Within Hong Kong and China there are a few ways of providing bribes, known as tea money or in Cantonese, chaqian茶錢. In China, tea money is widespread, where it is needed for almost every transaction and service. In recent Hong Kong history, tea money was required at public hospitals or even to have a residential telephone line installed. Tea money is usually provided as a monetary gift within red envelopes, used at times of celebration such as Chinese New Year or weddings, or lining a box of moon cakes, a local delicacy.
The Hong Kong dollar notes, with the exception of the 10 dollar note, are all printed by three commercial banks instead of a central bank such as the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States. Under license from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), the Bank of China, Hongkong and Shanghai Bank or HSBC, and Standard Chartered Bank issue their own bank notes for circulation. All three banks have been involved in money laundering, or indicted and/or settled laundering charges out of court. HSBC was a source for funding the opium trade in China during the 19th century and has continued in this line with the recent revelation that the bank was laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels.
Tea Money uses appropriated red envelopes that read fortune (福) to deliver the artwork, three moon cake designs that incorporate the logos of the banks. The prints are made from a custom chop, a traditional stamp or seal, which in China and its territories is seen as providing authority and authentication. The work utilizes many cultural aspects that symbolize luck and good fortune while also discussing the corruption and the flaws in the Chinese and Hong Kong capitalist economy.
In Hans Haacke’s 1982 installation, Ölgemälde, Hommage à Marcel Broodthaer, a painted portrait of US President Ronald Reagan faces a blown-up black-and-white photograph of an antinuclear protest. The two images are connected by a red carpet, while the portrait is protected by stanchions and a velvet rope. The rawness of the protest photograph is furthered by the inclusion of the black boarder, sprocket holes, and frame numbers. The installation contrasts not only the imagery, but the mediums and styles of the two opposing visuals. History and power is examined in the work by different technologies and methods of capturing visual information and context.
The painting of US President Barak Obama in #Ölgemälde commands the same authority that Haacke’s Reagan painting does, utilizing the history of oil painting, as well as the gold frame, stanchions, and velvet rope ornaments. For #Ölgemälde, the blown-up black-and-white photograph is replaced by the current everyday tool of visual communication, a smart phone. The grandeur of the oil painting is juxtaposed with a repeated loop of raw videos from social media capturing abuses of police privilege; actions that led to the preventable deaths of black Americans. Once again, the installation highlights the imbalance of power and authority while going deeper to examine a paradoxical system embedded with racism in the time of the United States’ first black President.
It is referred to simply as the Wall, but it has been given many names, the West Bank Barrier, Separation Barrier, Segregation Wall, and the Apartheid Wall. When it is completed, the Wall will be a 440-mile barrier that divides Israel from the occupied West Bank. Despite the arguments for or against it, the Wall is a looming symbol for the relationship and negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Wall is a “monument to failure and a testament to pessimism,” as one artist has described it, “The segregation and confinement of people is only another step towards alienating Palestinians and Israelis from one another and dehumanizing the conflict. When one ceases to view the other side as made out of individuals with hopes and dreams, violence becomes much easier and the results are tragic for both sides.”
In the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 attacks, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) established a secret detention program, where suspected terrorists were apprehended, detained, and interrogated. The extrajudicial and highly classified program included “extraordinary rendition” in which suspects were kidnapped and transferred to secret prisons. Detainees were exposed to “enhanced interrogation techniques”, which were based on torture, abuse, and humiliation. These clandestine prisons came to be known as “black sites”.
Thirtyfour Black Sites is based on Ed Ruscha’s Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles (1967). Ruscha’s work documented the growing and changing infrastructure of a sprawling American city without a center. The aerial photographs of vast empty parking lots describe a system and pattern of daily culture and habit. Similarly, Thirtyfour Black Sites reveals a vast infrastructure, but of a secret detention program with a chain of prisons owned, operated, and/or utilized by the CIA. The images make the abuses and locations less abstract while also analyzing the growth of secrecy, extrajudicial black programs, and the CIA as a covert paramilitary.
