I spent two weeks in August traveling around Montana. My sweetie Elizabeth and I hiked to hot springs in the Bitterroot Wilderness, counted Golden Eagles and Nighthawks in the Paradise Valley, and watched the beetle-killed mountains burn. On our way back to Missoula we took an alternate route through the town of Anaconda, heading north on State Highway 1. Just outside the town of Drummond, we passed a small ranch-house with a yard full of impressive metal sculpture- a bear, a rhino, and was that a mammoth? A big hand-painted sign on the fence said "Usually Open". We turned back to check it out.
As we pulled into the yard, a man was leaving the building marked "Museum", moving slowly, tall and thin, bent slightly over a walker. He noticed us, waved and approached. "I just closed, but I can open up again. No, it's no problem." He swung open the door and we went in.
The interior was a big white space full of paintings and wood-carvings, lit by big windows. "This is all my work," said the tall man, who introduced himself as Bill Ohrmann. "Stay as long as you like."
We started over to the walls and began a cursory ogle of the hanging work. It became immediately obvious that we had found something absolutely amazing. Our jaws dropped as we moved from piece to piece. We were in the presence of greatness.
Margaret Rozga - one of Milwaukee's great activists for the past five decades - wrote the following review of the recent Justseeds show in Milwaukee. She writes:
"Uprisings: Images of Labor" is an exhibit not to be missed, and you have one week to catch this exhibit at the UW Milwaukee Union Art Gallery. The work of the Justseeds Artists Cooperative, this show presents stunning visual art. It will renew your spirit.
Walk into the gallery and find yourself surrounded by an array of powerful images on the walls and hanging across the room. Some of those that immediately impressed me include an image of Wisconsin as Union Made and one that shows the false promise of ecologically destructive jobs by depicting a tree stump in a forlorn setting.
Dylan AT Miner recently wrote a short catalog essay for the work that I created in collaboration with Paul Kjelland for the 2011 Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowship for Individual Artists Exhibition in Milwaukee. I asked Dylan to write the essay because of his talents as a writer and a critical thinker, and our shared interest in radical art and radical sports. Below is his writing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I must admit, I ran out to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes the day it came out. I've been a life long fan of Planet of the Apes, but I honestly can't remember what initially drew me to the movies as a teenager. Maybe it was the Philip K. Dick-like pretzel of time travel and alternate reality shifts, maybe it was simply the irresistible combination of science fiction and old-school primitive fantasy with loin clothes and sword fights (a la Conan), but I've had a deep affection for the whole thing ever since. It's amazing to me that a 1963 French sci-fi book originally translated as Monkey Planet could turn into 7 feature films, a TV series, an animated cartoon, dozens of spin-off serial novels and comic books, as well as lines of toys and other merchandise tie-ins.
It wasn't until I went back and watched all the films again later that I realized what makes them so interesting and compelling is not the hokey special effects (yeah, yeah, I know they were miles ahead of their time…) or Charlton Heston's terrible acting, but the strange Hollywood channeling of white fear about Black Power.
Think about it, Planet of the Apes is a world run by violent, rage-filled, and seemingly irrational dark-skinned apes (clearly men in ape costumes), who have created a slave trade of (almost entirely) white humans, who are not simply silenced by their oppression, but ignorant, brutal, and literally mute, unable to speak! Apparently Black people in power leads to white people becoming completely stupid. I suppose in some ways that prediction has come true. Obama being elected—hardly Black Power!—has created an army of white nut jobs babbling incoherently about birth certificates.
UK's Huck Magazine has printed an excerpt of Dara and my intro to Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now in both their issue #25 and their winter mini-mag. Neither is online, but to the left is an image of the min-imag spread!
After reading Celebrate People's History: A Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution, the UK's Red Pepper magazine says they were "tempted to go out and form a revolutionary poster collective of their own." Check out the full review HERE.
A Limited Rebellion design blog calls Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now, "truly essential reading." The full review can be found HERE.
In a second review A Limited Rebellion had this to say about Celebrate People's History: "This beautiful volume is the kind of coffee table book that will definitely spark conversations and should certainly be on the shelf of anyone who considers themselves a design activist." Read the rest HERE.
Jori, a great photographer from Providence, was at the Justseeds HQ a couple months back taking photos for the new Outpost magazine. She sent me a link to a flickr set of the photos, which look great! If you have any interest in what our space looks like, or what Justseeds does behind the scenes, check these out HERE!
I recently authored an account of the November 2010 Justseeds-IVAW street art action in Chicago for the Spring 2011 issue of The Veteran, a publication by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Check it out here.
Also, keep an eye out for a number of new collaborations between Justseeds and IVAW that are in the works, including an "Operation Recovery" booklet and our third portfolio project War is Trauma that is scheduled to be released in the late Fall and will feature over 30 prints by Justseeds artists, IVAW artists, and five invited guest artists.
I finally made the trip up to the Museum of Modern Art for German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse. The exhibition will only run until July 11th. The Neue Galerie has offered many opportunities to view Expressionist works, I was fortunate to attend the Otto Dix and Brücke exhibitions there. The current MoMA exhibit has a variety of mediums but most interestingly, to me, are the portfolios and books. I enjoyed seeing Kandinsky, Beckman, Grosz works and how incredibly printed all these works are. An exhibition should be dedicated to the master printers and print shops of this period.
The two artists I was most excited to see were Otto Dix and Kåthe Kollwitz. The German Expressionists have had strong influence over many Justseeds artists, as well as our projects. The War (Der Krieg) Portfolio by Otto Dix is an incredibly dark and visceral depiction of the destructiveness of battle. Drawn from his memories of World War I is the fear and horror that soldiers, dead or dying, experience. According to the MoMA's website the publisher, Karl Nierendorf in Berlin,
circulated the portfolio throughout Germany with a pacifist organization, Never Again War, though Dix himself doubted that his prints could have any bearing on future wars. Despite the intensive publicity, Nierendorf sold only one complete portfolio from the edition of seventy.
It's been a little while since I posted a collection of reviews and such, so here's a recent batch, plus some old ones that slipped through the cracks:
2) Daniel Tucker wrote a great review of Signs of Change in AfterImage magazine. They only have an excerpt on their site, but he has published the review in it's entirety HERE.
