May 4, 2009

"Guess Who's Coming Over?"

It appears that 'race' remains one of realityTV's greatest commodities.


The following is taken from The Learning Channel's (TLC) "series description" of its new show, Guess Who's Coming Over, which attempts to explore "racism in modern America." The show aired Sunday 3 May:

Self-described 'redneck,' David hosts Chuck, an African-American from New York. Will this experience leave a lasting impression on David and eradicate his preconceived notions about African-Americans? Or is he too set in his ways to change?

Continue reading ""Guess Who's Coming Over?"" »

April 28, 2009

"At First Sight, Stereotypes, Then Real People Emerged"

Memphis Journal
28 April 2009

Lance Murphey for The New York Times.JPG
Chicago artist Jeff Zimmerman's "A Note of Hope" mural in Memphis, TN.
Photo by: Lance Murphey for The New York Times

MEMPHIS — Wearing a lilac suit and rhinestone earrings fit for an Easter service, Savannah Simmons made a grand entrance on Sunday at AutoZone Park, a minor-league baseball stadium in the center of downtown. News photographers clustered around her as she smiled broadly enough to broadcast a single gold tooth amid her pearly whites. On the wall behind her, a portrait of Ms. Simmons, an 80-year-old black former factory worker, in a giant mural showed that same gold tooth in a slightly more restrained version of that same smile.

Continue reading ""At First Sight, Stereotypes, Then Real People Emerged"" »

March 14, 2009

Focus on Samuel Fosso in NYT

Samuel Fosso La femme Américaine libérée des années 70 (Autoportrait from the series Tati) .jpg

“I have no pictures from my childhood . . .’’

-Samuel Fosso, "A Man of a Thousand Faces," by Leslie Camhi, NYT 2009

From the Jack Shainman Gallery fall 2003 exhibition of photographs by Samuel Fosso:

Samuel Fosso’s self-portraits, which went unseen for many years, are among the more remarkable bodies of work to come to light in recent years. Fosso’s self-portraits are immediately engaging, even disconcerting for their directness and the powerful means of individual expression to which he turns the tradition of studio portrait photography. Born in Cameroon, Samuel Fosso opened his own photography studio at the age of 13 in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, where he had moved after leaving his parents’ home in Nigeria in the wake of the Biafran War. He began making self-portraits in 1978 at the age of 16. Initially the impetus was to have images to send to his family, though in time the photos became their own justification.

Samuel Fosso Untitled 1998.jpg

Working at night when his studio was closed and inspired by photographs in magazines (which were themselves scarce in Bangui), Fosso became both photographer and model. The excitement of seeing himself dressed in the styles of the day – bell bottoms, platform shoes, oversize sunglasses or with props such as white gloves and flowers, further encouraged him. Whether striking a pose in a karate outfit, talking coolly on a telephone, or imagining the cold as he wears a ski parka in 100-degree heat of his studio, Fosso imagined a new life. The backdrop to these remarkable images of self-transportation is the post-colonial history of the Central African Republic, a scene of frequent strife. Multiple coups have torn the country apart--as did the tyrannical reign of the self-declared “Emperor” Bokassa, who was eventually deposed and convicted of both murder and cannibalism (and whose image is among those that appear on a shirt worn by Fosso in an early image). Fosso continued working throughout this period and recent years have found him working in color, on images that show Fosso as a pirate, a drag queen, and a sailor.

Fosso Series TATI La Bourgeoise.jpg

Samuel Fosso Series TATI Le Marin.jpg

Though often discussed in terms of Western photographers such as Cindy Sherman and Pierre et Gilles, these comparisons are ahistorical, as are readings which assume Fosso to be homosexual. Working in isolation from the contemporary art world, Fosso’s earliest images were made without the thought of an audience. Yet Fosso, continues to engage us in this one sided dialogue, setting forth his images in order to express not only his own pride but that of a contemporary and underrepresented African sensibility. Fosso was included in “Photo Espana 2003,” Madrid, Spain, curated by Olvia María Rubio, as well as “The Short Century” traveling exhibition, curated by Okwui Enwezor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and P.S.1 in Long Island City, NY.

Samuel Fosso Memoires d'un ami.jpg

February 22, 2009

"Women are Heroes" by JR

This "trailer" is a brilliant piece of mixed-media, electronic sound, and vocal echoes--all of which are assembled as a shout-back to Kenyan civil wars where--as is always the case globally--women and girls become the targets of masculinity's phallic weapons.

