washington, photographed in the mind’s eye
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DESCRIPTIONA review by the Washington Post of Ken Wyner's 2011 exhibition.
saturday, september 3, 2011 EZ SU
StyleCOMIC RIFFS ONLINE
The woman behindthe Huffington PostThe writer of a new AriannaHuffington comic book sums herup with a single word: “survivor.”washingtonpost.com/comicriffs
My new life includes two‘girls,’ both yellow Labradors.
... Brandy and Duchess are partof my family; it is not a joke.”A Carolyn Hax reader, C4
COMING SUNDAY IN STYLE
Adult novelists borrowtricks from kid litMotifs popularized in books foryounger readers are cropping up inpage-turners designed for a moremature audience. Section T
Internationalintelligence’smeeting ofthe minds
BY ART TAYLOR
F irst-time novelist MatthewDunn brings an impressivebackground to the world of es-
pionage fiction: A veteran field oper-ative for MI6, Britain’s intelligenceservice, he ran covert operationsaround the globe, boasting 70 suc-cessful missions. Surely such behind-the-scenes expertise would translateinto grippingly realistic fiction, right?
At times, “Spycatcher” delivers justthat: terse conversations infusedwith subtle power plays, brutal en-counters among allies with compet-ing agendas, and forays into hostileterritory orchestrated for clockwork
efficiency butvulnerable todeadly missteps.
When “Spy-catcher” opens,messages inter-cepted by the Na-tional SecurityAgency reveal animminent as-sault againstWestern inter-ests. A joint en-deavor betweenthe CIA and MI6pits British agentWill Cochraneagainst the
plan’s mastermind, the shadowyMegiddo, a top-ranked officer inIran’s Revolutionary Guard. Co-chrane sets out to lure Megiddo intothe open or else be captured himselfand likely tortured — whatever ittakes to get closer to his prey. Cat-and-mouse games ensue, with nocertainty as to who’s playing whom.Cochrane’s chief asset is a Paris-basedjournalist who was Megiddo’s loverduring the Bosnian War. Cochrane isalso joined by a quartet of Americanoperatives whose collective résuméincludes stints with the Navy SEALs,the Green Berets and Delta Force —providing the jaws of a ferociousmousetrap.
Cochrane’s past haunts and com-plicates the unfolding action — par-ticularly the murder of his father,himself a British agent. He also risksbeing compromised by a buddingappreciation for that Paris-basedjournalist. Is it fair to use her as bait?To sacrifice her for the greater good?Reluctance and regret imbue nearlyevery action.
But while building this compellingstoryline, Dunn falls into some un-necessary exaggeration. Not just aspecial agent, Cochrane has to be asuper agent — the sole member of atop-secret Spartan program. As onehandler tells him: “You are the ulti-mate killer of killers, the man whoterrifies his enemies and allies, theman who can start wars and endthem, the man who is the West’sdeadliest and most secret weapon.”Similarly hyperbolic, Megiddo’s plotpromises “a huge massacre the likesof which the world has never seenbefore,” and Megiddo himself is castas some dark overlord: “Not onemajor terror act against Western orWestern-allied targets can take placewithout his implicit or explicit autho-rization. Even groups that are thesworn enemy of the regime of Iranfind themselves working for him,usually without knowing they’re do-ing so.”
That unevenness — stark realismmeets cartoonish excess, male fanta-sy mars persuasive credibility — un-dermines what otherwise stands as astylish and assured debut.
Taylor frequently reviews mysteries andthrillers for The Post.
Washington, photographed in the mind’s eyeBY DANIELLE O’STEEN
Special to the Washington Post
For over 40 years, Kenneth Wyner hasphotographed Washington’s more en-chanted private homes for architecturalfirms and shelter magazines.
Now it’s his turn to build.For his exhibition “Structure of Spirit,
Design of the Heart” at the AmericanInstitute of Architects, Wyner has takenhis collection of images — depicting inte-
riors worth coveting, aswell as monuments andpublic institutions —
and transformed them, digitally enhanc-ing the photographs to create a fantasti-cal version of the city’s architecture. Us-ing Photoshop, he has turned these struc-tures into an architect’s wild dream, of-fering a possible future of architecturethat is both expressive and expansive,with buildings that occasionally have theability to float.
Washington’s architecture, for many, is
review continued on C2
COURTESY OF KENNETH WYNER
A member of the Syria diaspora helps fight for changeBY ALICE FORDHAM
It is Friday morning, and in a 14th-floor apartment in Falls Church, 3-year-old Omar is tearing around theliving room, drawing on the walls,while his father, Radwan Ziadeh, is
bent over his laptop, calling Syria.The apartment overlooks the wide
highway to Washington, and suburbanAmerica — McDonald’s, a church, a pool— is spread out below, but Ziadeh isoblivious to it as he takes calls and readstweets and instant messages from his
MAINTAINING TIES: Ziadeh, working from his home in Falls Church, connects with Syrian contacts via e-mail, Skype and phone while son Omar, 3, plays.
