Avi -- Gideon Levy -- Meanwhile, in the West Bank
Palestine / Israel
The grave injustices (how these words fall short) which are taking place daily in Palestine elude and quarrel with any possibility for objectivity on the part of reporters. So one like Gideon decided to be present to the daily horrors of Israeli actions, but what is the result? It seems Gideon or Amira Hass have too much material for them (alone) to cover. The brave Israeli voices who can decry the daily crimes (against humanity? - everything begins to sound like a cliche) are too few. And for Palestinians, one could indefinitely sound like the boy who cried wolf. Since even if the boy is not lying everytime the wolf gives a visit, the repeated cry becomes a part of the everyday soundscape, making it easier to tune out. (happy holidays?) -rg
Meanwhile, in the West Bank - Haaretz - Israel News
By Gideon Levy
Don't let the quiet fool you: It is imaginary. While all eyes are on Gaza, the impression has been created, under the aegis of a media turning a blind eye, that the West Bank is quiet. That's where the "good guys" are in charge, those with whom we went to Annapolis, those who will be getting the money from the donor nations, and life there is great, so it seems.
Well, that is not the case. The lives of the Palestinians in the West Bank are also intolerable, blood is being shed there too. For the Israel Defense Forces it is business as usual, with a frighteningly quick finger on the trigger. The spirit of Annapolis and the lofty words of the prime minister do not prevail there.
I have visited quite a few mourners' homes in the West Bank in recent months. They were all mourning family members who had been killed for no reason. Every week, innocent people are killed in the West Bank, and nobody talks about them. Among the dozens of Palestinians killed recently, not all were Qassam launchers or gang leaders from Gaza. If a new uprising erupts in the West Bank one day, it will originate in these mourners' homes.
AdvertisementThe daily routine in the West Bank is also patently inhumane. The night I spent last summer in the Jenin refugee camp brought that home to me: The IDF enters the camp every night, and even when it does not kill, it strikes great terror in the hearts of thousands of families, who are the victims of anxiety. There are few Israelis who can imagine the daily routine of West Bank residents, during the day and even more so at night. And we have not said a word about the poverty, the roadblocks and the home demolitions.
The story of the recent killings in the West Bank is not on our agenda, because so far the Palestinians there have not responded with attacks in retaliation for these deaths. But it is not certain that this quiet will continue.
Adib Salim, paralyzed on his right side, sold lupini beans. When the IDF conducted one of its raids on Nablus he dared to stick his head out. The soldiers killed him. The IDF Spokesman claimed that he threatened to shoot at the soldiers, but the paralyzed bean seller was totally incapable of doing so.
Abdel Wazir, the 71-year-old cousin of the legendary Abu Jihad, was a retired accountant. He spent a terrifying night in his home: for hours the soldiers fired next to his window, while he sat with his wife on the sofa, both of them incapacitated by fear. When the order to go outside was heard, he left his house and was immediately shot dead.
Rene - Privatising Zionism
Palestine / Israel
Increasingly, Israel is handing over its `Judaisation' project to
private firms - leading to a corrosion of accountability
Published on Friday, December 14, 2007 by The Guardian/UK
by Neve Gordon and Erez Tzfadia
For less than four dollars an hour, the Jewish teenagers removed
furniture, clothes, kitchenware and toys from the homes and loaded them
on to trucks. As they worked diligently alongside the many policemen
who had come to secure the destruction of 30 houses in two unrecognised
Bedouin villages, Bedouin teenagers stood by watching their homes being
When all the belongings had been removed, the bulldozers rapidly
destroyed the homes. All those present, Jews and Bedouins, were Israeli
citizens; together they learned an important lesson in the
discrimination characterising civic life in the Jewish state.
The current demolitions are part of a strategy that began with the
foundation of the state of Israel. Its ultimate objective is the
Judaisation of space. In this case, the demolitions were carried out in
order to establish two new Jewish villages. Their establishment,
though, is part of a much larger plan that includes the construction of
about 30 new Jewish settlements in the Israeli Negev, the seizure of
Bedouin land for military needs, and the creation of dozens of
single-family farms on land that has been inhabited by Bedouins since
they were relocated to the region by the state in the early 1950s.
After witnessing the demolitions, a Bedouin activist asked one of the
Jewish teenagers why he had agreed to participate in the eviction.
Without hesitating, the teenager replied: `I am a Zionist and what we
are doing here today is Zionism.'
