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April 4, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Two screenings of A Thin Wall in Bangalore

Two #screenings of #AThinWall are coming up in #Bangalore #India:

– on April 6, 6pm, at #PartlyPurple, an #alternative #art #space [D1 276 SFS 407 Yelahanka New Town, Bangalore 560064, India ]

– on April 8, 5pm, at #NationalGalleryofModernArt [Manekyavelu Mansion, 49 Palace Road, Bangalore 560052, India]

Co-Producer Surbhi Dewan will be in attendance for Q&A. Join her!

Oil painting by Dominique Amendola: City market in Bangalore India

March 29, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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New technology is forcing us to confront the ethics of bringing people back from the dead

Rahnama’s augmented-eternity programs are still in development, but another researcher had developed a slightly different kind of working prototype. Eugenia Kuyda, co-founder of Russian AI start-up Luka, launched a program on their app last year that allows the public to engage with Roman Mazurenko, Kuyda’s best friend, who was killed in car accident in 2015. Kuyda’s aim was to use digital-afterlife technology to create a memorial in the form of a chatbot available to anyone interested in talking to Roman.

[…] Fans of the sci-fi show Black Mirror may recognize a similar situation as the premise of a 2013 episode titled “Be Right Back.” In this story, a widow uses a service to collect her dead partner’s digital footprint (texts, emails, photos, audio recordings) to reconstitute him first into a chatbot able to exchange text messages with her, and then ultimately into a realistic android. The narrative suggests that attempts to preserve our loved ones in a digital afterlife will result in painful repercussions. It also raises the question of whether a service able to turn a dead person into a chatbot would be venturing into an ethical gray area, interfering with our ability to process the reality of death. More here.

March 25, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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#MarchForOurLives

More truth and power in this short speech by this 11 year old than in all of our politicians put together. ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’

March 23, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Joanna Macy reads Rilke’s poem “Widening Circles”

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

More here.

March 23, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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How to change the course of human history

DAVID GRAEBER and DAVID WENGROW: Overwhelming evidence from archaeology, anthropology, and kindred disciplines is beginning to give us a fairly clear idea of what the last 40,000 years of human history really looked like, and in almost no way does it resemble the conventional narrative. Our species did not, in fact, spend most of its history in tiny bands; agriculture did not mark an irreversible threshold in social evolution; the first cities were often robustly egalitarian. Still, even as researchers have gradually come to a consensus on such questions, they remain strangely reluctant to announce their findings to the public­ – or even scholars in other disciplines – let alone reflect on the larger political implications.

[…] in the more established heartlands of urbanisation – Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, the Basin of Mexico – there is mounting evidence that the first cities were organised on self-consciously egalitarian lines, municipal councils retaining significant autonomy from central government. In the first two cases, cities with sophisticated civic infrastructures flourished for over half a millennium with no trace of royal burials or monuments, no standing armies or other means of large-scale coercion, nor any hint of direct bureaucratic control over most citizen’s lives.

Jared Diamond notwithstanding, there is absolutely no evidence that top-down structures of rule are the necessary consequence of large-scale organization. Walter Scheidel notwithstanding, it is simply not true that ruling classes, once established, cannot be gotten rid of except by general catastrophe. To take just one well-documented example: around 200 AD, the city of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico, with a population of 120,000 (one of the largest in the world at the time), appears to have undergone a profound transformation, turning its back on pyramid-temples and human sacrifice, and reconstructing itself as a vast collection of comfortable villas, all almost exactly the same size. It remained so for perhaps 400 years. Even in Cortés’ day, Central Mexico was still home to cities like Tlaxcala, run by an elected council whose members were periodically whipped by their constituents to remind them who was ultimately in charge.

The pieces are all there to create an entirely different world history. For the most part, we’re just too blinded by our prejudices to see the implications. For instance, almost everyone nowadays insists that participatory democracy, or social equality, can work in a small community or activist group, but cannot possibly ‘scale up’ to anything like a city, a region, or a nation-state. But the evidence before our eyes, if we choose to look at it, suggests the opposite. Egalitarian cities, even regional confederacies, are historically quite commonplace. Egalitarian families and households are not. Once the historical verdict is in, we will see that the most painful loss of human freedoms began at the small scale – the level of gender relations, age groups, and domestic servitude – the kind of relationships that contain at once the greatest intimacy and the deepest forms of structural violence. If we really want to understand how it first became acceptable for some to turn wealth into power, and for others to end up being told their needs and lives don’t count, it is here that we should look. Here too, we predict, is where the most difficult work of creating a free society will have to take place. More here.

March 22, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Prelude to our first dance sequence

Shot the prelude to our first dance sequence today – choreographed by Mariko Yamada, filmed by Rajesh Barnabas and Julio Cruz Jr., directed by Mara Ahmed, and performed by Rochester high school students. It was cold but the sun was out. A bracing day, an excellent shoot!

March 22, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country

Sinan Antoon: No one knows for certain how many Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion 15 years ago. Some credible estimates put the number at more than one million. You can read that sentence again. The invasion of Iraq is often spoken of in the United States as a “blunder,” or even a “colossal mistake.” It was a crime. Those who perpetrated it are still at large. Some of them have even been rehabilitated thanks to the horrors of Trumpism and a mostly amnesiac citizenry. (A year ago, I watched Mr. Bush on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” dancing and talking about his paintings.) The pundits and “experts” who sold us the war still go on doing what they do. I never thought that Iraq could ever be worse than it was during Saddam’s reign, but that is what America’s war achieved and bequeathed to Iraqis. More here.

March 21, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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From Citizen: “Some years there exists a wanting to escape…” by Claudia Rankine

My new film about racism in America is inspired by Claudia Rankine’s book “Citizen: An American Lyric.”

Here’s “Some years there exists a wanting to escape” from the same book:

You are not sick, you are injured—

you ache for the rest of life.

How to care for the injured body,

the kind of body that can’t hold
the content it is living?

And where is the safest place when that place
must be someplace other than in the body?

More here.

March 20, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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The 16-Year-Old Algerian Artist Who Influenced Picasso and Matisse

Jane Drinkard: Baya was born Fatma Haddad, in Bordj el-Kiffan, a beachy suburb of the city of Algiers, at the North-Western tip of Africa. Orphaned by age 5, she was adopted as a teenager by Marguerite Camina Benhoura, a French intellectual who noticed Baya’s artistic talent from a young age. In her homes in Algiers and the South of France, Benhoura provided Baya with art materials and access to French and Maghrebi art magnates.
In 1947, when Baya was just 16, she was discovered by Aimé Maeght, an established French art dealer, and André Breton, who included Baya’s works in the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme at Galerie Maeght in Paris. Almost overnight she caught the attention of Picasso and Matisse, among other prominent artists, for her colorful, spontaneous and “childlike” compositions. “Her work allows us to question so many different histories,” said curator Natasha Boas. “The outsider. The outlier. The woman artist.” More here.

March 20, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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talk at women’s club in rochester

spoke at a women’s club today on the topic of “demystifying muslim women in america.” started by unpacking islamophobia, as american muslim women exist within that political context, along with muslim men, not in a state of non-mixité outside of it. it was a full house (maybe 100 or more) and people engaged assiduously with all the multimedia info i shared with them. the best part of the Q&A was when i reflected on my own journey to decolonial thinking, jump-started by reading aimé césaire, and dr walter cooper (who was in the audience) chimed in to tell me about the time he met césaire in martinique and had a 5 hour long conversation with him. it blew my mind. one degree of separation between aimé césaire and i! my life is now complete!