- Photo by R.J. Sánchez
- THE HAEGUE YANG INSTALLATION At the Henry.
Standing in the midst of Haegue Yang's monumental chandeliers made of dangling Venetian blinds in various states of open and closed, I kept thinking about Edward Snowden. Not the man himself, but the surveillance he made me see. The watching he made me watch and watch out for, not that I have any idea where or how actually to look or appear in order to protect myself.
Catching up with my feelings about Snowden now that it's 2014, I found two recent pieces by the New Yorker's Amy Davidson, laying out the fascinating and conflicted case for a pardon for Snowden. (The two main reasons for pardoning him are likely to draw supporters who do not support each other.) Davidson includes analysis of past pardons of lawbreakers, from Vietnam draft-dodgers to Nixon to Caspar Weinberger and those involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. She coolly makes the case for why we, as a nation, have something to gain in offering Snowden amnesty, and also why he deserves it. Here's her original case, written in December; here's her rebuttal this week to a case made against her.
Nothing about the Snowden situation is reassuring. Some fantasize seeing him "hanged by his neck until he is dead," as if his death would protect and restore everything. Others shrug at the idea that they're being watched; of course we're being watched, they say. For me, the difference is that now I'm thinking about myself being watched. It's dislocating, and reminds me of the 1937 Magritte painting where the subject is looking at himself in a mirror but only seeing the back of his own head. In Yang's chandeliers of blinds—the word "blinds" is so good—you peer through one set of blinds only to see another set. The secrecy is layered and seductive and empty and produces aimless anxiety, directed at nothing in particular. Yang, like Snowden, is without a country.