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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rock Bottom

posted by on April 2 at 15:50 PM

The image on the cover of today’s New York Times
…brought to the surface of my awareness this painting:
And that painting brought to the surface this other painting.

But the first image, the image from rural Zimbabwe, is the true image of being stuck in life. Those young men have nowhere to go, particularly the one with the bust radio on his legs. The baked wall of the hut, the dead dust, the sole source of energy, the corn, that’s not growing fast and plentifully enough—this is the rock bottom of the world. I don’t think they are listening to the results of the election. Not news, but music. On the radio Oliver Mtukudzi’s sings “Ruki,” a sad but pretty song about how certain people are just lucky (“ruki”) and others are not.

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Sorry, I fail to see the connection between two guys listening to a radio outside a house, two guys on a wave-tossed boat, and the latter painting.

Now, if it was to a painting of two guys by a houseboat ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 2, 2008 4:30 PM

why does anyone want power? really? mugabe needs to retire, move to masvingo and enjoy the sunsets over lake kyle. he needs to enjoy his golden years sippin on a cherimoya smoothie, full time.

Posted by cochise. | April 2, 2008 4:31 PM

All I can say is glory be that Black Africans are ruling themselves and not some white dude from Europe. They will find their way after a while of falling and getting back up.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | April 2, 2008 4:58 PM

I'm sorry, Charles. It's your country. It's the saddest thing in the world. I feel it, I really do. Hope, someday, not now but someday.

Posted by Fnarf | April 2, 2008 4:59 PM

there is a fairly solid connection there, it could also lead through Géricaults' Raft of the Medusa to this Kara Walker image re; New Orleans after Katrina.

Posted by point x point synopsis | April 2, 2008 5:03 PM

Are those your cousins Chuckles?

Why aren't there flies swarming around their malnourished gaping mouths?

Posted by ecce homo | April 2, 2008 5:10 PM

I always know that it's a Charles Mudede post when it sounds arch and pretentious from the get-go. And how does he so often manage to make someone else's experience -- and often pain -- all about him?

Posted by melissa | April 2, 2008 5:15 PM

Of course, it sounds like the lower house did change hands - but I'll believe it when Mugabe's troops stop beating up people ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 2, 2008 5:25 PM

I liked this post very much; it was super interesting to follow your train of thought.

Posted by Megan | April 2, 2008 5:49 PM




Chuck?: It looks to me like the kid in the first image is just too stoned (or bone idle lazy) to move.

Either way, what does it (or the second image) have to do with the third image?... Unless you are trying to draw attention to the fact that the subject of the third, Brook Watson (1735–1807), rose from his seemingly “rock bottom” situation, and despite losing a leg to the shark (and being an orphan to begin with) put an imprint on the world as a successful merchant, politician and Mayor of London while the subjects of the other two images are (one assumes) destroyed by their environments and the events around them… (Hell, at least the subject of the second image is doing something to trying to save his skin…)

Only a weak mind would link these images (reclined man at rest = recumbent man in action surrounded by sharks = convulsing, drowning man surrounded by sharks) while ignoring the important common element shared by the last two images… man struggling to survive events beyond his control. While the last two images are filled with movement, tension and action, the only activity in the first is the corn growing (and the kid paying with the stick).

I think the more important issue is how under the justice of a Marxist society, both boys would have equal access to sticks to play with and there would be no capitalist radio to poison their young impressionable minds with antirevolutionary propaganda.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | April 2, 2008 5:58 PM

I thought, without over-analyzing it, that Charles' post was almost poetic.

Nice to see some classic art pulled in too, instead of that metal-strap-and-plywood bullshit often posted as the "what's currently hanging" "art."

Posted by Wolf | April 2, 2008 6:15 PM

I have to assume you're having a rough time hearing about what's going on over there. This post lacks the subtle flippancy you usually employ.

Posted by Hernandez | April 2, 2008 6:40 PM

Man, I love those paintings. I used to go stare at the Copley one, "Watson and the Shark" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston all the time on break between classes.

Posted by Peter F | April 2, 2008 6:53 PM

I always liked the Winslow Homer painting "Gulf Stream" ever since I was a teen (second image).
But the connections between the first image and the two last images is lame. Also, explain who painted the images next time.
If you can go on about your fave writers then comment more on who did the paintings if you are going to post them.

Posted by -B- | April 2, 2008 9:22 PM

How many white farmers did those "Patriots" dispossess and murder?

Did you support that Chuckles?

Posted by ecce homo | April 2, 2008 10:06 PM

. While the last two images are filled with movement, tension and action, the only activity in the first is the corn growing (and the kid paying with the stick).

The "kid" is not "playing with a stick". He's holding an african hoe/shovel. I served in the Peace Corps in West Africa - in a village and a hut that looked alot like this one. There it was called a "daba" and using it to cultivate corn or other crops is hard, back breaking work.

What you all are missing is that these guys are probably on a break from using said daba in the fields. Zimbababwe is a long way from West Africa & the cultures are different, but many times I joined my friends and colleagues in a scene much like this one, hanging out, drinking tea, listening to political news on the radio - after they had spent long morning hours in the field. This is not the rock bottom of the world - it's folks living their lives, listening. They could use some assistance, yes, but the description you give reeks of condescension.

Posted by Allie | April 3, 2008 7:48 AM

Dust = Sharks? Radio = Paddle?

Maybe it's the other way

Posted by Cato | April 3, 2008 9:26 AM

Good Christ -- reading some of these comments is depressing. Are so few people in Seattle totally blind to tragedy? You know: empathy, the sort of thing so heinous to a flip ironic-at-all-costs mind... Charles reads it perfectly. And those who complain -- complain! -- of his being serious are exactly those who are dumb enough to vote for Nader because they can't see the difference between GW Bush and Al Gore.

Posted by Lesley Hazleton | April 3, 2008 10:10 AM


Wow. Uh… okay. So there’s another incongruity. The subjects of the last two images appear to have mastered the manufacture and use of complex tools and iron implements while the subjects of the first have not (which would go along way to explain a lot…).

Primitives, how quaint!

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | April 3, 2008 2:00 PM

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