“Well… I guess that’s what you’d call ‘the conscious’.”

A warm welcome to guest poster Joanna Walsh.

I’m reading the guide notes on the walls of the Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. They’re annoying me. I’m seeing the exhibition with a friend. It’s always good to have someone to complain to.

“Look, here it says about how miserable she is again: ‘depression, anxiety, the fear of abandonment, of loss of love.’ It says it’s all going on in the ‘depths of her unconscious’.”

Although Bourgeois’ material comes from the unconscious, and often from misery, she transforms it with tough, highly-articulate and playful conscious thought.

Ok – let’s look at the most immediately obvious things about an artist who is shown in the bank of photos outside her exhibition, unfailingly smiling. She smiles wisely, secretly, ironically, openly; she smiles from inside her sculptures; she smiles at Andy Warhol; she smiles wickedly and most famously holding under her arm a latex phallic sculpture entitled, ‘little girl’.

Let’s look at her early, isolated, stick-like, sculptured human figures whose fragile attempts to connect with each other are described by the artist with a nod and a wink – look at those two stick-people standing together, the ‘female’ inclining her head toward the ‘male’, ‘listening’ (as in the title of the piece) clearly not only with affection, but a definite touch ‘yes, dear, very nice, dear,’ in her attitude.

It’s so hard to ignore the hard hysterical, joke-y surrealism which inhabits her sketches and prints of ‘house-wives’ – women imprisoned by their domestic role. So – let’s not ignore it.

Her 1960s ‘body parts’ sculptures of penis-breasts, which she teasingly denies are sexual are not only ‘repellant, and unsettling’ but also meltingly and sensually textured: here is someone who enjoys sex and likes to play around with gender.

It’s good to see a room of pieces inspired by the artist’s mother whom Bourgeois had a deep need to rehabilitate from her role as silent witeness to a powerful and adulterous husband. Bourgeois transforms her into an enourmous spider – a huge, twisted being; the domestic become monstrous through a change of size – but also a friendly maternal force with her well-protected bundle of eggs. In the end, this spider scares me less than the ones I find in the bath. I’d like to have this spider on my side.

And let’s not shy away from the fact that Bourgeois’ work is and has always consciously followed fashion. As maxi-skirts followed minis, so Bourgeois’ early Giacommeti-like figures were superseded by her installation works in the 1980s then by her currently fashionable use of embroidery and textiles. If she’s ‘impossible to categorise’ it’s not through iconoclasm but her knowing and eclectic use of any art movement she finds lying around.

The slightly po-faced exhibition guide has concentrated on Bourgeois’ pain rather than the angry, intelligent, tough jouissance with which she transforms into a clearly-articulated visual language her hard, priviliged, trivial, serious life.

We get to the last of the noticeboards. My friend agrees:

“They keep on going on about the subconscious meaning. I don’t think it’s subconscious. It’s – what do they call that thing that’s above the subconscious.”

“Well… I guess that’s what you’d call ‘the conscious’.”

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“I am a scientific person. I believe in psychoanalysis, in philosophy. For me the only thing that matters is the tangible.” Louise Bourgeois

Understanding Turkey and the US

… through the lens of daily newspapers. Shamelessly stolen in its entirety from Turkish Torque, whose sharp commentary deserves a huge audience. (Not that we can provide one, but that does not make the Torquester any less deserving.)

Who reads what?

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country. (Yeni Safak?)
2. The New York Times is read by people who think they run the country. (H?rriyet & Milliyet?)
3. The Washington Post is read by people who think they ought to run the country. (Milli Gazete, Radikal & D.B. Terc?man?)
4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don’t understand the Washington Post.
5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn’t mind running the country, if they could spare the time.
6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country. (Cumhuriyet?)
7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren’t too sure who’s running the country. (Fanatik & Pas Fotomac?)
8. The New York Post is read by people who don’t care who’s running the country, as long as they do something scandalous.
9. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren’t sure there is a country, or that anyone is running it.
10. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country.

(Sinancigim, tesekk?rler.)

Daniel Pipes on Tariq Ramadan: Why French literacy still matters

Readers of my previous comment on Tariq Ramadan will no doubt have come away with the impression that I don’t much like Daniel Pipes. This is not an entirely accurate assessment of my opinon of him. I think Pipes is an unreconstructed bigot and xenophobic fanatic whose academic work fails to meet even the lowest standards of scholarship, whose career has been built on politically driven attacks, and who has set up with his “Campus Watch” as a terrorist front designed to intimidate academics and ensure that there is as little debate, discussion or rational thought on Israel, US foreign policy or Islam as possible. His reseach and scholarship are not intended to better inform action but to support specific agendas, usually revolving around hating some foreign force or people. Instead of fostering debate, his work is intended to intimidate. Pipes advocates religiously targetted surveillance, he supports making federal university funding conditional on ideology, and he has helped to terrorise professors who are named on his website. In short, I think Pipes is swine.

He is a second generation right-wing tool, the son of one of the men most responsible for America’s “Team B”, which grossly overblew the Soviet menace in the 70s and 80s – causing massive US defense spending and resulting deficits – and complained that anyone with a better sense of reality was soft on communism. Normally, Pipes’ parentage would constitute poor grounds for condeming him as having a pathological relationship to facts. But keep this in mind, since it constitutes one of his arguments against Ramadan.

All you need is Google to find out why I think these things about Daniel Pipes. It’s not a lot of work. His own website provides ample examples.

But, today, I will be targeting something a little more specific. Pipes has put up on his website his comment on Tariq Ramadan’s visa denial, originally published in the New York Post on Friday. In it, he makes specific points against Tariq Ramadan, linking, in some cases, to articles on the web in support. These articles are primarily in French. As a service to our non-francophone readers, we will be translating the relevant sections, since they lead one to the conclusion that Pipes assumes his readers will just take his word on their contents.

We report, you decide.
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Outsourcing and the Global Optimum

The last week has seen the ‘great US ousourcing debate’ hit both new highs, and new lows. On the plus side would be the declarations of the oft maligned Greg Mankiw to the effect that the “outsourcing” of jobs is beneficial to the United States economy (even with the qualification ‘perhaps’ this has merit – since despite the fact that the suggestion may not be as well-founded as Mankiw imagines, it is at least courageous in a situation where the President he is advising doesn’t appear any too clear on the question himself). Among the more evident examples of the low points would be the statement from the Democratic Presidential aspirant John Kerry to the effect that company leaders who promote business process outsourcing are ‘Benedict Arnold CEO’s’.
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