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Literal Depictions

Neil Bernstein's "Arizona 9/11: U.S. Immigration and Border Carnage"
On exhibit through the end of May
El Ojito Springs Center for Creativity
340 N. Fourth Ave.
624-4800; neilbernsteinartist.com

Neil Bernstein is used to controversy. Where other artists employ paint and charcoal, Bernstein casts human blood and ash.

"I risk life and limb to get these materials," he says. "I've gone through censorship and arrest."

Bernstein's current exhibit at the El Ojito Springs Center for Creativity includes a pair of crucified coyotes and a javelina carcass containing human ashes. "There has been quite a bit of conflict already in Tucson." he says, referring to an artist who demanded the javelina be taken down on grounds of obscenity. "Another two permanently housed artists actually left when we put the coyotes up. ... Their exact word for the exhibit was 'pornographic.'"

Bernstein calls the javelina "an incarnation of the ethnic massacre that's happening" at the border. "The pieces are a memorial to those who lost their lives trying to cross the border. ... This is actual border carnage, human remains ... specific to the tragedies that are occurring here in Southern Arizona."

When asked why his art requires verisimilitude, Bernstein cited "a lapse in our culture of ritual" which disconnects people from tragedies like Hurricane Katrina, Sept. 11 and the border. "The ash and Latino blood really affect the psyche. ... I'm presenting tragedy to give people a visceral understanding of this carnage."

In conjunction with the exhibit, which will stay up with additions through May, Bernstein has organized an ongoing series of funeral processions on Fourth Avenue. The Rev. Delle McCormick of BorderLinks, an activist organization, is performing the funeral rites. Two open caskets from the processions are on display at the gallery.

"People go in and lie in the caskets for hours at a time," Bernstein says, "volunteering, as live acts of providence." --A.M.


Technology and Us

Steven Vedro lectures on Digital Dharma
6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15
Tucson Medical Center
Marshall Auditorium
5301 E. Grant Road
798-6300; ionstucson.org

Over the summer, I was coming down from a pitchforkmedia.com binge. Near the end of my disillusionment from all of the record reviews, I branched out and discovered some of the other articles on the site. One of these was Chris Dahlen's article "The Next Gonzo Journalism."

In short, the article examines what Hunter S. Thompson did for the drug culture and asks for a similar pioneer in our technology-intertwined culture. Dahlen says: "Instead of explaining why this brave new freakshow interests us, we have to understand what it's doing to us."

Although Steven Vedro may not be the exact pioneer Dahlen is looking for, Vedro is certainly forcing people to look at our relationship with technology.

"It holds this incredible mirror to us," Vedro says. In his new book, Digital Dharma, Vedro examines seven technologies and dissects their physical aspects, but also explores the social and political implications of these technologies, as well as their metaphysical and spiritual implications.

Take the radio, for example. The physical components are all there--a transmitter and receiver sharing radio signals--but our social consciousness manifests itself, too. Vedro explains how there is a sense of empowerment in the basic structure of radio: one voice transmitting to many.

"It's all about who gets to speak, and who has to listen," Vedro says.

Vedro is stopping in Tucson during a current lecture tour to discuss his findings. He will explain those three main aspects in technology: the physical hardware; personal and social impact; and the metaphysical implications. The lecture is $5. There is an experiential workshop the following day that costs $20. --M.K.


Fighting AIDS One Kick at a Time

Benefit for Grassroot Soccer
7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 17
Tucson Jewish Community Center
3800 E. River Road
577-9393; grassrootsoccer.org

A full decade has passed since I summarily rejected reality TV as a complete waste of time and effort.

But good can come from bad, as illustrated by Ethan Zohn, winner of the reality series Survivor: Africa and co-founder of Grassroot Soccer, an international nonprofit organization that trains Africa's professional soccer players to educate the children of their communities about HIV/AIDS prevention.

In addition to training programs in Botswana, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and elsewhere, the organization also seeks to raise HIV/AIDS awareness globally.

Conceptualized in 2002 by soccer player and physician Tommy Clark, Grassroots Soccer got a kick-start that same year when Zohn, Clark's close friend, won Survivor: Africa and provided startup funds for the organization. According to the organization's Web site, Zohn regularly exploits his celebrity status by using "every media opportunity to talk about the tragedy of HIV."

Most amazingly, the program is getting proven results. In an independent evaluation, the Children's Health Council described the nonprofit as "a culturally appropriate ... effective way to educate at-risk youth about HIV/AIDS and its prevention. ... Significant changes ... are observed as a result of the program."

Zohn will appear at the benefit to speak about the organization. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students/children; 100 percent of the proceeds will go to Grassroot Soccer. Due to limited space, tickets should be obtained in advance by calling Abigail Foss at 577-9393. --A.M.


Here Comes V-Day!

"The Vagina Monologues" Benefit Performance
7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16
Fox Tucson Theatre
17 W. Congress St.
624-1515

This year marks the 10th anniversary of V-Day, a global movement that calls for an end to domestic abuse. Tucson is participating in the movement by hosting a three-part event centered on the play that inspired the movement: The Vagina Monologues.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, with a pre-show VIP reception at the Fox Tucson Theatre, hosted by Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall. For $50, event-goers can nibble on catered food provided by Cuvée World Bistro and enjoy an award ceremony for those in the community deemed "vagina warriors." Former Weekly contributor John Peck is one of the five recipients. The $50 also covers the cost of the performance and ensures the buyer a spot in the first four rows.

Then comes the show (with tickets for the show only costing $25).

"Everything about the show is volunteer, so we're not doing this for any profit," says Lori Riegel, the producer and organizer of the event. Proceeds from the event are designated for organizations that deal with violence prevention. The two beneficiaries are Jewish Family and Children's Services' Project L.E.A.H. (Let's End Abusive Households) and the Wingspan Anti-Violence Project.

Following the performance, a post-show party will take place at Hotel Congress. Titled "AfterGlow," the nightcap will feature desserts and an opportunity for socializing. Admission is $10. --M.K.

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