The teenager was not wrong. And yet he was probably too young to
recognise that even though Zionism's major goals have not changed, the
methods deployed to realise them have been undergoing a radical
transformation. While, traditionally, the state itself performed the
task of Judiasing space, over the years the government has been
outsourcing more and more of its responsibilities to private firms. The
teenager himself was hired by a personnel agency, which was employed by
the state to carry out the job of expelling Bedouins from their homes.
Rene -- Truls Lie, Jacques Rancière -- Our police order: What can be said, seen, and done
Truls Lie, Jacques Rancière
Our police order: What can be said, seen, and done
"Politics is when you create a kind of stage where you include your enemy," says Jacques Rancière in his book The Politics of Aesthetics. Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) editor Truls Lie talks to the French philosopher about aesthetics, his distinction between "being political" and the "police order", the media as arena of liberation, the Internet, his film interests, and, about those who today are excluded, those who cannot make their voices heard. Such as the Palestinians.
The French philosopher Jacques Rancière has written around twenty books since the mid-1970s. The common thread throughout these, including his most recent, The Politics of Aesthetics, has been the ways in which oppression is perpetuated.
Truls Lie: Can you give a general description of political engagement in the French political or intellectual scene today, after the deaths of Deleuze, Derrida, Lyotard, and others? Who are the people arguing in a political-philosophical way today in France?
Jacques Rancière: It is difficult to say. On the one hand, there is a kind of official political philosophy in France, which is very strong and at the same time very weak. There are philosophers like Alain Finkielkraut and Michel Gauchet, who discuss the problems of democracy, that democracy becomes a threat to itself, because it is being reduced to the power of the individual, of consumerism. It is, in fact, a kind of transformation of the Marxist critique of consumerism in an anti-democratic way, with the idea that all is lost because of mass individualism, of democracy, which means consumerism. It is hard to find political thinking in France today. There are of course philosophers like Alain Badiou, for instance, who try to embody a kind of fidelity to a certain type of politics of dissolution.
TL: You have written in the past about the worker and the intellectual in the nineteenth century. Do you think intellectuals in France, for example, are using their power to categorize and use the worker in their discussions? JR: I don't think so. Of course, I studied the workers' emancipation in the nineteenth century in order to rethink a certain tradition, namely the Marxist tradition. But now I am sorry to say that there is not much interest in those topics. It is taken for granted that all this is over, no more workers' movement, no more workers' emancipation. There is a trend in France to consider any kind of workers' protest as a sign of disease. Workers are seen as an outmoded part of the population who cannot grapple with modernity.
It is interesting to note that Rancière uses the term "police order" to describe the major part of what we normally understand as politics – the structured embodiment of a society where everything has its place. The police order is the government or process of governance that prescribes our reality or our sensibility – in relation to the underlying norms that define what is allowed or not allowed, available or unavailable in a given situation – in the realm of perception itself. Almost like a code of conduct. There is therefore an underlying division that dictates what can and cannot be said, shown, or done. This creates permanent sets of norms which in turn establish a community that decides who is included or excluded, whose words are significant or insignificant, who is entitled to govern others and who is not. But are there any concrete actors in the police order? Individual politicians, the IT world's Microsoft, or the neo-conservative American television company Fox News?
JR: We shouldn't think of the police order only as some institution. I don't think that the police order is the same as the police with their batons. I think it's too easy to say that the media is the police, that it is a big machine. The police order is not only a Big Brother, it is a kind of distribution of what is given to our experience, of what we can do. We don't need a Big Brother like Fox News. I think the same kind of partition between what is possible and impossible for us can be made by more sophisticated channels. It is wrong to focus on a horrible example like Fox News. The sophisticated media are also part of the police order, as a kind of distribution of what you are and are not able to do. In France, we have some sophisticated newspapers, but they are members of the police order in the same way as Fox News.
TL: You are distinguishing between "being political" and "the police order" – in this regard, do you consider Hardt and Negri's book about the multitude as a "from-the-inside-and-up" kind of reaction?
JR: From my point of view, Negri's multitude is still in keeping with what I would call the old economist view of political issues, the idea that the real political stage has to be found in the reality of the productive force, living force, of society. I think Negri is still working on this schema, according to which there will come a real movement from below, which will be the movement of work and transformation of work, and new forms of communication. There is this old Marxist idea that there will be a subversion coming from the system itself, the idea that productive forces engendered by the capitalist system itself will break the system. I don't think that capital creates its own gravediggers, according to the Marxist schema.
