July 3, 2010

Train of Thought

YouTube video posted by TheNewsEurope

Whichever side you fall on in the great debate of Seattle police officer Ian Walsh's justification for punching a 17-year-old girl during a jaywalking incident ... I personally could not help but think of artist Chris Burden's 1993 installation at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, PA titled L.A.P.D. Uniform.

As per The Fabric Workshop and Museum's website:

"Created in response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, L.A.P.D. Uniform alludes not only to the violence of that landmark incident, but also to the power of the police to inflict violence as well as to protect us from it. Burden frequently employs a radical change of scale, using toys or toy-like objects to stand in as symbols of actual or potential destruction. In L.A.P.D. Uniform, he seizes our attention with 30 reproductions of an enlarged version of a police uniform. The uniform, made for an officer seven-feet, four-inches tall, includes a badge, a baton, and an actual gun. The number, size and forms of this piece allows the work to retain powerful meanings even when divorced from its original context. The viewer becomes child-size, disempowered, and vulnerable. Or are we protected and shielded?"

Thinking of L.A.P.D. Uniform and notions of power and disempowerment in this world led me to pull down my copy of Chris Burden: Beyond The Limits, published by MAK, Cantz Verlag, 1996. Various forms of power play are initiated on a much bigger level by governments and big businesses every second of every day of every year ... and I now remembered another piece by Chris Burden titled The Other Vietnam Memorial, 1991. 

As per Chris Burden: Beyond The Limits:

"The Other Vietnam Memorial consists of twelve huge copper panels, each 7 ft. by 12 ft., mounted on a central pole. The panels are hinged, like pages in a book, and can be turned. Etched into the copper panels, in a very small 6 point type, are three million names, symbolizing the North and the South Vietnamese killed during the U.S. involvement from 1968 to 1973, in the Vietnamese Civil War. This memorial is obviously a counterpoint to Maya Lin's Washington D.C. Memorial Wall."

"The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities, including 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both sides, 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians, and 58,159 U.S. soldiers."

. . . . . . . . 

On June 27, 2010, Paul Krugman wrote an op-ed article titled The Third Depression for The New York Times.  I noted with interest that one of the highest recommended Reader's Comments for this article comes from a writer named Phil in the mountains of Kyushu, Japan.  Phil writes from his perch:

"Yes, another bad bit of history we're in - but the parallel goes to WWI. ...

Like royalty then, Corporate America today holds national governments to militarism. Wherever corporates see profits, they have the U.S. set up, arm, and secret-police-train dictators to toady to them - first for oil and construction conglomerates, then for environmental-and-safety-lax manufacturing, and expansion of Industrial Ag. This last, thanks to subsidies from a permanently bribed U.S. Congress, worldwide undercuts small farms, kills traditional communities, and forces the migration of millions to all the new, slum sprawl megalopolises. There the uprooted serve as cheap labor, and as prey to the sprawl, fast food, video gaming, gangsta styles, and other corporate marketing.

Corporate America ever expands in a logic without room for balance or sustainability. This, with its dictators, amounts to permanent war against lands and peoples. ...

... So it's not, as your column today limits itself to seeing, simply economic corruption and collapse. It's far worse - far more like the total evil that the complacent powerful wrecked on all one century ago."

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