SPYCATCHERBy MatthewDunnMorrow. 418 pp.$25.99
PHOTOS BY AMANDA VOISARD/THE WASHINGTON POST
AN EXILE SPEAKS OUT: Radwan Ziadeh, right, a Syriandemocracy and human rights advocate, joins a Codepink protestin front of the Syrian Embassy in Washington.
far-off homeland to piece together theday’s events.
“There are 15 people killed alreadytoday,” he says, “and we have heard noth-ing from Hama [Syria’s fourth-largestcity]becauseall theelectricity, telephonesand Internet have been cut off.” Afterputting the numbers he considers reliableinto his database of the death toll, heupdates journalists and human rightsgroups.
Since the uprising in Syria began fivemonths ago, and the regime of PresidentBashar al-Assad cracked down on com-
munications as well as public protests,Ziadeh has gone from an obscure rightsactivist and academic to a full-time andprominent advocate for a vociferous op-position-in-exile. As part of a group inWashington that could play a key role inSyria’s future,Ziadehdreamsof returningto his homeland and forming a democrat-ic political party. But he fiercely rejectscomparisons with American-backed ex-iles such as Ahmed Chalabi, who re-turned to a political role in Iraq, the
activist continued on C2
Cat-and-mouse gamesensue, with no certainty asto who’s playing whom.
DOUBLETAKE:KennethWyner usesPhotoshop toreinvent thecity, as in thismirroredimage, in“Structure ofSpirit, Designof the Heart,”at theAmericanInstitute ofArchitects.
C2 EZ SU KLMNO SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2011
DOONESBURY by Garry Trudeau
CUL DE SAC by Richard Thompson
A Washington kaleidoscope
defined by neoclassical buildings— heavy, limestone and marblemonoliths that stretch along theMall. Newer, modern structures— such as the Newseum on Penn-sylvania Avenue and House ofSweden overlooking the Potomac— that trade classical features forglass and steel cause a stir still.
But these are all stereotypes,according to Wyner. His imagesreveal an intimate look at themore adventurous side of thecity’s architecture, found in pri-vate commissions. The homes areconstructed with diverse, and of-ten environmentally friendly,building techniques that look tothe future, providing the idealsubject for Wyner’s hypnotic,meditative compositions.
Of course, it’s clear that a pri-vate home in Glover Park de-signed by Travis Price, for in-stance, is not suspended in air, orbuilt with oxidized copper wallsfor wings. Wyner does not hidethe fact that his viewers are beingmanipulated. Here photographscan lie, and it requires only acareful look to see how he hasspliced the images. That may takeaway some of their mystery, butthese wealthy, decadent homesstill appeal to the voyeur in us all.
It’s easy to gape at the historicbarn in Leesburg that is part of aprivate 500-acre estate designedby Blackburn Architects. The in-terior is composed with floor-to-ceiling windows, rehabilitatedwood and plush fuchsia sofas. Butthe building has also taken on abit of the fantastical: Wyner hasused Photoshop to seamlessly at-tach a mirror image, thereby turn-ing this design haven into a cav-ernous space.
With Wyner’s digital adjust-ments, a house in Great Fallsdesigned by Lorena Checa Archi-tects for Buddhist teachers TaraBrach and Jonathan Foust seemsto grow into a cathedral, as themassive windows open to the sur-rounding woods stretch and bendinto impossible — but, if achieved,inspiring — forms. The structurebecomes a sustaining organism,responding to the house’s greenfeatures (such as the compostingtoilets).
For the Potomac house of Dickand Jane Stoker (also backers ofthe exhibition), Wyner focuses onthe couple’s art collection, en-hancing a Frank Stella paintingand a George Rickey stainless-steel sculpture in view throughmirroring panels that stretch thecarefully composed space.
Working as an architecturalphotographer is already a kind ofbalancing act, especially in pri-vate homes where achieving thatstill, dynamic shot requires aquick eye and a lot of patience. Inhis virtual constructions, though,Wyner has all the power.
He adds structure to these im-ages by using a range of unlikelymaterials as backing, such asbrushed aluminum, recycledcardboard and No-Lite Fabric, aheavy drapery that can block out
review from C1
country he once fled.Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.),
who presides over Near Easternaffairs on the Foreign RelationsCommittee, has met several timeswith groups of dissidents, includ-ing Ziadeh. Like State Depart-ment officials, Casey is keen to seethe exiles form a coherent opposi-tion group that can function as analternative government — noteasy in a country where politicalactivity has been effectivelybanned for more than four de-cades.