The philospher Slavoj Zizek highlights in the afterword to The Politics of Aesthetics precisely how Rancière describes major political systems that stifle political activity: Arche-politics is communitarianism that seeks to harmonize society but stifle all room for political action. Para-politics is where one removes the antagonistic element necessary for political action – in such a way as to formulate the explicit rules of the game that must be followed. The political is transformed into a police-logic – the ethics of Habermas and Rawls. In the end, it is the Marxist or Socialist utopian meta-politics, which has at its core the suspension of the political aim. It is when the economic infrastructure takes over from the political: the government of the people followed by the government of everything and everyone within a completely transparent rational order directed by the collective will. Zizek himself adds a fourth de-politicizing system: ultra-politics, which is practised through direct political militarization by taking conflicts to extremes – to a "for us or against us," "friend or foe" level. In this we recognize the American or Israeli authorities.
Anj -- 'Lyrical terrorist' sentenced over extremist poetry
'Lyrical terrorist' sentenced over extremist poetry
Claire Truscott and agencies
Thursday December 06 2007
A 23-year-old former Heathrow shop assistant who called herself the "lyrical terrorist" and scrawled her extremist thoughts on till receipts has been handed a nine-month suspended jail sentence. Samina Malik became the first woman convicted under new terrorism legislation after writing poems entitled How To Behead and The Living Martyrs.
Malik, described as an "unlikely but committed" Islamic extremist, was last month convicted by a jury at the Old Bailey of a charge under the 2000 Terrorism Act. She worked at WH Smith at Heathrow, where she scribbled her extremist lyrics on till receipts. On one she wrote: "The desire within me
increases every day to go for martyrdom." But Malik told the jury she only adopted her "lyrical terrorist" nickname because she thought it was "cool" and insisted: "I am not a terrorist."
She wept as she was found guilty of possessing records likely to be useful in terrorism by a majority of 10 to one. Two female jurors were also in tears. The court heard that Malik stocked a "library" of material useful to terrorists at her family home in Southall, west London.
Jonathan Sharp, prosecuting, told the court she visited a website linked to jailed cleric Abu Hamza and stored material about weapons. The court also heard Malik belonged to a social networking website called hi5, describing her interests as "helping the mujaheddin in any way which I can". Under favourite TV shows, she listed: "Watching videos by my Muslim brothers in Iraq, yep the beheading ones, watching video messages by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri and other videos which show massacres of the kaffirs."
Naeem -- The French Response (Guimet Controversy)
After I wrote “Tintin in Bengal“, I was put in touch with staff at the Musee Guimet. I sent a list of questions to Guimet show organizers, and received over e-mail the following replies. [I’ll comment on the replies in the comments area of the blog.]
Responses to Question (received by email from Musee Guimet show organizer)
1. There is a lot of debate over expenses. Many press reports said the budget is inadequate to ensure security, etc (the Insurance debate intersects with this). There are conflicting reports about what the budget actually is.
A: All the expenses related to the exhibition (packing, transportation, insurance, couriers, photographs, catalogue, advertisement, etc.) were paid for by the Musee Guimet. This is as per the signed contract with the Bangladesh government. France has spent 400,000 Euros on the Bangladesh exhibition to date, and will most likely spend another 200,000 Euros for the sending of the next batch.
