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<nettime> Dearest Susan Sontag: Soba Restaurant in SOHO, 9/11 and Susan
shinya watanabe on Sat, 1 Jan 2005 20:26:07 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Dearest Susan Sontag: Soba Restaurant in SOHO, 9/11 and Susan Sontag


Dearest Susan Sontag:

Hi, I spent so many hours to criticize your work. When I heard the news that 
you passed away, I just felt sad, and had no energy to do anything. Then, I 
could realize that I had a certain kind of love towarde your work and, the 
US, where I live almost four years.

I condole on your death, Susan.


Soba Restaurant in SOHO, 9/11 and Susan Sontag (8/25/ 2004)  by Shinya 
Watanabe
http://spikyart.org/sobastorye.htm

gYou donft have to come anymore. You are a scholar, not a waiter.h

It was in the last week that the owner of Soba (buckwheat-noodle) Restaurant 
in SOHO told me this. After I had worked for two month as an apprentice 
waiter, it happened. Probably it was because of the accumulation of some 
small mistakes I had made, which the owner of the three-star restaurant 
could no longer stand.

I, a curator, started to work at the restaurant because I found out that 
this is Susan Sontagfs favorite restaurant. I felt that I must pass my 
thesis, which I wrote in graduate school by hand. This thesis is true 
painstaking work, which took up all my time.

I had been wondering why Susan Sontag supported NATOfs aerial bombing 
against Yugoslavia, since I was so active for peace. I also wondered why she 
is so popular in Japan and the United States. As my research went further, I 
started to realize that she did something participantfs subjective idea, 
which is being self-righteous without understanding the situation.

She was so sensitive when she saw the phrase ggenocideh in the newspaper, 
and supported Bosnia, which she labeled as the victim of the conflict, and 
called the Serbian government gfascist.h As testimony of Serb genocide, 
she quoted an article written by not well known journalist Roy Gutman about 
concentration camp and genocide, but this article itself was a frame-up. I 
realized these truths through research. At the back of it, there is a War PR 
company in Washington D.C., and Sontag was controlled by them. As far as I 
know, I could not find an article which addressed this story in the States.

Maybe she does not know the truth, and if so, thatfs the problem. I felt 
that I must tell the truth to her, by any means.

However, Sontag was in the hospital and struggling with a relapse of cancer, 
so while I was working there for two months, she did not show up.

After I was fired, I grabbed the thesis, which I had hidden behind an 
employeefs locker, and talked to the owner.

gI, ahc I have a story to tell you. The reason why I started to work at 
this restaurant is that I wanted to see Susan Sontag.h

I continued, and talked to the marveled owner about my wondering why Sontag 
supported NATOfs bombing, my research in Yugoslavia, and also the passion 
which which I wanted to talk to her.

gWell, I understand your passion, but I cannot do anything. Ms. Sontag is 
just my personal customer.h

Then, he told me the following story.

Because of the September 11th attacks, the area surrounding the World Trade 
Center suffered catastrophic damage, since the restaurants and the stores 
could not attract enough customers. In SOHO, the bad smell was not swept 
away for more than a week. This restaurant is not an exception, and the 
customers who had regularly been its patrons had just stopped, and the 
restaurant faced financial difficulties.

Then, the owner of the restaurant sent a letter to the patrons. It said that 
after the terrorism, we do not have enough customers, and we are facing 
difficulties, but I will not close the shop early. Even if there are no 
customers, we will keep the light on until late. So please stop by anytime.

The first person who reacted to this letter was Susan Sotag. She said that 
the restaurant was steadfast, and started to come to the restaurant more 
than two times per week, until the restaurant returned to the full house it 
was before the attacks. Also Yoko Ono, another one of its patrons, reserved 
the restaurant for the birthday party of Sean Lennon to contribute to the 
sales of the restaurant.

gSo, the relationship between me and my customers was not built in a day. I 
have lots of obligation which I cannot return enough in my whole life. So, I 
cannot do anything about this. If you have a chance to pass this thesis, it 
will be that you have to work for more than a year, and they will start to 
remember your name, and if the customers started to ask, gWhere is Shinya 
today?h then you can approach them. You understand?h

The gay owner talked to me. Then, he told me that he made visits to 
Sontagfs hospital, but if he goes there he just leaves flowers and never 
visits her himself because of her health condition.

