Sunday, February 05, 2012

In a New York State of Mind

by Gregg Chadwick

Super Bowl Sunday has grown to become a secular holiday that rivals Thanksgiving in the United States. I just got off the phone with my brother and our New Jersey/New York roots run deep. Sporting events from this past weekend remind me how much I carry Spike Lee's and my Grandpa Chadwick's sporting allegiances with me. Jeremy Lin's astounding play for the New York Knicks basketball squad last night proved to be a harbinger for the New York Giants inspired play today. Tomorrow morning will be a bit sweeter as New Yorkers access their newspapers of choice. For me, memories of late Saturday nights in the Village buying Sunday's New York Times at a corner grocery never fail to bring a smile to my face.

As did Clint Eastwood's inspired role in this year's Chrysler ad. I'd recognize that silhouette anywhere. Doesn't look like Carmel's Hog's Breath to me though. I've been in a Noir mood myself with a studio full of new paintings and new ideas.

Chrysler Commercial: It's Halftime in America

In a subtle nod to union labor and the struggles in Wisconsin, a brief snippet of the protests against the soon to be deposed Governor Walker appears in the Chrysler ad.

Wisconsin's Capitol Dome glows on a cold Madison night as protestors gather to support union labor. Importantly, Clint Eastwood is also a union supporter as a member of the Screen Actors Guild. 

Tonight, I salute my Meadowlands ties from Newark, to Bloomfield, to Montclair, to Asbury Park, to Manhattan, to Columbia, to NYU. 

Congrats to New York - my city of Dreams

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Saturday, February 04, 2012

SongGate Continues

by Gregg Chadwick


Photo by Erin Baiano
        CourtesyThe New York Times


SongGate continues. The New York Times and other websites and publications have now picked up the story of K'NAAN's extreme displeasure over the Romney campaign's misuse of his rousing anthem of freedom Wavin' Flag. Earlier this week, I posted about the controversy. I am heartened that the national media continues to dig into the issues involved.

What is amazing to me is the utter lack of critical listening by Mitt Romney and his campaign. Did anyone involved listen to K'NAAN's powerful lyrics? The following verses don't sound like Romneyspeak to me:

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
A violent prone, poor people zone
But it's my home, all I have known
Where I got grown, streets we would roam
Out of the darkness, I came the farthest
Among the hardest survival
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak
Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat
So we struggling, fighting to eat. 
So many wars, settling scores
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I heard them say 'love is the way'
'Love is the answer,' that's what they say 
But look how they treat us, make us believers
We fight their battles, then they deceive us
Try to control us, they couldn't hold us
'Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers

The image of Mitt Romney and his followers moving forward like Buffalo Soldiers is deeply surreal.
I wonder if Mitt is a closeted Bob Marley fan?

Cabinet card portrait of an African American Buffalo Soldier
 Probably a member of the Ninth U. S. Cavalry band, about 1890.
Courtesy Nebraska Library Archives

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

K'NAAN to Mitt Romney: "Take My Flag Down"

by Gregg Chadwick

Portrait of K'NAAN

I find it intriguing how an artwork over the years gathers a life of its own through changes in context and in reference to global events. The uproar over Mitt Romney's use this week of K'NAAN's infectious hit Wavin' Flag is the latest in a long series of political events in which conservative politicians have misappropriated the music of politically progressive musicians in an effort to appear hip or part of the zeitgeist.

I was in Berlin during the 2010 World Cup and K'NAAN's World Cup Theme Wavin' Flag thundered across the Tiergarten in the shadow of the angel capped Siegessäule. At the Kennedy Museum, a short walk away through the Brandenburg Gate, an exhibit of photographs by Nadav Kander illuminated President Obama and the members of his team. In the Tiergarten two years earlier in 2008, Barack Obama had given one of his most impressive campaign speeches.

Nadav Kander Exhibit at the Kennedy Museum, Berlin
July 2010
Photo by Gregg Chadwick

 Even though Germany lost that night in South Africa to the eventual championship team from Spain, K'NNAN's song of global harmony seemed to buoy the crowd watching the match on giant screens in Berlin. K'NAAN, a Somali born Canadian musical artist, sings an infectious plea for togetherness and goodwill in his rousing Wavin' Flag. But the flag imagery in the lyrics must have proved too irresistible for Mitt Romney's campaign. As Romney walked to the podium to speak to his supporters after his primary win in Florida on Tuesday night, K'NAAN's hit roared from the speakers. K'NAAN soon tweeted back:

 K'naan Warsame 

Yo  I am K'naan Warsame and I do not endorse this message.

