Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Before you celebrate the NEW YEAR tonight, revive your conscience and think about those who died in the treacherous war games!...and ask WHY?
"Death" by: Harold Pinter
Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?
Who was the dead body?
Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?
Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?
Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?
What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?
Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body
Read or Listen to Democracy Now
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
"It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US." More...
Harold Pinter died at the age of 78
Towards the end of his life, Pinter became, if anything, more politicised. His outrage over the conflict in Iraq saw him attending Stop The War Coalition rallies and denouncing Bush and Blair in his Nobel acceptance speech
Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture was pre-recorded, and shown on video on 7 December 2005, in Börssalen at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.
Below, read his full lecture.
In 1958 I wrote the following:
'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'
I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?
Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.
Read some of his poems.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Picture by the courtesy of "Miya of the Quiet Strength" website
On November 1st, 1991, physics graduate student Lu Gang went on a shooting rampage, killing five and injuring Miya Rodolfo-Sioson before turning the gun on himself. The shooting left Miya paralyzed from the neck down.
I was studying theatre at the University of Iowa at that time. I wrote a play about the event from Lu Gang's perspective entitled "Mad as the Blood Sound", where Miya has a short but strong role in it... I went to see Miya in her house, where she was surrounded by her friends. I talked with her for half an hour...and she said with a profound humane voice : "I'm not angry at him anymore"...She asked me if I can leave my play for her to read ... I left it with her, fearing if the play would revive the painful memory and make her uneasy, disquiet... I walked home...profoundly moved...profoundly touched and effected by her transcendental soul, by her deep understanding of human situation...wanted so urgently to write about her... wanted crucially to remind myself of someone who is not the same as the others...and whose life is an eternal poem of our time...
A few days ago I found out that she has lost her battle with cancer. She touched many lives over the course of her lifetime.
She will be always in our mind.
See the video on Miya Rodolfo- Sioson, the quiet Strength
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
This review was published in Affect:acuity
Award-Winning Iranian Authors Read in Noho
She was arrested, pushed to the ground, humiliated and taken into custody for attending an anti-war rally? Did she do anything wrong? Nothing. Was she given a phone call? No.
Sitting in silence, Goushegir’s audience listened intently as she read from her one-act play, “My Name is Inanna,” a story not uncommon to middle-eastern people living in the United States. This is one of many stories, Iranian exile, playwright, Ezzat Goushegir was born to tell.
Captive, her audience sits on stools, at the bar, even cross-legged on the floor of the KGB Bar in Noho last night, silently watching Goushegir reveal how a courageous Iranian woman’s sense of self is challenged by American social standards and rules, in a prison and in a beauty store. The mask that her character Inanna wears in the beauty store and in the questioning room is the same, doing what she is told and trying not to cause trouble. These scenes bring to mind the questions: how has Inanna’s life changed in America? Does she truly have more freedom here? The irony of a woman exiled from post-revolutionary Iran only to be arrested at an anti-war demonstration is felt heavily in a room full of 1960’s activists, intellectuals and fellow Iranian exiles. Goushegir goes on to account for the fears that might infect someone’s mind as the clock ticks by and she waits and waits for the police officer to return.
When asked during the question and answer session, Goushegir admitted that the play was based on...Read More
Photos: Joel Simpson
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The translation of two reviews on Joel Simpson's photography in Paris
From the Journal Montmartre à la une, reviewed by Nicole Behrakis, November, 2008
Du côté de l’Erotisme, un musée (On the Side of Eroticism: A Museum)
Once more we discovered and savoured the talent of two incredible artists who have made this venue an indispensable stop for strollers, curiosity-seekers and above all art lovers. Joel Simpson and Lauren Benaim, both of them talented photographers, plunge us into their respective phantasms, without restriction, forgetting our boundaries, our taboos, our inhibitions, opening for us, even just for a moment, the view from behind their lenses.
Advice to longtime fans of the Museum! Run to the fourth floor and let yourself be seduced by this curious American, Joel Simpson, who instead of depicting women dressed in conventional apparel, prefers to cover their bodies in eroded rock, in dry and crevassed wood, or with vegetables and ageless minerals, resulting in living and inanimate bodies exalted by the artist’s fascination for geology and anthropology: he thus manages to create a violent and sensual osmosis of substances. Architecture takes on the stigmata of nudity; photography assumes the allures of Galatea, and in this morphological coitus everything seems integral and indissociable.
The Second Review:
By May Soon from Nouveaux Couples December, 2008, translated by Joel Simpson
Virtual Sculptures: Mineralized women’s bodies, or combining them with architectural monuments, it’s the curious work of an American photographer currently showing in Paris
Joel Simpson has been doing photography since 1961. First he pursued studies in literature, that took him to Lyon, Siena and Berlin, ending up finally teaching in the US. His photography always stayed with him, and in 2002 he declared himself a professional. He has shown his works in New York, New Jersey, Texas and Massachusetts. His “virtual sculpture,” as he calls them, are currently being shown at the Museum of Eroticism of Paris through March 27, 2009.
