NYT Loves Nihilist Art
On the wall of a new exhibition called “A Knock at the Door …” is a politically charged, eye-catching work: an American flag shaped as a straitjacket. Although the concept sounds as ham-fisted as its title - “(un)Patriot(ic) Act” - the sculpture by Lisa Charde has a simple eloquence. It is also the perfect symbol of the important issues the exhibition considers, and of the scary cultural flap surrounding its opening.
Exploring the impact of the Patriot Act on artists, the show was the centerpiece of a deliberately provocative conference, “What Comes After: Cities, Art and Recovery,” presented over the weekend by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. (“A Knock at the Door …” runs through Oct. 1 at two sites: Cooper Union and the Melville Gallery of the South Street Seaport Museum.)
The conference’s title clearly announced that its discussions, exhibitions and performances would look ahead, not merely eulogize. Coming on the anniversary weekend of 9/11, that approach was touchy enough; the last four years have shown that any departure from gooey sentimentality is likely to provoke an uproar. In a move that seemed to beg for trouble, the conference also paid tribute to Susan Sontag, who caused her own furor by writing that the 9/11 terrorists were not cowards, and Edward Said, the intellectual and high-profile advocate for a Palestinian state.
And here’s that intellectual, high-profile advocate for a Palestinian state, Edward Said, demonstrating his academic bona fides by throwing rocks at Israelis.