French filmmaker and troublemaker Chris Marker died yesterday at the age of 91. If you haven't seen his film Grin Without a Cat, put it on the top of your to-do list.
This week I'm going to continue working through the covers of the Penguin African Library, started last week HERE. Once again, one of the things I find so compelling about this series is that a major English-language publisher was committed to consistently publishing and keeping in print books written largely by Africans about contemporary Africa. Over a dozen years, over 40 titles were printed, and others planned. This is simply unimaginable today. Within the popular imaginary Africa has fallen back into an undifferentiated mass of dictatorships, child soldiers, and AIDS victims. We would do well to have a new Penguin African Library today.
Jack Halpern's South Africa's Hostages (AP8: 1965) is the next, and seventh, book in the series. It's cover follows the series design and grid, with a brown top square overlapping a square of highly saturated black photo on blue background. In particular this cover reads like The Politics of Partnership (AP5) with the blue background and titling. The choice of image is interesting, a line of Black soldiers, which implies a certain amount of control, and doesn't exactly reflect the concept of hostages in the title.
I'm still trying to eek out some words and images from CPH artists for this blog series, so in the meantime I'm going to re-post a Q & A Joshua Kahn Russell and Dan Berger did with each other back in 2009 about the poster they co-designed about Matzpen:
The Israeli Socialist Organization, better known by the name of its publication, Matzpen (Compass), formed in 1962. It was the first organization in Israel founded on principles of anti-Zionism. Its membership joined Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs to resist Israel’s apartheid policies. Matzpen challenged Israeli manifest destiny for twenty-five years, and its legacy continues to animate anti-Zionist organizing within Israel and around the world. The poster was designed by climate and social justice organizer Joshua Kahn Russell and anti-imperialist author Dan Berger. Russell and Berger interviewed each other over the recent Rosh Hoshana (Jewish New Year) about the poster, Jewish radicalism, and Palestinian self-determination.
Maggots and Men
dir. Cary Cronenwett, 2009, 54 min.
(in Russian & English)
Thursday July 26th, 7:30pm
at Interference Archive
131 8th St. #4, Brooklyn, NY
(F/R/G Trains to 4th Ave./9th St.)
Free! (but donations gladly accepted)
We are really excited to show Maggots and Men at Interference Archive! It is by far the most awesome film I've seen in years. It's totally epic and original and a cine-nerd's delight. Justseeds member Alec Icky Dunn participated in the making of it as well.
Maggots and Men tells the story of the 1921 rebellion of the Kronstadt sailors against the Bolshevik government, and an imagined love story between their leader, Stepan Petrichenko and a fellow sailor.
Set in a mythologized post-revolutionary Russia but based on actual historical events, Maggots marshals early Soviet cinema, the gutter erotics of Jean Genet, and what at times seems like a transgender cast of thousands to build its case for the necessity of queer utopias. - Matt Sussman, SF Bay Guardian, 2009
Over at Mythological Quarter, cohorts Bonnie Fortune and Brett Bloom are constantly letting loose sharp, well-researched and inspirational projects all over the place, and thankfully documenting them relentlessly! Bonnie most recently designed a series of ten posters: "Metropolitan Habitat" details incidents of animal "encroachment" in urban, human-built environs. Bonnie says: "News stories play these incidents from a few common angles: comedic effect, danger to humans, or the nuisance factor of the animal population. The posters appropriate the language of the news but for me are part of my larger interest in how animals shape and are shaped by our urban spaces. Ultimately, I want to know how human habitat can be better designed to accommodate the inevitable wild life visitors. We should not be surprised when the coyote enters the sandwich shop, rather we could expect it and be prepared for this kind of eventuality." Download each of the posters as PDF's here, and keep your eye on Mythological Quarter.