These body projections, projections of images on women’s bodies, combine his fascination for the female body, geology, paleontology on one hand, and for sculpture and surrealism on the other. The images play with the viewer’s perception, drawing it into a universe that evolves from the believable to the extraordinary.
“I was aiming for a believable result. It’s the miracle of projection: the details of the image become constituent parts of the body....The challenge is to combine the images in such a way that both the projected image and the body are clearly discernible....The resulting illusion is immensely satisfying to me.”
His work divides into three movements: Virtual Sculpture proper: the Rock-Women who evoke prehistoric art although their poses are quite modern; Extraordinary Adornment, impossible images that create “an attractive fiction, like the Leaf-woman, a wink at Magritte”; and finally the Metamorphoses of the Body—the combination [image/body] is impossible and the superimposition of the image upon the forms of the body creates a comic effect. “Humor is an important element in my art. If I can put some in, I’m very satisfied”— “a rather subtle and implicit humor,” he adds.
Humor, sensuality and an emotional quest across time and matter [—this is the thrust of his work.—trans.] Many of his virtual sculptures refer to the relief sculpture of the Venus [called the Vénus 3—trans.] sculpted in the [paleolithic frieze] of the Roc-aux-Sorciers at Angles-sur-l’Anglin (Vienne), that he photographed en 2006, taking care to underscore the aesthetic over the scientific aspect of this discovery. This paleolithic sculpture testifies, for this lover of archaeology and anthropology, to the common intelligence that we share with prehistoric people.
“I’m fascinated by abstract art, since it offers us ways of visually imagining internal emotions.” This encounter between the world projected and the nude body gives visual form to emotions that would otherwise not be seen. The images coming from the outside are in reality re-transcriptions [or rather homologies—trans.] of internal emotions...
What is he working on now? This past summer the artist discovered the Craters of the Moon [National Monument—trans.] in Idaho. Since this revelation he projects images of lava on naked bodies.
Joel Simpson exhibits in the Musée de l’érotisme of Paris.
Le Musée de l’érotisme: a serious institution who gives plenty of space to humor!
Open seven days a week until 2 am, the Musée de l’érotisme should not be missed: seven floors of exceptional expositions and unique in France.
It opened its doors in 1977 thanks to two devotees of the history of eroticism of all times. Alain Plumey, the curator, and his friend Jo Khalifa, managed to amass a very substantial collection of art works and craft-object from all over the world. During their farflung travels they brought together a unique collection of objects devoted to sexuality: statuettes dedicated to rites of passage, sculptures from all over Africa, Indian illustrations of the Kama-Sutra. One also finds there extremely rare pieces from the Far East, such as The Pillow-Book...
Friday, December 5, 2008
An Interview with Claus Strigel
Two months ago I had this opportunity to see Claus Strigel’s film MOON SUN FLOWER GAME at the Iranian Film Festival in Chicago. It was a fascinating experience!
I must admit that I have been deeply engaged and obsessed to learn about Hossein Mansouri's life -- a great poet living in Munich now-- since Forough Farrokhzad’s death. I wrote a review... then I decided to interview Claus...
MOON SUN FLOWER GAME
A true fairy tale
A film by Claus Strigel
In 1962 the young poetess Forough Farrokhzad visited the lepers at the end of the earth to make a film about their world.
Her film, “The House is Black”, was to become world famous, and, by and by, change a small world too: the world of a small boy who had the good fortune to meet her.
Overnight, the boy is spirited away from the leprosy colony into the midsts of pre-revolutionary Tehranian Bohemia.
A documentary fairy-tale that begins in a north Iranian leprosy colony and winds its way to Munich’s Westend: there the Iranian poet in exile, Hossein Mansouri, goes in search of the boy and discovers a real oriental fable about his own roots and the magical power of words.
E.G: Why did you decide to make a documentary film about Hossein Mansouri, Forough Farrokhzad's adopted son?
How did you know him? And how did you get in touch with him?
C.S: It began as a coincidence and became fate: in 1999 I made a big adventure fiction film, and one of the main characters was played by a wonderful 9- year- old Persian child: Roman Toulany, the adopted son of Hossein Mansouri. (You remember: the skateboard....)
Over the years we kept in touch, and one day I met by coincidence Marzie, his mother. She invited me to a little event with "Some poems and a film you'll never forget," she said.
I was surprised meeting Roman’s father there, reading lyrics of Forough Farrokhzad and showing the unforgettable film "Khaneh siah ast", up to this point I didn't know anything about Forough or about Hossein’s story.
But I was totally fascinated with the poems and the film. That the little boy in the film was Hossein himself, he kept to himself.
But I guessed something....
Well, bit by bit (it took months) Hossein told me his story, which resembled a fictional Hollywood plot.
It took me another three years to get the financing for the film (from German and French TV).
After all that time I was hopelessly involved in Hossein’s life, Forough’s life and with the whole fascinating world of the Farrokhzad family, including the Golestan universe. The documentary I made represents just a small bit of the whole story.... May be some day I'll go further and deeper.
