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⤿ 3 days ago e_flux

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Underappreciated women art pioneers of the ’60s    e_flux

At Flavorwire, Alison Nastasi unearths the vital work of ten female artists from the '60s who've been largely forgotten by official art history, including Alma Thomas, Marjorie Strider, Elaine Sturtevant, Corita Kent, and others. As Nastasi writes:

The tumultuous decade of the ‘60s saw women artists redefining themselves, shifting the male gaze and narrating the feminist, sociological, and political movements happening around them. The art world is only now starting to place their pioneering contributions into context. Here, we offer several underappreciated, and in some cases, forgotten, women artists for consideration.

Here is Nastasi writing on the French sculpture and performance artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who is pictured above:

French artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s Shoot Paintings of the ‘60s found the artist firing a .22 calibre rifle at bags of liquid pigment until they exploded onto a white surface. The works ”aimed an attack at the traditional views of art, religion, and patriarchal society as well as at the political situation that entwined the Cold War and the War in Algeria in a country—the United States—where carrying guns is legal.

Image of French artist Niki de Saint Phalle via The Red List.

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⤿ 3 days ago karenarchey

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Micol Hebron examines gender equality in the art world    karenarchey

Catherine G. Wagley writes about artist Micol Hebron and her project Gallery Tally for ArtNews. Gallery Tally painstakingly tabulates figures on gender representation in art galleries and visualizes these calculations in often humorous posters, such as the genitalia graveyard above. Hebron is something of an unsung hero in the art world, and as such it's great to see this recognition in ArtNews. Read the profile in partial below, or in full here.

Last month, the artist Micol Hebron played an April Fools’ joke on her Facebook followers. She posted that Larry Gagosian, bluest of the blue-chip dealers, had emailed her to admit he had a “woman problem,” acknowledging that 86 percent of his roster is male. “He wants to know what to do about it (uh, it’s no mystery),” wrote Hebron, before suggesting her followers flood the gallerist’s inbox with pointers. Those who saw the post responded at first with happy surprise—“Holy shit!” “You’re on a roll!” “Two snaps up for Larry Go-Go”—until Getty curator Glenn Phillips pointed out the day’s date (April 1). Still, Gagosian’s New York offices received a stream of “woman problem” emails that week.

This prank was only one recent step in a long-running effort by Hebron to draw attention to the underrepresentation of women artists. In the tradition of the Guerrilla Girls, she has been counting and surveying, visibly and vocally, women’s presence—or lack of presence—in galleries for the past few years. In 2013 she began her (en)Gendered (in)Equity: Gallery Tally Project, putting out a call for contributions via social media. Artists would make posters representing the gender ratio on a certain gallery’s roster, focusing first on galleries with L.A. homes: a cemetery 83 percent full of penis-shaped headstones for Matthew Marks; a sketch of Miley Cyrus bent over in front of Robin Thicke for Blum & Poe (their roster is 86 percent male); a sky-high pile of too many unruly chairs next to a small, neat set of folding chairs for Kordansky (77 percent male). Hebron archives the posters on Tumblr.

By March 2014, Hebron had expanded the purview to New York galleries and exhibited a collection of over 300 posters at ForYourArt, the Los Angeles nonprofit run by Bettina Korek. Over 2,000 artists had contributed by the time Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions hosted a larger follow-up exhibition of about 400 posters this spring. A portion of the project will appear in a show at Kaufmann Repetto in Milan in early June, and it will be installed again en masse at Ohio State’s Hopkins Hall Gallery in Columbus this fall. Gallery Tally’s traction coincides with the growing conversation about gender bias in art and other arts-related industries. The hope is that conversation can lead to confrontation of the entrenched biases that keep these numbers skewed.

*Image: Kate Hoffman’s 2014 poster of Matthew Marks’s roster for Gallery Tally. COURTESY THE ARTIST AND GALLERY TALLY PROJECT

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⤿ 4 days ago e_flux

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To end the refugee crisis, end borders    e_flux

At Public Seminar, Chiara Bottici proposes a novel and provocative solution to the so-called refugee crisis in Europe: end borders and the nation-states that they constitute. As she observes, migration is as old as humanity. For centuries, masses of people have moved from places that were less favorable to survival to places that were more favorable. This form of movement only became a problem with the modern creation of nation-states, which was largely a European invention that was exported to the rest of the world through colonialism. Here's an excerpt from Bottici's piece:

The idea of a world fully divided into sovereign states is not only an historical phenomenon, but also a very recent one, and one that is proving not to work particularly well. Its incapacity to handle the refugee crisis and migration in general is just one among the failed promises of the sovereign state system (I will leave those other failed promises for another occasion).

