longevity as a mark of the contemporary human and one which we should all aspire to, one that finds us entering into an alliance with non-humans (animals/machines/technology) in order to enhance or extend human life, thus valorizing the human’s relationship to land/place/the environment. Philosophically the human is perceived as a ‘work in progress’, however some would argue that evolution of the human ended as soon as individuals mastered genetic engineering and became capable of altering the human genome, creating a synthetic evolution of life on earth. Life takes on different currency in virtual space in which aspects of our lives are played out in social media and other internet forums that proffer our (selves), selfies and other images as code. Traces of our lives, strange phantoms that stand as avatars of our imagination, together with electronic footprints of our monetary and other transactions form a picture of the human as information that can be circulated ad infinitum. Indeed these ephemeral and ghostly aspects of self continue long after the demise, decomposition or cremation of the material body. Our ‘humanity’ then, alive or dead, material (actual) or virtual, animus (spirit) or of the earth, a conglomeration of hybridity is a hotly contested zone of enquiry. The question remains: how can we be ‘anything but (except) human’? Might we inspire to be anything beside (outside) the human, indeed, how may this otherness be imagined? Is this quest to be beyond the human pure fantasy, simply a desire to be different from, an escape from the pleasures and perils of being such?
Artists (visual poets) or writers are invited to engage with the above thought or to offer alternative interpretations of the theme ‘anything but human’ to be exhibited on the ANYTHING BUT HUMAN blog to help celebrate the blog’s 5th Anniversay in mid August this year.
Artists are requested to submit an image of an artwork in a jpeg file no larger than 2MG, together with the title/medium/year/name of artist/country, PLUS no more than 150 words that explains how the artwork fits the theme (no videos please or web links). No images will be posted without the explanation. Writers and poets are asked to submit in word document no more than 250 words a response that is self evident. Works should be submitted by Friday 8 August, 2014 to email@example.com and selected works will be posted on the blog the week after. No remuneration. Copyright will remain with the artists and writers.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Last night I watched Blue Steel (Kathryn Bigelow, 1989) and one of the most telling scenes was one in which the male protagonist, holding a gun in his hand, looks at himself in the mirror, imagining of course what it would be like to be faced with such a frightening situation whilst simultaneously enjoying the feeling of absolute power.
|Still from Blue Steel.|
The scene, although most probably played out in many cinematic forums is well remembered as the one in which Travis (Robert De Niro) in Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) with gun in hand, looks into the mirror and rehearses his ‘you talkin’ to me’ narrative, imagining what it would be like if confronted with a bad guy.
|Douglas Gordon installation view.|
This morning I went to see the Douglas Gordon video installation, the only way out is the only way in at ACCA and that famous scene from Taxi Driver was played on a loop on four large screens. In another room a multitude of video monitors displayed an overview of Gordon’s various works and engaged with sexuality, life, death and destruction via some disturbing imagery (scorpions on a person's hand, the fist of one hand penetrating the partially closed fist of the other hand, hands in black gloves, a dead elephant, white skulls bobbing in a free flowing river, a bleating lamb prior to its slaughter, slivering snakes, a person wrist tied and damaged by wire).
In yet another room the visitor was confronted with their own image via mirrors on the walls that were surrounded by still photographs from Gordon's various video works. Both our selves and Gordon's works are reflected back at us.
|Selfie showing Gordon's framed works.|
There was one other room, which contained text on the back wall and 30 seconds of almost complete darkness in the space. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of his video works and the contrary and complimentary readings that could be given to the overall installation, which seemed to me to be filled with a melancholia that was there, but remained elusive.
The installation is on at ACCA until 3 August, 2014.