Sunday, November 2, 2014

What is REALLY behind this National Mall Sand Art Project?

I wasn't sure if I was going to blog about anything today, as even genius needs a break (I actually need to keep writing our newest PTSD-related song), but what I see developing on the National Mall in DC really makes me shake my head at our nation's priorities and where the Culture War is being fought. Speaking of fighting war, yesterday Smoking Hot Asian WifeTM and I went to see Fury

My God, what a great war movie; I wish it was twice as long.  Brad Pitt showed why he's the bitch-slappingest actor around right now; and he's very likeable as a person, to boot.  This post isn't about reviewing the movie; movie reviews are not really my thing.  Both @AceofSpades and Breitbart's @JohnNolte do excellent movie reviews (I don't think Ace did one, but read John's if you're interested).

This blog post is not about World War II, which if you consider it just for context, was an amazingly brutal and uncertain time in our Nation's history. No other era so defined Americanism and individual freedom and liberty in modern times.  The existential historical context of the United States rests on The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II, and we still have Americans alive today and their progeny who were part of the last.  That's amazing when you think of it; World War II is still very much a part of our every day breathing lives.

It's so important to America, in fact, that we created a beautiful memorial in the very heart of our Nation's capital to forever symbolize America's gratitude to those who struggled against the evil forces of Socialism and Imperialism seeking to conquer the world.

Maybe you've heard of this memorial.  It was the same silly memorial the Obama Administration petulantly gated and closed during the October 2013 budget battle to exclude Americans from visiting open, public lands.

Oh, and while it was closed, the National Park Service opened other parts of the National Mall for for a pro-illegal immigration citizenship march and rally. 

From the 08 October 2013 USA Today: "The march, dubbed the "Camino Americano", or "American Road," is hosted by groups including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Casa de Maryland. The rally will feature speeches by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other members of Congress. Another highlight will be a concert by the Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte."

So, what do we see going up next to the World War II memorial in DC's National Mall?

In short, it's a 6 Acre Sand Portrait of "not Obama" taking shape.

The artist Cuban-Immigrant Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, has done this in several places around the world, and this is his first in the United States. It involves 2,000 tons of sand and 800 tons of soil, among other things.

So, what's the harm in a cute little sand project that ostensibly promotes American values like e pluribus unum?  Why be such a Debbie Wasserman-Downer, Peter Dee?  

Curious critical thinkers such as ourselves need to dig deep, drill down, and peel all those other clich├ęs away into the things we see going on around us and continually ask a series of questions, some more important than others. 

No surprise to you, I'm sure, but these questions are: What? Where? When? Who? Why? How?

We already know What, Where, When, and How.  Let's get into the more intriguing questions, the ones which really tell us something: Who and Why?

Who is Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada?

Ever hear of him before? Nah, me either.  Perhaps several slightly older readers will, though.

According to his Wikipedia page, he "emigrated" about the age of four with his Cuban family to America in 1970, supposedly because his father didn't want to live in a Communist Paradise any more.  Being a highly skilled sugar cane cutter-upper, his father easily was granted a US work Visa, I suppose--work Americans won't do. 

Luckily for them, the Castro regime at this time in the 1970's was allowing an unprecedented number (~300,000) of Cubans to legally emigrate to reunite with family in the United States.  I'm not knowledgeable enough on the subject to be able to analyze why Castro opened his country at this time of heightened Cold War tensions; this was well before the infamous 1980's Mariel Boat Lift. 

So Jorge grew up in the US, going to school in beautiful New Jersey, which is very similar to Cuba in many ways.  What really is important to know about Jorge is that he was heavily involved in the foundation of "Culture Jamming" as it arose in the 1990's.

Culture Jamming (also known as "Guerrilla Art") is one of those fun, often very clever, anti-consumerism, anti-commercialism, anti-capitalist, anti-free market, anarchistic sort of thing you'll see in Occupy messaging.  Remember that the 17 September 2011 Occupy Wall Street was organized by the Adbusters anti-commercialism movement based in Canada. Really, Culture Jamming is a type of propaganda messaging which dates back to the beginning of human communication and marketing. It just has a cooler name.

We also might call it graffiti or vandalism when defaces commercial property and advertising, but it's truly agitprop, serving a political, social purpose typically at odds with traditional American and Western values.  It is an essential tactic of modern Progressive/Communist/Socialist movements.

So, what else was Jorge involved with?  When young, he became involved in Artfux, a "militant" group of artists who Culture Jammed billboards. He used the street name "Artjammer." I wonder if he could break-dance.

But anyway, Artfux was a fun group of lads and lasses. In 1990, Jorge and some other Artfux members put Senator Jesse Helms on trial on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington DC--not too far away from where he is currently building his sandy ephemera on the Mall. 

I'm not a fan of Jesse Helms at all.  As you know, I'm not a Social Conservative, and Helms was among the staunchest of SoCons during his overly long political career. I think he did tremendous damage to Republican branding and is largely responsible for the currently accepted narrative that all Conservatives are Religious bigots.  