(March 2008/06:17)

Ann Njogu, director of Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness of Women or CREAW "argues that in addition to having their property destroyed and being forced to flee from their homes, women's 'bodies were also used as the war zone - a battlefield for opposing forces that often times included the police'" (Pambazuka News: A Weekly Forum for Social Justice in Africa).

Continue reading ""Women are Heroes" by JR" »

February 6, 2009

"Drunken Negro Face" Cookies On Sale at Greenwich Village Bakery

Now this is something . . . Perhaps someone should put this into the hands of Dave Chappelle.

Here is an update to the NY cookie story by John Del Signore at the Gothamist.

UPDATE: We just spoke with Kefalinos on the phone and he remains utterly oblivious, telling us, "This whole thing was blown out of proportion." He says he's sold out of the "Drunken Negro Cakes" and doesn't plan to make anymore, despite the fact that many customers have been requesting them (he claims). When asked whether he understands that most African-Americans find the word "negro" offensive, Kefalinos explains, "It's a French word. It comes from the French."


Community Board 2 was quick to call for a boycott of Lafayette French Pastry, to which Kefalinos responds, "I'm sorry they feel that way because I was trying to do a nice thing." Not seeming to grasp in any way the degree of outrage he's sparked, he added, "I did it and that's the end of it and it's over."

UPDATE 1/24: Now Ted Kefalinos apologizes: "Seriously, from the bottom of my heart, it was an innocent design I created. It was nothing more than just a piece of art."

February 3, 2009

Braddock, PA

Braddock, PA & Mayor John Fetterman - Lisa Kyle for The New York Times

Mark Nowak just sent me this video. Mark, as you may know, is my husband but more importantly, he is a documentary labor poet whose writing very much comes out of watching Buffalo fall before his family's eyes while growing up there. Braddock, PA is very much the same as Buffalo.

So, if you know Mark and you know Buffalo--Mark's home and heart--you'll know why he sent the short video below to me. This piece of film is an extremely significant visual testimony to the social and economic violence of post-industrialist decisions made in the '70s. The mayor of Braddock reminds us that the everyday and everyday people make change, not giants, not "heroes," not superstars or celebrities or even capital--just everyday people.

Click here to watch this video on the NY Times web site.

January 31, 2009

La música y la historía de Asere

I was just reminiscing (or should I say daymaring?) about my life in Chi-Town & then found online--finally--the group (& the song) that truly got me through the complexities of living there before Mark came into my live.

January 28, 2009

Asere singing "Romantica"

January 26, 2009

Rough Notes, Beginning Thoughts on School Administrator "Walk-Throughs"

1stwalkthrough pic.jpg

In the Twin Cities (and elsewhere in the US), public school administrators (particularly those belonging to poor and working class schools) are encouraged and given "protocols" for walking through their school buildings. When this is a practice that needs to be encouraged, instructed, and mandated; it truly shows how public education now relies on the corporation as a model for best practices.

Look at the list of handouts and forms that the Oregon Reading First Center at University of Oregon feels necessary to provide their school "leaders":

• Walking the Talk: Powerful Instructional Leadership Through School and Classroom Walk-Through Visits presentation

• Five Minute Observation form

• Classroom Walk Through Checklist

• Walk Through Tally Sheet

• Walk Through Follow-Up presentation

• Follow-Up handouts: Look Fors and Non-negotiables

The concept of a short "observation form," tallying, and "Look Fors" is utterly ridiculous and it makes those of us who consider ourselves educators look like complete fools. This is, quite plainly, business discourse. And the education wave of the last 30-35 years--with the onslaught of NCLB, privately sponsored, de-unionized charters, and vouchers--has been to model public not independent schools after business.

Continue reading "Rough Notes, Beginning Thoughts on School Administrator "Walk-Throughs"" »

December 14, 2008

An Interview with Photographer Hank Willis Thomas on His New Book Pitch Blackness


Read WILL STEACY's interview with Willis Thomas on Pitch Blackness (Aperture, 200() in Photo Eye Magazine , 4 December 2008.

