Monday, April 11, 2016

Laura Poitras at The Whitney

On Saturday evening, I went to the Whitney Museum with a friend.  I hadn’t realized that the Whitney had moved to Greenwich Village.  I hadn’t realized it was right next to a big Samsung office that had something of an art exhibit in the lobby as well.  I hadn’t realized that Google has a big office building not too far away either. 

I went with an out of town friend who was visiting for the weekend.  That’s the cool thing about friends visiting.  You go do things that you probably should have done a long time ago, but never got around to doing.

I never got around to taking my kids to the top of the World Trade Center.  I always thought I would have plenty of time to get there, or they would.  Wrong.

In any case, this exhibit I went to see, with work by Laura Poitras, was probably not one that I would have chosen to go see in any case.  The description online was singularly uninspiring to me.  And there is not an infinite amount of time to go see it.  It closes May 1.

The artist is a journalist who has done work investigating the results of our war on terror.  I think I might have expected a documentary.  I think my friend expected a documentary.

In going to this exhibit, it’s important to realize that it is *not* a documentary.  You’re not necessarily going to see information that you did not already know, if you’re reasonably informed —about how we tortured people, about our video surveillance program, about our drones, about our invasion of Iraq. 

This is an art museum.  This is art.  The point is to give an emotional impression. 

It reminded me a bit of the Holocaust museum.  It was dark.  There was spooky music playing.  You get a feeling of how real people were affected.   You get the feeling of what it is to be on the other side of what we’re doing.

Curiously, my friend was not that much affected by the exhibit, nor was a young woman we heard on the elevator. 

I was deeply affected.  I felt a feeling of doom — as if I were inside the dark tour of Sauron in LOTR looking out at the hordes of orcs and other horrific monsters that have been dispatched in my name in other countries.  Moreover, I got the feeling that creatures dispatched on my behalf are not necessarily ones whose judgment I would trust — not that that should have been a surprise.

I felt a feeling of doom, knowing that really our country is not so large and the whole world is MUCH larger — and they are going to come after us, just like the valiant hobbits went after and defeated Sauron: finding his weak point, attacking his weak point, and destroying him, despite his impressively massed orcs and wraiths and flying monsters.  And they’re not necessarily going to be nice to us, just as we were not nice to them.

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