Lee Friedlander, revisted

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by jim_a, Mar 8, 2005.

  1. Last year I was looking at Lee Friedlander photos and noticed that he made an image in Akron, Ohio where I'm currently living. I made a mental note to wait for winter and for fun go back and document the scene, now 25 years after he made his image.
    Here is the link to Lee Friedlander's 1980 view of Akron, Ohio.
    If I had come across this scene on my own I would not have been moved to make an image. For me, Friedlander has been a difficult photographer to appreciate, unlike Josef Koudelka or Danny Lyon or Winogrand, but over the years much of his work has grown on me.
    What's your take on his image?
    I'll leave you with this: The Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. Discuss amongst yourselves.
  2. My favorite Friedlander collection is the "American Musicians" book. Check it out and
    you'll appreciate him a whole lot more.

    All of the photogs you mentioned are going to take a good photo most every time they
    press the shutter. Doesn't mean it should be in a book though :)

  3. "When Friedlander breaks the rules of "good" photography, his doing
    so amounts to an insistence on photography as photography. These
    rules are violated by a broad set of pictorial conventions. Take the
    comprssion of foreground and background fairly common in
    Friedlander's photos. It violates the tacit rule that a
    representational photo shoud suggest space as we perceive it in the
    world, with any deformations being easily decodable. Friedlander's
    deformations are rarely result from the optics of lenses, which we
    have learned to cope with. Rather, he arrays the pictorial elements
    so that they may connect as conceptual units, against our learned
    habit of decoding the flat image into rationalized space.

    More importantly, spatial compression is a possibility peculiarly
    inherent in photography, where such junctures can happen
    accidentally. Friedlander characteristically locates the issue in
    the domain of control, which he equates with insisted-on
    consciousness. Once you accept that photography need not rest on the
    history of painting (where, before the heavy influx of photographic
    influence, at least, there had been no concept of chance imagery,
    only accident and or better or worse decisions about intentional
    juxtaposition), you can accept as the outcome of conscious and
    artistic control photos that have the look of utter accident."

    From "Lee Friedlander's Guarded Strategies"
    by Martha Rosler, Artforum, April 1975

    This is from an article on Friedlander that my photography teacher
    had collected for use in his history of photography course...
  4. one can only go so far when fixating on the conflict between modernist and pictorialist photography.
  5. it's been what, 100 years since we had known for the first time that photography is not painting? Time to move on.
  6. at least the painters had moved on.
  7. If you have to write a Doctoral Thesis explaining why a Photo 'works' than there is a

  8. Oops....I left out my smiley face

  9. if you have to write a Doctoral Thesis explaining why a Photo 'works' than there is a problem.
    with the thesis or with the photo?
  10. I love Lee Friedlanders "Desert seen" incredibly good, first time i saw it i thought, well let's say i couldn't appreciate it. Over time it has grown a lot, a bit like vegemite i guess, kind of aquired taste. Very al dente photography.
  11. I keep meaning to pick up "Desert Seen". I have (and love) a Hassy SWC and I am curious
    to see his usage of it.

    Some of his other SWC stuff I saw kind of put me off.

    It's kind of like Deepak Chopra...sure, he's a smart guy with something to say but you
    don't see books with a
    transcript of his order at Starbucks (not yet anyway...cat's out of the bag now..)

  12. Jim, I love your re-photograph! So much has remained the same, it's amazing. Seeing how the trees have thickened up is quite moving in a way: a quarter century of effort.
  13. Just read in the paper today that Lee Friedlander was awarded this years hasselblad prize, a very good choice in my oppinion:)
  14. Lee Friedlander "Nudes".

    In the editorial afterword, byI ngrid Sischy, she quotes him on using leica. "His choice of camera echoes his insistence on the modesty of what he does. Its a Leica "With a camera like that," as Friedlander explains, " You don't have to believe that you are in the masterpiece business. Its enough to be able to peck at the world"

    The images of the women are raw and earthy, with direct on camera flash, and taken in the models humble abodes. Madonna, The Material Girl, the singer is one, with hairy armpits and rampant genital hair.

    They are certainly much different from the highly stylised nudes that flood the photonet portfolios.

    The series was put together over 15 years and started when Friedlander was in his fifties.

