they built for eternity

Yesteryear's avowed goodness of firms with "special" relationships to Anglo-America parallels with today's avowed goodness of institutions with "special" relationships to art
The Gulf Labor Working Group is a coalition of international artists, writers, and activists who since 2011 have brought focus to the "coercive recruitment and deplorable living and working conditions of migrant laborers in Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island (Island of Happiness)," particularly on the workers building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Sheikh Zayed National Museum/British Museum. Their campaign, called "52 Weeks," is a one-year effort whereby contributors deliver a work, text, or action each week, taking as their starting point the exploitation of workers building Abu Dhabi's premier cultural institutions. I was asked to produce a work (in PDF) for Week 21 of "52 Weeks," and contributed this painting. Previously I wrote a book chapter, "'Everything You Can Imagine is Real': Labor, Hype, and the Specter of Progress in Dubai,"†  on real estate development, labor recruitment practices, and my… Read More...

A Saudi Arabia Reader

American imperialism occupied the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, exploited our soil, set up the Dhahran Air Base where atomic bombs are stored
"American imperialism occupied the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, exploited our soil, set up the Dhahran Air Base where atomic bombs are stored... American imperialism has turned King Saud into an American phonograph record publicizing anything that comes from the United States. It advertises the luxurious American Cadillac automobile. King Saud even gave a prize to a poet for his ode to a Cadillac... Oh Amir of music sing us a song, and drive us in the Cadillac slowly along." —Voice of the Arabs, 13 November 1961† In 2013 I designed and taught a course on the history, literature, and visual culture of contemporary Saudi Arabia. We focused on the period following the discovery of oil until the current moment. The course—particularly enriched by the cultural and linguistic access of a highly motivated Saudi student, who first approached me about organizing… Read More...

The Thick Blue Line

No charges against police officer. No charges against police officer. No charges against police officer.
So this is the new year. And I don't feel any different ? Below is a January edition of 'no charges against police officer' in cases leading to injurious harm or fatality: the thick blue line of police impunity. (See previous post here.) The only officer charged (who does not appear below) was Brian Fanelli, the police chief of Mount Pleasant, NY, on child pornography charges. Fanelli taught children classes in his parish, covering topics such as 'inappropriate touching.' He has been suspended with pay. (His salary is $135,518.) The only officer indicted (on second try) for voluntary manslaughter was Police Officer Randall Kerrick, who shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell in Charlotte, NC. Ferrell had wrecked his car and sought help at a nearby home. A 911 call about an 'unknown black man' was placed by the woman inside. When Kerrick… Read More...

And Other Weary Geographies

Is this how you "do" a book announcement?
There has been nothing quiet about Lebanon since I arrived in December for a one-month artist residency: two deadly car bombs spaced less than a week apart, and more personally, enough car horns to fill up my sound anxiety quota for years. So instead of slipping away quietly to the airport I am delivering a reading/musical performance at Mansion from two new books. I invited Istanbul-based musician Nicolas Royer-Artuso to join me, and he's structuring his half-composed, half-improvised delivery on one of the translated poems. An evening of reading and music based on travel, anti-travel, epistles, history, and other weary geographies. Maryam Monalisa Gharavi will read from two forthcoming books: epistolary fiction from American Letters (Zer0, 2014) and poetry in translation from Syrian-Brazilian poet Waly Salomão’s book Algaravias. Nicolas Royer-Artuso will deliver a musical performance based on Salomão’s "Jet-Lagged Poem." Reading will be in… Read More...

Everything is a Target—Full Text of Interview with Peter Galison

There are no shelters. There is no fortress.
My interview with Peter Galison was published in The New Inquiry’s Shelter issue. Below, at almost double the length of the published version, is the full, uncut text. ___ NEW INQUIRY editor-at-large Maryam Monalisa Gharavi held a long-ranging conversation with historian of science, physicist, and filmmaker Peter Galison. Galison is author of the books How Experiments End, Image and Logic, Objectivity (with Lorraine Daston), and Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps, about revolutionary sciences of the 19th century that portended scientific and political encounters of the 20th century. The interview delves into the last century and its long shadow over the security regimes of the 21st: how military landscapes and nuclear sites, secrecy and paranoia, technology and terror wars, conflict zones and no-zone zones, and materiality and mortality shape contemporary life. If there is one thing that distinguishes the world of yesterday from today, it is… Read More...

