December 15th, 2008

Chris Keeley

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy, The Monster in the Mirror

The single omnipresent historical reference in the American media immediately in the wake of September 11, 2001, was, of course, "Pearl Harbor" -- and those code words for it, "infamy" and "day of infamy," splashed in mile-high letters across the front pages of papers. What we had experienced, it was commonly said then, was "the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century." And with that image of the Japanese attack that began the Second World War for the United States went powerful, if only half-conscious, memories of how that war ended, of nuclear holocaust, and so the place where the World Trade Center towers went down was promptly dubbed "Ground Zero," previously a term reserved for the spot where an atomic blast took place.

Naturally, the idea that 9/11 was an "act of war," and that we were "at war," quickly and heavily promoted by the Bush administration, followed; and all of this would have been appropriate to a surprise attack by a nuclear-armed state, but not to an assault by 19 terrorists backed by a ragtag organization spread from Hamburg, Germany, to the backlands of Afghanistan. That the framework for taking in what had happened that day was so thoroughly askew mattered not a whit to most Americans at that time; and the rest, including the President's "Global War on Terror," came easily, if disastrously, in its wake. Now, "9/11" has become the "Pearl Harbor" of the twenty-first century, the antecedent and analogy of choice, and so, not surprisingly, it was on all but a few media lips, during the recent massacre and siege in Mumbai, India.

Arundhati Roy, the Indian activist and author of the prize-winning novel The God of Small Things, was one of the earliest, strongest, sanest voices on this planet of ours to take on George W. Bush and his Global War on Terror. "The freshest voice on Earth," I called her back in 2003. She was an inspiration. Now, she turns to the events in her own country, in Mumbai, and explains just why using 9/11 as the analogy of choice there, as we once used "Pearl Harbor" here, will lead in no less terrible directions.

The piece that follows was published by the superb magazine Outlook India, which is sharing it with Tom


9 Is Not 11

(And November Isn't September)
By Arundhati Roy


We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching "India's 9/11." And like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.

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Chris Keeley

Fluxus for this confederation of like-minded Conceptualists.

George Brecht, 82, Fluxus Conceptual Artist, Is Dead

George Brecht, a core member of Fluxus, the loosely affiliated international group of playful Conceptual artists that emerged in the early 1960s, died on Dec. 5 in Cologne, Germany. He was 82 and lived in Cologne.

He died in his sleep, said Geoffrey Hendricks, a friend, who was also a Fluxus member. He had been in failing health for several years.

Mr. Brecht came of age as an artist in the late 1950s, when Abstract Expressionism and the cult of the heroic creative genius were ascendant. Inspired by the Conceptual art of Marcel Duchamp and the experimental music of John Cage, he began to imagine a more modest, slyly provocative kind of art that would focus attention on the perceptual and cognitive experience of the viewer.

American, European and Asian artists who were thinking along similar lines included Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Ben Vautier, Nam June Paik and George Maciunas, who in 1962 came up with the name Fluxus for this confederation of like-minded Conceptualists.

Like many other Fluxus artists, Mr. Brecht created assemblages consisting of ordinary objects in boxes and cabinets, as well as arrangements that often included chairs. He also made paintings and sculptures that played with language, like a piece with white plastic letters spelling “sign of the times.”

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