4) Kari O'Driscoll wrote a review of Signs of Change, also on the Elevated Difference site. She says, "Signs of Change is both a coffee table book and a full-color history lesson. For those who prefer an alternative to a boring textbook, this book is the ticket." Read the rest HERE.
5) Jason Urban posted a rave review of Signs of Change on Printeresting! He says, "With the current state of political upheaval and the growing strength of grassroots opposition in the Middle East, it might be a good time to visit the role of graphics in people’s movements. Dara Greenwald and Josh MacPhee do just that in Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures from 1960s to Now. . . . It functions as a short but thorough encyclopedia of people’s political movements." Read the rest, and check out the photos, HERE.
print by Lampert/Matthes
There is an article about Colin Matthes' Carlos Cortez mural at OnMilwaukee.com:
Mural project is a work of admiration and kindred consciousness
"The campaign increased my desire to make something really graphic with a specific message but it also made me want to focus on something that celebrated something a little more than 'Stop this. Or no that.' I wanted to do something celebratory about someone I admire and don't hear much about and that is how I got to Carlos Cortez," Matthes said.
There is a review of Justseeds book Firebrands: Portraits From the Americas on the ElevateDifference.com by Clarisse Thorn:
I was initially unimpressed by Firebrands, but that was because I approached it wrong. I tried to sit down in my living room and read it cover-to-cover, and that's not what this book is for. It's a pocket-sized compendium of amazing people—people "left out of the schoolbooks because they were too brown, too female, too poor, too queer, too uneducated, too disabled, or because they daydreamed too much." Each firebrand gets a page-long description, a lovely illustration, and a number of suggestions for further reading.
A few months ago I picked up an amazing book called Print: How Your Can Do it Yourself by Jonathan Zeitlyn. It was first printed in 1974, in the heyday of self-publishing and the alt press scene. I was amazed that the copy I had was the 5th printing from 1992, since this didn't seem like the type of thing that would have longevity. In the introduction, Zeitlyn explains that it is aimed to show various inexpensive design and print methods, and how to establish your own/community press.
Filled with great hand drawn graphics and step by step instructions, it is easy and fun to read. It goes into detail about different print methods including relief, letterpress, photocopy, stencil, silkscreen, offset. It also has info on techniques like jelly pad printing and spirit duplicating, and more. It also explains techniques of design including typesetting, text, layout, gridding, borders and tone. Equally valuable is info on choosing paper, and dealing with "professional" printers, setting up our own printshop, and safety. It also has a helpful glossary of terms.
In February 2009, the Pentagon decided to lift the two-decade long ban on photographs of flag-draped coffins. Somewhere down the line the military brass reasoned (or was forced to admit) that it was contradictory to champion “Operation Iraqi Freedom” while denying the media the freedom to publish images of soldiers returning home in caskets. Apparently, Jeffrey Deitch missed the memo that censoring anti-war images of coffins is something that democratic societies do not take kindly to.
Some great recent press:
1) Peter Linebaugh does a duel review of Signs of Change and Celebrate People's History for Counterpunch HERE. It's a great long-format review, and well worth reading in it's own right. He says Signs of Change is "explosive in its educational impact because of the full, eager, colorful, passionate page designs," and calls it "a massive and beautiful work." !!!
Of Celebrate People's History he says it contains (and shares with Zinn) "an optimistic spirit, skepticism to conventional ideas, a dogged search for the forgotten men and women, and a denunciation at once classic and fresh of that class of people, the possessioners, who control the money, the land, the arms, the images, the knowledge, and the capital of the USA."
2) Publishers Weekly writes up Signs of Change and Celebrate People's History, read it HERE.
4) The good folks at Last Hours in London have posted a nice review of Signal:01, calling it "a vital, fascinating and relevant history of politically antagonistic graphics, illustration and printmaking." Read the rest HERE.
Lauren Weinberg, Art and Design editor at Time Out Chicago, wrote an article on the Justseeds RESOURCED and "Operation Exposure" show at the In These Times building that opens today - December 9th. She writes:
"In January 2006, two days before her second deployment to Iraq, 21-year-old Army specialist Suzanne Swift went AWOL. Arrested six months later at her Oregon home, Swift claimed she ran away because she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder—and because she’d experienced months of sexual harassment from three men in her unit.
Last month, you might have seen Swift in Chicago: not the soldier-turned-activist herself, but her portrait. The Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and Iraq Veterans Against the War used Swift’s image to illustrate a poster about military sexual trauma. It’s one of 20 prints the two groups created for their collaboration Operation Exposure, which raises awareness of the redeployment of traumatized troops."
On the plane ride back to Providence from Chicago, I dug into my backpack and pulled out the book I have been intending to dive into for years-- Dorothy Allison's "Skin". Years ago I had read her fiction book, "Bastard Out Of Carolina" which was incredible, and I stayed on the lookout at bookstores for her other works. I found "Skin", which I immersed myself in so successfully, I read half the book on the flight home. Dorothy's writing is so fluid, it carried me weightlessly across the sky. It's a series of autobiographical essays, all of which are thoroughly engrossing. I lost myself in the pages, and was completely drawn into her words. She starts with giving a context for her perspective- growing up poor in the South. She writes about her subsequent migration to New York where she finds a radical, feminist, lesbian community. She expresses the mixing of her past and the new life she creates as initially opposing identities. Her description about how we can compartmentalize certain aspects of our self in order to survive, and how that can create a splintering of self, resonated very deeply with me. Her essay "A Question Of Class" discusses in a very real way her attempt to construct a new identity, and to put to the side the experiences she had that shaped her life. I particularly was drawn to several lines in this piece, "Busywork became a trance state. I ignored who I really was and how I became this person, continued in that daily progress, became an automaton who became what she did."
She writes about working feverishly with the radical feminist community- including becoming involved in starting a women's bookstore, editing feminist magazines, and living in a feminist cooperative. She very eloquently expresses the tension between her realities growing up poor, and how that often contrasted with the romanticized perspective of poverty that was envisioned by the middle and upper class feminists around her. Dorothy's description of her path towards writing is expressed in a way that I think resonates with many people (particularly activists) who struggle towards liberating themselves creatively. In her words, "the idea of writing stories seemed frivolous when there was so much work to be done, but everything changed when I found myself confronting emotions and ideas that could not be explained away or postponed until after the revolution."
