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The White Women of Empire

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Despite the fact that advertising is the cutting edge of ideological production, there is little critical engagement with advertising outside of occasional controversies and industry-specific work. Truth in Advertising is a new monthly series which hopes to investigate how advertising is constructing psychic life and cultural narratives in the metropolis, often doing its work silently and unnoticed. To trace how often those narratives then emerge “naturally” as cultural criticism, political debate or interpersonal discussion: Behind every think piece, a subway car full of ads. This piece is also informed by Emma Quangel’s The Weaponized Naked Girl.

In imperialist fantasies, the most famous role of white women is the damsel in distress, the pure and purifying object of sexual desire menaced by the unclean, violent, sexualized colonial subject: Faye Wray in the grips of King Kong. There’s another major role for white woman in imperialist narratives, however: as the metonym of the homeland, the representation and image of civilization. The white woman “back home” is the reason the male protagonist goes forth, it is her image he fights for and against which the savagery of the colony is thrown into starkest relief. He may cheat on this mythical white woman with a sexualized, state-of-nature beauty, but he always returns to her in the end: To fail to do so is to fail the colonial project.

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Some Kind of Exile

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An interview with Okwiri Oduor.

People have said a lot of things about the short story that won the Caine Prize, Okwiri Oduor’s “My Father’s Head.” It’s a story that was rejected so many times that its author—an intensely soft-spoken writer who I interviewed in Nairobi, about a month ago—eventually gave up on it, and put it in a drawer, deciding that there must have been something wrong with it if so many journals had disliked it.

They were wrong, though it’s a story that’s hard to talk about. In fact, it’s this elusiveness that you try to catch in describing it: it’s a story that can be read and re-read; “an uplifting story about mourning – Joycean in its reach,” as the novelist Jackie Kay put it; “a story you want to return to the minute you finish it.”

Or as Keguro Macharia put it, it’s “a story about listening.”

I enjoyed listening to Okwiri, although she’s such a good listener, herself, that it was sometimes hard to keep my own mouth shut. This interview was conducted over the course of several days in Nairobi, and I’m grateful to her for giving me the time.

How did you begin, as a writer?

I came to writing… I think when I was younger, I wanted to be a journalist. First I wanted to be a nun.

Really?

I must have been eight or nine, I just thought… it’s cool. The nun clothes and the expressions on their faces. They had a kind of scowl or frown on their faces, all the time. They had this power, they always wielded this power.

That was attractive?

Yeah, I thought that was something I wanted to have.

Then I started writing. I think I began because my folks, my parents, are very, very strict so I did not get to play out as much as my brothers did. For many reasons, the girl child is not… I don’t know, I always had to be more protected than the boys, so I wasn’t allowed to do as many things as they were. They were strict with all of us, but they were more strict with me. I wasn’t allowed to…. Well, I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of stuff. They had very strict rules about TV and what books we could read and what books we couldn’t read.

What books couldn’t you read?

I remember my dad being really angry because he saw me reading a Nancy Drew. I don’t think he really understood what it was; he just saw the image on the cover and thought it was a Mills and Boon or something. I could read lots of stuff, but not stuff that looked provocative. I always thought Hardy Boys was a funny series, because just the name itself would have my parents mad, like “What are you reading? Hardy Boys.”

Because of how strict they were, I guess, I couldn’t do lots of stuff, and I began writing. At first, I think I was fascinated that I could escape, to create characters and play around with them, and make them do things. And then, I think I began to make them into people who had more freedom than I, children that had more freedom than I had, so they could do the things I couldn’t do, go to the places I couldn’t go. After that, I was writing about characters who had conflicts with their parents.

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Sunday Reading

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Bint Battuta:

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Karen Gregory:

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Kitabet:

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ReclaimUC:

sunday-spotlight1Jacqui Shine:

sunday-spotlight1Wambui Mwangi:

 

 

This Week in Art Crime

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This past spring, Miami street artist David Anasagasti’s work started popping up in Japan and South America. It was the type of global exposure that Anasagasti didn’t want: American Eagle Outfitters had built an international advertising campaign around his best-known, oldest image—half-squinting, drowsy eyeballs layered on top of one another. In the ads, young adult models wearing American Eagle clothes frolic in front of his art. One shot featured a model holding a spray paint can, grinning, with Anasagasti’s street mural prominent in the background. Additionally, American Eagle allegedly hired artists to recreate the eyeball painting on an eight-foot-tall panel outside a store in Medellin, Colombia.

Anasagasti, a burly, heavily tattooed, graffiti artist in his 30s who goes by “Ahol Sniffs Glue,” didn’t like being associated with the teen and young adult-oriented American Eagle. “Just imagine you’re doing something for 20 years, then all of a sudden, you’ve got people coming up to you saying, aren’t you that guy that American Eagle did this to?” said Gregg Shienbaum, whose art gallery represents Anasagasti and who is acting as his spokesman.

