SA Councilman Krier Decries Public Artworks

Art is arguable. That’s a statement with which we can all agree.

San Antonio City Councilman Joe Krier added proof last week when he announced plans to request the council reconsider city funding of public art. He will also request that any future funds used for public art only go to artists hailing from San Antonio or Texas. All this because he doesn’t like a few sculptures.

Krier especially dislikes the sculptures Liquid Crystal by Jason Bruges and Sotol Duet by Jon Isherwood located at the convention center and a city park, respectively.

What’s his beef with them?

“I just don’t get it,” Krier explained to his council colleagues, as reported by The Rivard Report

Well, there are likely a lot of things he doesn’t “get.” Many of us experience his bewilderment when confronting certain pieces of art. One of the most common questions posed of art is, “What does it mean?” As a teenager, I asked a writer to explain the point of his story to me. I thought he was going to punch me.

We shouldn’t just reject art we don’t “get.”

Donald Lipski, the artist behind F.I.S.H on the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk, has heard all the arguments around public art. He also knows the value of public art — even those artworks some dislike.

“[A]rt that is provocative has the chance of becoming landmarks and touchstones to their communities,” he said.

“When I was growing up in Chicago, Picasso’s fox-like sculpture Cassandra was installed. It was denounced, derided and scorned. Since it is a challenging image, many people thought it was for the elite rather than for the public. But fast forward a few decades: it is loved and admired. Out-of-towners are taken by to see it. In the summer, there are concerts and farmers’ markets around its base. It is celebrated.”

Lipski created 25 seven-foot-long fiberglass replicas of native long-eared sunfish for the residents of San Antonio. Lipski’s fish, which are lit from within at night, dangle over the Riverwalk from the I-35 underpass. While Krier might question the point of having art hanging beneath a bridge, I’m looking forward to going to view the work.

When asked to explain the work for the benefit of Krier and others, Lipski responded,

“My thoughts on F.I.S.H. started with the dark, forbidding space under I-35. The planners were afraid that people would walk that far and turn around. I wanted to create something unexpected, light-hearted and seductive. Floating this school of fish was an idea that came to me in a flash. I scuba dive, and the site reminded me of being underwater near a pier, the fish hanging around, maybe nibbling at the seaweed that grows there.”

He also involved the community in his creation.

“I had envisioned goldfish. Input from the public, which I always find interesting, suggested a local fish. The long-eared sunfish I ended up with live in the river — in fact, in rivers and streams all around the area. When kids learn to fish with a pole and a worm, it’s an odds-on bet that that’ll be their first catch. So, this change localized the artwork, personalized it. Helped to make it endearing.”

The result?

“I’ve seen crowds of people there in the evening. They watch as the bats fly out from their hidey-holes, then the fish light up, everyone applauds and heads to the cantina. This is what public art can do.”

There are fundamental problems with Krier’s proposed changes to city art funding. First, the majority (78 percent since 2007) of public art money already goes to local artists. That may explain why no local artist responded to my requests for responses to Krier’s plans.

More important, though, is that we’ll never “get” art by limiting it. Understanding is not achieved by reviewing appropriations and limiting the states and nations in which artists seeking funding may reside. While it’s important we support local artists, it’s equally important we don’t negate the culture of our city by making it unwelcoming. We are a multicultural city filled with many people who resided elsewhere at some point. Our art should reflect that.

In fact, maybe the artworks Krier questions have already achieved their goals. The best public art, Lipski said, should “inspire and intrigue, motivate and provoke. And delight.”

Councilman Krier, let’s go have a look at those F.I.S.H. I suspect we’ll be delighted (or provoked or motivated) and agree that more public art is what truly needs consideration.

 

Crumbs: Kasich, The Ides, Cohen, USPS & More

 

My irregular round-up of thoughts and items of interest: 

Gustav Metzger (1926-2017), the German founder of “auto-destructive art,” demonstrated the art’s creative process in 1960 by “painting” hydrochloric acid on a piece of nylon canvas. As you’d expect, the canvas was shredded. Years later, just before the opening of a new show, a very apt event occurred. As reported by The New York Times,

In 2004, Tate Britain recreated Mr. Metzger’s 1960 Temple Gallery show in “Art and the ’60s: This Was Tomorrow.” The exhibition suffered a well-publicized mishap when a cleaner came across a clear plastic bag filled with crumpled paper and cardboard — part of the installation — and, assuming it was trash, threw it into a compactor.