Coup (pronounced koo), or Cloth of Unified People, is a clothing brand that brings together art and activism with fashion and apparel. The apparel is meant as public art to help discuss and/or critique history, education, violence, economics, and rights, among other issues.
Purchase apparel at ETSY
Since the end of 2001, it is almost daily that we hear news reports of bombs being dropped, missiles being fired, and areas being targeted by the United States military. With the numbers of missiles so high and so frequent it is difficult for anyone to comprehend their impact, both financially and in scale. The size and presence alone of these missiles is daunting and intimidating, with some missiles as tall as 15 feet (4.5m). The price is just as overwhelming, with some missiles, like the Tomahawk, costing over $1.5 million each.
Details assists in making these dimensions and costs real.
AGM-65 Maverick - $110,000 each
AGM-84E SLAM - $720,000 each
AGM-88E AARGM - $870,000 each
AGM-114 Hellfire - $110,000 each
AIM-9 Sidewinder - $665,000 each
“That was when I came close to insanity,” Binyam Mohamed said, describing his detention at Guantanamo Bay:
There were loudspeakers in the cell, pumping out what felt like about 160 watts, a deafening volume, non-stop, 24 hours a day. They played the same CD for a month, The Eminem Show. It’s got about 20 songs on it and when it was finished it went back to the beginning and started again.
In 2003, the US Department of Defense (DoD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began approving and using music as an “interrogation” tactic within the broadly defined War on Terror. The practice of acoustic bombardment, dubbed music torture by critics, is where music (in this case, artists like Metallica, Christina Aguilera, Eminem, Queen, and Bruce Springsteen among others, along with the Sesame Street and Barney theme songs) is repeatedly played at deafening and maddening levels and lengths. The technique became common practice as psychological torture in prisons and detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and secret (or black) prisons such as the one used in Rabat, Morocco. In a declassified CIA report, Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities, specifics of the technique are laid out for soldiers and agents:
As a practical guide, there is no permanent hearing risk for continuous, 24-hours- a-day exposures to sound at 82 dB or lower; at 84 dB for up to 18 hours a day; 90 dB for up to 8 hours, 95 dB for 4 hours, and 100 dB for 2 hours.
This passage from the report is one of the few pertaining to the use of music and white noise that has not been redacted. Along with this report and others released through Freedom of Information Act requests as well as interviews and first-hand experience from former detainees and soldiers, there is a picture that is painted of detainees being shackled in stress positions within dark rooms that were extremely cold or hot while being forced to listen to deafening music for hours and days. Ruhal Ahmed, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, described his experience in a 2009 interview, “It makes you feel like you are going mad. You lose the plot, and it's very scary to think that you might go crazy because of all the music, because of the loud noise, [ . . . ] So after awhile it just plays with your mind.” Though music has been used before in war and psychological operations, the recent development in the method is much more scientific to quickly remove a prisoner’s identity, making them more malleable, and to “maximize his feeling of vulnerability and helplessness.”
The audio component captures, within seconds, the disorientating psychological effect that the detainees experienced during the music. It is a selection of the music used during the torture, where the songs are overlaid upon each other while being played at the same time, as an orchestra of confusion and psychosis. The corresponding visual work is the sheet music for each song used, but also layered upon each other until the musical notation redact and remove any readable information completely.
In an appeal to save Iraqi’s academics, the BRussells Tribunal, a group made up of activists, intellectuals, and artists who organized a series of hearings by the same name, wrote: A little known aspect of the tragedy engulfing Iraq is the systematic liquidation of the country's academics. Even according to conservative estimates, over 250 educators have been assassinated, and many hundreds more have disappeared. With thousands fleeing the country in fear for their lives, not only is Iraq undergoing a major brain drain, the secular middle class - which has refused to be co-opted by the US occupation - is being decimated, with far-reaching consequences for the future of Iraq. The wave of assassinations appears non-partisan and non-sectarian, targeting women as well as men, and is countrywide. It is indiscriminate of expertise: professors of geography, history and Arabic literature as well as science are among the dead. According to the United Nations University, some 84 per cent of Iraq's institutions of higher education have already been burnt, looted or destroyed. Iraq's educational system used to be among the best in the region; one of the country's most important assets was its well-educated people. This situation is a mirror of the occupation as a whole: a catastrophe of staggering proportions unfolding in a climate of criminal disregard. As an occupying power, and under international humanitarian law, final responsibility for protecting Iraqi citizens, including academics, lies with the United States. Though the death toll is not known, the BRussells Tribunal maintains a list of recorded killings of academics and administrators. List is currently at 471. (August 2012)
In October 1994, Morton Halperin, the special assistant to President Clinton and senior director for democracy at the National Security Council, said, “We divide the world in two, those countries who choose democracy, we help . . . in those who do not choose it, we create conditions where they will choose it.”
