Thursday, April 17, 2014

La Professoressa is Too Far Away

A week ago La Professoressa left Cello and me once again, early in the morning standing on the verandah, waving our good-byes as her taxi pulled away. This time a London symposium with Chinese Human Rights activists was her destination. Cello and I settled into our mutual watching- out- for- each- other routine with an extra challenge; because of the problematic installation of the National Broadband Network, I had no internet or landline service. I had not heard from my darling for two days after her departure when finally, I heard her voice on my cell phone--a tired, unlike her voice. "I am calling from the emergency room of the college hospital, it is 2 in the morning here and I feel so sick." What I learned in the ensuing 48 hours until Di started feeling better from the antibiotics the so kind and good doctors provided her with to fight a raging urinary track infection was the heaviness of distance, the wall that seemed to tower over me, keeping me from being with her in that hospital, my darling too far away. I wept in the stillness of our home, I called two of my dearest friends in New York, Paula and Linda, asking them to call her so she would not feel so alone and they did, to Di's great amazement and pleasure, I called Ann and Jane, our oldest friends here, the foster family for Cello,and told them what was happening in London: "Just give us the word, we will come, pick up Cello and get you to the airport." Without this little window I am using now where my words can fly out to find many of you, all my fears peered back at me. Now, La Professoressa is back, groggy but determined to go ahead with her journey, and I look at Cello, his sightless eyes finding me, pondering the weight of love and the implacable demands of life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"If I Were A Poet...Anja Niedringhaus and Kathy Gannon" by Lepa Mladjenovic

(My blog has been unusable for several weeks; this afternoon my friend Maddy once again has gotten me back on line. There are still some problems--I can't seem to upload images--but I am grateful to have what I have. Joan, April 17, 2014) Monday, April 7, 2014 at 10:10 AM Dear Joan, Tijana, my friend, told me she had seen on your FaceBook page information about Anja Niedringhaus,a photographer from Germany. Yes, I am now three days thinking of her and her colleague, Kathy Gannon from Canada, a journalist who was badly wounded while sitting near Anja in the same car. I was trying to understand what had happened at that moment. Anja and Kathy were closely collaborating for the past two years on different matters of the war in Afghanistan. Anja was photographing and Kathy writing. This day they were heading to a remote place in Afghanistan where there is a high concentration of the Taliban. to report on the important elections this weekend. As usual, they chose to go where it is the most difficult for people to vote--as the Talibans are repressive beyond prediction. This was a regular check point where the car was stopped. All was calm and nothing seemed prolematic. Then, out of nothing, one young man in the uniform of the police with a machine gun saw the two white women in the car and opened fire. He was madly firing until Anja was dead in an instant and Kathy badly wounded. She is still in the hospital. The young man gave himself to the police a few moments after the shooting. The President of Afghanistan said he was sorry the next day. But Anja is dead. The amazon universe is crying. What was in the mind of this man? The poor miserable life that he had was in front of the two well fed women 'from America'--especially here where Americans are so hated among men in battle. The young killer proably could not imagine in his furthest dreams that these two women were supportive of his people. Not that they were not the 'Enemy'--but you know, we who have worked with violence against women for years know that in critical contexts men's first enemy is the woman near them. So, in a sad way, there is nothing new in this murder. But still, I can't believe it. He dared to misuse his male power of gun and uniform and act from his probable hatred he felt for these two women so unapproachable for him in real life. Radical feminists are so right to insist that hatred against women in one of the basic drives of patriarchial realities. After I learned what had happened to Anja and Kathy, I started to listen to Anja's talks on hte internet to relaize how wonderful a woman Anja Niedringhaus was. In the Bosnian papers many people remember her with great love and now sadness. She was a Godmother to a family whom she met in Sarajevo during the war. Everyone loved her. In the stories about her life, I heard discovered that she was 11 years younger then me, and that her first photos were of the dismantling of the Berlin War. After that her photo-stories came from our war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and then from Kosovo, she was all over my countries. As one of the rare women in war photography. If I was a poet, I would make her a poem to tell people of this incredible woman, who had chosen that her citizen courage was to use her privileges by telling of the great suffering of people in wartime. To side with the dispossessed so that they will not remain in silence. I think of how much tenderness she needed to be brave in the face of the total uncertainties of life and death, of her visions of solidarity that she was weaving with people in her journies to show our shared humanity in her photographs. Dear Joan, let us all never stop talking of such things. Yours, Lepa

