Line Up: Bush Administration Mug Shots

Line Up Mug Shot: Dick Cheney

Line Up Mug Shot: Donald Rumsfeld

Controversy has flared up from the sleepy third-floor hallway galleries at the New York Public Library, where a modest exhibition of contemporary prints called Multiple Interpretations is on view. The work that has prompted protests from some library patrons is called Line Up, a series of politically inflammatory prints by the team of Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese. Each black-and-white digital print is a mug shot-style print in which a member of the Bush administration appears in profile and face forward, holding a police identification sign and the date on which he or she made a statement of questionable veracity relating to Iraq.

A video accompanying the prints allows you to hear an actual recording through headphones as you view each speaker’s fake mug shot reproduced on screen. President Bush announces the discovery of Saddam Hussein’s effort to purchase uranium in Africa. Dick Cheney says, “Nobody has produced a single shred of evidence that there’s anything wrong or inappropriate here,” presumably a reference to Halliburton.

It is at first mildly shocking to come upon such bluntly partisan artwork on a New York Public Library wall. Biting political satire is deeply a part of printmaking history, but handmade prints are no longer a significant form of political communication, and many people don’t expect anything so brazenly controversial in the public library context. Seen elsewhere, the prints would not be so provocative. That said, Ligorano/Reese’s piece does pose a challenge to the rest of the exhibition, which looks quite docile by comparison, even taking into consideration that the show is not meant to focus on political work.

Organized by the library’s curator of prints, Roberta Waddell, the display is intended to present the range of contemporary printmaking styles that the library has collected during the last 10 years.

Line Up

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And the Homeless Shall be Homeless Again: The Katrina Saga Worsens

New Orleans Residents Suffer a Critical Rental Shortage

Many residents of the FEMA trailers in New Orleans have their meager possessions all packed up, even though they have nowhere to go. About a month ago, workers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency swept through the trailer parks, housing of the last resort, taping eviction notices on the flimsy aluminum doors.

But few of them will be able to find other housing in New Orleans. More than two years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is suffering from an acute shortage of housing that has nearly doubled the cost of rental units in the city, threatening the well-being of many residents who decided to return to the city against the odds. Before the storm, more than half of the city’s population rented housing. Yet official attention to help revive the shattered rental home and apartment market has been scant.

Rental units in a reasonable price range, if they exist at all, routinely come without finished walls or stoves. In New Orleans, decent affordable housing remains a casualty of the storm. One of the more striking changes to appear lately in New Orleans is the highly visible number of homeless men and women living under bridges and in parks. Social service groups say about 12,000 homeless people are living in the city, about double the number before the storm.

Before the hurricane, housing advocates estimated there were about 6,300 homeless people in New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish. Today, the count is 12,000 and growing. Experts said it was hard to ignore the link between the housing situation and homelessness. In the past several months, a homeless camp has sprung up on the very steps of City Hall, partly because it is a safe open space and partly because it is a political statement. Tents and sleeping bags are aligned in rows. The crowd of hundreds is a mix of young and old, white and black.

Homeless Again

Trailer Residents: Nowhere to Go

Randy Newman: Louisiana

Music: Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong/Do You Know What it’s Like to Miss New Orleans?

In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss

Susan Saulny has written a detailed article about the New Orleans trailer evictions and rental crisis in The New York Times, which interested readers can access here.

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