Yet, we are so caught up in the model of the sovereign state that we keep debating within its logic without being able to radically question it: “this is our land,” ”we were here before you,” “you have just arrived.” In doing so, we forget that the only thing that we can actually claim to communally possess (because we literally cannot go elsewhere) is the whole earth: nothing more, but also nothing less.

Let us try to imagine what would happen by abolishing border control or at least the crime of undocumented immigration. There would be no need for detention centers, no clashes between migrants and police, no human smugglers, and possibly also less racism. It is the amassing of huge numbers of human bodies into prison-like detention centers that creates most of the problems associated with the so-called “refugee crisis.” No border control would mean no border problems. People could simply go where they wanted to go, and generally they tend to go where they stand a chance of a decent life.

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⤿ 4 days ago e_flux

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T. J. Clark on Picasso and the fall of Europe    e_flux

In the London Review of Books, T. J. Clark writes about a lesser-known Picasso work that nonetheless crystallizes a pivotal moment in twentieth-century history: the mural Fall of Icarus that adorns Unesco headquarters in Paris. As Clark writes, the painting—both in the circumstances surrounding its production and in the painting itself—captures a Europe emerging from the self-inflicted catastrophe of WWII and entering a perilous, uncertain future. Here's an excerpt:

Picasso’s Fall of Icarus, done in 1958, is a defining and appalling statement of Arendt’s post-epic perspective. It aims to put the era of Guernica behind it. And it does so in a context that lies at the heart of the postwar, ‘international community’ reality of the 1950s: the just finished headquarters of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Paris. Icarus was commissioned for the hallway of Unesco’s Bâtiment des Conférences, and first shown to the public there on 3 November 1958, the moment of the new building’s inauguration.

Picasso’s proposal – his vision of the form to be taken by history painting in a post-Guernica age – has never been much liked or understood. The literature on the artist largely leaves it to one side: the Communist pantomime of his earlier Massacre in Korea, or the exacerbated repeat of Guernica in the Temple of Peace at Vallauris, are given more sympathetic attention. No one – Picasso included – has ever had a firm idea of what the Unesco mural was of. Unesco itself, in the literature produced for the inauguration, said it showed ‘les forces de la vie et de l’esprit triomphant du mal’. Maurice Thorez, leader of the French Communist Party in the 1950s, and a regular visitor to his most famous party member in Vallauris – Picasso and he seem to have had a genuine friendship – noted in his diary that the mural showed ‘le triomphe de la paix sur les forces de la guerre’. Thorez had been present at the first unveiling of the mural in Vallauris in March 1958, but it seems doubtful that his title conveyed Picasso’s intention accurately. When Georges Salles – old friend of Picasso, scholar of Asian art, by 1958 head of the French museum establishment – called the scene ‘La chute d’Icare’ in a speech at the painting’s installation in Paris a few months later, it was unclear to his audience if he was acting with Picasso’s sanction. Salles, we know now, had been at the Vallauris launch and suggested a title then: ‘L’Icare des ténèbres’...

The details of Unesco’s evolution, that is, do not ultimately matter in assessing Picasso’s mural, though often they make for tragicomic reading. (In the 1960s, the Secretariat was instructed to produce anthologies on Tolerance and the Horrors of War. The first could only be printed, after long delays, by an outside publisher, and Unesco refused to put copies on sale – parts of it had not been ‘cleared’. The second never materialised.) Perhaps what is striking, from the vantage of our own Strasbourg-and-Brussels internationalism, is how real the disappointment of the intellectuals continued to be for so long. Unesco, we might say – just because of the urgency and nobility of its aims – was the theatre in which the disintegration of the ‘international community’ could still bring on a shudder. It is this wider disintegration, I feel, that The Fall of Icarus tries to represent. And the mural’s stylistic bizarrerie – the tragicomic strip cartoon idiom Picasso devised for it – could not be more apt.

Image: Picasso’s mural Fall of Icarus at Unesco’s headquarters in Paris. Via London Review of Books.

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⤿ 4 days ago karenarchey

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Esperanto: the language that never was    karenarchey

Edward Docx writes a report from the British Esperanto Conference, which seems to be a quite hilariously sad affair. As Docx says, the "blanka elefanta" in the room is English and its widespread global adoption. This kind of leaves Esperanto in a lurch since it was constructed with the hopes of becoming the most common international auxiliary language in the world. Read Docx's report in partial below, or in full via Prospect Magazine.