    First published by Jonathan Cape, London, 1991
  15. I don't know about you, but I took an instant liking to Friedlander. Several books of
    his are common in bookstores, definitely worth a look. "Stems", "Sticks and Stones",
    and the aforementioned "Nudes". But gawd, I wish they'd reprint "Factory Valleys".
  16. Hello!
    I just heard in Swedish broadcasting that Lee Friedlander got the Hasseblad award for 2005.
  17. I am not sure how I feel about his stuff, but I do get to meet him on Friday night.
  18. ahh, cascade plaza in the snow. it's like i'm on my way to susan's coffee and tea for my lunch now.
    i work in the national city building, so it's really hard to see this as something other than the daily grind.
    i like the sense of history though.
  19. I like Friedlander, although my experience basically mirrors Jim's (at first blush, his work is difficult to appreciate). It's too bad his books are either 1) prohibitively expensive or 2) out of print and even more expensive (although, I suppose these are good things from a collector's standpoint).
  20. I love the comparison Jim! Kudos to you for taking the time and effort to do this.

    Now if you can replicate Freidlander's light, i.e., Freidlander/s photo appears to have been taken on an overcast day, in yours the sun seems to be forcing more contrast between the lights and darks.

    I know, I know, some people are never happy!
  21. Isn't the whimsical point of Friedlander's photo that the central railing divides the landscape into a snowy right hand side, and a snow-free left? Is there more to it than this?

    I didn't know this photo before. I only know a few of Friedlander's photos from collections in books, but they tend to live with me for no obvious reason. There's a very simple one of a long road and bleak landscape taken through the windscreen of a moving car. I feel sure I could have done it myself, but then I wonder...

    The Holy Roman Empire must have been like our present day 'Civil Servants'.
  22. I never cared much for Friedlander's Akron photo...nor for most of his other cityscapes. They just seem too random. I don't like his earlier reflection pictures, either. However, I have seen some Friedlander photos that I did like. I think he needs to be more selective.

    If Jim had posted his 25-years-later photo without any reference to Friedlander, what would we be saying about it?
  23. One more recommendation for his nudes. Rampant pubic hair is the obvious connecting theme.
  24. Subject: Response to Lee Friedlander : GREAT!!!!

    L.F. is one of the greatest American photographers imho : much better than the legions of
    mother-nature-4x5-pyro-cold-light-enlarger-dramatic-prints snappers whose work is technically achieved but artistically dead boring...
    His work(s) is/are fascinating : his streets pix from the 60's (the 1st time s.o. comes up with sth as challenging & intersting as the
    30's HCB images) his self-portraits, his pix of T.V sets in hotel rooms, his amazing nudes, his "American Monuments" (that SHOULD be re-printed). What never ceased to impress me is he was a very good friend of Winogrand but he somehow managed to keep a distinctive style when it came to street photography.
    One minor complaint : I don't think his 1990's/6x6 work is as interesting as his 60-70's/Leica pix...
    Congratulations for the Hasselblad Award (previously given to Frank, Susan Meiselas, Koudelka, Avedon, Klein, Salgado, Penn, Alvarez-Bravo, HCB among others).
    Lee I love you! ;-)
  25. "More importantly, spatial compression is a possibility peculiarly inherent in photography, where such junctures can happen accidentally. Friedlander characteristically locates the issue in the domain of control, which he equates with insisted-on consciousness."

    Doesn't anyone know how to write in clear understandable English rather than psychobabble any more?
  26. "Doesn't anyone know how to write in clear understandable English rather than psychobabble any more?"

    Any more? That quote is from 1975. That's 30 years ago.

    Wouldn't it be better to ask what the writer meant rather than calling it psychobabble? Wouldn't it be better to learn than just condemn?
  27. "Wouldn't it be better to ask what the writer meant rather than calling it psychobabble?"

    As the job of a writer is to communicate surely, then it shouldn't be necessary to ask what
    they mean, n'est pas?
  28. Marc it is psychobabble and it's still just as prevalent today as it was in 1975. This is what passes for scholarship in academia. It is the duty of the author to communicate in clear and unambiguous language what he or she is trying to say. That is [usually] what expository writing is all about. On the other hand, some people use this kind of writing precisely so that noone outside of a small group of the "cogniscenti" can understand it. If it's worth saying, it's worth saying clearly.
  29. I'm a great fan of Lee Friedlander but, hmmm, that was definitely psychobabble.
  30. rj


    The phsycobabble reminds me of some of the interviews of photographers from a pretentious magazine I get bi-monthly, I'm not going to say which. Suffice it to say, its torture to try to get through the interviews.