December 7, 2008

Stuart Hall on Cosmopolitanism

Stuart Hall in Conversation with Pnina Werbner

March 2006/38:11

Representation & the Media: Featuring Stuart Hall


October 29, 2008

2005 Lynching Re-enactment in Georgia

"Civil rights activists in Georgia reenacted a 59-year-old lynching . . . to push for indictments in the murder of four African Americans, two men and two women, one of whom was seven-months pregnant at the time. No one was ever prosecuted in the case" (Democracy Now, 28 July 2005).

Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times/05:26

October 26, 2008

"Conservatives For Change" Documentary


--From Conservatives For Change web site--

Directed by Eric Hirshberg, President & Chief Creative Officer, Deutsch/04:05

ERIC HIRSHBERG: "Conservatives Voting for Obama: In Their Own Words"
From The Huffington Post
22 October 2008

There are a number of people in my life -- some family, some friends, some colleagues -- with whom I have never agreed upon anything political. Ever. These are my political opposites. My bizarre-o twins. And they have been my adversaries in countless debates; the kind nobody ever wins, but nobody ever seems to tire of, either.

Sadly, politics have become sort of a new sports league in modern culture. We don't really listen to each other's points of view so much as we pick a side and root for it. And just as with our favorite sports teams, our faith in our parties can become blind. I have had about as much success convincing my Republican father-in-law of my liberal points of view as I have had convincing my father, an Ohio State alumnus, to root for Michigan.

But over the last few months, something unprecedented has happened. Almost all these folks have told me that, for the first time ever, they are voting for the same candidate I am: Barack Obama.

Now, these are not casual conservatives. These are people who, each in their own way, are deeply committed to their conservative beliefs. For most, this will be the first time they have voted for a Democrat in their entire lives. And when taken as a whole, they represent a fair cross section of the Republican Party. Some younger, some older. Some fiscally driven, some culturally driven. But almost all, up until now, have been intractable. Yet here we all are, staring down the barrel of a remarkably nasty presidential election, all in a rare moment of agreement. I figured this simply could not be an anomaly. Perhaps this was a groundswell.

I started asking around and found a number of my liberal friends were having a similar experience. So we asked these folks if they would appear on camera and share with the world why they changed. It seemed to me that the most convincing argument a conservative on the fence could hear might not come from a liberal, or even from Obama himself, but instead, from one of their own; a conservative who had crossed over. So we turned on the camera, and they did the rest.

I fully expected the results to be compelling and convincing. And they are. What I didn't expect was the emotional wallop these unscripted interviews deliver. A combination of deep disillusionment with the last eight years, disappointment in John McCain's candidacy, and an undeniable draw to Obama brought these people to a political decision that was deeply personal and courageous. It became clear to me that these were more than interviews. These were confessions.

This is what democracy is supposed to be. These people actually listened, considered and were open to the possibility of change. They didn't support a candidate. They actually chose one. And while I'm happy this year they are voting for "my team," they also inspired me to be more open in my own political life.

I thought we were making an ad campaign about Obama. But I think we ended up making an ad campaign about the essential ingredient that makes democracy work: an open mind. We don't belong to our political parties. Our political parties belong to us.

Go to">Conservatives For Change to see all of the videos.

October 24, 2008

"The Job"

Written & Directed by Jonathan Browning/Screaming Frog Productions

September 24, 2008

"Barack Obama is IRISH!"

Written by Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys/-5:00

March 21, 2008

Just a Little (Comic) Reminder of the Contradictions with Which We've Been Living Under the Bush Administration

The Daily Show's "Bush V. Bush"
28 April 2003

"George W. Bush squares off with himself to discuss his feelings about nation building and the international American image."

February 26, 2008

From G's to Gents: "Slip of the Tongue"

Though the show is 40-minutes in length, watch up to approximately 6 minutes for the ways in which difference is disciplined and is persuaded to crave discipline, correction, and regulation.

Season 2/Episode 3: "Slip of the Tongue" (24 February 2009)

February 25, 2008

On Television As a Medium for Reimagining "American" Urban Landscapes

Below is a good short, critical piece on television as a mode for reimagining "American" urban landscapes of the '70s. In thinking about mediated ways into urban landscapes, Catherine Opie's work, "American Cities" comes to mind. In the past, Opie has produced images of transgendered subjects. Recently, her work attempts to represent "American" cultural landscapes. Also powerful, the "Urban Exercises" project of friends, Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber, as well as their 2005 "LIVE LIKE THIS!"

