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“Nemesis”: Ai Weiwei in New York City

These are the photos of the newest installment of “Project Nemesis,” by Cuban artist Geandy Pavón. This time, “Nemesis” was dedicated to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who has been under arrest since April 3rd, when the Chinese regime launched one of the harshest campaigns against dissent since the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The performance of “Nemesis” began at 10:30 p.m., over the wall of the consulate of the People’s Republic of China, in New York City. On this occasion —as opposed to previous installments— the image that was used by Pavón was not a still photo. The projection on the wall was a film made using sunflower oil, as the surface upon which the image was reflected.

The video of the performance is being edited. Until it arrives, I have the privilege of sharing the following images. These photos are courtesy of the artist Geandy Pavón.

Please spread the word.

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The art (and consequences) of speaking in public

Lars Von Trier starts his “I understand Hitler” number on minute 35 of his press conference at Cannes Film Festival.

There is obvious awkwardness and discomfort among the attendees. Well, sort of. The members of the panel go from stone-faced to nodding and even smiling (nervously, yes, but smiling, nonetheless). There are a couple of laughs from the audience as he tries to crack a joke. All of this while Von Trier is sympathizing with Hitler, and finishes that topic with a conclusive “Ok, I am a Nazi.”

Wait. That’s not the fascinating part. This is: nobody has the decency to walk out and leave the schmuck speaking by himself.

Lars Von Trier: No Sympathy for Melancholy

Lars Von Trier, the enfant terrible of Danish cinema, got his foot stuck in his trachea during a press conference for his film “Melancholia,” at Cannes Film Festival. When asked about [fill in the blank; it doesn’t really matter], he answered:

I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because my family is German. And that also gave me some pleasure. So, I, what can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things but I can see him sitting in his bunker. I’m saying that I think I understand the man. He is not what we could call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him.

It seems like the title of his most recent film made him melancholic for Nazi Germany. The public outrage was immediate. Von Trier is one of the darlings of Cannes Film Festival, having won a Palm D’Or in 2000 for his film “Dancer in the Dark.” Still, that award was not enough to prevent a swift condemnation from Cannes against his show of sympathy towards Hitler and his attempt to trivialize the Holocaust. The ultimate result of his rant: Von Trier was declared persona non grata (although his film continues to compete for the prize).

***

I grew up in Cuba, under an antisemitic regime (yes, Castro Inc.) that constantly violates basic freedoms, including, but not limited to, freedom of expression. That is to say that I take the right to speak rather seriously. Still, even if I weren’t a Jew-lover (which I totally am: my wife is a member of the tribe), I’d still agree with the decision of the Film Festival: Von Trier is verbotten forevermore. Freedom of expression should end right where making light of genocide begins.

The previous sentence makes me think of a totally cool, sexy, trendy, ultra-literary spot in NYC named KGB Bar.

But, first, please allow me to digress. During the reign of terror of Joseph Stalin, his victims amounted to twenty million, killed with the enthusiastic participation of the KGB. If you missed the Cold War and have not rented the Oscar winner “The Lives of Others” (about the Stasi, the KGB’s East German cousin): the KGB was, until 1991, the national internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization of the Soviet Union, in charge, among other heinous crimes, of suppressing “ideological subversion,” which included repressing, arresting and murdering countless writers and intellectuals.

Speaking of which, there’s also a tongue-in-cheek “general knowledge questions and answers” online service called “KGB Answers.” How cute. And how terribly inaccurate. The KGB trademark was not its “answers.” It was its questions.

That being the case, I can only wonder how the KGB mutated from a cemetery where ideas went to die into a friendly online service? Why did the KGB become a cool NYC bar where cool people go to read their cool prose and even cooler poetry? And when will trivializing the victims of the KGB, Stalin and communism become politically incorrect?

Letter to the New York Times

Dear Editor:

A month and a half after the death by hunger strike of Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, you have covered its aftermath in “Castro: Cuba Will Resist Hunger Strike ‘Blackmail’, 4/4/2010.” This sad event has elicited ample attention by mainstream media worldwide and is now emblematic of the plight of political prisoners in Cuba.

In the article it was reported that Zapata Tamayo is the “first opposition figure to die after a hunger strike in nearly forty years.” In fact, during the regime led by the Castro brothers at least 12 Cuban political prisoners are documented to have died by hunger strike demanding humane treatment, and 7 of them died in the last 40 years. (See www.CubaArchive.org.)

The article noted that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the European Parliament have condemned Zapata’s death. But President Obama himself had also added his support to “a growing chorus around the world in calling for an end to the repression, for the immediate, unconditional release of all political prisoners in Cuba, and for respect for the basic rights of the Cuban people.”

The campaign for the release of all Cuban political prisoners mentioned in the article is “OZT: I accuse the Cuban government.” Rather than “criticize” the Cuban government, as was reported, it accuses it. Readers who wish to sign the petition for the release of all Cuban political prisoners may find it at http://firmasjamaylibertad.com/ozt/.

Missing from the piece was Raúl Castro’s most troubling statement: that his country “would rather disappear, as we proved in 1962” [in reference to the Missile Crisis] than meet the growing demands from the international community for his regime to uphold universally recognized human rights.

Sincerely,

Alexis Romay
OZT: I Accuse the Cuban Government

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to a URL near you: Mixing Memory and Desire. Stay tuned!