    Speaking of interviews, I think CameraArts did an interview with Friedlander, it was interesting, but the interviewer tried real hard to get Lee to say something.

    I'm not a fan of Friedlander, I don't really like to look at his photos, but they are unique and I can see why someone would like his work.
  31. Great topic and a great "revisit" of a Master's work. Kudos to Jim.
    I love Friedlander's work; I think of him as a photographer's
    photographer: throughout his career he has worked to break the
    constraints of photography as being painting's little sister. The
    act of photographing is its own aesthetic.

    Another reason I admire him is that he rescued one of our city's
    (New Orleans) great unknown photographers, E.J. Bellocq, from
    obscurity by purchasing and painstakingly printing his early 20th
    century glass plate negatives of prostitutes. When Pictorialism
    was rampant Bellocq was quietly approaching his subjects with
    respect and pure photographic seeing. The movie "Pretty Baby"
    was loosely based on him.

    Anyway, Friedlander has always been one of my favorites; his
    seeing makes me think.
  32. I have always been fond of this quote:

    'I am afraid that there are more people than I can
    imagine who can go no further than apppreciating a
    picture that is a rectangle with an object in the
    middle of it, which they can identify. They don't care
    what is around the object as long as nothing
    interferes with the object itself, right in the
    center. Even after the lessons of Winogrand and
    Friedlander, they don't get it.... They want the
    obvious. ... I am at war with the obvious.'

    --William Eggleston
  33. I am at war with the obvious
    Same can be applied to writing. Dismissing any slightly more complex sentence as a psychobabble while at the same time calling it a recent trend without providing any support for such a made-up-on-the-fly statement doesn't do anyone any good.
  34. It is the duty of the author to communicate in clear and unambiguous language what he or she is trying to say.
    Oh, really? Next thing you're going to tell me is that the subject should always be in focus.
  35. It is gobbledygook of the type that I see all the time from academicians. It is not worth the trouble trying to decode. The writer obviously has contempt for readers outside of a small group of cronies that will be impressed by this sort mumbo jumbo. Otherwise she would have written it in English. This sort of thing is rampant on todays college campuses. You don't need to look very far to find many other examples.
  36. Friedlander's work I like, that explanation of it is absolute tripe.
  37. I don't fully agree with what Martha wrote, nor with how it relates to Friedlander's work, but I have no problems with her stylistics. In fact, she laid out everything very comprehensibly. I've seen much, much more difficult writing samples. And English is not my first language.
  38. Eugene. I can't make heads or tails of it. Perhaps you could explain what she's trying to say.
  39. There is a thread on L.F. on the Phil. of Photog. forum(I'm too lazy today to type it all out), and this discussion blows it out of the water for reasoning and intelligent argument.

    Eliot, I'll bet you are smarter and better educated than me, and I can understand that quote. It certainly is dense, but good points are made.