From In Meda Res: A MediaCommons Project
"Revisiting Regionalism: Place-ing the Prime Time Past"
By Victoria E. Johnson, University of California — Irvine — February 25th, 2008
Curator's Note: Victoria E. Johnson

Through the 1970s, academic considerations of TV typically defined the medium negatively, theorizing it according to what it was not. Specifically, theories of TV that emerged from art, architecture, film, theater, and literary studies in this period conceptualized TV as not art, not public, not “masculine? or spectatorial, not interactive, not literate, and not market-transcendent. The Rockford Files (NBC, 1974-1980, Universal TV/Cherokee Productions) is one of several series airing contemporaneously with such writing that explicitly challenged these understandings of TV’s “essential? properties. It suggested a broader televisual field of place-specific, city-set series that actively engaged and reimagined the urban landscape of 1970s America.

How might the contemporary era encourage viewers to “time travel? through the streets of America’s urban centers, given past series’ new life on DVD? What new ways of theorizing television (with an emphasis on the “mobile? in “mobile privatization?) might open up if we consider how even the most popular of national network television is not necessarily synonymous with “placelessness,? “non-space,? or the “death? of public life in postwar America?

The opening titles sequence of Rockford—designed by Jack Cole with musical scoring by Pete Carpenter and Mike Post—features Jim Rockford navigating Los Angeles’s freeways (explicitly identifying the 10 freeway, the 101 Hollywood/North, and the 134 to Pasadena), and the city’s surface streets in his Pontiac Firebird (featuring Jim traveling eastbound on Hollywood Boulevard at night, and in Chinatown). Interspersed are shots of Rockford in action as a private investigator and in quieter, everyday, domestic routines.

I submit the opening titles of The Rockford Files to ask: What of the “better view? of mobility and the city offered on television—a view that, as Ernest Pascucci once suggested, might encourage or enable subjective relations otherwise unavailable to the viewer?

February 14, 2008

Rock of Love "Meet the Parents" (Season 1)

Act 1

Act 3

Act 4

February 3, 2008

A Question of Equality (excerpt from Show 1)

Arthur Dong, Director; Isaac Julien, Senior Producer (1995)/2:53

October 25, 2007

"The Enlightenment"


October 20, 2007

DAM vs. The Fear of the Nation-state

See below two videos: first, an interview with DAM, a Palestinian hip-hop group; and second, a virulent nationalist, racist rant by Pat Condell from the UK, who says of himself "I don’t have much of a formal education – which is good, because it means I can actually read and write. But it also means I don’t have a great deal of what you might call actual knowledge."

Based on DAM's music videos, which can be seen on their MySpace page, the group appears to think critically about the social conditions of people of color of the "East" as well as those of the Global North. We can hear in some of their music critical responses to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Yet (understandably), their music also engages a binary argument based in the traditional economic model (see Foucault's "Two Lectures" in Power/Knowledge), i.e., Israelis - evil | Palestinians - better. Concomitantly, though, DAM provides us with representations of the techniques of power and the group does, if ever so briefly, address how power works through subjects in the video for the song, "Dedication."

The interview with DAM posted here counters Condell in that it it represents the cracks in the intent of Condell's rhetoric. In the interview DAM even takes the reporter to task in a way that links his cultural assumptions with those of Condell's. In both the interview and DAM's video for their song "Dedication," they suggest the ubiquitous tyranny of the West. The group argues that youth subcultures of the Global South are not trying to be Northerners; instead, as DAM astutely states, subcultures, in effect, "take" what is needed or what is "good" from Northern popular culture in order to tell their own story (in depiction of history and in creation of the contemporary moment) as Palestinians. Hence, DAM provides an agentic argument about how youth artists make creative choices--where they ingeminate the demand to have the social conditions of their lives made visible and where they choose to re-appropriate aspects of mainstream Northern culture as well as its subjugated/local knowledges for their own political use.

Interview with DAM

The Trouble with Islam by Pat Condell

October 18, 2007

"An Injury to One"

Directed by Travis Wilkerson/53:40

For a review of An Injury to One, see labor historian Peter Rachleff's article in Monthly Review Zine.

February 28, 2007

I Love NY: "Big Ballers"