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Friday, November 07, 2008

War and Dissent

Finally made it to the "War and Dissent" exhibit at the Presidio Officers Club. The exhibit runs until February 22. In addition to the exhibit, there are programs: multimedia production of "Shadows of War" presented by Bindlestiff, walking tours, music, booksigning by authors of "The Forbidden Book."

I have mixed feelings. Yes, it is good to make this history visible. The exhibit does present the narrative of the Phil-American war from the points of view of the US, the anti-imperialist league/Mark Twain, and the Filipino nationalists through the story of the Lopez family. But on the whole, the narrative accompanying the exhibit is about imperialism, conquest, and expansionism. In other words, this is about the march of civilization. Even in progressive San Francisco this narrative is yet to be challenged.
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I was glad to see Helen Toribio honored at this exhibit. Helen and Abe Ignacio's collection of cartoons about the war is what led to the publication of "The Forbidden Book." Many of the images at the exhibit also came from Abe's collection. I miss Helen. Last night, at the Bindlestiff performance, there was a woman who looked just like her. I had to look twice. And who knows, maybe it is her spirit in that room. I sensed her presence at the Toribio gallery.
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This exhibit is made possible by a donation of the grandson of an American soldier to the Presidio Trust who came upon his grandfather's diaries of the war. He wanted to know what his father was doing in the Philippines. This initial inquiry led to the development of the exhibit and it involved FANHS and other folks in the community.
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Between this exhibit and the Philippine Coral Reef exhibit at the new California Academy of Sciences, the Philippines is currently very visible in the Bay Area. If you haven't seen these exhibits, go!
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I really don't like the idea of captive species...but I won't deny that it was really a delight to be in a simulated Batangas coral reef....
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The dominant theme at the new CAS is about the fragility of the planet. There are plenty of opportunities for folks to learn about carbon offsets, carbon footprints, endangered species, man-made global warming. While the Morrison planetarium boasts of the latest in digital media technology and the latest reseach on astronomy so that we can see our planet in its galactic context, the story presented is about search for other planets that might offer a liveable environment for the future of our human species. There is something unsettling about this and I'm trying to figure out what it is. I think it's about our modern delusion that we can harness the stars for our own benefit. It is about our unwavering faith in science and technology.

Perhaps it is too much to wish for a more humanistic, even mystical, narrative in such a place.

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