Category Archives: Policy Mic

Jew in a Box Exhibit is Controversial, But Not Offensive

A museum in Berlin is showcasing a new, more personal kind of art: a Jew in a box. Yes it sounds absurd and strange, but despite the controversy it has sparked, it is actually a creative way to allow people to discuss a difficult topic.

After Norway’s Tea with a Muslim campaign, what’s so strange about asking questions to a Jewish person in a museum?

These days it is easy for one to ignore the people standing in line at the grocery, bank or any public space. Creativity is needed to encourage interaction, and this exhibit does just that.

The exhibit at Berlin’s Jewish Museum is called “The Whole Truth … Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jews” and in addition to the “Jew in a Box” there are interviews with rabbis and excerpts of Curb Your Enthusiasm and even a handwritten sign from a New York restaurant that reads “THE CHINESE RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES WOULD LIKE TO EXTEND OUR THANKS TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE. WE DO NOT COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMS… BUT WE ARE PROUD AND GRATEFUL THAT YOUR GOD INSISTS YOU EAT OUR FOOD ON CHRISTMAS.”

The New Yorker describes Connecticut native, Bill Glucroft’s experience of serving as the “Jew in a box.”

As he said, “When I heard I was going in the box, the first thing I thought of was Eichmann,” said Glucroft. “The next thing I thought of was Justin Timberlake.”

“Most Germans don’t know any Jews,” he added. “As a young twenty-first-century Jew, I don’t want to be defined solely by the Holocaust.”

The museum’s curator, Michal Friedlander an American-born German Jew hopes that “The Whole Truth” will help Germans challenge anti-Semitic beliefs.

In the New York Times, Friedlander said most of those who criticized the show had not actually seen it. “That’s the whole point, what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate and letting people come to their own conclusions.”

The museum defended the exhibit in a CNN video blog. 

For at least some young Germans, the exhibit proves intriguing. As Carola Jaeckel, President of a student group of the German-Israeli Society in Bamberg said, “The exhibition works with prejudices and cliches.”

Though she was disappointed by the fact that it does not go into detail, she added that, “Cliches enable an easy access to a sensitive subject such as Judaism, Antisemitism and the Holocaust for those who have not been in touch with Jews and Jewish life yet,” and she plans to visit the exhibit next week.

Picture Credit: Gawker

Tilda Swinton MoMA Sleeping: Toronto’s Queer “Bed-In” Might Prove More Artistic

You’ve heard of the sit-in, but this remix of thebed-in takes activism and art to a whole new level. I wrote last week about how Tilda Swinton sleeping in the MoMA is not art. But,Reena Katz’s exhibit, “love takes the worry out of being close: public assemblies in bed with queers” is a concept that takes art and protest to a beautifully new and thought-provoking level.

The piece converts Toronto’s Harbourfront’s Studio Theatre into a free, public hotel suite re-imagined by Reena Katz. Katz twists the famous Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s iconic picture and turns it into a Public Commons and Master Suite with LGBT folks in bed. Audiences are invited to come and go “participating in conversations, game sessions, cuddles and crafting parties for free,” according to the exhibit. Each day will feature different artists, academics, cultural workers, and musicians, exploring political issues affecting LGBT communities, ranging from intimacy and decolonization to pop culture and civic engagement, one should expect “flowers, respectful debate, radical facilitation and queen-sized love.”

What is all this lying in bed about? As Katz explains, “Though they were officially straight, Yoko and John’s infamous gesture of non-violent protest against the US-led war in Vietnam queered the idea of protest in the minds of the public.”

She adds that during a period of massive civil disobedience across the Western world, the “Bed-Ins shifted the site of dissent from raging bodies demonstrating in the street, to a bustling hotel room, packed with everyday folks, various long-haired celebrities and a pair of strong lovers who saw their honeymoon as an opportunity to model peace.”