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“The things we are passionate about are fueled by mundane tasks. All is necessary.”

Valerie June, on working to support your art and family.

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From Misty: The Ides of Trump.

Ours:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Watch this great 30-second clip from yesterday’s Meet the Press interview with Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich:

via ytCropper

I hope Trump supporters take his words to heart. Don’t be losers. Be compassionate.

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Our postal problems continue.  Misty noticed that our postal person hasn’t picked up our apartment complex’s outgoing mail for nearly a week. The box is stuffed full. God only knows how many folks’ bills and, as in Misty’s case, prescriptions for a mail order pharmacy have been sitting there and for how long. Apparently, according to the law, USPS mail pickup is a courtesy. Well, my using USPS as a mail carrier is a courtesy, too, considering I have many other options for mailing services. I’m not too worried about postal inspectors coming after me for using UPS or FedEx instead of stamped letters.

My first complaint against the local USPS postal person has been filed.

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Texas Republicans are trying to pass legislation that would require local governments to hold an election any time they want to increase property taxes by four or more percent. The current cap is eight percent. As one would expect, local governments — counties, cities, school districts — oppose state-mandated elections to fund local services. The majority of school funding comes from property taxes. While Texas legislators may complain about and campaign on our high property taxes, the only reason they remain at such a rate is because those lawmakers failed to effectively fund education for Texas students. So, local districts have to raise taxes over and over again to provide basic services to students. Limiting their ability to do so only limits their ability to grow public services at the same rate as the population grows. And, in Texas, the population is booming.

At the same time, they’re trying to take those locally raised funds and give them private enterprise to educate students under a bill filed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s implementing voucher/education savings accounts/whatever they’re calling such programs at the moment.

Republicans would limit the amount of money schools and local governments can raise without incurring the expense of an election and taking those tax dollars away from the public to send some students to private, for-profit and religious schools. What the hell kind of sense does that make? Does one hand not know the trouble the other is causing?

Not to mention that, overall, voucher programs harm students more than help them. Just because your kid had a good experience doesn’t mean a large part of the private education sector isn’t filled with fraudsters, cons, morons and cult leaders. If you think it’s all about your kid, go back and watch the Kasich video above.

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Lots of hand-wringing about language in the contracts acts are required to sign before performing at South by Southwest. It essentially said that foreign bands who play a gig outside SXSW-sponsored showcases would be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. SXSW has removed the offending lines. What offends me, though, is that no one is complaining about SXSW’s ban on playing gigs outside the festival. If you want to talk about constitutional rights, there are a couple others being circumscribed by SXSW.

Most locals can’t afford to get into SXSW showcases. Bands will often play side gigs that locals can attend and afford. So, what SXSW was really saying was, “If you play an outside gig that threatens our business model, we’ll call the law.” That, to me, is the deeper issue that needs resolving. Just because a band is accepted into SXSW, its members shouldn’t be forced to surrender their rights to constitutional protections while on American soil.

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I thought an investigative series into air ballon safety would be boring. I was wrong.

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Contrast the below statement to Kasich’s above:

“If you ask someone to give up something, there will be resentment. If that claims my congressional career, so be it. It will be worth it to me to have effected this change.”

Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, on repealing the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.

It should end his career, especially given his goal is to deprive Americans of life-saving health services.

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We’ll finish off with a Leonard Cohen quote I read over the weekend. Note that hineni is Hebrew for “Here I am.”

“That ‘hineni,’ that declaration of readiness no matter what the outcome, that’s a part of everyone’s soul. We all are motivated by deep impulses and deep appetites to serve, even though we may not be able to locate that which we are willing to serve. So, this is just a part of my nature, and I think everybody else’s nature, to offer oneself at the critical moment when the emergency becomes articulate. It’s only when the emergency becomes articulate that we can locate that willingness to serve.”

