Archives for March 2013


It strikes me that so much of what passes as a default setting for general agreement in the public is based on this manufactured "subject" -- both collective and individual. This is seen in more and more obvious ways in mainstream cultural product. In other words, there is a kitsch person who is the template for what being human means. This is the "subject" who is appealed to in all culture industry narrative. This subject, at least on one level, is a binary creation, a product of an essentialist logic. In the culture industry there are manufactured identities: black teenager (criminal), arab man (terrorist), etc...these are obvious...but there is also another layer of … [Read more...]

The Sentimental Education

War criminal George Bush likes to paint. His favorite subject is 'puppies'. He paints himself, too, in the bathtub or shower. Sentimentality is pervasive in the culture of the West. John Wayne Gacy painted clowns. The world of sentimentality is one linked directly to the structural mechanisms of social domination. The sentimental world is a false world. It is reductive and cleansed of ambiguity. It often parades a faux ambiguity and moral complexity when in fact it is assiduously one dimensional. James Baldwin said: "Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel...the … [Read more...]

Road Trip

The exhibit "New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape" was a show of photographs by Lewis Baltz, Stephen Shore, John Schott, Henry Wessell, Jr., and others, curated by William Jenkins at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House (Rochester, New York) in January 1975. Jenkins also invited Bernd and Hilla Becher, then teaching at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (Germany). The German couple had been photographing abandoned structures, mostly industrial, since the 1950s. The show had an enormous affect, though not right away as the initial response was of critical negativity. The lingering importance of this show, and of, in particular, Baltz and … [Read more...]

A Few Thoughts on Writing

"What is most difficult here is to express this indefinitness correctly and without distortion". Ludwig Wittgenstein I wanted to write a bit about writing. Maybe just about writing for theatre, right now. I have a student (one of my very best students, in fact) who began her new play with a scene set in a double wide trailer. The set is described briefly. This is a recognizable 'white trash' setting. It's an interesting scene, and the dialogue is quite good --- and there is an almost surreal dimension to it. But....there is a problem that exists right at the start with the description of this set. If you build a set that is recognizable as what it is, that the audience … [Read more...]


Narrative in the culture industry creates certain templates or lenses, really, for viewing certain topics. Poverty is an example. Poverty in the United States is measured by an arbitrary set of income numbers. There are two methods employed; poverty guidelines and poverty thresholds. Both are inadequate. The Census Bureau uses poverty threshold figures, which are, actually, only slightly different than the poverty guidelines --- but they do shift slightly according to where you live. Cost of living etc is factored in. There are around, as of 2009, 14% of Americans living in poverty. This is a very low ball figure. The cut off line for a family of four is twenty two thousand dollars … [Read more...]

Goodbye to Hugo, and other matters

The death yesterday of Comandante Hugo Chavez marks it as a very sad day. Much will be written in the coming weeks, and the possible involvement of the CIA is certainly not to be discounted. So, I find myself sitting back to write a few other things on art and culture but do so in the long shadow of Chavez' death. Reminding onself of US foreign policy for the last sixty years....hell, last couple hundred years....the names of war criminals like Allen Dulles, Henry Kissinger, and William Colby, and Jim Woolsey...Richard Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton, and Bush, Dick Cheney, Dean Rusk, or Alexander Haig ... the grotesque policies that left for dead, or sent into exile....Patrice … [Read more...]

White Man

“The men construct an image of a high-born woman (‘white countess’). They then worship that image, which must be asexual. They persecute the sexuality of the ‘low-born’ woman — proletarian, communist, Jew (=whore) — by first making her a prostitute, then murdering her; meanwhile lack is maintained in relationships with their own (child-bearing and asexual) women through their exclusion (as nameless wives) from social productions and from the contrafraternities of men. All of these forms of oppression — adoration, murder, exploitation — are related.” Theweleit Writing about the origins and characteristics of "realism" has led to a series of semi-disparate observations. Misogyny, … [Read more...]

Snark Redux

Horkheimer wrote...... "...a profound change of outlook...that has taken place in Western thinking in the course of the last centuries. For a long time....the view asserted the existence of reason as a force not only in the individual mind but also in the objective world....great philosophical systems such as those of Plato and Aristotle, scholasticism, and German idealism were founded on an objective theory of reason. " Harmony was reasonable. Proportion, both emotionally and materially, were a form of the reasonable. One could see the harmonious man or woman, the harmonious culture, and the harmonious dwelling. The emphasis was on ends and not means. Molly Klein's comments on … [Read more...]