Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Assad Test

As per the Encyclopedia Cartooniensa: "The acid test of cartooning; for a cartoon to be of quality, it must stay clear of any authoritarian setup; in cartooning known as the Assad test":

If a cartoon (advertently or inadvertently) serves the intention of dictator/ruler/regime XX in directing the attention away from what ought to be addressed, the cartoon has taken a wrong turn. 

Bashar al-Assad made puppets of his population, such as forcing them onto the streets demonstrating. It is a strategy to great effect. Masses shouting in anger letting out their frustrations directed at an outer enemy, making it next to impossible to have a thought of one's own. Demonstrations furthermore make for great imagery, consequently leading all interest away from Assad's own rule.

The strategy has been verbalized since the Roman Empire (bread and circus) and continues to be the most popular game plan of despots, in fact it may be a proof of a despot when detected:

Zunar, September 21, 2015.

The Malaysian government-supporting red shirts take to the streets as if by one impulse (cough!) shouting "Pork-Eaters!" directed at the Chinese part of the population, who are allegedly tearing the country apart.

A noise screen carried out almost to perfection in directing the attention away from Prime Minister Najib Razak, who are stealing away, giggling that he and his mega-millions are safe. He is greeted by his wife, who has by now metamorphosed into her 30+ carats diamond ring.

Zunar is the cartoonist to expose the many-layered hoax within one picture plane and proves thus yet again his status as a cartoonist of blue blood.

Zunar is still awaiting trial, facing 43 years of imprisonment if he is convicted. As always he asks anyone to share his drawings to let his situation and with him his countrymen be known or - as he underlines - you will convicted under the Act Cartoon Zunar 1911 that whoever does not share his cartoons on the social media will be accused of sedition and sentenced to drink ink.

Special gratitude goes to Jakob Holm Hansen for this post's linguistic twist.

Monday, 28 September 2015

In Deepest Gratitude

Annette Carlsen, portrait of me drawn September 26, 2015.
I had no inkling of what was to come when the address was read on Saturday night and I am still not certain that I have fully understood: Below is the press release from today; the English translation is to be read below.

I am utterly everything - utterly overwhelmed, utterly grateful and most of all I feel humble in that I have done so little, but hope to do so much more.

Kunsthistorikeren Louise C. Larsen modtager Svarres legat.

Vi har i Danske Bladtegnere i år valgt at uddele Svarres legat til en af foreningen faste støtter: Louise C. Larsen.

Louise har gennem sit utrættelige arbejde med Dansk Bladtegning tilført faget et vigtigt akademisk element. Vi hædre en helt særlig personlighed – en der har stået vagt om vores fag igennem en svær tid, en person der har givet vores fag en flot ballast.

Louises arbejde med sin blog “Valdemar Andersen” har stor betydning for faget, ikke altid let at forstå, ofte kontroversiel, men altid begavet og vidende. Louise har et vidstrakt netværk, som hun ikke er bange for at bruge til glæde for vores lille fag.

Netop Louises kontakter i det danske tegneseriemiljø og den enorme viden hun besidder om vores fags historie gik op i en højere enhed ved årets Copenhagen Comics. I samarbejde med Erik Petri skabte Louise fundamentet for vores historieskrivning der. Uden Louise var vores stand på Comics ikke blevet så forrygende, som den blev.

Da jeg var til stort anlagt konference om ytringsfrihed i Paris sidste mandag, var det Louise som alle de mange internationale stjerne ville have mig til at bringe hilsner med hjem til. Tegnere fra Malaysia, Ecuador, Tunesien, Israel, Palæstina og Belgien bad mig hilse årets modtager af Svarres legat.

Det er første gang at prisen gives til en ikke-tegner, og det kommer formentligt ikke til at ske igen, årets modtager er noget helt særligt.

Svarres legat eller “den lille Cavling-pris”, som legatet også er blevet kaldt, er opkaldt efter Chefredaktør på Østsjællands Folkeblad Kaj Svarre. Prisen blev første gang uddelt 3. oktober 1970. Legatet uddeles ikke hvert år, men gives altid til en person der gør noget særligt for vores lille tegner fællesskab.

