Taking a break between jazz bands ( a fabulous interpretation of Coltranes Lonnies Lament by some young players) on New Years Eve we wandered upstairs in the Missoula Art Museum. I found myself looking at an amazingly life-like bust of Eugene Debs made of archival cardboard, sheetrock screws, gesso and glue, part of an exhibit called Big Trouble: The Idaho Project where artist Scott Fife has recreated the cast of characters who became associated with the assassination of Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905 and the subsequent trial. This was a time of intense labor strife around the fantastically productive silver mines not far from where I live and there is a bust of the bomber Harry Orchard and the union leaders he ratted on like "Big Bill" Haywood, George Pettibone and Charles Moyer. There are also great reproductions of Ethyl Barrymore the actress, Debs the leader of the Socialist Party (and perhaps at that time the IWW), President Theodore Roosevelt, and Clarence Darrow who defended Haywood and managed to get him acquitted.
From the artist: "The sculpture speaks of class struggle, political intrigue, and the countries economic and social landscape of capitalism and populism."
I'm glad to see an artist interested in historical memory who recognizes the way these events of not that long ago get swept into the dustbin. As Guy Debord put it "With the destruction of history, contemporary events themselves retreat into a remote and fabulous realm of unverifiable stories, unchecked statistics, unlikely explanations and untenable reasoning." Sound familiar?
"One result which has proved negative" , he adds "once the running of the state involves a permanent and massive shortage of historical knowledge,that state can no longer be run strategically."
In other words they'll do crazy shit like invade the Pashtun region or become hostages to an elite Zionist minority or allow financiers and speculators to hijack the economy or allow the infrastructure, both physical and human ( education) to crumble...
Another positive sign for the coming decade ( the art installation,not the crumbling) arrived in the form of a poem in our local paper called The Last Night of COP 15 :
"The conference was dressed from it's head to it's foot
As a positive outcome though tarnished by soot
A bundle of ploys on the backs of the poor
Some new carbon taxes by the capitalists of war
They hold the worlds wealth in the grip of their teeth
While for us it's the usual funeral wreath
The author also had something of hers read on Grit TV by Laura Flanders the other day. Another local Wobbly perhaps?