September 15, 1997
by Katherine Enos

This column was named for an arts group of the late 1960s which went by the acronym of RAT. RAT stood for Radical Art Terrorists. 
Of course, that was before artist Jason Sprinkle's abandoned pickup truck with his construction of a very, very large heart in the truckbed was taken for a bomb in the current atmosphere of fear. 
All of the Westlake area in Seattle was blocked off for hours that day, during rush-hour, and many people were very upset. Unfortunately, Jason Sprinkle got into a lot of trouble. 
So, just to avoid confusion, as well as attorney fees and wasted time, this page is not an explosive device. 
Got that?
Information Designer Edward Tufte argues that annotation lends credibility. How are we doing?
As writers, we think annotation is also fun.
By the way, have you ever seen the Exploding Font Company website? They tell a funny story about the trouble their name has caused.
pomegranates writer D.K. Pan liked the name RAT because it was also a reference to Camus. Publisher Katherine agreed that this was nice. 
In future, this column will carry political, social and cultural commentary and criticism.
Why pomegranates?

The word pomegranate is defined as "a thick-skinned several-celled reddish berry that is about the size of an orange and has many seeds with pulpy crimson arils of tart flavor." This from Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. The entymology of the word is pomme grenate, literally, a "seedy apple." Pomme, of course, is the French word for apple. Garnets are named after the pomegranate, grenat again from the French, which when used as an adjective means red like a pomegranate.

The skin of a pomegranate is a deep red when the fruit is soft, yielding. Its maze-like interior gives way to variegated and fragile tissues which cling to the plump seeds of each section. With time, a pomegranate dries and hardens, the seeds inside wither and become nothing more than dried kernals, the leathery skin transforms into a gourd which takes on a swarthy red coloration.

There are many references to pomegranates in literature. The best known of these is probably in Greek mythology, the story of Persephone's abduction by Hades. It was Persephone's consumption of somewhere between four and seven seeds of pomegranate which led to her fate of remaining in the underworld for four months of the world as Hades' wife, only then being allowed to escape to the upperworld, where her arrival heralds Spring.

As the structure of a pomegranate is complex, so too, do pomegranates signify diverse, even antithetical, meanings. pomegranates are symbolic of life, birth, sex, and of death.

The Color of Pomegranates is the name of an intensely beautiful art flick created by the Armenian filmmaker, Sergei Parajanov. This 1969 film depicts the spiritual history of Armenia and the life of the poet, Sayat Nova. Ironically, beautiful as it is, The Color of Pomegranates was a re-editing in an attempt to preserve some part of the film, Sayat Nova, of which the director's cut had already been confiscated. Sayat Nova was to have been Parajanov's masterpiece.

The Legend of Suram Fortress
Parajanov's The Legend of Suram Fortress. (Tinted film frame)

Long condemned as a "surrealist" and for his filmic deviations from Soviet socialist realism, Parajanov's focus on Ukrainian nationalist issues in his film, Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, could not be tolerated. Parajanov was arrested, one of the charges being "business with art object," whatever that means. Parajanov spent four years in a Soviet prison camp. Many of his works were banned. He died in 1990, unable to complete what was intended as an autobiographical film, Confession. If not at your local video store, at least some of Parajanov's films are available for purchase on the Web. There's also a good interview with Parajanov available.

pomegranates challenges the traditional value on the web that content and graphics, the visual, are opposed. For the thinking visual artist, there is no opposition. Theory (the word), and practice (the image) are integral.

This is not to say that the practice of art-making requires a theory. The Japanese modern dance form, Ankoku Butoh, for example, is said to have deliberately refrained from developing a critical theory to contain, and perhaps constrain itself. Many artists do not intellectualize the drives, the gut emotions, which move them to create. Nor should they. However, no artist exists or creates without a context, a culture, a time. When we read criticism of the arts, or when we look at art, we perceive that work within just such a context. Even if the art work stands in opposition to commonly held views.

