Clinton Fein: Please Lie to Me Art Mur 15th Anniversary Exhibition
Montreal gallery, Art Mur is located at 5826 rue St-Hubert. "Please Lie to Me," features Clinton Fein along with a group of talented artists, including the highly controversial Chinese artist duo, the Gao Brothers
Saturday November 5, 2011 - December 17, 2011
"No" to Torture Defying Torture - The Art of Dissent
A conversation with historian/critic/activist Peter Selz and artists Clinton Fein and Richard Kamler.
Location: UC Berkeley Art Museum Theater, 2621 Durant Avenue, Berkeley
Oct 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm
Kamler also asked South Africa's infamous Clinton Fein to contribute. You remember him: last year, his wall-sized photographs re-creating Abu Ghraib torture scenes reverberated like mortar bombs throughout the 49 Geary art complex. Imagine what he could do with a white dove.
"Who says what's officially annoying? Is that a business we really want our government to be in?" -- Clinton Fein, purveyor of the website Annoy.com, complaining about a bill in Congress that would make it a federal crime to "annoy" someone over the Internet.
"It's a stupid law that has slipped in under the radar," says Clinton Fein, a San Francisco-based artist who runs annoy.com, a website that he says offers "unique and irreverent" commentary on politics and culture.
Clinton Fein, who runs the Annoy.com Web site, is also aghast. His site is specifically set up to annoy people through, among other means, anonymous postcards sent through the mail that direct the recipient to read the sender's message at the Annoy.com site. Fein calls the new legislation annoying.
The nation's new cyberstalking restrictions started this month. The legislation updates laws designed to protect people from harrassment. The updated law makes it illegal to use the Internet to harrass someone. But a provision of the legislation also adds the word "annoy" to the types of communication that's illegal.
One of the people who picked up on this new language is the creator of the Web site annoy.com. Clinton Fein calls himself a political artist. He's based in San Francisco. He photoshops irreverant and frequently offensive digital postcards for users to send anonymously to whomever they want--the attorney general of the United States, for example, or perhaps your boss. Fein readily admits to pushing legal boundaries. But he wonders who, under the new law, decides what is legally annoying.
First, we will discover what Section 113 truly means when someone challenges the law. A candidate being mentioned on the Internet is Annoy.com; the site offers a "service by which people send politically incorrect postcards without being required to furnish their identity."
The site owner Clinton Fein has a history of "seeking declaratory and injunctive relief" against the Communications Decency Act of 1996 through which "indecent" computer communication that is intended to "annoy" was criminalized. Fein believes Section 113 "warrant[s] a constitutional challenge."
Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime. It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.
Clinton Fein, a San Francisco resident who runs the Annoy.com site, says a feature permitting visitors to send obnoxious and profane postcards through e-mail could be imperiled.
"Who decides what's annoying? That's the ultimate question," Fein said. He added: "If you send an annoying message via the United States Post Office, do you have to reveal your identity?"
Civil liberties groups have vowed to fight the legislation in the courts under the First Amendment, claiming that it would make it impossible for whistleblowers to operate without putting themselves at risk.
Clinton Fein, a South African activist who runs Annoy.com, was scathing about the new law.
"It appears that one is guilty of a crime if one were simply to 'utilise' a telecoms device 'with intent to annoy' a person regardless of the content or even in its absence," he said. "A conduct rather than a content crime; perhaps waving a BlackBerry in someone's face."
Tonight, Toomey Tourell Projects -- an extension of Toomey Tourell Gallery
where I launched my career and with whom have had three solo shows to date -- opens
its doors at 575 Sutter. Their inaugural exhibition,
Clinton Fein: Recap will draw selections from a decade of my work, or as
they expressed it so well, "the artist's prismatic political output, reinvigorating
his (seemingly) temporally bound bodies of work by a pointed recontextualization." If you can make it tonight, it would be great to see you.