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Evictions and Occupations

   Every morning and night I think of checkpoints, of demolitions, of forced removals from generations old family homes, and there in the night sky or the afternoon sun flies the Israeli flag. I am haunted by the chilling irony of this, a people almost displaced unto death now become experts at disappearing communities. I want all my fellow feminist disaporic Jews to feel this deep sorrow, this fresh pain of enforced loss on those we  have never met but whose displacement we can touch.

    Then I remember the two times my mother, brother and I were evicted from our homes, apartments in poor sections of Brooklyn and Queens. I see a nine year old girl coming home from school whose whole body goes weak and over vigilant at the same time, when she sees a group of neighbors, talking to each other, pointing, in front of her apartment door. The women move out of the way as if she is already a pariah. First blurry, then  growing clearer with each approaching step, the legal sheet of paper with stamps of city approval plastered on the door, announces that this family is being evicted for none payment of rent. Now I knew what my mother had been stuffing into her pocket book all these months, the same furtive defiant movement that accompanied all her hidings from threatened legal action. I grew old early on words like "lien on my salary," "dispossession," "Household Finance Loans," "embezzlement" and finally, " on parole."

I pushed on with my life as one has to but I have never forgotten the public shaming, the men coming to move our furniture onto the street, the need to leave everything behind and just walk away, not sure where we would spend the next night or from where my next day of schooling would come. When I was older, working, living on my own, moving in different circles, I never spoke to others of my experience with evictions, but like so many other unwanted gifts Regina gave me, the memory lived in a political place within me, keeping alive a knowledge of what dispossession means, of what it feels like to be evicted, the sudden change of home to desert, the powerlessness to keep one's own door open to life as one has known it and the futility that comes to a child when a parent cries in the night.

The Dispossessed, Palestine, 1948
From Jeanine Olsen, friend and artist extraordinaire. We can only watch from afar but those of you who can share these moments, do so and you will carry a small part of L Professoressa and I in your pockets.

On my last visit to New York, Jeanine, glowing here, and I ate birthday cake just because

I am writing to invite you to my upcoming exhibition and numerous events at the New Museum this spring!
I am the artist-in-residence for the research and development season entitled voice. I'm presenting an exhibition, public events,an experimental opera and more. I've been very busy and am working very hard, so would love to see you at some point.

Tonight, there's a panel discussion with Gregg Bordowitz, Johanna Burton, Steve Cosson and Mara Mills on the topic of voice, at 7pm in the Museum theater. Please come! Sorry for such late notice!

The exhibition opens on the 5th floor and I would love you all to come to the reception on Thursday, April 24th from 5-7pm. Please click and add your name below so you can check in at visitor services for free admission (or email me directly). There's an afterparty at Von from 7-10 at 3 Bleecker St, New York, NY.

I'm also hosting a series of really amazing guests within the show. The events are free with admission to the Museum and there is more information about each posted here too:

May 1 – Angel Nevarez/Valerie Tevere (“Another Protest Song: Karaoke with a Message”)May 4 – Jean Casella and Five Mualimm-ak (“Voices from Solitary”) May 9 – Joy Askew (“Songs for Animals”) May 10 – Rainy Orteca (“Field Recordings) May 18 – Courtesy the Artists (“Choir Practice”) May 24 – Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (“An informal séance with the ghost of Carlos La Sombra”) May 31 – Cara Baldwin (“Human Microphone”) June 1 – Jaleh Mansoor (“Negative Articulation Toward Revolution”) June 5 – Kelly Pratt (“Live Aurihorn Performance”)

I'm also working on an experimental opera that will be presented at the Museum on June 13-14 with the objects/props in the exhibition. SO, there are many opportunities to see the show and attached programs and I hope to see you! I've attached some images and the press release below. I hope you're all well and to see you soon!

Very best,