The Year of Risk

“Inspiration needs the ground / of dissatisfaction,” you write / On the back of an airline magazine.
“Inspiration needs the ground of dissatisfaction,” you write On the back of an airline magazine. I was never very good At tempering danger with reality And you say no one who knows how Is very much worth knowing. We write back and forth this way, Careful not to awaken the fellow Passengers, yes, but these quiet 3 a.m. Dispatches about errands, surgeries, Frigid weather, inhospitable Relatives are still the essential kind. To see the glimmers of a bright Attitude in you, the promise of care, My inner Mussolini is vanquished, The grit that clenches the teeth in a Witch’s grasp loosens and as the aviator Of this airship of optimism announces The coast of some Atlantis beneath we ignore it And keep moving on the icy streets of our Little town. “Be careful,” you say, “That puddle has completely frozen.… Read More...

Five Questions with Harryette Mullen

I belong to myself.
Five Questions with __________ is an experiment with flash interviews. The series on poets continues with poet, literary scholar, and short story writer Harryette Mullen. While Mullen may be associated with a Modernist pull, I prefer to think of her style as rich and captivating in contradictory sways. Profuse minimalism. Lean baroque. Sleeping With the Dictionary first drew me to her work—due to a growing (and unabated) obsession with abecedarian books—to be followed by Tree Tall Woman, Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, Muse & Drudge, and the critical volume The Cracks Between What We Are And What We Are Supposed To Be. In the latter she penned the essay “Evaluation of an Unwritten Poem” (after a Wis?awa Szymborska poem) considering the “mutual incomprehension” wrought by the post-Renaissance divorce of science, art, and humanities. She segues from a criticism of the “rift between poetic and… Read More...

Chronophilia / Chronophobia

Script and audio for a live performance. Blindfolds not included.
[audio:http://thenewinquiry.com/app/uploads/2013/12/chronochrono.mp3|titles=chronochrono] Text This piece—the first live performance I've formally directed—began with a poem-cum-script that I wrote blindfolded. It emerged from loose experimentation with surrealist automatic writing, the use and subversion of meditative practice, histories of labor, and critical theories of the attention economy. As a work with many moving parts, it was a challenge that enmeshed in my own desire to circumvent a gallery setting and engage with a public body not initially gathered for the purpose of experiencing art. Around 80 people wearing handmade blindfolds took part in the first performance in November 2013. The instructions asked of them simultaneously nothing and everything. Do whatever you want with your body, do whatever you want with your thoughts, but be here.  The blindfolds served a dual purpose in the initial conception: to both negate the fear that participants' faces were being watched for… Read More...

The Thick Blue Line

No charges brought against officer. No charges brought against officer. No charges brought against officer.
The month is not yet over but in keeping with anti/tradition let's offer this Thanksgiving prayer. Below is a November 2013 edition of 'no charges against police officer' in cases leading to injurious harm or fatality: the thick blue line of police impunity. Minutes before I prepared to post this compilation, an extraordinary thing happened: the police detective responsible for Rekia Boyd's death in March 2012 was charged with manslaughter. It is such a rare occurrence—even considering that a full eight months have passed since the shooting, and Boyd's family launched a fearless, dedicated public campaign—that the Chicago Tribune was compelled to note, 'Detective Dante Servin becomes only the second officer since 1997 to be charged in connection with a shooting.'  ?     ?     ? Morehead City, NC | 'The district attorney says there will be no charges brought against a former Morehead… Read More...

Untitled (From a Journal Kept in Tehran)

In Esfehan, a little girl who lost her mother stood next to a soldiers’ barrack. With one wet eye toward the uniformed guards behind her, she yelled, “I am scared of the police. I am scared of the police!”
28 March 2013 Death and mortality in cars. Yesterday Zahra Khanoum called to say her cousin was killed in a bus accident. Just this young woman and the driver. Someone in the bus took the opportunity to steal her purse after the crash, so that she spent three days in the morgue until she was identified. The Persian word she used for “morgue” is sard khaneh, lit. “the house of coldness.” It is also a name of a village in eastern Iran. 'Morgue [môrg], from early 19th century French, “originally the name of a building in Paris where bodies were kept until identified.”' Holding the telephone receiver in my hand I shivered thinking on her dead, unnamed body all alone in that dark drawer. At the hair salon today (a small, self-made business in a neighbor’s apartment) the stylist told… Read More...

Emerging Markets of Mistaken Virtual Identity

The most honest detritus assumes no particular identity at all, just the mere reassurance that the e-recipient is ‘alive.’
F?o?u?r? S?e?v?e?n? Ten separate United Nations agencies have mistaken my Twitter account for a UNEP Global South-South Development Expo in Nairobi. That showcase actually possesses its own account (goal: to 'harness this ever growing number of development solutions that address both existing and emerging development challenges head-on'). The UN agencies include the UN Division for Sustainable Development, the UN Development Policy and Analysis Division (twice), the UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, the Programme des Nations Unies pour l'environnement, UN Women, the United Nations Environment Programme, UNDP in Chad, UN Brussels, UN Women in Africa, and UN Women National Committee for Canada. This is a marked departure from last month's torrent of Syria war market spam, which, let every bot-god be my witness, halted completely the day this was posted. __ Post scriptum: the most honest detritus to waft my way today assumes no particular identity… Read More...

