Monday, January 21, 2008

Profiles in Patriotism

The latest common occurrence for photographers and artists is an odd one. Kurt likes to photograph bald eagles. I like to watch them too so we go up to the Catskills to see them flying over the reservoirs. Shortly after 9/11 while standing at a favorite spot, we were accosted by the DEP police, questioned about our purpose and made to show I.D., never mind that there’s a sign that says’ “Bald Eagle Viewing Area” that is next to a larger than life carved wooden eagle and some benches handy for sitting. We were told we shouldn’t be photographing and to move along. I was reminded of this incident and another when I saw Sunday’s New York Times.

The article covers another artist’s work. Ramak Fazel, an artist from Indiana, decided to photograph each of the nation’s 50 state capitol buildings and dispatch a photographic postcard (made on the spot) from each city, using postage stamps from a childhood collection. Mr. Fazel drove 17,345 miles in 78 days, mailing a postcard from each city and picking it up in the next. While hailing from Indiana, Mr. Fazel describes himself as foreign looking and has an Iranian name. Looking at and photographing his government’s buildings was obviously suspicious behavior and he was picked by the F.B.I. He was
questioned at or denied entrance to many of the capitols. All is not lost, he is having an opening of his photographs of the 49 capitols he managed to visit, this Wednesday at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in SoHo.

My other favorite artist project in this realm is by Elahi Hasan. It is "Tracking Transience: The Orwell Project." Check it out. After being targeted himself, he decided to self-surveil and document it all. He has a great website and he is also creating project related films and videos, still photographs (of things like his airport meals), a limited-edition DVD, and video installations.

What a world! Kurt’s Bald Eagle should stand up and squawk

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