These writings describe her personal journey exploring her identity, confronting and describing the events that shaped it, and her path to writing and self liberation. For the reader, we may all be carried away with her by the strength of her writing- but also find the inspiration to explore our own identities and liberate our own creative minds. I find her writing to be revolutionary in that her words can be a seed for us to plant on our own path, or be much needed water on a seed we have already planted.
I highly recommend reading this book!
I got a great used book for my birthday, World Architecture 2 a large picture book of architectural trends from 1965. It contains many examples of Brutalism, an architectural style that was like a more extreme version of Bauhaus-influenced modernism (as a disclosure, I am not terribly familiar with architectural history or theory). In Brutalism the form of a structure followed its function, decorative embellishments were removed, and many of the engineering and functional elements of a building were laid absolutely bare. It was also known for its heavy usage of rebar/concrete as a stylistic and structural element.
This may seem like an obscure genre, but there's a good few of these movies out there.... there's even some I didn't include because they weren't any good! With all of these it's helpful to have the barest of outlines of modern Latin American political history, but not necessary.
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation
tells the story of a little boy whose parents were affiliated with the hard left of Brazil in the late 60s (early 70s?) and who are forced to flee the country. They drop him off at his grandfather's apartment in Sao Paulo...
Exit Through the Gift Shop
A Banksy Film
I never pegged Banksy as a fan of gothic novels, but he and his crew do a pretty good Shelley. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a witty remake of Frankenstein, with Los Angeles vintage clothing shop owner come videographer come street artist Thierry Guetta playing the monster. We see mild-mannered Thierry move from an obsession with filming everything in his life, to an obsession with filming street artists, to Banksy reinventing him into a street artist out of control, "Mr. Brain Wash." But more on that later.
From the beginning of the most recent street art explosion, Banksy has been the thinking man's street artist. He (and his crew, he clearly doesn't do much without a large support team, so for sake of argument, when I use the name Banksy here, I mean the collection of people that conceptualize, build, and install the artworks and events signed with the name "Banksy") is the latest in a long line of counter-culture British satirists, from Jonathan Swift to Malcolm McClaren to Crass to the KLF, but like these greats before him, his cultural attacks on the status quo have hit the limits of their effectiveness. And he seems smart enough to know it. In some ways this film seems like part of the process of any cultural producer working through the challenging questions facing anyone with a deeply ambivalent relationship to capitalism. On the one hand war, torture, government surveillance, greed, poverty, apartheid, and genocide are all products of contemporary capitalism, and Banksy takes them all on in his own way. On the other, the ability to pull art stunts off across the globe is just as much a product of this very same system. Nothing illustrates this better than Banksy's glib listing of the Disney Land rides he enjoyed while Thierry was in the Disney security dungeon being questioned for four hours after filming Banksy's placement of a life-size orange-jumpsuited Guantanamo Bay prisoner doll into one of the rides.
Eric "DEAL CIA" Felisbret
Graffiti New York
Contrary to the title, this book isn't just one of the seeming endless herd of books called "Graffiti ______" (insert just about any city name here). Even though it appears that the ability to walk around, take digital photos, and be culturally connected are the only pre-requisites for a street art book deal these days, the likely interesting city/street art books, such as "Graffiti Tulsa" or "Nairobi Graffiti," never get made). But back to the book at hand, Eric "DEAL CIA" Felisbret has set his sights higher, and done the labor and put in the time to produce the rare satisfying graffiti publication. An attempt to update the classic Subway Art, I'm glad he went for the challenge, and appreciate the parts that succeed.
Chinese Posters, Stefan R. Landsberger & Marien van der Heijden (Prestel, 2009)
Soviet Posters: The Sergo Grigorian Collection, Maria Lafont (Prestel, 2007)
North Korean Posters: The David Heather Collection, David Heather & Koen De Ceuster (Prestel, 2008)
Vietnam Posters: The David Heather Collection, David Heather & Sherry Buchanan (Prestel, 2009)
These are first and foremost picture books. Each one contains a basic introduction to the history of political and propaganda poster production in each country, but no more than a dozen pages of overview. This series is aimed at a general audience, appealing to the novelty of posters from "strange and totalitarian regimes." That said, each one has its unique benefits and value, and for the most part these are worthwhile books for people interested in the production of culture under political regimes that in their prime attempted to challenge capitalist hegemony (for better or for worse).
Although all four books are designed and organized in similar ways, I'll take each on individually. First, China. I've never been a great fan of the Chinese political poster aesthetically, particularly the heroic socialist realism of the late 50s through the cultural revolution period. What's more interesting to me is the sheer scale of production. In 1959 two million copies of a "Long Live Chairman Mao" poster were printed, and in a fifteen year period, 1951-1966, the three major poster publishing houses printed almost 3,000 different designs, with a total number of copies ranging around 85 million!
Here's a list of ten of my favorite quotes pertaining to the state of the world that I've gleaned in the past several years:
A: "We don't change our behavior, we adapt to the results of it" James Tiptree Jr, 1972.
B: "This century will see the end of significant evolution of large plants and terrestrial mammals in the Tropics" Scott Soule, 1980
C: "...Extinction allows no second chance. There is a large measure of quixotic hubris in trusting human institutions to prevent something that is truly irrevocable. Unfortunately, there is no alternative." John Terborgh, 1997
D:"So what if species go extinct? Extinction is a natural process. There have always been extinctions. So why worry about these extinctions currently being caused by humanity? And there has always been a pilot light burning in your furnace. So why worry when your house is on fire?" David Quammen, 1997
E:"One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds." Aldo Leopold.
F: "There is hope, though not for us" Franz Kafka
G: "My wife pleaded with me to bring you light. But there is no light. Everything is going to get unimaginably worse and never get better again." Kurt Vonnegut
H: "There is no escaping the conclusion that in our lifetimes this planet will see a suspension, if not an end, to many ecological and evolutionary processes which have been uninterrupted since the beginning of paleontological time" Soule again.
