“The Supreme Court is saying that campaign spending is a matter of free speech, but it has set up a situation where the more money you have the more speech you can buy. That’s a threatening concept for democracy. If your party serves the powerful and well-funded interests, and there’s no limit to what you can spend, you have a permanent, structural advantage. We’re averaging fifty-dollar checks in our campaign, and trying to ward off these seven- or even eight-figure checks on the other side. That disparity is pretty striking, and so are the implications. In many ways, we’re back in the Gilded Age. We have robber barons buying the government.”
– David Axelrod
The week in review
Watching (selected parts of) the Republican National Convention this past week has accentuated the distinct feeling that we have been witnessing a gradual dismantling of democracy in America over the past fifteen years or so. The nadir so far was still the stolen election in 2000, closely followed by the disgraceful first election of George W. Bush on the backs of a vulnerable minority in 2004. However, the political deadlock in Congress for the past four years has been a dismaying spectacle to say the least, as has the Obama administration’s utter failure to correct the political abuses of its predecessors in its foreign policy.
And now we’re getting myth-making on a grand scale, with bald-faced lying and deception the order of the day for the Republican candidacy. Romney seems to be the ultimate candidate of this particular moment in time. Entirely malleable in his effort to reach the majority that will win him the election, he is now running along with a right-wing ideologue whose approach to facts as something equally malleable was made apparent in his address on Wednesday. And with the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010, the stage is set not only for the mass propagation of these lies, but the further marginalization of the greater electorate.
I know, politicians have always lied and American politics have long been dependent on special interest, it just seems to me that we are witnessing an accelerated decline these years. For all its disappointment, the Obama administration have achieved — or seemed to achieve — a few important victories for democracy, from ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to fledgling universal health care, but overall the prospects that the fundamental problems of the system by which they rule, starting with its dependence on big money, will be solved are bleaker than ever. This election will not even carry the entertainment value of the last one, it’ll just be depressing, but it will also be a real test of a severely tested democratic system.
Jane Meyer at the New Yorker has written about the Obama administration’s relationship to its donors and the general dependence of American politicians on same, past Citizens United. Tying into this, this 2008 profile of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, one of Romney’s chief donors, is an illuminating read. Last, but not least, Matt Taibbi has written about Romney’s time at Bain Capital at Roling Stone.
Comics: R. Fiore on The Dark Knight Rises, Craig Fischer on Jack Kirby, Derik Badman on comics poetry, Dan Nadel on Mazzucchelli and Miller, Henry Sørensen and Morten Søndergård on fifty years of Spider-Man (Danish alert!).
The week in review.
Another fine week. Spent a few days in London for work and had the chance to see a number of the exhibitions on display there. I will return to the landmark Leonardo show at the National Gallery presently and hopefully also to the eye-opening Degas show at the Royal Academy, and perhaps even the enjoyable John Martin retrospective at the Tate. Here, however, I just wanted to attach a few words to the Gerhard Richter retrospective at the Modern.
Extremely well-received critically as well as commercially, Richter is no doubt one of the heavy hitters of contemporary painting. It is easy to see why. Clearly an intelligent artist, he speaks directly to central aspects of postmodern discourse, engaging in his work trauma (the Holocaust) and ideological violence (Rote Armee Fraktion), art history (from Titian to Mondrian), as well — and most essentially — his own medium. His art, which merges the techniques of photography and painting in innovative ways and alternately emphasizes and suppresses the author’s hand simply screams META!
Essentially, however, he is a purveyor of kitsch. Yes, he can emulate strikingly the look of a photograph, but beyond the theoretical reception his subversion of mechanical reproduction enables, these pictures are self-importantm, dim reiterations of his paragons, from Friedrich, Redon and Hammershøi to Duchamp and De Kooning. Gimmicky but decorative — hi-fi bank art, fit for the transnational corporate penthouse. Where he really shows his hand, however, is in his abstract art, particularly his squeegee paintings. Loud and garish, they lack any real sense of color or expressive touch. The work of an intellectual, not a painter.
The week’s links:
Not really a recommendation, but the distinguished T. J. Clark provides a lengthy counterargument to my little rant above in this panegyric to Ricther.
R. Fiore on Will Eisner’s instructional comics for PS Magazine. The Comics Journal‘s venerable critic is in fine form here in this essay on one of the puzzles of Eisner’s career.
The legendary hip hop producer marks the sad passing this week of golden age great Heavy D with a great mix of testimonials (and often rare) gems from the Hevster’s career.
Above: Gerhard Richter, Cage 4 (2006).