 

Crumbs: American Affairs, Sociopaths and Student Loans

 

A few things I’ve found interesting recently:

I off-and-on think about how much “the left” needs a new journal of ideas. The Nation certainly isn’t it. Same goes for The New Republic. It was killed a couple of years ago by the tech bros. While we defend the free media that exists to report facts, it is clearly necessary for someone to start a publication devoted to new voices and new ideas. The left lacks that — and, as it long has, it lacks institutions to research, formulate, promote and mentor others in public policy and advocacy. Not everyone is a member of a union or driven by a presidential personality to join a campaign. We need a journal for experts and naives to discuss and build the future of liberalism. The Democratic Party certainly isn’t going to do it.

Maybe I’ll start one.

° ° °

The Trumpists have started a new journal, American Affairs, to put a policy around President Trump’s tweets. (The attempt reminds me of Eddie Izzard’s joke about the Church of England in Dressed to Kill.) I’ve considered subscribing, if only to try to better understand the economic nationalism promoted by Trump and his circle of advisors.

A taste from their mission statement,

At home, we have heard endless calls for new New Deals and another Reagan Revolution. Yet, today, Americans spend more on education, and our students perform worse. We spend more on health care and receive less. We spend more per unit of infrastructure and build less. We spend more on defense and get the F-35 debacle. We have lower taxes but slower economic growth. We have more finance but less investment.

Concerning foreign affairs, speeches about our obligations to “promote democracy” and our “responsibility to protect” trade places with predictable regularity. Yet what have we accomplished except the promotion of chaos and the irresponsible squandering of hard-won strategic advantages?

Among the commentators tasked with appraising our situation, it has become fashionable to criticize the “nostalgia” of voters seeking better government and better livelihoods. These desires, we are told, are nothing but impossible and counterproductive illusions. Like all clichés, this one contains some truth. But our intellectuals as well as our politicians are subservient to an even more debilitating nostalgia, which views the ideologies of the last few decades as the only alternatives and their policies as the only solutions. They are nostalgic for a present they think they inhabit, but which has already slipped away.

These ossified intellectual orthodoxies have rewarded partisan loyalty over genuine insight. The resulting political culture has promoted a peculiar hybrid of extremism and careerism at the expense of good governance.

I do have to laugh at this line from the editor’s mission statement:

What if “the real problem with our republic,” as Walter Russell Mead put it, “is that what should be our leadership elite is soul-sick: vain, restless, easily miffed, intellectually confused, jealous”?

Are those adjectives not perfectly apt in describing Donald Trump?

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Read this interview with longtime union organizer Marshall Ganz on moving past protesting to organizing. At bottom, he says we need to explain to voters how neoliberalism has caused the economic inequality we are all experiencing. That inequality is compounded when the victims turn to racial and gender attacks to explain and respond to (and, for the elites, cover up) it. He says,

It is critical to find ways to show that racial and gender and economic inequality are deeply interconnected, and that you really cannot deal with one successfully without dealing with the others. We dealt with economics until the 1960s and 1970s and then we shifted more to race and gender. So the message here is that you got to get it all together. It is about power. If you say, okay, I’m going to fight racial disempowerment but I am going to ignore economics, you are also ignoring the disempowerment of huge portions of the black community.

° ° °

Another guy, Bruce Cannon Gibney, writes in The Boston Globe that Boomers are sociopaths and that’s why they furthered the turn to neoliberal policies (he doesn’t identify neoliberalism because he’s too focused on his ill-considered sociopathy idea) — privatized social services, socialized profits. Sadly, in his successful effort to snag a book deal, he didn’t take an opportunity to do any reading (too busy making those profits) in history or politics or economics. Note also, courtesy my friend and intrepid reporter R.G. Ratcliffe, that the author is a venture capitalist who worked with Trump’s tech lover Peter Thiel. Not certain he can be considered a member of his audience.

° ° °

I just stumbled upon this column from years ago. It’s still good. It expresses my feelings about filing bankruptcy to get out of having my wages garnished by student loan companies.