The use of power and force has often been legitimized as a humanitarian need. This power is more than often used militarily, which is labeled as a force for good, with the set goal of delivering democracy and freedom. Yet, what is often delivered is economic and market policies that are hardly in favor of the people that are suffering.
This power does not need to be always through military, dominance can be exerted through economic means, such as aid. The United States International Development Agency (USAID) was developed to provide foreign relief and development assistance in accordance with US policy objectives, stating, “U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world.” Sasha Kramer, a professor of International Studies at University of Miami, questions the twofold purpose:
This dual mandate raises the important question of whether US policy interests generally result in improved living conditions for the majority of the world's poor? While it may occasionally be the case that the interests of the US government and the poverty stricken citizens around the world are aligned, more often than not, US economic and political interests are dependent on the exploitation and manipulation of workers and consumers in the developing world. It is this inherent contradiction within the USAID mandate that should cause skepticism among US taxpayers concerned with issues of social justice and self determination. The fundamental problem with USAID's stated objectives is that it is not in the national interests of the US government to promote self sufficiency in developing countries. US economic interests are fed by foreign dependency on US imports and loans. Political interests are served by maintaining an economic stranglehold on foreign governments, and many a strategic alliance has been forged out of economic necessity. Among USAID's operating tenets are sustainability and local capacity building, noble goals but highly dependent on how these tenets are defined and the manner in which they are implemented. Sustainability of what, and which local capacities are being supported? Implementation is primarily shaped by another of USAID's governing tenets, selectivity, the allocation of resources based on foreign policy interests.
In 2011, a study was released entitled, A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility, which dealt with the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) murders of US and NATO forces. Common complaints by Afghans about the American soldiers were their cultural insensitivity and arrogance. These complaints manifested themselves in another common but more specific complaint, public urination by US troops. The report goes on to state that soldiers commonly urinate in front of women, exposing themselves.
After 11 years of war, Afghanistan is not any closer to being a stable country with an independent government. The key to any counterinsurgency strategy, as Lyndon B. Johnson stated in 1965 about Vietnam and has been echoed again and again, “The ultimate victory will depend upon the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there.” Afghanistan has been called the “Graveyard of Empires,” and has a long history of resistance to occupation.
During the French occupation of Spain in the 19th century, the Spanish could not defeat the French militarily and were pushed back and punished each time. The Spaniards resistance came from locals without training who fought when possible and would disappeared in the villages. The fighters have come to be known as guerilleros and their warfare as guerrilla, or small war. Napoleon would later write, “That unfortunate war destroyed me.” The successful resistance to French military occupation was described as “the fabled lion who was tortured to death by a flea.”
As you read this, there at least 50 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, hovering over Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Drones are remotely operated aircrafts used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), as well as attack missions. Though the plane and ground crew remain in strategic locations throughout the Middle East and South Asia, the pilots that operate the drones are located over 7,500 miles away linked by a satellite connection. YouTube War, is a series of drone videos, collected from YouTube and other online video sources, overlaid with the soundtrack of the video game, Call of Duty. The videos are posted as war porn by soldiers and meant to excite the viewer at the climax of destruction and death. The videos also display the lack of clarity and understanding of the circumstances, and offer war as a video game; completely disconnected from the violence and the victims.