In 1962, British paperback publisher Penguin launched a new book series, the Penguin African Library (PAL). Along with the Heinemann African Writers Series, it is one of the most ambitious English-language publishing ventures focused on Africa, and featuring the writings of Africans. The series was edited by Ronald Segal, a white, but Jewish, South African exiled in the UK for his anti-apartheid activities (I'll go more into Segal in a future post). PAL ran from 1962 through 1975, and includes some 42 books, although many of the books were published in multiple editions, often with alternative covers. Each book was given a unique number with the prefix AP, so AP1 through AP46. Over the past couple years I've trawled used bookstores and hunted the web, and I've collected 51 unique covers, which I'll focus on over the next handful of weeks. At the end of this series of blogs, I'll be posting a full bibliography with citations to the designers of each book, so I won't be doing much designer or image attribution in the body of the blog itself.
The first book published was by Segal himself, entitled African Profiles (AP1: 1962). The cover design, by Massimo Vignelli, sets the tone and general style for the next 25 books in the series. The page is horizontally trisected by two overlapping fields: the top two-thirds are a solid color that I'll call "PAL brown"; the bottom 2/3rds hold an image, the middle section where they overlap creates a third space. We'll see dozens of variations on this simple grid system throughout the series.
A couple weeks back I read an interesting story in the New York Times, about a nascent protest movement in Sudan, inspired by Tahrir Square and Occupy, and struggling against unbelievably repressive forces in Khartoum. The protestors, who began mostly as students but have expanded to a broader movement, have been naming their protests, but unlike our dull names based on months and dates, aka J18 and S17, etc, they've got a knack for a turn of phrase. One of the best protest names is "Licking Your Elbow," a great reference to accomplishing the impossible. I made this poster in support of the protestors in Sudan, and in defense of utopia!
There were over 2,000 people at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit this year, the biggest ever! With Nate Mullen, Evan Bissell, and Juan Martinez, I helped coordinate the Transformative Art Practice Space, which hosted workshops on silkscreening, comic making, the art of telling stories, and collaborative design. The workshops ranged from hectic and hands-on to thoughtful round-tables. In this photo is a banner made during Santiago Armengod's workshop on graphic campaigns. Check alliedmedia.org for info about next year's conference!
After a tough two years (and many gentle reminders from the PM crew) Signal 02 is finally finished. Signal is ongoing project between Josh MacPhee and me, with the aim of documenting international art, graphics, and culture tied to social movements around the world.
Signal 01 had six features: Dutch comix anti-hero Red Rat; graffiti artist Impeach; a photo essay on Adventure Playgrounds; the designer Rufus Segar & Anarchy Magazine; the Taller Tupac Amaru; and posters from the propaganda brigades of Mexico in 1968. With issue 2, we wanted to expand the focus a little and try to cover some new areas and struggles. Here are some highlights:
I first became interested in moving to Detroit when, living in Ann Arbor, I read some grad students' thesis paper about urban agriculture in Detroit, as I copied it for him super s-l-o-w-l-y at my copy shop job near the campus of U of M. After that I began to look for books about the city, and Detroit: I Do Mind Dying quickly made it to the top my reading list. Within the book, the names Jimmy Boggs and Grace Lee Boggs stuck out in my mind, and pretty soon after I moved to the city in the summer of 2000 I began volunteering for Detroit Summer, "a youth program / movement to re-build, re-spirit and re-define Detroit from the ground up;" Jimmy and Grace were among the founders of the organization. I continued to learn about them and their ideas, reading almost all their other books during the last nine years I've spent in Detroit.
I've finished the drawing for my project in DR Congo this fall- I'll be printing the image at right (click to embiggen) onto about four hundred big bright bandanas and taking them with me to hand out to the people who live near the new Lomami National Park in eastern DRC. It's an exciting project to be a part of, conservation from the ground up! I've started a Kickstarter campaign to help me fund it, please take a moment to go check it out! Rewards aplenty. I'm pretty excited that the project was featured on the fantastic conservation news website Mongabay, and the write-up has a little interview with me.
Propaganda Prints by Colin Moore
(London: AC Blackwell, 2010)
Propaganda Prints is an ambitious project, attempting to present the full scope of “art in the service of social and political change” (per the subtitle) within a 200 page coffee table book. Colin Moore has done a great job creating a broad and accessible volume, heavily illustrated and strung together by an easy to read narrative that carries us from the earliest human communication up through the present. The design is clean and inviting, and Moore has pulled together what functions as a greatest hits of Western political graphics.
