If you are going to be in the San Francisco area this Friday, February 20th--Future Salon will be hosting a discussion with Mark Bedau and David Deamer, co-editors of the recently published book: Protocells: Bridging Nonliving and Living Matter.
The discussion will begin at 7pm at the SAP Labs in Palo Alto.
For more information and to RSVP please click on this link.
The new Obama administration is committed to shifting its foreign policy approach from confrontation to dialog. In fact just before she took office Hillary Clinton said that she would make the use of ‘smart’ power the hallmark of her tenure as Secretary of State. ‘Smart’ power, as defined by Joseph Nye, a previous dean of the Kennedy School of Government, combines hard coercive power with soft, co-optive power. Smart power mobilizes a cocktail of instruments adapted to securing U.S. interests abroad without the loss of legitimacy, influence and international prestige that is associated with the war in Iraq. Nye had senior positions in both the Carter and Clinton administrations, and is tipped to be invited by Obama to be the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
Nye has stressed that the U.S.’s scientific and technological leadership, widely admired across the globe, can serve as an instrument of soft power. Indeed it was used to just that effect by the United States in Western Europe in the first two decades after World War II. High-ranking scientific statesmen, officers in the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, as well as people in the State Department and NATO, in consultation with sympathetic members of local elites on the continent, set out to enroll European scientists in American research agendas and practices, and to export American institutional models and values abroad in fields as diverse as molecular biology, physics and operations research. The overall aim was to build a strong Atlantic scientific community to better meet the Communist threat on the continent.
This strategy still offers useful lessons for today. Firstly, the exercise of soft, co-optive power in the domain of science and technology was only successful to the extent that the indigenous European research community saw the interest and importance of adopting American models. When they did not (as in an attempt to create an ‘MIT for Europe’ or to instill an American style of operations research in NATO) consensus collapsed and American overtures and plans were rejected, sometimes violently. Secondly, in such cases, and generally, there was never really any question of the U.S. using hard power to coerce the support of its allies in the struggle against Communism in Europe; if the ‘soft’ approach failed the scheme was abandoned, at least temporarily. Thirdly, in global initiatives like ‘Atoms for Peace,’ when the Eisenhower administration tried to lock developing countries into the American orbit, the attraction of the nuclear could only be embedded locally if it was coupled by educational programs for foreign elites in the U.S. and institutional innovation and political support abroad. In short, while the instruments of soft power have played an important role in securing the legitimacy of the American project abroad, its successful implementation requires the conjuncture of multiple historical, social, and ideological factors.
The history of the use soft power through cultural instruments, including science and technology, suggests that co-option alone, without the threat of force, will only be successful in very specific situations, as the critics of the concept today are quick to point out. The logic of soft power demands that the U.S. be willing to back off from ventures that do not achieve the hoped-for support among its partners. Hillary Clinton and the President are committed to ‘smart power’. When will that be limited to ‘soft’ power, and when will they feel obliged to complement it with at least the threat of hard, coercive power to achieve their objectives?
The Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) recently announced the winners of the 2008 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (The PROSE Awards).
The winners of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) 2009 Book, Jacket and Journal Show were recently announced. Judging for the show took place January 22-23 at the AAUP Central Office in New York City. Approximately 289 books, 292 jacket and cover design entries, and 7 journals were entered. 53 books, 1 journal, and 36 jackets/covers were chosen.
My first visit to the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis was on the occasion of the important exhibition "More than Minimal: Feminism and Abstraction in the ’70s," organized by Susan Stoops in 1996. A couple years later I was also introduced to the riches of the permanent collection by Carl Belz, and I will never forget my amazement as he pulled out one storage rack after another, revealing in turn the works that formed the nucleus of the collection (remarkable pieces by Johns, Rauschenberg, Warhol, and Rosenquist, to name just a few) and more recent acquisitions (a beautiful early work by Ellen Gallagher among them) that showed the ongoing evolution of the museum’s holdings.
Since that time the Rose has been a regular destination for me and for my students -- sometimes for other treasures from the permanent collection, and just as often for the important roster of curated exhibitions that have made the Rose a key venue for anyone interested in contemporary art. There is a generosity that one tends to find in individuals as well as institutions that are really passionate about their art. On more than one occasion I have made arrangements for my students to have their own experience of the wonders in the vault -- a request the museum’s curators and registrar have always been happy to accommodate. Given how willingly the museum has shared its work with my students, from another school, I can only imagine how much Brandeis students have benefited from having this collection right in their midst.
Until this past Monday. That’s when Brandeis’s president and board of trustees, in a secret meeting, and with no advance discussion, decided unanimously to close the Rose Art Museum and sell off the collection. The museum’s director, Michael Rush, was informed of this stunning decision Monday afternoon, and press reports began to circulate by that evening. The museum would be no more as of June 30, the museum’s collection, with an estimated value of $300-350 million, would be sold, and the former museum building would be turned into a teaching facility for the arts. In the double-speak of the university’s initial press release, this decision reflected a "campus-wide effort to preserve the university’s educational mission" as well as "the university’s commitment to the arts and the teaching of the arts."
The motivation, of course, is money. Like so many schools, Brandeis is facing a shrinking endowment. Plus there’s the added hit that some of their key donors have taken from the Bernie Madoff scheme. Plans to address a $10 million budget deficit appeared as a squeeze play, cutting faculty numbers while simultaneously increasing student enrolment. Gazing out at a tough fund-raising environment, the president and trustees suddenly latched onto a source of easy money right in their own back yard. Look at all that art, much of it bought low or donated, which could now be sold high. In one move, the university’s deteriorating fortunes could be reversed. Of course it would have been even better if they’d had this idea a couple of years ago, before the art market began its own decline, but there’s still money out there for work this good.
There are, however, an awful lot of people who think this is actually a very bad idea, and haven’t hesitated to say so, in editorials, by signing polls, mounting letter-writing campaigns, and on campus, in a student rally. Why sell everything, some ask, when the $10 million hole in the budget could be plugged by the price of just one major work? The answer is in the code of ethics enforced by the American Association of Museums and the Association of American Museum Directors, which forbids member institutions from selling art for any purpose other than buying other art (with the National Academy recently drummed out, and excluded from associated museum lending networks, for its decision to sell paintings for desperately needed operating funds). The solution at Brandeis: if there’s no museum, then there’s no rule against selling off university assets for whatever purpose the administration might imagine.
By Wednesday, however, Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz, perhaps surprised by the speed and passion of the response, had begun to reverse himself. In public meetings and interviews he indicated that the museum would still close, but the art might not be sold right away. In fact maybe they would hold onto most of the collection, and even exhibit some of it from time to time in the new arts center that would replace the Rose. Huh? Just how stupid is this man? Does he plan to have the buildings and grounds department come over, pull the work out of a closet, and pound a nail in the wall to hang it up? One major reason for keeping your art in a museum is that you have a professional staff to track where it is and how it is being handled.
There’s a great deal more to be said about this travesty, and many voices are making those arguments. At its heart, however, it is a matter of art and money. The Rose has a remarkable collection of modern and contemporary art, reflecting years of dedication on the part of museum staff and donors alike. Unfortunately an exciting and aesthetically rich collection is also a valuable monetary asset -- and that’s the only form of art appreciation the school’s board and president would seem to understand.
Martha Buskirk is professor of art history and criticism at Montserrat College of Art, and author of The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a new book entitled Seeing through the Museum: Art, Life, Commerce.
Jack and Todd are the founder and president, respectively, of
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