COLUMNS

  • Being “Economical with the Truth”

    THE PUBLIC FACE OF the war in Britain and the United States seems, as far as one can tell from this side of the Atlantic, to have been nearly the same. The best proof of this came in an interview on BBC radio with three American foreign editors. The British interviewer expressed the general opinion among his colleagues that American military spokesmen were more forthcoming than their British counterparts; the Americans countered with their belief that the reverse was true. An unfamiliar accent produces the illusion of more information and more sense, when the product is exactly the same.

    The

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  • Reversal of Fortune

    The effect is certain but unlocatable, it does not find its sign, its name; it is sharp and yet lands in a vague zone of myelf; it is acute yet muffled, it cries out in silence. Odd contradiction: a floating flash.

    —Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, 1981

    It is a bitterly cold night in Newport, Rhode Island, several days before Christmas 1980. The camera focuses on the lavish dining room of Clarendon Court, the palatial estate of Martha “Sunny” von Bülow and her second husband, Claus von Bülow. The attractive von Bülow family—Claus, Sunny, their teenage daughter Cosima, and Sunny’s 21-year old son

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  • Queer Nation

    OVER COCKTAILS, at gallery openings, during street protests, and in darkened auditoriums, we have become accustomed to invoking what cultural critic Kobena Mercer has tellingly dubbed “the mantra” (say it with me now): “class-race-gender-sexuality. Class-race-gender-sexuality.” Mercer’s evocation of the nearly evangelical fervor with which so many of us name difference recognizes that our naming is at once perfunctory and guilt-ridden. But he also serves us a provocation, a call to disentangle overlapping systems of oppression. Careful social and cultural analysis, as literary theorist Eve

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  • Czechered History

    It’s been a long time since the Rolling Stones have mattered enough to rock the body politic. Once, through music and otherwise, they seemed to be saying something serious, even in their habits of consumption—as in the 1967 marijuana and uppers bust that made Jagger and Richards symbolic foci of a new generation’s new life and of the establishment’s reaction to it. Attacking the heavy sentence (later overturned), a London Times editorialist was moved to ask, “Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?,” adding his brick to a romantic construction inside which everything the band did had weight. But then

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  • The Deadman

    A DEAD MAN LIES NAKED, sprawled across a bed. From somewhere there’s the oppressive drone of a buzzing fly; a nearly naked woman flees the scene. Peggy Ahwesh’s and Keith Sanborn’s take on Georges Bataille’s story “The Deadman” begins like art-house pulp, an adults-only Kiss Me Deadly, but it quickly becomes something less comfortable. This is not warmed-over noir, it’s sex—raw, erotic, pornographic, maybe even feminist. So strong you can smell it.

    During the ’70s, feminist intellectuals here and abroad—Laura Mulvey wrote the landmark “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in 1973—established a

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  • The Autobiography of Eve

    A MIND OF MY OWN is the autobiography of Chris Costner Sizemore, better known as “Eve.” Sizemore was the case study upon which The Three Faces of Eve, a popular 1957 movie directed by Nunnally Johnson, was based. Joanne Woodward played Eve, winning an Academy Award for her virtuoso performance as a woman under the influence of a mental illness, Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). In the movie Woodward metamorphosed, before the camera and without special effects, from Eve Black, “the party girl,” to Eve White, “the mother/wife,” to Jane, “the intellectual woman,” enacting a female Jekyll, Jekyll

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  • Vienna and Her Sisters. A parable, with strings.

    FOR A LONG TIME, I have gone to bed late, and, not sleeping the sleep of reason, have produced no monsters. Where I awake each day, though, is another matter. I awake in a place that supposedly no longer exists. Robert Musil, in The Man Without Qualities (1930), calls this place Kakania, and it is a place where

    the Superman was adored, and the Subman was adored; health and the sun were worshipped, and the delicacy of consumptive girls was worshipped; people were enthusiastic hero-worshippers and enthusiastic adherents of the social creed of the Man in the Street; one had faith and one was skeptical,

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  • success and Pittsburgh's 1985 Carnegie International.

    PITTSBURGH’S 1985 CARNEGIE INTERNATIONAL was a jewel of a show, a ritzy display of contemporary art with all the “quality” that one could hope for. This was the exhibition with which the Museum of Modern Art, New York, should have reopened after its renovation in 1984, rather than the halfhearted grab bag of mixed goods with which it tried to show that, contrary to critical opinion, it really was keeping up with contemporary art. The Carnegie International gave short shrift to distinctions between the provincial and the cosmopolitan, the national and the international. The art had its ups and

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  • Art jockeying in the Sistine Discos.

    WHEN STEVE RUBELL, NIGHTCLUB IMPRESARIO and excon, speaks, The New York Times listens. “Artists are becoming the stars of the 1980’s, like the rock stars of the 1960’s or the fashion designers of the 1970’s. People who used to go to singles bars on First Avenue now go to art openings on Avenue A. I don’t create things,” said one of the men who made Studio 54 and now the Palladium, “I jump on them.”

    Now that Steve Rubell has jumped on art—has it been mugged? Can art, fine art, big art, become the centerpiece, the core, of the big discos and still be big and fine? Can you make Peter Max career-choices

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