Saturday, July 28, 2007

The multimedia artist Santiago Infantino

Snapping shots in the cemetery, naked
By Christopher Murray
for The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper / Sarah Kramer
Artist Santiago Infantino makes an art of taking pictures of himself, naked, in cemeteries. So The Brooklyn Paper took this picture of Infantino, naked, in a cemetery. The Brooklyn Paper / Sarah Kramer

Apparently nobody told Santiago Infantino that the dress code for at Green-Wood Cemetery is somber. In fact, the Fort Greene-based photographer follows no dress code at all when he’s working on his latest series of anti-war artworks.
“Being naked means being defenseless and this was a desperate time,” Infantino said. “That’s why I choose the cemetery, [I was] thinking about the people who are gone — were they in a better place than I was?”
The artist claims he doesn’t have a compulsive desire to strip for the departed, despite how his recent self-portrait, “Apocalipsis,” makes it appear. (See it online at

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A CurtainUp Review
July 8, 2007

Rodney Gardiner in a scene from The Last Year in the Life of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as Devised by Waterwell: A Rock Operetta(Photo: Ryan Jensen)

The Last Year in the Life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as Devised by Waterwell: A Rock Opera(a.k.a. The King/Operetta)
By Christopher Murray

The adventurous and audacious theatre collective known as Waterwell, which creates its works collaboratively, takes as the starting point for its new piece a speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. at Manhattan’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before his murder at the age of thirty-nine. Given before the group Clergy and Laity Concerned, the intentionally provocative and controversial speech, "Beyond Viet Nam: A Time to Break the Silence," was a watershed moment for King, signaling his move away from a focus merely on domestic concerns and linking poverty and class struggle in the United States to our nation’s foreign policy boondoggles.

Read the full review at

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Interview with Times Op-Ed Columnist Frank Rich

Politics Moved Center Stage

The New York Times Op-Ed columnist Frank Rich's writing was already well-known to many in the gay community during his almost 15 years as the paper's chief theater critic. Though dubbed "the butcher of Broadway" by British comic Rowan Atkinson after panning his show, Rich championed the work of many dramatists, gay playwrights Stephen Sondheim and Tony Kushner prime among them. Throughout his tenure on the Arts pages, Rich consistently demonstrated a depth of knowledge and love of the theater made explicit in his 2000 memoir "Ghost Light."
Since initiating his 1,500-word Sunday column on national politics in 2005, Rich, who recently turned 57, has been undaunted in his blistering commentary on the Bush administration's rationale for and continuing distortions about the war in Iraq. His new book, "The Greatest Story Ever Sold," lays out in detail his deconstruction of the media-saavy salesmanship that Karl Rove and company used to take advantage of patriotism and pain following 9/11.
Known for using the lens of popular culture to understand politics, Rich has shown rare insight and compassion concerning the AIDS epidemic and butted heads with conservative commentators like Bill O'Reilly on issues in the Culture Wars, often including homosexuality. In fact, O'Reilly called Rich's recent journalism award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation proof of his liberal bias.
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY: Is there any comparison between your move from working as a theater columnist to becoming a political columnist and the gay community's move from being viewed as entertaining spectators to becoming active players in national policy debates?FRANK RICH: That's not a comparison I would make. If you want to say it, fine. I can't really endorse it. My career decisions can't be compared to the civil rights movement of a part of the population.

