Invitation to American friends 16. February 2004

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From my upcoming exhibition in the U. S. Congress: "Congress as seen from the ghetto"



Dear  friends

If you are in or around Washington DC next week - on business, vacation or whatever - I would be really glad to see you at the exhibition of my pictures in:


The United States Congress
Place: Russell Senate Office Building
Entrance: Rotunda from Constitution Ave.
Time: 20th-27th of February
Host: Presidential candidate, Senator Joseph Lieberman



[photograph][photograph]Most of my photos will be in the Senate Rotunda, the huge dome through which the senators go to their offices - right below the American flag on the top. Another part of the exhibition will be hanging upstairs in the larger, very ornate and beautiful Senate Caucus Room (if I am not mistaken since my wife and I only had time to see the Rotunda when we delivered the pictures yesterday). The Caucus Room was the scene of the famous Titanic hearings in 1912, the McCarthy hearings in 1954 and the Watergate hearings in 1973. 

Note: the official opening of the exhibition with all the politicians on Friday the 20th from 6-10 p.m. is a formal by-invitation-only-black-tie event, but those of you who are photographed in my pictures (or come from very far away....let's say, Alaska or Denmark) I will do whatever it takes to put on the guest list. (Otherwise try to bring your copy of my book and try to convince the guards that you are the same person actually portrayed in the book or the exhibition! I hope at least some of you living close by - such as Lefus Whitley in North Carolina or Alphonso Makell in Baltimore - can afford to come with your families.) 

From the exhibition: Junkies shooting up "the white stuff" with Congress in the background

Believe me, had it been up to me, I would have turned this "black-tie"-event into a true "black beggar's banquet" - such as Alphonso once suggested - hosted here by the wealthiest, most powerful people on Earth for all the people in my book. But because of the controversy surrounding this event (see details below about the actual occasion and how Saddam Hussein helped it along) I have no say in all this. To avoid a Jesse Helms scandal from the right-wingers I even had to let them censure my nude photos away so that this - my first exhibition in the United States - only will become a watered down version of the larger one I had in Copenhagen two years ago. But if you think you already know my pictures all too well, you should come anyway to see Annie Hedvard's incredible tapestries inspired by them. With their strong political message I am surprised that the organizers - a Presidential Commission - dares to hang these Rotunda-size quilts up. They even consider finding a dark, hidden corner where my slideshow can run.....counting on, I believe, that politicians are too busy to see it! Or perhaps - after last week's poison attack on Congress - that it will take more these days to chock them :-)

For the same reason, be prepared for extremely tight security. They literally stripped me naked before they let me inside.......although - as my wife laughed - that was perhaps just a personal matter......her coworkers all teased her on the day Saddam Hussein was dug up of the hole: "Wow, he looked just like your husband!" 

Anyway, I have nothing to do until my next show in Princeton on Feb. 27th.So if by chance you are close to the capital next week, let's hang out together or with my friends in the Washington ghetto. You can find me crashing among the many homeless outside Congress.....well, at least in the comfort of my not so freezing van ......or reach me anytime on my cell phone on 917-640-3732.   

With love

Jacob Holdt



Further information:

President George W. Bush signs H.R. 3491

Did you ever hear about Bush signing this important Museum bill?

The occasion: 

The reason for the exhibition is to celebrate the signing of the bill (H.R. 3491) to establish the first African-American museum in Washington. If you haven't heard anything about it.....well, that is no surprise. For Bush deliberately waited signing the bill until the day all the media was focusing on the capture of Saddam Hussein (which, it is now generally agreed, was no doubt another Bush-staged event.... the Kurds had already found him days earlier). 

As far as I am told all the circumstances around the passing of this law has been very hush-hush since Bush and the right knows that it does not go down well with right-wingers and this is an election year. Some are still railing against Martin Luther King's birthday observance day. On the other hand, Bush did not have much of a choice signing it now when both the Jews have a Holocaust Museum and the beautiful new Museum of American Indians also is almost finished - actually the closest to Congress of the whole Smithsonian complex. No doubt Bush was also "strongly advised" on this matter by Rice and Powell! However, my view here might be a bit cynical since I have all my information only from the black people in the support committee - people who have been working ever since 1918 to get this thing to happen. So perhaps you better get the official, more rosy version on

The exhibition:

This particular exhibition is organized by the "Presidential Commission on the Development of the National Museum of African American History and Culture". In addition to my pictures there will be significant pieces from the Mark Mitchell Collection, which the museum wants to purchase, but which Mark Mitchell at this point wants too much money for. At the opening, awards will be presented to certain legislators who worked diligently to get the legislation introduced and passed.

For myself this exhibition might also become a testing ground. I am told that the Commission is considering having my pictures also in the actual museum once it has been built along with a digital video version of my slideshow.
However, I know the feelings of Americans around these pictures well enough to know how much controversy and pain my pictures invoke - not least from my last slideshow in the Smithsonian. So it will be a long struggle before the pictures actually end up there permanently.....just as I expect an incredible struggle between blacks (internally) and whites about what else to put into such a museum which is "safe" enough for white school children to see. 

For my own part I don't think Joseph Lieberman really knows what he is hosting .....(although I must give him credit for being the only candidate bringing "race" into the election - apart from Sharpton and Gephardt's minority set asides - with his far more explosive idea that Congress should consider slave reparations!!!) One of the other candidates, Dennis Kucinich, actually is using my pictures of poverty in his present presidential campaign.......and who knows.... ...perhaps THAT is the reason he so far has ended up absolutely last in the primaries?  :-)  

So - the question here is whether to be seen or not to be seen. For if Jesse Helms sees my rotunda exhibition surely the whole round-about could very fast be changed into something resembling his rotunda exhibition -:) 
.....perhaps not so bad.... who ever heard of Robert Mapple Thorpe before Jesse Helms "discovered" this "obscene" artist?

To my Danish friends:

I får denne indbydelse med da I jo efterhånden rejser utroligt meget til konferencer o.lign. i USA - samt for lige at sige at udstillingen var en af grundene sammen med en gang influenza til at I ikke fik julepost i år .......og altså ikke fordi I var blevet slettet af listen.

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