[spectre] Checking yesterday's NY Times
louise.desrenards at free.fr
Sun Mar 21 01:57:41 CET 2004
Quote [syndicate] http://anart.no/~syndicate
(from Anna Balint)
'X' Marks His (Disputed) Spot in Canada's Art Scene
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
Published: March 20, 2004
TORONTO - Istvan Kantor has been banned from many of the finest museums for
scrawling a large X in his own blood on the walls of the Museum of Modern
in New York, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, the National Gallery of Canada in
Ottawa and other galleries.
But in a sign that the establishment may be catching up with the
"subvertainment" of Canada's leading shock artist, the National Gallery in
Ottawa welcomed Mr. Kantor back on March 10 for the first time in 13 years
with almost open arms. Escorted by several security guards, he received the
Governor General's Award in visual and media arts, one of the highest
artistic awards in Canada.
"I went back as king!" Mr. Kantor said of his award, laughing heartily over
glasses of Argentine wine and French cheese in his loft studio on Toronto's
industrial west side the other day. "It's a revenge for me. My work was
always anti-establishment, anti-art art, anti-authoritarian, and now
I have been recognized by the same people who at certain times put me in
jail. Now I can talk, now I have the stage."
Mr. Kantor's award, more than $12,000, has set off a controversy over the
legitimacy of granting public money to a purveyor of vandalism and arguably
some of the most outrageous displays of bad taste in modern art. Among his
more dubious achievements is a video showing two performers slashing the
throats of two cats and wearing their bleeding bodies as hats (to express
rage at pet lovers who are hardened to their fellow man) and staging the
burning of a car filled with white rats.
Born in Hungary in 1949, Mr. Kantor is recognized as the founder of Neoism,
an international anarchist art movement that some critics liken to an
updating of the Dadaism of Marcel Duchamp, who once declared that anything
you called art was art.
"What are the limits?" Mr. Kantor asks matter-of-factly. "There are probably
no limits. Art is very dangerous."
Mr. Kantor looks dangerous, demonic and sometimes lunatic, though he is an
attentive and pleasant host. He laughs and smiles a lot, and he said he
really did not mean to splatter a bit of his blood on a nearby Picasso when
he smeared the MOMA wall in 1988, for which he spent his 39th birthday in
jail and was fined $1,000 after years of legal wrangling. Separated from his
wife, he speaks lovingly of his three children. "I'm sweet like a piece of
cake," he smiles.
Nevertheless Mr. Kantor draws an ominous X with eyeliner on the side of his
head above a stubbly haircut, symbolizing, he says, the world crisis that he
has dedicated himself to exposing - one in which mankind has been taken over
by the madness of technological overload.
All the clocks in his house are set at 6 o'clock, or happy hour. His drafty
studio is strewn with idiosyncratic symbols and keepsakes like old steam
irons and boxing gloves.
His library features a full range of 20th-century revolutionary writers and
avant garde artists. On the wall is a photograph of guards struggling to
control him at the National Gallery of Canada in 1991 and a wooden play gun
modeled after the toy gun he pointed at Soviet tanks when they invaded
Budapest in 1956.
In his new 72-minute video, "Lebensraum /Lifespace," which some critics have
hailed as a brilliant display of two- and three-dimensional computer
animation and computer processing of sound, he is one of the prime actors,
performing a mock transsexual sex act. Explaining his video, he says it
exposes "the post-Orwellian technological society in which everyone is under
surveillance and everyone is using transmission systems like computers to
send information out to everybody."
Mr. Kantor was born into an upper-middle-class family, and recalled that he
had a happy childhood, swimming in the Danube on hot summer days. He started
his artistic career in Budapest in the late 1960's, founding a band of
musicians who played only instruments they had not been trained to play. He
studied medicine but dropped out of school. Finding Communism oppressive, in
1975 he left for Paris, where he played guitar and sang Hungarian folk songs
in the subway for a year.
Still dissatisfied, he moved to Montreal in 1977. He kept moving and
experimenting with avant garde art forms around Canada and the United
living on the Lower East Side in Manhattan in the late 1980's, where he
explored junk sculpture and using megaphones to make noise music. His
experiments with megaphones led to a series of videos, including "Escape
Much of his most noteworthy recent video and live work includes the Machine
Sex Action Group, a performance ensemble that explores the hardware of file
cabinets and the pelvic motions of lovemaking in a disturbing brew of images
that often look like rape or torture. "It's not dance, not really theater,"
Mr. Kantor said by way of explanation. "It's an experimental form that
combines all of these."
Even trying to get Mr. Kantor to explain Neoism can be a challenge, in part
because its essence as an art movement is to always be in a state of flux.