Am I a deadbeat? In the eyes of the law I am. Indifferent to the claim that repaying student loans is the road to character? Yes. Blind to the reality of countless numbers of people struggling to repay their debts, no matter their circumstances, many worse than mine? My heart goes out to them. To my mind, they have learned to live with a social arrangement that is legal, but not moral.

° ° °

Oh, a follow-up on San Antonio mayoral candidate Manuel Medina:

[T]he budding bromance between mayoral contender Manuel Medina and former Councilman Carlton Soules definitely qualifies as a surprise.

Soules is a Republican, a budget hawk who served from 2011-13 as the council’s resident Doctor No on big spending projects and utility rate hikes. Medina is a Democrat, a gregarious progressive who serves as chairman of his party’s county organization.

Medina and Soules would appear to have little common ground, but they have forged a bipartisan political alliance, with Soules taking on the role of consultant for Medina’s campaign.

Seriously. If you’re going to be a partisan, at least be consistent.

 

Forgot One

I forgot probably the best quote:

Hanif Kureishi, writing in his piece for Five Dials, “It Feels Like Crime: The Devil Inside,” says,

You’re in a dark forest with just a torch. If you know what you’re doing, it isn’t art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crumbs

Diane Johnson:

Is it economics or identity politics that have drained our sense of community, so that people don’t mind, or even enjoy defying the conventions of civil discourse and peaceful governance? These seem, now, so fragile; now we are fragmented into Iowans or Californians, Muslims or Catholics, Lithuanians or Poles instead of a nation. The same communitarianism has risen in various European countries. In principle the French hoped to make every immigrant French; the little Algerian child was told Napoleon was his emperor, that he had a right to be proud that Pasteur invented vaccination. Now, just as we’ve done a bad job integrating, say, that community of Sikhs in Minnesota, whole communities resegregate in France too, resisting assimilation. We’ll see if Syrians will do the same in Germany; the Turks who came as guest workers complained at first about the obstacles they faced fitting into less than welcoming German society. (Still, in the Bundestag today there are eleven members of Turkish origin.)

Liberals are equally if not more responsible for the rise of identity politics. I mean, really.

Marilynne Robinson:

Strangely, for something that has almost the character of a movement, this change in our political culture is visionless, valueless, driven largely by an urge, signaled in taunts and slurs, sometimes realized in restrictive voting laws, to renege on advances we have made in the direction of racial and gender equality. It is true that these advances have been undercut by a neglect of the consequences for many Americans of globalization greatly compounded by policies of austerity and strategies of government paralysis that are the work of politicians who somehow manage to pass themselves off as populists.

Figures such as Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert devised means, notably party discipline and routine use or threat of the filibuster, to make the rules of governing obstruct governing. This is the sort of cleverness that discredits orderly process, just as the crowing of a billionaire over his lawful avoidance of taxes discredits the system of taxation. These obstructionists have provoked a frustration in much of the public that aligns with, and perversely affirms, the Reaganesque saw that government is the problem, not the solution.

Let’s be careful here, Ms. Robinson. Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert came up with party discipline and the filibuster? I don’t think they did. Indeed, the U.S. government is, by intent and structure, deadly to bills. There are more ways for a bill to die than become law, as they say.

Dentistry and Ratings in the Black Mirror

I do feel bad about the review I posted about Dr. Camenzuli. I’m not a completely unfeeling asshole. I’d have far preferred not to have written it, and I wouldn’t have had even one of my visits to his office not made me feel as if I were intruding. I kept hoping it would improve. But, as I asked on social media before my last appointment there, “What does my asshole dentist have in store for me today?” I was joking at the time.

He called yesterday morning. He didn’t apologize. He did, of course, offer to chat about it. Thing is: Once I’ve been treated this way so many times, I have no inclination to talk about it any longer.

Mr. William Pate, this is Dr. Camenzuli. I wanted to touch base with you and communicate to you. I believe there’s some—definitely been some miscommunication. And some yes, definitely. [inaudible] not hearing what you’re communicating to me. But, at the same time, there are some things that we’re taking step-by-step, and so far everything’s been –  in my opinion—done well. You’ve one well, you’ve healed well. So I wanted to respond and talk with you because you had [sic] went straight to an online review, and I thought it would be professional to talk to you and to hear from you and to discuss what I’ve done for you, what I’m trying to do for you and revisit our goals.

