While working on my posts about the covers of books about prisons (JBbTC 39–45, 52), I started a folder of Angela Davis covers, which has now grown large enough to be the basis of its own series of posts. About a third of these covers are books I have, another third are from friends (thanks again Ret!), and the final third from trolling the internet. Although an academic and an intellectual, it was Davis's connections to action that first brought her into the spotlight. In 1970-72 she was arrested (after a national manhunt by the FBI), tried, and eventually acquitted for kidnapping and manslaughter for her alleged role in Jonathon Jackson's failed attempt to liberate the Soledad Brothers.
This past Thursday, Wisconsin witnessed another new low. State Republicans in the Assembly fast tracked a pro-mining bill (AB 426) that will allow the out-of-state mining corporation Gogebic Taconite to create an open mining pit just south of the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa - a process that will inevitably damage the watershed and the beds where sacred manoomin (wild rice) grows.
Next Friday, I am heading to Tromsø, Norway for an exhibition at Small Projects Gallery, a small artist-run center. The exhibtion is called In Defiance, In Defense (English) or Nággárvuodas, Bealustussan (Sami). My work in the Arctic will also include a print collaboration with Sami youth, as well as a small series of text-based screen prints incoporating aspects of poems written by Sami artist Sara Margrethe Oskal. These sorts of projects, ones which integrate but go beyond the printed image, ar becoming more central to my artistic and activist practices.
Today is the birthday of Angela Davis. Davis is best known for her work with the Black Panthers in the 1970's, subsequent time on the lam, and incredible afro; she has also been a forceful and passionate voice in the prison abolition movement since the 1980's, working with groups like Critical Resistance. The following text is from Firebrands: Portraits From the Americas: "Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Angela Yvonne Davis is a scholar, orator and revolutionary. Davis became involved with the Black Panther Party in the summer of 1970, working on a campaign to free imprisoned Black Panther activists the Soledad Brothers. When a shotgun registered in Davis’ name was used in an attempt to free prisoner James McClain during a court hearing, Davis appeared on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list and was thrust into the national spotlight."
Pittsburgh, PA, USA (full sign below... and hey, tired of seeing all these images coming mostly from Pittsburgh? Then please start sending me your photos, I'm running out! Details below.)
I received a press release this morning from a new political action group; Patriots for Self-Deportation, announcing the launch of their website SelfDeport.org. Taking inspiration from Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's recent endorsement of self deportation as the only logical, humane and responsible solution to the cancer of illegal immigration, the group's spokesman Stephen Winters has this to say: "A surprising number of authentic patriots have found in their own genealogical searches that one or more of their ancestors came here or stayed here illegally, and yet continued to make a living in this country and have children who in turn became instant citizens. Some patriots, faced with this moral dilemma, have decided to set an example for others. Knowing that their own presence in this country is not on moral solid ground, they have decided to demonstrate the highest level of civic dedication and sacrifice, and engage in self-deportation. "
As a newly-minted US citizen, it made me flush with pride to see that there are patriots out there willing to step up and kick themselves out of the country they call home, simply because of some irregularity in their ancestors' arrival proceedings. I'm looking into it myself.
In drug-war torn Reynosa, Mexico, a large statue of a rooster has appeared on a busy roadside. The ten-foot sculpture is adorned with a flower wreath addressed to the memory of a murdered leader of the Gulf Cartel, Samuel Flores-Borrego, gunned down on the road to Monterrey in September of last year. The monument has its own power supply, as well as lights that illuminate it at night. Local governments have made no comment on the statue's provenance nor on who might be paying to keep the lights on.
I've never hidden my admiration for the sheer volume of creativity, thoughtful illustration, and sharp design that has gone into the production of Penguin Books, especially from the 1950s through the 1980s. I would guess most readers out there over the age of 30 have at least one 60s or 70s era Penguin paperback sitting on a shelf, and its cover is likely to be handsome, or quirky, or crisply efficient, or some combination of the above. For those not familiar, there is a great introduction to the press and its design history—Phil Baines' Penguin by Design (Penguin, 2005).
