Alex -- 9/12 -- 22.09.02
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by Alex Villar
When I saw the sign at the entrance of the White Box gallery stating that the space had been closed by the Cultural Bureau of the Office for Homeland Security, my eyes blinked in very slow motion as if attempting a second chance at grasping the meaning of the statement. In between my two glimpses, precisely during the brief moment when my eyes remained closed, an image made itself perceptible to my brain. This image occupied the precise gap between my two glances, not as an effect of the movement created by the dislocation of my eyes, more like an image formed in the irrational interval between my attempts at intelligibility. As if undergoing a subliminal experiment, I was not aware that I had registered that instant. It is only now, upon attempting to reconstruct that moment, that is, upon actively remembering it, that I have in fact become fully aware of it. The image produced in my mind was the one of a traffic sign. On this sign, we see an octagonal red shape accompanied by a black arrow. Both are contained by a black line and are painted over a yellow plate. This sign is like any other traffic-sign, except that its referent is yet another traffic-sign. In spite of its cryptic appearance, the message is simple and clear: the arrow indicates that a stop sign, which is represented by the red shape, lies ahead. Most traffic signs are introduced along the way prior to the circumstance they are to call attention for. This one is not different in that regard, except that this sign is situated further away from the situation it indirectly refers to. Its function is like that of an eye-opener, it alerts about the coming presence of another sign which, if noticed, will then provide a direct description of the matter at hand. While my body was still there, outside the gallery, temporarily frozen in front of a sign that stopped my flow into the space, my mind went elsewhere.
Salar -- "Untitled" -- 22.09.02
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Some months after September 11th I found myself inside an interrogation room in New York City faced with a US special agent flanked by two burly guards. The matter in hand? Passport fraud and illegal entry into the United States.
I sat in the cramped, brightly-lit room with its obvious and ominous one-way mirror, not as one of the accused. Rather, I was translating for friends from Iran, a young woman and her mother.
As an Iranian-born author I had delved before into the world of terror and espionage, and my friends' plight just then seemed to me ripe with the stuff of fiction. They had already endured a grilling session in Turkey, for instance. They'd also received completely valid - not fake - passports from an Italian foreign ministry official who had befriended them during a previous posting in Tehran.
Sitting in that oppressive room, I thought how such heavy-handedness on the part of the US authorities would have been unthinkable a year earlier. While their vigilance was quite understandable, I knew in this particular case and thousands like it, theirs was a suspicion that was entirely misdirected. These women were not terrorists for pity's sake. They were simply scared, bullied to breaking point and completely bewildered.
Francois -- Art World Security -- 16.09.02
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by Francois Bucher
Several points regarding the (radioactive) project and the reactions it produced.
I read the intention of this piece in a very simple way, I read it through the knowledge of the people who made it and through the context of their expanded practice. I also think there needs to be an answer to some arbitrary assumptions on the part of some respondents.
There is an expression in Spanish "pelar el cobre" to "reveal your copper". This is what Renee Gabri and Ayreen Anastas's piece has done to some of their respondents. The tacit "Cultural Bureau" has made its appearance in righteous moral stances such as: "these artists will never get another show in New York". The real Cultural Bureau is unnecessary; it is clear that Tom Ridge can rest on that front and delegate in peace. Yes, go ahead and make political work as long as it doesn't disrupt anyone or anything, as long as it is neutralized and safe. The art world is full of "political work", everyone knows that nowadays it sells to have a revolutionary edge, even The Gap, even bankers. So there is a subliminal message being broadcast here: don't cross the line, don't try to raise a real problematic, uncomfortable, dislikeable, imprecise but bloody real discussion about the climate of censorship in this country. Stay with the work that looks dangerous and which is completely drained of all its power to alarm. Godard once wrote a review on a film called PRAVDA and said "we discover that what was made here was a political film and not a film politically". "Political work" has become in many cases a genre; an operation such as this fiction, silly as it may seem at a first glance, is acting politically, creating thought around very difficult issues, assuming a risk, putting itself on the line, breaking a discourse that pretends that we are active in resisting the steady way in which all civil liberties are disappearing in the name of national security, when many of us are not taking the urgent stance that it demands.