Welcome, friends, to the British Esperanto Conference 2016, “emanating” this year from Merseyside. Truth be told, things had not looked promising in the beginning. Sky like a sodden ashtray. Potato juice rain beading on all the windows of the buses going by. People hunched and harried on the pavement hurrying home. None of them going my way. No other writers. No journalists. No news crews. (It can be lonely at the top.) I had been directed to the single most anonymous and forlorn conference centre in the UK. There I had found a forgotten glass door on which was thinly gummed a single blue A4 poster: “Esperanto—Asocio de Britio”; the “o” of the word “Esperanto” having been replaced with a globe.

Once inside though… Once inside, everything turned colour and warm and iridescent. And what a welcome. No doubt about it: these were la belaj homoj. Seventy or so of the most sexy katoj you are ever going to meet in your life. I felt like I’d walked into a shiny multi-coloured electric Kool-Aid dream of an impossible future from long ago. Like it was Buck Rogers’s birthday all over again. (The word “Esperanto” means “a person who hopes”… in Esperanto). Like I’d left behind some terrible 1950s black-and-white nightmare of a purse-lipped Michael Gove-led rump-Britannia and instead entered a joyful Elysian of Enlightenment. Were Boris Johnson ever to re-spawn here, I thought to myself, it would be back in his rightful place—as a chubby eunuch-mute charged with the sole task of silently serving champagne by way of penance for his previous lifetime of deepest disingenuousness.

This was going to be my world. For three days. All good. All more than good. Except, I have to confess, for one thing: I was totally unable to understand a word that anybody said. Or any of the events. Or pretty much anything at all that was happening.

I remember I sat through Kalle Kniivilä (no relation to Evel Knievel—I checked) talking about “Putin—pri la naturo de la rusia re^gimo, la kialoj de ^gia subteno inter rusianoj, kaj la ^san^goj okazintaj lige kun la anekso de Krimeo.” And there was a guy called Guilherme Fians speaking on the subject of “Brazilo: pri la lando kaj ^gia nuntempa Esperanto-movado.” I might have missed Mudie: la pinta pioniro. And the Beatles amika konkursado pri Beatles-kanzonoj. Or I might not have missed it—or them, or something.

But I was back for the Komedia Kvizo because this was something I had a chance of almost understanding. Yes, crucially, the comedy quiz questions were being written up on the projector and, like Gulliver on his travels, I thought I might therefore mobilise an unholy concoction of Latin, Greek and French in the hope of gleaning something of what I was reading. I say “almost” understand because I didn’t have Belarusian, Yiddish, Polish or Slavic. Although, of course, the whole point of Esperanto is that you don’t need any of these languages to learn it or, according to the fundamentalists, any of these languages at all.

*Image of Esperanto books via Prospect magazine

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⤿ 5 days ago UrbanLiberty

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Why can't great artists be mothers?    karenarchey

For the New York Times Live, Jacoba Urist writes about motherhood and artistic practice, which to her make strange, if productive, bedfellows. She begins with quoting Tracey Emin saying, basically, that she knew she couldn't be a great artist and parent at once, so the artist did't have kids; and Urist finishes with a list of artists who are also mothers doing interesting work. It remains to be seen why she doesn't also lump fathers into the mix. Read Urist in partial below, or the full version here.

The art world is full of enduring stereotypes. There’s the myth of the starving artist. The crazy artist. The hermit artist. And then there’s the childless artist— a woman (yes, she’s usually female) so fervidly dedicated to her craft that there’s no room in her life for motherhood. Indeed, some of the greatest visual artists — Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, and Lee Krasner — had no children. Kids and their constant battery of needs, the argument goes, are incompatible with true creativity. Art is supposed to be an all-consuming enterprise — and now modern parenting is too.

British sculptor and painter Tracey Emin never had children and doesn’t think she ever could have. Internationally renowned, Emin is known for “confessional” pieces like My Bed (1998), for which she staged her mattress with stained underwear and a used condom: The work is currently on view at Tate Britain after a 15-year hiatus. Nominated for the prestigious Turner prize in 1999, My Bed sold at Christie’s for around $4.3 million last July. Just three months after the record-breaking sale, Emin told U.K.’s Red Magazine that motherhood would have diminished her work: “I know some women can. But that’s not the kind of artist I aspire to be. I would have been either 100 percent mother or 100 percent artist. I’m not flaky and I don’t compromise.” There are good artists who are parents, assured Emin. Only they’re men. Mothers are too “emotionally torn.”

