Butler withdraws from talk at the Jewish Museum

Judith Butler, a noted literary theorist who is the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Visiting Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, has called off a talk she was supposed to give at the Jewish Museum in New York City, amid criticism of her support for the boycott of Israel.

InsideHigherEd reports that “Butler’s talk was not to have been about her views on the Middle East, but on Franz Kafka, who died well before the State of Israel was created. A statement from the museum said: “She was chosen on the basis of her expertise on the subject matter to be discussed. While her political views were not a factor in her participation, the debates about her politics have become a distraction making it impossible to present the conversation about Kafka as intended.”

“In an email to Inside Higher Ed, Butler said: “I did decide to withdraw when it became clear to me that the uproar over my political views (actually, a serious distortion of my political views) would overtake the days ahead and the event itself. As I understand it, the Jewish Museum also felt that it could not handle the political storm, and we were in complete agreement that the event should be canceled as a result.”

“She continued: “What is most important now, in my view, is for both educational and cultural institutions such as these to recommit themselves to open debate, not to become vehicles for censorship and slander, and not to become party to forms of blacklisting. It certainly should not be the case that any of us are forced to give up speaking in public on scholarly topics that have no bearing on the political issues that are so controversial. It constitutes discrimination against a person on the basis of political viewpoint, implying that the speaker ought not to be allowed to speak on any topic given the political viewpoint in question. It is one thing to disagree, say, with my political viewpoint and to give reasons why one disagrees, even to call for an open debate on that disagreement, and to ask the Jewish Museum to exercise its authority and commit its resources to such an open debate. It is quite another to say that anyone with my political viewpoint (itself badly distorted in this case) should not be able to speak at a Jewish cultural organization…. Continue reading “Butler withdraws from talk at the Jewish Museum”

Los Angeles museum back from the brink

imgresAfter three years of tumultuous leadership, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles said it was nearing the end of a search for a new director and announced on Monday that it had reached a fund-raising milestone that would ensure it does not have to merge with another institution or face dissolution.

The New York Times reports that “the museum, which has one of the most important collections of postwar art in the country but has struggled financially for years, said it had a combination of “firm commitments” and donations in hand that would raise its endowment to $100 million. The amount, a goal its board members set last year, is by far the highest in the museum’s history.

“At its low point in 2008, because of overspending and flagging investments during the recession, the endowment dwindled to only a few million from a high of more than $40 million at the beginning of the decade. The billionaire collector Eli Broad, one of the museum’s founding board members, came to the rescue, donating $15 million and pledging $15 million more to match contributions by others. But the museum struggled to find donors who would allow those matching funds to be used. Continue reading “Los Angeles museum back from the brink”

Beatriz da Costa at Laguna Art Museum

From the light, airy and playful feelings of the Laguna Art Museum’s “Faux Real” exhibition on the main floor, the atmosphere of “Ex·pose: Beatriz da Costa” shifts into dark, moving and intense as one descends into the museum’s dark basement, writes Seth Hawkins in Artillery:

“Da Costa’s “Dying for the Other” is a three-channel video installation dealing with the artist’s lifelong battle with cancer, with the show occurring not even 12 months after her passing—a timely and haunting exhibition of her last creation.pills

“Beatriz da Costa made work that refused genre classification—seamlessly transitioning between contemporary art, science, engineering and politics—in many cases working in collaboration with forerunning art/technology groups such as Critical Art Ensemble, Free Range Grains, GenTerra, and Preemptive Media. Born in 1974 and raised in Germany, da Costa attended Carnegie Mellon University, eventually moving on to teach in the Studio Art, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Departments at UC, Irvine.

“While watching da Costa’s video installation, it is hard not to hear echoes of self-mutilating artist Bob Flanagan. This is by no means a masochistic performance piece, but underlying similarities can be seen. The act of creation, of continuing one’s practice in the face of grave illness or disease takes not only a special kind of artist, but also a dedicated human.

“In Dying for the Other, video clips of mice that are being used in cancer research are projected and interspersed with video segments of the artist’s life as she is going through physical/cognitive therapy after having brain surgery to remove tumors that had spread from her breast to her brain.

“Unfortunately, many of us have been touched by cancer. The battle with this disease is one of the darkest and most personal, in which the emotional toll is heaviest for those closest to the patient. In many cases the day-to-day heartbreak and immense medical traumas are hidden from the outside world, primarily internalized by the suffering person. Few want to be seen in public while fighting this battle, losing their hair, feeling constant nausea, fighting for their lives, all the while knowing that this may be an unwinnable fight. Continue reading “Beatriz da Costa at Laguna Art Museum”

Games as art at moma

MOMA in New York as always saved a spot for design, and by extension, popular culture.Video games, as their name suggests, combine the ancient human practice of formal play with moving pictures, a younger form, reports today’s New York times. “But the unsatisfying name we are saddled  with for this medium — itself approaching middle age, if you date its history to the first home console in 1972 and apply the rule that middle age begins when you are older than every current Major League Baseball player — doesn’t capture the essence of video games.


“The defining feature of video games is interaction, the three-way conversation among designer, machine and player. “Applied Design,” a new installation at the Museum of Modern Art — and an important one because it is the first time the museum has displayed the 14 video games it acquired in November — attempts to isolate this relationship. The games on view, from Pac-Man toCanabalt, are naked, without their packaging or other nostalgic trappings. There are no arcade cabinets on view, no outmoded consoles or computers to gawk at.

“Instead, each game is austerely contained on a screen set against a gray wall, with a joystick or other controller resting on a spare platform beneath it. The installation is “an experiment to isolate the experience of the interaction itself,” said Paola Antonelli, the senior curator of the museum’s department of architecture and design, comparing her decontextualized approach with Philip Johnson’s in his 1934 “Machine Art” exhibition at MoMA, which set things like propeller blades against white museum walls.

“This philosophy is markedly different from the one that motivated the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Spacewar!” show, which closed Sunday. That exhibition, which presented a more focused argument, refused to separate the interactive experience of playing a game from the object it first appeared in. An iPad game would be played on an iPad, and Space Invaders and its ilk were on view, and playable, in their original stand-up cabinets.

 More: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/arts/video-games/a-museums-games-are-not-on-pedestals.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0