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Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 20:32:14 +0000
Subject: Get the Boss

[orig to syndicate]

The Kosovars come out of the hills, they are skinny as rails, 
they are missing most of their families, they see the utter 
destruction, and they don't really seem to know what to do about it.
Is it all over? It's all over. But if it's all over, what to do about
all the bodies, all the unresolved anger at their utter helplessness,
in the face of an enemy which has suddenly, miraculously, evaporated,
what to do with the psychological trauma, the questions about where is
he, or she? Are they dead? Or were they taken off to Serbia in the
back of a truck for more horrendous treatment? If death came, was it
at least relatively fast, or was it after weeks of torture, or rape?
If they are still living, what can be done, and by who? Are they still
upriver? The horror, the horror.

*   *   *

In Venice, at the Biennial, all the well-fed, well-watered art 
lovers, and art profiteers, and artists, and promoters, and 
self-promoters, and judge, and jury, and local gawkers, and various
onlookers, and scribes, and photographers, they all survey the art,
incline their heads, nod appreciatively, or make subtle negative
comments, or positive comments, or ignorant comments. And they track
blood-red dust out of Ann Hamilton's installation in the American
pavilion, as some would probably say, 'appropriately enough.' Coming
out of the Komar and Melamid lower floor of the Russian pavilion,
which featured pictures of Moscow taken by a chimpanzee (not bad), and
paintings by several adult Indian elephants (as well as a video of the
elephants in the course of painting -- quite fascinating, actually, to
see the elephant hesitate, apply more paint, think a bit, squint at
the canvas, then add more, all with surprising delicacy; the elephant
trunk is evidently a lot more skilful than you may have thought, if
you ever gave it any thought) -- coming out of the Komar and Melamid
lower floor, I hear one American say to another: "Did you see
upstairs?" -- gesturing up to where Sergei "Afrika" Bugayev's large
installation occupies two rooms -- "Because it feels a lot more

Just in case you didn't know exactly what it is you're buying, or
rather, sampling.  

*   *   *

In Venice, at the Biennial, in a square near where Marko Peljhan made
his interesting presentation of his Project Atoll, the earth-base of
which looks like centipede marching towards the future from one angle,
and a lunar lander from another angle, there is graffiti reading as
follows: (1) "NATO assassini" and (2) "Free Tibet".

All the polymorphous contradictions of the liberal left are there.
Although the graffiti is evidently by two different hands. How to free
Tibet? Negotiations aren't going to work. So how? China has nuclear
weapons. In fact, it now has all the latest US nuclear weapons
designs, courtesy of a simple, repetitive file transfer cut-and-paste
down-load activity, which will enable it to be that much more
potentially accurate and destructive when it, for example, seizes
Taiwan one day in the next decade or so, while using those nukes as a
shield. Let alone releasing its totalitarian grip on poor destroyed

So -- how?

Well, certainly not by force. That would be too upsetting. Not to
mention very, very dangerous. And among other things (if anyone
survives long enough), it would result in graffiti deploring the whole

On the other hand, it's easy to say "NATO assassini", it doesn't
require any thought, after all, those "smart" and "dumb" and "laser
guided" and "gravity assisted" bombs cost lives. Including innocent
lives. Bombs don't (yet) come complete with an investigative arm,
authority to arrest, courtroom with cage, measured investigative
regimen, defense lawyer, balanced presentation of evidence, etc. No,
they just kill, or maim, anyone who happens to be in their path. And,
with the sound of jets screaming out of Aviano still echoing in your
ears, it takes a real effort of will to turn your head and look at the
immense, disproportionate pile of bodies on the other side of that
scale. Not to mention to try to figure out when violence is justified
to stop violence. The latter is a horrendous activity, it's simply not
pleasant. The whole thing isn't pleasant, and it's too difficult to
parse the whole thing out, because it disrupts certain certainties
that are easier to leave sleeping.

Yeah, better to leave them sleeping. Don't ask 'what is it'. Go 
make your visit.

*   *   *

Safe in safe-as-milk Ljubljana, all the bridges intact, electricity
coursing through the walls, neighbors watering their plants, I burn
several CDs by several interesting musicians, and in so doing, I
increase the amount of interesting music in the world, while
simultaneously breaking the law, avoiding paying the record companies
a dime,  and using a laser for something other than guiding a weapon
down a chimney into your living room. However, a friend tells me that,
if you spend a certain amount of time combing through stereo garbage
with a screwdriver and a moderate amount of technical knowledge, you
can quickly put together a quite respectable pile of real working
lasers from discarded CD players. These lasers can then be wired
together, and oriented in the same direction. When I ask him what
he would do then, with those lasers, he goes silent. And changes the

I have no idea what his intentions are. But I'd rather not think he's

*   *   *

You crack open the book by Wislawa Szymborska, and you read the 


Maybe all this
is happening in some lab?
Under one lamp by day
and billions by night?

Maybe we're experimental generations?
Poured from one vial to the next,
shaken in test tubes,
not scrutinized by eyes alone,
each of us separately 
plucked up by tweezers in the end?

Or maybe it's more like this:
No interference?
The changes occur on their own
according to plan?
The graph's needle slowly etches
its predictable zigzags?

Maybe thus far we aren't of much interest?
The control monitors aren't usually plugged in?
Only for wars, preferably large ones,
for the odd ascent above our clump of Earth,
for major migrations from point A to B?

Maybe just the opposite:
They've got a taste for trivia up there?
Look! on the big screen a little girl
is sewing a button on her sleeve.
The radar shrieks,
the staff comes at a run.
What a darling little being
with its tiny heart beating inside it!
How sweet, its solemn
threading of the needle!
Someone cries enraptured:
Get the Boss,
tell him he's got to see this for himself!


Etc., etc.


Michael Benson  <>