Allan Sekula

Ten years later, what exactly did the WTO protests accomplish? Paul Schell and Norm Stamper lost their jobs after the tear gas wafted away. Charlize Theron later starred in the Crash-like melodrama Battle in Seattle. But if we’re not mistaken, globalization continues even more inexorably; and the economy was far better in those angry late ’90s than it is today. The World Trade Organization has learned to hold its secret cabals in small, remote locations, far from the turtle-costumed marchers and dreaded Eugene anarchists. Here, depending on your perspective, the WTO showdown either tarnished or strengthened the Seattle brand. We’re a trade-dependent port city, full of multinational corporations and international workers. The protests were fun, in an attention-getting, “Look at me!” kind of way, a means to proving our radical street cred. Yet the photographs on display by Allan Sekula suggest that the image of rebellion will prove more durable than any political reform. In the 10 frames collected in “Waiting for Tear Gas,” he shoots in blurry color, close to the ground, not trying to make sense of the chaotic scenes. Protesters crouch on the pavement; cops march in their Darth Vader riot gear; a red devil wielding a chain saw scurries by—whether in retreat or defiance we can’t tell. It’s not photojournalism on the level of Rick Dahms, who shot SW’s iconic WTO cover that December. If anything, these images are clichés—distillations from our memories first-hand, on TV, or from the movie. Sekula remembers them for us, even if we can’t quite recall what we were marching about. BRIAN MILLER

Thursdays, Fridays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Starts: Oct. 8. Continues through Jan. 31, 2009

 
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