Saturday, April 20, 2013

"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."


This from Albert Einstein.  He was talking about the Holocaust, but you can certainly apply the thinking to a number of situations.  Oh look!  Here's a photo of the United States Senate in action ...

But that's not the photo I wanted you to see.  This is what I wanted you to see ...

It's a can of Zyklon B gas.  It's part of the slide show connected with a Times article titled "In the basement of a school known for science, a Holocaust museum."  What an extraordinary story.  I insist that you click here and read the whole thing.  It's not very long.  My lips were not tired by the end.

At one point in the article somebody poses the question "Why do you want a Holocaust museum in a high school that's 62% Asian?"  The answer is that great scientists have to be ethical people.  I agree. And staring at this stupid little can, with the word 'giftgas!' on the label, and thinking about all its implications is not a bad place to start.

I whipped out my google translator app and typed in "giftgas."  It recognized the word as German and translated it as "poison gas."  

We live in an ironic world, friends.  We live in an ironic world because we also live in a very fucked up world and irony is a nice way to insert a layer of insulation between us and all that shittyness. As a painter I blame Andy Warhol for making irony a legitimate artistic mode.  So you'd think I would be immune to it by now.  But I'm not even sure what to say about giftgas.

What I will say about Warhol, who I alternately loathe and admire (and as I wander off on this thread let me just say I don't want to trivialize the impact of the picture of the can of gas you see above with the picture of the can of soup you see below), is that he knew something about the iconographic power of a simple object.

His time might have been better spent painting gas cans, not soup cans.  But it's too late for that now.

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