Wednesday, 29 October 2014

"Don't be late, Dodo!"

Doaa Eladl, October 23, 2014.

- her father is shouting after Dodo, who answers back that "If I am not hit by a car, or smashed by a door or a window won't fall on me, I'll be back on time!"

This may be an all too poignant way of saying goodbye to a protagonist in Doaa Eladl's work, unless...

Let me give the word to Tony Daoud, who translated the above and stated the situation in Egypt in a few words and so much better than I could ever do:

"Her father and the cat are crying as if they already know she may be late or not coming back. This should never be a daily conversation.

Doaa Eladl is showing us other sides of the story. Or the consequences. The emotional and psychological consequences. And the effects of every incident on daily behavior.

I guess at the moment most Egyptians are scared from getting arrested just because... So maybe you will be late against your own will".

His words were all the more accentuated when Doaa Eladl in the very same minutes published her drawn analysis on the hanging on Reyhaneh Jabbari by the black haloed, black headdressed Iranian priesthood despite all attempts to pardon her:

Doaa Eladl, October 29, 2014.

As Tony had just said "not coming back is against our wish".

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Doaa Eladl and must not be reproduced without her permission. And a very special thank you to Tony for his words!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Destitutes for Sale

On the eve of the Tunisian elections yesterday, Zwewla put up this banner:

Zwewla, October 27, 2014.

Destitutes for Sale: Poverty. Unemployment. Marginalization. Torture.
Contact: #TNelections.

Torture placed in direct association with the social situation. As it happened the election meant a return of the already known from the times of Ben Ali and no less even of the first president Bourgiba. Thus the already known in the situation of the poor.

Zwewla, detail of the banner shown above

Based on the stencil "Blindness" by the graffiti group Icy and Sot, it is one of the strongest faces we have seen from Zwewla with grey shadowing creating the illusion of bright light onto the face. Which is in turn broken by the undefined red smeared across his eyes. He is doing his best to be able to look out. The problem is not to be found from within the poor.

Please note that this is a banner and not a mural. Zwewla is already awaiting yet another judicial outcome from commenting on the situation of the poor on public walls.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Right Way to See Life and Art?

Per Marquard Otzen, The Self-Sufficient Dane, April 14, 2009.

This autumn the Swedish artists have decided it is time to be no longer silent on a problem which has been growing for two decades now. The threats, bullying and personal onslaughts from the extreme right-wing party Sverigedemokraterna (i.e. "Swedish Democrats"). The verbal version of their conduct was articulated in public this summer when one member of the Swedish parliament Margaretha Larsson declared from the rostrum a particular artist ought to be imprisoned. But their condemnations are not new per se, and at times their tactics take on a very direct form. The assaulted artists are labelled as a disease (as in "unhealthy" and "degenerate") and as being "foreign" of character with the insistence that they should go live elsewhere.

Sadly, we know those words all too well here too. Persons are declared foreign and sick, not sufficiently "Danish" as if one group of people owns the right to define what is true Swedish or Danish to all of us.

On the Danish side of the Sound we are discussing a war baptized 1864, a discussion prompted by a new (and dramatically weak) TV-series. The likewise right-wing party here Dansk Folkeparti (i.e. the "Danish Folk Party" or "Party of the Danish People"?) initially endorsed the project; now they act as if offended on a personal level. Just as their Swedish counterparts, they blame the "radicals", around here denominated as "Cultural Radicals", and as usual too the said radicals are declared a "powerful opponent", leaving Dansk Folkeparti the victims.

Per Marquard Otzen, Flygtninge? Dem skider vi på!/ Refugees? We shit on them!
October 16, 2014.

Per Marquard Otzen has nailed the problem in the cartoon above. The left side of the drawing is a visual display of the retorics of Dansk Folkeparti. They create a confined room defined as THIS and nothing beyond. This is healthy, this is the correct vision of life. Behind the politicians we see an amass of artworks on the 1864-war. The sculpted Lion, the painted Brave Defeated and the portrayed Hero leading the Said Brave Defeated.

Only, those symbols were never ours. We know them and we know of them, but we do not recognize ourselves in any of them. The artifacts had nothing Danish about them in the first place; they were the fashion of the day and can be found in any European country. Secondly, the war was a sick idea back in 1863/64 when it was declared and it continues to be a sick idea, as the museum-founder, landowner and right-wing politician Johannes Hage wrote in 1920. He was a veteran himself and could not be written off as a coward.

The Swedish author and editor Anders Rydell draws a direct line between the newspeak of the Sverigedemokraterna and the Nazis 80 years ago. Contrary to all other parties of the Swedish parliament they have an anthropological take on art with their focus on cultural heritage, common norms and conventions, collective memory and myths. Images are seen as of the highest order and as such the carrier of ideals. This was once how the idea of "race" first found an expression.