Syria_ebooks

The senators are there to promote economic investment in the country.
Since 1 September (coinciding with the 'with us or against us' executive proposal of congressional approval for a military strike on Syria) I have been the recipient of relentless, near-identical email messages. Sometimes the messages are oddly dated: a September 2013 message was pre-dated August 2004. Sometimes the spamming spouts from a fecund gutter; on 11 September I received the message three times, once after every meal. Judging by the laments of others I am hardly alone. Every day the spambot spawns regenerate and bypass inbox filters. Every day they arrive, in triply ecstatic exclamation marks and dollar signs, to promote non-existent (real or faked, heavily spammed) war profits. I am awed by their persistence and the honesty of their motives. Their commercial crusade never wears the thin veneer of a mission of moral accountability.¹ The following is a meager portion of my Syria_ebooks… Read More...

Five Questions with Fady Joudah

We owe each other the disintegration of identity-memory so that we may relearn to love and forgive as strangers, strangers.
Five Questions with __________ is an experiment with flash interviews. The series on poets continues with poet, translator, and physician Fady Joudah. I initially came across Joudah as a commended translator of Palestinian poets Ghassan Zaqtan and Mahmoud Darwish, but have come to fathom his poetics through his own poetry, the volumes The Earth in the Attic (Yale University Press) and Alight (Copper Canyon Press). An e-book called Textu (also from Copper Canyon Press) invents the eponymous form, with textus composed from the text-message meter of exactly 160 characters. The worthiness of robot-conscious stylistic invention aside, Joudah’s arrangements in human English—particularly the contemporary, prodigal pulsation of his American English—are singular and essential. The pastoral sublime of houseflies, mules, hills, pine needles, and brick walls coincide with citified school kids, journalists, bulldozers, exit visas and occupying soldiers. It takes a poet of… Read More...

Submitted as an Affidavit of Material Support for Lynne Stewart

Facts about former attorney/current prisoner Lynne Stewart hereby submitted as material support.
The global War on Terror has yielded a Lynne Laden Effect, effectively creating a symmetry between the transgressions of those accused of "terrorism" and the legal representatives hired to advocate on their behalf. This symmetry associates the accused crimes of the former with the believed "material support" of the latter. Hereby submitted as material support are some facts about former attorney/current prisoner Lynne Stewart. This submission is preventative in nature, tendered in case a special administrative measure (USAM title 9 chapter 24) for political rights advocates of political rights advocates becomes a known penal offense. Lynne Stewart is 73 years old Lynne Stewart’s prison register number is 53504-054 Lynne Stewart has stage-four cancer Lynne Stewart’s cancer has metastasised to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones, and spread throughout her lungs  Lynne Stewart’s medical treatment to arrest the cancer has been halted… Read More...

Index of Prominent White Male Characters in Heavily Serialized Dramatic Television, United States

Green money, blonde wife.
Tony Soprano Profession: businessman Leads: double life Wife: blonde Children: one girl, one boy Walter White Profession: businessman Leads: double life Wife: blonde Children: one girl, one boy   Don Draper Profession: businessman Leads: double life Wife: blonde Children: one girl, two boys Ray Drecker Profession: businessman Leads: double life Wife: blonde Children: one girl, one boy In order of appearance: The Sopranos (1999-2007) Mad Men (2007-present) Breaking Bad (2008-present) Hung (2009-2011) Read More...

Meanwhile, in Brazil

'What happened in 1964 was a military coup and not a revolution in Brazil. The emerging changes were in the system of the State and they did not change the political system, for example. We continue living in a capitalist country with the same economic system.'
This space usually prizes thinking over linking, but with fast-moving events in Brazil and a longer essay (based loosely on this) in the works, here is a round-up of notable links. Criticism, commentary, and reportage are included in both English and Portuguese. All Portuguese excerpts translated by the author. An interview with João Pedro Stedile of the MST landless workers' movement. [Brasil de Fato] It's obvious that there is a class war on the street. Although still concentrated in the ideological debate. And what's worse, the very youth mobilized, by their class origin, unaware that they are participating in an ideological struggle. They are doing politics in the best way possible, in the streets. And then they write on posters: we are against parties and politics? That's why the messages on the posters have been so diffuse. It's happening, in every city,… Read More...