In Support Of The Occupation

There is a strong element of disingenuousness about people who claim that they do not understand what this movement is about. It is as if they prefer not to notice that the people are occupying Wall Street itself, and not some random corner of the New York City. Scouring the trees while loosing sight of the forest, the naysayers are retreating back into the numbing, not-so-clear-predictability of their ‘safe’ lives while the very earth is changing under their very feet.

It is as if they have quickly forgotten that we have only recently witnessed what history will describe as a decade of criminal, corrupt, venal and illegal financial dealings that stripped millions of people of trillions of dollars. And as if this was not enough, the same manipulators of the markets and consumers, compounded their greed, assisted by members of our sitting government’s financial administrators, by carrying out possibly the greatest theft of the public exchequer in American history. It is shocking that these naysayers cannot make a connection between these acts of financial mendacity and theft with the massive cuts and eliminations of public welfare programs, pensions, educational and research funds, reduction in public services, assaults on union rights and labor laws, and most every single government and public service available. It is shocking that they cannot make a connection between their growing impoverishment and the growing wars for which this nation seems to have an infinite sum of monies. It is shocking that they will, even now, faced with an absolutely hollowing out of the meaning and value of the public, not rise up and simply add their voices. They remain mute, stunted and numb and offer nothing but arguments for how the protests are not ‘organized’ or have a clear goal.

We have been witnessing the absolute erasure of our rights and our voices. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, anti-war, pro-war, capitalist or socialist or any other category, it matters not. The fact remains that the individual American citizen has been erased from the processes of government, accountability and participation. This process has continued under the auspices of a man we placed much hope in but who has revealed himself to be nothing but a hollow mouthpiece for the same old stories. This is not a time to argue for detailed game plans, or talking points, but a time for shouting back, for standing up, and for first, very simply, pointing out to all those in Washington D.C. and other centers of corporate and political power, that there is a citizenry, that there are individuals, who believe in and stand for values and aspirations that in fact cannot merely be measured in financial and profit terms. We have to begin by pushing back a and this movement is that push back, that Enough! so many have been waiting for. It is the start of a drawing of a line in the stand and saying no more.

It is time to stand and argue for what is still beautiful about life, about community and about society. It is time to stand and argue for an idea of society that is not just about measurable rates of return, or hedges, or profits but about equity, justice and dignity. That we are about constructing a society that is about the citizen first, and the corporate last. That we still believe in a government that serves its citizens, and not just those with the strength of the lobby. That we still believe in investing in our schools, universities, our workers, our public assets (parks, roads, postal services, ) for the benefit of the majority and not the privilege of an enriched minority.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is not just about Wall Street. Their statements are on their websites. Their values are now on display on the streets. The fact remains that in our highly militarized society this movement will end with violence and that the changes it is demanding  changes that are not merely legislative but also structural, institutional and attitudinal, will not be easily achieved under the current climate of a too-stupid-to-even-parody American election process and too-reactionary-to-even-notice American love of violence. It is more about showing those in power that we have not surrendered. It is about showing those in the banks that we will not go quietly. It is about reminding our politicians that thought they may be in the pockets of the wealthy, that the citizens are still here, still breathing, still thinking and still prepared to act.

Here are a group of young people who are risking their very futures for the sake of an idea of America the likes of which our political leaders only offer to win votes and then conveniently trash once in power. Here is a generation of Americans that is trying to shed the atrophied social and cultural skin of a previous generation of Americans who drugged themselves on the delusions of the stock market, adopted the stultifying, lobotomized world view of the the financial world. These young people are idealist and god bless them for that. They are the foolish ones who are still being ignored and mocked. Our leaders have ignored them, our President has shunned them, our police has beaten them, our media has mocked them, our pundits humiliate them, our television screen erase them. And yet they are there – and there they stay until that moment when violence will be used to push them aside.

I am thousands of miles away sitting in a small town in Kerala, India. I rather be on Wall Street. But I cannot understand why so many people whom I have heard complain about the state of America, about the corruption in its government, the greed and criminality of Wall Street, are suddenly without recourse and a sense of participation. I can’t understand that when at a moment they should join only because people have dared to raise their voices, that they are behaving like pension-counting bureaucrats and asking petty and pointless questions like  what is their agenda?

So think of it this way: You are their agenda. You, the individual American who has a place, a voice and a participation in the American democracy. If for no other reason, go down to Wall Street and sit with these people because they are the only ones speaking about issues that place You at the center as opposed to our politicians, pundits, and newspaper professionals who have placed everything else at the center. Go simply to begin a process where we return to a place where government is accountable to its citizenry, where politicians are reminded that they are public servants, where the police is reminded that it is a public service body and not a private security force, where corporations that fleeced us, and business leaders that lied to us, are punished and have their right to operate removed. Go to remind yourself that you are a citizen of an experiment in public democracy that is at perhaps its weakest, most fragile and damaged moment.

