Stare decisis

The previous three Supreme Court Justice nominees – Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barret – knowingly lied in their confirmation hearings.

From an archived Artforum preview:

Through October 15, New York’s Museum of Sex hosts Barcelona-based artist Laia Abril’s exhibition “On Abortion: And the Repercussions of Lack of Access.” One chapter of her larger project “A History of Misogyny,” “On Abortion” chronicles obstacles to reproductive choice in across the world. Abril employs a documentary mode common to conceptual art, drawing on the testimonies of individuals who were denied care. She pairs black-and-white photographic portraits of her subjects with typed statements and evidentiary images of their struggles, such as maps of their travels to neighboring countries for health care and photos of shadowy waiting rooms and plum pits (as one woman describes the size of her fetus). The subjects include Françoise, a septuagenarian Frenchwoman who performed five thousand clandestine abortions from the ’70s to the ’90s, to three Chinese women—identified by their initials ZWF, FJ, and GYL—whose abortions and sterilizations were forced upon them. Abril also uses the photographic grid format to depict the desperate measures people have taken to end pregnancy throughout history, from herbal mixtures to the coat hanger method. Alongside Abril’s work, curator Lissa Rivera exhibits birth-control artifacts from the Museum of Sex holdings and gynecological tools from the Burns Archive, a private collection in Manhattan devoted to medical photography and objects from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The sober nature of Abril’s exhibition sharply contrasts with the spectacular format of the MoSex shows directly above and below hers—on webcam models and fin de siècle stag films, respectively. Still, on a recent busy Friday night at the museum, “On Abortion” invited quiet contemplation from a busy crowd.

In January and February, the two-part show “Abortion Is Normal” was mounted at the downtown galleries Eva Presenhuber and Arsenal Contemporary Art. Conceived as a fundraiser for Downtown for Democracy, a liberal super PAC, the show donated its proceeds to Planned Parenthood and efforts to support voter education on reproductive rights. Curated by Project for Empty Space Newark cofounders Rebecca Pauline Jampol and Jasmine Wahi and co-organized by Marilyn Minter, Gina Nanni, Laurie Simmons, and Sandy Tait, the show brought together over fifty diverse artists—several with blue-chip appeal, like Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman. While the title polemically defined reproductive rights as normal healthcare, the works on view approached bodily and sexual autonomy in various ways, oscillating in attitude between anger, celebration, and grief. Carrie Mae Weems’s photograph The Broken, See Duchamp, 2012–16, depicts the artist in a spread-eagled posture reminiscent of Etant donnés; Hayv Kahraman’s paintings of fair-skinned, dark-haired women, punctuated with woven bits of canvas, suggest the fracturing and mending potentials of art in the wake of traumas related to sexual violation and migration. Jane Kaplowitz’s painted portraits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg lionize the Supreme Court Justice, while Jon Kessler’s multimedia collage Birmingham, 2019, mourns the victims of the 1998 bombing of an Alabama abortion clinic by the terrorist Eric Rudolph.

Image: Hayv Kahraman, Barricade 1, 2018, oil on linen, 50 x 78 x 3”.

running with scissors along the side of the pool

With all the flap about Obama’s speech Tuesday night (good) and the response by Jindal (he’s surely clinging to anyone who might say it was merely bad), the convergence of greenwashing and politics gets wrapped into a neat bundle: talking to people like they’re children about very complex issues produces self-fulfilling prophecies of extraordinarily difficult-to-solve problems.

We can link this to many things, but much of the immaturity begins with advertising, where the sort of punkish, laughing at someone getting hurt or because something sounds funny is a bankable quantity. It’s adolescent appeal is its value, or so we’re told over and over. ‘People remember it because it’s stupid’ is also a mantra, even if its not on the side of a coin. This is the fertile, buy/sell marketing ether so far from reality that it almost begins to make sense, where super rich athletes eat soup from a can, a car has the name of a vanishing, nomadic African tribe and Exxon/Mobile is building the energy future.  From here, the stupid=legit, intelligent=questionable paradigm can appear to be a sensible option.

Politicians take their cues from advertising norms – from their media training to their look to their belief in the wisdom that flows from a fictional heartland to the language the employ to describe it. But whatever its stripe, much of this amalgam goes back to an unflinching belief that Americans are children that should be treated and spoken to thusly; this suspicion-of-seriousness flows directly into policy positions and soon enough, policy itself. This is one of the reasons that Obama is such a breath of fresh air: despite the details of the bad news he’s sharing with us, at least he’s speaking to us like adults. [Including the costs of our wars in the deficit projections? Who knew you could even do that?] Our delicate sensibilities aside, suddenly everything’s on the level, even if that level is where it is.

This is opposed to the Kenneth the Page* take of our Republican brethren. It would be really funny, and much of it is, if we didn’t have to still imagine these people as legitimate negotiating partners with whom political horsetrading is a necessity. Elder stateman Newt Gingrich is all you need to know.

But even the resulting dissonance about green is a result of the caricatured responses to the climatic cataclysm. In advertising land, the only tools we have left are to keep doing the same things over and over again and hope for a different result.

Fortunately, It’s A Brand New Day for the United States of America.

* In another obscene coincidence, the brother of the guy who plays Kenneth the Page lives in our town, and is a twisted, comic librarian (and friend) in his own right.