Ono and Lennon understood how to capitalize on the potential of the late 60s, utilizing technologies such as live television and radio broadcast. Katz will be using texts, Tweets and livestreams from the bed, highlighting the interactivity of our current age. Focusing on intimacy, Katz and her crew explore the cultural resistance evident in contemporary movements such asIdle No More and LGBT Solidarity.

Reena Katz’s previous work focuses mainly on sonic information present in the human voice. In her art, she uses live and recorded talking, whispering and yelling to consider bodies as sites of knowledge, and communication as a social and political practice. Through audience participation in public space, Katz highlights the relationship between collective voice, the body politic and the empathic act of listening. Her installations and performances have been performed and exhibited in several countries around the world.

Bed-Ins as part of Hatch 2013 will take place April 9–12, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. with a Final Presentation and Discussion on April 13, 8 p.m.–10 p.m. – $10/$12 Harbourfront Studio Theatre, York Quay Centre, Main Floor. 

Tilda Swinton MoMa: Sleeping Actress Exhibit is Not Art

When I heard some lady was sleeping in a glass box and calling it art, admittedly, I was intrigued. Is it a commentary on rape culture, a throwback to the pioneering work of Coco Fusco, or a new initiative empowering women to occupy their own space?

Sadly, it is none of these. It is simply a British actress (Tilda Swinton) showing the world how she sleeps. It is a sad day for art when some random British actress can sleep in a museum and all the homeless people have to sleep outside.

The Twittersphere seems to agree with this point. As @jscottcanion says on Twitter, “How about making Tilda Swinton hang out outside Penn Station all day and letting a homeless person take a nap at MOMA? 

Andrea Peyser’s rant in the New York Post sums it up for me:

“Tilda who? Swinton, perhaps the least-known Academy Award winner this side of her home in Scotland (she won for 2007’s Michael Clayton), is vying for the kind of fame whoredom one usually cannot buy while keeping her clothes on. She’s Lindsay Lohan, minus the shoplifting. Kim Kardashian, minus the pregnancy, greed and major booty.”

It would be a funny April Fool’s joke, but sadly it is true. The details? Swinton will be sleeping in an elevated box six more times this year. But it is all unplanned, you can’t plan your weekend around a trip to the MoMA to see her sleep. Alas! The glass box includes cushions as well as a water jug. The surprise performance piece is called “The Maybe”. A source from the MoMA toldGothamist, “Each performance lasts the whole day the museum is open,” the source also said that Swinton and her box were located near the ticket collectors, but the location may change for future “performances.”

There is a British lady sleeping in a box and the MoMA has decided to deem it art. The world of art world must be running out of ideas.

Hollywood vs. Bollywood: An Interview With Filmmaker James Kicklighter

Growing up in California, I was raised with a substantial Hollywood influence, but the Hollywood that was part of my development comprised of musicals such as Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Disney films filled with song and dance. With Oscar season here, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering whether Bollywood is gaining power compared to Hollywood.

Looking at income generation, Bollywood sold a total of 3.6 billion tickets and earned revenues of $1.3 billion, whereas Hollywood films sold 2.6 billion tickets, but generated revenues of $51 billion. The industries vary greatly in what it costs to make a film, though the average Bollywood film is budgeted at $1.3 million, Hollywood has an average $13.6 million.

To gain a better understanding of Bollywood and Hollywood from someone on the ground and in the industry, I spoke with director of Desires of the HeartJames Kicklighter.

Does he think Bollywood is becoming more powerful than Hollywood? Kicklighter said that, “In the entertainment business, power pertains to money,” so until Bollywood begins exporting more films that are successful in markets outside of Asia, “it will not have the seat of power.”

Kicklighter notes that as Hollywood explores partnerships with financing and distribution deals, “it is clear that the market is important to Hollywood.” Kicklighter sees the main barrier to Bollywood’s power is not film output, but the accessibility to Western markets: “Bollywood has a style that is uniquely its own. As the international market becomes more important than the domestic market, I am curious to see how this relationship evolves over the next few decades.”

While we may be able to see singing and dancing in Hollywood films, Hollywood still influences Bollywood. As Kicklighter said, “In emerging markets, I believe that the Western lens is the most important.”

