Introduction to “Stories We Tell” and “Man on the Moon”

The following two essays were written in response to now passed political moments. I feel, however, that they retain their relevance as cultural critiques reflecting on our current moment through their discussion of events that played important roles in bringing us to this very fractured point in history. These critiques also reflect on my own art practice and how I choose my imagery and develop that imagery. In my art as in these essays I look at the ways our understanding of our world is guided by subtle forces (through words, narratives and images) which we tend to ignore and see as irrelevant or unimportant to our own lives. It is these subtle social forces and the cultural myths from which they arise that the pieces here investigate.

The first essay, ”Stories We Tell”, was written right after the awful November 2016 elections. I wrote it to explain both to myself and my friends, and whoever else might read it, why I got so worked up and felt (and still do feel) such deep anger at the stories that have been flung at Hillary Clinton from her initial appearance on the national stage, when her husband first ran for president until now. But I also wrote it because I learned through my junior high school experiences (discussed in the essay) to understand how fabricated stories become facts solely by their constant repetition. It’s in these continuously repeated stories where we delineate the parameters of our societal truths. How these narratives are shaped and disseminated controls how we define ourselves, our place in the social order, and who we understand to be outside that “order”. Don’t forget we (all of us – including you) are tribal, we are herd animals, and we all want and need to be inside our group. We will believe and behave in ways that insure this belonging.

The second essay, “About Miss America and The Man On The Moon”, was written around 2004-05. I was deeply upset to watch my country get into another so clearly unjustified war after all we had “learned” from Vietnam (and before that the forever unresolved conflict in Korea and so on). What made us assume we had, finally, this time, for sure, “the truth” in this particular situation when all experts and all of history was screaming otherwise. I knew it was more than just a desire for revenge for 9/11 that the war in Afghanistan had not yet satiated. But why were those who should and did know better going along with the propagandists and war hawks in the Bush administration who were so intent on pushing us yet again into another ill advised war on foreign shores. Where did we get the idea that we were this “just” empire designated to rescue the world (and from what)? Had we always seen ourselves as this knight in shinning armor, the lone beacon on the hill? This essay isn’t a direct answer to these questions but rather a look at places where these ideas find their justification. It explores the images in my own work I was using to help me see why my nation found this unnecessary war acceptable and why propagandistic calls to this war were finding a receptive audience among those who should have known better.