However, this is such a good episode to illustrate the character of Susan 
Sontag.

There are some people who are facing difficulties because of the 9/11 
terrorism, so she helped them in a subjective way. However, when we reflect 
calmly on the situation, all the restaurants in New York City were facing 
difficulties after the terrorism. This soba restaurant is not only the 
restaurant which faced difficulties. That is to say, her action was not to 
support the restaurant in New York City, but to help her friend.

This is similar to the case of Sontagfs support of Bosnian government. She 
supported Bosnia, and called Serbia gfascisth in her book, even if the 
then President of Bosnia, Herzegovina Izetbegovic, was a firm nationalist.

When Sarajevo faced siege and shelling by Serbia, she helped Sarajevo in her 
subjective way. However, when we think the situation in calmness, supporting 
Sarajevo and supporting the aerial bombing of NATO against Serbia helped to 
break up the sovereign state of Yugoslavia, and casualties also appeared on 
the Serbian side. That is to say, she supported NATO bombing to save 
Sarajevo, or to save her friends in Sarajevo.

Her theory is like this. If we do not intervene in Yugoslavia now, much more 
people will be killed, so some casualties are unavoidable. Fewer casualties 
are better, so letfs choose the way which causes less casualties.

What worries me individually is that this theory is similar to the one which 
justifies the dropping of atomic bomb to Japan, a view which I sometimes 
hear in the United States. That is, if an atomic bomb had not been dropped, 
probably Japan would have fought on. If the battle continued on mainland 
Japan, the number of casualties would have been more than 500,000 people. 
Therefore, the dropping of atomic bomb is the symbol of the rational victory 
which led Japan to surrender and caused fewer casualties. This is the 
theory.

However, there is no argument that violence is happening there. Also there 
is no clue whether the predicted number was correct or not. Moreover, if 
they were asked whether you can say this theory in front of casualties, of 
course, it is no.

Moreover, there is also a problem of the strategy of Europe, which, when 
attacking Serbia, did not admit the independence of Kosovo. If European 
countries admit the independence of Kosovo, then they would have to accept 
the separate independence of the Basque region, Chechnya, etc.

I will stop this endless argument now, but I think that Sontag was in the 
trap of having been a participant in Sarajevo. She is one of the theatrical 
people who are moved by subjective feelings. She is not a cool-headed 
philosopher. Probably, this may be one factor why the art community in the 
United States and Japan likes her story.

In a survey by the National Arts Journalism Program by Columbia University 
made in 2002, 200 American art critics were asked to rank the most 
influential art critics in the world of art history, and Susan Sontag was at 
the top in the category of gRecognition.h From this result, I feel the 
lack of theory in the United States. I had felt such this all the time while 
I was in graduate school at New York University.

Or for many American people, the word ghistoryg may mean the history after 
the independence of U.S., or for the art historian, it means the history 
after the 60fs. Here in the United States, art is not the product of quiet 
logic, but the accumulation of subjective performances.

When Sontag was scorned as Osama Bin Sontag in the United States as a result 
of her opposition to air strikes against Afghanistan, possibly this 
buckwheat-noodles restaurant was her only place to relax. Moreover, 
probably, the owner who fired me welcomed her with a big smile.

When the rumor spread that SARS had landed in Chinatown in New York City , I 
avoided going there for a while. Then, I realized that this is not a true 
story, and read the newspaper article which said the rumor badly damaged 
Chinatown. I then began to visit Chinatown more often, naturally. I am sure 
that a certain element of subjectivity was also involved in my simple 
action. Then I suddenly started to ask myself, whether it was the truly 
right decision.

I am not likely to escape the problem of subjectivity and experience for the 
time being. New York City may be the place which was made for us to consider 
these questions.

I truly hope for Susan Sontag's recovery.


The Influence of the Nation-State on Art - The Case of the Former 
Yugoslavian Countries
http://spikyart.org/nationstate/nationstateintroduction.htm


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