In general, in international or national exhibitions, most of the expenses are paid for by the borrower (in this case the Guimet). In some cases, the lender can wish to participate in paying expenses if the exhibition. What countries can get back in return is an enhancement of international image. This kind of publicity may be good for tourism and even to attract the attention of potential investors. In the case of the Gupta exhibition, India paid for expenses as part of a project to improve its image in France, linked to trade and business. The Gupta exhibition was also linked to a Picasso exhibition organized by France in India. In this case, Bangladesh has no financial burden
Rene -- Badiou / Critchley -- ‘Ours is not a terrible situation’
‘Ours is not a terrible situation’ - Alain Badiou and Simon Critchley at
Labyrinth Books, NY, March 6, 2006
Dorothea von Moltke: It is truly a great pleasure to be able to introduce to you tonight Alain Badiou and Simon Critchley, eminent philosophers both and both with a host of crucial works, which I will not attempt to catalog here. Suffice it to say that – in and through philosophy – the work of both also centrally engages politics as well as literature. Alain Badiou has been teaching at the Ecole Normale Superieure since 1999. He was very much influenced by the events, I should say the event, of 1968 and against the grain of widespread repudiations by his own generation has remained true to its legacies. He is actively involved with L’Organisation Politique, a post-party organization concerned with direct popular intervention in the political sphere. He is also the author of several novels and plays. Simon Critchley teaches philosophy at the New School for Social Research and at the University of Essex and is author of many books, most recently Things Merely Are and Infinitely Demanding is forthcoming from Verso. But we are here to discuss and
celebrate the newly translated, seminal work by Alain Badiou, Being and
In their press materials for this book, Continuum Publishers present
Badiou as France’s most important living philosopher and Being and Event as
“accessible and actually a pleasure to read”. The former claim is patently
true; the second in my view bears some qualification: as most great works of
philosophy, it abundantly rewards the considerable effort of reading it. One
partial way to characterize the 20th century in philosophy and in the
sciences is in a drive towards formalization in which mathematics has played
a significant role as both model and method. Another preoccupation has been
the persistent question of ontology or what the Being of beings is. Alain’s
Badiou’s work makes a strong claim for seeing these movements as
complimentary – and by extension states, in fact, the “nullity of the
opposition between analytic thought and continental philosophy”. His
concepts of the void, the multiple, the event, and truth lie at the core of
this claim and will, I am sure, be part of tonight’s conversation. I invited
Alain Badiou to come to Labyrinth with high hopes and low expectations that
he might be willing and able to accept this invitation and trust that he
knows what a very great honor it is to have him with us. I then suggested to
him perhaps to ask Simon Critchley to join us for a discussion of his work.
I was certain that this would make for a meaningful dialogue. But I wondered
to myself what they each might think of the idea since an important part of
Simon Critchley’s work has been devoted to articulating and defending an
ethics in relation to Levinas and Derrida of which Alain Badiou in turn has
offered a very forceful critique. – only to be told by each of them and
whole-heartedly that they are friends and would be delighted. So in thinking
about some of the points of agreement within their possible disagreements, I
am going to speculate that – alongside the political where they share an
insistence on the need for radical politics and new political subjectivities
or forms of political engagement – I will speculate that alongside this
important field, Beckett, too, is not an unimportant common ground. Badiou
and Critchley are two of the most subtle readers of Beckett that I have come
across. Both, moreover, read Beckett against his reception in the nihilist
tradition and for a residual kind of affirmation : "a few possibles, in the
plural -- a few possbilities other than what we are told is possible," as
Badiou has said. And so I would like to turn the conversation over to Alain
and Simon with a quote from The Unnamable, hoping that we will not only be
proceeding by ‘aporia pure and simple’ but rather in a way characteristic of
Beckett and, perhaps too of Badiou. "One starts things moving without a
thought of how to stop them. In order to speak. One starts speaking as if it
were possible to stop at will. I is better so... In the frenzy of utterance
the concern with truth. Hence the interest in a possible deliverance by
means of encounter." Please join me in welcoming Alain Badiou and Simon
Critchley. Simon Critchley: “Thank you, Dorothea, and thank you to Labyrinth
Books. I am going to introduce Alain Badiou, philosopher...
Anj -- The Palestine that we struggle for
Palestine / Israel
The Palestine that we struggle for
Jamal Juma', The Electronic Intifada, 2 December 2007
Last Tuesday's demonstrations, which brought thousands onto the streets of Ramallah, Hebron, Tulkarem, Nablus and Gaza in defiance of the Palestinian Authority's (PA) attempt to silence the peoples' voice, represented a crucial moment for Palestine.
Our demonstration, which was supported by the Popular Committees of the Refugee Camps and over 150 civil society organizations and representatives, called for the upholding of the fundamental principles of our struggle: the right of the refugees to return, the right to Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and the right to our land. We were refusing the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as this would legitimize the Zionist ideology of colonialism, racism and ethnic cleansing, and effectively exonerate Israel from the crimes of the Nakba, waiving the right of return. Such recognition would justify and reinforce the Israeli system of apartheid against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The Palestine that we are fighting for is one which upholds the fundamental principles of our national rights and equality, and which respects the democratic right of the people to express their views in protest on the streets. The PA has shown that they do not share this vision. On Tuesday they attempted to prevent the people from asserting their rights, first by banning demonstrations and then by attacking us with tear gas, batons and military jeeps.
