Weekend Reading

Finally, they took me to a room in the corner of the baggage claim area. It was becoming clear to me that at Ben Gurion, unjust things happened in corners. The guards asked me to open my bags. I did as I was told. I noted that the room was filthy. The Israelis were concerned with showing a clean and gleaming exterior—the floors of the airport outside shone–but for suspected threats and people like myself, behind closed doors, tucked away in dirty corners, they hadn’t bothered. A very butch young woman asked me to follow her. She led me to yet another room, where the walls were faded and filthy, and the floor was covered in dirty carpet, littered with small bits of paper and hair clips. It reeked of intimidation, and of humiliation.

There are 54 large photographs in the exhibition.  I know because I had to look at each one yesterday and complete a condition report.  (For those of you non museum people a condition report is a document completed when a loaned exhibition or item comes into a museum.  The condition of the piece is documented in case there are any issues which need to be reported back to the lending institution)  The photographs are emotionally devastating.  I was in collections storage by myself looking at picture after picture of emaciated women and girls as young as 14 who have completely destroyed their bodies in order to be “thin.” On each condition report I would describe the photo.  Below that section was the area of the form to note the condition.  In the museum world most conditions are scaled using the terms – excellent, good, fair, poor.  The photographs and their frames were pristine.  Underneath each description, I kept writing the word “excellent.”  After a while it felt like a sick commentary on the descriptions of the photos I had created above.  “Emily, 15 from Tampa, FL weighting 80 pounds”  Condition –  “excellent.”  It became harder and harder to write that word.

If the nation’s most venerable newspaper can get away with describing any dead person in these terms in the very first line of the piece, that means it really only stopped describing all women in those terms because they “had” to, in order to shut up those mouthy feminists. The journalistic “twist” of incorporating Lorena’s beauty into the piece “works” because the reader isn’t initially picturing a trans woman, but a biological one. It also works because it gives us exactly what we want: the dead, beautiful woman, her hourglass figure forever taken from our gaze.

In The Phantom Menace, there was a chamber drama about a trade dispute, an origin story about the prophesied chosen one, an escape romp, and a children’s farce with bantha poodoo. There was also an attempt at romantic predestination in which a small child swooned for a teenager he mistook for a “space angel.” All this happens against the backdrop of repeated shots and dialogue fragments meant to evoke the first three films, a cinematic version of rhyming stanzas, Lucas argued. In trying to explain precisely how incoherent and bizarre the movie is, one falls into a complicated web of ideas wherein the criteria for evaluating good and bad disintegrates. The Phantom Menace is the end of cinema not in the historical sense but in the topographical sense. It takes the linear story-driven movie to the limits of credulity, a simultaneous homage to and desecration of its origins.

Just as we might understand what religious people aspire to by studying what traits they attribute to their deity, we can understand Web worshippers by what they attribute to the Internet. These include such things as boundless creativity, innovation, unlimited potential for novelty, entrepreneurism, multifaceted, a shape-shifting network that rejects stable identities and embraces change. Following Ludwig Feuerbach’s hypothesis that man created God in his own image, one might say that the deified Internet embodies all the attributes of the perfect neoliberal subject that economic conditions require, offering a point of identification for the precarious worker and dignifying their situation. Perhaps this is why curation more so than creation has emerged as the fundamental mode of interaction on the Internet. Curators (or remixers or bricoleurs) model themselves as media for information transformation and transmission, performing a small-scale imitation of what the personified Internet does on a massive scale, rendering their identities legible.


One thought on “Weekend Reading

  1. Pingback: Sunday Reading « zunguzungu

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