I've been trying to organize some of us Justseed-ers to start posting top ten lists of various things, I've always thought they were fun to both write and read. To kick it off, here's my list of the best 12 books I read in 2009 (in alphabetical order by author):
1. A Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason
2. Penguin by Design by Phil Baines
3. On the Wall by Janet Braun-Reinitz & Jane Weissman
4. Red Star Over Russia by David King
5. Bakunin by Mark Leier
6. Wobblies & Zapatistas by Staughton Lynd & Andrej Grubacic
7. Live Working of Die Fighting by Paul Mason
8. How to Make Trouble and Influence People by Iain McIntyre
9. Manituana by Wu Ming
10. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
11. You Don't Have to Fuck People Over to Survive by Seth Tobocman
12. Incognegro by Frank B. Wilderson, III
Eleanor Arnason, A Woman of the Iron People (William Morrow & Co, 1991).
It had been a couple years at least since I had read much science fiction before this past year, but my interest was re-sparked when I was invited to the Think Galactic political sci-fi convention this past summer in Chicago. I had never heard of Arnason, but she was one of the invited guests, so I went to the library and picked up A Woman of the Iron People, one of her most popular novels. Wow, what a great book! Like the best Le Guin, Arnason builds a new and interesting world, and instead of wasting it with one-dimensional relationships and dramatic battles, she uses it to explore the implications of very different political, economic, and scientific realities on the fabric of individual relationships and larger social relations. Don't let the terrible cover scare you (Arnason has great stories about the terrible covers her books have been saddled with!), pick this up and give it a read.
Just saw Avatar tonight. I appreciated the anti-capitalist, pro-environment message, its too bad it comes in the tired narrative of whitey coming to save the natives. It was exciting, the CGI was entertaining and helped numb the brain enough to deal with the bad dialogue.
The movie represents the characters relationship to Capitalism as a permeating factor in life's choices and lays bare its systemic view towards nature-resources to be extracted, to make objects for consumption, leading to profits/wealth for a few (late night simplicity for ya).
So what should one do about it? Well, the conscientious objection of one character during a "battle" scene still leads to the incredible devastation of the indigenous characters homeland. The real resolution portrayed in the film is-direct action and armed resistance.
From this portrayal I wonder if this film is capable of encouraging civil society and our governing institutions to expand the definitions of "resistance", reducing those of "terrorism". Because identifying with the films protagonists aligns one to many of the animal & environmental activists, and political prisoners incarcerated in the United States today. But that's a lot to expect from art, isn't it?
I also question "if a gabillion dollars was given to make a film from a perspective other than the white male hero, what would it look like?"
I guess we'll find out when that story can sell over a billion dollars in cinema tickets, worldwide!
[Full disclosure - the author of this article has been employed multiple times in the Education Department of the Andy Warhol Museum as recently as June 2009, teaching screen-printing to high school students.]
Last week, Shepard Fairey opened a massive retrospective exhibition at Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum. "Supply and Demand" drew a sold-out opening night crowd that watched Fairey DJ alongside Z-Trip while sporting a swank three-piece suit. In the months prior, Fairey and his team toured around Pittsburgh wheat-pasting his familiar designs on building facades both permitted and not, and across from the museum he installed a temporary mural over top of a pre-existing mural by a younger local artist. The silent, creeping presence of Fairey's designs around the city felt eerily similar to the lead-up for the G20 summit this past September, in which faceless PR firms delivered meaningless graphics touting business and lifestyle opportunities to cover dozens of vacant storefronts in downtown in an attempt to scrub the visual landscape. All of this new wallpaper gave an impending and queasy feeling to anyone paying attention: Pittsburgh, once again and without consent, would play host as a playground for the powerful.
Eleanor Mathieson, editor, text by Xavier A. Tápies
Street Art and the War on Terror: How the World's Best Graffiti Artists Said No to the Iraq War
Rebellion Books, 2007
I found this hardcover book in the Carnegie Library. I appreciate this documentation of street art, which includes color photos of art from the streets taken between 2003 and 2007 from many parts of the world. I thought it very useful that each piece is listed with the location, media, exact date the photo was taken, and the artists' name. There is also a short paragraph of text about each street art piece, which is clearly written for an English audience with its overuse of the word "brilliant" and other British slang, and which is pretty much unnecessary, but sometimes funny. There are a lot of great images in here, although I thought it a bit cheeky to include the word "Best" in the subtitle, because there is also a lot missing, and for the most part the book contains random street shots of unknown origin. There are disproportional number of works by Shepard Fairey and Dolk documented, even a Shepard Fairey piece that's been hit by the splasher! I was also dismayed to see that no great care was taken to record the artists names. In more than one entry, the artists' name is written right on the piece, or even included in the text, but still listed as "Unknown." "Oil Soldier" by Nicolas Lampert is included in the book, but his name is spelled wrong. I would have liked to know more of the process of compiling the photos of the book, but the forward only includes a summary of the political events leading up to the war. By the end of the book I was wondering what the point of the book was, at which point I found in small font in the Credits section: "The aim of this book is to produce a permanent record of the global anti-war street art movement." I believe it does that, although linking the book to a online, digital collection project would allow it to be a lot more inclusive. Currently, the website listed on the book doesn't lead to anything.
I gotta say, at the first crack of the spine of this book I was immediately nostalgic for San Francisco, strangely enough a city I've never even lived in! There was something extremely powerful about the streets of SF between 1997-2004, even for a visitor and outsider like me. Coming to the city, and the Mission District in particular, was like walking into a giant, explosive, exciting car crash of ideas, experiences, ideologies and people. The walls literally dripped with the shrapnel, covered with the remnants of 1970s & 80s murals, anti-gentrification screenprinted posters, art student graffiti, Latino gang markings, weirdo street artists, anarchist slogans, and billboards triumphantly announcing the dot-com and real estate booms. And for the most part this book does a great job of capturing that energy and feeling, carrying us through the blur.