Rarely do I dig through a used bookstore and not stumble upon an old Penguin paperback with a phenomenal cover I've never seen before. Earlier this year I was at Brooklyn's Book Thug Nation and picked up two books from Penguin's "Political Leaders of the Twentieth Century" series, one on Mao and one on Ho Chi Minh. [Actually the series was put out by Pelican, the "serious" non-fiction imprint of Penguin.] Both carry variations of the style for the entire series, top 1/3 of the cover is title, the bottom 2/3 are an image of the leader/subject of the book, with a page tear separating the two. The edition of Mao Tse-Tung by Stuart Schram I have (to the right) is from 1966 and the cover design is attributed to Snark International.
“Elections are a Con” – Censorship by the provincial government of Tyrol
On November 21, 2011, I received a funding commitment from TKI – Tiroler Kulturinitiativen / IG Kultur Tirol. This resulted from an exemplary transparent juried process that selected, from 56 proposals, seven projects for funding, including my poster project “Wahlen sind Betrug” (“Elections are a Con”). The posters with the terse slogan “Elections are a con” were to be displayed over a period of two weeks in Innsbruck (Austria) as a series of city-light posters or on large billboards.
The slogan “Elections are a Con” (Elections piège à cons) was coined in May 1968 in Paris. The German version of this slogan, shaped by a specific historical setting, would be placed over a photograph that shows the Tyrolean Alps. Comparable images appear repeatedly in the background of posters from political parties competing in Austrian elections. The poster series “Elections are a Con” would lack the usual portraits of politicians and constitute a provocative blank space. Instead of meaningless election advertising, one could read the matter-of-fact statement that “elections are a con”.
Our friends at the California Department of Corrections have been hard at work, and this week released a new series of modified bus shelter advertisements supporting Occupy Wall Street West. From their press release:
Liberated Ads Confront Foreclosure Crisis
The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has unveiled a new campaign of bus shelter ads to confront America’s home foreclosure crisis. During the week of January 16th, the CDC successfully apprehended, rehabilitated and discharged more than one dozen bus shelter advertisements throughout San Francisco, including the intersection of California and Davis Street, one block from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The CDC’s red, white and blue advertisements declare: MORTGAGE IN TROUBLE? OCCUPY THE BANKS along with the website, www.OccupyWallStWest.org. Produced with the assistance of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the corrected advertisements feature the rooftop of an American home set against clear blue skies with the phrase: Making Home Affordable.
For the past two months Wisconsin has been swept by recall fever. The recall movement was given 60 days to gather 540,208 valid signatures needed for an election to take place that will pit Walker against a Democratic challenger. This was a huge task and some doubts were cast if that many signatures could be obtained in that short of time.
For a while I’ve been going to Acteal in the municipality of Chenalhó, in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Acteal is a small Tzotzil community who were victims of the 22nd of December 1997 massacre by a PRI party sponsored Mascaras Rojas paramilitary group.
I have encountered lots of people who mistake Acteal as a Zapatista Community. One key difference is that Las Abejas (The Bees) is a pacifist and religious organization. Despite those differences, Las Abejas have vocally expressed their support for the EZLN and their demands. It was this link with the Zapatistas which led to the massacre of 45 members (4 of them pregnant) of Las Abejas. The members were murdered inside a small church praying, in an environment filled with fear of the EZLN growing stronger.
Sins Invalid is a San Francisco/Bay Area based performance project that celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists. Since 2006, thier performances have explored themes of sexuality, embodiment, and the disabled body, impacting thousands through live performance. They're raising money to get a film together incorporating interviews and performances - check out their Kickstarter page here.
Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark (full sign below)
Hennessy Youngman, the row-home raconteur, does his inimitable part here dissecting and dismantling the awful schlock-art masturbator Damien Hirst, he of "embalmed shark in formaldehyde" fame. This is a hilarious and timely send up of a culture creature sunk so deep in the santorum of his own rich-idiot self-satisfaction that he can barely breathe, and who soon will drown in the sea of cheap money and bad ideas he claims as his "medium".
Dara Greenwald turned me on to Art Thoughtz- this is a toast to her wit and wisdom.
Muhammad Ali was born on this day in 1942 and has kicked ass ever since. A poet boxer, Ali publicly announced his conversion to the nation of Islam the day after he won the title of heavyweight boxing champion of the world. The following text is from Firebrands: Portraits from the Americas.
"In 1966, Muhammad Ali was drafted by the U.S. Army. Although it was clear that the celebrity Ali would not see active combat, he steadfastly refused any military service. Giving up his heavyweight title and millions of dollars, and risking his freedom and career, Ali was banned from boxing for almost four years for following his conscience. Ali’s actions resonated around the globe. He was a forceful voice in opposition to the war in Vietnam, a black man with courage and conviction and a fearless dissenter in a world where “jocks” were not supposed to be radically minded."
My friend R. Marut in London has come through again with some more books I had missed, so here are the last three Kronstadt covers. First is this handsome Freedom Press pamphlet, The Kronstadt Revolt by Anton Ciliga (1942). This is pretty standard for Freedom in the forties, a split color cover with nice letter-pressed bold type, this time Bodoni Poster and Bodoni Poster Italic.
Since moving to New Mexico I've been working with a project called Friends of the Orphan Signs. This collaborative project was started by Ellen Babcock, who saw potential in the many skeletal remains of signs that line the old Route 66 (now Central Ave) which runs through the heart of Albuquerque.
Video was only one medium in Dara's amazing body of work, but every bit of her brilliance, sharp social and political critique, and raucous sense of humor comes through in the videos she made. Last November, Dara and Todd Chandler spent an afternoon going through her hard drives and consolidating over 20 videos in an effort to catalog them online. They're going up on a Vimeo page - right now there are 16 pieces on there and the rest will be uploaded soon. Please watch, share, and screen widely.
I worked up a new video recently, an ominous treatment of that crucial scene in Disney's Old Yeller (1957) wherein Yeller battles the rabid wolf that's been terrorizing the Coates family. I think it's best with headphones if you've got 'em handy.
Abigail Satinsky wrote a beautiful eulogy for Dara Greenwald for the Bad at Sports blog that speaks volumes about the impact that Dara's work had on so many of us - especially in the cities that she called home - Chicago, Troy, and Brooklyn. Satinsky points us towards reflection and the need to carefully understand Dara's practice and what collective work, group projects, and radical culture meant to her and what it means to us - her friends, co-collaborators, and admirers...
On Monday, the Justseeds family lost our dear friend and collective member Dara Greenwald who passed away from cancer at age forty. We cherish the memories of an incredible person and an incredible life. Many will remember Dara for her art and activism - her video work, her scholarship, the Pink Bloque, the United Victorian Workers (pictured above), Spectres of Liberty, the Interference Archive, and the Signs of Change exhibition. We will remember her as a friend - someone whose sense of humor and wit was second-to-none, and someone whose words and actions will inspire us for the rest of our lives. We love you Dara.
Last year two species of Rhinoceros went extinct. The Vietnamese sub-species of the Javan Rhino and the Western Black Rhino of Africa are gone forever, casting no more shadows. Their lengthy presence on earth was snuffed out not by any phenomenon of natural pressure, but by the real-world consequences of human beliefs.
