Shortly before its final dissolution, the Basque armed separatist movement ETA issued an apology pledging “to put out definitively the flames of Guernica.” In truth, the flames of Guernica were put out long ago. Picasso’s famous painting denouncing that tragedy has been hanging in a Madrid museum for decades. Even the flames of ETA were extinguished years ago. As for the group’s vision of an independent Basque Country, the paradox is that ETA has made that goal less, not more, feasible.
Newly empowered, ICE is newly emboldened. Despite the many failings of Trump’s White House, the administration has delivered on one of the president’s primary goals: mass deportations. Trump is giving ICE the tools, financial resources, and presidential backing to go after immigrant communities as never before. While John Kelly and Stephen Miller may be the main architects of Trump’s nativist anti-immigration policy, they are not its most important and powerful supporters. For that, look to the labor union that represents ICE’s agents.
My son waved back to the middle-aged metro officer with a defiant smile. Outside, we blended into a group of protesters, many of them in their teens and twenties, blocking an intersection. It had been not quite nine hours since I had dropped him at the bus station, but he had reassessed his view of the situation on the ground. “I wish the government would ban plastic bags,” he said. We bent down and picked up a couple of errant bags. Democracy starts from the ground up.
Gore Vidal, 1974: “For thirty or forty years I have seen the name Robert Moses on the front pages of newspapers or attached to articles in that graveyard of American prose the Sunday New York Times Magazine section. But I never had a clear idea just who he was because I never got past that forbiddingly dull title Park Commissioner. I associated him with New York City and I lived upstate. I now realize what a lot I have missed.”
The rise of the Internet and social media has created a giant mismatch between the direct efficiency of our digital lives and the cumbersome inefficiency of our formal institutions—and that has accentuated the contrast between our system’s promise to let the people rule and the reality that the people rarely feel as though they can have a real impact on the most important decisions facing their country. As a result, the ideological foundations of our political system, liberal democracy itself, are rapidly eroding.
The material on view in “Cult of the Machine” is, to be sure, perennially popular with the general public, which can easily discern simple visual congruities among diverse mediums that all partake in the same visual vocabulary—cocktail shakers that look like skyscrapers, skyscrapers that look like cocktail shakers, paintings that resemble photographs, cars reminiscent of zeppelins. But to a great extent, it all comes down to stylization, and even mere styling, the manipulation of form in the service of image rather than meaning.
In Self Portrait as My Mother Jean Gregory, Gillian Wearing wears a prim blouse with pointed collars, her hair coiffed short. The artist is forty years old, but she poses quite convincingly as her mother at twenty-three. Giraffe-necked and with an upright, almost rigid posture, her direct, unflinching gaze is unnerving. If not for the subtle lines along her eye creases and jawline, it would be nearly impossible to detect that she is wearing a mask.
What makes Babylon Berlin so engrossing is that it captures with such flair, efficiency, and seeming authenticity the queasy allure of the Weimar period. That era marked by decadence, underlying threat of violence, and palpable sense of gathering doom, has never fallen out of fashion with writers and artists, but Babylon Berlin brings a fresh perspective to images and material that might otherwise seem shopworn, and its frenetic rhythms are particularly apt for a moment when we appear to be dancing our own convulsive tango on the edge of a fiery volcano.
Desire is both a source of momentum for Claire Denis’s characters and a wellspring of confusion and instability. “There’s a chemical reaction between men and women,” says a baker’s wife to the young man who lusts after her in Nénette et Boni (1996), and the people in Denis’s movies often seem linked by invisible channels of longing. They smell one another, admire one another from afar, dance around one another, and in the process lose their footing in the worlds they occupy. To want to get close to another person, for Denis, is to venture into strange and unknown territory.
The more people become familiar with what’s really happening on the periphery of Paris—by visiting, eating a meal, going for a hike, listening to a concert, or attending an art opening—the less the populist far-right’s xenophobic fear-mongering machine will be able to exploit the bogeyman of the banlieues. And the more the people who live in the greater Paris area can participate in the invention of their own future as part of “Grand Paris,” the less that future will have to fear from those whom Paris has historically relegated to its periphery.