To answer in a shorter way: Is there anyone who could resist getting the whole story when he saw the smiling boy in the black house?
E.G: Were you more fascinated by Forough Farrokhzad's life story or the boy’s?
C.S: I can't separate it into two parts. It's one ,just one of the fascinating points in Forough’s life, that she adopted a little boy she fell in love with although all the circumstances stood against such a decision. (the taste of leprosy, single parenthood, an artist with highs and downs, adption didn't really exist in Iran, etc.). And Hossein as the adopted son and his unbelievable story is the perspective from which the film looks at Forough. And this story is the only way to tell about Forough Farrokhzad, an Iranian poetess that nobody knows in Germany.
E.G: Why is there no mention of Kamyar (Mansouri's half brother) in your film? (unless there is but I missed it!)
C.S: You didn't miss Kamyar; I missed Kamyar: When I was in Tehran we had a meeting arranged, but he wasn't well that day. So we didn't meet.
The story without Kamyar was complicated enough: The byplay of coincidence and fate (one of the background topics of the film) is told out from the perspective of Hossein. And the story is told just by Hossein. I didn't find the right way to tell the story of Kamyar without confusing the audience completely. (Although Forough wrote a great poem to Kamyar)
Also it opens a huge bunch of questions. How could she leave Kamyar? / her own child and stay with her chosen child, the substituted child? / how was Kamyar after the divorce?
Moving questions for Kamyar and Hossein ...
But this is a challenge for another film and a film more about Forough than about Hossein’s Story.
E.G: Tell us about the process of making this documentary in terms of researching, collecting materials, your trip to Iran, meeting those who have been involved with Mansouri etc...
C.S: It was a long way, though the first draft was written in one night: To convince German TV to make a film about an Iranian poetess, there was no way. They said that the German audience doesn’t even know or read German poets.... The only chance was to “sell” the moving story of the adoption of a child living in an Iranian leprosorium. It took me 2 years to get the financing and another half year to convince Hossein Mansouri, because Hossein wanted me to make a film about Forough not about himself. For shooting and editing we had 10 months. Shooting in Iran was a wonderful experience. We found only very helpful and gentle people. Even everybody even in the streets gave us the sign: You’re welcome! Mehrdad Farrokhzad (one of the younger brothers of Forough and his wife Diana showed us everything in the city with an unbelievable hospitality.
E.G: As far as I know, your film is the first film in the history of international cinema which reveals the mystery behind Hossein Mansouri's life and his relationship with Forough Farrokhzad. Aside from the geographical context, how do you see such a relationship?
C.S: Even without the Persian context and without knowing anything about Forough Farrokhzad and her position in Persian culture: IT IS A GREAT STORY!
And for the non- Iranian audience the moving story opens the door for more: Forough’s life, Forough’s poetry, Forough as a pioneer to change gender relations in Iran, and the extraordinary relationship of the Iranian people to their poets. Hossein Mansouri believes that his MOON-SUN-FLOWER-GAME statement changed his fate. "That is the magical power of words- just words change your life"
E.G: Tell us about the form and style of directing and editing this film. Did you have a certain technique in your mind, or did the story itself shape the form?
C.S: First the story shaped my mind and then I had the clear feeling I had to tell it with this dirty shaky camera and jump cuts. The camera seems not to be prepared, searching, looking, shifting... You never know what's next. A camera style of uncertainty resembling Josef Campbell's "Uncertainty of being." This was the impression I had when Hossein told me his story bit by bit. THE BOY: He never said "I", when he told of the time before his adoption. "My first perception of Forough was her voice". After 20 minutes runtime the first time Hossein takes the "I" instead of calling himself the boy. And before that you can't be sure, whether the adult Mansouri is the boy of the black house.
I like the optical effects like mixing Munich’s Westend with Tehran’s Bazar, as if it were the same town. I like it because it tells the audience never to trust their eyes, to be aware of surprises happening surprises every moment, that it pays to look sharp.
E.G: Tell us one of the memorable, surprising moments happened while making this film.
C.S: The very first evening, when I and my assistant arrived in Tehran for some research, I had the chance to have a look in the family archive of Farrokhzads. A lot of postcards Forough has written during her trip in Europe .... The first postcard I had a look at was written by Forough to a friend, I think in 1958. There was a picture of Munich on it. I live in Munich, so I looked closer. (attached is the image of the Postcard)
Forough wrote her return address on the back, where she obviously lived for a time:
The address is exactly the address of my home in Munich, the apartment underneath my apartment, where I’ve lived for 30 years. ( Well, in 1958 I was three years old and didn’t live not there).
There you are: Moon Sun Flower Game a film about coincidence and fate.
E.G: How has the international audience reaction been towards your film?
C.S: The response with audiences of mixed nationalities has been especially wonderful. I think because if you had to leave your home (country) you are very sensitive to the topics Hossein has to deal with: Where are my roots? Who am I? What's my nationality? Where am I going? Etc. etc.
At this moment I'm traveling back from a MOON SUN FLOWER GAME show in a cinema in Hamburg. It was a wonderful, sensitive, excited audience, and they didn't go home even after a long discussion. I wonder if it would have been like this, if it had been just a German audience, because 90% were Iranian.
