Thursday, 12 July 2018

Where Is... Life?

A very empty leaf in front of the golden girl.

An old photo of mine that I have drained of color to highlight the butterfly.
It is the only non-shiny part of the figurine and placed atop the leaf.
Was the Danish Prime Minister drunk at some formal dinner? Was the Crown Prince convinced he could jump the grandfather clock that same evening?

It certainly did not happen from daily wear and tear for the decorated doors to the room across which tourists are passing every day are as always in rather pristine condition.

No, something specific happened to the grandfather clock in Abildgaardsalen (The Abildgaard Room), which forms part of The Royal Reception Rooms at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen.

I am the minikin down to the left for measure.

Her emptied hands.
The stomach of the grandfather clock, which does look battered these days,
however they may be old wounds that have cracked open yet again.
Valdemar Andersen decorated every corner of The Abildgaard Room with the Danish flora, i.e. beetles, flies, wasps and robins. Bears and their like have been gone for centuries in Denmark.

Atop the grandfather clock he then added another insect, this time a sculpted blue butterfly perched on a leaf with a young girl protecting it with her hands. A sculpture on the fragility of life in the passing of time.

Which makes it all the sadder that the butterfly is gone.

Valdemar wondered back then, if its meaning would be understood?

It proved painfully significant to its artist. It was the last work by Valdemar Andersen, finished on New Year's Eve 1927/1928. Only two months later he was to be hospitalized, his leukemia diagnosed and his all too short, but immensely productive life would come to an early end.

One detail of the room, each square featuring its insect and inviting
in the light by mirroring the squares of the window frames. 
The figurine was first cast with the help of the architect and designer Poul Henningsen (PH) and then carved in mahogany and gold plated. Nothing was lacking in its creation.

The creation of the Royal Reception Rooms on the other hand had turned into a longwinded affair; everyone absolutely hating each other, or rather the head of the team of artists seemed to have been so troubled by the project he had taken upon himself that he hated them all. Everything was changed along the way, form and content alike. Such as the intended use of the rooms. Mirrors already done by Valdemar were never used. Everything was done and then rejected.

In the case of the Abildgaard Room it took eight years to complete and everything in it not created by Valdemar is an overdone eclectic mess rather like the icing on a birthday cake.

Yet, in the midst of everyone hissing at each other, the quiet Valdemar stuck to his original idea of depicting the fauna, portraying each insect at a time and framing it in light grey grotesques. The only thing about his part of the decoration, which reveals the passing of the time, is the hairstyle of the sculptured girl in the fashion of the late 1920'ies.

Her protecting the frailty of life was an exquisite final artistic statement.

Now the blue butterfly is gone.

Life.... is gone...?

Detail of one of Valdemar's decorated doors leading to the room.

Monday, 9 July 2018

The Unfakable

Khalid Albaih at the graffiti wall of the exhibition, the cartoons dirtied up
as they would be outside. With Jens Nüchel Petersen, July 5, 2018.
Photo: Niels Larsen.

"We Were Perfect", view from the exhibition at
the Library at Kulturværftet in Elsinore.
Photo: LCL.
Even before we opened Khalid Albaih's exhibition We Were Perfect at the Library at Kulturværftet in Elsinore (Helsingør), the exhibition had its first visitor.

A young refugee from the Syrian regime, his wide-eyed reaction, when being told that the artist was present before him was the best moment of the evening. His eyes told the story of the presence of Khalid's work too since 2011.

Running through one room of the exhibition is a "graffiti wall" a giant paper wall with dirtied up prints as they would have been seen stenciled on walls in Tahrir Square, Cairo and in Beirut. They were likewise brought on to the streets when demonstrating against regimes, or against the handling of refugees in Australia, and first and foremost they have gone viral on smart-screens in the Arab world as in the West.

The original of the cartoon is at any given instance the publicized one. In this case its publication took place in all of its formats, size and materials. We may speak of a first apparition on the screens, but the constitutive properties are not ephemeral, nor are they transitory. On the contrary, in each of their configurations, his works are fully there as he intended.

