Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Readers ask: Why do you think good writing is resistance?

This question comes from a reader responding to something I wrote in an essay, Find the Bigotry, published in Re-Imagining late last year. That essay offers my take on “woke” culture. The reader is responding to my claim that books surviving over the centuries commonly critique the powerful in their own time periods.

Before I get into a detailed answer, I need to stress that all writing resists something, if even a reader’s basic unawareness. However, that doesn’t make it good or bad. Manuals for things like leaf blowers resist those who don’t know how leaf blowers work.

These days, we think of resistance as a political and sociological force standing in opposition to disinformation, the harvesting of fear and bigotry for political and economic gain, and the dismantling of civility and culture. I feel, as I tried to communicate in Find the Bigotry, that we should work to oppose all propaganda, and all efforts to destabilize communication. Fascist propaganda is not the only type of discourse guilty of destabilization, though it’s particularly dangerous. As I argue in Relief by Execution, my memoir, the most dangerous kind of disinformation denies atrocity or responsibility.

Obviously, in order to have propaganda or disinformation, you need writers (or “content providers”) to compose it. If our definition of good writing is writing that seduces the audience to belief or action, then propaganda is good writing. It’s certainly more effective, and more seductive, judging by its appeal, than is writing that provokes introspection.

Frankly, I’ve lost interest in whether or not writing is good. I’m interested in whether or not the writing is trying to aid our survival. I don’t think writing does this by pointing fingers at “the bad people” as it tries to elevate itself somehow. We are destroying ourselves by shopping and sitting in traffic.

Most important: artists aren’t noble by default. Take the photos of musicians I’m including below. I know plenty of people who’d elevate classical music over American folk, though in this case I’ll take Woody Guthrie over the Vienna Philharmonic.

Vienna Phil

 

Woody

Of course, Guthrie’s machine did not kill fascists. In his hands, it offered a counter-narrative. In someone else’s, it could incite loathing. In order for it to do one thing or another, it requires a listener to draw conclusions or take actions.

As far as writing goes, if there’s good resistance, it rests with the reader. Without a reader, writing doesn’t exist.

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Photos from Wikipedia and Deutsche Welle.

 


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Art is resistance

It’s always an exciting step when your publisher tells you the cover of your book is finished. Here it is.

Relief Execution Cover final

The release date is October 8th. Pre-order begins on Amazon and Barnes and Noble some time late next week, February 21st. Follow Liquid Ink to keep up with the details, including news about the launch party, scheduled for October.

Here’s what Mikhail Iossel, the founder of the Summer Literary Seminars, and a samizdat writer born in the USSR, had to say after reading it:

This short text packs a powerful punch. A searingly raw exploration of one’s roots, one’s original milieu, one’s upbringing and one’s own conscience. At times difficult to read, it is nonetheless entirely engrossing. Hard to look at yet impossible to look away. A remarkable piece of writing.

From the back cover:

Between the years of 1996-1999, Gint Aras lived a hapless bohemian’s life in Linz, Austria. Decades later, a random conversation with a Polish immigrant in a Chicago coffeehouse provokes a question: why didn’t Aras ever visit Mauthausen, or any of the other holocaust sites close to his former home? The answer compels him to visit the concentration camp in the winter of 2017, bringing with him the baggage of a childhood shaped by his family of Lithuanian WWII refugees. The result is this meditative inquiry, at once lyrical and piercing, on the nature of ethnic identity, the constructs of race and nation, and the lasting consequences of collective trauma. 

Fussweg


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Incredible photographs of Soviet Lithuania

The Guardian is calling Antanas Sutkus’ photo essay, Nostalgia for Bare Feet, “An ‘epic poem’ of Life in Soviet Lithuania.” The few pictures available now on the Guardian’s website are just stunning, glowing with life and weighed by tragedy. Some of them seem other-worldly, even ethereal, while others are brutally real.

The actual exhibition is currently in Moscow. Click here to see the Guardian’s coverage.  I’m spellbound, instantly addicted.

Toys in Vilnius


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The world’s greatest living painter: Šarūnas Sauka

Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.” -Banksy

I’m thinking of begging for money, opening up a Go Fund Me page or something to be able to make it to Vilnius before March 6th when the following exhibit will end. Here are a few of the milder images:

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Image from Nacionalinė Dailės Galerija

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Image from delfi.lt

I first encountered the paintings and visual art of Šarūnas Sauka while wandering the streets of Vilnius in 2006. I walked past a small gallery with a modest glass door and was struck by a portrait of a woman that seemed to recall the work of Ivan Albright, another of my favorites. When I went inside, I was completely transfixed. The gallery contained only a few paintings by Sauka, but each one slaughtered me. It was the kind of painting I had waited my whole life to discover.

If you’ve never seen his art before, be warned: he’s not Monet. I feel his work is more intense than Egon Schiele’s or even Joel Peter Witkin’s. This video presentation of the exhibit will give you more than a solid introduction. That it’s set to the music of Massive Attack only confirms all the feelings of synchronicity I sense whenever I engage the art of Sauka.

If anyone would like to donate a few dollars to send me out to Vilnius before March so that I might write a long essay about why his work should be required in all the world’s high schools, please PayPal me.


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The public piano and the homeless man

Here is a video of a homeless man playing a public piano in Sarasota, Florida, as part of the Sarasota Keys Piano Project. It requires no introduction or commentary.

My first experience with a public piano was this past spring in Amsterdam where I took this photo:

DSCF3238That moment was about as great an experience as I have ever had with public art. I stood by that piano for almost an hour, just waiting to see what kind of people would sit down to play; each time I returned to the train station, I walked by to see what was going on. People took turns politely, complimenting and thanking each other, and the pianists ranged from a few Asian tourists to very obvious commuters (as the man in the photo is most likely a Dutchman coming hom from work).

The piano music mellowed and calmed the experience of the busy train station. It also opened up the space and contributed to the rhythm. I was so moved by the music, the openness and trust experienced between the city, its residents and strangers, that I’m convinced every city should have multiple public pianos in places like train stations, post offices and outside the DMV.


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Dariya Marchenko: Art from Ammunition

Here’s the brilliant Dariya Marchenko making a humanitarian statement on the continued atrocities perpetrated by Vladimir Putin. This Reuters report should leave you provoked and moved. Daria assembles a portrait of Putin from bullet cartridges collected from the front lines of the war in Ukraine, and the art is being presented in conjunction with a novel (which I’d very much like to read).

Please share this report.

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Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters


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An Artist You Should Know: Eglė Kuckaitė (Kucka)

Eglė Kuckaitė is among the most inspiring people I’ve ever known. She has extraordinary energy, and conversations with her are like conversations with some mythical seer. She and I first met in 1996 when I was living in Vilnius; for a while we shared the same apartment with 3 other crazies. I knew back then that she would grow to become a special artist. Her vision is incomparable: a blend of darkness and whimsy, bleakness and euphoria. If you ever have a chance to see any of her live exhibits, as her reputation is now international, do not miss the chance.

Vote for Eglė here.