Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History

31 08 2012

We must have slept on this:  Guantanamo prison has been closed and turned into a museum!

gitmomuseum homepage

Click on image to arrange your visit now


Here’s a statement from Museum organizers, via Lawfare:

Artists’ Website Project Closes Gitmo and Replaces It With Art Museum

 On August 29th, 2012, the website of the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History was publicly launched. Designed by a group of artists from around the globe, the project creates a ‘speculative present’ in which the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facilities have been closed and replaced by an art museum whose purpose is to reflect on the history of the site.

The museum was listed as an official place on google maps ( ) and features original artworks from 6 different contemporary artists, as well as essays on Guantanamo Bay from leading contemporary scholars including Judith Butler and Derek Gregory.

Ian Alan Paul, an artist from San Francisco who coordinated and curated the project, states:

“The purpose of the project is both to explore the human rights abuses that occurred and continue to occur in Guantanamo Bay, but also to provide a space for radical imagination and potential openings and to insist that it is both possible and necessary to close the prison facility.”

The project was the result of large collaboration, with over 25 artists, writers and other volunteers contributing to the project in some way from Europe, North America and South America. Visitors to the museum were invited to plan their trip to Guantanamo Bay, become a member of the museum, apply to be an artist in residence, as well as read about the history of the museum itself.

There were over 3000 visits to the museum on the first day from 42 different countries.



Update on Labor Struggle at Fine Arts Museums of SF

29 08 2012


Hello Champions for Workers,

COFAM nonprofit workers are deeply moved by all of the community support they have been receiving. Unfortunately, management hasn’t budged much on proposals that would be harmful to the workers and their families. They have made it clear that they aim to destroy the job securities that workers have fought for decades to get.

This would jeopardize the long-term stability of the museums which would have a negative impact on the quality of your experience when visiting the de Young and the Legion of Honor.

In response, the museum’s workers have authorized a strike if absolutely necessary. They will only use this tool once all other options are exhausted.

They still have much fighting to do before winning a fair contract. A win for these workers will set a precedent that will have far-reaching effects in our city. You can leverage your community influence to support these workers in one of the following ways:

1. The cities unions and allies will be mobilizing en masse Friday, September 7th at 6PM to takeover the de Young Museum. Your participation will show that our city will not stand idly by while its workers’ rights are under attack. RSVP here:

2. We ask that you call Charlie Castillo, director of human resources, at (415) 750-3673 to let him know that you support nonprofit museum workers and that he must settle a fair contract now.

3. Spread the word about what’s going on by signing and sharing our online petition.


COFAM Nonprofit Worker Supporters

Got Racism? Students Dress Up As Mexican Stereotypes At OC High School

24 08 2012

Canyon High School

From CBS-LA (video), via Think Mexican

During Senior Spirit Day at Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills, boys dressed up as gardeners and gang members, and one girl dressed as a pregnant woman, pushing a baby stroller.

Other students dressed in “Border Patrol” T-shirts and were photographed “arresting” their fellow students dressed as gang members.

An alum filed a complaint.  Instead of turning this into a teachable moment, the administration simply canceled the event entirely.  More

Anaheim Hills, hmm…  that’s about 15 miles from

Anaheim Police brutality protest at Disneyland after two fatal police shootings, resulting in the deaths of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo. Photo: Creative Commons/Amber Stephens (via Colorlines)

Anaheim Police brutality protest at Disneyland after two fatal police shootings, resulting in the deaths of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo. Photo: Creative Commons/Amber Stephens (via Colorlines, 8/3/12)

Sotheby’s knowingly tried to sell stolen Asian art?

22 08 2012

Via NY Times: Prosecutors File Arguments in Effort to Return Cambodian Statue, 8/21/12

Federal prosecutors seeking to repatriate a 10th century statue to Cambodia filed court papers Monday accusing Sotheby’s of knowing the sculpture “was an important piece of cultural property that had been stolen” from a remote temple complex when the auction house put the massive sandstone artifact up for sale in March 2011.

A 2011 Sotheby’s catalog sA 2011 Sotheby’s catalog shows a thousand-year-old statue believed to be from the Koh Ker temple in Cambodia. (New York Times)

A 2011 Sotheby’s catalog shows a thousand-year-old statue believed to be from the Koh Ker temple in Cambodia. (New York Times)

Despite testimony from multiple experts declaring it stolen property, Sotheby’s continues to argue for the right to sell the Cambodian temple statue for as much as $3 million on behalf of its Belgian “owner,” shamelessly arguing that “that no one has provided proof the item was stolen.”

As if the temple monks had a yard sale, but failed to keep receipts?

No, the lack of provenance of this statue is in keeping with what researchers found of the Asian antiquities collected by Norton Simon (Pasadena), Walter C. Mead (Denver), Sherman Lee (Cleveland), Avery Brundage (Asian Art Museum), John D. Rockefeller III (Asia Society NY), and others.

But since those collections were formed before international heritage laws went into effect, they are apparently immune from this kind of scrutiny and repatriation effort.

Rosenfeld’s Richard Aoki allegation: “Don’t Believe The Hype”

22 08 2012

Richard Aoki buttonUPDATE 9/26/12:  “Connecting The Past And The Present: Harvey Dong’s Insights On The Allegations Against Richard Aoki,” by Tala Khanmalek, Racialicious, 9/26/12.  Speaks to Rosenfeld’s “sloppy academic research,” “bad analysis,” and “conservative summation” of protest movements of the ’60s and ’70s.