Although Street Art SF is broken into sections, they are fairly hard to distinguish, which in many ways is a good thing, allowing the reader to flow from one style to another, fade between histories, jump between artists, just like a pedestrian on Valencia, Bryant or Mission streets would. Don't let the title fool you, this isn't just another edition pulled of the seemingly endless conveyor belt of dull "Street Art" book cash-ins. Likely a smart marketing move to put street art first in the title, this is really a mural book that understands and values the contributions that street art and graffiti have added to the brew of public expression.
Microcosm Publishing, 2008
Hummm, book? zine? scrapbook? film companion? Mostly True straddles all these things, introducing us to the cluttered archives (and head?) of Bill Daniel, itinerant film maker and boxcar graffiti aficionado. A rambling collection of letters, graffiti photos, fiction, news clippings, interviews and a collage of bits and pieces from turn of the 20th century railroad magazines, Daniel fully immerses us right into his hobo world. And what a treat!
The striking cover consisting almost entirely of a modernist masthead and a lonely Barry McGee graffiti writing character set the tone for the rest of the book, which draws visual inspiration from teens and twenties magazines but never falls into empty nostalgia. Instead we get a steady stream of both the old and the new, and a glimpse into how the hobo culture and art of the old days has helped inspire new forms and actions, and has been reinvented by contemporary artists, train hoppers and social rebels. Daniel's film, Who is Bozo Texino, only hinted at this, giving us a glimpse of the merging of these cultures, but Mostly True throws open the doors. Train cars covered by modern day graffiti artists like Other, Labrona and Matokie Slaughter (Margaret Kilgallen) share space with interviews with old-timers like Herby and Bozo Texino. A long, in-depth interview with Colossus of Roads (buz blurr) bridges the gap between the two, sort of like a 1968er squeezed between today's anarchists and yesterday's Communist Party.
I can't remember where I found this book, but this is a children's biography of Lenin published in 1934 by the CPUSA press. The writing is a basic heroic summary of his life, translated and adapted from a Russian book by Ruth Shaw and Alan Potamkim. The illustrations are by William Siegel, who I can find no reliable information about off a quick search. But I like his drawings, they're nicely done and simple, good for kids books. His composition is really good too.
This book is heavy on the propaganda (no surprise there) and there's something slightly creepy, comforting and hopeful in this art. The book itself is handsome: big bold red lines at the top and bottom of each page, the drawings fit in nicely with the text. Here's a selection of images:
Louis E.V. Nevaer & Elaine Sendyk
Protest Graffiti Mexico: Oaxaca
Mark Batty Publishers, 2009
As far as I know, this is the first book out that exclusively focuses on the political street art produced during the uprising in Oaxaca in 2006. Normally one might ask why we should embrace a book on the graffiti of a political rebellion when we barely have any books that deal with the actions of the period or the politics behind them. But as our world becomes more and more media saturated, how people that reject the status quo represent themselves publicly becomes increasingly important. If most people in the US saw anything about the Oaxaca rebellion, it was likely photos of the graffiti it produced on yahoo news. The popular and mass occupation of Oaxaca City lasted longer than the Paris Commune, and all we got were a couple lousy internet slideshows?!?
Thankfully Nevaer and Sendyk give us a much more in-depth look at the streets of Oaxaca than any web news outlet. Sendyk took the bulk of the photos included (over 150), and Nevaer narrates our trip through the images. Unlike most graffiti books coming out these days, this one actually attempts to provide context for the images included. The book begins with a reprinting of an Open Letter in Support of the People of Oaxaca, signed by an international collection of Left public intellectuals, and leads right into a chronology of events in Oaxaca. Nevaer tries to give us the information we need to understand the images, including a history of the PRI Party in Mexico, context for teachers strikes in Oaxaca, background on the Mexican Revolution, as well as the development of the strike in 2006, the formation of the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO), and the role of women in the struggle. The information provided is generally solid, if a little to liberal and repetitive for my taste.
As a lover of books, I've been meaning and wanting to regularly review them here on the blog. Unfortunately life and work seem to rarely leave much time to convert the jangly explosion of thoughts that occur when reading into coherent discussions of the books being read. For lack of in-depth reviews, here's some short shout outs to a half dozen books I've read in the past 6-9 months (only a couple will fit on the front page, so please keep reading beyond that!!!):
E.H. Gombrich, A Little History of the World
Rod Palmer, Street Art Chile
Martha Cooper, Going Postal: Mailing Label Street Art
Seth Tobocman, Disaster and Resistance: Comics & Landscapes for the Twenty First Century
Chumbawamba, English Rebel Songs 1381-1984
To be honest, the reason even picked this guy up was because of the Clifford Harper illustrations on the front cover. I was excited to find that the book is chock full of small but beautiful spot illustrations by Harper, which are an exciting treat for the eyes as your brain literally jumps through history while reading this book. There's barely a line out of place as Harper renders the history of the world in 3 inch x 1 inch boxes, from the beginning of language to Alexander the Great to the Seven Years War. I've always loved seeing Harper's work scattered across the anarchist press, but it is fabulous to see Harper taking on the breadth of the history of the world!
Onward to the actually text, it doesn't much disappoint either. Originally written in the 1930's for a middle-school age reader, when published in Germany it was a best seller. In the following decades it was translated into dozens of languages, but this is the first time it is available in English. Gombrich, in plain and simple language, carries us through the entire history of the Human-populated world. His history is extremely (or maybe I should say EXTREMELY) Euro-centric, with only a handful of pages dedicated to Asia, and none to Sub-Saharan Africa or the Americas pre-Columbus. This is a major fault, but I don't think it should stop a reader from benefiting from what Gombrich has done, which is give a concise and easy to understand history of Western civilization, from Egypt to the fixing of modern European nation states.
I wouldn't suggest reading this if you are looking for a detailed political economy of Europe or want to understand the finer details of the transition from feudalism to capitalism, but, if you, like me, are often at a loss as to how specific pieces fit into the general puzzle of history, there might be no greater resource. A few quick page flips and a couple paragraphs of reading and Gombrich helps us place the who the Visagoths were, or how Rome was captured by the Gauls, or how Germany became a modern nation state. A must read for anyone that wants to get a basic understanding of European History in a few nice afternoons on the beach!