“We have got to provide themwith as much support as possible,”the senator says. “There’s muchwork to do in preparing for thenext phase.”
Assuming that phase isreached, Syrian activists in Wash-ington could have a more directimpact on the course of Syrianevents. They include Ammar Ab-dulhamid,whowasa fieryMuslimreligious leader in Los Angeles inthe 1980s before becoming a secu-lar, ponytailed rights campaignertoday. Ahed al-Hindi, a confidentstudent in his early 20s, says hewas far closer to his Americanfriends than the Syrian communi-tyuntil theuprisingsbeganandhejoined the campaign. MohammadAbdullah works in technology,and his background as the son of afamous and often jailed politicalactivist in Syria lends him credi-bility with the activists backhome.
For now, they protest, cam-paign and brief lawmakers aboutthe uprising that has left at least2,200 dead. But in terms of politi-cal influence, it may be Ziadehwho has the most leverage. “He isnot somuchapersonasan institu-tion,” Abdulhamid says.
Ziadeh counts the dead, helpssmuggle satellite phones into hishomeland, publishes videos ofprotests and — because it is hardto reach people in the country —puts himself forward to explainSyria to everyone from Secretaryof State Hillary Rodham Clintonto members of the U.N. HumanRights Council and politicians inRussia, Brazil and India.
“I spend every morning forthree or four hours speaking to 30to 35 people on the ground,” hesays. “I never feel that I am out ofSyria.”
As he speaks, Ziadeh receivesan e-mail from someone who hasescaped Hama, which has beenretaken by government forcesfrom protesters. The message says
activist from C1
the electricity has been cut off forthree days, the food is rotten and aman who left his house to buybread for his children was shotdead in the street.
He talks to a Western journalistworking undercover in Damascusto compare notes of reports, thenputs on a tie and tears himselfaway from the computer. He has ameeting toget toatState, followedby one with the Canadian foreignminister and a television inter-view.
As he leaves, he murmurs anapology about the energeticOmar. “His father is sometimesnot a good father,” he says. “Ishould have more time to playwith him.”
Born in the Syrian capital ofDamascus, Ziadeh began writingabout human rights in the 1990s,when the country was under theauthoritarian rule of Hafez al-As-sad, the current president’s father.
He set up the Damascus Centerfor Human Rights and remem-bers fondly the short period ofopenness called the DamascusSpring after Hafez’s son Basharinherited power in 2000. Hun-dreds would gather to discussfreedom and democracy. But thenew permissiveness disappearedfast, many were arrested and thedebates went underground.
Ziadehandhis friendswouldgoout of town, where they would bedifficult to track down, and takethe batteries out of their phones toavoid being bugged. “They werelovely gatherings, and we felt in-spiredtodosomethingdespite thedanger,” he says.
But in 2007, threatened witharrest for his work, he fled to the
United States, where he was avisiting scholar at Harvard andthen George Washington Univer-sity, from where he wrote booksand articles calling for democracyin the Middle East. His voice,though passionate and scholarly,went largely unheard until he, likeothers, gained new relevancewhen the wave of revolutionsknown as the Arab Spring sweptthrough the region.
He shows photographs of him-self with Tawakul Karman, now afierce female leaderofuprisings inYemen; Kamal Jendoubi, then anexile, who became the head of theTunisian elections commission;and Bahi Hassan, a rights cam-paigner who recently declined ajob in Egypt’s new post-Mubarakgovernment.
Ziadeh, too, hopes to returnhome and participate in a realdemocracy in a free Syria al-though he doesn’t imagine him-self as Syria’s next leader and iscareful to stress the heroism of theprotesters on the ground. “I dobelieve, I and my wife believe, thatwe’ll gobacktoSyria,”hesays. “Wenever had a dream to stay out ofSyria.”
As he hastens between meet-ings, a diminutive figure perspir-ing in a suit on a sweltering day, hechecks hundreds of messages onFacebook. Some are full of praise(one woman hopes to become hismother-in-law), but others are an-gry, suspicious of his ambitions.“Do you want to ride into thecountry on a French or Italiantank?” asks one. On a Web sitecalled Ikhras — “shut up” in Ara-bic — he is described as an Ameri-can-approved “democracy and
Syrian exile yearns for changehuman rights advocate” whodoes not represent the Syrianpeople or their aspirations. Thewriters rail at him for address-ing the American Jewish Com-mittee and mock his reedy voiceand uninspiring speeches.
Such criticism is common.Someprotesters inSyriaexpressanger that the people represent-ing their interests to the Obamaadministration, other govern-ments and the United Nationsare English speakers who live inthe West and are not riskingtheir lives at demonstrations.
