No. 251, Nov. 6-12, 2003



To read an article, click on the headline.

Gaza Strip
A documentary film by James Longley

Homeland Barbeque:
Artists critique Americana
at The Wedge Gallery

Street medics prepare for
upcoming demonostrations

Making a place out of our space


Gaza Strip
A documentary film by James Longley

By Kurt Perry

This documentary film by award winning US director, James Longley, awakens the conscience of anybody who is unaware of the harsh realities of life in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. For those who have a deeper understanding of the conflict, this film offers an emotional edge seldom captured by TV news bulletins.

Longley traveled to Gaza in January 2001 and shot over 70 hours of material during a four month visit. The film follows the events of Palestinians in their struggle to survive in the face of Israeli occupation of their homeland.

The rhythm of the film, which covers the early period of Ariel Sharon’s premiership, reveals a host of facts often obscured by mainstream media’s interpretation of the conflict. For those seeking a grounding in the conflict, this film offers an educational insight not to be missed. If you view the director’s commentary (one of the many special features of this DVD) you learn, for example, that the Gaza Strip is essentially an open-air prison for Palestinian refugees, guarded on all sides by the Israeli military forces. Just 28 miles long and four miles wide, it is home for over 1,200,000 Palestinians, making the Gaza Strip one of the most densely populated areas on the planet.

The principal character is Mohammed Hajezi, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy. Mohammed’s story is one of sadness and strength; his best friend was shot and killed by Israeli troops; his father is unable to work, following his arrest and imprisonment by Israeli authorities (for throwing stones at Israeli tanks when he was a child), which has forced the boy to work, delivering newspapers, in order to earn his family much needed income. To the horror of his, Mohammed is one of a new generation of Palestinian boys who risk their lives hurling stones at Israeli tanks, in a symbolic gesture of resistance to occupation.

This film charts the views of ordinary Palestinian people who frequently vent anger at the military occupation. Elderly men and women tell stories of how their family homes and olive groves have been leveled by Israeli bulldozers. In one scene, shot at beach Camp ( a refugee camp on a beach near Gaza City), hordes of Palestinians are forced to travel the length of the beach, with their horses and cars, to avoid road blocks imposed by Israeli military.

Longley’s film also makes clear that many Palestinians, despite determined resistance to the occupation, crave peace and stability – a paradox that is proving difficult to solve.

Source: Z magazine

Homeland Barbeque:
Artists critique Americana at The Wedge Gallery

By Ursula Gullow

Commercialism, mind control, violence, and surveillance culture are just a few of the topics tackled by 12 local visual artists in a new exhibition entitled, “Homeland Barbeque”(HBBQ) opening next Friday, Nov.14 at The Wedge Gallery. Lauren Gibbes, curator of HBBQ, says the show gathers together “some of Asheville’s most cutting-edge and daring artists.” She has selected a particularly poignant subject for them to dissect: American culture. The topic is relevant, she points out, “because we have all internalized mass culture through television and advertising, and it is important to connect through our shared experiences.” HBBQ requires that its artists directly describe—and in some way make a statement—about the cultural climate of the US today. Most of the work in the show is humorous in spite of the seriousness of the issues involved. As ceramic artist Jason Weatherspoon comments, “Humor is a way to deal with these ideas because we are living in a nation where we are losing our freedom, and that makes a person very angry.” Escapism and materialism are recurring themes of HBBQ, echoed by the disturbingly beautiful paintings of Lauren Gibbes depicting game show contestants caught in haunting poses of euphoria and disappointment. “In the US we have so much money we can play games with it,” she says, “Other people around the world are just trying to feed themselves.” Jason Weatherspoon’s sculpture of a screaming, pink, portly infant entitled, “Chubby Win’s Again” serves as a mascot for America, according to Weatherspoon, because, “we’re the youngest, the most gluttonous, and we always have to win.”