I personally find what happened during his mock trial exceptionally evil, although I defend it on Libertarian and First Amendment grounds.

Unfortunately for Senator Jesse Helms, he was found guilty during the mock public trial and a ceramic Helms statuesque effigy Jorge created was executed on the spot--by Jorge--who evidently had filled it with feces... possibly his own, I hope.

It went something like this, as witnessed and related by one Joseph P. Cunningham.


"We are the ARTFUX!" Cuevas announced into a bullhorn, getting the crowd's attention.

"And this is the trial of Sen. Jesse Helms."

Beside him stood a shrouded statue.

After [Jorge] Rodriguez read an opening statement and the defendant was ordered to stand and be sworn in, the shroud was removed to reveal him: an almost life-sized, flabby, under-endowed, ceramic nude statue of Helms. It was brilliantly rendered and, therefore, intensely ugly.

Do you swear to tell the help you your dangerously misguided, fascist version of God?"

No answer from Helms. Cuevas continued.

"Sir, the charges against you stem from your entire horrendous career of disservice to the American people."

"You have voted against the integration of schools!"

"You have tried to force your fascist-fundamentalist beliefs through school prayer which supports YOUR version of religion!"

"You have attacked religious freedom by trying to take away tax exemptions from those who believe different from YOU!"

"You have voted to take away social services which are used to feed CHILDREN!"

"And now you sir, are conspiring to take away the people's First Amendment right to free speech and expression!" 

Cuevas then leveled the bullhorn at the effigy's sneering face.


He turned to the cheering crowd.

"Jury, how do you find the defendant?!?"

"Guilty!!" they roared.

He turned to Rodriguez, who had painstakingly sculpted the statue. Rodriguez was wearing the mask of the Jolly Roger symbol that is their trademark and calling card, and high in one hand he held a hammer.

"EXECUTIONER! CARRY OUT THE SENTENCE!!" Cuevas ordered, stepping clear.

"DIE!!!!!" cried Rodriguez, and the hammer fell. As the statue broke and toppled, shattering on the Capitol Building steps, the crowd learned that it, much like Helms himself, was full of shit.

Again, who is Jorge?  More, in his own words...

This is a brief description of Jorge's artistic journey in his own words, ending with his concept of the Jesse Helms execution from a November 2003 interview:

"When I was in college I felt an afinity for the work of very different artists that injected art into the urban landscape(Chris Burden, Christo, Barbara Kruger and others). I met the future members of Artfux at Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University). We started changing billboards in order to bring attention to the problem of disproportionate advertising in minority areas. We also staged socially charged street actions and performances.

We once blocked of Wall street with a vinyl banner with reinforcing cables that was padlocked from light post to light post on either side of the street. We painted an american flag motif with headless businessmen in a chorus line on the banner.  It was related to the issue of loans to third world countries that got stolen by those in power but had to be paid back by the population of these countries.  I made a ceramic sculpture of Jesse Helms and then destroyed it on the Capitol steps after we staged a mock trial. That was for his attacks on NEA funding. We wanted to make a change. We had no fear… We were too intense to be able to stay together very long."

In the same 2003 interview, Jorge unsurprisingly says he is extremely inspired by anti-capitalist
Noam Chomsky.

So, we now know the "Who" part of the puzzle, but "Why?" Why is this project being made?

I'll leave that to you to ponder.  It's officially called "Out Of Many, One," an ode to the good ol' Red, White, and Blue "e pluribus unum,"--a name I suppose an artistic, bureaucratic committee at the National Portrait Gallery invented in a few minutes during a two hour meeting.

The National Portrait Gallery (part of the Smithsonian Institution) organized this artwork and presumably is ultimately paying for it to be on public land; US tax monies are funding this message at a time when 93 million Americans have given up looking for jobs and more Americans than ever are on food stamps and are facing rising health care costs due to the Affordable Care Act.

The artwork clearly it is designed to be seen from a height, and the Washington Monument overlooks the Mall.  As far as the message though, I can't get into this man's true intent based on who he is.

It's interesting to me that the artwork is designed to be a composite of several people Jorge photographed around the Mall this past summer.  The image appears ethnic, which, of course, is not a problem at all, but I wonder about his true statement as a radical.  There is the visible and stated, and the non-visible and non-stated.

I suspect it's a statement on open borders, illegal immigration, and multi-multiculturalism.  The cynic in me says it was an idea hatched during the 'Camino Americano" illegal immigration rally in October 2013 during the closure of the National Mall, while the National Park Service barricaded the World War II memorial.  

Keep in mind the Obama Administration's pending Executive Amnesty Plan following the mid-terms. I think this artwork ties into a public information operations effort.  Remember Culture Jamming.

And with that, I leave you with this most wonderful piece of music, Living Color's "Cult of Personality."

Seems appropriate these days.  It always seems appropriate to me these days.

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