Monday, December 22, 2008

The New Extreme American Poetry & Arts: Holzer's "Projections" & "Movies and Classes at Guantanamo"

"Like Putting Lipstick on a Pig"

Guantanamo Detainees Offered Classes and Movies

A Poem Using Found Quotations from Reviews, Newspaper Articles, Artist & Gallery Statements & Images

from the ongoing series
The New Extreme Experimental American Poetry and Arts

For decades American "avant-garde" poetry has detached the military meaning of "avant-garde" from that of the arts.
Te early founding 20th Century Avant-Gardes" were based on this connection made by a shared use of the term--Itlain Futurism embraced "War, the world's hygiene"
Dada began as an anti-War, anti-All Institutions Sound Poetry Scream and Rant Performance.

For decades the American Avant-Garde has pretended to be "resisting" the system which it works for by amputating its connection with the military meaning of Avant-Garde.

Taking refuge in Formalist gestures & games, there is no "resistance," but instead nothing but reflections--a Hall of Mirrors of self-obsessed self-promoting "poets and artists" who also are the reflections of the society in which they "work" and "contemplate" and "produce."

The New Extreme Experimental American Poetry is an ongoing project to find, examine and present the ways in which the torture, Apartheid, illegal surveillance, massive disinformation practised by the State is reflected rather than resisted by the "avant-garde" American poetries & arts.

The massive turning of language into Newspeak and Doubletalk, Sophistry is born of the effort to deny that what exists exists, so that one may have "clean hands," and become the citizens of any Totalitarian State are taught to be, blithely unaware and unconcerned with the daily Horrors, Genocides, Ethnic Cleansings they would otherwise see is happening all around them, instead of unquestioningly supporting a great deal of these.

Detainee wearing light proof goggles & sound proof headphones

Much has been learned about media outreach to hearts and minds since Vietnam 1963, Holzer’s “Projections” Show

"Bean bag chairs are becoming more and more widespread in the world of business as research companies have declared them conducive to a more productive environment than regular chairs."

Today new methods, influenced by the corporate world and the increased focus on the nexus of language and high-tech imagery, screens and projections, offer a much wider range of means for reaching the hearts and minds of workers at all levels of the corporate-State-military complex, insuring an ever smoother transition into the functioning of the individual within a language centered program designed for maximum control while ensuring the greatest degree of comfort and creativity. To attain the equilibrium of these is, indeed, to balance the scales of poetic justice.  Language is the key to the New Sentencing guidelines.

"There is nothing that bean bag chairs cannot do."


"Companies have recognized the fact that a more comfortable and less formal place to work actually encourages people to up their work rate as well as enabling creativity to flourish."

The Associated Press, interview with Army Col. Bruce Vargo


Vargo, who commands the military's Joint Detention Group at Guantanamo, says it is important to give the detainees more to look forward to each day.

Some of the best-behaved detainees now get TV night, with DVDs of movies and TV shows shown on a high-definition Sony TV. A classroom in Camp 4, designated for the most compliant detainees, has metal desks and plastic chairs, although detainees remain shackled by the leg to the floor in class.

Language courses have begun in English, Arabic and Pashto, Vargo said in the interview last week. He intends to soon offer classes on subjects as diverse as oceanography.

"If we can get them to focus on humanities programs, if we can get them to focus on recreation, then their sole focus is not going to be on the guard force," Vargo said. "It is my thought that if they are focused on those things, then the level of assaults and things of that nature will go down."

In it, the artist projects words onto the walls, ceiling, and floor of the football field-sized gallery,

 while patrons are invited to lounge in giant silver bean bag chairs and take it all in.

Jenny Holzer's installation "Projections,"  . . .  is a fluid, magical piece, with projected poetry sweeping across the football-field-size gallery.

. . . the piece is a flood of light and language spilling over the beamed surfaces of the building, and intermittently blinding the spectator.

The result is almost unviewable

. . .  but truthfully it's a little hard to read the poem texts, though I'm not complaining

                                                      Holzer designed enormous beanbags for the show, to be

 scattered around the floor of the space

Guests kicking back on the bean bags take in the projections.Views of the installation at Mass MoCA by Jenny Holzer. Jenny Holzer PROJECTIONS at Mass MOCA 11-17-2007


 Others sprawled about on several enormous bean bag couches kicking back and trying to read and absorb the slw scroll of text projected with blinding intensity from both ends of a vast space about the dimensions of a double football field.




"Holzer's spectacle tends toward aestheticized politics ,the power of which is in its overwhelming scales and the subjugation of the viewer."  . . .
they sweep back and forth across the space from projectors at both ends, elongating illegibly along the side walls

The room is massive — almost the size of a soccer field — so it's a bit like stepping into the opening sequence of the Star Wars films

 . . .  the slow scroll of text projected with blinding intensity from both ends of a vast space
about the dimensions of a double football field.



You may not realize at first that you are part of the installation, as illuminated text from the other end rolls up and over your body, glaring as it hits you in the eye.The only objects are large beanbag chairs on the floor, inviting you to lie down and enjoy the light show.

It's a magical experience, and that's partly because of the interior setting.

We walk across the room, back to the entrance, and stand in the doorway. The words are small and legible as they emerge from the floor, then stretch and distort - what Holzer refers to as the "Star Wars thing" -

"Stand at the gallery's entrance, and as poems such as "In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself" scroll upward against the far wall, the effect is epic, like watching the opening text of "Star Wars" at an IMAX theater."