But there’s a group of rising artists who strongly reject the all-or-nothing, children-versus-art premise. Motherhood, they argue, has increased the complexity of their work and intensified their perspectives, whether or not their subject matter is domestic life. And they believe that the art world is slowly warming to the idea that great artists can also be great mothers.

*Image: Cig Harvey, "Kendall at Beauchamp," courtesy the artist

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Naomi Klein on Edward Said and the "othering" inherent to climate change    e_flux

Naomi Klein recently delivered the annual Edward Said London Lecture, and the London Review of Books has a copy of her speech, entitled "Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World." In the speech, Klein shows how the process of colonialist "othering" that Said so famously outlined is inherent to the kinds of exploitation of resources and people that has led to climate crisis. Here's an excerpt:

But this only scratches of the surface of what we can learn from reading Said in a warming world. He was, of course, a giant in the study of ‘othering’ – what is described in Orientalism as ‘disregarding, essentialising, denuding the humanity of another culture, people or geographical region’. And once the other has been firmly established, the ground is softened for any transgression: violent expulsion, land theft, occupation, invasion. Because the whole point of othering is that the other doesn’t have the same rights, the same humanity, as those making the distinction. What does this have to do with climate change? Perhaps everything.

We have dangerously warmed our world already, and our governments still refuse to take the actions necessary to halt the trend. There was a time when many had the right to claim ignorance. But for the past three decades, since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created and climate negotiations began, this refusal to lower emissions has been accompanied with full awareness of the dangers. And this kind of recklessness would have been functionally impossible without institutional racism, even if only latent. It would have been impossible without Orientalism, without all the potent tools on offer that allow the powerful to discount the lives of the less powerful. These tools – of ranking the relative value of humans – are what allow the writing off of entire nations and ancient cultures. And they are what allowed for the digging up of all that carbon to begin with.

Fossil fuels aren’t the sole driver of climate change – there is industrial agriculture, and deforestation – but they are the biggest. And the thing about fossil fuels is that they are so inherently dirty and toxic that they require sacrificial people and places: people whose lungs and bodies can be sacrificed to work in the coal mines, people whose lands and water can be sacrificed to open-pit mining and oil spills. As recently as the 1970s, scientists advising the US government openly referred to certain parts of the country being designated ‘national sacrifice areas’. Think of the mountains of Appalachia, blasted off for coal mining – because so-called ‘mountain top removal’ coal mining is cheaper than digging holes underground. There must be theories of othering to justify sacrificing an entire geography – theories about the people who lived there being so poor and backward that their lives and culture don’t deserve protection. After all, if you are a ‘hillbilly’, who cares about your hills? Turning all that coal into electricity required another layer of othering too: this time for the urban neighbourhoods next door to the power plants and refineries. In North America, these are overwhelmingly communities of colour, black and Latino, forced to carry the toxic burden of our collective addiction to fossil fuels, with markedly higher rates of respiratory illnesses and cancers. It was in fights against this kind of ‘environmental racism’ that the climate justice movement was born.

Image: The remnants of mountaintop-removal mining in the Appalachia region of the US. Via blogforiowa.com.

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Badiou: "The search for a new politics in the current context will be a fairly long process"    e_flux

The Verso blog has a new interview with Alain Badiou in which he discusses the the Nuit Debout movement and his idea that when it comes to the historical project of emancipation, we are currently in an "interval" period. By this he means that an old form of revolutionary politics has grown obsolete, but a new form has yet to take hold. Here's an excerpt:

There’s been a lot of talk about France and the Nuit Debout movement. Is there room for optimism in this regard? Are we seeing a reactivation of politics, here?

I’ll give you an ambiguous answer. Personally I am always happy when there is a movement. Naturally, I prefer there to be a movement and not just nothing. So from that perspective we should recognise that this movement exists, that it has already endured for a while, that a lot of people are coming by, stopping to take a look at it or remaining part of it, and that there is still a good general climate of discussion. All this is positive. On the other hand, I think that this probably isn’t something that’s going to deeply transform the French political situation, which I would call a very difficult or even frozen situation. And the reasons for that are not a matter of the good or bad faith of the actors involved. Rather, they have to do with the fact that the search for a new politics in the current context – something that also tears down the existing politics – will be a fairly long process, I think. So while this movement is positive, we shouldn’t expect it to have immediate results of a general order.