In Germany it was the first public screening after the premiere at the International Film Festival Hof. In the United States the film had gone from town to town since the beginning of 2008. (Houston-San Antonio-Chicago-Boston....) If I had a distributor in the USA it would be much easier to get the film screened because I have the worldwide TV, DVD and cinema rights yet available.
E.G: Dear Claus; You Have Made an Important Film! Thank you...
Monday, November 17, 2008
Read his current political view:
In a February 2007 op-ed in Le Monde, Régis Debray criticized the tendency of the whole French political class to move toward the right-wing of politics. He also deplored the influence of the "videosphere" on modern politics, which he claimed has a tendency to individualize everything, forgetting both past and future (although he praised the loss of the 1960s messianism), outside of any common national project. He criticized the new generation in politics as being competent but without character, and lacking ideas: "So they [think they] recruit philosophy with André Glucksmann or Bernard-Henri Lévy and literature with Christine Angot or Jean d'Ormesson". He called for a vote to the "left of the left," in order to attempt to block a modern "anti-politics" which has turned into political marketing .
Watch this video...
Friday, November 7, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I voted for you for a chance at peace, for a chance at bringing people together, and for a possibility of an end to hate, fear, and insecurity.
If I may have your ears for a moment...
Please tax me, but use my taxes wisely. I do not mind sharing what I have, with those in need, to help build roads and repair bridges, pay for schools and teachers, pay for health care for all, and pay for innovative, safe, green jobs. I want my taxes to bring joy, happiness, relief, nourishment, and life to my fellow human beings. I do not want my taxes to be used for war to kill and destroy life and livelihood, or for my taxes to pay for the irresponsible, reckless, foolish CEOs' vacations and manicures. Read More....
Monday, November 3, 2008
Shokooh Mirzadegi, founder and executive manager of PHF, makes her best effort to save the archeological sites in Iran such as Pasargad, and brings all the writers and artists together to make a difference in preserving Iran's natural and cultural heritage.
Read passages in the text of Cyrus cylinder as expressing his respect for human rights in Iran Chamber Society's website:
"...I am Cyrus, king of the world. When I entered Babylon...I did not allow anyone to terrorize the land...I kept in view the needs of Babylon and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being...I put an end to their misfortune."
Cyrus 539 BCE
The first charter of Rights of Nations
Gore Vidal the prominent American writer wrote a historical book on the era of Darius which gives a vivid portray of Achaemenid Persian Empire. The book called: "Creation"
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
"Earlier this year, my TV crew and I traveled to Iran to film a public television special. Our mission: to help America better understand and humanize this culturally-rich, controversial nation. The project has turned out to be an eye-opener for me personally, as well. To share the adventures and lessons of my Iran trip and to show you a 4-minute video preview of our upcoming TV special I’ve set up a special corner of our website devoted to Rick Steves’ Iran, Yesterday and Today
Please have a look...." Read More
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Marilyn Monroe and Someone to Love Me!
Listen to this beautiful song.
Under this mask, is the place where she hides,
Under this smile, these soft dreamy eyes,
The world wants to see
Side of this girl, who pretends to be me.
Nobody knows me, no one can see
No body knows me, knows what I feel.
Is someone to love me.
To love me ,
To love me for me.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Bill Moyers spoke with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the media expert. She suggested that misleading political attacks can undermine the quality of our discourse by emphasizing talking points and exaggerated rhetoric over facts and truth....Read More
Soros attributed much of the current downturn to an erroneous faith in the market to govern itself:
"There has been some kind of an ideological excess: namely, market fundamentalism for the last 25 or so years....Read More
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Joel Simpson is a multi- disciplinary artist. He is a photo artist, jazz pianist and had taught English, French and Italian in colleges. in October he will have two shows in France. One in Tours in October 12 at the Chapelle Sainte-Anne. And the second will be in Paris at the Musée de l’érotisme.
E.G. As you recently have developed an interest in Iran’s history, culture and civilization, how do you see Iranians (abroad or at home) at this time in history? The possibility of a perilous war between the two countries?
J.S: I have always had a great respect for Persian culture, just as the Romans had, and being Jewish, I’m very aware of the benevolence and toleration of Cyrus for the Jews in ancient times. I am outraged by the fact that our CIA operatives actually subverted a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953, a fact, among others, that gives the lie to our government’s claim that it wishes to spread democracy and freedom. It’s difficult to imagine something like that happening to us, yet if we are to understand America’s real role in the world, we must try to grasp the enormity of this and other of our national crimes. If more Americans actually knew about it they might take a more sober view of our role in the world and the rather toxic exceptionalism that is so commonplace here.
The revolution of 1979 was a direct consequence of our 1953 subversion, and it ended up causing even more pain for the non-fundamentalist citizens of Iran. Few Americans realize that Iran was one of the three most modern oriented nations in the Middle East, along with Lebanon and Israel. Yet due to the Islamic revolution, many of those Western-oriented citizens have emigrated, forming a very successful and educated diaspora in this and other Western countries, and who have made significant contributions to the culture and well-being of those countries. It’s another historical irony.