    Still:don't you realise that arcane and overly complicated theories CREATE JOBS? You have the writers, the people who explain the writers, and the people who explain the people who explain the writers. Then there are the dictionaries and biographies, the "for dummies" and "for beginners" series--cheez, man, do you want to bring down the whole economy?
  40. Well, my take on it was this: "More importantly, spatial compression is a possibility peculiarly inherent in photography, where such junctures can happen accidentally." The flatness which is inherent to photography (A photograph is flat, despite the sensation of your eyes focusing as you look "into" a photograph) leads to new combinations of forms, Photo Form, as my teachers called it- One example that can be seen in the photo below is that of the mirror in front of the tree in the upper right corner. The shape that is now in this photograph cannot exist in real life, since (most of us) have two eyes and we can see depth in the world. A better example is when someone stands in front of a tree just right, and it looks like there is a branch coming out from the subject's head. That is for some reason against the rules, but: "Friedlander characteristically locates the issue in the domain of control, which he equates with insisted-on consciousness." He takes this issue of juxtaposition and makes a conscious effort to utilize it in his photographs- None of his photographs that I have seen are random or flukes- and considering how much film he has shot in his lifetime, I am sure that anything you see published or online are the results of careful, thoughtful and intelligent editing. "Once you accept that photography need not rest on the history of painting, you can accept as the outcome of conscious and artistic control photos that have the look of utter accident." This is probably clear enough, but Thom Bennett said it (Translated it?) best just a little while ago: "I think of him as a photographer's photographer: throughout his career he has worked to break the constraints of photography as being painting's little sister. The act of photographing is its own aesthetic." --------- This has been an interesting thread. I enjoy hearing everyone's thoughts.. This was one of many collected articles that were bound in a book for my teacher's history of photo class in 1983. It was about to be thrown out when he retired last spring. The article before the Friedlander one was a 1977 interview with Winogrand that I have not found online.. He talks about everything- even about which focal lengths he uses and why. But that could be for another thread...
  41. Thanks John. I think this is an example of rather poor writing (Rosler's). Those ideas could be explained in a simpler and more elegant manner. I'll better Winogrand explaining Winogrand or Friedlander explaining Friedlander would be much more comprehensible. One of the things I've noticed is that the most talented individuals can also communicate their ideas in a clear and unambiguous fashion [at least in most cases].
  42. Winogrand on Winogrand is pretty amazing. I would like to put that Winogrand interview I have online but I don't know the leaglity of it. Winogrand's new book Arrivals and Departures has a nice intro by Friedlander--- who I found to be as intelligent and interesting in his writing as his photographs.

    Has anyone else seen Friedlander's book of Family photos?
  43. "Family" came out about the same time as "Sticks & Stones" I think. I'm still trying to get a handle on "Sticks & Stones". I like it but it's kind of overpowering. "Family" is much more approachable and easier to warm up to.
  44. Nicely done, John, and with tact. I also think that the piece is poorly written, but I also think it unfortunate that Eliot chose to generalise so sweepingly.

    When I was studying philosophy - both in the Anglo/American analytic tradition, and then later in the European Continental tradition, I encountered many such dismissive arguments. They usually took the form of: for anything to have any meaning it must be possible to express that meaning simply (relatively) and clearly.

    Though I can understand people's frustration with obfuscation for the sake of it, and take on board Eliot's remarks about writing for an inner circle of cogniscenti, this attitude can nevertheless stifle a genuine search for trying to go beyond, in understanding, the obvious and clear. My experience of the continental philosophers was, yes, they write in a far more obscure style, but often because what they try to talk about is simply a more difficult and less clear area of understanding; in other words, they are often much more ambitious in what they want to talk about than their more anylitic colleagues.

    Anyway, as John so adeptly showed, though the piece was badly written, it was saying something relatively interesting and was not so hard to decipher. Which brings me to my final point: people seem to be getting ever lazier in their reading and comprehension habits. Eliot, you are obviously intelligent, but you simply didn't try to understand it, prefering to lampoon it and make a point, rather than engage in productive debate.
  45. Robert, we could debate about where the responsibility of the writer to write something comprehensible ends and the responsibility of the reader to make an effort to understand the meaning of the writer's words begins. But this example is plainly and example of poor writing. It is simply pretentious unelegant babble. I like good prose, but this is just not it. I had less trouble understanding the categorical imperative. I can't comment on continental philosophers with knowing exactly who you mean, but to me there is a difference between writing in a flowery elegant fashion to make an interesting and comprehensible point and that kind of obfuscation (a good word to describe the passage in question).
  46. Eliot, I was thinking particularly of Kant, Husserl, Heideggar, Merleau-Ponty, Giles Deleuze and Foucault. I could include Nietzsche, but though he delves into extremely interesting areas, he still manages to write with almost unparalleled elegance and clarity (Foucault is not bad either). The problem is, from the Anglo-Saxon perspective, they all get tarred with the same undeserving brush.

    A good example is Merleau-ponty, who, it is often complained, writes with a dense opacity such that only his devotees are prepared to shovel through the mire, and even then it is not worth it. This is simply untrue. A little time and trouble are amply rewarded by glimpses and insightss into some of the very interesting themes he tackles. It just requires a little energy and openness. This is a digression, however.