All the same, we’re at the beginning of a process?

That’s what I’m hoping. I hope that we are at the beginning of a process, for this type of movement always leaves traces. There are people coming out of it with a strengthened conviction that we need to do something and to have new ideas. There are little groups forming and local experiences spreading. Nuit Debout has now had echoes in provincial towns. Well, we don’t know very well how this can perpetuate itself. But all this will leave traces. And from this point of view I hope that it is a kind of precursor of something. I hope the bells sound for something to happen ...

Are the bells sounding somewhere else? Are you thinking of anywhere in particular?

At the worldwide scale we are currently in what I call a historical ‘interval’. That is, the great historical experiences of the twentieth century are over, as is the period of the great socialist states. But we do not know what the future of all this is going to be. We are in between the two. And I think that in interval-situations things get going with small signs, movements, rebellions. And also with the historical arrival of a new youth that hasn’t been through the past experiences, and thus has different starting points. So that’s what’s manifesting itself today. This has some novel elements in terms of the question of politics, of political life, of the organization of social life… etc. All this takes place amidst a great, searching uncertainty, but I am convinced that it is preparing the way for something. And we do have very important movements in the world today. From Turkey to Cairo and Hong Kong, there have been enduring occupations with great public discussions. All that will bear some fruit.

Image of Alain Badiou via liberation.fr.

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⤿ 6 days ago e_flux

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Straub and Huillet's exacting, cold craftsmanship    e_flux

At the n+1 website, Max Nelson takes stock of the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, who are the subjects of multiple current exhibitions and book projects, including a retrospective at MOMA. Their exacting craftsmanship and refusal of commercial cinema makes them paragons of independent, adventurous filmmaking. But as Nelson suggests, their total rejection of cinematic techniques of emotional manipulation renders some of their work less affecting and compelling than it could be:

Over their fifty-year career, which lasted from their marriage in 1959 until Huillet’s death in 2006, Straub and Huillet gave themselves many “cardinal rules.” They took tremendous care to respect anything over which they might have control—the spaces they shot in, the voices they recorded, the texts they adapted, the actors they cast—and they spoke equally often of respecting the moviegoers who watched their films. Most commercial movies were crude devices for eking money out of browbeaten viewers—“abusing holy things as stock in trade”—and their own work was, to them, a brave resolve to “[cleave] to sun and ether”: to give their audiences the freedom they thought most films withheld. Their films can be thrilling purgatives, a vision of what the movies could look like cleared of anything lazy or complacent or pat. But they also suggest how the parameters set by respect—by the determination not to exploit—can restrict in their own way ...

But there is something wrongheaded about the couple’s insistence that their primary political task was to “give people the liberty to get up and leave.” Their talk of “respecting the space” can be exasperating, as can be Huillet’s concern that they not “assassinate the bird” in their editing, and Pummer’s contention that “Straub-Huillet’s understanding of materialism . . . is deeply grounded in the belief that the medium of film can be entrusted with the task of recording, showing and revealing while the filmmaker steps back to allow viewers to see for themselves.” No interesting filmmaker has ever “stepped back” and turned down the job of “showing and revealing” things. Nor did Straub and Huillet, although they sometimes claimed to.

Where Pummer sees an admirable refusal not to bully the viewer, it’s also possible to see a kind of unwillingness on Straub and Huillet’s part to dirty their hands, to engage openly in the sorts of deceptions and elisions and selective modifications movies depend on to generate their energy and life. How can it be that cutting a passage of birdsong short, overdubbing a soundtrack, or moving the camera through a peripheral sightline constitutes a serious offense to a moviegoer’s freedom of imagination, whereas refusing to allow spontaneous human interactions into one’s movies does not? Considering what startling and majestic images they often produced, Straub and Huillet are two of the rare filmmakers you wish had been more willing to coerce, manipulate, and deceive you than they were.

Image: Still from Straub and Huillet's The Death of Empedocles (1986). Via n+1.