"We Were Perfect", view from the exhibition at the Library at Kulturværftet
in Elsinore. Photo: LCL.

"We Were Perfect", view from the exhibition at
the Library at Kulturværftet in Elsinore.
Photo: LCL.
The word is authoritative.

The artworks of Khalid are as clear-cut in form as they are in meaning. A luminous background onto which is a clear-cut graphic element. Simple, yet detailed. They address the specific in laying out a situation, while insisting on the intellectual curiosity of their beholders to think for themselves in everything they hear and do.
"We Were Perfect", view from the exhibition at
the Library at Kulturværftet in Elsinore.
Photo: LCL.

Khalid's objective was understood given it was taken to the streets in the call for change from the noise of despots doing their damnedest to undermine every instance of calm to think.

"Fake" has been a despotic buzzword these years in their adoption of what Orwell termed doublethink, to reach the point were nothing is - well, where nothingness reigns. Contrary to this we have the unfakable of the realm of art, as termed by the philosopher of aesthetics, Nelson Goodman.

Goodman would not have approved of the authoritative manifold of the unique, but then he wrote before there was such a thing as an image being printed on equally excellent appliances across the globe.

Our first visitor came back moments later with his best friend, who originates from Ethiopia. Two friends from two continents accentuating a body of work, which in turn is the embodiment of the poet Maya Angelou:

I go forth alone, and stand as ten thousand.

The local graffiti wall by the library at Kulturværftet,
so of course there is an invitation to find inspiration inside.
Photo: LCL.

The Exhibition We Were Perfect at the Library of Kulturværftet, Elsinore/Helsingør. It opened last Thursday and runs until September 27, 2018.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Monument of Shame

Bonil, Trees of Death, by Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega,
July 4, 2018.

It is a monument of the atrocities taking place in Nicaragua. Constructions of steel around Managua, designed by Rosario Murillo, wife of president Daniel Ortega. As trees go, these produce no oxygen and can as such be no symbol of life.

Each of the killed embodies the Nicaraguan flag. The full story is before us.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Bonil and must not be reproduced without his permission.

The Moral Case of Cartoonist vs. President

Did I just read that? Surely I read wrong?

Correa, the former president of Ecuador has a warrant of arrest on his head.

Bonil, July 4, 2018:
- Walking alert (a leftist cry on a victorious Bolívar through Latin America)
- of Bolívar's sword?
- No, the red alert of Interpol

Interpol has been alerted to have him extradited from Belgium. Belgium is apparently the new haven for political leaders on the run. The Catalan separatist leader escaped extradition from Belgium too only little over a month ago.

Responsibility is but a word of fashion, according to Correa. Now it is there, now it is not.

Correa has done anything in his power, rallying week after week, using every means of his presidential power to undermine the freedom held in the constitution against Bonil and his colleagues. Bonil was singled out time after time in court as in the rallies mentioned, hearing his person and cartoons harassed in a tone, which might have been a suggestion of... violence? Surely verbal violence, which might have escalated even further. Bonil was denied his personal and citizen rights on every level and for every bit of that burdensome and dangerous road, Correa is responsible. Responsible in the present tense.

Correa the Escapist. We know already that he will do anything to avoid facing his own deeds. His life is as cushioned as Bonil's is not. Bonil has been called to answer for his cartoons and he answered. Being answerable is the very definition of acting responsibly.

Of every word with which we characterize Bonil, Correa is his opposite. Bonil has spine, showing courage and using his sharp intellect. He analyses the world with love and humor, creating understanding one cartoon at a time to make this world a better place.

Correa is a whimpering blob of vanity.

The words above have been all about Bonil and that is how it should be.

- Oh, and by the way: It is the Fourth of July in the US. Belgium may be seeing Trump hopefully sooner than later. Sorry, Belgium!