Street Art Chile
Gingko Press, 2008
After Kevin (from Justseeds) came back from Chile a couple years back with stories of anarchist mural brigades and political stencil crews, I was anxious and excited to get my hands on this book. Unfortunately I have to say it is a little disappointing. To be fair to Palmer, he may effectively capture the Chilean graffiti and street art scene, I've never been so I can't say, but if so, then the scene is not as exciting as I would have hoped. There are some real standouts in the book, and I'll get to those below, but 75% of it is filled with the same "international" looking street art that seems to have sprouted everywhere. The recipe seems largely rote at this point: Take NYC graffiti as your base, throw in a quart Euro wild-style and character development, add a cup of S. American pichacão and Os Gemeos, mix in 2 tablespoons of Barcelona street mural craziness, and a pinch of international stencil culture. It may be great that all these international artists are getting to travel around the world and paint, and the internet is beaming flics from the farthest reaches into billions of homes, but it seems to really be homogenizing what ends up on the street.
Posted below is the long version of an exhibition review of Signs of Change that I wrote for the April/May issue of Left Turn.
800 Images, Histories, and Struggles: A Review of “Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now”
For radical artists and activists, the first experience of walking into Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now at Exit Art is like a kid walking into a candy store. Where to begin? Everything looks good. The walls of the 5000 square foot exhibition space are covered with an array of posters, prints and flyers from over five decades of social and environmental movements from around the world. Additionally, a row of tables that occupies the center ally of the gallery contains hundreds of items of ephemera, and video projections and monitors are strategically placed throughout the gallery showing documentation of numerous artists and art collectives. All told, upwards of eight hundred examples of activist art are presented.
A short list of some of the movements addressed within the show include the Black Panther Movement, the American Indian Movement, the squatters movement in the US and Europe, political liberation movements in Africa, anti-Apartheid movements in South Africa, democracy movements in China, global environmental and anti-nuke movements, anti-Vietnam War movements, Chicana/o farm worker movements, the Zapatista uprising, global AIDS activism, and Reclaim the Streets.
The show was curated by two Brooklyn-based artist/activists Dara Greenwald and Josh MacPhee through the Exit Art Curatorial Incubator Program. MacPhee largely focused on the prints and posters and Greenwald on the films and videos. Together, they also organized an ambitious program of panel discussions, film screenings, and screen-printing workshops. All told, Greenwald and MacPhee turned Exit Art into an epicenter of art and activism for the duration of the shows run from September 20 - December 6th. The result is arguably one of the more vital and interesting political art shows to emerge in a long time -- a show that raises key questions and insight regarding the art of social movements, the role of artists in these movements, and the complex and sometimes contradictory practice of exhibiting radical art within large-scale retrospective shows.
Here's the beginning of a review Justseeds friend Erick Lyle wrote for the SF Bay Guardian about the book 2666 by Chilean author Robert Bolaño:
There is a wry but hilarious scene near the very end of Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 912 pages; $30), in which a French literary critic finds a German writer, Archimboldi, lodging at what the critic calls "a home for vanished writers." After checking into a room at the large estate, the elderly vanished writer wanders the grounds, meeting with the other vanished authors, residents whom Archimboldi finds friendly but increasingly eccentric. Gradually it dawns on Archimboldi that all is not as it seems. Walking back to the entrance gate, he sees, without surprise, a sign announcing that the estate is the "Mercier Clinic and Rest Home — Neurological Center." The home for vanished writers is an insane asylum.
As we enter the Obama era, with all its promise of "change," I've found it impossible to read 2666 without being haunted by the memory of those who vanished into the lunatic asylum of the long George W.Bush years — not just the nameless and unlucky left to rot in the Bush administration's secret torture cells throughout the world, but also those who disappeared right here at home. For instance, a guy I worked with a couple of years ago. One day he was training me on the job, and a week or so later he was in a federal prison, labeled a "terrorist" — which in his case meant that he edited a Web site called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty.
Now read the rest of the review while trying not to be distracted by all the flashing ads...
Elige Tu Propia Desventura: La Increíble y Triste Historia de una Cualquiera de Nosotras
(Choose your own dis-adventure: the incredible and sad story of any one of us)
Mujeres Públicas, 2008
While in Buenos Aires I met with one of the women in the feminist art collective Mujeres Públicas, which has been reclaiming public space for six years. They often combat sexism by creating posters and wheat pasting them to advertisements, or printing stickers. I noticed that they recently started a blog, which lists an event they held at the end of January with 28 participants, in which the subject of birth control was addressed in a hands-on workshop!
Amid one of their brainstorming sessions, they came up with the idea of writing a book which would represent challenges women typically face in a Western, industrialized county, challenges which are largely invisible to men. They had the idea to make a book in which the readers control the journey through a series of choices about body image, sexual abuse, sexist encounters and depression. They decide to use the format of a "choose your own adventure" novel, which would cleverly reveal the limits to our "choices" in "free" societies.
After three years of work, the final result is a book that is well-written in a simple style that many different types of women may relate to, and the illustrations are charming. The most impressive thing about this book to me, however, is that it was written collectively by five women, whose lives are embedded in the stories of hope and despair. The cover image reveals their process; behind the image of the woman, a criss-cross of arrows links one situation and event to another. It was explained to me how they laid the paper out on the kitchen table and mapped out the stories of their lives - and the lives of their mothers and sisters - in scrawling text. Then, they linked these stories with dots and red arrows, and spent hours talking while scribbling out, erasing, and redrawing lines. The book is copy-left and self-published, and hopefully will someday be translated and printed in English to reach a wider audience. What's most inspiring is the idea that such an interesting book could be collaboratively written by a group of artists, a feat that is definitely worth repeating.
Back in 1997, I was living in Boulder, CO and working with the Prisoners Rights Project, a group dedicated to improving the conditions of Colorado's prisoners. We were mostly collecting and tabulating data and anecdotes from men trapped in the Colorado State Penitentiary, a super maximimum security prison and the ugly little brother of the Federal Florence AdMax prison down the street (there is something like a dozen prisons all on the same drag in Canyon City). I had been working on prison injustice issues for a number of years, first in Washington, DC, then Ohio, and then Colorado. One thing that was constant throughout my time doing prison activism were the envelopes from prisoners, tattooed with ball point pen dragons, big-breasted women, and low riders. These were some of the smallest, most intense and photo-realistic drawings I had ever seen; I had no idea the depth and detail one could extract from a Bic pen.
