To put it simply, geography just isn’t a strong suit for many people. When I decided to finally learn all of the countries of the world last year, more shocking than the fact that I achieved the goal was the state of my international geography knowledge before embarking on the quest. On the other hand, I’ve always felt pretty confident in my U.S. geography –- until now.
A compelling art project launched by Hisachika Takahashi in 1971-1972 asked famous artists to draw a map of the U.S. from memory. Some of their results have me questioning how well I actually could execute the same task myself. Other results leave me marveling at the quick-witted artists (namely Joseph Kosuth who decided to only draw New York City and Los Angeles).
All these years later, the images are now compiled into one show, titled From Memory, which opens today at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City and will run through October 19. The group of map-creating, well-known artists includes Jasper Johns, Joseph Kosuth, Robert Rauschenberg and Gordon Matta-Clark.
See a slideshow after their maps below.%Slideshow-84008%
Go to Manhattan‘s Lever House, and you may see that lighter – or hand grenade – that was taken from you a JFK airport. Through the end of the year, the free exhibition will consist of photographs taken by Taryn Simon of items seized from passengers and mail packages coming into the United States. She spent five days clicking away at more than 1,000 items.
The exhibition, called “Contraband,” includes everything you’d expect to find at JFK: Cuban cigars, pirated DVDs, bongs and hand grenades. Also, there were animal parts and heroin. You’ll have to decide for yourself what’s strangest, but here are MSNBC’s thoughts:
So what’s the strangest thing in Simon’s new “Contraband” show? Hard to say, but the horse sausage and cow manure tooth powder have to be up at the top of the list.
A new fine art exhibition kicked off in Pyongyang last week, and according to the Korea Central News Agency, it’s a must-see. If you’re down with the “anti-Japanese struggle,” I suspect you’ll be right at home at the Pyongyang International Cultural Center.
There are “at least 60 fine art works” on display, among them pieces created by Pyongyang-area artists during the “period of the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle.” At the top of the list are paintings with the catchy titles “Return Blood for Blood and Oppose Arms with Arms” and “Arirang on Jiansanfeng,” They highlight the efforts of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, and his first wife, the Dear Leader’s mother, Kim Jong Suk. Both, according to the country’s official view of the past.
And, you won’t want to miss “You Should Conduct Combat Training under the Simulated Condition of Real Battle,” which addresses “the commanding trait of General Secretary Kim Jong Il who has strengthened the Korean People’s Army into the invincible revolutionary armed forces.” No exhibition, of course, would be complete without a Kim Jong-il painting!
The KCNA continues:
Among the works on display are Korean painting “Grievance on the Shore of Lake Pujon”, oil painting “Echo in Ulsa Year (1905)”, woodcut “Sea of Blood in Northern Jiandao” and poster “Brigandish Japanese Imperialists Who Forced Koreans to Change Their Names to Japanese Ones!”, which expose the hair-raising atrocities committed by the Japanese imperialists.
Was the Thursday opening well-attended? This is the best we’ll get: “Officials concerned, artists and working people in the city went round the fine art works on display.”
We travel for many reasons. Maybe it’s to relax, learn something new or see friends and family. And then there are the so-called “adventure travelers” – sorry guys, you just don’t know the meaning of the expression. Keep your kayaks and your climbing gear in the garage, and trade them for a pencil so you can take some notes. Robert Park is redefining “adventure.”
Park, 28 years old, announced that he was leaving South Korea with other human rights activists (who asked Reuters not to reveal their names) to bring “God’s love” to the citizens on the northern side of the border. North Korea has the unfortunate habit of arresting foreigners who do not enter the country legally, which can be difficult to do because of visa constraints and limitations on how travelers from some countries are permitted to cross into the most reclusive nation in the world.
Park, who is an American citizen, and his crew were reported to have crossed from China into North Korea on Saturday. The entry point was Hoeryong, in the northeast part of the country. The border up there isn’t heavily patrolled.
The motivation for Park’s excursion is religious – as a Christian, he believes, it is his duty to make the trip. And, he’s made it clear that he isn’t looking for a rescue effort from the feds if something goes wrong. Park said, “I don’t want President Obama to come and pay to get me out. But I want the North Korean people to be free.” He continued, “Until the concentration camps are liberated, I do not want to come out. If I have to die with them, I will.”
Why has there been all this interest in North Korea? Obviously, it’s among the most difficult places for outsiders to enter, a problem which is compounded for human rights activists and the media. Also, there is a human rights record which has attracted considerable attention everywhere else in the world (except maybe Somalia). A U.S. State Department report published earlier this year lists the following abuses:
• The prohibition of freedom of speech and association
• The use of arbitrary killings to cause fear in the population
• An absence of due process
• “Severe torture and abuse,” which can include forced abortions and sexual abuse
• Political imprisonment (up to 200,000 inmates)
• Monitored correspondence
• Imprisonment of entire families based on the deeds of one member
The State Department also claims that North Korea maintains “control over all artistic and academic products,” though the notion that the government keeps an iron grip on the arts doesn’t fit completely with a North Korean art show I saw in New York a year ago or what is on display in Australia.