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Bonil and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

How To Lose The Moral Right to Govern

Pedro X. Molina, June 2018.
The national outcry:

HEAR US! Every cartoon from Pedro X. Molina right now is meant to hurt our eardrums. The volume turned to maximum is everything cartooning, or art for that matter, is not supposed to be and for that very reason the message is all the stronger.

To sum up the Nicaraguans plight, president Daniel Ortega has responded with violence against demonstrations protesting his politics. According to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights at least 285 are dead and 1500 injured. By June 25.

Pedro X. Molina, June 2018.
Hors d'oeuvre...
- My men have orders not to shoot!

The salivating Ortega has been turned into not just any beast, but one prepared to clamp down on critique against him. The bullet bars for teeth speak of preparation. In other words, Ortega embodies the problem; he is the problem.

He is as much a roaring noise as his moral counterpoint above, the pietà of desperation. The profound inner sorrow is wrought out to a collective outcry of desperation, desperate too to be heard. In the confrontation of sound, we have their respective stations.

Pedro X. Molina, October 9, 2015.
Please note the date and year: 2015.
- If you think...
- That this is "violence"...
- ... and this is "peace"...
- Then you are simply not thinking.

Pedro X. Molina, June 2018.
The section of the Constitution in which it is stated
that armed paramilitaries are unconstitutional.
Pedro X. Molina already was a cartoonist speaking in direct terms. Direct as in laying out object-by-object, never details, but each element alongside the next element to let it be known what is taking place.

We are in court in his cartoons and the prosecution is laying out the evidence, all of which is adding up. The Constitution and the soiling of it is a central exhibit to the case.

He is calling for judgment before us: This is not a war. This is a massacre by an armed state that kills its unarmed citizens, in his own words. He draws the moral verdict written in the citizens' own blood to NOT commit a revenge murder of Ortega and wife, but to their being removed from power, since they refuse to do themselves:

Pedro X. Molina, June 2018.

Pedro X. Molina asks of you all to distribute his cartoons as widely as possible to let the situation of Nicaraguans be known.

Friday, 29 June 2018


Ter-ror-te-guism (org. terrorteguismo, 2018) noun, the alliance of terror and the president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega 1. The present political situation in Nicaragua, where citizens, children included, are being shot and killed 2. The arming of militant groups acting as snipers, carrying out random killings of citizens 3. Impunity for everyone ordering or acting with violence against the citizens 4. The danger of all of the aforementioned to the Nicaraguans going forward. 

Pedro X. Molina, June 2018.

As exemplified by Pedro X. Molina, hope is troubled going forward. The tree of life is no longer a living one, but one made in a metal design by Ortega's wife. The death caravans with their masked men embody the old tales of the carretas nahuatl, the rumbling ghostly carts in the street at night, which everyone must take care never to see. Anyone who dares to sneak a glimpse will be gone in the morning. 

We recognize the ghostly cart from recent embodiments as well as of old. This carreta nahuatl has Ortega for driver. As random as the terror is once weapons are in the wrong hands, the carreta has a first beginning.

Pedro X. Molina asks of you all to distribute his cartoons as widely as possible to let the situation of Nicaraguans be known.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

A Tale Of Four Images

Khalid Wad Albaih, August 18, 2016.

The trouble with imagery sharing a compositional resemblance is that most of the time we cannot establish, whether it may have been mental laziness on the copyist's part or that they are sharing their time and age and are as such each of them part of the larger picture.

It may be that the artist was taking up the inspiration found from another, which makes it proof how inspirational the first image turned out to be. The artist next in line was waiting for the right moment to make his or her own version. 

In the present case this is a story of four images so far.

The first two ones centered on the situation of Syrian children. All too painfully known photos on the little drowned Aylan Kurdi and Omran Daqneesh taken to an ambulance from beneath the rubbles of Aleppo following Russian air strikes. 

Khalid Albaih each time created his version within the first hours of their photos being published, stripping the children of the scenery in which they were photographed as if stark cut-outs and placing them on a stark luminous background by which he created a direct confrontation with the beholder. A situation needs to be changed and responsibility must be placed. 