"You have to be an anti-Neoist to be a Neoist," he said in his typically
satirical, dialectical sort of way. "It was very important for Neoism to get
rid of all the artistic language of space and time and introduce a different
language that was more using state and military and religious expressive
terms that had been alien to art before, to subvert, to provoke, to
to make fun of that very used and abused language of art."
Pressed to explain, he added, "There's not just a bit of destructiveness in
this. There's a lot."
If Mr. Kantor was once dismissed as a nut job and a nuisance, his recent
award perhaps gives him a new respectability. Tom Sherman, a video art
professor at Syracuse University who was one of the judges for the award,
characterized his work as graphically sophisticated, even "elegant."
"He has a very visceral effect on an audience and he files a grievance for
underdogs, people who are homeless and displaced," Mr. Sherman said.
Tako Tanabe, a seascape painter and also a judge, said, "There are too many
polite artists in the world."
But editorials and essays in The Calgary Herald, The Ottawa Citizen and The
National Post called his award an insult to taxpayers.
"He has elevated vandalism and public mischief to an art form," said a
Calgary Herald columnist. "And that's why he forfeits any claim to taxpayer
Mr. Kantor said he welcomed the criticism, adding: "It makes people think.
That's what you want."
He may even be mellowing slightly. He said he used the prize money not to
underwrite some fresh artistic mischief but to pay off debts. Now he says he
is thinking of selling some of his art to museums, though he says he may
still draw his X in blood, given the chance and right mood.
(from Aliette Guibert)
Clinton Aides Plan to Tell Panel of Warning Bush Team on Qaeda
By PHILIP SHENON
Published: March 20, 2004
WASHINGTON, March 19 - Senior Clinton administration officials called to
testify next week before the independent commission investigating the Sept.
11 attacks say they are prepared to detail how they repeatedly warned their
Bush administration counterparts in late 2000 that Al Qaeda posed the worst
security threat facing the nation - and how the new administration was slow
They said the warnings were delivered in urgent post-election intelligence
briefings in December 2000 and January 2001 for Condoleezza Rice, who became
Mr. Bush's national security adviser; Stephen Hadley, now Ms. Rice's deputy;
and Philip D. Zelikow, a member of the Bush transition team, among others.
One official scheduled to testify, Richard A. Clarke, who was President Bill
Clinton's counterterrorism coordinator, said in an interview that the
warning about the Qaeda threat could not have been made more bluntly to the
incoming Bush officials in intelligence briefings that he led.
At the time of the briefings, there was extensive evidence tying Al Qaeda to
the bombing in Yemen two months earlier of an American warship, the Cole, in
which 17 sailors were killed.
"It was very explicit," Mr. Clarke said of the warning given to the Bush
administration officials. "Rice was briefed, and Hadley was briefed, and
Zelikow sat in." Mr. Clarke served as Mr. Bush's counterterrorism chief in
the early months of the administration, but after Sept. 11 was given a more
limited portfolio as the president's cyberterrorism adviser.
The sworn testimony from the high-ranking Clinton administration officials -
including Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Defense Secretary
William S. Cohen and Samuel R. Berger, Mr. Clinton's national security
adviser - is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
They are expected to testify along with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who will answer for the Bush
administration, as well as George J. Tenet, director of central intelligence
in both administrations.
While Clinton officials have offered similar accounts in the past, a new
public review of how they warned Mr. Bush's aides about the need to deal
quickly with the Qaeda threat could prove awkward to the White House,
especially in the midst of a presidential campaign. But given the witnesses'
prominence in the Clinton administration, supporters of Mr. Bush may see
political motives in the testimony of some of them.
The testimony could also prove uncomfortable for the commission, since Mr.
Zelikow is now the executive director of the bipartisan panel. And the
Clinton administration officials can expect to come under tough questioning
about their own performance in office and why they did not do more to
respond to the terrorist threat in the late 1990's.
The White House does not dispute that intelligence briefings about the Qaeda
threat occurred during the transition, and the commission has received
extensive notes and other documentation from the White House and Clinton
administration officials about what was discussed.
What is at issue, Clinton administration officials say, is whether their
Bush administration counterparts acted on the warnings, and how quickly. The
Clinton administration witnesses say they will offer details of the policy
recommendations they made to the incoming Bush aides, but they would not
discuss those details before the hearing.
"Until 9/11, counterterrorism was a very secondary issue at the Bush White
House," said a senior Clinton official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Remember those first months? The White House was focused on tax cuts, not
terrorism. We saw the budgets for counterterrorism programs being cut."
The White House rejects any suggestion that it failed to act on the threats
of Qaeda terrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The president and his team received briefings on the threat from Al Qaeda
prior to taking office, and fighting terrorism became a top priority when
this administration came into office," Sean McCormack, a White House
spokesman, said. "We actively pursued the Clinton administration's policies
on Al Qaeda until we could get into place a more comprehensive policy."
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