Illustrations from the Inside isn't exactly a collection of prison envelope art, but it has all the best qualities of that art form and more. The book is an amazing collection of images created by juvenile prisoners that are part of The Beat Within, a long running weekly magazine and writing program for youth in juvenile detention and prison. The pages here are a rush of imagery, from Chicano clown faces to Black super heroes, prison bars to indigenous spirituality. In many ways this is a tour through the mind of most teenage boys, but with a darker twist, as even the most banal images begin to feel infected by fear, control, domination and violence. The quality of the art jumps from childish to some of the most intense social realism I've ever seen. Cartoon Tupac scribbles share space with detailed drawings of riot cops beating Black youth. In some ways Illustrations reads like an American youth version of that popular Russian Criminal Tattoos book, not as esoteric or x-rated, but a serious window into the mindset of 11-25 year old prisoners (yes, some of the images are from imprisoned youth as young as 11!).
When I was in LA I got over to the California African American Museum to see Howard L. Bingham's photographs of the Black Panther Party. The exhibit is made up of photographs from 1968 and ranges from the many different rallies and conferences to more casual encounters between the members. There are a few images of police repression, during an LA rally, and one of the bullet ridden headquarters in Oakland. Otherwise there is a different perspective, from the one I grew up with, in these photos of the Panthers. Absent were the, expected, "militants" with a guns imagery while portrayals of the organization and support being multi-generational and multi-racial. The Panthers did have their aesthetic and image down. A bunch of folks in black leather jackets with dark shades staring you down is super intimidating. The ability and seriousness of the party is conveyed in many of these images. There were also really incredible & beautiful "caught-in-the-moment" portraits of Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, and Stokely Carmichael. Its some Panther history worth checking out.
In 1968, under the auspices of Life magazine, photographer Howard L. Bingham and journalist Gilbert Moore began a journey to capture the activities of the Black Panther Party. From March through October, from Los Angeles to Oakland, and Berkeley to New York, Bingham's camera immortalized moments in time with Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver and his wife, Kathleen Neal Cleaver, David Hilliard, and the many initiates, believers and observers.
October 2, 2008 - May 31, 2009
California African American Museum
600 State Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90037
If you go you can also check out the Black Chrome, Black motorcycle gangs and their customized choppers!
Stickers, easy to make, easy to use, a quick and cheap way to get a message, name or image out into the world. The kid brother to wheat-paste posters, stickers are so cheap to make and so unassuming that they might be the most democratic form of street art. You can put them up here and there and almost forget what you're doing is illegal. This is great in many ways, an unprecedented number of people are using stickers to express themselves, and stepping over the mostly invisible barrier of "private property" that controls so much of our behavior in life. At the same time, because there are so few obstacles to entry, the world of street art sticker makers is filled with the most mundane and banal imagery and ideas. It seems like stickers often capture the worst in street art, the most unoriginal graffiti-style faces and characters as well as endless pop culture recyclings. PEEL: The Art of the Sticker captures both the good and bad of street sticker culture.
First off, it's a great looking book! Hardcover, embossed metallic logo on the cover, endpapers, and a nice, large 9"x10"' format. It is cleanly designed, richly printed, and even comes with 8 sheets of diecut stickers bound into the back. This is definitely a book by sticker lovers for sticker lovers, and by far the most comprehensive collection about the art form out now (Izastikup by Bo130 and Stick 'em Up by Mike Dorian are both decent books, but really glorified scrapbook collections of stickers). PEEL was always a labor of love for Dave and Holly, and this book is the same, not just simply compiling material from old issues, but pulling from the magazine and adding material to create a comprehensive book.
I'm trying to take in as much LA as I can before I head up to the bay. I made it over to the Crewest Gallery the other day to check out The Sharpie Show. Crewest is a real nice gallery and graffiti "boutique" in downtown LA. The show is packed with some talented sketches while the Mike Giant pieces had the largest impression on me.
The Sharpie Show, an exhibition curated by renown graffiti artist Man One, featuring original pieces created using Sharpies by some of the best known graffiti artists in the country (and beyond). Aside from graffiti artists, work by tattoo artists and known illustrators; Lalo Alcaraz and Overton Loyd will be on display. From stylized hand signatures, to throw ups, piecebooks, stickers, and any other possible object that can be marked upon, this exhibit will demonstrate the level of creativity that can be achieved between an artist and his/her most basic tool - The Sharpie.
The show will be on view until March 1st.
Visit the show at
110 Winston St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Or check it out on the Crewest Flickr set
Chris & I were fortunate enough to go check out an exhibit in LA on Saturday. It was called Gouge: The Modern Woodcut 1870 to Now, at the Hammer Museum. We noticed an ad for it in one of the local weeklies and snipped it hoping to catch it after the install. In a borrowed car we made it over to Westwood, an affluent area of LA, where the Hammer Museum resides, part of UCLA.
Gouge: The Modern Woodcut 1870 to Now examines the woodcut in terms of its diverse forms and uses in the modern era. A thematic survey, it invites parallels between the medium in countries as diverse and geographically distant Mexico, France and Korea. Woodblock printing is, in fact, one of the most common artistic practices throughout the world. Although the motivations of each artist and the circumstances in which the woodcuts were made may differ greatly, the visual character of the gouge cuts is a defining thread among the selected works in this exhibition
There were a handful of really inspiring prints and original woodblocks alongside the pieces. Chris became really stoked when he realized there were some Kathe Kollwitz prints in the show. He is a real big fan of her work, so he studied her self-portrait and the Woman in the Lap of Death, 1921, Woodcut for quite some time.
Along with the German Expressionist work that I enjoyed seeing in person was some Gaughin, Matisse, and Munch pieces that i found really inspiring. I wasn't entirely surprised but excited to see the familiar likeness of Zapata printed on grey paper. I immediately knew it was a print from one of the ASAR-O artists from Oaxaca. The print was made during the APPO uprising yet strangely made it into the Images in the Grain section and not the following room, The Voice of the Activist.