The American hero as icon and nostalgic remnant is explored in the work of Jeremy Russell who uses retro fabric that mimics wallpaper of the civil war era to frame his renderings of Paul Newman as Cool Hand Luke, a character Russell considers “Jesus-like in his behavior” In a similar vein, artist Ryan Ford has painted Billy the Kid onto floor tiles torn out of a 1950’s home. Some of the pieces in HBBQ invite the viewer to interact in their development, like the flag of Otis Wolfspider, which is slowly being constructed out of the chewed gum of passersby, and the bubblegum dispenser filled with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans created by Sean Pace. Pace has also constructed a kinetic sculpture involving 28 red boxing gloves and five mechanical legs. When turned on, the piece vibrates and swings the gloves theatrically so they all smash into each other in a show of brute strength and force.

Historically artists have always played an active role in expressing the moral, and political consciousness of a society. Under the grip of a free market economy, however, too often artists are forced to produce work that is sellable—choosing to ignore or undermine topics that might not be marketable. It is exciting, therefore, to see a show like HBBQ, which nurtures the idea of the artist as commentator rather than decorator. Appropriately, the show will take place in the gallery of “The Compound”—a space known to take conceptual risks and promote emerging artists since it does not have to rely on gallery sales to pay the rent. As the building’s owner, John Payne, a sculptor who is including a piece in HBBQ about prefabricated suburbia, makes clear, “We are into art, not commerce.”

Hopefully HBBQ will start a trend that supports the blossoming of emerging artists, and encourages further displays of experimental and conceptual visual art in Asheville.

Opening night will be Friday, Nov. 14 at 6:00pm. The gallery is located at 129 Roberts Street. Call 828-216-7897 to make an appointment to view the exhibit before it closes on Dec. 1.

Street medics prepare for
upcoming demonostrations

By najwa

The cops were clad in their riot gear. Tear gas canisters were launched into the crowd of protesters, all of which were shouting “no more police brutality.” Then, the batons began to fly. One teenage protester was knocked to the ground, nearly unconscious. Another, a pregnant pre-op transgendered persyn, suffered a fractured arm and began choking on a broken tooth. A member of the black bloc, rendered immobile by a broken leg, was attempting to maintain anonymity while a pesky member of the media hovered above him.

This was the scene that participants in this past weekend’s Street Medic training came upon in their final scenario. This may have been just another role play in a weekend of crazy protest scenes, but certainly not an uncommon sight to the eyes of street medics. The A-Team Medics, a local group of medically-trained activists, hosted the three day training here in Asheville to prepare activists for the upcoming demonstrations in Miami and Fort Benning, Georgia.

Participants in the training were mostly locals, but activists from Florida, Massachusetts, and Montana also came to learn new skills or spread their own vast knowledge. The first day of training gave a brief outline of what action medics face in the streets and how the new medics would prepare for such actions. Participants also spent time engaging in incredibly challenging conversations on anti-oppression.

The next two days were spent cramming the heads of the participants with information on how to control bleeding, spine immobilization, caring for shock, splinting a broken bone, and, perhaps most important, how to be a good patient advocate. It wasn’t all blood and broken bones, however. Medics also learned that the majority of their care is helping folks with Critical Incident Stress, dehydration, pepper spray, and reminding people not to panic.

Medics also spent a good amount of time practicing their newly-acquired knowledge by participating in intense role-plays, much like the one described above,. The role-lays handled everything from small cuts to massive hemorrhaging. In order to help put the anti-oppression theory into practice, organizers of the training included a female Muslim patient, who was unable to accept alcohol-based remedies or the care of a male medic, a differently-abled patient who was in a wheel chair, a perceived-male, pre-operation, pregnant transgendered persyn, and more. The purpose of this was to remind the training medics that we need to be aware of cultural and ability differences, as well as issues of consent, respect, anonymity, and consciousness.

Street medics have been an integral part in movements for social justice. They have made their presence known at every large demonstration and several smaller ones. Coming from an assorted mix of medical backgrounds, these medics come together as doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, herbalists, Wilderness First Responders, and everyday folks. With no centralized organization or training module, street medics organize themselves into local collectives under the banner, “fight the power, do no harm!”

While some medics run around (or, rather, walk with intent) in brightly colored hats and well-marked vests, many more choose to run unmarked, carrying any necessary gear and helping folks where they can. Despite their differing levels of training and experience, however, street medics have been making a concerted effort to stay true to their belief in a non-hierarchical, anti-authoritarian, anti-oppressive world. Their work is the culmination of months of dialogue and training for each demonstration.

