From the Editor
by Wendy Vogel
If we can subscribe to philosopher Jacques Rancière’s notion that politics and aesthetics are inherently bound together in “distribution of the sensible”—that is, all that is seeable, sayable and knowable—the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden is doubtless the most significant aesthetic event of the past two weeks. Immediately after the announcement, the loudest demands were made not for the accountability of the chain of events leading up to his death, carried out on secret order, but rather for the release of photos of his corpse. While the photographic evidence was soon circulated to journalists, pundits and politicians, who have gravely reported on their “gruesome” nature, President Obama has halted their distribution to a wider public. (Not unlike the stifling of images of war.) Politicians argue that the photos should be kept under wraps due to fear of the wider ramifications—namely, retaliation. The counterarguments range from cathartic release for soldiers and victims of the events of World Trade Center attacks to the fact that the photos will likely be released on the Internet without a disclaimer soon enough.
Regardless of where one stands on this highly emotional and political issue, it brings the visual and the political into close confrontation. As art enthusiasts, we might well remind ourselves that all images in the public realm are political, whether they become part of an art dialogue, popular culture, news media or otherwise. The polarizing debates that have surfaced recently over representations of queerness and sex have been summarized in my recent letters from the editor several times over, yet they remain one concrete example of how such representations can become political tools in the hands of institutions. How we as cultural producers choose to respond to imagery—through artistic creation, manipulation, transformation, critical response, curatorial discernment, mediation, and display or otherwise—reflects not only on our professional bearing, but on the politics of our (art)world.
This week’s issue features reflections on exhibitions across Texas that are loosely tied to reorienting oneself politically, geographically or perceptually. Sasha Dela interviews Linda Shearer, the executive director of Project Row Houses, who has recently co-curated Round 34 on sustainable food practices to address the problem of Third Ward’s “food desert.” In our reviews section, Rachel Stevens discusses the exhibition The World According to New Orleans as a “functional site” for the articulation of a rich and complex idea of the local art scene to a wider audience. Similarly, Lee Webster writes about cultural histories of a contemporary Americana played out in The Sultans Played Creole at Champion. And Alexis Salas responds to the political implications of Recovering Beauty at the Blanton, a group exhibition of artists working in Buenos Aires in the 1990s that embraced visual delight.
Also in our review section, Lana Shafer considers the strange sensuality of Jade Walker’s installation at Blue Star in San Antonio, while Charissa Terranova confronts Brian Fridge’s hypnotic video installation at Dunn and Brown head (and body) on. Erin Starr White meditates on Fergus Feehily’s and Matt Connors’ contemporary updates of abstract painting, and in …mbg recommends, I give a rundown of the gallery shows on Houston’s Isabella Court that address themes of the geographic, spatial and political.
Until the next issue, while you’re out in the world reminding yourself that you are a politicized aesthetic being, soak up those belated May showers, celebrate the end of the academic year, and see some art before the Texas summer heat really kicks in.
Wendy Vogel is Editor of ...might be good.