Omran confronting Putin proved not as popular as the one of the two children. The press, ever terrified of not appearing neutral - Ahem! - emphasizes the one below, which in turn went viral. This is the one, whose own artist worries every time he sees it in social media feeds, knowing there will be new, horrific news. It has taken on a life of its own:
Khalid Wad Albaih, August 18, 2016.

This week Time Magazine published this cover on Trump made to face his own doings, separating children and toddlers from their parents at the borders, without till now even securing a minimum of organization to make it possible for the parents to have their children back: 

@time: #welcometoamerica, June 21, 2018.

Trump never face responsibilities of any kind; let us be honest, so Khalid Albaih responded to the cover by adding another layer to it. By the time the cover was published, Melania Trump had boarded a flight to Texas with THAT jacket with the impossible-to-overlook all capital lettering I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?

But not just that. Military personnel have been added to keep the child from even being seen. The total ignorance of the scene. The uniformed are mere shadows of human life.

Khalid has added the danger, of which the girl is the visualization, just like Omran and Aylan.

The little girl is exposing the autocracy already at play in the official US. This is The Land of the Unfree.

Khalid Albaih, End of Times, June 23, 2018.

Khalid Albaih publishes his khartoons under a Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Immeasurable: The Heart

Angel Boligán, The Wrong Needle, May 30, 2012.

An organ and a symbol, which presumably is threadbare, nevertheless it is fresh and relevant every time we see it. There is such fresh pain in the attempt of sewing it back together above. The frailty of love is given a visual presence through the coarseness of what love is not - yet striving to succeed as embodied in the vertiginous perspective of the arm.

Angel Boligán, The Blacksmith,
July 3, 2016.
The organ, other words, which is key to the what, where and why of human life. No Anatomia Cartooniensa would be true to itself without it.

The curious thing about the shape of the heart is that it has two equally established configurations.

We have for one the symmetrical one above, mirroring itself along a central axis, which at once speaks of harmony, i.e. said symmetry, and its vulnerability, when broken along its axis.

To the right its counterpart gives the vertiginous arm an impossible task of its own, this time reason disciplining the anatomical heart. This one has been about since artists were explorers of pathology and would have held an actual heart in their own hands.

Leonardo, because of course he did, drew his about 1511-13 and even if the exact function of the heart was not yet known, interestingly the anatomical heart have been drawn more or less exactly like this ever since, with the stumps of coronary arteries, suggesting connection or severance according to the situation.

Marilena Nardi, December 9, 2016.

The anatomical heart has a history of being the complicated one of the two. It is a working, pumping organ, even or all the more so when severed, and its mere presence is a sign of trouble.

Angel Boligán, The Eternal Border
July 17, 2011.
It is the tormentor. It draws us to insanity until we are transparent and withered. No outer movement is taking place above in this the most intense of dramas, draining her of life. A semblance of a light in her eye unable to see anything is fixating us from our knowing her demise only too well.

We are damned whatever we do. The migrant shall forever be connected and yet severed; the borderline cutting through his own body.

In all of this, and what we recognize as spectators, is the sincerity of the heart in its struggles. It has an element of purity to it in spite of being the organ on the physicality of human emotional life.

The heart remains untainted and has the right to do so even when yelled at by superiors. Since The Nürnberg Trials it is obligated in fact, so that soldiers shall follow their own conscience, and soldiers are in a situation where they are not even defined to act as humans.

Angél Boligán, The Sound of Sanity, March 2, 2012.

Cartooning has a strong element of analysis to it and naturally so, but exaggeration has its own level of precision. It uncovers the drama of human life to the point of its breaking point - the distortion, the severance, the demise - each time worth a five-hour long opera.

Our hearts are meant to broken, as Oscar Wilde consoles us.

Marilena Nardi, The Affliction of Love, June 2, 2016.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Marilena Nardi and Angel Boligán and must not be reproduced without their permission.

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