For more than a year, our friends and co-conspirators known as the Compass Group (the folks behind the autonomous structure of the Midwest Radical Culture Corridor) have been hard at work on their follow-up book to A Call to Farms. Having used the first in my teaching, I am super-stoked to see the publication of Deep Routes: The Midwest in All Directions. Purchase a copy today!
Here is the final post in this long-running Fanon series. Thanks to all that have been with me for the entire ride! You can see all the covers (133 different ones!) HERE.
To start out, to the right is Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan's Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression, an academic title published in 1985 by Plenum. The cover uses not only same photograph as the Grove mass-market paperback of Wretched of the Earth, but the same stylization and posterization of the image. Only on this cover the image is grey and black, instead of the much more provocative orange and black of the original. The cooling of the colors and the traditionalist box around the title help imply that this is a study of a revolutionary, not a call to revolution.
I recently finished reading a book called "Built by Animals", by Mike Hansell, published by the Oxford University Press. It's a quick read, but quite full of fascinating things to think about. I picked it up because I'm always looking for engaging pop science reading, especially if it includes any ruminations on the biological aspects of human culture. This book is no exception. In one of the chapters, entitled "Two routes lead to trap building", Hansell reveals a simple and elegant fact that is one of my favorite minor eureka moments of the year. The fact is this: out of all the tens of thousands of vertebrate species on Earth, including the mammals, the birds, the reptiles, and the amphibians, humans are the only species that makes traps.
Queering the TreesitRealTree camo hanky collaboration with Shaun Slifer
Here is a sneak peek of the hankies I have been busily designing and printing for the Do Anything exhibition, opening July 13 at Space 4 Art in San Diego. The show is curated by my friend Chris Kardambikis, one of the forces behind Encyclopedia Destructica (who created the Secret Pockets book with me), and features work by individual artists and collectives who focus on do-it-yourself publishing and print projects. Employing alternative methods of production to create and distribute books, zines, and video work, the exhibiting artists work with a variety of themes to actively engage a wide audience. The exhibition takes place at two San Diego locations: San Diego Space 4 Art and Double Break. The show coincides with the San Diego Comic Con.
The Red Square is the symbol of Maple Spring and the student movement currently happening in Quebec. Justseeds comrade Cindy Milstein has an obsession with documenting the red squares of Montreal. When I visited last month, she had already taken dozens of photos of the multiplicity of ways Quebec is exhibiting solidarity with the student movement.
I helped Cindy set up SeeingRedMontreal for the endless photo examples. It's a visual reminder of how public space looks when "our" messages don its surfaces. Cindy is also publishing her thoughts and observations of the movement on her blog Outside the Circle. Another great resource for information in English is Translating the printemps érable
Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo gathered every Thursday afternoon in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina to march and demand the right to reunite with their children who disappeared during the Dirty War from 1976-1983. The Dirty War was a period of state terrorism when roughly 22,000 people were tortured and murdered for a variety of political beliefs, including past or present dissent or opposition to the military dictatorship. After the dictatorship relinquished power, the mothers worked with the new government to locate and reunite with grandchildren born in concentration camps, to bring ex-officials to justice, and to carry forward the political agenda embraced by their children. The Thursday marches continue to focus on social and political issues. The white shawl has become a symbol of their movement.
I've got a video featured in July's Acid Rain public access television series, curated by Jerstin Crosby. You can see it online, but my intention was to create something that would operate in the channel-surfing realm - timed to (roughly) coincide with the cable television and DVD release of "The Grey" (2012), a Liam Neeson survivalist blockbuster...
Walking Shadows: A Novel Without Wordsby Neil Bousfield
(San Francisco: Manic D Press, 2010)
Walking Shadows is an impressive volume of work. Following in the footsteps of Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward, Bousfield has created a novel in which each of its pages are an original relief print—over 200 different page sized images. This "novel without words" is the story of a working class British family and the cycles of anger, depression, and violence produced by lifetimes of meaningless labor and lack of opportunity for self-fulfillment.