But first, an apology. I have neglected you horribly. Many of you thought I had either ceased to exist
or had taken you off my email list for some reason. Many of you have even missed
Although quite a bit has happened, (including why the image above is not of me as I usually do, but of BP's CEO, Tony Hayward) I have been working on my next exhibition, Full
Disclosure, which will be my first major exhibition since Torture, which was back in 2007.
As an artist, there is pressure to show as frequently as possible and artists usually
jump at the opportunity to show their latest work. Although Toomey Tourell and Michael
Petronko Gallery have been extremely gracious and willing to give me the space and
opportunities necessary, I have elected not to exhibit because I haven't been as
compelled to present as I have been to observe. Twice, I have postponed exhibitions,
not because I am a diva, but because I did not feel I was ready to communicate what
I wanted to say, and was having a difficult time translating my thinking into artistic
expression and output.
Annoy.com, which has always been a valuable vehicle of expression for me has also
suffered somewhat from my unwillingness to pontificate on anything and everything
happening, as has been my history. And yet I have toyed with other social media
outlets, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pandora, Amplify and others as I have
tested to see what they offer and what they take. As well as the rapidity with which
they have grown, developed and become mainstream.
For the most part, participation in social media seems free, but it comes at a considerable
cost. A cost to our privacy. And a cost to our appreciation of what that privacy
is and why it remains so vital. My upcoming show, Full Disclosure, tackles these
issues head on. It is a dark, nightmarish multimedia journey that explores the rise
of social media and the extent to which it has obliterated our understanding and
sense of privacy, catering to the most shallow, insecure and narcissistic instincts
of our nature. The sharp yin and yang of it. How it helps as much as
it hurts and connects as much as it isolates and pleases as much as it disappoints.
But in the interim, Clinton Fein: Recap will draw selections from a decade of my work, with a few new pieces and snippets from what's next.
I am very fortunate. Recap is an opportunity for me to recontextualize the three
shows from Toomey Tourell. Although there have been other shows and exhibitions,
notably WARning! at
Axis Gallery in New York, the exhibiting of
Torture in Beijing with Michael Petronko Gallery, and
The Wall for Hanna Regev's curatorial powerhouse, Banned and Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship
(currently on the road through the California Exhibition Resources Alliance [CERA] ), the three shows -- Clinton Fein's Annoy.com, Numb & Number
and Torture -- serve as pivotal evolution points in my artistic direction,
and allow me, and now you -- should you choose to engage, to recalibrate things slightly.
I know that in previous emails I kept making promises to write more frequently that
I then immediately broke. As I have engaged on Facebook, Twitter etc. it seemed
there was way too much to say and to way too many people. As I write this, and review
the names of those on you on this list that existed long before Facebook, I realize
I can write more personally and more profoundly than I can or do on any of those
social networks, because I know you (almost every one of you). I tried doing the
same on Facebook, and in fact ended up having to create a distinct public vs private persona so that keeping up to date with friends really was that.
Below are my Facebook details and Twitter etc. These services have definitely made it
easier to spout off things quickly and easily without the effort and energy it takes
to put together the emails I have been sending you for years. But something is lost
in the translation. And I would tell you to join, or follow me, or befriend me, but I'm not sure you should. And I'm not sure I want to be the one to prompt you to whore your privacy for quicker access to my pearls of wisdom, because no matter how much it may benefit you, there is an unequivocal cost. And like real whoring, once you do it, you can't undo it. Even though these emails are sporadic, and are sent to a whole bunch of you, they truly
are to you. No one else. That in and of itself, is becoming quite remarkably unique.
And I will continue to write them.
Would be great to see you tonight if you're in the Bay Area, and apologies for the delayed response.
My public persona on Facebook. I have rejected countless friend requests, because
with one or two exceptions, I know everyone I have friended, and actually enjoy
staying in touch and reading updates. But in so doing, I have isolated and distanced
myself from people who don't know me, but know my work and want to keep abreast
of what I am doing. As I prepare for my next exhibition, all about online privacy,
I need to use Facebook as a vehicle, and don't want to communicate to and with my
friends in the same way. So, please, if so inclined, join my public persona, which
is focused on my work and the media, controversies and criticism around it.