CM: Has your theater work given you any special insight into the gay community?
FR: I never worked in the theater except as a ticket taker at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. when I was in my teens and frankly there were no visible gay people then. While I covered the theater and had the AIDS crisis happen on my beat, it was from the remove of being a journalist. I also kept my distant from theater people out of the belief that it would be a journalistic conflict of interest, any more than now I would be friendly or fraternize with people who work on the White House staff.
The AIDS crisis grabbed my attention when it literally began appearing on the beat and it prompted me, compelled me really, to learn more about AIDS but also about gay people who are everywhere in America obviously, but who had been for most of my life semi-invisible to me because they were mainly closeted.
CM: Still, your artistic sensibility was in some measure formed as a result of your friendship as a young person with closeted gay people, like Clayton Coots, about whom you wrote in your memoir "Ghost Light."
FR: I think that what happened, and I don't think I'm unique in this even among straight journalists, but like many other people I discovered belatedly the role, often hidden, that gay people played in all parts of society including American culture. It led to a reappraisal of a lot of things that I hadn't really looked at carefully before. On the one hand it led to a reappraisal of someone I knew who mentored me and when I knew him pretended to be heterosexual, Clayton Coots, but at the same time it led me in a broader, less personal sense to look differently at the influence of someone like Tennessee Williams, who I didn't know and never met.
When I was growing up and even when I was in college, it was not talked about or really noticed. I studied American literature at Harvard and I don't remember any professor ever mentioning, for instance, that Walt Whitman might be gay. It wasn't even discussed. My memory is that if people back then knew at all about homosexuality it was in terms of performers who struck them as effeminate, that was the sort of pathetic limits of the knowledge.
CM: The reappraisal that happened for you, do you think that was mirrored in the culture at large?
FR: Completely. There's no question that the AIDS crisis, however tragically, brought people out and had a huge effect. You can see it played out in a conventional Hollywood movie like "Philadelphia." Americans discovered that a relative or colleague or friend was gay, maybe because they had AIDS but also because those who didn't have AIDS came out as a political and social force that hadn't been seen before.
CM: So when you write about someone like the Reverend Jerry Falwell as you did recently following his death, what did he miss in this reappraisal of gay people that was happening all around him?
FR: He is a particularly interesting case and I don't know the whole story, but he famously had a speech writer for years named Mel White who was gay and was quoted as a friend of Falwell's in some of the obituaries that have appeared. What's been going on with the right with homosexuality is absolutely fascinating as there are many gay people in the right-wing conservative establishment including evangelical circles and the Republican Party. At the same time, a lot of the leaders of these groups furthered homophobia and homophobic policies designed to deny civil rights to American gay people.
There's almost a psychosis in someone like Falwell who obviously knew he had gay friends and gay associates and then turned around and blamed gay people among others for 9/11 on national television. I mean, who can make this stuff up, it's so batty.Tony Kushner caught a glimpse of the psychiatric mechanism at work in the portrait of Roy Cohn and also the closeted gay Mormon character in "Angels in America."
CM: The dynamic is one of hypocrisy.
FR: What's interesting about the Falwells, and I do think this is passing now, even in the evangelicals, is that they are hypocritical about so many other things. They are also hypocritical about heterosexual sex and about money and business. Think of Jimmy Swaggart or Ted Haggard. Homosexuality is only one example. What polls have shown since Falwell's death about changes in the evangelical movement is that as you poll younger evangelical Christians in American, the prejudices of the Falwell generation begin to fade. Just as anyone who talks to young people - I have two sons in their 20s - knows that their attitude is often "What are all the adults screaming and yelling about?" They regard it as a non-issue.
CM: Death is the prime mover that's taking things forward.
FR: Yes. Abortion, the other big Culture War issue, hasn't changed so much. There's so much movement in polls on the gay issue related to age.
CM: Continuing with the topic of hypocrisy, both Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani present as fundamentally pro-gay and it's been discussed as a liability for them in the presidential election, but they both oppose policies supportive of LGBT people.
FR: The fact is that you have virtually every candidate in primary season trying to pander to what they think is that base. Romney has a record in Massachusetts where he ran to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay issues and Giuliani lived with a couple of gay guys when Donna Hanover threw him out of Gracie Mansion. When you see them trying to fudge it, particularly Romney more so than Giuliani - who tried to fudge it but realized there was just too much on the record for him to do it, particularly on abortion - it just seems like pandering to what is increasingly a fringe.
I challenge the Karl Rove wisdom that this is the key to winning the nomination, let alone the presidency. You see the same thing on the Democratic side with different issues. You see Clinton becoming more and more rabidly against the war in Iraq as what she sees as necessary to placate her own party.
CM: Recently the gay community debated withholding donations from Senator Clinton given her opposition to supporting gay marriage. What do you think of that as a strategy?
FR: I don't have any opinion. It's not the kind of political stuff I do, it kind of goes against my grain. I'm not in the business of commenting on the political strategy of groups who raise money. The whole issue of money in politics frankly makes me sick. People are free to do whatever they want with their contributions.
CM: Any opinion on what the gay community should be agitating for leading up to the presidential election?
FR: I just don't think in those terms. First of all, I'm not part of any political organization or party and I'm not part of the gay community. I'm a Jew, for instance, and I don't have a feeling about what Jews should particularly be agitating for in this election. Obviously, many gay people are correctly standing up for their civil rights in every field including marriage and I'm for that. Does that mean as a political strategy one issue should be picked out and that any group should have a single issue? I don't know. It would be presumptuous of me to say.
And to say that any group, gays or African Americans or Jewish Americans or women, should have one specific issue that should be the be-all and end-all seems to me kind of not living in the real world. It's an insult to those groups to assume that they are monochromatic. Speaking as a Jewish American, I'm resentful when some people have taken us to war in Iraq on the grounds that that is necessarily good for Israel and that I as a Jew should feel that way. I think it's two separate issues and I resent it when people try to grandfather me into it. I'm sure there are plenty of American Jews who think we should have gone into Iraq for that reason. It's impossible to generalize about any group.
CM: In your book, "The Greatest Story Ever Sold," when you are analyzing the sins of the Bush administration in terms of distorting the facts, how do you defend against spin in your own writing?
FR: There is a difference between spin and having a point of view. You have to have a point of view as a columnist or an opinion journalist. It has to be based on facts. What we've had with this administration is that they have created a fictional story untethered from the facts. They felt as a top Bush aide said that the reality-based community can go its own way and that, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
For instance, to take recent events as when the president of the United States uses Osama bin Laden's name like 18 or 19 times as he did in a press conference last week and implies that he is in some way directing the war in Iraq, which is by and large a sectarian civil war, that is creating a false reality. And that's why I think the country with this administration has gotten into so much trouble.

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