Above are photos from the “Artists Against the Prison Industrial Complex” show that took place on January 30, 2009 at Project Lodge in Madison, Wisconsin. The exhibition was organized by Wisconsin Books to Prisoners (a project of Rainbow Bookstore) and over 70 works of art were on display (including the Justseeds portfolio project, other prison related images from Justseeds artists, art by prisoners, and art by local Madison artists. As well, spoken word artists from the First Wave Spoken Word and Urban Arts Learning Community, including Sophia Snow and Alida Carlos Whaley performed and inspired us with their words.
The opening was packed with people from Madison, Milwaukee, and beyond and the organizers did an incredible job in bringing everyone together and using culture as a tool to combat the prison crisis.
The organizers from Wisconsin Books to Prisoners kept the focus of the evening on activism and reminded us that the State Government in Wisconsin bans used books from being mailed to Wisconsin prisoners and urged people to phone the Governor’s office at 608-266-1212; the WI DOC Administrator at 608-240-5104; and the WI DOC secretary at 608-240-5055 to voice their objections.
To learn more:
To contact one of organizers of the show:
Camy Matthay: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also check out Community Connections -- a volunteer organization that does a myriad of programming and prison/family support work with inmates at the Oakhill Correctional Institution (OCI) in Oregon, WI.
Reviews: Realizing the Impossible: Art against Authority by Josh MacPhee and Erik Reuland AK Press 2007 – 319 pages – £16.00 – ISBN: 9781904859321
This monochrome book arrived shortly after an interview with Banksy, the “graffiti artist”, had been aired on the BBC. A commentator went along to a working men’s (sic) club in Bethnal Green to view Banksy’s diversion of yellow road markings across the pavement and up the wall to blossom into a flower. Banksy says in the book, “Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal…a city which felt like a living breathing thing which belonged to everybody, not just real estate agents and the barons of big business”. The club secretary was quite pleased to leave it there. But not all graffiti is of artistic merit and many regard it as degrading the environment. Do graffitos adorn their own dwellings thus?
Modern Chinese Woodcuts
A few years ago I picked up a book of Chinese woodcuts, written in the early 80s, put out by a state press and updated in the mid 90s. Most of the book covers the technically impressive (yet politically questionable) period around the Cultural Revolution. Lately there's been a few new books I've seen that broaden the scope a little, focussing on cosmopolitan and bohemian art movements centered around Shanghai in the 20s/30s/and 40s. I just want to do a brief survey of what I've gleaned.
I am a gaming nerd!! Everyother Thursday, I get together with a group of like-minded geeks and we engage in German boardgames. Good times.
Over the weekend, while hanging out at my brother's apartment in Brooklyn, I introduced my family to the world of Corcassonne. During the game, we spoke a bit about other rad board gaming fun. Two that came up were Class War, which I've only played once with my friend Andrew, and Guy Debord's infamous board game, which I have never played.
For those that didn't know, Debord has a De-board Game. In the late 1960s, Guy Debord (artist, activist, and member of the Situationist International) created a game called Kriegspiel or Game of War. It became available for sale in 1989, although sadly I've never played it. But now, I just downloaded a version for computer. I'm ready to rock!!
Although Frentes, Coaliciones y Talleres: Grupos Visuales en México en el Siglo XX has been out since 2007, it was only yesterday that I finally got my hands on a copy. This is an aspect of the sad state of radical art throughout the hemisphere: even though many of us know about one another and what is happening in other places, there exists a poor distribution network across international borders. Why can't there be a larger network for accessing this stuff?
Needless to say, Alberto Híjar's recent edited anthology is an exciting overview of Mexican art collectives working throughout the 20th century. For those of you who don't know Híjar, he is a heterodox Marxist art historian working and teaching in Mexico City. He writes predominantly on modernist art in Latin America. I know him most for his writing on Diego Rivera and a book he edited on utopianism. Unfortunately, there is very little of his work translated into English and therefor he remains somewhat unknown in the English-speaking world.
The AK Press blog, Revolution by the Book, just posted a review of Realizing the Impossible written by Alan W. Moore, a long time NYC radical artist, theorist and teacher, who was also one of the founders of ABC No Rio! Here's the first couple paragraphs of the review, and the rest is here:
The artist in capitalist society is necessarily a revolutionary. S/he is as well necessarily an entrepreneur. Between these two positions lies a wide gulf in understandings. The artist must strive to change society according to a vision, because s/he does not fit. Creativity is not an absolute good and value in this society, and the artist is absolutely committed to creativity. Still, the artist must survive, and so must do what that requires.
What is that? What is longed-for utopia and what is impinging reality? The divide between our dreams of a perfect world and the realities of our lives, between what is necessary and what is desired has shifted. The Wall is gone; new walls are a’building. The organizers of the Documenta 12 exhibition recently proffered the assertion, “Modernity is our antiquity.” In finding new coordinates for radical position-takings today, we are continuously picking through those ruins for stuff we can use.
Realizing the Impossible bespeaks an exciting upsurge of attention to a world of dynamic committed artistic practices, past and present. It is largely a book on contemporary art, concerned first with explicating artistic practice now and in the postmodern past.
Here's a link to Philagrafika's take on the recent Justseeds collaboration at Space 1026. Philagrafika is a "virtual space for sharing artistic projects using the printed image in new and exciting ways." Thanks for the words and perspective!
I was on tour in 2000, my band had played a sloppy show the night before and our host (Erik Ruin) took us to The Detroit Institute of Arts (Det. art museum) before we got back on the road. Just past the front desk you walk into a giant atrium filled with Diego Rivera's auto industry murals. I had poured over pictures of this mural numerous times, but it had not prepared me for the beauty and grandeur of seeing it in person. I don't know how big the room is, maybe three stories tall, the architecture done in the fake greek style that was the preferred choice for many public buildings (see washington dc or most state capitols). And the mural covered the whole thing... the giant walls, the nooks and crannies.... a giant factory scene in all it's terrible, awesome and fascinating complexity.... the workers in full communist-style action shots pulling levers and wrenches.... the gods of the earth elements up around the ceiling... little panels with industry scientists, women workers. Ore and metal itself. I just stood there and rotated in awe at this big powerful piece of art.