Pearls of wisdom in 140 characters or less. AKA microblogging. Followers are people
who follow you. With a few exceptions I don't know most of the people who follow
my "tweets." Followers supposedly represent popularity which supposedly equals influence.
I'm about as influential as a mute cow. The big unanswered question about Twitter
is whether it is better to influence a few, and trust a few, or communicate to thousands
without being heard at all. There is no such thing as reputation managment in this
Twitterverse and there are as many twats as there are tweets. If it were to crash
tomorrow, I wouldn't shed any tears. The hopelessly self-absorbed among you should
definitely join. You have the potential to tell hundreds of thousands of people
that you're waiting for your luggage. Or that the baby crying is annoying you.
Less known than Facebook and Twitter, this social network site is technologically
smooth and functional and appears to be populated by people who are smart and literate.
It allows you to easily capture and excerpt information from any site you chance
upon, and comment on what you found interesting or relevant about it. Aside from
a few minor issues relating to their newsfeed which can make it a bit too much (same
as Facebook's news feed and Twitter in general) the guys who run the site are active
participants and it shows. It allows you to aggregate content in ways that cause
the likes of Rupert Murdoch to have apoplectic fits, but that's a good thing in
my books. If they play their cards right, they're worth watching, and if you like
sharing stuff you encounter on the Interwebs, this is a great way to show it and
There are still my old places of communication that continue to grow organically as time passes. My blog, Pointing Fingers is a quicker, easier way for me to comment than the editorials on Annoy.com. And I continue to blog for SF Gate and my favorite of all, Redroom, which is run by their remarkable CEO, Ivory Madison, who I will be writing about more in the future, as she is unique in her approach to online content and privacy. We could use more of her type -- online and off. Of course there's my YouTube channel, and my much-ignored MySpace presence. Last, but not least, the definitive Clinton Fein repository, www.clintonfein.com, which is surpassed perhaps only by my Wikipedia page, but that one's for you to manage and enhance, not me! More on all of these in my next update. Soon, I promise...
African American Library and Museum at Oakland
Sept. 5 - Dec. 31, 2008
In a first-time collaboration, the African American Museum and Library at Oakland
(AAMLO) and the San Francisco Center for the Book (SFCB) are presenting an exhibit,
curated by the ubiquitous and unstoppable Hanna Regev, which features work from
more than 50 artists working in a variety of media.
Participating artists interpret a censored text of their choice. The project provides
a unique forum for visual artists to respond to the suppression of literary art.
An exhibition of art inspired by banned books -- or in my case -- inspired by Pink
Floyd's unforgettable film and album, The Wall.
In Oakland, works by the following artists are on display:
Jody Alexander * Michael Bartalos * Milton Bowens * David Broom Victor Cartagena
* Mitchell Confer * Luis Delgado * Jordan Essoe Rodney Ewing * Clinton Fein * Liz
Hager * Charles Hobson Justin Hoover * Richard Kamler * Lisa Kokin * Naomie Kremer
Pat Lenz * Jose Ramon Lerma * Malcolm Lubliner * Kara Maria Mary V. Marsh * Barbara
Milman * Douglas Minkler * Eileen Moderbacher Sasha Mosalov * Daniel Newman * Penny
Nii * Priscilla Otani Anne Hicks Siberell * Elizabeth Sher * Sandra Ortiz Taylor
Bryan Keith Thomas * Kathleen Walkup * Kazuko Watanabe Tanya Wilkinson * Noah Wilson
* Jan Wurm
The Arizona State University Art Museum
Sept. 27, 2008 - January 4, 2009
The Arizona State University Art Museum presents The Other Mainstream II: Selections
From the Collection of Mikke and Stanley Weithorn, on view through January 4, 2009.