It’s hard to argue against the need for street medics. Every large demonstration has seen its share of police brutality, weather-related illnesses, and other injuries. EMS protocol doesn’t allow its EMTs and paramedics into a scene that is classified as unsafe by the police. The mere presence of police at demonstrations classifies them as unsafe for EMS. Street medics undermine this hierarchy of power by diving right into the middle of the action.

At the FTAA protests in Quebec in 2001, police tear-gassed the entire downtown and proceeded to fire weapons at protesters and beat them with clubs. One demonstrator had a finger amputated by a cop’s baton. Rather than sending for an ambulance, the police continued pushing back the crowd. Luckily, street medics were on the scene, found the severed finger, and rushed the patient and their finger off to the hospital. This is only one of the thousands of examples of street medics helping to keep the movement for social justice alive ­- literally and figuratively.

With the new array of weapons being used by police forces against demonstrators, street medics are becoming more and more necessary. This past weekend at a Halloween march in the streets, the Asheville Police Department tested out its new tasers on people who were non-violently reclaiming the streets. Police have also begun to use wooden bullets fired directly at protesters, pepper-mace spray, stingray grenades, and other such weapons. Although classified as “less than lethal” by the police departments using them, they have proven to be the cause of life-threatening injuries.

Discussion of these new weapons and police tactics has driven street medics into a dialogue long enough to fill a series of books. They have been discussing what kind of treatment to give and how to prevent major injury. Regardless of the outcome of these discussions, the work that is being produced is helping to keep people in the streets for another day.

Although the new medics at the A-Team training last weekend may have been nervous about what to do with a choking pregnant persyn with a broken arm while the police were still standing around beating people, the skills that they learned will certainly be useful in keeping alive the hope for a better world.

Making a place out of our space

By Heather Steel and John Lapp

We are inviting your participation in an community building event. City Repair Project of Portland, Oregon is presenting their first East Coast Tour this Fall. City Repair Project is a nationally recognized neighborhood-based community initiative, facilitating the reclamation and revitalization of public spaces, creating social epicenters. They will be visiting about 20 cities on their 3-week tour, meeting with city planners and developers, neighborhood organizations, citizen-interest groups, architects, etc. The event occurs in the dirt and Sky People Gallery on 51 N. Lexington at 7pm, Wednesday, November 12. Jenny Leis and Mark Lakeman, Co-directors of the project will be presenting a slide show about the success of City Repair Project in Portland.

City Repair Project has been collecting steam in the Portland area since the early 1990s. The project’s co-director, and co-founder Mark Lakeman was a renown corporate architect. He finally decided to call the life of greed quits and founded the City Repair Project in order to revitalize and unify communities all over Portland.

“We’ve witnessed the death of culture in this country, and what CRP is doing is to help facilitate the reestablishment of that culture,” says Janell Kapoor, who is an Asheville local that has been personally involved in some of the CRP projects in Portland.

Unlike many other non-profits, CRP seeks to empower individual communities to be able to work autonomously within their own neighborhood comunities. CRP likes to refer to each community as a “village.” The project has taken many endeavors including something they refer to as Intersection Repair, which is a term that CRP uses to refer to the building of these villages. Intersection Repair can often include such things as natural buildings made from scraps on the sidewalk or the community painting the intersection with colorful designs, making them unique to each individual village. American communities have not had this sort of consensus-based decision making methods since the colonial town meetings of yester year.

“I think what particularly stands out about what they’ve done, is that they’re creating bridges and relationships where I haven’t seen them before. They’re bringing everyone in a neighborhood together around the process of localizing and naturalizing their place,” says Kapoor.

The CRP has been officially endorsed by the city of Portland, so that it is now able to spread its principles to every sector of the city, from the wealthy Southeast to the poorer North. The city did not originally support the project, though. “When we first approached the city [Portland] about projects in the street they told us that’s public space - you can’t use it! Streets are supposed to be only for cars in America’” recollects Lakeman. Thankfully when the city saw the positive work that was being done they, obliged to endorse the project.

“Another world is possible, and it’s being built right here in Portland,” claims Starhawk (anti-globalization author) referring to the City Repair Project.

For more info about City Repair Project please visit their website