In a statement released yesterday K'NAAN expressed outrage that Mitt Romney would have the gall to use his song:

A&M/Octone recording artist K'NAAN was dismayed to learn that his song "Waving Flag" was used by Mitt Romney in his speech last night following Florida's Republican primary.  The artist was not aware that the song would be used by Romney and the campaign is not something K'NAAN endorses.  
"I have not been asked for permission by Mitt Romney's campaign for the use of my song. If I had been asked, I would certainly not have granted it." 
"I would happily grant the Obama campaign use of my song."  
K'NAAN is currently seeking legal action so that further use of the song by Romney's campaign can be prevented. 

The Romney camp retreated from the controversy by responding that the use of the song was licensed under current ASCAP regulations but they would respect K'NNAN's wishes and refrain from further use. Unfortunately, this will not be the last time a politician misuses a song, As MTV reports:

This is far from the first time a politician has used a song without an artist's permission — actually, this isn't even the first incident this week. According to TMZ, Survivor filed a lawsuit Monday against Newt Gingrich for using their song "Eye of the Tiger" at his events. During the 2008 presidential election, Jackson Browne sued John McCain for his use of "Running on Empty," and JohnMellencamp asked McCain to stop scoring his campaign stops with "Our Country."

As I write this, I think back to that evening in Berlin during the World Cup. For many of us, Berlin and the towering Siegessäule bring to mind Wim Wenders' films Wings of Desire and the haunting sequel, Faraway, So Close, which opens with the angel Cassiel (Otto Sander) standing on the statue of the Angel of Victory overlooking post-Cold War Berlin. Many times as the centuries pass, art that was at first created to celebrate fleeting military victories over past or imagined enemies loses its local memory and becomes part of all humanity's memories. Wim Wenders was able to shake the Siegessäule loose from the spectres of Prussian militarism and into the post-Cold War world. For one night at least, underneath that monument the world was brought together a little bit more. The World Cup is truly a global event that brings countries together through the joy of sport and camaraderie. K'NAAN's rousing Wavin' Flag provided a fitting soundtrack to that event. 

I am also reminded of Obama's speech from Berlin in 2008. On that day he said that, "This is the moment to stand as one." While Mitt Romney says,"I’m not concerned about the very poor." Is it any wonder that K'NAAN gave permission for President Obama to use his song as a rally cry and that K'NAAN told Romney to "Take my Flag Down"?

Gregg Chadwick
Flag: World Cup Berlin 2010
30"x22" monotype on paper

Further Thoughts at:

K'Naan To Romney: 'My Music Is Concerned With The Very Poor'

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Polish Poet Wisława Szymborska Died Today (1923-2012)

Jenny Holzer’s "For the Guggenheim" projected the words of
Wislawa Szymborska on the museum’s outdoor facade. (2008)
photo courtesy of Lili Holzer-Glier

I’d have to be really quick
to describe clouds—
a split second’s enough
… for them to start being something else.
Their trademark:
they don’t repeat a single
shape, shade, pose, arrangement.
Unburdened by memory of any kind,
they float easily over the facts.
What on earth could they bear witness to?
They scatter whenever something happens.
Compared to clouds,
life rests on solid ground,
practically permanent, almost eternal.
Next to clouds
even a stone seems like a brother,
someone you can trust,
while they’re just distant, flighty cousins.
Let people exist if they want,
and then die, one after another:
clouds simply don’t care
what they’re up to
down there.
And so their haughty fleet
cruises smoothly over your whole life
and mine, still incomplete.
They aren’t obliged to vanish when we’re gone.
They don’t have to be seen while sailing on.
— Wisława Szymborska
(Translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

For the Guggenheim, 2008. Light projection. Guggenheim Museum, New York. 

Text: "The End and the Beginning," "Could Have," "Children of Our Age," "In Praise of Feeling Bad about Yourself," "The Joy of Writing," "Tortures," and "Parting with a View," from View with a Grain of Sand by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh. © 1993 by Wisława Szymborska. 

English translation copyright © 1995 by Harcourt, Inc. Used/reprinted with permission of the author.

"Some People," from Poems New and Collected by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh. © 1998 by Harcourt. Inc. Used/reprinted with permission of the author. © 2008 Jenny Holzer/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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