Art for Issue 24

Contents

Stars—They're Just Like Us!

It was to be a magical, enchanting month for us. Jupiter, the giver of gifts and luck, was moving into Virgo midmonth in alignment with the sun, where it would multiply the beneficence of the gassy planet and rain fortune down upon us.

Race and the American Creed

Race in the United States is marked by a fundamental paradox. On the one hand, there has been considerable progress: segregation enforced by the rule of law is a thing of the past, and segregation at the level of mainstream culture, though persistent, is considered a scandal. On the other hand, today’s postracial America of Kimye and Pharrell is still the era of the New Jim Crow and entrenched black poverty. Diversity in elite universities exists alongside de facto residential segregation, and a black president administers a minority-dominated prison system.

The Logic of the Beneficiary

The Palestinian civil society movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel came into existence in July 2005, partly as a response to the International Court of Justice’s ruling one year earlier on the illegality of the 430-mile “security fence” being constructed by Israel partly inside Palestinian territory.

Technical Support

The real question was whether masturbating to porn was an art form: not as “erotica” or performance art, but as solitary pursuit of the sublime. Someone must have done it seriously, subtly, with literacy and flair, a masturbauteur — maybe it was Will. One time he’d discovered he could play the same clip in two windows side by side and cross his eyes to stereoscope the image into 3D, so long as he took Dramamine first. Another time he’d erotically hypnotized himself with a recording of his own voice, a little squicky but more or less effective.

H.

You are cured of your hepatitis after a course of Sovaldi, a new pill that clears the disease in 95 percent of cases. The price of this near-certain cure: $84,000. Each pill costs $1,000. You are fortunate to live in New York, the state where Medicaid coverage of the drug is the most generous. Many states pay for only the sickest patients. You are, relatively speaking, not that sick.

Introduction

The following symposium does not pretend to be definitive about a difficult and in many ways tragic situation. But it does hope to shed light on some aspects of post-Maidan Ukraine that are less often discussed in the West. Anastasiya Osipova reflects on the emotional pressure of life in Kyiv; Tony Wood asks where neoliberal reforms are going to take Ukraine; Sophie Pinkham describes the logic of decommunization; Keith Gessen looks at Western media depictions of the Russia-Ukraine conflict over the past two years; and Nina Potarskaya recalls the trials and tribulations of the Ukrainian left since the protests began on Maidan in November 2013.

Travel Diary

Suspended in a reclining chair, swaddled in a plaid blanket, dark glasses on my nose — my shell of a body is under an apricot tree in the Ukrainian countryside, my soul still lost somewhere in the purgatory of flight. “The cradle rocks above an abyss,” yes — between two continents and several languages. Only I am not a child, and there is something indulgent in this momentary loss of will to remember or care about the particulars of my current coordinates.

States of Shock

It’s now two years since the start of the Maidan protests in Ukraine, and the country remains in the grip of a severe crisis. The war in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces that began in April 2014, after groups of Russian-backed paramilitaries seized numerous police stations and town halls throughout the region, has so far claimed almost 8,000 lives and displaced as many as 1.4 million people.

Leninopad

Early last May, at a Moscow exhibition of art related to the Second World War, I lingered in front of a 1942 painting called Tania (The Feat of Zoia Kosmodemianskaia), by the Kukryniksy group. The style was standard-issue socialist realism, but the subject caught my attention. A boyish young woman stood on a scaffold in a snowy village, looking defiantly at the soldiers who were about to hang her. Russian women in kerchiefs stood with their heads bowed. In front of the scaffold were three Germans snapping pictures: fascist paparazzi.

Western Journalists in Ukraine

In early August 2014 I traveled to Donetsk, the capital of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. By this point in the war the city was under siege by Ukrainian forces, and the airport (held by the Ukrainians) was in ruins, but the train station had not yet been shelled, and you could get on an evening train in Kyiv and arrive in Donetsk by early morning. That is what I did. I was scared. Back in Kyiv I had been warned that I might get pulled off the train and interrogated by rebel soldiers, or at the very least stopped at the station. Luckily, this didn’t happen.

Maidan and After

Of course my hopes were disappointed. A weakened Ukraine became yet another battlefield for two imperialisms. Under cover of protecting their fellow Russians or defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Russia and the West both encouraged a slow-moving but violent conflict. Throughout 2014, the Left Opposition struggled to formulate our demands and our position. It was a terrible, terrifying year for many, and we were no exception.

Perfect Strangers

“There are no more deserts. There are no more islands.” So run the first lines of Camus’s essay “The Minotaur, or The Stop in Oran.” They were intended as a lament. As Camus saw it, deserts were necessary for solitude, and solitude was necessary for greatness. The cultural centers of Europe were too old, too dense and enervated, to provide this kind of isolation. Where, then, could it be found?

Gone Guy

Aubrey Drake Graham’s first performance for a large and unseen audience took place on a Sunday evening in October 2001. Created in 1979 by a former middle school instructor as an after-school special, The Kids of Degrassi Street appeared intermittently on Canadian television, logging twenty-six episodes total over eight years before being remodeled in 1987 as the teen drama Degrassi Junior High (three seasons, forty-two episodes), which transitioned, as the characters of Junior High entered late adolescence, into Degrassi High (two seasons, twenty-eight episodes); following a ten-year hiatus, the franchise was revived in the new millennium under the title Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Theater Diary

Judy, which premiered at the New Ohio Theatre in the West Village, belongs to a different universe from John, but it shares so much with Baker’s play that it’s hard not to think of them together. Written by another young playwright, Max Posner, Judy takes place in the year 2040 in an unnamed American suburb — “Nothing coastal. A cold, unremarkable, midsized city” — and unfolds within the finished basements of three adult siblings, Kris, Tara, and Timothy. They mostly communicate through a tablet/computer system called the System, which, ominously, fails often.

Letters

Dear Editors, I want to put an end to the idea that I had workshops in my living room, as Moira Donegan writes in her essay on Maggie Nelson (“Gay as in Happy”). I don’t have a living room. The groups were independent workshops, each one taking place in a different venue — someone’s loft (for one season mine), art galleries, community spaces. Usually anywhere that was donated by someone interested in swapping their space for a free workshop. So even on the gossip folkloric level I want to set the story straight.