On Torture: Taxi to the Dark Side

Taxi to the Dark Side is a film written and directed by Alex Gibney, the Oscar-nominated director of Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room. It examines the controversial and sometimes brutal interrogation techniques used against some of the prisoners captured by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The film, which premiers Saturday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, takes as its starting point the story of an Afghan taxi driver known only as Dilawar, who died from injuries inflicted at a facility in Afghanistan called Bagram Air Base. The film then widens its focus to include evidence of mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

U. S. officials have insisted that they neither torture prisoners nor send them to third countries that do. But many prisoners maintain that they were tortured, and some have described beatings, psychological abuse and sensory deprivation at the hands of U.S. personnel or those of allied countries.

The film uses interviews with soldiers, prison guards, former government officials and the families of captured prisoners, as well as other research, including information from a leaked report that described the military’s investigation into the deaths of two detainees at Bagram. Currently, the film is without distribution in the U. S. You can read more about this film in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Taxi to the Dark Side

CIA Approved Advanced Interrogration Techniques

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Ex-CIA Director Tenet Denies CIA Torture

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Into Great Silence: The Grande Chartreuse

Tucked away deep within the postcard-perfect French Alps, The Grande Chartreuse is considered to be one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Gröning, without crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks’ quarters for six months, filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. Critics have described Into Great Silence as a transcendent, closely observed film that seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one. It has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created, dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it is said to be a rare, transformative experience.


INTO GREAT SILENCE

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INTO GREAT SILENCE: FRENCH VERSION

INTO GREAT SILENCE: SECLUSION OF HIS CELL

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Celebrating Louisiana: America’s 18th State

On this day in 1812, Louisiana became the 18th state of the United States of America.

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IN THE WAKE OF KATRINA

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Newsreel, March ’07: Springtime for Scandals

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Return with now to a more innocent time, namely last month, when the heroes and villains that we heard about in the news were of the political variety.

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Andy Warhol’s Green Car Crash: $33,000,000

Note: I have posted a newer article about Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory, the “Death and Disasters” series and Green Car Crash (Burning Green Car I), with an extensive detailed commentary and many illustrations (Tuesday, May 8, 2007). You can read it here: Link

Update: Green Car Crash sold for $71, 700,000 at the Christie’s New York auction. You can read my update of the auction here.

ANDY WARHOL: GREEN CAR CRASH

$33,000,000

The London Times reports today that next month, Andy Warhol’s 1963 Green Car Crash painting is forecast to break auction records and sell for $35 million (£17.5 million) at Christie’s in New York.

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My Articles for Sunday, April 29, 2007

“Picasso,Barcelona and Modernity,” portrays Barcelona as a booming industrial city with conflicting politics and revolutionary works of art. This is a photographic slideshow that presents pictures of Picasso’s art on two topics: Guernica and El Quatre Gats (the famous art and literary salon in Barcelona).

[tags: Picasso, Guernica, Barcelona and Modernity, El Quatre Gats, Barcelona, Paris, photography, art, slideshow]

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Picasso: Guernica, Barcelona and Modernity

PICASSO: GUERNICA

Guenrnica has been said to be modern art’s most powerful antiwar statement, created by the twentieth century’s most well-known artist.  But the mural called Guernica is not at all what Pablo Picasso initially had in mind when he agreed to paint the centerpiece for The Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.

At the time, Picasso had been troubled by the politics of his Spanish homeland, as a brutal civil war was ravaging Spain.  Republican forces, loyal to the newly elected government, were under attack from a fascist coup led by Generalissimo Francisco Franco.  While Franco had been promising prosperity and peace to the people of Spain, in truth he was  delivering only death and destruction.

Hoping to create a strong publicly visual protest to Franco’s treachery from Spain’s most eminent artist, colleagues and representatives of the democratic government came to Picasso’s home in Paris to ask him to paint the mural.  Although his sympathies were clearly with the struggles of the new Republic, Picasso generally avoided politics and scorned overtly political art.

On April 27th, 1937, unprecedented atrocities were perpetrated on behalf of Franco against the civilian population of a little Basque village in northern Spain.  Chosen for bombing practice by Hitler’s burgeoning war machine, the village was ravaged by high-explosive and incendiary bombs for over three hours.  Villagers were cut down as they ran from the crumbling and burning buildings.  Guernica burned for three days, and sixteen hundred villagers were either killed or wounded.

By the beginning of May, word of the massacre at Guernica reached Paris, where more than a million protesters flooded the streets to voice their outrage in the largest May Day demonstration the city had ever seen.  As accounts of the massacre filled the front pages of Parisian newspapers, Picasso was stunned by the stark black and white photographs that he saw.  Appalled and enraged, Picasso rushed through the crowded streets to his studio, where he quickly created the first images for the mural that he would entitle Guernica.

From the beginning, Picasso chose not to represent the horror of Guernica in realist or romantic terms.  The central images of a woman with outstretched arms, a bull, an agonized horse, were refined in sketch after sketch, and then transferred to the large canvas, which he also reworked several times.  “A painting is not thought out and settled in advance,” said Picasso.  “While it is being done, it changes as one’s thoughts change.  And when it’s finished, it goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it.”

Three months later, Guernica was delivered to the Spanish Pavilion, where the Paris Exposition was already in progress.  Located out of the way, and grouped with the pavilions of smaller countries some distance from the Eiffel Tower, the Spanish Pavilion stood in the shadow of Albert Speer’s monolith to Nazi Germany.  The Spanish Pavilion’s main attraction, Picasso’s Guernica, is a sober reminder of the tragic events in Spain.

“Barcelona and Modernity: Gaudí to Dalí”

Barcelona and Modernity

The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art is currently presenting “Barcelona and Modernity”, portrays Barcelona as a booming industrial city with conflicting politics and revolutionary works of art, architecture, and design.  Exploring the relationships among the visual arts, broader cultural activity, and political events of the era, the exhibition is organized in nine thematic sections, beginning with the origins of the Catalan Renaissance.  The slideshow below presents images from two of the sections:

Els Quatre Gats

Els Quatre Gats (“The Four Cats”) was a legendary Barcelona café that was established in 1897, becoming the focus of bohemian artistic activity in Barcelona and the site of meetings, exhibitions, poetry readings, and puppet theater performances.  Picasso, at age 18, became a regular member of the group and held his first solo exhibition there in 1900.

The Spanish Civil War

Artists in Barcelona reacted to the crisis of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) with a powerful wave of paintings, sculptures, posters, films, and photographs.  This included Picasso’s studies for Guernica, his famous painting commissioned by the Spanish Republican government.

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