'Free Speech Zone' 

A pocket is formed when two or more people come together in agreement. The resistance is against the inhumanity of the New World Economic Order.

-- John Berger

Proposals for unifying the world can take several forms, but they generally fall into three categories: the first is the vision of a world of human cooperation that is based on an end to all exploitation and respectful of difference; the second arises from the loss of faith and hope in the first - it is a misanthropic vision which, despairing of humanity, sees the human species as a danger to the planet’s survival; and, finally, the present unified world view that we refer to as “globalization.”

This is a dictatorship of the market with wealth and power concentrated into fewer and fewer hands and a mass of unemployed, homeless and displaced who can neither produce nor consume, and are therefore redundant.

The nation states of our globe now exist to police and control these “useless” citizens in order to protect the interests of a handful of corporations that now run the world.

Any one of a number of statistics can illustrate the results of this New World Economic Order. Children, for example: 100 million in the world live on the street; 200 million are engaged in the global labor force.

In response to the G8 Summit meeting this month on Sea Island, nine artists are exhibiting works that attempt to critically examine globalization. Some take on the symbols of military power; some look at environmental issues and others deal with the idea of resistance.

In “G8 Juice” a digital print by Harry DeLorme, the label of a brand of juice has been transformed into “G8 Power Drink - Just Add Water.” In place of images of fruit there are representations of the faces of the current leaders of the exclusive club of nations that has been playing the same game for over a century - fighting wars with each other, signing treaties and dividing the spoils. DeLorme’s soft drink claims to contain a special growth formula, probably accounting for the green shoots that seem to be sprouting from the heads of the leaders on the label.

The color green represents the unresolvable contradiction of the global economy. It is, on the one hand, the color of money, specifically the “greenback” U.S. dollar. At the same time, it represents nature and nature’s resistance to the destruction caused by dollar greed.

Avantika Bawa’s collage, “Green Spaces (Relocated)” consists of two parts, one a large rectangular field of green, the other, a white field containing two, very small, green shapes. Like much minimal abstraction, it seems concerned with emptying itself of form, of color and of meaning - in search perhaps of a further meaning.

In his five digital graphic poems, Scott Boylston takes the opposite approach. Instead of simplifying, he piles on the images and words to achieve illegible chaos. It is, however, possible to decipher environmental issues: pollution of the ocean, poisoning dioxin in household cleaners, insect swarms from climate change and acid rain.

He creates these dense texts from an accumulation of fear sound bytes from the media. The center poem represents Gaia, the living, self regulating organism that is the earth, which perhaps in order to survive, may have to expel humanity.

In his two light box photographs from the series “What Would Jesus Do?”, Alan Schechner takes on the violence and greed of the multinationals by altering the signs of chain restaurants and gas stations.

One work presents the Amoco sign which, in place of the gas prices, reads, “Thru Your Widespread Trade, U Were Filled With Violence - Cokes 3/$10”.

Oil and the military are also the focus of Rachel Green’s assemblages of war toys. A tv remote is embedded in the back of a war plane. A similar plane rides on the back of a BP oil truck. Two heads have been assembled from small, plastic toy soldiers. Visual political statements that attack the status quo tend to the didactic.

We are exhorted to “get the message” and to this end, the simpler the image, the more effective it will be. The model for this is advertising.

Similarly, Marcus Kenney’s carved African-style masks have been gagged with rags and duct tape to make a statement about censorship and Alessandro Imperato’s digital collages transform Blair and Clinton into Space Invaders and Globo cops.

We get the message. But then, what do we do? How do we resist?

Resistance tends to the allegorical. For Marxists, the symbol of resistance was the mole. But now such images have become more complex, more ambiguous. We can even recognize the collusion between the victim and the torturer.

In Jelena Pavlovic’s “Freedom Shroud,” ants destroy the monster and create its death shroud of black. In my collaborative installation with Milutin Pavlovic, “Refuse in Thin Air,” an aerial bombardment of giant sperm-like forms amid painted tree limbs and sharpened sticks in market baskets occupies the entire ceiling.

The Beehive Collective tell their allegories of human oppression and resistance in this hemisphere through the life cycle of the bee. What is most radical about their enterprise is its anonymity - how many members comprise the group and their identities remain a mystery.

We are also not privy to how they develop their process. In competitive capitalism their practice would seem to resist the market. They announce they have no copyright; they make no sales.

Their large poster, “Plan Colombia,” references the U.S. aid program of that name developed by Clinton and adopted by Bush.

Typical of the double-speak of our era, Plan Colombia is referred to as a “peace program.” In reality, it is a massive military aid package for Colombia, second only to that which the U.S. provides to Israel.

The vertical poster is read from the top, where Puritan settler bees set out from Europe and land on the map of the U.S. There they build a hive, settle down as obese cocoons under the title, “500 years of terrorism.”

From here they emerge as war planes to bombard South America where oil is pumped by BP bees into an underground heart. Then, according to my reading, there emerges an agricultural resistance - roots and vines choke the pipelines that form the words, “Plan Colombia.”

These posters are in a tradition of popular prints, most notably in the Mexican graphics workshops of the last century. Since we don’t know anything about the Beehive Collective, we certainly don’t know their ethnicity.

Something about their work makes me feel that they are North Americans or in their allegorical language, “descendants of European settler bees.” Their work is created in the spirit of solidarity (a word that unfortunately seems to have gone out of use). But perhaps they are a combination of Latinos and non-Latinos, an encounter between cultures.

This is also the theme of the small color photograph, “Encuentro” (“encounter”), by the Mexican artist, Alvaro Brisuela Absalon, where we see a surreal meeting between two discarded dolls on a pile of old car tires. One doll is dressed in a lady’s corset and is stretching out its hand to the other, a naked, chubby, baby doll who is serenely resting her foot on what looks to me like a shoeshine box.

It would seem that poetic and mysterious images can sprout and grow in the detritus the world market leaves in its wake.

Bertha Husband is a native of Scotland who has studied art at Oxford University and Ruskin School of Fine Art. She has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Her art criticism has appeared in the Chicago Reader, Somnambulist, and Left Curve.


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Bertha Husband

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