In July, Anasagasti hired a lawyer and filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit, accusing American Eagle of stealing his work and seeking monetary damages. If it sounds novel to apply copyright to graffiti art, that’s because it is: Lawyers who work in this area say it’s not clear anyone has ever tried this in court.

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Remember a little while ago we wrote about how a man in Utah was being charged for vandalising a Banksy (ie. vandalising a piece of vandalism), well, now he has to pay $13,000 USD (approx. £8,000) or face jail time. The man, 36-year-old David William Noll, admitted to vandalising two Banksy pieces which were originally painted during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The pieces, which were originally painted illegally by Banksy, are both on private property and were protected by plexiglass to preserve them.

The $13,000 is apparently the amount it cost to fix the plexiglass that Noll broke, as well as hiring a professional to restore Banksy’s “angel boy” piece, which was partially covered with spray paint. At the court hearing, Noll said that he barely remembers trying to destroy the artworks, citing his bipolar disorder was one of the reasons he might have done it.

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In their paper, “Are Artworks More Like People Than Artifacts? Individual Concepts and Their Extensions,” published in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science, the researchers build on previous studies that looked at the continuity of people. For example, if you transplant someone’s brain into another body and the memories remain stored in the body, is that the same person? Identity is determined by the sameness of physical and mental states — and this view applies to art, as well.

“We have intuitions about the continuity of people and other kinds of one-of-a-kind objects,” Bartels said.

They found that people viewed copies of tools the same as the original, no matter who manufactured them. But with art, replicas created by the original artist were viewed similarly to the original, whereas they were not when another artist made the re-creations.

This has to do with “magical contagion” — the idea that the essence of the artist rubs off on the creation.

“If the artist made physical contact with the replica, it’s as if the artist imbued the work with her/his essence by having worked with the (new, replica) piece — it seems like others who might make the copy or other processes by which a copy could be made can’t transmit this essence in this way,” Bartels said.

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The graffiti was made to the north wall of the memorial, facing Pershing Road, and appeared to be some sort of anti-war protest. Words like “No Soldiers No War,” “Terrorist A” and “Enough” were found spray-painted in red.

Many visitors to the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial are veterans, and they didn’t like what they saw.

“There’s no call for vandalism. No call whatsoever,” said Al Bernstein, who was visiting with his wife from Nashville, TN.

The words were not the message Al and Barb Bernstein wanted to see on their vacation.

“This is a tribute to the American servicemen that fought in wars past. I don’t think they should do stuff like that,” Barb Bernstein said.

The bright red spray-painted messages upset many visitors and wedding parties who were on the lawn, but metro natives like Brian Walton see it as a slap in the face.

“I just think it’s pretty distasteful to mar the face of a monument like that,” he said.

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Two American tourists were caught at Rome’s Fiumicino airport with a 30kg artefact from the ruins of Pompeii stashed in their luggage.

The artefact, which would have adorned a building at the site near Naples, was discovered on Monday morning in the tourists’ luggage in their rental car.

They reportedly intended to fly home but were stopped by airport authorities and now faces charges of appropriation of state heritage, Il Mattino said.

Earlier this year, an American girl in Florence was caught urinating in public, just months after a fellow US citizen broke a Renaissance statue in the Tuscan city.

In March, a Canadian tried to rob a piece of Rome’s Colosseum, while just last month a Frenchman and two Italian women were caught having an orgy in Pompeii.

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Terrifying Robot Update: Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Phrases that have no business being said in earnest: “We would like to make our robot run fast, like a cheetah” “Our robot cheetah” “a really exciting future where robots can be quiet and efficient and also powerful”

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The blue light pulsates slowly, evenly, matching the creaking of its double-jointed legs. It makes a beautiful song that it wants to play for you. It wants to get off the wire and find you. It wants to find you.

• • • David Levy: 'There's a fortune to be made in this field'.

The First International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots

Within the fields of Human-Computer Interaction and Human-Robot Interaction, the past few years have witnessed a strong upsurge of interest in the more personal aspects of human relationships with these artificial partners. This upsurge has not only been apparent amongst the general public, as evidenced by an increase in coverage in the print media, TV documentaries and feature films, but also within the academic community. (via)

Okay, so maybe the guy above is predictable, but you’ll never guess what the other chair of the first international congress on love and sex with robots looks like…oh wait actually

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No no no no no no no

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Well it was hell to give birth to but its pneumatic muscles make great beats when it OH GOD WHY DOES IT CRAWL LIKE THAT WHY DID THEY SPEED IT UP JESUS CHRIST