“They say I am like AhmedChalabi,” says Ziadeh, referringto the Iraqi dissident whose po-litical party received fundingfrom the U.S. government andwho lobbied hard for the remov-al of Saddam Hussein. “This isnonsense. I am not calling formilitary intervention . . . but, ofcourse, people, when they wantto discredit us, say this.” He sayshe receives no money from thegovernment and instead relieson income from his writing andfunds his travel with donationsfrom the Syrian business com-munity.
Even the State Departmentrecognizes how counterproduc-tive obvious American backingcan be. P.J. Crowley, who untilrecently was Clinton’s spokes-man, said State is keen to en-gage — with caution — with thediaspora, which has an influ-ence on decision making.
“There’s the abject horror ofwhat’s happening on theground in Syria . . . but we’ve gotto be very careful about choos-ing which people we support,”he says. Politics is about rela-tionships, and it is difficult tobuild bonds when one group ison the streets in Syria and theother is in meetings in Washing-ton, he says, so the opposition isan incoherent bunch at the mo-ment.
At a recent gathering of theSyrian opposition in Turkey, thedifficulty of unifying a groupdivided by distance, faith andideology was clear as the groupargued bitterly.
At the end of the day, Ziadehgoes back to his place in FallsChurch.
He lays out plates of tradi-tional food — fried meat dump-lings, little pastries called fa-tayeh.
The sky outside darkens. Zia-deh talks a little about his fami-ly, growing up in Damascus, theway it smells of jasmine ’roundthe ornate Azm palace in the oldcity. His mother is in hiding inSyria. The authorities will lifther travel ban only if she signs apaper condemning her son’swork, which she refuses to do.He would like to go back to visither and see his two brothers —one of whom was arrested thisweek.
He speaks of the next step —testifying before the U.N. Hu-manRightsCouncil—andmoreinternational travel to lobbycountries such as Russia andBrazil to condemnAssad.Mean-while, thousands of miles away,Syrian families bury the day’sdead.
Although he worked for thischange forhiswholeadult life, itstill seems unbelievable that acountry in which dissent wascrushed for so long has risen up.
“I never expected this daywould come,” he says.
6ON THE WEB For full coverageof the unrest in Syria, go to
washingtonpost.com/world. Also,find a photo gallery featuringRadwan Ziadeh atwashingtonpost.com/style.
light. For a Chevy Chase housedesigned by Ponte Mellor Archi-tects, Wyner prints the image onvoile, a sheer, gauzy material typi-cally used in clothing or windowtreatments. The result, light-filledand sculptural as it hangs fromthe ceiling, depicts the privatenightclub in the house’s basement(complete with psychedelic light-ing and a faux tree) along with theclient’s daughters, posed on thedance floor.
In using these commercial ma-terials for printing, Wyner findshis strength, as his images take onunsuspecting textures and prop-erties. The prints on cardboardhave rugged edges; the images onbrushed aluminum shimmerwith holographic effects. Such va-riety strengthens his photographsof monuments and cityscapes ofWashington, New York and HongKong that accompany the privateinteriors.
A nighttime photograph of theFilene Center at Wolf Trap, splitand mirrored, radiates in silveryparticles on its brushed alumi-num backing as light is emittedfrom the stage in a surge of elec-tricity. The National Archivesbuilding — itself a ripe example ofthe neoclassical movement —picks up the same holographiceffect as its image surges in afrenetic upward view of its facade.These structures — mainstays ofWashington culture — have neverfelt so full of energy.
The images of Washington, inparticular, need this visual diver-sityand intensity, as their subjectsare among the most familiar —and most exhausted — for everyamateur, professional, tourist andlocal alike. One prime example isWyner’s aerial shot of the Wash-ington Monument and the citybeyond, with a repeating effectthat makes the Tidal Basin undu-late in wide ribbons with unnatu-ral colors, calling to mind oldhand-tinted prints (a techniqueWyner used at the start of hiscareer). He takes a more abstractapproachwithhis viewof theMallfrom the base of the monument,layering mirrored images and cir-cling the structure with only thetops of the surrounding buildingsto allow the sky free rein amid aring of floating American flags.
Wyner’s photographs may ini-tially appear overly celebratory inthis respect, but what they offer isa fresh view of what most Wash-ingtonians barely glance at: theircity, which can easily becomebackground noise but is actuallyfull of giants.
O’Steen is a freelance writer.
Structure of Spirit,Design of the Heart
by Kenneth Wyner, through Oct. 28 atthe American Institute of Architects,
1735 New York Ave. NW,Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
IMORE ONLINE See photos fromthe exhibit at
AMANDA VOISARD/THE WASHINGTON POST
INTERNATIONAL OUTREACH: Radwan Ziadeh leaves theCanadian Embassy after talking with the Canadian foreign minister.
COURTESY OF KENNETH WYNER
GREAT PERFORMANCE: The Filene Center radiates energy in thismanipulated image by architectural photographer Kenneth Wyner.