Anyway, the scrolling star wars movie credit like typography art was cool . . .

“What? STAR WARS borrowed from Nazi Propaganda? “

“As you probably know, the above image is from the award ceremony at the end of STAR WARS: A New Hope.

from Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will" Lighting Projections by Albert Speer

"There's our composition," Holzer says. "You go in and out of reading text and looking at funny lights. So that's our little trick."

"Ms. Holzer found these documents at the Web site of the independent, nongovernmental National Security Archive (, which obtained them through the Freedom of Information Act."

The NSA also has its own Jenny Holzer Gallery, with images of one of her texts in a show In Vienna, the words of which are an essay by NSA Director Thomas Blanton on Holzer, which first appeared in "Foreign Policy" magazine.

By using the Archives Holzer is also advertising the Archives, which carry a Gallery of her works using the Archives. A mutual promotional campaign is thus also being waged via the use of the war related documents.

Art Before Power
Jenny Holzer Exhibition Showcases Archive's Documents

12 days before the opening of "Projections" the Archives announced an excellent new Gallery, which has its own unexpected similarities with Holzer's works using the Archives.

Holzer is presenting painted versions of the documents--just as Colin Powell's Power Point presentation to the UN closely preceding the Invasion of Iraq used--paintings of documents.

The Record on CURVEBALL
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 234
Edited by John Prados
Posted - November 5, 2007

Each of 15 same-size, medium-large canvases, stained purple or brown, bears an all-black, silk-screened reproduction of a PowerPoint diagram used in 2002 to brief President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and others on the United States Central Command’s plan for invading Iraq . . .

"The projected poems may relate to these, but truthfully it’s a little hard to read the poem texts"

“Included in this series are maps, originally part of a PowerPoint presentation, that reveal various planning stages prior to the invasion of Iraq. Holzer’s display of maps and documents reveal the bureaucratic administration of war through the cloud of paint and the weight of a looming installation.”

Yet the original documents were ALREADY paintings . . .

and during the arguments over using the information provided by Curveball, when one government official, asserting the government had "proof" of Curveball's "veracity " and "accuracy" was challenged as to where these "proofs" had been found--she replied--"the Internet"--

to which her opponent roared: "Where do you think he (Curveball) found them!!!"

A situation mirrored in Holzer's finding in the Archives the materials she uses for her works which are in honored by a gallery of her works using the Archives--at the Archives' web site.

One of the methods used at Guantanamo is much like that used by Holzer. The detainees are forced to wear for months at a time light-proof goggles, sound-proof headphones. At some point in time, they are snatched out of their blind and deaf solitary confinement cells and subjected to an immense barrage of high intensity pulsing lights--not unlike the "Projections" which viewers find "blinding" and "unviewable," with words "illegible." This is combined with the blasting of super high decibel sounds, music, noise.

The detainee is subjected to a reenactment within Walls of the experience of "Shock and Awe" of the original "Shock and Awe" bombardments of Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Naomi Klein explains in her great book "The Shock Doctrine," these techniques are applied to persons and entire countries, in order to breakdown, disorient and confuse the "subject" so that while they are in this state, huge changes they would otherwise resist are forced through to completely alter their "realities" according to prepared scripts and programs.

One example Klein uses is the rushed pushing through of the Patriot Act and its hundreds subsequent related bills and actions by the Bush government in the period of "Shock and Awe" immediately following 9/11. While the population is disoriented, Authority can dare to accomplish things it otherwise would not.

Rather than critiquing these methods, Holzer's mirror them--
creating spectators who unquestioningly accept the message of "Authority"--
delivered as a "light show" or as paintings of paintings of "information"--"found on the Internet"--

The eerily similarily phrased praise heaped on Holzer's work then is a reflection of the public's and the critic's recognition of its function as "Authority," to which a mass-mind assent is to be given.

"The Power of the Work" is its reflection of the Work of Power through the uses of lighting and "art" in creating a "reality" in which gallery goers and prisoners begin to approach each other ever more closely in their roles of "spectators" and "captive audiences."

"Power Point" and the "Point of Power" --
to coerce, convince, control--

These declassified maps were a part of the power point presentation leading the Shock and Awe.Colin Powell slide 39

"The PowerPoint paintings give the impression of a cool, rational, step-by-step logic born of technocratic hubris . . . 

"Kappell had expected to see photographs, hard evidence.  Powell's illustrations weren't proof.  Powell had used artists' conjectures . . . 

Ms. Holzer is practicing a form of political action with these paintings."

" . . .   based on analysts' interpretations of Arabic-to-German-to-English translations of debriefing reports of a manic-depressive defector the Americans had never talked to."

"Without question, her latest acts of protest look strangely elegant and go for wildly high prices"






except for the first paragraph, by d-b chirot, all texts are taken from reviews of Jenny Holzer's "Projections" exhibit at MassMoCa, which is still showing there.
The amazing similarity of language and images used to describe the show from one reviewer to the next is not a little eerie--
as though the entire spectacle, like those of Riefenstahl and Speer and at Gitmo, is tightly controlled to produce the same effect in everyone, destroying individuality and creating the new mass which, as Naomi Klein writes in The Shock Doctrine, is the patient, the prisoner, the people, who are shocked into a degree zero,become a blank, zombie , a blank page, canvas or screen--
on which the Authoritative artists at the service of the State inscribe and display the subjection of the person, the people, to the "The Triumph of the Will" of the State