Spam Camouflage

            Artworkshop International keeps sending me spam. Do you think they are trying to tell me something? The subject line always refers to some international art workshop with some artist whose name is always unknown to me. I’m sure the artist of the week has a practice, of which networking and being an educator probably occupy the greatest part.

            One of America’s longest running wars, with no determinable outcome in site, has been the one in Afghanistan. Their president, whose country is the site of our war, is often quoted chastising the NATO or US forces for perpetrating civilian deaths. The curious realization is that he never criticizes the Taliban for civilian deaths. A raid by the occupation forces which has gone awry resulting in civilian casualties is, of course, a cause for concern and regret. But a roadside bomb or suicide attack, resulting only in civilian casualties has no effect on Hamid Karzai’s ire.

            This past month the international corporate giant, BP, has been hogging the news with the mess they are creating in the Gulf of Mexico. In the past, when the Mexican currency was devalued, or Hugo Chavez did something or other in Venezuela, or Nigerian rebels threatened Shell oil production, or the Iranians rattled their sabers, etc. the price of petroleum products shot up and the stock market reacted sharply. This past month, neither has happened. The stock market has gyrated, mostly on the basis of the European debt crisis, and the price of petroleum products has actually decreased.

            What is it that remains hidden within these “news” events (OK, so spam isn’t news)? Where’s the theory interface that can shed some light on our everyday?

            With the international art workshops, it is almost obvious. The topic of hierarchy, and the binary representation of what is deemed “art” and what is not, was covered within the post entitled House Haunting (January 21, 2010)  as well as briefly elsewhere. It is a recurring theme with this blog. And sure enough, that is what is hidden in all the spam from Artworkshop International. The commercial exploitation of the covert pressure exerted by this binary mystification of what constitutes “real” art provides fertile ground for this ongoing educational enterprise. The educator must be the “real” artist, the student is just a wannabe. As an artist, at some point, one must learn to make discoveries and self educate. Otherwise, being an artist becomes little more than someone proficient at coloring between the lines.

            With Hamid it is just as obvious only stating it reveals so much more about us than him. As long as Afghanistan is occupied, for Afghans the occupier will always be considered the “Other”. For Hamid Karzai to embrace humanism (or religious tolerance) by extending 18th century notions of equality and equity to ALL acts of war that result in civilian casualties would be to abandon his own solidarity with his countrymen and its reliance on an “Other”.  After all, what is war if not the actualization of an Other?

            The BP debacle is the most curious. It defies interpretation as a “hidden”. Yet the “hidden” aspect is the most revealing one for our times. All previous stock market reactions and petroleum product increases have been due to international “governmental” political reasons (politics can be interpreted variously, by some accounts everything can be political), or some “natural” disaster or incidental mishap within the chain of delivery. This time the producer has erred internally within their own production. There have been no repercussions as there were for the other events. The other events were primarily State interference or dabbling in the “market”. Now, however, the State has been totally powerless. And the market hasn’t flinched. It is as though BP, being such a huge source of revenue for the market, has asserted its hegemony. It (as well as Exxon Mobil, Shell, etc.) calls the shots and determines value (We are too big to fail). It is a goose laying golden eggs and no one wants to have it otherwise (so the eggs are a little soiled, so what?). There is no threat to delivery of product, so the markets remain unaffected. This in itself implicates the complete incompatibility of a “green” economy and the market. It makes no difference whether super tankers sail on pristine blue waters or on a cesspool, as long as product delivery remains unaffected. We watched as major businesses were ostensibly monopolized by the State under Putin in Russia, thinking it was simply part of the “Soviet” DNA. Ditto for China. Now, for a brief instant, we have been given a glimpse into what otherwise must remain hidden. The actual, real order of things has now been briefly but completely exposed by BP’s screw up. It is that giant international business affiliations determine how States are run, and not that States determine how business should be conducted within their borders. This is borne out by BP’s emphasis on “recapture” of its oil during the first month, not on plugging the leak. Maintaining continued access to their product motivated the initial response to the loss of lives and environment. The only real solution, they have constantly reminded us, is to drill another well.

            Spam always insures that there is something we are not to see.


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