As Information Designer Edward Tufte argued at a recent seminar in Seattle, image and text should be related for the benefit of understanding. This is perhaps what the photographer Jim Goldberg does in asking his subjects to pen their own captions to the images. At pomegranates we don't feel that words necessitate an image, nor does an image require words. Visual art appeals because it is visual and can therefore possess a quietude and satiety that words would only dispel. Likewise, words compel through language, through accumulation; they create through the reader's imagination, precisely because they are not given visual form. Our point is that images and words are simply different, but neither intrinsically means less than the other. "Content" is a rather meaningless name anyway, given to what fills the vessel, the container, created by the esteemed code. Perhaps a few years ago it made more sense to conceive of "content" as being limited to textual information alone. Graphics were secondary. Now, however, although there is no surfeit of bandwidth, the Web is inhabited by so many because it is a graphical environment. The proliferation of image tags in HTML code and the rapid increase in graphics file formats for the Web demonstrate a recognition of this fact. pomegranates, therefore, includes the visual in the definition of "content" and, while keeping in mind accessibility issues and bandwidth considerations, we'll work to provide both parts of the equation: image and text. Perhaps, with luck, our images will be evocative as good prose; our text will be cinematic as the frames of a film.

pomegranates, too, emerges from a context: the larger context of the web, with its current backdrop of technological developments such as push or pull, images or text, and protectionism versus freely accessible information. on a more personal level, perhaps, pomegranates emerges from the desire to create a web magazine where text and image do not stand in opposition, where articles do not have a strict 500 word limit, and where anti-intellectualism and the status quo have no home.

To that end, we have created a page where we will deposit special issue website banners for free dissemination. If you're concerned about the increasing violation of workplace rights in mandatory drug-testing, you might want to get one of the anti-drug-testing banners on the banners page to place on your site, no link-back required, no strings attached. You might also want to read Terrie Shattuck's account of taking a drug test to secure a high-tech job. The City of Seattle, Washington recently announced the institution of a policy to drug-test all new employees as a matter of course. We were pleased to learn last week that the ACLU has filed suit against the City of Seattle on this policy.

The Tin Drum, a film directed by Volker Schlondorff Another looming issue is the ban which has befallen Volker Schlondorff's film, The Tin Drum, nearly 20 years after its creation. At least, this ban applies in the State of Oklahoma where Oklahoma City District Judge Richard Freeman deemed the film "obscene" in response to a complaint from the anti-pornography group, "Oklahomans for Children and Families." An adaptation of Günter Grass' bestselling novel of the same name, The Tin Drum, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1979. Subsequent to Judge Freeman's ban, there was an investigation of video store rental records and copies of the video were seized from numerous video stores and even the local public library. As detailed at Kino Online, Schlondorff was disappointed that it took 18 years for the officials of Oklahoma to note the film's existence.
The Tin Drum, a novel by Gunter Grass To learn more about The Tin Drum controversy and to keep up-to-date on this issue, visit the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. To purchase a copy of the film on video, see Kino Online. And to hear what is being done about it, visit the ACLU. Some booksellers are also donating a portion of their proceeds from sales of the Günter Grass book to the ACLU's battle for The Tin Drum. As an added plus, if you live in Oklahoma, Kino Online will apparently give you a discount on your personal video copy. We don't have videos or books to give away at pomegranates, but if you go to the banners page, you'll find a banner there in support of The Tin Drum. Put it on your website to publicize the issue; no link-back to pomegranates required.

In future, as time allows, we'll be creating banners on other issues for free dissemination. They, too, will be available from pomegranates' banners page. Write us if there's a topic you're interested in seeing covered. If we share your interest, we'll try to pull one together. After all, art and propaganda have long been related….

Lastly, pomegranates is a site for the thinking artist, the ceaseless nonconformist, for the thinking person who enjoys the visual, who enjoys play. If you share these interests, bookmark this site, submit materials to us so we can better represent your views, and enjoy.end


All contents © 1997, 1998, pomegranates webzine. All rights reserved.