Per Marquard Otzen, Man skal høre meget... før ørerne falder af/
Well, what you have to hear ... your ears may fall off, October 13, 2014.

We need an antidose to the smallness of the mental room of the right-wingers. I enclose a drawing by Per that we have already enjoyed. That yellow, that ear, that passion, that too larger than life-life of pain and necessity. Such is art. This is us.

And please note, in direct opposition to the actions of their attackers the Swedish artists are not condemning them. This it is speaking up before it is too late about their own right to have a presence and a voice in the public not risking their life nor art.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Per Marquard Otzen and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Letter to a Dead Cartoonist


Photo: Niels Larsen. Museum der Dinge, Berlin.

From now on we go our separate ways. Well, we have actually never even met. Truth be told, you died 30 years ago. But you were the cartoonist whose archive I organized at the Royal Library when I was still just a teenager. I was a freshman at uni and it was my job to sort out and catalogue 6000 of your original drawings.

There was one corner of your life's work which was wholly absent. The years when you drew against Hitler and his gang. Everyone nodded that this was but a parenthesis in your life's work anyway. You were the happy-go-lucky figure. And I nodded along, we were at the Department of Manuscripts and words had an aura to them that images and cartoons in particular seemed to be lacking. How could a mere cartoonist set a project such as Hitler's in jeopardy?

Hitler obviously thought you could. Nazi-Germany kept a keen eye on all that was drawn from day one, which was actually not a bad idea considering you drew him only three days later, refusing to stop although you constantly had to find new ways to go about it. And the thing is, you not only drew him. You created a critical scene with one cornerstone in the daily paper, whose drawings would then be reprinted in one of your pro-democratic, anti-Fascist magazines and they were in turn reviewed by your editor-in-chief in the daily paper, giving each drawing maximum exposure.

The photos in this post were taken at the Museum der Dinge in Berlin. Someone kept the Nazi propaganda crap in pristine condition to this day. Moveable right arms and blue (!) eyes that almost waters, not to mention an embroidered cushion. These are not innocent items, they helped giving the Nazis an aura of a natural and necessary development in the history of mankind. You made certain that perspective never took on in Denmark. The Nazis were not allowed even for a moment to pretend to do good and even if you and your team players were contradicted and battled, the battle alone created a noise that could sorely be overlooked.

Photo: Niels Larsen. Museum der Dinge, Berlin.

On closer inspection that particular section of your life was not even the exception. You were already battling for cartoon art as en expression of Modernism and as such ART long before 1933, making certain your colleagues became members of the collective of artists exhibiting together as Grønningen. And when that did not prove to be the game changer as hoped, you moved on after the war and succesfully negotiated cartoonists the status of journalists.

No wonder you made basket cases of those in power in 1933. The democratic ones at home as well as the anti-democrats south of the border.
Photo: Niels Larsen. Museum der Dinge, Berlin.

To a degree that you had to burn your original drawings and flee the country in 1940. They have not been reprinted nor much known since.

Nor will they be now.

I could not help writing on all of this. My timing was hopeless, though. The manuscript was ready a week before the notion of Danish cartoons became a matter of burning down embassies and no publisher dared having anything to do with cartoons and certainly not of the political sort.

So it was laid aside and many other things happened, until chance had it that now was the time.

It was not, as it turned out.

Your family does not want a book focusing on your political drawings and has forbidden any use of them. They dream of a coffee table thing. Which is their right and it will be a sweet book. Perhaps with a handful of "oh and ah"-speeches printed in it. I doubt anyone will risk three years of their life writing the thing only to see it all go to waste when met with the Red Queen of Alice in Wonderland: NO, off with her head!

I am afraid you will remain Tutu-Bendix, but at least you are in good company with Degas and his ballet girls. Those has of course prevented him from ever becoming respected in the art world, and let us be blunt: You will not be part of it now.

On the contrary your family's rejection has opened a wave of criticism. I have been met with questions such as if you were any good as a cartoonist anyway?  Maybe your person was the actual work of art and once gone there is nothing left?

- the embroidered cushion in question
Photo: Niels Larsen. Museum der Dinge, Berlin.

Sorry, old thing. Those are questions you will have to battle on your own. The book on your courage and daring to go against the tides shall remain a blind one. I have decided to make it free for anyone interested as a last reverence for the example you set: Nervestregen can be downloaded from here.

It will be another 40 years before your cartoons are set free and if I should happen to be around, there will have been so much water under the bridge by then. As in so many cartoonists to write about, just look around you on this blog. And each and every one of them has a story to tell as dramatic as yours.

You were the first cartoonist I was introduced to in a professional capacity. Now I bow and walk on.