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Gary Indiana on his novels about crime, celebrity, and media frenzy    e_flux

Semiotext(e) recently reissued Gary Indiana's stellar 1997 novel Resentment: A Comedy, the first in a trilogy of novels that explored crime, celebrity, and media frenzy in 1990s America. Resentment takes place against the backdrop of a thinly fictionalized version of the 1994 trial of the Menendez brothers, who were convicted of killing their parents. The trial, which was broadcast on Court TV, took place in Los Angeles just a year before the OJ Simpson trial, and was similarly marked by a media circus. In Bookforum, Sarah Nicole Prickett talks to Indiana about why he was interested in sensationalized murders and the men who perpetrated them. Here's an excerpt:

Sarah Nicole Prickett: To prove that one version of a chaotic series of events is true, it has to be set in a very precise order, by a prosecutor in court—or by a writer. How did you go about ordering things in Resentment?

Gary Indiana: It’s almost absurdly difficult to talk about the real-life trial of the Menendezes, because there were really two trials going on, with two juries. The two brothers, Erik and Lyle, were allowed to separate their cases and have different defense attorneys, but the defense attorneys worked in concert, and there was one prosecution team. It was bonkers. Virtually anything that the defense argued was relevant to the case was allowed in as evidence, going all the way back into the childhoods of the brothers, into the histories of their parents. How the prosecution got them on the retrial was that the same judge excluded practically everything he had allowed into the first. The first trial was like a Russian novel. It was all about why, not how, they did it. I thought every trial should be like that, although of course it would cost billions to try anyone for murder.

My theory has always been that the brothers were abused by their father, or at least that Erik, the younger brother, was, but that it happened maybe once or twice, not with the regularity that was argued in court. The defense had to make the parents seem monstrous. But my other theory is that most parents are monstrous, most families are monstrous. The trial was about an idea of family that was falling apart, or an idea that the family had never been all that together. I wanted to demonstrate in the structure of the book—and it is a very structured book—this idea of everything falling apart ...

SNP: How did you relate to each of your subjects in the trilogy, or stay interested in them?

GI: With Depraved Indifference, I had some grasp of the mentality of Sante and Kenneth Kimes—though no sympathy for them at all—because I’ve known quite a few grifters and con artists. It was a different kettle of fish from the others in the trilogy: Killing wasn’t a big stretch for these two. The interest there was the nonstop confidence game they were running, the mom-and-son incest situation, and the gullibility of their victims. With the first two books, the intimacy of the crimes caught my attention—killing your parents, or your ex-boyfriend, involves a profound fracture of what holds you together as a person. I tried to enter the states of mind of these young men who’d gone over the edge, maybe set off by years of family madness in one instance and many kinds of cumulative disappointment in the other. These struck me as greatly enlarged versions of things I’d experienced myself, so I was able to imagine, moment by moment, how these killings might have gone down. I had a certain sympathy for Eric Menendez, if not for his older brother. Same with Andrew Cunanan, who might have made something of his life if he’d just wised up instead of going on a rampage. It was easy to stay interested. The protagonists were complicated people who could’ve stepped out of a Dostoyevsky novel.

Image of Gary Indiana via Daily Beast.

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⤿ 6 days ago karenarchey

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The art of reading Russian obituaries    karenarchey

For the New York Times, Masha Gessen writes an op-ed about what she politely calls "the art of reading Russian obituaries," or rather, reading Russian obituaries for clues and coded words that would suggest the deceased is gay. Gessen's poignant piece is in partial below, the full version via New York Times.

There is a fine art to reading obituaries, as anyone who lived through the AIDS epidemic in the West and paid attention knows. Back in the late 1980s and 1990s, if an American newspaper reported that a young man had died and mentioned no cause of death (or attributed the death to “respiratory failure”), it was a safe assumption that the man had died of AIDS. If the obituary also referred to a surviving “longtime companion,” this seemed to provide confirmation.

The equivalent in contemporary Russia is an obituary that says that a man was found slain in his own apartment and there was no sign of forced entry. When this happens to someone well-known enough to warrant numerous written remembrances, the writers usually refer not to a killing but to a “tragic death” — as though it were not a criminal but a personal trait that caused the person’s demise. What they mean is that the deceased was gay and apparently died at the hands of someone he brought home.

No one can say how often this happens, but it happens enough to form a recognizable pattern. Many, if not most, LGBT people in Russia knew someone who died in this manner. When Alexander Smirnov, an official with the Moscow city government, decided to come out in a magazine interview three years ago, he chose to talk about this, too. “Two years ago someone I knew died,” said Mr. Smirnov. “He was found in his apartment, naked, stabbed to death. He was gay. You know how this happens? Gays often meet one another online. And there are whole gangs that come to gay men’s houses, then kill them and rob the apartment. Their families conceal the stories, of course.”

*Image of Moscow via Magnum Photos

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