Originally published on Jacket2

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Illustration of creatures mentioned in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky,’ by John Tenniel.

(I)

Adjacent to the house where I once lived, with its four residents and one other volunteer, sat a private cottage where Joe[1] lived in a world of his own making. The idiosyncrasies of this world formed around the ceaseless churning of Joe’s brain: as his particular neuroses reframed his memories through recurrent paranoias. Like a tangent, Joe ran adjacent to what was around him. Every day, he picked himself up and anchored down in the few relatively quiet spaces scattered throughout the different houses. …


An essay on Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s (Feb 14–May 13, 2018): held at The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Originally published on The Mantle, July 26, 2018.

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden concluded their recent exhibit, Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s (Feb 14–May 13, 2018), with a gala in honor of Jeff Koons. This retrospective, curated by Gianni Jetzer and Leah Pires, featured nearly 150 works by “a new generation of artists in 1980s New York who blurred the lines between art, entertainment, and commerce.” Brand New is itself a great slogan for a particular ethos shared throughout the alternative art scene of the 1980s. With the rise of more sophisticated means of financing (that is, more money), the increasingly globalized art markets grew more self-conscious of how they could price works of art. Art wasn’t just created anymore. …


Originally Published on The Mantle

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The medium of film both enjoys and is burdened by its own relation to time. A biopic has two or so hours to capture, convey, and do justice to its subject’s life. Margarethe von Trotta is a rare filmmaker in this regard, as a number of her films are biopics of impressive, larger than life women. For von Trotta, the biopic is the quintessential mode of representing “the inner-psychic worlds” of great minds amidst the controversies that defined them. Her previous films, like Rosa Luxemburg (1986) and Vision (2010), portrayed iconoclastic and larger than life German women whose influence was marginalized over time. …


By Omar Baig (originally published on The Mantle)

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Simulations (1981) by Jean Baudrillard

In “The Procession of Simulacra,” Jean Baudrillard made the following points on Watergate and the nature of political scandals:

  1. Scandal operates along an artificial perimeter that mediates the reality inside (i.e. the facts of the scandal) and outside the scandal (i.e. the denunciation of these facts, paid as “homage to the law”).
  2. There is no “reality” either inside or outside of the artificial perimeter of scandal. We want to bear witness to the scandal as something rare or exceptional, as opposed to the rational outcome of politics as usual or as the morally indifferent expression of capitalism.
  3. Under this crisis, we desperately try to “regenerate a moral and political principle” that will allow us to denounce the scandal without having to denounce the nature of politics or capitalism that underlies it. …


By Omar Baig (originally published on The Mantle)

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On the eve of her release from federal prison, Ms. Lauryn Hill released “Consumerism,” alongside a brief statement, quoted below in its entirety. A few months before she went in, Ms. Hill had released an unfinished version of another song, titled “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix).” These two songs, along with the more recent “I’ve Got Life,” comprise the only rap songs released since her 1998 debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Ms. …


By Omar Baig

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“A specter is haunting the specter of communism,” Timothy Morton announces in Humankind (2017), “the specter of the nonhuman.” For Morton, haunting begets more haunting, and it’s specters all the way down. The category of “humankind” put forth by Morton becomes an inexhaustible reservoir of existential alienation, in which the human and the nonhuman must coexist in the strangest of places. Perhaps this is why Morton begins Humankind with a dedication to the water protectors at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, yet does not discuss their struggle at length.

Humankind was written, after all, with a particular audience in mind: one steeped in the post-industrial identity politics of the New Left, which largely overlaps, through sheer transcontinental osmosis, with the collective experience of every graduate student who has sat through a class on Critical Theory or Marxism. And so a dedication to the water protectors, coming from Morton, can’t help but be read as a challenge to the patience of this intended audience. Humankind, however, is more than a self-serving gesture towards some vague and faceless Other, even though it reads likes a handbook for Not All White Guy Philosophers. …


By Omar Baig

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This is the second part of a commentary on “Humankind”. Find Part 1 here.

The first chapter of Timothy Morton’s Humankind discusses a common reading of Survival In Auschwitz (1947), the first of a series of memoirs written by Primo Levi. In this reading, the types of lives Levi documents in Auschwitz are stripped bare of anything that does not serve their immediate survival, until the whole of life is radically foreclosed as the will to merely live on. …

About

Omar Baig

Omar Baig is a philosopher and art critic from the Washington D.C. area. *No chickens were caged in the taking of this meta profile picture

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