The departure of the occupation from our land and the right of the refugees to return is non-negotiable, as is the question of Jerusalem. For the oppressed and occupied, ongoing struggle and resistance using all necessary means is not only our right, it is our obligation in front of all those that have sacrificed before us and the future generation that has the right to live in freedom. It is our only tool to ensure that "negotiations" talk about how to achieve our rights and not how to abandon them step by step. Yet for the first time in the sixty years of our struggle, those who claim to represent us at a national level are no longer talking about resistance to the attacks of the occupiers. Instead, they are disingenuously opening up negotiations relying on the US, the occupation's most ardent backer, to act as an "honest broker."
Anj -- Response from Chomsky et al.....
We are taken aback by a widespread reaction to a statement we made with the
best of intentions, imploring a restoration of unity among the left forces
in India --a reaction that seems to assume that such an appeal to overcome
divisions among the left could only amount to supporting a very specific
section of the CPM in West Bengal. Our statement did not lend support to
the CPM's actions in Nandigram or its recent economic policies in West
Bengal, nor was that our intention. On the contrary, we asserted, in
solidarity with its Left critics both inside and outside the party, that we
found them tragically wrong. Our hope was that Left critics would view
their task as one of putting pressure on the CPM in West Bengal to correct
and improve its policies and its habits of governance, rather than dismiss
it wholesale as an unredeemable party. We felt that we could hope for such
a thing, of such a return to the laudable traditions of a party that once
brought extensive land reforms to the state of West Bengal and that had kept
communal tensions in abeyance for decades in that state. This, rather than
any exculpation of its various recent policies and actions, is what we
intended by our hopes for 'unity' among the left forces.
We realize now that it is perhaps not possible to expect the Left critics of
the CPM to overcome the deep disappointment, indeed hostility, they have
come to feel towards it, unless the CPM itself takes some initiative against
that sense of disappointment. We hope that the CPM in West Bengal will show
the largeness of mind to take such an initiative by restoring the morale as
well as the welfare of the dispossessed people of Nandigram through the
humane governance of their region, so that the left forces can then unite
and focus on the more fundamental issues that confront the Left as a whole,
in particular focus on the task of providing with just and imaginative
measures an alternative to neo-liberal capitalism that has caused so much
suffering to the poor and working people in India.
Rene -- Zizek -- Denying the Facts, Finding the Truth
An older article, but just the reference alone to Jeane J. Kirkpatrick's “Dictatorship and Double Standards” is worth posting. -rg
Denying the Facts, Finding the Truth
From NY Times
January 5, 2007
By SLAVOJ ZIZEK
ONE of the pop heroes of the Iraq war was undoubtedly Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, the unfortunate Iraqi information minister who, in his daily press conferences during the invasion, heroically denied even the most evident facts and stuck to the Iraqi line. Even with American tanks only a few hundred yards from his office, he continued to claim that the televised shots of tanks on the Baghdad streets were just Hollywood special effects.
In his very performance as an excessive caricature, Mr. Sahhaf thereby revealed the hidden truth of the “normal” reporting: there were no refined spins in his comments, just a plain denial. There was something refreshingly liberating about his interventions, which displayed a striving to be liberated from the hold of facts and thus of the need to spin away their unpleasant aspects: his stance was, “Whom do you believe, your eyes or my words?”
Furthermore, sometimes, he even struck a strange truth — when confronted with claims that Americans were in control of parts of Baghdad, he snapped back: “They are not in control of anything — they don’t even control themselves!”
What, exactly, do they not control? Back in 1979, in her essay “Dictatorship and Double Standards,” published in Commentary, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick elaborated the distinction between “authoritarian” and “totalitarian” regimes. This concept served as the justification of the American policy of collaborating with right-wing dictators while treating Communist regimes much more harshly: authoritarian dictators are pragmatic rulers who care about their power and wealth and are indifferent toward ideological issues, even if they pay lip service to some big cause; in contrast, totalitarian leaders are selfless fanatics who believe in their ideology and are ready to put everything at stake for their ideals.
Rene -- IRAQI INSURGENTS REGROUPING, SAYS SUNNI RESISTANCE LEADER
IRAQI INSURGENTS REGROUPING, SAYS SUNNI RESISTANCE LEADER
Jonathan Steele in Damascus
Monday December 3, 2007
Iraq's main Sunni-led resistance groups have scaled back their attacks
on US forces in Baghdad and parts of Anbar province in a deliberate
strategy aimed at regrouping, retraining, and waiting out George Bush's
"surge", a key insurgent leader has told the Guardian.