    Art criticism, seems, undeniably, a trickier issue, particularly when reviews are being paid for and must find something positive to say about a piece of work, and its intrinsic value must be established beyond any contradiction. (There must be an academic study on such a phenomenon). However, my experience is that, often, not always, there are interesting insights to be found when someone is passionate, or serious enough about the work they are talking about - worth bearing with current fashions towards intellectual one-upmanship and mystification.
  47. In the Friedlander photograph, what strikes me is the cruciform streetlamps. The image is as if taken once the bodies of the crucified have been taken down. The whole composition is full of 3's and triangles. The sign with the arrows on is also intriguing.
    Thanks for an interesting thread, anyway.
  48. I meant to write "what strikes me is the cruciform shape of the streetlamps" or "what strikes me are the cruciform streetlamps". ho hum.
  49. "current fashions towards intellectual one-upmanship and mystification."

    What I find more disturbing is the current trend - and this site is an excellent example of it - towards a denial of the value of thought itself. This is not the first time Eliot in particular - but there are many others - has pretended to be unable to understand quite simple writing (the badness of it is arguable). What does it mean when the educational elite deny the value of thinking? This has happened in the past, with well known results. It's not just a matter of laziness, but of contempt for anything higher than the lowest common denominator, in art, philosophy, political thought, whatever. Not a good sign of the times.
  50. Contempt for obfuscation that masquerades as thought, maybe. Just because a member of the intellectual mafioso that you so eloquently defend puts something out, that doesn't qualify it as thought.
  51. "What does it mean when the educational elite deny the value of thinking?"

    Isn't this necessary to bolster the values of the status quo? Hence bolster the values of conservatism and those who benefit from it. The Avant Garde has always been their enemy and the greatest perceived threat to their comfortable position.

    It is difficult to sort out when there is a genuine demand for clarity and when the demand is for no new thinking at all.
  52. Speaking of reshooting old scenes, Check out Bill Ganzel's, "Dust Bowl Descent". He went back and reshot and interviewed many of the original places and people that the FSA photographers did. He even found Florence Thompson (Migrant Mother) and re-photographed her and her children. It's quite a fascinating book.

  53. Eliot, if I were to take your position, I would pretend to be unable to understand that you meant "mafia" when you wrote "mafioso". Note however that a belief one's cultural (let alone political) opponents are organised into conspiratorial cabals is historically another mark of the same deadly process I mentioned above.

    Robert - does the avantguarde really exist today in the way it did in, say, the Twenties? My impression is that the avantuarde formed in opposition to the cultural dominance of the bourgeoisie and its perceived hypocrisy, when the bourgeoisie with its unadmitted Hobbesian view of society was still the dominant social force in Europe, as a kind of counterclass. Is it still a dynamic social force? I don't know. As I understand it, one of the trademarks of the avantguarde was the manifesto, and I don't know whether these are still very important. I'm sure you know a lot more about it than I do.
  54. Hey, Bob! Good to see you around.
    You are right, the avant-garde had transformed. I'm just coming up with the most recent stuff I know of: The Situationists (1960s) had their Situationist Manifesto, and they were quite important at the time. Dogme 95 filmmakers up in Copenhagen (1995) put up a manifesto called The Vow of Chastity. Other current less-known groups also have some funky manifestos. For example, monochrom (2002) have their Manifesto of Ignorantism. I am sure there are many others, sometimes used both as an artifact/curiosity and as a means for proclamation.
  55. Hi Eugene - yes, the Situationists conceived themselves as revolutionaries, they were quite old-fashioned (and unrealistic) in that respect (their audience/membership was largely students and intellectuals, the cream of the class they ostensibly wanted to overthrow, as I understand it, who had no genune interest in anything other than a theoretical revolt, whereas the avantguardists of the front generation really did want to destroy the old order). Dogme on the other hand was largely a marketing device, not intended to be counter-bourgeois - as if film ever could be. Significantly enough, Lars van Trier, the most high profile Dogme member, has never actually made a Dogme film, as far as I know. Good examples.
  56. Debating how the (would-be) avant garde has changed, doesn't seem complete without mentioning how the bourgeoisie has changed. Unlike in the 1920s, the current bourgeoisie somewhat willingly *pays* for the grants and subsidies that today's 'revolutionaries,' within and without the arts, thrive on. The bourgeoisie is not what it used to be, is much more open to, um, pluralism and diversity, and can often crack a smile at today's art no matter how outrageous it would want to seem. And therefore it's hardly surprising that people aren't as inclined to get mad and to want overthrow and destroy society as in the old days. This may apply a bit more in Europe than in the US of course...
  57. Photo.net = the bourgeoisie.
  58. "I'm sure you know a lot more about it than I do."

