This work fits nicely into anti-fascist surveillance discourse. I can see how you've reappropriated the platforms (Youtube, the Internet, etc.) they depend on. Were I to recognize any of these people as Facebook friends or whatever, now I would know for sure I have to break off those conenctions. Thus far, I don't see much in the way of an analytic beyond exposé. I recommend you take a look at the arguments presented by the likes of Joan Donovan at Data & Society (a Harvard think tank). She and her team (and patrons) have pushed for a return to the NAACP's old "dignified silence" tactic. This means media blackout for White Supremacist and White Nationalist groups because they don't deserve the free publicity. Your work could speak to this tension between exposure and silence, but the images need to do something more. What might photoshop or juxtaposition add to this approach? If you found the names of these RAM people and their sponsors, would you be comfortable stamping the images with that data. You could also show imagery of them being respectable in the jobs they work when not protesting.
I was not assigned Jon, so I'll keep these reflections a little bit brief. The allusion to the photographic art books of Ed Ruscha comes across clearly, to me especially because I work on Ruscha. Jon and I already discussed in person, and I will add here, that he's playfully captured two sensibilities Ruscha prioritized. One is the ironically humorous. Some of you might find this project a little shaming, and I imagine Jon means it to be just that. Ruscha too used to photograph the things people look at a lot without thinking about them, I find, because he wanted them to reflect on what they take for granted. What more hilarious way to achieve just that by dressing it up as "Pop Art" and getting rich people to spend loads of money (on experiences they tended not to have because they would have servants take the car over for fuel instead of doing so themselves and personally). The other sensibility is what Ruscha and his contemporaries called "deadpan." That is the photographer's manner of snapping a picture instead of laboriously and skillfully setting up and staging the scene to capture the perfect angles, the perfect lighting, and the perfect framing. Ruscha seemed to think of deadpan as being more honest, less artificial, more authentic. These nods toward objectivity, of course, achieved anything but "true" objectivity. Nonetheless, Ruscha thus attempted to justify his (in the immortal words of Mike Davis) mercenary tendencies. There was hardly anything blatantly political about Ruscha's work. And when he rose too close to the sun, which is staking out a political position (see his LACMA on Fire, 1965-1968, imho a response to Watts), he denied it and mocked people for assuming he had politics. That said, the privilege of making apolitical art is in and of itself a remarkably political stance. It's just conservative. And Ruscha was a little conservative. And making fun of students for being sloppy drunks is also a little conservative. And maybe a little conservatism is helpful here and there, now and then. Thanks Jon - great work!
For this photo, I'm taking a more general approach and ditching the questions. The image hardly seems to do anything that the second image does not already do. I'd be curious to see any visual evidence of this rate of mercury dumping which so thoroughly surpassing what occurred at Minamata. Do you have any photographs of people downstream suffering health effects of this region's ecologically devasting mining practice? Conversely, your discussion of the market for gold makes me curious to see the gold in use. If Peru's production is 6th in the world, maybe you ought to figure out who their primary trade partners are. Let's say it's Spain or China. Find images of the most exhorbitant uses of gold in one of those places. This you could juxtapose with some sick and poisoned looking person from downstream (in Peru or further into Brazil, I imagine this is an instance of transnational pollution?). I find these consumer-oriented tactics, when involved with such personal and romantic purchases as jewelry, truly effective. I have not bought anything like a diamond since listening to Kanye rapping about Sierra Leone. I always figured gold mining was hard on workers and environments, but your narrative exceeds my already low expectations. Get folks like me to start feeling literal disgust when we see others wearing gold and the market alone might bring this horrific situation to a close. Thank you for a beautiful, stimulating, and moving photo essay. Cheers.
The first item in this collage that caught my attention and, in fact, required that I stop and take a moment is the image of the red undergarment-appearing piece of clothing third image from the top in the first column. The red fabric is contrasted by the concrete backdrop of the ground. The first thoughts/images that came to mind were that of sexual violence and assault on university campuses and UCLA no exception. The red piece of fabric when viewed in relation to the cement, reads as warmth in body and color against the concrete, lifelessness of pavement. The intersections of “student life” and “(toxic) aspirations” cannot be more apparent. While the image does not confirm nor deny what the article of clothing, if even that, is, the red undergarment-looking item evokes a history where bodies, mostly those of women and queers of color, have been victims of sexual assault and violence on those streets. The levity of “student life” cannot be detached from the realities of sexual assault on university campuses. As a teaching fellow at UCLA, I was confronted with the realities of sexual assault on this campus when one of my students reached out to asking me to take her to UCLA’s Santa Monica Rape Center, because she had been raped by a person whom she met experiencing her “student life” and in pursuits of her “(toxic) aspirations.” Her clothing, like the one pictured here, became evidence she needed to collect in order to pursue charges. The image raises several questions for me: Where did that piece of clothing come from? Was there a body that was discarded, like trash, onto the sidewalk for others to step over, passby, see? What bodily wastes can be collected from these pavements? What evidence has been smeared onto its sidewalks? What institutional legacies of sexual assault and violence can be mapped onto the streets in and around the campus? These questions call into question any reference to those “filthy privileged students” as frivolous or careless. Rather, the intersections of race, class, sexuality and privilege converge in producing sites of filth predicated on sexual assault and violence.
Having used collage of existing media artifacts to construct your images, and by critiquing the media's portrayal of the Hurricane and its aftermath, I am curious about your views of media versus the current US administration. I say this because we are so often witnessing the president discount not only academic expertise, but media scrutiny as "fake" and unwarranted critique. In essence, who are allies of the people? Who are enemies? Is the media misrepresenting, or are they just not getting it right? Is media too broad a term for the level of scrutiny we are after?