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From “Headmen” To “Hitmen”–A People Brutalised Yet Again

Another photographer turns up at another manufactured ‘traditional’ geography, and produces another set of racist, reductive and entirely fake set of images. I don’t mean ‘fake’ in the way that most photographer’s get all concerned about. I mean ‘fake’ in a much more serious way, one that reduces people to social, political and historical caricatures and makes them into concocted objects for class titillation and voyeurism. And this American magazine–mired deep in the heart of American imperialism, its violence and its brutality–publishes the images and accompanies them with what can only be described as one of the most incredibly ahistorical, obfuscatory and infantile articles I have read outside of stuff frequently published by Time Magazine and/or The New York Times.

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Thomas Sankara’s Restless Children

The project is now complete. Although, we may never really complete the telling of this remarkable story. You can see the project by clicking on this link here, or on the image below.

Eyes Of Aliyah–Deport, Deprive, Extradite Initiative By Nisha Kapoor

I have publicly and on this forum very explicitly argued against the strange ‘disappearance’ of black/brown bodies that are the actual targets and victims of our ‘liberal’ state policies of surveillance, entrapment, drone assassinations, renditions and indefinite detention. I recently argued:

“Western visual journalism, and visual artists, have erased the actual victims of the criminal policies of the imperial state. Instead, most all have chosen to produce a large array of projects examining drone attacks, surveillance, detentions and other practices, through the use of digital abstractions, analogous environments, still life work or just simply the fascinating and enticing safety of datagrams and charts. Even a quick look at recent exhibitions focusing on the ‘war on terror’ or wars in general, have invited works that use digital representations of war, or focus on the technologies of war. An extreme case of this deflection are recent projects on drone warfare that not only avoid the actual brown/black bodies that are the targets of deadly drone attacks, but are not even produced anywhere near the geographies and social ecologies where drone attacks continue to happen! Yet, these works have found tremendous popularity, though i remain confused what kinds of conversations or debates they provoke given that the voices of the families of those who have been killed, are not only entirely missing, but people who can raised the difficult questions about the lies and propaganda that are used to justify the killings, are also entirely missing.”

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Public Release of “The Sinner”

This is my first feature length documentary film and we–Justice Project Pakistan, with the guiding support of Sarah BelalRimmel Mohydin and others at Justice Project Pakistan, are finally releasing it.

And we are doing it first in Pakistan.

The film takes us into the world of capital punishment in Pakistan through the life of one man; Jan Masi. Jan Masi worked as an execution for nearly 30 years, and claims to have executed over 1800 people. He started his work in the enthusiastic pursuit of revenge for the execution of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This isn’t a typical documentary film. No talking heads. No linear story-telling. No polemics or moral grand standing. No righteous exclamations against capital punishment. Instead, Jan Masi, his life, his scars, his fears and despair, act as metaphors for the meaning of capital punishment in Pakistan, and the consequences it has on the broader Pakistani society.

Sudhir Patwardhan

Sudhir Patwardhan.

Can you discover ‘an influence’ after the fact?

What do you call someone who seems to embody your eye, your sensibility, and yet you had never seen his / her work, and yet, when you now see it, you see the ‘influence’…the similarities?

Is he confronting the same questions? Is he seeing this incredibly complex and multi-layered world with the same desire to depict it as close to that complexity as possible?

I was taken aback. The aesthetic pursuit is so familiar. It is as if he is a step ahead of me. He is a step ahead of me.

I am going through these images–gorgeous, striking, unique, and no, I refuse to give you some ‘European’ reference to understand them in any way. They are Patwardhan’s and his alone. But I want to make them as photographs.

They are the photographs I would make if in Mumbai. It is beautiful stuff. It makes me want to go and make photographs.

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Make It Right For Palestine, November 4, 2017

Be there. Hyde Park. Speaker’s Corner. London. 12:00 noon. 4th November, 2017.

The Polis Project…Is Up And Running

If you can’t join them, then just do it on your own.

We launched a new collective focused on research, reportage and resistance. The specific goals and objectives are being developed as we speak, but the idea is a simple one: to collect under one banner a group of individuals from different fields – artists, writers, academics, photographers, intellectuals, poets and others, who are consistently working against the grain. In this time of collective conformity, and a media sycophancy to power and extremism, some of us felt the need to create a small space where people are still determined to refuse the agendas of political power, debilitating capitalism, nationalist extremism and neoliberal idiocy, and remain fools in their hearts, and idealists in their souls.

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Short Doc: “As If A Nightmare”;The Story Of Former Bagram Prisoner Abdul Haleem Saifullah


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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Short Doc: “Prisoner 1432” – The Story of Former Bagram Prisoner Amanatullah Ali


We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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10 Things To Consider…

I recommend that photographers, photojournalists, documentary photographers remember these wise words by Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member – I am copying and pasting it here. As brown and black bodies are stripped of their clothing, as brown and black children are dehumanised to mere misery, as brown and black women are reduced to simply victims, as ghettos and brothels and refugee camps and slums become the ‘paint by number’ formula for White photographer’s career and publishing success, it becomes increasingly important that those of us on the receiving end of White ‘largesse’ begin to build obstacles, speak back, and refuse / reject these ‘representations’ and their reductive, violent and brutal narrative frames. We have lost too much, and are in danger of whatever little we have left as humans and as histories, if we permit this process to continue.

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