    I doubt it Rob. I was using the term avant garde very loosely - to include anyone with new and possibly threatening ways of thinking, particularly in art and philosophy, generally in advance of what is accepted.

    I think Bee is spot on, although how deep that really goes is questionable.
  59. Rob, I stand corrected. Mafia is the correct term not mafioso. But when you talk about the avante grade and bourgeosie you are mired in the past. If you want to look at todays college campuses, these are not the major issues today. Today's college professors are 90% liberal and further left and they do not tolerate diversity of ideas, only diversity of race. Ask any conservative on todays campus. These people rule in a dictatorial fashion and tolerate no dissent. Look at some of the incredibly egregious examples collected by David Horowitz. Today's avante garde are the conservatives on campus that don't buy the type of socialism that the faculty is shoveling.

    That's the thing about an intellectual "mafia". They put out "contracts" or "hits" on anyone who disagress. You guys are living in the past when you talk about the bourgeosie vs avante garde. The avant garde have long since won that battle and have become the new mafia who don't tolerate lack of allegiance to the "famiglia".
  60. I just came across the following in Vaneigem's "Revolution":

    "The media need scandal just as they need black humour and cynicism. Real scandal consists in the rejection and sabotage of the spectacle..." (perhaps Debord's films are the only anti-spectacular films ever made, and they are of course unwatchable (the scripts are painful enough)).

    I think the point here is that, while the inter-war bourgeoisie was fragmented in the Hobbesian sense, it was united culturally in praise of the academy (I suppose figures like Thomas Mann or Robert Musil would be the epitomy of this). So that the avant garde (who, due to their experiences in the Great War, believed in nothing more than destruction as an end in itself) could attack it via Dadaism, Futurism and so on. Today, the "spectacle" is so dominant that the value of anything consists solely in its spectacularity - and hence anything is allowed. The consequence is that the cultural solidarity of the bourgeoisie which made the existence of a genuine avant garde (which can only exist in opposition) possible in the twenties, no longer exists, and hence a real avant garde is impossible. Instead, we have artists whose work shocks while its political content is void. The spectacle is capable of absorbing any scandal - indeed it thrives on scandal. This can have tragic consequences for the individual. The Italian porn star Moana Pozzi is a case in point - her failure to understand that spectacular prominence is not equivalent to acceptance or respectability, indeed, that what the spectacle values is precisely the marginal, the criminal, the vicious. What was possible for a Disraeli opver 100 years previously, in an atmosphere of far more rigid cultural conformity, was impossible in the 80's and 90's precisely because the bourgeois cultural consensus had long since ceased to exist.
  61. Bob, you are obviously a very brilliant individual (and a pretty darn good photographer), but don't you realize that you are still mired in yesterday's controversies. The world has moved on. A new battle is being waged in today's college campuses and it is more political than intellectual.
  62. Yeah, but saying that Lars von Trier has never made a Dogme film is a bit stretching it. His stuff is actually pretty good, that is if you can stand the dizzy feel of a movie taken without a tripod under a wobbly tungsten lighting (Dancer in The Dark anyone?) and if you can sit still for three hours while the film slowly picks up speed, waiting for the cathartic ending.
  63. it is more political than intellectual.
    So, Eliot, you think that politics are not worthy of intellectual thought? That's pretty escapist by any standard.
  64. they do not tolerate diversity of ideas, only diversity of race
    What do you expect them to, to be mired in relativism?
  65. So, Eliot, you think that politics are not worthy of intellectual thought? That's pretty escapist by any standard.

    Eugene, of course it is, but the intellectual mafia will not tolerate honest debate. Check out waht David Horowitz has writeen. Students are asked to write essays on subjects like "why Bush's war in Iraq is wrong". If they try to argue against this premise, they are given a failing grade. It's that bad.

    Even liberals are not immune from the wrath of this mafia. Take Larry Summers, President of Harvard, a good solid liberal who worked for the Clinton administration. He made a comment about why women might not do as well as men in the hard sciences and he has been all but tarred and feathered. Now I don't know if he is right or wrong, but noone on campus seems to be interested in an honest debate on that subject. What he said was not pc and he may lose his job over it. End of subject, no debate.