Of course, Khomeni’s revolution did accomplish one major thing: it secured Iran’s considerable oil wealth for itself. This was the US motivation for installing the Shah; it was the motivation for making war on Iraq, and it would be the government’s true motivation for attacking Iran, which I have been active in New York to try to prevent. Two major factors militate against this dreadful possibility: the opinions of most defense experts and the exhaustion of our military and economic power in Iraq and with the latest ongoing crisis—which is going to cost the US government a lot of money. So making another war at the behest of Bush and Cheney’s friends in the oil companies may just not be affordable, if Cheney can’t be restrained by logic, or better, impeached.
E.G: Tell us something about the two venues, in Paris and in Tours, where you’re having shows in October 2008…
J.S: The one in Tours is part of a much larger festival taking place in the cities and towns across the entire Touraine region. Its director, an American woman, happened to visit the large photography show I curated in Brooklyn last year and was impressed. We got to talking, and by February of this year, she had invited me to show 11 of my works in a gallery in Tours, the center of the festival. I may get to stage a performance where I project patterns from nature on dancers suspending a white cloth between them. I did it last October, and the audience was spellbound. The show will open October 12 at the Chapelle Sainte-Anne.
The one in Paris is at the Musée de l’érotisme, a wonderful museum that is as strong in the diverse worldwide ethnography of erotic art as it is in examples of that art from Western Europe and the US. I created my own catalogue of the museum when I visited it in 2006 and gave it to the curator, with the suggestion that he include prehistoric art in his presentation. He agreed, but then apparently also liked my creative work, which I had submitted to him, since he sent me an email last April inviting me to have a show there. It will be 50 works, opening October 23, and lasting four to six months.
E.G:. Is there anything you like to add?
J.S: Thank you so very much, for asking me such provocative questions. Thanks to all your readers who’ve read any of it, and especially to those who made it to the end.
E.G: Thank you for you time
E.G: How do you see a woman’s body?
J.S: Through my 10x40 binoculars if my neighbor across the street leaves her bedroom light on…just kidding.
I love women’s bodies. I think breasts are among the great wonders of the world. I sometimes try to image what it’s like to walk around with them, knowing they proclaim out in public your womanhood, your capacity for nurturing and love. Sometimes it almost seems like revealing too much. How do we men contain ourselves? We must be at a very advanced stage of civilization to merely look and not ogle or want to touch.
So I’ve never gotten over my adolescent fascination with women’s bodies. My inner adolescent self thinks it’s pretty neat that I’ve contrived a way to photograph women naked whom I hardly know. But my models are my serious collaborators, highly motivated artists, whose medium happens to be themselves (like a singer, whose instrument is her body). They work very hard, and I demand a lot from them, and we produce wonderful things together. I most love to work with models who are as fascinated with the end products as I am, and this includes most of them.
It’s also important to recognize both the diversity of women’s bodies and to honor the stages they go through as they age. It’s unfortunate that the commercial world has so promoted young, nubile bodies at the expense of older, more mature ones. I think breasts that droop are icons of generosity, of warmth, of nurturance, of home, of safety. They can be organs of these same things. I remember a scene in a Bergman movie where the amply endowed house servant offers her breasts to the tormented, anguished mistress. It illustrated the consoling power of this woman’s breasts.
E.G: Did women - directly or indirectly – influence your artistic style?
J.S: I suppose I’ve developed an artistic style out of my fascination for form and my attraction to women’s bodies, and my attempt to combine the two. I’ve literally projected my artistic ideas onto the bodies of my models, and in so doing have discovered something about my own passions and drives.
The female photographers who have influenced me mostly belong to the current artistic community, since it is only recently that barriers have come down against women in the visual arts. Georgia O’Keefe is a notable exception. Donna Ferrato is a distinguished woman photographer of erotic subjects, but her approach is more photojournalistic. Diane Neumaier, who teaches at
E.G. What are you trying to show by transforming living human bodies into prehistoric art?
J.S: I came to what I call “virtual sculpture with prehistoric references” after experimenting with a number of projection subjects—buildings, vegetables, etc. When I focused on placing rock and wood surfaces on living bodies, though, I created a mysterious illusion that the viewer was seeing actual sculpture that looked very ancient. This was a wonderful discovery. Then I had to figure out the significance of this sort of thing for my artist statements, and I came up with the fact that this work illustrates our deep connections to our mostly forgotten prehistoric ancestors. Recently, though, I’ve come to realize that the rich forms and patterns I’ve projected actually serve as visual analogies of otherwise invisible energy.E.G: What is the role of politics in your photography?
J.S: I’m very involved in politics, very disturbed at the direction our country has been going in for some time. I consider my photography a means of witness to any political event I manage to attend. This includes most importantly large anti-war protests in
E.G. Do you like cinema as well?