US officials recently reported a 55% drop in attacks across Iraq. One
explanation they give is the presence of 30,000 extra US troops
deployed this summer. The other is the decision by dozens of Sunni
tribal leaders to accept money and weapons from the Americans in
return for confronting al-Qaida militants who attack civilians. They
call their movement al-Sahwa (the Awakening).
The resistance groups are another factor in the complex equation
in Iraq's Sunni areas. "We oppose al-Qaida as well as al-Sahwa,"
the director of the political department of the 1920 Revolution
Brigades told the Guardian in Damascus in a rare interview with a
Using the nom de guerre Dr Abdallah Suleiman Omary, he went on:
"Al-Sahwa has made a deal with the US to take charge of their local
areas and not hit US troops, while the resistance's purpose is to
drive the occupiers out of Iraq.
We are waiting in al-Sahwa areas. We disagree with them but do not
We have shifted our operations to other areas".
Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, has seen some of the heaviest
fighting since the 2003 invasion but has become conspicuously calmer
in recent months.
"There is no resistance at the moment in Ramadi," Omary said. He
described the tribal Awakening movement as "good for pushing al-Qaida
out but negative for the resistance". "There are no armed clashes
between us and them but they prevent us working in their areas,"
Omary's group is named after a Sunni uprising against British
occupation forces in 1920. The group recently joined seven other
Sunni-led armed resistance organisations to form the Front for
Struggle and Transformation, a political committee aimed at drawing
up a programme for national unity and hastening a US withdrawal.
Naeem -- Tintin in Bengal, or Musee Guimet Controversy
Tintin in Bengal, or Musee Guimet Controversy
The two month simmering controversy in Bangladesh over the countroversial
loan of priceless, centuries old artifacts to France's Musee Guimet burst
into the open yesterday. In the early dawn hours of Friday, a day when many
of us are sleeping in, relaxing, addafying, or contemplating unfinished art
projects, a convoy of trucks were loaded with crates of artifacts from the
National Museum. Headed to ZIA airport, en route to Paris. Is Paris burning,
what's the rush..?
The French Embassy and some Bangladesh government officials had decided that
matters had dragged on long enough. The show was supposed to open 24th
October, but Bangladesh citizen groups had thrown a chaku in the works. With
a citizens lawsuit blocking the loan, and an investigative committee
deadline 45 days away, the first shipment got underway in defiance of good
manners and international law. Word leaked out, and protesters gathered.
Gates were scaled, human chains formed, a protester was arrested. But the
dawn tactics had worked. By the time more people arrived on the scene, the
trucks were on their way.
Positions hardened further after the truck fiasco. On the evening news,
angry phone calls. Apparently some ground staff at the airport did all they
could to block the flight. This actually doesn't take much-- just our normal
airport bureacracy (which I was cursing out only a month ago when my video
camera was falling prey to it) raised a few notches. The Air France cargo
plane sat on the tarmac, missing its midnight rendezvous. But finally five
hours later, in dawn hours of Saturday, up up and away.
Rene -- A Broken City. A Tree. Evening.
This is about Paul's project in New Orleans. -rg
A Broken City. A Tree. Evening.
By HOLLAND COTTER
Published: December 2, 2007
“IN an instant all will vanish and we’ll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness.”
When the actor Wendell Pierce spoke these words in performances of “Waiting for Godot” here last month, he really was in the middle of nothingness, or what looked a lot like it.
The performances, by the Classical Theater of Harlem, took place outdoors in parts of the city particularly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina and slow to recover. In the Gentilly section, a gutted, storm-ruined house was used as a set. In the Lower Ninth Ward, where one of the largest black neighborhoods in a mostly black city was all but erased by roof-high water surging through a levee, the intersection of two once-busy streets was the stage.
The streets are empty now, lined with bare lots. A few trees and houses stand far off. Reclamation work by returning homeowners and volunteers is under way. But some residents live in cramped trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, here widely despised for its inefficiency. Under the circumstances, Beckett’s words sounded less like an existentialist cri de coeur than like a terse topographic description.
The “Godot” performances were not isolated theatrical events. They were part of a larger project conceived by the New York artist Paul Chan, 34, who is well known to the international art world for his video animations of paradises embattled and lost, and to law enforcement officials for his activist politics.
In person quiet, good-humored and self- contained, he is an unlikely firebrand. He is also an unusual model for an artist, being one for whom creating objects in the studio and dynamic situations outside it are equally important, and for whom reading, teaching, talking and writing are all part of a larger something called art.