Anticipation and Absorption


Catherine Opie, Untitled #1 (Inauguration 2009)


The Future Belongs To Crowds

But it’s not quite so simple. The Occupy protesters, whose encampments numbered over 900 at their peak this fall, now embody the desire for change. At Berkeley High — where the first urban slang dictionary was compiled, and whose students joined the militant Occupy Oakland, Occupy Cal, and Occupy Berkeley protestors this past winter — there is a new term of derision: “1%.” Working definition: “Someone whose actions or thoughts are socially unacceptable, usually involving deception and/or theft.” Usage: “I called shotgun but Isaac took the seat anyway. He’s so 1%.”


Then — surprise! — identity politics helped elect the first black president. And almost prevented it: whites were the only group that did not give a majority to Obama, giving the lie to the idea that identity was only the fixation of the Other. Whiteness was not invisible and universal, it was simply another identity. Meanwhile, young whites were going ham for hip-hop, writing ironic blogs about the stuff they liked, even orchestrating high-profile same-sex kisses and doing songs about them. And — surprise! — the aesthetics of a new generation of “post-black” and “post-identity” artists became the hot topic. Representation really had meant something after all — a point that ex-haters like Joe Klein (who had once denounced Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing), and Arthur Danto (who had shredded the 1993 Biennial) eventually conceded.


In December, our dining table was occupied by a group of Berkeley High sophomores, a precocious Babel of pre-, post-, and in-between identities, fiercely arguing over Obama and their future. A group of young women angrily and with impressive detail denounced Obama’s spinelessness before the banks. A young man countered that even Abraham Lincoln did not free the slaves out of the goodness of his heart. Presidents and politicians, he said, are so 1%. These young hearts burn to create new worlds. 

Read More

Wide-ranging Jeff Chang essay pegged to Catherine Opie’s photo book Inauguration.

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    Wide-ranging Jeff Chang essay pegged to Catherine Opie’s photo book Inauguration.
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