During the wars and Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands men of fighting age (15-50) were detained through house raids by US and Coalition forces. The raids were often based on bad intelligence, which led to the terrorizing of families and the extended detention of the men without charge. The physical and mental treatment of the detainees and the emotional trauma to the women and children has dramatically scared families. Though international military forces may leave Iraq and Afghanistan, the violence and trauma of war remains. Fallout focuses on the devastation that a culture of violence and war has on its people and their families.
Throughout the past century, democracy has been used as a means to export an economic system that opens and deregulates markets, privatizes capital, and socializes debt. The focus of these policies are not countries that lack transparency, rights, and social equality and representation, but those who have not accepted the American economic system. Free Market Democracy is a collection of business promotional props that have all been produced in countries where regulations and rights have been heavily reduced in pursuit of free markets and not democracy and freedom.
“Buried in Iraq's clay and dirt is the history of Western civilization. Great empires once thrived here, cultures that produced the world's first wheel, first cities, first agriculture, first code of law, first base-sixty number system, and very possibly the first writing. A brutal plundering of this rich cultural heritage has been taking place in broad daylight ever since the 2003 invasion of Iraq,” reported journalist Diane Tucker. Since the invasion of Iraq, ancient cities have been turned into strips of land for military bases. Priceless artifacts have been sold on eBay for a hundred dollars. The National Museum of Iraq was looted, losing thousands of artifacts, while US soldiers protected the Ministry of Oil. Shock and Awe, tells of this destruction through the very act of vandalization.
In March 2010, it was discovered that the rifle sighting scopes used by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were inscribed with references to New Testament passages that spoke of Jesus Christ and Christianity as the light of the world. U.S. Military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious ‘Crusade’ in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents. Kingdoms Rise And Wane discusses the clash of ideologies that still remain, but began with the American Century and President Woodrow Wilson’s claim that the world must be Christianized and made safe for democracy.
“Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. But mainstream media are increasingly cozy with the economic and political powers they should be watchdogging. Mergers in the news industry have accelerated, further limiting the spectrum of viewpoints that have access to mass media. With U.S. media outlets overwhelmingly owned by for-profit conglomerates and supported by corporate advertisers, independent journalism is compromised,” states the national media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Cause-Effect highlights these corruptions within the news media system while also emphasizing the context and the lack of history in which the news is received.
Primer specifically deals with the permanent damage on children who lose their childhood to prolonged wars, often drawing the violence that they witness and experience.
June 11th, 2009
National Portrait Gallery
8th St NW
Washington DC 20001
Dear National Portrait Gallery,
I am writing you in hope that I may submit a portrait painting (oil on panel) to the National Portrait Gallery. As you are aware of, the NPG recently unveiled the official portrait of the 43rd President George W. Bush on December 19th, 2008. Accompanied with the painting was the caption, “[His two terms were] marked by a series of catastrophic events [including] the attacks on September 11th, 2001, that led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Following the unveiling, Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont wrote to the NPG with the suggestion of correcting the text to remove the “collaborative relationship” between Iraq and September 11th attacks, citing a quote from President G. W. Bush in September 2003, “We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th.” The Gallery Director, Martin Sullivan, thought the request was reasonable and agreed to remove the words “led to” from the caption. Mr. Sullivan responded later by saying, “We have got to get our history right [. . .] I don't like the rewriting of history."
The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery was established to visually “tell the stories of America through the individuals who have shaped U.S. culture,” to “link us to our past, our present, and our future”, including “poets and presidents, visionaries and villains”.
With these two statements in mind, I would like to submit a portrait painting of an Iraqi resistance fighter. I agree completely with the Gallery’s Director, Martin Sullivan, that it is essential to understand our history and not to rewrite it to fit to our own viewpoint. I believe that this painting, created in response to the events discussed above, will help to further that understanding. The portrait was created, not to glorify violence in Iraq, but to remind Americans of just one of the many disastrous and destructive results of the Iraq War. Understanding that the attacks on September the 11th did not “led to” the Iraq War, but the Iraq War led to the destruction of a country, a people, and a culture, and to the creation of many new enemies.