J.S: Of course! I love movies the way I love novels. Certain films (by Fellini, Bergman, Robbe-Grillet, Truffaut, Altman) have profoundly influenced me, going right to my concept of reality, of memory, of human relations and the human mind. Films can address extremely important issues with an immediacy and power unmatched by any other art— that is its strong point, in contrast to the drama, which is better adapted to address the complexities and ironies of human relations, and of course there’s a considerable overlap.
And a very particular relationship between still photography and cinema has grown up as a sub-genre. If the cinema presents a concentrated version of life, then a photograph that purports to be a still from a movie—as Cindy Sherman demonstrated early in her career—offers a distillation of that concentration, redolent with implications.
E.G. Tell us something about your days as a composer and jazz pianist.
J.S: I seem to always like spending most of my time on that which gives me the most pleasure, then worry about making a living afterwards. Listing to good, juicy, rich, heartfelt, complex jazz put me into such a state of pleasure I had to learn how to do it myself. So after having been a mediocre pianist since childhood, I began to apply myself seriously to it when I was 31. I spent 22 years at it and actually became fairly good, though I was no prodigy. I could play in a way that moved others and satisfied myself, though I always wanted to be better and was in awe of many great artists in the field. I realized that improvising is like the experience of an orgasm that lasts as long as you want it to. You’re in an altered state, in touch with eternity or whatever you want to call that reality that’s different from your daily, ordinary one where you pay the bills and take out the garbage. Listening is almost as good as playing, but not quite. The difference is 10 to 20 years of study, and this is what I did. At the end I realized I would never be able to make a living at it, and playing publicly became very repetitious, especially in
E.G. Nature, eroticism, politics, and pop culture are the main subjects of your interest. Do you see any relation between them?
J.S: I would say that these fall into two separate domains for me.
On one hand, nature and eroticism meet in my art in the domain of shared forms. I project natural forms onto the female body, and these forms seem to suggest unseen vectors of energy and passion when projected, even more explicitly than they do in the straight images, say of ice, lava or any other rock or wood formation.
On the other hand, politics and folk culture (as distinguished from commercial pop culture, which interests me very little) both demand a sensitive photojournalistic approach to capture their most significant and revealing moments.
E.G. Define eroticism and your erotic art…
J.S: Eroticism is the celebration of the most joyous force of existence. Clearly the most successful species are those for whom eroticism is the most pervasive in their lives, and as Freud pointed out, it’s everywhere, in various displaced or sublimated forms. It certainly is very powerful in art, and I’m not just referring to work that is explicitly about sexual desire.
The case of architecture is instructive. The most efficient use of gravity in construction uses the most rectilinear forms. Yet curvilinear forms are recognized as erotic in architectural theory today, probably because they contravene the norm. If you apply this notion to artistic form in general, then eroticism is everywhere outside of Mondrian, although people don’t necessarily recognize it as such.
As for my erotic art, I think my work with couples is the most frankly erotic of all my work. I—and most men, and many women—find the contemplation of a woman’s body by itself to be erotic, and if not explicitly so, then beautiful. And by the way, prehistoric art teaches us to regard very ample female bodies as fascinating and beautiful. These large body types predominate in Paleolithic art, especially in the little statuettes, of which the Venus of Willendorf is only the most famous. I have thought that the rock or wood overlay, the projection, serves as a screen to make the eroticism of the naked bodies I photograph less explicit, and therefore more powerful. They remove these bodies from the domain of possible pornography—they’re not particularly turn-ons, but they’re (I hope) no less fascinating for that. I hope they express a more universal version of the subject—idealized perhaps—and one that requires the viewer to leap over millennia (even if virtual ones) to make that identification. If this expands one’s historical imagination, then I’ve succeeded at another of my goals.
E.G: How would you like to introduce yourself to those who do not know you?
J.S: Professionally, I’m a photo artist perhaps a bit obsessed with geological formations, an amateur prehistorian, someone who has studied form in a number of media—visual, literary, musical. If they’re interested in my background, as I would be interested in theirs, I’d tell them with a wink that I am a recovering academic—I loved teaching college, but the university today is not the intellectual community (in pursuit of truth) it once was. So I left and turned to the great love of my life, photography, which has been immensely rewarding. Most of my published writings are in music and art criticism.
E.G. You started in photography as an artistic expression in your teen years. You then became a multi-disciplinary artist. You’ve taught English, French, Italian, and jazz history and performance, and you were a professional jazz pianist for two decades. What brought you back to photography after all these years?
J.S: I realized when I returned to teaching that I was really working mainly to support my photography and travel habits. This was even true when I played music for a living. So when I became fed up with academia I said, why not professionally what I really love best, and here do I am.
E.G: What is photography for you? What do you seek to express in this form of art?
J.S: Photography is my way of taking in, loving and expressing my joy in the visual world. Although there is much to this world that is hidden from sight, pursuing photography seriously has revealed much that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Really seeing, which is what photography teaches it devotees, brings forth a huge wealth of form and relationships which in fact reveal much more about the depths of reality than most people suspect. Practicing photography becomes a form of discovery, as we contemplate what other photographers have done and constantly try to exceed our limits, and to extend our vision.