The Other Mainstream II is the second exhibition at the ASU Art Museum that focuses
on the adventurous contemporary art collection of Valley residents Mikki and Stanley
True to its name, the exhibition reflects the dominance in the contemporary art
world of artists from diverse backgrounds working with new issues of identity -
a new mainstream. With most of the works in the exhibition created since 9/11, the
collection is bold in its commentary on global concerns and in its figurative imagery.
The paintings, drawings and sculptures reach beyond simply examining the assigned
powers in politics, gender, and race, and move to a broader examination of our humanity
through humor or fantasy or blunt honesty.
Artists include: Emma Amos, Sanford Biggers, Iona Rozeal Brown, Gordon Cheung, Einar
and Jamex de la Torre, Edward del Rosario, Tjorg Douglas Beer, Tom Duncan, Nekisha
Durrett, Edouard Duval-Carrie, Marcel Dzama, Clinton Fein, Luiz Flavio, Chitra Ganesh,
Amiee Garcia, Deborah Grant, Elizabeth Huey, John Jodzio, Ai Kijima, Min Kim, Machida
Kumi, Marcia Kure, Carter Kustera, Maximillian Lawrence, Dinh Qa, Monika JM Lin,
Whitfield Lovell, Paul Marcus, Bradley McCallum, Dominic McGill, Vik Muniz, Brett
Murray, Chris Ofili, Lamar Peterson, Moritz Schleime, Claudette Schreuders, Rachell
Sumpter, Jacqueline Tarry, Masami Teraoka, Mickalene Thomas, Jamie Vasta, Tran Trong
Vu, Roy Wasson Valle, Caleb Weintraub, Amy Wilson, Su-en Wong, Zhang Xiaogang, Steve
Anton Gallery, 701 Hawthorne St., Monterey
October 15, 2008 - November 4, 2008
A culture full of noise...political, environmental, social, personal...is the topic
of an exhibition curated by Patrick Frank and presented by the Anton Gallery in
Monterey, opening October 16 as part of the national Art of Democracy movement (http://artofdemocracy.org/).
Eight artists: Jesus Aguilar, Anthony Discenza, Clinton Fein, Richard James, Patrick
Jennings, Tony Sheeder, Lisa Solomon, and Heather Wilcoxon work with issues as diverse
as the use of torture at Abu Ghraib (Fein), horror of firearms (Solomon), environmental
destruction (Wilcoxon), abuses of the internet (Aguilar) and moribund urban design
(Jennings). Coming from Sacramento, Sausalito, San Jose. San Franciso and Oakland,
the NOISE artists share only a willingness to confront the issues that most concern
I come from South Africa. I was aware from the time I came into adulthood of apartheid
and its implications...When I left the country, you could be arrested for quoting
Nelson Mandela. So the First Amendment is very important to me, that it be real.
You have to work to make sure free speech is protected, and the people's right to
know...And that led to the Annoy.com lawsuit, Apollo Media vs Reno...I don't think
that artists have to do work that deals with issues. I do think that artists can
bring issues to the table in a unique and powerful way. (My quote from
1651 18th St
October 19 and October 20, 2008
Created by artist-educator Robert Adanto, this unique evening of theatre, art and
discussion will examine the use of torture by the US armed forces and the CIA, and
the Bush administration's redefining of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment. The evening's program begins with a performance of Harold Pinter's 1984
award-winning "One for the Road." Set in a police state, it is a chilling study
of power and powerlessness.
The production will feature photographs from "Torture," a recent series by the controversial
South African artist-activist Clinton Fein, known for his notable Supreme Court
victory against Janet Reno, challenging the constitutionality of the Communications
Decency Act in 1997, where Fein's right to disseminate his art was upheld in a landmark
victory for First Amendment rights.
Following the performance, Michael Rapkin, an ACLU attorney who has sued both the
President and the Secretary of State while representing his client, a suspected
enemy combatant held in Guantanamo Bay, will lead a discussion concerning torture
in the 21st century and various legal avenues pursued by the Bush administration
to justify and maintain its coercive interrogation program, and the response by
Congress and the courts.
