Archive for culture

This did my heart good

My partner sent me the link to “The Junky’s Christmas” today. Somehow I had missed this! God bless William Burroughs.

Thy neighbours

Effective Altruism,” so called, takes a utilitarian approach to philanthropy. Proponents argue that rich people can save more people than poor people can, so get rich; AND, their wealth can save more people in the future than it can people in the present, SO invest in caring for generations not to be born for millennia. Looking after people who are suffering now is inefficient and indeed sentimental.

“Look, there are a lot of things that I think have really a massive impact on the world,” Sam Bankman-Fried said. “And ultimately that’s what I care about the most. And, I mean, I think frankly that the blockchain industry could have a substantial positive impact. I was thinking a lot about, you know, bed nets and malaria, about, you know, saving people from diseases no one should die from.” …

To hear Bankman-Fried tell it, the idea was to make billions through his crypto-trading firm, Alameda Research, and FTX, the exchange he created for it — funneling the proceeds into the humble cause of “bed nets and malaria,” thereby saving poor people’s lives.

But last summer Bankman-Fried was telling The New Yorker’s Gideon Lewis-Kraus something quite different. “He told me that he never had a bed-nets phase, and considered neartermist causes — global health and poverty — to be more emotionally driven,” Lewis-Kraus wrote in August. Effective altruists talk about both “neartermism” and “longtermism.” Bankman-Fried said he wanted his money to address longtermist threats like the dangers posed by artificial intelligence spiraling out of control. As he put it, funding for the eradication of tropical diseases should come from other people who actually cared about tropical diseases: “Like, not me or something.” [NYTimes]

I despise these people as much as I do people who want to colonize space.

Earth is our home. Our neighbours are now.

People who want to deracinate us from our home or look past the struggling people down the block to focus on greater things believe that evil things *are* the greater things. We’ll foil the dangers of artificial intelligence and get our way, to colonize space with generations of slaves who depend on us for air.

God bless Nan Goldin

I revere no artist who has worked in my lifetime more than Nan Goldin, a woman whose photographs of her friends and herself opened up the world, it seemed. I am keenly awaiting to see the recent film “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” a documentary that weaves together the emergence of her art with the story of her fervent, perfectly pitched attacks on Purdue Pharma – manufacturer and distributer of Oxycontin – and the Sackler family that ran the company for decades. Variety has an enticing description:

Half a million people in the U.S. have died of opioids addiction, but it wasn’t until Goldin herself became addicted to OxyContin, in 2017, that she grasped the danger and learned about the multi-layered, calculating ways that Purdue Pharma had orchestrated the crisis for the sake of profit.

This outraged Goldin. But what she also learned is that the Sacklers were among the last half century’s most venerated art-world donors, giving millions and millions of dollars to the world’s most famous museums, in no small part to distract from their business practices by cultivating and polishing their image as philanthropists.

Many of these institutions, like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, had a Sackler Wing. And since the art world was Goldin’s world, she was filled with disgust, in a searing personal way, at the hypocrisy of the Sacklers’ image-laundering. As she says in the film, “They have washed their blood money through the halls of museums and universities around the world.” …

… Goldin, who is now 68, [has become] something unlikely and inspiring: an *artist* of activism. We see the events she orchestrated to spotlight the Sacklers’ pedestal in the art world, and some of them are ingenious, like dropping hundreds of opioid prescriptions as confetti from the top of the Guggenheim Museum during an opening there. Early on, the museums ignore her; they don’t want to risk the loss of funding.

But she keeps up the drumbeat, and when the National Portrait Gallery in London agrees, after a protest, to turn down a million-dollar donation from the Sacklers, the dominos began to fall, as other fabled institutions — the Tate, the Louvre — follow suit. Goldin’s goal was to have the Sacklers’ name removed from museum galleries. And by the end of the documentary, the Met, setting a seismic precedent, does just that.

It’s a moment of triumph, even as the true subject of “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” — and, in a way, of Goldin’s art — remains the lacerating cost of trauma.

‘Heroines Revisited’ review

Mala Rai’s review of Lincoln Clarkes‘ “Heroines Revisited” gets the important things exactly right.

For the people that loved her, whether she is missing, deceased, or transformed, these pages are a sensitive keepsake. As half the women photographed may be closely connected to [or even have been among] are murdered and missing indigenous women, these pictures may be the sole glimpse into a family member or friend’s troubled time. How can the surroundings be so dire, yet every woman in that instance is utterly stunning? They are in terribly vulnerable places, yet invoke the persona of tough-as-nails heroine: Your sister riding a 10 speed, smoking a cigarette, clad in page boy at and a crop top. Your former high school friend at St. Paul’s hospital, perched in a confident, yogi pose upon her bed. The woman who’d become your mother, about to inject, focused on her syringe, but 13 pages later, impeccably put together, she is confidently staring right back at you. A tender Mother’s Day sisterhood collective. Perhaps their arrival at that destination in life was a shock. Maybe it was expected. It isn’t profound sadness or pain that I see in each frame, but the significance of these women in our society. They likely had no idea that their images in the finished product would comprise a collection of artful history. The pictures make us hunger for more details of each person’s personal history, but there are no crumbs to spare.

Lincoln Clarkes

Anvil Press just published Heroines Revisited, by Lincoln Clarkes. Looking at this series of photographs will always be an overwhelming experience for me.

The photograph below was part of the original photographic exhibition in 1998 at Vancouver’s Helen Pitt Gallery.

Here’s an interview I did with Lincoln for my old ezine Ellavon, in which many of the Heroines photographs first appeared.