Four areas of photography are particularly meaningful to me: natural forms, portraiture, human events and interactions, and the digital process of combining images.
My favorite subjects in nature are geological and botanical, with a slight edge to the former. The geological includes ice, by the way, which is “instant” geology. I find my favorite nature photographs are those that use a rather flat canvas, rather that the virtual perspective of a landscape or scene. So I prefer a sense of form to a sense of place. Pure form, as found in rocks, ice, water, etc. offers images of energy, power and spirituality.
The best photojournalism—where photography records human activity—is about capturing an epiphany: a moment in which many elements in space all combine to offer a rich reading of the scene. It’s not easy to escape from the norm of banality and capture something truly revealing, but the moments are always unfolding; they’re always there. The trick, the talent, is to notice them and snap, which has to be intuitive, because it’s all happening too fast to think about. When this is done successfully, a photograph can reveal certain kinds of truth as no other art can, not discourse, not moving pictures, not fiction. The capacity to freeze and preserve a moment enables the viewer to calmly explore relationships among elements that would disappear or change the next moment.
Finally, photography with its presumption of authenticity has the capacity to make believable fictions, or call them “confections,” to distinguish them from the quasi-fictional versions of literal reality. This capacity has now been greatly enhanced by digital techniques. As a particularly powerful tool of the imagination, photography can propose the plausible impossible with a straight-faced seriousness that painting can only dream of. In my virtual sculpture- body projection work I have learned from many painters, especially the surrealists, who have also inspired a whole new generation of digital photo artists. Our photography by no means diminishes the value of the great visual poets of the imagination, such as Magritte, Dalí, Miró, Max Ernst, André Masson, and others, all of whom had their own unique vision.
One more word on the relationship of photography to sculpture. It’s not an obvious one, rather kind of a subterranean one, but actually very special. Since much of my art photography consists of creating pictures of imaginary sculpture I must think about this. Both art forms address the plasticity of objects in space, sculpture by recreating it, substituting the color and tone of the sculptural material for that of the actual subject, while preserving its spatial dimension; photography by representing the subject in space in all its three-dimensionality, and what this does with the light falling on it.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
“My Name is Inanna” is my new one woman play which I performed at Women and Theatre Program (WTP) Conference, Confronting the Silence: Building Bridges of Engagement, in July 30, 2008 at El Centro Su Teatro in Denver-Colorado
The main character Inanna, retrieved from the historical texts, the Sumerian goddess of love, justice and civilization, is a modern Middle Eastern woman who is in search of identity, justice and freedom, leaves her mother country, where she had been imprisoned there under the dictatorial regime for several years until she flees the country in search of freedom. After receiving a political asylum in the
Handcuffed alone in a holding area, she speaks for 55 minutes, reliving her experiences of politics and incarceration in her native country, as well as those of her newly adopted country.
Photos by: Joel Simpson
Friday, July 11, 2008
McCain: "My friends, in these trying times in which we live, there's one thing all Americans can agree on: killing Iranians is hilarious.".....
(All Americans can agree on....?!!)
Read this article by Andy Borowitz.
Bob Cesca: "Killing Iranian Civilians Isn't hilarious, Senator McCain."
"....How, then, should we describe a clearly unbalanced presidential candidate who jokes about killing innocent civilians as part of a larger war-mongering foreign policy?" Read the whole article, and watch this video clip.
Monday, July 7, 2008
is a poet, editor and publisher from Turkey. Read one of her poems:
We are on the verge of the night that is approaching, whirling and whirling
At the edge of the bridge composed of the murmurs uttered when we are delirious
How is it possible to narrate why all these injuries occur, without arms and weapons
How is it possible to explain this depthlessness causing the flower to fade
Life is a ball of silk thread, multicoloured
Life is all the sad poppies standing still under the rainbow
The mystery in how a man falls in love with a woman silently
How the magic is unveiled in the silent love of a woman
I am gathering all the rain drops, all the downpours in the towns
that are piled together
Gathering the suns in the vast blues, our hands so skinny
The piercing pain of all the incomplete loves, carried away,
in whatever age one is
Ask me, I will tell how many stars there are, if possible,
All rolling down in the night, from the darkness, into the light
Our mouths, full of foam, love in our mouths, chewed and spit out
Welcome’s, goodmorning’s, how are you’s all chewed and spit out
This is not how it goes, I know, impossible to proceed, remaining thus behind
Thin ropes stretched between us, ponds of tear drops rolling down in thin lines
How can the lovers ordered to go away, and all those unreachable Springs be narrated
Better would it be you and me as the only audience, how crowded are the spectators
Watching the despair, as if one crosses a garden full of pebbles, rocks, stones
Stabbing one, piercing needles into the body in full length
And then, watching how one suffers, this unmatched defeat, that is unique
We are approaching turning round and round, remaining in the night
That is why we still are where we are, the abscissa, zero and all, zero is the ordinate
No wings have I, stretched out, not even a revenge, not taken at all
No harm done in asking you for the last time, I know
No harm done for certain women
If they remain out of their shells then they won’t be in despair
No pain in my soul, dry are my eyes, and if despair
Does not roam around me...then I am well, better than anyone....
