Monday, April 6, 2009


The articles from this week were really enlightening. I really didn't know the whole story about Subhankar Banerjee and ANWR and it's great that we will have him in class and will be able to discuss issues of the environment with an artist who has actually positioned his work within the firing lines of politics and controversy.

While reading both articles, I thought about how my own subject is closely related to Banerjee's and how although his project wasn't politically didactic from the images alone, it became that way because of how subversive the text and images were together . It amazes me how controversial these photos became because of the political nature of the text that accompanied them in the Smithsonian exhibition and the accompanying catalog. What happened wreaks of censorship and is unsurprising given the records and clout of the Bush administration and Senator Ted Stevens (R) of Alaska.

But still, I have a few updated questions for Subhankar given that Alaska is still such a hot topic in today's political world and environmental movement. Such as what was your reaction when Sarah Palin used "drill baby drill!" as a political whip? Did it spur something in you to push harder or push back? I would have severe doubts about the effectiveness of a project I was taking on given that the GOP was on the other side ready to pounce on me the moment it threatened them. Fortunately for Subhankar, he has firmly established a base to exhibit work and has already been in the midst of political debate for the past six years. Making and exhibiting work probably isn't a question of motivation for Subhankar. He did up and out quit a job at Boeing that he had worked his life for. But the problem that still seems to persist is how to position the work to be most effective given that the issues of ANWR are still being debated.

While reading the article, I started to think about a cyclical relationship between the land and Banerjee and Washington D.C. and the government. It basically goes like this...

The article by Finis Dunaway gave me this idea. Dunaway writes about how even though the land and animals of Alaska are far removed from the land of the "lower 48" that they are directly affected by the decisions made by corporations and government and that the results can actually be measured through the close observation of the land. That is exactly what Subhankar is doing. He is the relay, the conduit by which the affects of the decisions that have been made can be measured. It blows my mind a little. It's just like the icebergs melting, just like the polar bears that have to swim further and further to find land. The responsibility then becomes ours, the viewers and the citizens of the U.S. to act on and make sure that our government is being held accountable.

I searched ANWR on Google images and the top results were maps conveying the physical size of ANWR in Alaska to the size of the lower 48.

I don't think this is a coincidence. The right wing has taken two positions that favor using the least amount of intellect to determine the right course of action. One, that the physical size of ANWR means that it's ok to destroy it because generally speaking, it's only the size of Wisconsin. And two, the landscape is so bleak and white that it's aesthetic value is equivalent to that of copy paper.

Fortunately, in the Google results alongside these maps are Subhankar's photographs.

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