Legatet bestyrelse består af formand og næstformand i Dansk Journalistforbund Lars Werge og Tine Johansen, formand og næstformand i Danske Bladtegnere Lars Refn og Bob Katzenelson."

Lars R.-

The art historian Louise C. Larsen receives The Svarre Award.

We of the Danish Cartoonists have chosen to delegate this year's Svarre Award to a source of strength to our union: Louise C. Larsen.

Louise has through her tireless work for Danish cartooning brought an important academic component to the profession. We honor a very special personality - one that has stood guard over our profession through a difficult time, a person who has given our profession great ballast.

Louise's work on her blog "Valdemar Andersen" is important to our profession, not always easy to understand, often controversial, but always intelligent and knowledgeable. Louise has an expansive network that she is not afraid to use it for the benefit of our little profession.

Louise's contacts in the Danish comics environment and the vast knowledge she possesses about our subject's history convened at this year's Copenhagen Comics. In collaboration with Erik Petri she created the foundation for writing our history there. Without Louise our stand at the Comics had not been as terrific as it was.

When I was on large-scale conference on freedom of speech in Paris last Monday, it was Louise to whom all the many international stars wanted me to bring greetings home. Cartoonists from Malaysia, Ecuador, Tunisia, Israel, Palestine and Belgium asked me to greet this year's recipient of The Svarre Award.

This is the first time that the award is not given to a cartoonist and it shall probably not happen again; this year's recipient is someone very special.

The Svarre Award or "the little Cavling Award" by which name the award goes by too, is named after editor in chief of Østsjællands Folkeblad Kaj Svarre. It was awarded for the first time on October 3, 1970. The grant is not awarded every year, but it is always given to a person, who contributes with something special for our cartooning community.

The scholarship board consists of the chairman and deputy chairman of the Danish Union of Journalists Lars Werge and Tine Johansen, and the president and vice-president of Danish Cartoonists Lars Refn and Bob Katzenelson".

Lars R.-

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Q.E.D. of the day

Let me for a moment refer to my own country, where certain self-righteous columnists have taken it upon them to judge and usually condemn cartoonists for not being sufficiently brave. 

At times there seems to be an industry of self-proclaimers going on around here, reaching elegantly despairingly into the air at the magnitude of their task declaring how - oh here we go again, must we, yes, we must! - declaring that they alone dare speak up, while the entire population of cartoonists is paralyzed with fear.

Utterly disrespectful.

It is disrespectful to shout at a group of artists on their lack of courage, when the latter are the very ones risking their lives on a daily basis.

It is furthermore disrespectful to speak on any lack of courage on the basis of knowing zero of the amount of fearless drawings made every day. 

Let the two cartoons by Khalid Gueddar below be our Q.E.D. of the day on the courage exercised:

Khalid Gueddar, September 22, 2015.

The UN Human Rights Council has literally put its head forward in deciding to have Saudi Arabia chair its Consultative Group, a panel of five representatives responsible for choosing independent experts to report on human rights violations.

According to the homepage of Human Rights Council itself the issue of Saudi Arabia having executed 134 this year already was addressed only yesterday. Outnumbering the beheadings performed by IS, as it was stated.

The Human Rights Council is "a forum and springboard of action" as stated by Ban Ki-moon and action is certainly on the plate as Khalid Gueddar has cleverly composed with the two units - bodies - having different orientations, one of which is about to be adjourned.

Khalid Gueddar, September 23, 2015.

Behold the result. Albeit not meant to be disclosed to the world; Khalid Gueddar here too doubles the effect of the showing off of an all-mightiness and yet of actions not meant to be seen. Not an eye is to be found in either drawing. The balustrade of diplomatic interaction is but a sketchy whisper in comparison.

Two drawings by a cartoonist, who was been sentenced to three months of imprisonment this summer to teach him a lesson of keeping his head down. The abuse of human rights is his daily reality, to which his answer has been what his colleague - who is in no less trouble on his side of the Globe - Bonil stated only last week: "We have to draw and draw and draw".

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Khalid Gueddar and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

True Lovers

Ivar Gjørup is 70 years young today, which is a chance to declare a love from the perspective of a future in which paper is a thing of the past. 

That thing about which everyone was fighting since it could not be about the words, hardly? Note how Divus, