Friday, 30 May 2014

Tacit Inhumanity

Darvin Rodríguez, reproduction exhibited at Brøndsalen
- I apologize for my poor photo quality.
Just around the corner from where this is being written, Ulandssekretariatet (The LO/FTF Council, i.e. the Danish trade union council assisting democratic development internationally) holds it yearly art exhibition at Brøndsalen. This year the focus is on Bolivia, Honduras and Guatemala.

An artist of special interest to this blog is the graphic outlook of the Hondurian artist, Darvin Rodríguez.

Darvin Rodríguez, the panel Carga - shown too with schoolchildren in front of it for size
Photos: Museo para la Identidad Nacional, May 26, 2013 and May 9, 2014.

Personajes de Acción, men and women in action, instantly recognizable from the super hero universe,  in which the line drawing is a means in itself to tell the drama. At the same time a plethora of detailing, while each detail is told with a minimum of line work. The works exhibited here are photostats of Darvin Rodríguez' exhibition at Museo para la Identidad Nacional in Tegucigalpa in Honduras this spring:

Sunday, 25 May 2014

By Special Request

A cartoonist in love is a thing to be treasured, so let us without further ado give the word to Fadi Abou Hassan on a sunny Sunday on the magic of looking into the eyes his loved one:

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Blinded Walls

Brigades Mona Lisa in Ard El Lwa, February 15, 2014.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa.

Do you remember the children of Ard El Lwa, who had their portraits made by the Brigades Mona Lisa as a means of empowering them? Murals giving them a presence larger than life, with which they were to be confronted every day, inspiring them to dream and dare.

But then -

Ard El Lwa, April 12,  2014.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa.

The wall was created as part of the second stage of the Ard El Lwa-project in collaboration with the British Council. The parents of the children, the owners of the houses in question as well as the local shopkeepers were all approached beforehand and approved of the intended goals. And yet.

One could call it a proof of the presence of the portraits, since there were complaints that they demanded too much interest to those en route to prayer on Fridays. As a means to meet half-way, the portraits were covered each Friday, only to realize that once there, the covers remained. They became the first excuse to have the walls painted over altogether. The adversaries of the project made it a question of who had agreed to what and wether they were keeping their word or not as a way to confuse their actual intention. Yet they inadvertently blurted it out: Drawing is haram.

When talking of portraits, presence and their removal, we lost the decorations by Valdemar Andersen at Solsortvej 68 this month here in Copenhagen, when a new owner took the villa into possession. We tried everything, the question of the decorations were laid on all desks with the authority to make a change. They were even used as an prototype for future decisions, but to no avail. An interior decoration cannot be listed on its own, and even if we were met with much understanding, the bending or changing of the guidelines would imply funding, since the new owner would be entitled to apply for assistance to have them conserved.

In a way the removal rings true to the horizon of the new owner. This is now a house where snooker no longer is played, nor are the guests greeted by the greatest of gods. Even if it was a monumental scale decoration on private hands, this was not a decoration for the private life. It reached out to those, who entered. At least one of the neighbours were portrayed downstairs playing snooker.  The villa was a town within town welcoming artists, researchers and adventurers, all experimenting in life. They are all gone. Now, it is a white-washed "me, me, me"-house.

Ard El Lwa, April 12,  2014.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa.

We have no photos from inside Solsortvej 68 today, nor are there any reason to. They are exactly in the state of the walls of Ard El Lwa. 

In both instances the walls are not just blind, they are blinded.

Ard El Lwa, April 12,  2014.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa.

The two cases may seem very different, the negligence and the active opposition, but ultimately they are both about the personal insistence, proving to be in the right by letting a deliberate act of obliteration take place.

So maybe we can take it a step further. The arthistorian W.J.T. Mitchell once wrote on iconoclasm, the insistence on having all imagery removed and destroyed. He made the point that iconoclasm is as old as idolatry, in fact idolatry and iconoclasm are two of the same kind.

Iconoclasm is just the overturning of a rival, a removal of those, who came before. With the claim that it is a return to a primitive faith, the religion of the first human creatures before the "perversion" or the "fall", always understood as a fall into idolatry.

As Mitchell continues, the iconoclast claims that he worships no images of any sort, but when pressed, he will admit to the fundamentally different claim that his images are purer or truer than those of mere idolaters.

It may seem a cheap trick to show the before and after in Ard El Lwa, the difference between the childrens' smiles and the abusing of them, but this is the very result of the self-sanctioned idolater.
Ard El Lwa, April 12,  2014.
Photo courtesy of Brigades Mona Lisa.

Solsortvej 68 has gone from being THIS house to being just ANY house. It was the last remaining decoration of a richly decorated neighbourhood. Fuglebakkekvarteret has actively obliterated its past and succesfully so.

In Ard El Lwa the children are still children. What does it mean to them that their faces are removed as part of someone claiming to have a higher cause at hand than the children themselves?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Light Within of the Blindfolded

Fadi Abou Hassan, May 11, 2014.

Two cartoons of a then and a now. Both on the chains, the blindfold, and yet the light within, the insistence on remaining human, and all the more so from not succumbing to the ones chaining them.

This is the visualization of the dignity of the Syrian people, only to be met with violence when they asked for their right to justice, freedom and of course to live in dignity. As Tarek Alghorani said when Homs was lost: Is this a victory for the system?

Juan Zero, From the Series Free Syria, April 17, 2012.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of the artists and must not be reproduced without their permission.

Monday, 19 May 2014

"A simple idea to set a respectful monument"

1,087 killed of a total of 6,300 Danish sailors in allied service during the World War II. A heavy percentage indeed, as is the increasing number of martyrs of the Egyptian revolution since 2011, as Ganzeer has said with sad sarcasm: it will probably amass to a 100,000 with time.

Ganzeer was one of the very first who took art to the streets, when the protests broke out in Egypt. He has continued to be a defining voice, proving that there no such thing as boundaries to graphical expression. He has detailed how to do graffiti without being caught, organized events to encourage everyone to take part, just as he continually transforms the visuals of the revolution into a graphic language. The photo beneath is a case in point, in his own words: A simple idea to set a respectful monument.

Posted November 23, 2013 on the Facebook wall of Ganzeer
- it has not been possible to establish, who took the photo or the still?

Friday, 16 May 2014

Tilfældet Kaj Munk

This is a post in Danish only, for which I apologize. It is on the priest, dramatist and poet, Kaj Munk, who was a fervent admirer of Hitler and Mussolini in the early 1930's. He would later become a critic of Nazism, but so late that by then Hans Bendix for one had had to flee the country. The text beneath is an excerpt from the manuscript Nervestregen on the said cartoonist, that particular era and a priest, he could not possibly respect:

I 1934 stod Hans Bendix for at udgive anden udgave af sit tidsskrift Aandehullet. Denne gang i større oplag, en større række af bidragende personligheder og ufravigelig opmærksomhed fra den tyske, dvs. nazistiske gesandt i København. For slet ikke at tale om Udenrigsministeriets irritation, der meget lidt brød sig om tegneren, der konstant organiserede nye kritiske tiltag mod nazismen.

Blandt bidragsyderne til dette nummer var Kaj Munk, og det er blevet spekuleret, hvorfor i al verden han kom med. Han bidrog med to yderst ubehagelige digte, rendyrkede forsvar for nazismen. Det viser sig, at to breve er bevaret fra Hans Bendix til Kaj Munk om sagen, der sætter spørgsmålet på plads. De befinder sig på Kaj Munk Forskningscentret, til hvem der skal lyde en stor tak for deres hjælp.

Uddraget nedenfor er fra manuskriptet Nervestregen, der kan læses i sin helhed her. I det første af de to breve hører vi, at Hans Bendix var rejst til Vedersø for personligt at overtale Kaj Munk til at bidrage. Formodentlig har han brugt samme taktik over for alle bidragsydere. Det var blot så meget mere overraskende, at han skulle bruge så mange kræfter på Kaj Munk.

Munk sagde da også nej, kan vi forstå ud af det første brev. Han undskyldte sig med travlhed, hvad Hans Bendix kunne underminere med at fortælle, at deadline var blevet flyttet en måned frem: "Skulde der i dette Tidsrum ikke nok blive noget De vilde have haft Luft for og puste ud gennem "Aandehullet"?"

Og for nu at gøre tidsargumentet helt til skamme, havde Kaj Munk taget sig tid til at polemisere over en boganmeldelse i anden sammenhæng og havde svaret igen på tryk, hvorfor Hans Bendix konkluderede, at Munk ved at have "(…) haft Tid til det opmuntret givet mig et lille Haab om ikke at skulde gøre min Rejse forgæves." Afrundet med den ultimative underminering af enhver argumentation: "Kan De forresten overhovedet nænne at sige nej?"

Kaj Munk var ikke hjemme og har også denne gang bagefter takket nej på skrift. Hvor første afslag har været høfligt, blev dette utvetydigt. Det er ikke bevaret, men "Tak for Deres Salut", skrev Hans Bendix tilbage efter salven: "De beklager, at De ikke var hjemme, da jeg aflagde Dem Visit i Tirsdags. Men hvor kunne jeg vide, at en Guds Mand var optaget af at dräbe umälende Väsener i Egnen omkring Kragelund?"

Spydige ord, der én gang for alle afkræfter, at Hans Bendix skulle være blevet overlistet til at lade Kaj Munk bidrage med de to små digte, der endte med at blive bragt i den anden udgave af Aandehullet, og som begge undsagde tidsskriftet. Der har været spekuleret og hidtil konkluderet, at de ikke kan have været Hans Bendix' hensigt. Men Kaj Munk var et stort navn i tiden, som Hans Bendix bagefter begrundede valget. I en grad, at han i sit gensvar til det utvetydige, andet afslag, groft ironiserede over Munk som præst og pronazist. Det er ord, der lige siden ville have været injurier, Hans Bendix kaster tilbage:

"De skriver endvidere, at De synes Förste Nummer af Aandehullet var modbydeligt og at De kun vil skrive i det näste, hvis det bliver fyldt med Forherligelsen af Nazismen. Ved min Rejse til Vedersö, Prästegaard har jeg tilsträkkelig vist, hvor gerne jeg saa Dem som Medarbejder ved Aandehullet, men jeg kan ikke tjene Dem i at lave et Särhäfte med Knäfald for Nazismen. Förste Nummer er jo et Dixi, - og i Parentes et SALVAVI ANIMAM MEAM - men jeg vil jo ikke forhindre Dem i at väre Nazist, eller i et Hyldestdigt eller Artikel give Udtryk for et eller andet indviklet Syn på Nazismen. Vil De komme med det, skal det loyalt blive optaget i Aandehullet."

Formodentlig blev det en enkelt sætning i denne fornyede opfordring, som provokerede Kaj Munk til at gribe pennen. Dixi et salvavi animam meam: Jeg har talt – i betydningen advaret – og reddet min sjæl. Citatet er fra Biblia Vulgata, den første bibeloversættelse til latin, og løseligt formuleret over to skriftsteder – Første Mosebog over hvem, som skulle skånes ved syndens byers, Sodoma og Gomorras, ødelæggelse, og Ezekiels Bog over at prædike og gøre sit til at uretfærdighed ikke finder sted. Den uretfærdige skal advares, ellers skal den tavse betale med eget blod, ligesom den retfærdige skal advares mod at synde. Barske og meget blodige kapitler om at rydde ud, for ændrer den uretfærdige ikke kurs, skal denne miste livet.

Hans Bendix havde skrevet til en teolog, og ret og uret blev hovedtemaet for de to digte, der, som lovet, blev loyalt optaget i Aandehullet. Et kraftigt gensvar omkring retfærdighed, som det korteste af de to lyder:


Hvis du i denne syndige Verden
vil lave en statue af Retfærdighed,
er der ikke Stof nok til Soklen ogsaa;
den maa du lave af Uret".

Udrensning som nødvendighed, lød det konstant fra nazismen, og dermed en afgørende forskellig konklusion fra den straffende guddom, der talte i Ezekiels Bog. Her kommer den uretfærdige ganske vist også af med livet, hvis hun eller han ikke holder op med at begå uretfærdighed, men med muligheden for at beholde sit liv, hvis det lægges om, og dermed et vist niveau af valgfrihed.

Den mulighed findes ikke i Kaj Munks version. Der er intet valg, ingen frelse. Kun udryddelse, kaldet "Oprydning", og det medfører nødvendigvis et vist spild, som en verselinje lyder i det andet af Aandehuls-digtene, idet en havekarl fjerner maddiker, for at køkkenhaven kan trives. Han "snitter de grimme Steder ud", mens "de Urter, der ikke fejler videre/himler op i særlig Grad/For de forstaar ingenting af det hele". Men havekarlen er ubønhørlig i sin konklusion: "Jeg gør lidt Uret for at hjælpe det Rette til Rette".

Aandehullet repræsenterede dem, som "himler op i særlig Grad", så redaktørerne brugte tegningsmediet til et frækt strategisk modtræk. Digtene fik lov at stå tilsyneladende ukommenterede i ord, men delte opslag med en helsidestegning af Ib Andersen, ”Kvinde jages af By”: 

Tegningen bar en dato for, hvornår den pågældende jødiske kvinde i Tyskland blev overfaldet af borgere, militær – og præster – som refereret i The Times. Dette var køkkenhavens virkelighed, den 23. August 1933.

Ib Andersen har fået alle de institutioner af gårde, som hurtigst fulgte trop i Nazityskland. Billedrummet er bogstaveligt fyldt med høje hatte, præstekjoler, det lysende kors, kupler, søjler og krummelurer på institutionerne – normerne, som har vist sig parate til at lade sig korrumpere og nu vender sig mod den enkelte, den rene sårbarhed, der burde være under deres beskyttelse. Dette er den moderne udgave af Kristus hånes, nu af de kristne selv.

Ib Andersen har tegnet direkte og umiddelbart på sin vrede. Konturer tegnes op igen og igen, for ellers kunne vi end ikke opdage den overfaldne i virvaret. Kompositionsprincipper når han slet ikke hen til. Frem for at give os det hele ved at fortælle en detalje, hælder han det hele ind, så tegningen fremstår lag på lag på lag.

I uddrivelsen bliver de grimme de selvretfærdige, som Ib Andersen lægger frem for os. Hvor bibelteksten henviser til en guddoms definition på retfærdigt liv, er realiteten bag Kaj Munks retfærdighedsforståelse, at mennesker og deres institutioner selv beslutter hvem, som skal leve. Institutioner er aldrig andet eller bedre, end de mennesker, der befolker dem, og som derfor udvikler sig til en lynch mob. En dyrkelse af egen formåen, hvor de gør sig selv til afguder og med korset lysende på billedfladen. 

Hans Bendix beskrev selv siden Kaj Munk, at han i sin iver efter at søge "at undskylde helvedeskarlen af en statsmand” støttede op om en ny dans om guldkalven. Munk var en teolog, der havde misforstået, hvem hans trosbekendelse rettede sig mod. 

Teksten kan som nævnt læses i sin helhed her. Tak til Ib Andersens familie for tilladelse til at vise tegningen.

Friday, 9 May 2014

War and Peace

Cartoons are a means to the daily wow, making our now consciously present to us, undressing it before us, while taking the greater outlook of before and after. Today's artwork by Fadi Abou Hassan is very much a case in point, published on the anniversary of the end of World War II in many parts of Europe. That war ended 69 years ago today, while nothing has been learned, and so the scene is yet again painfully relevant to put before us.

The blade of the scythe reaches across the picture plane, resembling the Syrian flag, only the black section is now the dotted red.

Fadi Abou Hassan, War and Peace, May 9, 2014.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

In the Beginning is the Touch

"Vision loses its pre-eminence in the very area in which it is dominant, in painting"

Peter Ravn, Wroclaw Detective, Oil on canvas, 30x 30 cm. 2012.
- sadly Blogger gives the painting a brownish hue
It can be seen in its original colors here

Sunday, 4 May 2014

"Candles in the Windows at 20:36"

In the evening on May 4, 1945 it was announced on the illegal radio from London that the German troops in Northern Europe had surrendered. Most Danes today know the message to an extent they can even copy the crackles and buzzings, which accompanied the original radio message.

Back then everyone took to the streets in jubilant spontaneity, climbing onto everything, even conquering the roofs of the trams at the Town Hall Square, making as much noise as possible in the process, and tonight we will be placing candles on the window sills to commemorate the return of the light that very evening.

Per Marquard Otzen, Candles in the Windows at 20:36, May 4, 2014.

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