Life is a beauty without Nazis!
Berlin, August 2014, Photo: Niels Larsen

Monday, 13 October 2014

Cadmium Yellow Light

Vincent without cadmium is like.... well, the reason why his Sun Flowers were almost bursting with magic a couple of decades ago and now are withering on their canvas.

Cadmium was discovered in 1817 and it is presumed it may have been used as early as 1830 in artists' paints. It was one of many new heavy metals being applied in the synthetic paints which saw the light in the first half of the 19th century and reading the old scripts on testing how much to use of each and what not to use again is better than a crime novel.

Per Marquard Otzen, detail of Cadmium Yellow Light
Particularly the latter ones. Such as Asphalt which sadly Delacroix had already put to much use in great and masterful works since it gave a certain depth to its color until after a few years the Asphalt began eating of the other ingredients.

There has been much eating, bleeding and fading of colors in the history of paintings; triumphs of new inventions that had forgotten to take the life-span of a painting into the equation. Artwork into Firework, flaying up and burning out, as the result.

Per Marquard Otzen, October 13, 2014.
Man skal høre meget... før ørerne falder af: 

Svenskerne vil forbyde skrappe farver à la Van Gogh i nutidens malerkunst. 
Det er noget med kadmium i tuberne/
Well, what you have to hear ... your ears may fall off:
The Swedes will ban strong colors à la Van Gogh in painting of today.
It has something to do with Cadmium in the tubes.

And now the EU is preparing a ban on Cadmium as an ingredient in artist' paint. It is not the first heavy metal to be eliminated, and it will soon be followed by many more. And yes, Sweden is once again on the forefront, having discussed the pros and cons of a ban for at least a year in the media now.
My Mother used Cadmium Yellow Light too.
The examples shown are typical,
the Lights are the nearly empty ones.

Will it be possible to find new ingredients as visually forceful as the old ones? And is art not supposed to be at least just a little bit forbidden?

One of the first words I knew myself was Chromoxidhydrate Green. Possibly spelled wrongly, it is a verbal word to me. My Mother would drill us in the names of her paints; a sort of lesson in our first Latin.

I always thought Chromoxidhydrate Green was the most dangerous of them all. That an empty tube could poison an entire river. But that is Chrome Green as it turns out. Which we have too, all of them them relics now in memory of my Mother.

So, I am no impartial judge. I love the smell of them to bits, however poisonous. But I know too that even cleaning the brushes ought to take place in a secure laboratory.

The Cadmiums and their colleagues have only been in use for 200 years and it is time to be as creative as in the 1820s. Just look at Van Gogh in the hands of Per Marquard Otzen, who has drawn the eyes of the former at once burning and burned out by adding more interest to the scroll-like shadow on his forehead.

The cartoon was made without the use of poisonous substances. It is courtesy of Per Marquard Otzen and must not be reproduced without his permission.

I salute you!

!Yo te saludo, Creador de la tira anticómica!

I am sorry, I do not have the The book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow in its original English by me, so please excuse me when I do not translate back the salution correctly, but oh, what a wonderful notion Doctorow creates: The anti-comical drawing!

Anti-comical. The saluted cartoonist is Robert Minor, who was a true representative of cartooning as an art in which humor is a core factor, but not an end it itself.

Case in point: Khalid Wad Albaih avoids any obvious portrayal of Sudan below. Instead the very name of Sudan  السودان constitutes the depths from which the cries of the Sudanese can be heard: "Education", "Democracy", "Health care", while the government representative explains: "This is why we made it a hole this deep".

The drawing is a beauty in itself. The delicacy of the line within the vast whiteness of the picture plane is already playing with us how little is needed to say it all. And yet so much detailing is taking place such as the lines within each letter to mark the depths from where they are crying out. The government representatives cast magnificent shadows, the shadow of the talking transformed into a pointing hand.

A play on the definition of normalcy; the explanation of the present situation as if everything is in order. There is even a logic behind it. Add to this the double seeing of word into image and vice versa. A major dissertation qua ink and one piece of paper and we have before us the epitome of the anticomical:

Khalid Wad Albaih, October 8, 2014.

The Khartoon shown is courtesy of Khalid Wad Albaih and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"When you point out the moon to Willis..."

Nadia Khiari: WillisFromTunis, October 8, 2014.
When you point out the moon to an imbecile, he will be looking at your finger.
When you point out the moon to Willis....

The imbecile or the innocent does not understand the notion of a beyond, but relates to the physical presence. Thus our reason for declaring someone imbecile and/or innocent.

But in pointing out there is also an element of convention ("Look, this is how you should perceive the world") or of deception ("Look away, look over there instead"). And so the cartoonist returns to where the insistence originated and gnashes to the bone of it. Never take anything a point value, least of all the response of the cartoonist.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Nadia Khiari and must not be reproduced without her permission.

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