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The Art of Impeachment

February 15th 2021


Paralyzed last week by the Impeachment Trial. The vote found me here at this desk on Rue de la Baume, where I have worked for eight years. A frozen Saturday evening, two computer screens blazing with MSNBC and CNN for the lead up to the vote. My 90 year old Mom sharing this with me on FaceTime. I heard her television on the kitchen table in the house where I was raised. Where my father lectured us at the dinner table about civil rights and Democratic politics. We are so far away and still we are together. She is not emotional, her raw cynical survival skills are greater than mine; I still live in hope. I thought a few more Republicans would vote their conscience. Ha!!

When the vote was called, she turned to me with a dry breath, “talk tomorrow, this is what we expected.” I could not look away as House Manager, Jamie Raskin with a voice like an Old Testament sage, seemed to be talking about people dancing around golden idols, destruction and violence surrounding their intoxication. I won’t reiterate his words; having lived through the first Impeachment while still traveling the world, tuning into C-span from a hotel room in Moscow, another in Milan. The second winter of pandemic, I am here still, in Paris for what feels like the end of the world. Not a virus, but evil wrong headed thinking, a big lie. THE BIG LIE.

Tears of sadness, frustration? I care too much; it is not a moot point, watching an accident in real time, frame by frame. How they hunted the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. Blood lust. I am not inventing this. Senators speak of Violence not seen since the Civil War. A vote allows witnesses. The counsel for the former President is an ambulance-chasing attorney from Philadelphia flashing a list of 300 people allegedly. Then one testimony that describes callous disregard for life by the former President.

Robert Longo, Untitled (Riot Cops), 2016. Charcoal on mounted Paper 101 x 140 in, courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York


The political and moral outrage that has rumbled through our veins since 2016 inspired Richard Milazzo, my esteemed friend, poet, critic and curator to accept the guest editorship of the online magazine OBSzine 3. In the wake of my wanting to reprint and share parts of this again, he has written me a letter.
But in large part it is for “our European Friends.”


How kind and generous of you to remember this project (Art, Poetry and the Pathos of Communication, published originally in OBSZine, No. 3 (2007), which I edited, it seems so long ago I can hardly remember, and to which so many splendid artists, critics, poets and writers, yourself included, contributed. (This online magazine, OBSzine, was founded an spearheaded by Lucio Pozzi, who years ago founded New Observations, when he reacted and broke away from the originators of October magazine. Quite the spirited young man!) And you are right: the words and insights of these contributors still seem pertinent, even if we have a new administration which would emphasize decency and the common good. “Still pertinent,” because the former failed CEO of the United States is now running a self-styled Jeff Davis, parallel, confederate (and counterfeit) administration from a red State that geographically looks more and more like a panting tongue.

I wonder if you would be kind enough to remind our dear European friends, whom I miss so terribly much, that the U.S. has not only a horrific foreign policy (I accidently typed policing) history, and an equally horrifying domestic legacy of racial and social injustice, but that we also have two abiding features I am extremely proud of – the only two I am really proud of: we are still capable of self-criticism or self-critique)even where we may fail, as in the case of the two recent impeachments, including the impending one); and all that is good and worthwhile about our country is built on the shoulders of our immigrants – those who often begin their lives here as poor and helpless but hopeful, and then, almost without fail, become an inspiration to all, endure, log and hard, and come to embody some of our proudest moments as a nation.”

Unreliability, Lucio Pozzi
Unreliability, Lucio Pozzi


“Right around the corner from where I live is a bronze plaque on a building where Emma Lazarus lived, memorializing the excerpt from the sonnet she wrote, “The New Colossus,” in 1883, words we have always and will always associate with the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!


“Interestingly enough, all of us here in New York, who have taken the Staten Island Ferry solely to get a glimpse of the statue (none of us would ever dream of getting off the ferry), and those from around the world who have also passed through our “golden door(s)” to catch a glimpse of the Lady bequeathed to us by the French to celebrate the revolution they helped foment, have always believed, have always wanted to believe, these words are inscribed on the table she holds in her left hand. One woman’s gift to another woman and their gift to us.”

Elliot Schwartz, In Seine, 2017, photographic collage


“Here, again, sculpture and poetry speak to each other in one diverse but unified language Dialectics at work… Emma, who was Jewish, an activist, a poet, and extremely gifted in so many other cultural fields, died at the age of thirty-eight. But she has without a doubt inflamed our imaginations and those of others around the world forever with words that have become the soul of freedom inspiration, and potential.”

I grew up in an extremely racist family in one of the worst Housing Projects in America, and yet I am, or think I am, as far as I can see, color blind….but not really. I see all the colors – all the genders, all the spiritual persuasions – that comprise the United States of America, suddenly I become ecstatic, feel so full of life. This, despite the odds, the physical and spiritual (collective) illnesses we must bear at the moment as the pandemic continues to rage around the globe, giving us tragic but common cause to unite. (If I were going to call this text something, Jill, I would call it “the Poignancy of Dialectics.”)”

Susan Hefuna, Un Do, 2013, Ink on paper, 13.3 x 8.6 in, photo: Achim Kukulies


Richard continues his artful rhapsody on the nature of poetry, political thought, sculpture and social justice with “the young” and the dream consciousness of John Lennon — a fitting update since the magazine’s appearance three years ago. In many ways those of us in New York in the 1980’s would have perhaps been just a bit over that age delineation of being “the young” it seems a reflexive musing about time. In the articles and artworks that fill the pages of OBSzine, N.3, there is a flavor of rebellion and frustration which one carries always if this is the nature of your perceptions and poetic impulses. In what way were we young in those years?

Hard to say, the political climate felt oppressive, New York was transitioning from the bankrupt years of the 1970’s into the high blown shining city and art world mega capital that it would embody until the crash of 1990. The East Village was vibrant, Soho was starting to clean itself up. John Gibson Gallery opened the building at 568 Broadway. It was a time of possibility and seriousness, much of which is pointedly apparent in the memory rich poetics and pathos felt deeply during the last four years by this community. Richard Milazzo in combing the landscape, carries a lamplight of cultural possibility that might redeem us in the darkness. Read On. We will post selections later this week– collected views of this cultural neighborhood now thirty years on.

Donald Bleacher, Victims of Emigrants, 1985, Acrylic and Fabric collage on canvas, 92 x 68 in