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image by Daniel Nicoletta
RV-127 Daniel Nicoletta

Hauntingly and tenaciously, out of the ashes of destruction the resilience of story-telling usually prevails. With this collage I wanted to evoke a maelstrom suggestive of the metaphysical result created from attempts at censorship by individuals or regimes throughout history. I believe it is the manifestation of accessible informed thought on human sexuality that the vandal sought to undermine in his individual way. Puny though his gesture may seem compared to the Nazi book burnings, it illuminates the reality that the desire to censor is alive and well today. The analogy to historical transgressions against books seems fitting considering that the larger target was the holdings of first ever Public Library [with a center] devoted to Queer Studies. Summary of various historical elements in the collage Magnus Hirschfeld 1868–1935 Hirschfeld was a pioneer of sexology and a founder of the early gay rights organization— The Scientific Humanitarian Committee. He also published the first Journal for Sexology in 1908 and opened the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin in 1919. It was Magnus Hirschfeld who coined the term transvestite. Hirschfeld amassed a remarkable library of data and writings which were the primary target of the Nazi book burning rally in Berlin’s Opera Plaza in 1933. (Two large center photos in collage). The number of volumes destroyed from the Institute’s Library exceeded 10,000. In his lifetime he published a dozen major works, twenty minor works and countless articles and collaborations on various topics on human sexuality. Much of his published work has survived and various pictoral elements of this collage were appropriated from these volumes in tribute to the perseverance of Hirschfeld’s vision. Today, Hirschfeld’s assessment of homosexuality is the accepted norm in the mental health field, disputed by only a minority of scientists. (Photo of Hirschfeld in upper right corner and pictoral elements from various Hirschfeld books—courtesy of The Gerard Koskovich Collection) The Institute For Sexual Science 1919–1933 In its own way the Institute for Sexual Science became an early prototype of a Queer Community Center. Headquarters to various political and sexual reform movements, the Institute sought to provide a place of counsel and respite for transgender and intersex people among others. Included in the collage are two recently emerged photos provided courtesy of the Magnus Hirschfeld Institute in Berlin, whose historians had the wisdom to query a resident who lived directly across from the former site of the Institute. Miraculously the resident had taken and preserved these amazing amateur photos of the day of the Nazi raid on the Institute. “…in the morning, about one hundred sport students from the German Student Union (“Deutsche Studentenschaft”) arrived at the Institute on lorries amid brass music and cordoned off the premises. After a trumpet call, ransacking and plundering the library and entrucking the book stocks. The subsequent final demonstration in front of the Institute ended with a threefold “Sieg Heil” for Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler and the song “Fellows, come out”! (“Burschen, heraus”) (Excerpt from the CD Rom by The Magnus Hirschfeld Institute—the contemporary historical society devoted to study of Hirschfeld and related matters.) The CD Institute for Sexual Science is available in English and German through City Lights Bookstore 3/08/03—photo by Daniel Nicoletta “Dissent Is Not Un-American” banners hanging on City Lights Bookstore, were the store’s succinct response to heightened public polarization surrounding dissent against the US Invasion of Iraq and related issues. Amid these concerns there was also public consternation at the passing of the US Patriot Act on October 26, 2001. Hastily squeaked through Congress immediately after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in NY, the Patriot Act vastly expanded the authority of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor private communication and information, especially with regard to the internet and other rapidly evolving technologies. (Without judicial oversight such as the requirement to show probable cause). Of no small co-incidence was the fact that the anti-war movement had recently discovered the internet as a powerful tool for mobilization. That such an enduring institution as City Lights would be at the forefront of responsiveness on such matters today, echoes their victorious defense of free speech during the Beat Era. For more info on City Lights bookstore’s history: William S. Burroughs—Self Portrait c. 1959 Ink on Paper, 118.50, Rare books and manuscripts, Columbia University, New York; Allen Ginsberg Collection (skull drawing superimposed into right bonfire image) Included is a reference to Burroughs, not only because he was queer and one of the targets of harassing anti-obscenity litigation during the height of the Beat Era due to his overt and maverick engagement with homosexual topics, but also because the San Francisco Public Library vandal’s cut up methodology, whether we like it or not, is a distant bastard cousin to the Burroughs mythology and its celebration of lawlessness. If only the vandal had explored the Burroughs cut up methodology of poetics perhaps he would have found both a useful surrogate to actual vandalism as well as an effective cathartic tool worth thousands of hours of free therapy. Today one can even find a few great cut up engines on the internet for the latest in DIY (do it yourself) cut up poetics.

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