Is Slumdog Millionaire a Bollywood film? As the New York Times wrote, “despite the director’s strenuous denials, it could well be a Bollywood film.” The film uses the homegrown version ofWho Wants to Be a Millionaire, an American game show adapted for an Indian audience.

Kicklighter discussed his experience traveling in Turkey last year, while preparations were being made for an American version of ABC’s Revenge. American companies are going beyond selling U.S. TV shows abroad, “Now, they are selling shows with pre-existing scripts to networks in local countries, casting their own local favorite actors. To my knowledge, other countries are not doing anything like that.”

Kicklighter’s most recent film, Desires of the Heart explores facets of two cultures. It is the story of Dr. Kris Sharma (portrayed by Val Lauren), a psychiatrist from India practicing in Savannah, Ga., where he meets Madeline (Alicia Minshew), a local artist with a mysterious past. But as their relationship begins to blossom in America, Kris is summoned home by his brother, Pradeep (Gulshan Groverto marry the woman chosen by his parents.

Kicklighter believes that as the world continues to grow closer, it is the homogenization of culture that is the most negative aspect of globalization.

During the course of shooting part of the film in India, Kicklighter and his team were in Rajasthan, in the province closest to Pakistan. As he recalls, “I remember seeing a large poster of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s film Looper at the movie theater right in front of the market. There were cows sitting in the road while dust flew up from the stores. The building had its own local flavor, designed like the other area buildings.”

He saw this in stark contrast to the megaplex in New Delhi, which was just like any other in the U.S., next to “Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Hard Rock Cafe, Gucci, among every other global brand you can imagine.”

What may be more pervasive are the retail malls which echo a global influence of American power, and thus, as Kicklighter sees it, “the power of Hollywood.” The question may not be one of Bollywood mimicking Hollywood, but a global cinema usurping the local.

“I fear that the days of the small, local theater in Rajasthan, even though they carry American movies, are soon to be in the past.”

Mindy Kaling is a Role Model For Everyone, Not Just Women Of Color

This article originally appeared in PolicyMic.

mindy, kaling, is, a, role, model, for, everyone,, not, just, women, of, color,

Mindy Kaling might just be the new role model for all of us. Notice, I do not say; Mindy Kaling is the new role model for Indian women. If we are going to say she is good, let’s give her credit for being more than just “good for a woman” or “good for an Indian” or “good for a woman of color.” The truth is Mindy Kaling is both witty and smart.

Mindy Kaling (whose name at birth was Vera Chokalingam) stars in The Mindy Project which premiered on FOX in September.The Mindy Project tells the story of the eternal search for career balance and a love life. While the show plays into some of the stereotypes of Indians in America (of course she is a doctor), it also expands on the Indian playing the token Indian. She is not a token at all. Let us rejoice, we have a women of color as the lead character! When was the last time we had that? Margaret Cho andUgly Betty’s America Ferrera are the only two names that come to mind.

Though success cannot be measured by Facebook likes, and Twitter followers alone, Kaling has accrued 111 thousand facebook likes, over 2 million twitter followers and has written her ownbook. She is both writer and star of The Mindy Project. As New York Magazine describes, “every detail of the set, has had to pass through Kaling’s brain and reflect her unique worldview as a self-described ‘chubby’ 33-year-old Indian-American female comic by way of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Dartmouth College; and eight years as both a writer and a cast member on NBC’s The Office.”

Kaling’s inspiration for her character comes in part from her mother, who was an OB/GYN. Though Kaling may seem like she is new in the TV scene, she has been a writer with The Office, since 2004. Over the course of her time at The Office, she wrote 24 episodes, directed two episodes, three webisodes and received an Emmy nomination for “Niagara,” which was co-written with The Office creator Greg Daniels.

What about the fact that she is Indian? Does her country of ancestry support or detract from her character? She managed to get through the first episode of The Mindy Project without any overt Indian references, which can be seen as a positive or as a negative depending on your perspective.

