Monday, November 24, 2008

Pose here, humanity, for your passport photo

What deserves to be our passport photo? - our as in us, as in all of us, as in the species, the human animal?

One early verdict is in: from Parry Harnden, a member of the International Surrealist Group, expressed in his short story "Windbago," which opens The Somnambulist Footprints: A Collection of Surrealist Tales (Oyster Moon Press, 2008, a funky holiday present for thinkdreaming people).

The verdict is offered by a character in his (?) tale, one Councilwoman Nancy Grimes, who opines that Goya's Disasters of War "could serve as mankind's passport photo."

It's a clever suggestion, since Disasters of War is an extensive series of prints, in which (therefore) a large number of people could find their actual likeness. Of course, that's not what Councilwoman Grimes (or the Surrealist casting her shadow on the page) has in mind, really. It's more about the depravity.

When I made these sketches of Disasters of War in New York, many years ago, I summarized one of the many brutal and graphic images: "This is what you were born for (puking into the pile of corpses as you join them)." That sums up Disasters of War, pretty well. That's what Councilwoman Grimes (and, perhaps, Surrealist Harnden) thinks belongs on our passport photo.

I'd like to make an alternate suggestion for that passport photo, drawn from the history of art, something with a little lets guts (in the sense of spilled innards) and more courage (in the noble sense), more hope. Less in the spirit of Dick Cheney (a disaster of war), more along the lines of Barack Obama (a profile in courage).

Any ideas? You don't have to comment here - you can do your own blog and send me a link, or hit me up on BookFace or MySpaz, if you play any of that. I'll be thinking on it, too.

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