I would like to offer the donation of this painting to the NPG free of charge. My only request is that the painting be presented with a caption that includes its purpose. Being the artist, I have full ownership of the work. I have included images of the painting along with this letter for your consideration. I would like to thank you for your time and thought. I look forward to your response.
The White House East Room, April 14th 2008
The President Commemorates the 265th Birthday of Thomas Jefferson
We're here tonight to commemorate the 265th birthday of Thomas Jefferson, here in a room where he once walked and in a home where he once lived. In this house, President Jefferson spread the word that liberty was the right of every individual. In this house, Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark off on the mission that helped make America a continental nation.
With a single sentence, Thomas Jefferson changed the history of the world. After countless centuries when the powerful and the privileged governed as they pleased, Jefferson proclaimed as a self-evident truth that liberty was a right given to all people by an Almighty.
Here in America, that truth was not fully realized in Jefferson's own lifetime. As he observed the condition of slaves in America, Jefferson said, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just" and "that his justice cannot sleep forever." Less than 40 years after his death, justice was awakened in America and a new era of freedom dawned.
Today, on the banks of the Tidal Basin, a statue of Thomas Jefferson stands in a rotunda that is a memorial to both the man and the ideas that built this nation. There, on any day of the week, you will find men and women of all creeds, colors, races and religions. You will find scholars, schoolchildren and visitors from every part of our country. And you will find each of them looking upward in quiet reflection on the liturgy of freedom -- the words of Thomas Jefferson inscribed on the memorial's walls.
The power of Jefferson's words do not stop at water's edge. They beckon the friends of liberty on even the most distant shores. They're a source of inspiration for people in young democracies like Afghanistan and Lebanon and Iraq. And they are a source of hope for people in nations like Belarus and Burma, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Zimbabwe, where the struggle for freedom continues.
Thomas Jefferson left us on July 4, 1826 -- fifty years to the day after our Declaration of Independence was adopted. In one of the great harmonies of history, his friend and rival John Adams died on the very same day. Adams' last words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives." And he still does today. And he will live on forever, because the desire to live in freedom is the eternal hope of mankind.
The installation and performance entitled The Spread of Democracy, was a faux Armed Forces Career Center or recruitment center that appeared to be the guest of the California Institute of the Arts. The recruitment office displayed and offered posters, flags, video games, maps, brochures and publications that appeared to be legitimate. Though the posters and brochures were created to appear authentic, the works dealt with many complex issues of American militarism such as U.S. bases throughout the world, propaganda, the economy of militarism, current programs like rendition and privatization, and their history. During the week of the exhibition I also played the part of a US Army Sergeant in full fatigues, adding to the illusion. The object of the exhibition was twofold, to discuss the complexity and vastness of the Department of Defense and US militarism, and to motivate the liberal but apolitical student body to take action against what could only appear as the first military occupation of the school.
In an effort to represent the true “Social Responsibility” of Starbucks, I altered two Starbucks advertisements in the work I am Starbucks. In 2005, Starbucks opened a location in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 3 years after the U.S. Naval Base was transformed into a detention center. Since 2005, Starbucks has opened two more locations on the base. The art replaced the images and stories within the original advertisements, which stated, “I am Starbucks”, with images and stories of Guantanamo Bay detainees. The adjusted advertisements were then placed back into Starbucks within the Santa Clarita, CA area.
Published by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1983, the Freedom Fighter's Manual was first provided to the anti-Sandinista Contra forces, as well as other Nicaraguans opposed to the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
In 1979, the Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the U.S. supported dictator Anastasio Somoza and established a socialist government that developed diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. When they began to fund a similar revolutionary group in El Salvador, the Reagan administration felt that Nicaragua was becoming a threat to its national interests and began to fund the contras, in order to destabilize the government. However, it was important to show the world that a government based on socialist principles would not function, in the hope of discouraging other popular revolts from occurring. The United States of America assisted in training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the Contra forces and encouraged, supported and aided military and paramilitary activities in Nicaragua. To assist in the process of fighting socialism in Nicaragua, the CIA published and airdropped the Freedom Fighter's Manual.