Kaling does add a dash of race humor, but not in a way that excludes her myriad of fans. When a car nearly runs her over as she is drunkenly riding a bike, she screams “Racist!” But, beyond that one line there is no mention of race. According to Kaling, she isn’t interested in having her skin color, or her gender define her. “I never want to be called the funniest Indian female comedian that exists,” she tells New York Magazine. “I feel like I can go head-to-head with the best white, male comedy writers that are out there. Why would I want to self-categorize myself into a smaller group than I’m able to compete in?”

So how is Kaling’s character portrayed beyond a woman who struggles with balancing love and life? New York Magazine describes Kaling as “disastrous but still hopeful at love.” In the show, she plays into the age-old metanarrative of a woman searching for a man. But at least she has a job (more than we can say for Hannah on Girls). Kaling goes beyond the preteen-esque youngster as portrayed by Zooey Deschanel’s Jess on New Girl. She’s found her life path, she has had sex with more than a couple of people, and she is confident.

The Mindy Project feels like a more honest version of Sex and the City. As New York Magazinewrites, “Both the mainstream and the marginalized can identify with her; by defying easy categorization, she’s become the contemporary Every-woman, both a Mary and a Rhoda.” A perpetual rom-com in sitcom form that provides the audience with something we can all almost relate to and a lead character we can all respect both on and off screen.

Kaling should perhaps be everyone’s role model. A successful person realizing her dreams. I look forward to seeing how the real Kaling, as well as her character in the Mindy Project end up.


India Rape Victim’s Death Prompts Vigils Across India, But This is Not Enough

This post originally appeared in PolicyMic

Mumbai’s vigil, in memory of the unidentified 23-year-old Delhi gang rape victim, took place on Saturday December 29, with attendees marching nearly 4 kilometers, from the Gandhi statue at Juhu beach to Kaifi Azmi Park.

protest sign

The mobilization of 1,500 people via Twitter and Facebook is admirable, but it is still not enough to halt rape across the country. Even in Mumbai, with a population of 14-20 million people (depending on the source), there should have been more people in the streets.

The rape victim died in a hospital in Singapore on December 29. The Delhi gang rape occurred on December 16, after the victim and a friend attended a movie. After boarding a bus, they were assaulted by five other passengers. On December 26, the victim was sent to Singapore for further treatment. The rape has prompted protests in Delhi and major cities throughout India.

According to Zee News, the day is being called “Black Saturday” with people all over the country protesting against the injustice.

Prompted by the tweet from actress Shabana Azmi: “Citizens of Mumbai including theatre, film personalities lead silent march at 5.30 pm today from Juhu Beach gandhi statue 2 Kaifi Azmi Park,” The Mumbai vigil maintained a somber mood. Signs ranged from “My body, my city, my rights” to “It’s not her shame it is ours” and “Girl child, boy child, our child.”

According to police, the crowd consisted of about 1,500 people. The marchers included women and men, as well as Bollywood stars such as Kailash Kher, director Satish Kaushik, and famous lyricist Javed Akhtar, in addition to others.

As Aruna Prakash, a radio jockey for 90.8 Jaaga Mumbai said, “I’m a women, I was a girl, and I am a Delhite.” Prakash was “enraged, angered and sad,” at the news. She remarked that in the past girls were safe, but now that is not the case.

Sonam Revanker a young professional in Mumbai came to the protest with her brother. As she said, “It’s time someone takes some action.” Revanker heard of the vigil through Facebook and Twitter and decided to come with her brother.

Others accidentally joined, such as Ravi Joshi, an IT professional who works in Mumbai. “We just came here to show visitors,” Joshi said. “Even I have a daughter and I have sisters too. What happened was very cruel. Like a monstrous act, not a human act.” Joshi and his family planned to march with the crowd for a short time.

As Bollywood actor Sameer Kochhar said, “I’m here to show solidarity and support. As an Indian and a Delhiite, I am saddened.” He walked in order to “show that we do care and we need a change to happen.”