Interesting things are at play here, with Bousfield's attempt to bring the novel without words into the 21st century. There is something jarring, yet interesting, about the representation of cctv and video game consoles in wood block. Conveying contemporary issues in 100 year old aesthetics feels a bit strange, but I suppose the same could be said about most of us here at Justseeds making political graphics for today's struggles in anachronistic hand-printing techniques.
Our comrade Cindy Milstein has been participating and writing about the Maple Spring from Montreal for quite some time now.
The following piece is from her blog, Outside the Circle.
June 29, 2012
Yesterday, I shared some Montreal street art on my Facebook page. A Montreal anarchist friend had just introduced me to the work of this particular Montreal street artist, Harpy, who produced the piece pictured below (and who self-describes as: “Harpies have wings, they can fly and shit… Also, they turned against the Gods”).
The image provoked a lot of “likes” & shares, but also a lot of heated feelings on my Facebook page and others. Many of the comments concerned what the wheatpasted image was getting at — or not — in relation to capitalism/anticapitalism. They also touched a lot on yoga.
Let's start off the second installment of Fanon biographies with Jock McColloch's Black Soul, White Artifact (Cambridge University, 1983), which takes the African mask metaphor further than any of the previous covers, replacing the mask with an ancient and worn African stone sculpture. Unlike the other covers deploying the masks, here it is wholly appropriate, illustrating the books title, and I assume the point that the White gaze freezes Blackness into a rigid form onto which all kinds of assumptions and baggage can be dumped.
The day before the presidential election I was inspired by the #YoSoy132 movement to design a poster about the movement that was started by students who are against the corrupt PRI government and the media conglomerates that control the news in Mexico. It was the way that they took to the streets and demanded a better Mexico that is not controlled by a president who is in the pockets of the multi-national corporations that only think about themselves and the profits they stand to make. Now that the election has passed and the people are dealing fraud and recounts I wait to see what happens next, will the people have to concede that those in power can do what they want or will Mexico surprise us and something unexpected will happen.
To Download the poster Click Here
For those interested in art that addresses border issues the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC Greensboro is currently exhibiting "Zone of Contention: The US/Mexico Border." Dan S. Wang and I contributed our collaborative-made letterpress print Caution Migrant Workers. This time around we enlarged it and wheat pasted it to a sheet of plywood to better mimic the look of a broadside.
The image itself voices our opposition to the Arizona Immigration Bill SB-1070 and references the look and the phrasing of a 1851 Broadside poster that was created in resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that was hung in Boston that alerted fugitive slaves and citizens to have a “Top Eye” open for the police who were empowered to detain all “suspected” escaped slaves so that they could be returned back to slavery in the South. Our print rejects SB-1070 law and the climate of xenophobia in Arizona and beyond and stands in solidarity with migrant workers the world over.
This is my print for This Is An Emergency!, a portfolio about Reproductive Rights and Gender Justice organized by Justseeds' own Meredith Stern. The lineup of artists is impressive, and these graphics so urgently needed. In this blog post, I will discuss my process in designing and printing my piece.
Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther by Marshall "Eddie" Conway and Dominque Stevenson
(Oakland: AK Press, 2011)
AK Press's recently published memoir by Marshall Eddie Conway is a strong edition to the literature of Black Liberation Movements in the US. His clear voice articulates a fair amount of new incite into the specific history of prisoner resistance within the Maryland Department of Corrections, and particularly illuminates the difficulties and struggles of organizing from within a cell.
Click below for a slideshow of images from a recent exhibition I opened with Tesar Freeman in Pittsburgh, PA. I have some more materials on each of the projects I did on my site here (slideshow doesn't show captions or details, unfortunately).
This week I'm going to dig into the biographies and books about Frantz Fanon. I'm going to start with three of the most popular biographies: Irene L. Gendzier's Fanon: A Critical Study, David Caute's Frantz Fanon, and David Macey's Frantz Fanon: A Life.
I've been able to track down five different covers of Gendzier's book. The first edition was published by Pantheon in 1973, and goes for a straight forward, no nonsense design: portrait and titling. The photo is put in extreme contrast, making Fanon glow in white on the solid black background. The title is too dark in green, with not enough contrast on the black. Overall an OK design, but nothing to grab a viewer's attention.