    How about Ward Chruchill, now there's an honest individual who tolerates dissent and political debate in his courses. Look at how he treats anyone who disagrees with his inanities. Admittedly, this is a rather egregious example, but there are many Ward Churchills on todays college campuses who are a lot more subtle in their approach. Yes, on today's campuses diversity only refers to race, not to ideas. Try and disagree with your professors and see where you get.
  66. Fortunately, Eliot, I'm far too old to be on a campus.

    However, I would suggest that current developments in US (and European) foreign policy can be best understood by looking at the pre-war period - the identification of "objective enemies" without domestic class allegiances, the propaganda model of the media (as outlined by Chomsky and Herman), the ideological transcendence of purely nationalistic interests (race or dialectical materialism in the past - bringing democratic values to the world at any expense now), the discovery of objective historical truths (again, race, in the past, now God talking directly to our leaders, the democratic mission), the projection of justifications into the future, etc. While the history is indeed history, it has great relevance for our time.

    The voidance of any genuine opposition by the "spectacle" (I would not necessarily espouse the situationist critique) is one of the most disturbing features of our time, imo.

    Eugene, I only meant that none of van Trier's films actually obey the injunctions of the vow of chastity, at least as far as I am aware. However, they do owe much of their strength from their dialogue with the Dogme manifesto, of that there's no doubt. I think van Trier already saw the Vow as an "obstacle", and his work benefits enormously from his struggle with it.
  67. This all talk about "mafia" can sometimes be more funny than offensive, because "mafia" is there, at the imaginary limit. The metaphor of mafia is sometimes used by the left as well as the right as an exclamation of the possibility of an improper marriage between extreme left and fascism, entailing a form of ultimate revenge by a certain (usually harmless) group. Because such revenge is always an overstatement, the possibility of it is never taken as a fact; to the opposite, the notion is played with and seen as a joker that points to (implies) a foul game by the other (non-mafia) side.
    While we were on the subject of von Trier, the exemplification of the use of the mafia metaphor in this way can be seen in his 2003 film Dogville, which caused quite a stir when it came out, considered by some conservatives to be anti-american and even fascist. In it, the ultimate revenge is played out by a charismatic mob of 1930s big-city gangsters who suddenly (and wickedly) take on the role of "the just and the righteous" when burning the small town of Dogville to the ground, the town which was set up in the first place to illustrate the typical small-town-not-far-from-here mid-west hard-working family-oriented (even though very-very wretched) protestant parochial folk, whose faces are depicted in the iconic American Gothic (1930) by Grant Wood.
    The other, probably more exotic to you example is the Chrysler Imperial of the "Bu-Ba-Bu" (1980s) literary group in Ukraine. The group, headed by poet Yuri Andrukhovych put an end to the state-sponsored soviet-realist "narodnyk" literature which was abound at the time. In one of his wacky works, Andrukhovych imagined himself and his colleagues as a mob of gangsters driving the Chrysler Imperial and brutally executing all the bureaucrats of the literary establishment and introducing an unbound freedom to the aesthetic expression.
  68. Sorry, the correct link to Yuri Andrukhovych is here.
  69. Eugene, your somewhat confusing and meandering first paragraph doesn't address the really serious issues of intolerance for differing (namely conservative) opinions on college campuses. This by people who profess to be all about intellectual freedom and diversity, as long as they don't stray too far from their own dogma. In fact, your response is a very good example of the art of obfuscation. You'd rather hide what goes on, sweep in under the rug, and quibble about the significance of the word mafia. Well I used the word that best conveys my meaning. These people do represent a mafia, just not one that kills people, one that kills ideas. And stray too far from their code of behavior, and you will be on their "hit list", ie., list of students that will receive a low or failing grade, list of junior faculty who will not become senior faculty, list of applicants who will not receive a faculty appointment and the like.

    Try for once gibving a straight answer without the psychobabble.
  70. Eliot, you seem very angry with the lefty campus liberals and their stifling of debate; however, I thought this digression from Friedlander (remember him) into the current tendency towards neglecting to think came about because of your refusal to decipher a relatively simple critique of F's work.

    Given that you are now advocating thoughtful debate, perhaps it can be aplied more widely, without taking up entrenched political positions.

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