Editor’s Letter – August, 2013

August 5, 2013


A guilty verdict for army whistleblower Bradley Manning was delivered in a courtroom where a media maelstrom might be expected, but only a modest crowd gathered. There to capture the scene was regular Creative Time Reports contributor Molly Crabapple, who in this issue elucidates what she saw as paper-thin support both within and outside the courtroom for a man she admires as “a human who did a heroic thing,” if not a hero. “Only the guards hinted that the proceedings were special,” she writes. “They carried enough ammo to turn every Manning supporter present into a fine red mist.” Her searing observations, accompanied by several illustrations, were also published by The Guardian, which recently included Creative Time Reports in their “Comment Network.”

In the aftermath of another deeply consequential American trial, that of George Zimmerman, pioneering conceptual artist Adrian Piper presents a faded black-and-white image of Trayvon Martin peering through red crosshairs. It is the latest of her many challenging works that invite viewers to identify with those who are oppressed, and thereby enlarge our sense of what it means to be empathetic.

Back in Brooklyn, artist Jace Clayton, also known as DJ /rupture, concocts a sonic journey to illuminate an ongoing rent strike against deplorable living conditions just steps away from his home. The mix weaves in voices of the rent strikers on top of tracks of cumbia (a genre of Latin American dance music) that he bought in his neighborhood bodegas. “Most music appreciation is about novelty, but cumbia is not about crazy new sounds,” Clayton explains. “It’s music about resilience and sustainability, and about maintaining a groove when things are tough, which makes it a potent force in the struggle of a working-class neighborhood.”

This August marks the one-year anniversary of the sentencing of three members of Pussy Riot for their anti-Putin demonstration in a Russian church. In honor of the feminist punk group’s bravery, artist Kirsten Mosher created the short, stop-motion video, “Let’s Start a Pussy Riot,” inspired by the band’s song “Kill the Sexist.”

Los Angeles-based art collective, Slanguage, presents the first episode in its educational video series, a youth-driven art initiative aimed at engaging bilingual students and teachers in cross-border conversations about identity, community and action. The title of the project, “Actions Speak Louder Than Talk: Superheroes,” explains Slanguage founders, Mario Ybarra and Karla Diaz, “is taken from a fortune cookie, which, in its clumsy translation, addresses what is lost and what is found in the gap between cultures, languages and places.”

Just before we wrapped up this issue, I was reminded of a beautiful Percy Bysshe Shelley quote: “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” It called to mind not only our piece on the closure of Tamms Supermax Prison from the self-professed “legislative artist” Laurie Jo Reynolds, this year’s Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change, but also our broader mission: to become a home for artists whose visions and voices can become active forces in reshaping the world.

–Marisa Mazria Katz