Saturday, December 4, 2010

virtual protest

These past few days my inbox has been flooded with a series of email threads about something that should have made the national, if not international, news, but has really not caught on. Of course I am talking about the Hide/Seek exhibition in Washington D.C.'s Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. If you do not know what I am talking about, I rest my case. Most people I have talked to in person had no idea what I was talking about, or had just heard about it.

It is ironic that this particular news-worthy current event (because it threatens or at least pulls at the fabric of what is essential in our society - freedom) gets put aside to more immediate and inconsequent happenings (did you hear that the Royal wedding might be shot in 3D?). Yet, the consequences of what is being played out (but not properly broadcast) right now might potentially affect an entire generation of artists and citizens alike. As the first decade of the "future" comes to a close, I wonder if the clock is not actually ticking backwards.

The complexities of the issues surrounding the aforementioned exhibition have created a wave of responses from extremely well-informed, intelligent, inspiring people, as well as (finally now) by pertinent institutions and organizations. There are many email threads to be read, e-petitions to be signed, blogs to voice one's opinion and as many replies, articles online, articles on articles, protest via consumerism (purchase the catalogue on and so forth.

I've always thought that the postmodern condition is one of constant paradox, with the individual at its center, either unable to make a choice, or choosing all the options at once. What I mean by this is that we know what afflicts us and the ones around us, and yet we manage to do very little about it, or reinforce what creates the struggle in the first place, or simultaneously both. This goes along the lines that stupidity is repeatedly doing the exact same thing and expecting a different outcome. Or a more concrete example, being familiar with with Photoshop tricks and yet measuring oneself up to retouched images. But perhaps I am describing more on how I thread this world? Is anybody else out there?

The fact is that, as much as this news is absent, so are our responses. This morning I read, while still in bed, about 25 different threads I had been skipping since Dec. 01, when the whole thing started. While their space and length might be inconvenient, what makes us believe that congressmen, curators, director, presidents of institutions, etc, will actually read any of this? For all we know, they will hire an intern who wants a line in their resume and will work almost for free to delete or archive all these emails, all this uncountable data. This same intern, perhaps working from home, is probably wearing one of those $1 "feel good charity" bracelets as identity markers for their concern for the world. But are we any different from them? What good does it do to click away from home, and never leave the house? Do we just do this to make ourselves feel good, "we put our two cents", we make our Facebook friends aware that we care, and then we go our merry ways, with the rest of our lives?

That is the beauty of virtual communication, many can participate and reach others easily. The beast consists of the fact that is just as easy to delete all of them. As far as I know there has only been one protest/march, where a whooping 75 people silently walked, with signs, t-shirts, and masks. I read this at the comfort of my own home.

And here lies my inner conflict, the fact that I (mainly I, in my self-absorbed view of the world where I am responsible for all its ills) and perhaps many others, have not really done a thing to change this. We know what needs to happen, but perhaps we are not sure or willing to use the proper tools to make things happen. Do we actually have any agency (the subtitle for this blog was going to be "do you believe that we can change the future?")?

I have purposefully excluded any specifics of this situation on this blog because I want people to find out on their own what is happening as best as they can. Though I imagine most will just Google the title of the exhibition, my hope is that by hiding the info here, they/you will seek the answer elsewhere. Even if their/your participation/protest is only virtual (as I hope, even if remotely, that there is still some virtue to doing that), at least you will now be aware of the situation. You/we might be able to hide behind our keyboards and screens, but this story'd better not run away from us, from our minds. Because it will find us eventually, one way or another, just as history repeats itself. Because any one of our omissions is a permission for things to come (back). I provide no answers or solutions here, I am guilty as charged. But I will try to not forget. Will you remind me?


PS: there are many links and images I could include in this entry, usually this last part is where you go to find such resources. In addition to wanting you to seek your own solutions, I also want to belatedly mirror the spirit of World AIDS Day and Day Without Art (Dec.01 of every year since 1989). There are a few connections here. One I will point to you is that they too barely made the national news.

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