In addition, noted documentary filmmaker Nonny de la Pena and digital media artist,
Peggy Weil, who will share their latest creation, Gone Gitmo, an installation of
Guantanamo Prison Prison in the virtual reality environment, Second Life.
Peace Billboards: Artists Collaborate with the United Nations
May 26, 2008 - Jun 22, 2008
The University of San Francisco (USF), under the direction of Associate Professor
of Visual Arts, Richard Kamler, presented Peace Billboards -- a project of Seeing
Peace: Artists Collaborate with the United Nations, an innovative public art installation
project. Seeing Peace is a visionary international initiative that seeks to bring
the imagination of the artist to bear on the most pressing global issue of our time,
Peace Billboards brought the imagination of 10 visual artists, one each from a member
state of the United Nations to engage in a dialogue of international peace through
the creation of culturally construed images as to what peace looks like on full
size outdoor advertising spaces, billboards, in San Francisco. The images of peace
created by the participating multinational artists were intended to engage the publics'
imagination by being showcased on 10 different highly visible billboards in San
The artists are from South Africa (Clinton Fein), Iran (Taraneh Hemami), Burma (Kyi
Win), El Salvador (Victor Cartagena) , U.S. (Richard Kamler), Puerto Rico (Rafael
Tesseles), Cuba (Tonel), Ukraine (Igor Gustevev), Japan (Betty Nobue Kano) and Uzi
"This public installation of 10 distinct images on different billboards in San Francisco
will press members of our community to reflect on peace and challenge their own
vision of peace. I am convinced that if we do not have a vision, a complex, multi-national
vision, as to what peace looks like, we might never get there," said Richard Kamler.
The project has the potential for a significant impact on our community as it will
not be confined to the walls of a museum but will be in public space for any and
all to see.
There is a
rational explanation as to why I used an image from my Torture series..
Here are some conversations on my billboard taken by members of the public and uploaded
The Department of Art and Art History at Southern Oregon University (SOU) is presenting
an exhibition of the politically controversial work of Clinton Fein in the Thorndike
Gallery of the Art Building. His political images have been immersed in controversy
and dissent for a number of years. Fein is a native of South Africa who lives in
San Francisco. He left South Africa at the height of the harsh climate of apartheid
and censorship, hoping to find free expression in the United States.
The exhibition at SOU harshly criticizes the foreign policy of the Bush administration
and the war in Iraq. Horrifying high-resolution images of carefully staged photographic
reenactments of the torture of prisoners by the American military at the Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq set the tone for the exhibition. Fein felt that the photographs shown
in the press that were taken by American soldiers who participated in the Abu Ghraib
abuses veiled the actual horror of the events. He concluded that only sharp, high-resolution
images could convey the full impact of the humiliating atrocities and expose the
policies of torture that the Bush administration routinely endorsed. The images
are horrifying, but Fein would argue, not as horrifying as torturing other human
beings or tolerating it as a national policy.
Another image depicts George W. Bush crucified on a cross with the caption "Who
would Jesus Torture?" A phallic missile wrapped in an American flag emerges from
his loin cloth. Other derisive images portray Dick Cheney and other members of the
Bush administration in similarly scathing situations.
In 1997, Fein filed suit against Attorney General Janet Reno to challenge flaws
in the application of the First Amendment of the Constitution. He maintained that
the First Amendment protected the right of an individual to annoy. Furthermore,
he asserted that indecency was one of the most effective tools to counter public
apathy. The suit made it to the Supreme Court, and Fein won the case.
The exhibition was organized as a senior capstone project by Phoebe Peterson, a
graduating art history student. She noted that Fein's work "deliberately provokes
reaction and is meant to make people think about what is really happening in the
political world." Peterson added, "[Fein] wants us to be disgusted and horrified,
as the current state of American foreign policy should make us feel." She also noted
that the exhibition was suitable only for mature audiences with open minds.
The exhibition continues through May 16. Fein has accepted an invitation to present
a lecture on his work in early May. The date, place, and time will be announced.
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