Kochhar has spoken out against the Delhi rape in the past, writing for Telly Chakkar.

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women called on the Indian government to “do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women’s lives more safe and secure.”

Newspaper articles and opinion pieces have ranged from calling for castrating the perpetrators to calling for speedy action when it comes to rape cases. Some state governments are calling for all women teams to deal with crimes against women.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Aruna Broota, who is quoted in The Hindu said that to counter the rising fears among women and girls there is a need to educate boys and men. “They have to begin with some kind of workshops and therapy in schools and they must include the boys. There is an absolute need to involve the boys and men and to address the hierarchy in gender relationships.”

Today’s vigil will be followed by a protest on December 31 from Colaba to Gateway of India.

Prague Street Art Exhibit Puts a Modern Spin on What’s Museum Worthy

This article originally appeared in PolicyMic

I’ve been coming to Prague almost every year since my father moved here 15 years ago. I’ve seen my fair share of art exhibits, and “Stuck on the City” has proven to be one of my favorites. Bringing street art to Prague and contrasting this with Prague’s old city makes for an intriguing exhibit.

Prague claims, like many cities, to be in the heart of Europe. Whether or not Prague is the heart of Europe is open for discussion, but the fact that Prague is a city steeped in history well-known for its art scene is not under question.

2The exhibit is Prague’s first representative graffiti and street art show with nearly 25 artists from around the world.

As the exhibit flyer says, they are united by “the city,” which is “their prime source of inspiration, their studio, canvas, and exhibition venue at one time.”

In an interview with Blanka Cermakova one of the co-organizers of the “Stuck on the City,” she said the graffiti and street art scene in the Czech Republic has become increasingly “popular and visible.” The exhibit took a small group of people almost a year to prepare.

As Cermakova said, “We wanted to bring the best from the best and to show different attitudes and nationalities.” Initially, the idea was also to incorporate graffiti history as well, but due to high insurance costs they were not able to include this aspect in the exhibit.

In an interview with European-raised Brooklyn-based brothers How and Nosm whose artwork was featured in the exhibit, they said, the city of Prague, “has to reinvent itself over and over to stay modern and competitive with other large metropoles so it is quite natural to venture into newer art movements like graffiti and street art.”


How and Nosm’s installation took four days to paint, with another two days installing objects and building sculptures. As How and Nosm said, “The viewer should find himself within a world created by the artists and engage in a thought process inspired by what he sees.”

They see the exhibit as evidence of what has been going on around the globe for more then 40 years – painting walls. In contrast to other exhibits, “Stuck on the City” included graffiti and street art.  As the brothers said, “Adding conceptual artists and video installations to this group shows not only the development of this young art form but also the creative growth the artists themselves undergo with time.”

When asked about bringing street art into the gallery space, How and Nosm said that “An artist shouldn’t worry about his actions as long he knows that they are done with honesty and with the goal to reach creative and personal happiness.” Adding that the monetary gain from gallery work, “should support the artist’s freedom to continue working indoors and outdoors.”

It is also important to bring this art movement into a gallery and museum environment in order to document it properly, it is now an integral part of society and should have its respectful place in history.

As How and Nosm say of street art in Prague: “Older graffiti writers have evolved artistically and are now respected contemporary artists, which is so well documented in this exhibition.”

“Stuck on the City” is unique, not only because of the subject matter, but also because the artists were allowed to paint directly on the walls, because the space will be redone following the exhibit. As Cermakova said, “The difference is in the ephemerality, what was created for the show will be destroyed after the last exhibiting day, as happens on the street, nothing will survive. Everything was prepared few day in the gallery space so it was like a workshop of a big crew on one spot.”

Cermakova said that the reaction from the public has been positive overall, though she says journalists are still asking if this kind of art should be in gallery spaces.

With around 250 people visiting per day the gallery expects to see around 25,000 visitors overall.

City Gallery Prague, Municipal Library, 2nd floor, Mariánské square 1, Prague 1
Exhbition hours: October 10, 2012 – January 13, 2013. Tue – Sun 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.