Our mouths, full of foam, why is all this foam for
This night, which season does it belong to, and who says ‘you’ to you
Being involved in life, falling in love, into despair, laughing and playing
Weeping for the one that has passed away, just laughing and playing
As I already said, if it is a dream, it is a dream, and if a lie, then it is a lie
As the lies told destroy the untold dreams
This is how we all are...how calm and withdrawn, how offended...and thirsty
Now we should rest beneath the trees grown by us
And, just today, is the exact time to talk about us, and about all those
Septembers, Octobers that will follow each other in time, the way you wish
The children too die as their childhoods do die
Open the rear window of the world and look around
That green field and grass made up of hopes
That carnation, that rose, that one, tell me what its name is
The one that falls upon the darkness, whirling and whirling
Is it this life that will take us out into the streets
I just laugh.
(Translated into English by Aysu ERDEN)
Lincoln Square Arts Center
4754 North Leavitt
Chicago, IL 60625
Tel: (773) 275-7930
In July 30, 2008 I will perform my new play "My Name is Inanna" in El Centro Su Teatre in
Confronting the Silence: Building Bridges of
28th Annual Women and Theatre Program Conference
July 30, 2008
El Centro Su Teatro
4725 High Street, Denver, CO 80216
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
Read and listen to his interview.
Excerpts of Russell Banks' words are posted at Ralph Nader's 2008 Blog.
Listen also to his interview in Bob Weekends' Weekend.
Russell Banks: We’re Dreaming
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Legendary Author Gore VidalGore Vidal , One of America’s most respected writers and thinkers. He’s authored more than twenty novels and five plays. His recent books include Dreaming War, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia. His latest is Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir. Read or listen
And Gore Vidal Index
Listen to Amy Goodman's interview with George Katsiaficas, Professor of Humanities and Sociology at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. He is the author of numerous books, including The Imagination of the New Left: The Global Analysis of 1968. In Democracy Now
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
and the Brave New Team
"You may have heard of Rev. John Hagee, the McCain supporter who said God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its homosexual "sins." Well now meet Rev. Rod Parsley, the televangelist megachurch pastor from Ohio who hates Islam. According to David Corn of Mother Jones, Parsley has called on Christians to wage war against Islam, which he considers to be a "false religion." In the past, Parsley has also railed against the separation of church and state, homosexuals, and abortion rights, comparing Planned Parenthood to Nazis.
John McCain actively sought and received Parsley's endorsement in the presidential race. McCain has called Parsley "a spiritual guide," and he hasn't said whether he shares Parsley's vicious anti-Islam views. That's because the mainstream media refuses to ask. And so, we've taken matters into our own hands, joining Mother Jones to present the truth about McCain's pastor:
Watch the video: http://bravenewfilms.org/watch/22602497/38133?utm_source=rgemail
Since the media won't question McCain about his deeply bigoted pastor, it's up to you to call attention to this issue. Make McCain's pastor problem a major story by forwarding this video to your family, friends, and colleagues. Digg it! More...
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
By: Mahasti Shahrokhi
Translated by: Ezzat Goushegir
Lucia is calm, clever, and quiet. When they cheat her and pull the wool over her eyes, she would remain silent, but with her quick, delicate fingers taps repeatedly something which I can’t clearly understand what she means. She repeats over and over until I get what she really wants to tell me. I get angry for what she has been through and I scream out loud. Then she takes a deep breath and remains silent.
There are times when they cheat me and pull the wool over my eyes, too, and I wouldn’t be able to utter a word. I remain silent but it eats me from within. Lucia senses it quickly and with her quick, delicate fingers starts to restlessly communicate with me. She takes a deep breath and holds my hand tenderly to calm me down. I clearly know that if some day I’m in need, it would be Lucia who will stay beside me.
Lucia, lovely Lucia, whenever they cheat us and pull the wool over our eyes, she would constantly repeat something with her quick fingers, and I shout out loudly and restlessly, and she breathes deeply and smiles warmly, then holds my hand to calm me down.
Lucia, the innocent, kind Lucia….
She is the voice of the voiceless world. And it is I who sometimes speaks for her. Lucia is right: we should celebrate the only one chance of our “Being”, whether by shouting out loud or being silent. Lucia has always taught me that this is the way of life.
Maurice will throw a party tonight. I’m not in a mood to attend his party and bear all the noise. I tell Maurice I wouldn’t come.
Lucia looks at me with surprise. I explain to her the reasons. A spark flashes in her eyes.
I ask, “Will you go there, Lucia?”
Lucia shakes her head, and her eyes shine with joy.
- Lucia, do you like to dance?
She nods once again.
- …and you’ll dance?
She nods repeatedly.
I say: Maurice, I’ll come then, tonight!
- What made you change your mind? Maurice asks.
- Because Lucia will dance tonight. I can’t miss it!
- That’s right! Lucia will dance tonight.