UPDATE 9/11/12:  “Richard Aoki : Oakland town hall discussion defends controversial activist’s legacy (Review),” by Eric Arnold, Oakland Local, 9/11/12.  Great write-up of important gathering, featuring Aoki biographer Diane Fujino, and former Black Panthers Tarika Lewis (first female panther), Emory Douglas (Minister of Culture), and co-founder Bobby Seale, at EastSide Cultural Center.

UPDATE 9/10/12:  “Distorting the legacy of Richard Aoki,” by Ward Churchill, Kathleen Cleaver, and Natsu Taylor Saito, San Francisco Bayview, 9/9/12.

UPDATE 9/1/12:  “Scholars Challenge Author’s Assertion That 1960s Activist Worked for FBI,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 8/31/12.  Also, I attended a presentation by Prof. Harvey Dong at UC Berkeley this week, who showed how Rosenfeld’s “evidence” is inconclusive at best and likely doubtful, and questioned Rosenfeld’s motive.

UPDATED 8/24/12:  KPFA’s Apex Express with scholar, activist and close friend of Aoki’s, Harvey Dong

and SF BayView:  Fred Ho refutes the claim that Richard Aoki was an FBI informant

UPDATED 8/23/12:  Democracy Now! hosts Fujino, Rosenfeld

While many were shocked by Seth Rosenfeld’s damning allegation that activist Richard Aoki was an FBI informant, the evidence appears to be far from conclusive, and a growing number of voices are calling it into question.

Here are a few:

  • Don’t Believe the Hype.  On KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio, Davey D hosted a conversation with Emory Douglas, former minister of culture of the Black Panther Party, and Billy X. Jennings, archived at until Sept. 4. (~24 min.), 8/21/12.
  • Oakland Local:  Snitch Jacketing 2.0?, Carlos A. Rivera-Jones, 8/20/12.
  • Colorlines:  Historian Calls for More Evidence, Jamilah King, 8/21/12.
  • Said Historian Scott Kurashige’s Initial Thoughts: “Rosenfeld has not provided any evidence that Aoki was actively working to undermine the Panthers on behalf of the FBI.”
  • Statement by Aoki documentarians, Mike Cheng and Ben Wang, 8/21/12.  “However, as the discourse and investigation of these claims commence, we feel it is important to remind people that the burden of proof must fall on those that make the accusation…  Accusing anyone of being an informant is extremely inflammatory and any allegations must be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated for evidence….  After reviewing Rosenfeld’s article, video, and book, there is no solid evidence presented that Richard was as an FBI informant.”  (more)

“What’s my motive?” Seth Rosenfeld timed his damning, inflammatory yet inconclusive allegation with the release of his new book.

What strikes us as particularly questionable is Rosenfeld’s ethics in deliberately choosing to time his public allegation with the day his new book went on sale, knowing full well both the inflammatory nature of the allegation and the lack of conclusive evidence about the role Aoki actually played.

Diane Fugino and her book Diane Fujino, academic and author of Aoki’s recently published biography, Samurai among Panthers, responded in the San Francisco Chronicle, 8/22/12.  Excerpts below:

“As a scholar, I insist on seeing evidence before concluding any “truth.” But as I read Rosenfeld’s work and cross-checked sources from my biography on Aoki, I realized Rosenfeld had not met the burden of proof. He made definitive conclusions based on inconclusive evidence…

“I also questioned Rosenfeld’s motives. Rosenfeld’s piece, published the day before the release of his own book, gained him widespread media and public attention that surely will augment sales…

“So why did Rosenfeld magnify Aoki when his book focuses more on Mario Savio, Clark Kerrand the Free Speech Movement? What responsibility does an author have to provide evidence beyond reasonable doubt before broadcasting disparaging accusations? Rosenfeld’s article, video and book raise many questions, but fail to meet the burden of proof.”  Read more

Guerrilla Art We Like: SF Muni Bus Ad

17 08 2012

UPDATE (8/22/12):  “Racism, MUNI and the Arab Community” Full story at Arab Resource & Organizing Center.

“The people speak: Free speech not hate speech”

Israeli Hate Speech "Ad"

San Francisco Muni Bus Ad: BEFORE (8/12/12)

Corrected Ad

San Francisco Muni Bus Ad: AFTER (8/16/12)

Should City Art Museums be Free?

15 08 2012

Detroit Institute of Arts Museum

An article in today’s Detroit Free Press reports on how “attendance more than tripled last week compared with the same five-day period in 2011,” after the Detroit Institute of Arts made admission free to residents of three local counties “in exchange for voters’ approval a day earlier of a property tax in all three counties to support the museum.”

The bump in attendance was helped by ongoing special exhibitions, as well as media attention on the local tax measure which is designed to sustain the museum by enabling it to grow its endowment.

Other museums which have “gone free” also report substantial growth in attendance.

At the Baltimore Museum of Art, a recent contemporary show drew 80% more visitors than the average contemporary show prior to eliminating admission in 2006.

“The Baltimore museum is drawing an average of 43% more first-time visitors since it went free.

“The Indianapolis Museum of Art reinstituted free admission in 2007 after briefly charging a fee in the wake of an expansion. Attendance soared 152% in the first year after eliminating the fee, but a blockbuster show of Roman art that year from the Louvre in Paris attracted 112,000 and surely skewed the numbers, said Candace Gwaltey, public relations manager at the museum.”

It’s encouraging that city museums around the country are finding ways to fulfill their civic roles as cultural stewards in the public commons, by not only making art accessible to everyone regardless of financial status, but also removing the troubling burden of earned income from the ticket gate while drawing ever larger audiences.

It’s ironic that by making museums free, the resulting growth in attendance could only make corporate sponsors happy (right?), thus leading to greater sustainability.  Could this be a wave of the future?

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