The world's rhinos are dwindling faster now than ever before, pushed to the utter brink by the adherents and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The burgeoning purchasing power of the human populations of China, Korea and Vietnam has led directly to a surge of growth in the number of rhinos of all species being poached for their horns. The horns are used in therapies for colds and minor flus, and not, as is often mistakenly stated, as aphrodisiacs. Regardless of the purpose, those in Southeast Asia and the diaspora who are currently paying equivalents of upward of $2000 per pound are being fleeced: Rhino horn is composed of keratin and nothing more, just as are human hair and fingernails. Until quite recently there was additional poaching pressure from nations on the Arabian peninsula, where rhino horn was traditionally made into the handles of the ceremonial daggers that represent the passage of boys into manhood. The massive increase in price and conservation pressure have reduced that demand, and almost all horn is now traded to Asia.
rural Massachusetts, USA (full sign below)
Uh, the name kind of says it all.
This is a collaborative drawing that Shaun and I made at the London Anarchist Bookfair, for a zine project that was supposed to come together that day. The project got canceled, so we were left with this ridiculous drawing. Thought someone out there might appreciate this "political cartoon."
Our Hen House recently posted this short video interview with Sue Coe, wherein she discusses the powerful motivation behind her work. It's part of their "Art of the Animal" series of videos, articles, podcasts, etc. Take a few minutes to watch it, and then take a few minutes to dive into their website, which is loaded with "resources that you can use in order to find your own way to change the world for animals." There's a podcast with some more of the Coe interview here.
This week I've got even more Kronstadt covers, with a lot of help from Dave at Recollection Books in Seattle (thanks!). To the right is the dust jacket of the first edition of Paul Avrich's Kronstadt 1921 (Princeton University, 1970). Somehow in exploring all the covers of this books two weeks ago (HERE), I missed the first edition! This design takes the path less traveled for the more "pro-Kronstadt" books, choosing to focus on the large white expanse of snow and ice of the location, rather than the heroics of the soldiers. The slightly Cyrillized (doubt that's a word?) poster type is a nice touch, as is the line of ellipses that become a break in the image midway down the cover.
When my friend Katherine Ball was being interviewed by the Oregonian here in Portland during the Occupation this fall, she asked me to write up something to address the so-called lack of demands on the part of the occupiers. This is what I came up with: the paper didn't run it, but I think it works. Demand the Impossible! Impunity for All!
What do we want?
Empathy. Generosity. Solidarity. Creativity. Mutual Aid. Personal Responsibility. Inter-ethnic, trans-gender, omnisexual and pan-national notions of kinship and respect. A demolition of materialism and crass consumption. A washing away of bad fear. An end to the brute conversion of the glories of the natural world into abstract quanta that serve no purpose except to warehouse crude and gloating power. A notion of connectedness to the networks and webs of life. An end to our humanist hubris, our presumption of supremacy and dominance. A new rule of nature to supersede the rule of law- you must not take what can't be replaced. More importantly even than that- you shall not lie to yourself about the good you are able to do, whether by action or by inaction or by refusal. You cannot buy your way out of a burning world. We want all of this and we want it yesterday, or better still we want it ten thousand years ago, and forever.
photo: Getty images
Mazatl is an artist residing in Mexico City. His works embody a striving for justice and a sense of hope. HIs answers to our five questions reflect a rare mixture of compassion and intellectual bravery.
The two big blockprints from the We Agree project are finally available today in the Justseeds store; one made by three Justseeds artists, and the other by the Taring Padi cooperative of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Each one is 3 feet by 9 feet, printed on heavy canvas. Read more about the project here. Click through for images, and click over to the store to check out the prints.
I wanted to start this week off with a counterpoint to last weeks generally pro-Kronstadt sailor covers. To the left is the cover of Kronstadt by Lenin and Trotsky, published by the Trotskyist Pathfinder Press in 1994. The cover clearly shows who the authors and publishers are aligned with, because instead of the striking sailors, we are given an image of the Red Army soldiers that attacked and slaughtered them. As a design it is quite effective, the soldiers emerging out of the snow (and the white field of the cover). In addition, the A in the word Kronstadt in the title is literally crushed, put at an extreme italic. It's those little details that can really make a cover.