There was plenty of time to be a professional and not treat me so poorly. I don’t know what would have made me find his message more meaningful. Maybe an apology or some acknowledgement that my experiences with him had been so negative or that, yeah, it was kind of shitty to send me away with a newly broken tooth. But, no.

Last night, we watched the first episode of this season’s Black Mirror. The main character walks around doing mostly what people do today on social media: posting pictures, commenting on and liking others’ posts and hoping to be liked back. Liking, liking and liking[1]. In fact, liking things has become very important in this world — this black mirror to our own. So important that everyone[2] has a rating.The characters use their smartphones to rate (almost) every person with which they interact. Obviously, your rating ultimately earns you a class status.

Not a 3.0 or above? Can’t work here. Sorry, this bus is for 4.5s and over only. What happens when you hit close to zero[3]?

That’s why I hate having reviewed the dentist. Because – more than just rating a business, which is bad enough – you are rating a person and that person’s behavior toward you. Marking it down between one star and five is demeaning. I suppose that’s why I wrote such a long review – to justify myself.

One of his office staff called a little earlier. They’re offering to fix whatever my issue was. Again, like I said above, that time has passed. I’ll likely shorten the review at some point in the future. But I still feel bad about it. I want to say that I don’t want to be a part of the trend of quantifying people in such a barbaric way, yet I am.

Or maybe I will remove it.

[1] I’m bad about “liking” things on Facebook. Oftentimes, I use “Like” as a way to acknowledge I’ve read the comment. If I don’t like the comment, I just won’t “like” it at all.

[2] It’s not just for your Uber driver (or dentist) anymore! Actually, this entry was partially motivated friend’s Facebook post on her Uber driver asking her to give him a five. (Apparently, his ratings were down.) Can you imagine?

[3] Misty and I agreed that we’d try to drive our ratings down as low as possible so people would know we’d been trying.

The Landed Gentry in Print

You have to love The Spectator for running some of the most inane columns ever. Fortunately, sometimes the wealthy truly do speak their minds in their own media organs.

Melissa Kite, in a column protesting reintroducing the lynx into the British wild, she suddenly decides the whole purpose of rewilding them is due to class warfare.

Unless you consider that rewilding is yet another outbreak of class warfare. Rewilding is in direct opposition to land management. And who manages land? The toffs. If you set enough big cats and wolves free to eat deer, pheasant, hare and salmon, you make the countryside a no-go area for hunting, shooting, fishing, riding — anything posh people do for fun. By releasing as many vicious carnivores as possible, you make it a pretty inconvenient place for the rural community, and, more importantly, for the landed gentry.[1]

Well, then. The pleasure of the wealthy landed gentry should certainly override any other environmental considerations.

∞∞∞

[1] Bolding is mine, obviously

Business & Intellectuals

Poetry & Words

The poet feels the dull memory of other knowledge of the tongue and can’t reproduce it. She has to use the words there are for such things as have names — language is the fallen medium, built of worn material — but what she wants from an act of reference exceeds what any amalgam of communicable content can actually do. She wants to make moonlight felt, not speak again the name of the moon. Actual terms, whatever their number and glamour, are always too few and too many, always wrong. Poems become the tokens of unrealized desire. Poetry is the name for what poems never became.

. . .

Poetry, then, implies a vexed ground where profound ambitions are joined to inadequate means of realization. This, in capsule form, accounts for both the persistent aura and disappointment of the art.

Brandon Kreitler, “Like a Poem: On Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry,” Los Angeles Review of Books, 22 July 2016.

Texas: The Lone State — Yeah, right.

The most fundamental ethos in the state of Texas is, ‘Give me a h0rse and a gun and an open plain, and I can conquer the world.’

—U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz,
at a Tea Party rally in East Texas on July 9, 2009.

The most fundamental myth, he means.

Texas needed to be given railroads, military installations, interstates and other, largely federally funded, industries to be anywhere near its “successes” today.

Texas has always depended on the federal government Cruz wants to head and hinder.

Oil and gas came later.

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