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Back to the barricades

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Mark Tribe, a professor in Modern Culture & Media at Brown, and best known for creating the new media art news and archive Rhizome, has a project in which he recreates some of the anti-war speeches and demonstrations from the Vietnam era.

Does this offer a prism for rethinking Iraq, or is it a way of not contending with today's issues? Greg Cook writes about the topic in this week's Phoenix.

The project — part art, part protest — began in September 2006 with an actress standing before a modest crowd in New York’s Central Park, reciting a speech that Coretta Scott King gave three weeks after her husband was assassinated in 1968: “The work of peacemaking must continue until the last gun is silent.” The speeches (view them at Tribe’s Web site: nothing.org) call for racial equality, aid for the poor, and an end to the Vietnam War.

The speeches are moving — and disorienting. Tribe purposely selected texts that are alive in their parallels with today — particularly to the war in Iraq.

What's the upshot?

[Tribe's project] has already attracted favorable write-ups in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and New York magazine — even though the project is only beginning to appear in galleries.

“I have gotten way more press for my little re-enactments than 20,000 marchers get,” Tribe acknowledges. The lesson, he thinks, is that media-savvy theatrics deployed by ’60s activists like Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies may be a key in bringing attention to causes.

At the same time, the project’s catchy time-warping, everything-old-is-new-again concept perhaps most makes it a creature of the art world, where it stands part of a trend in historical re-enactment.

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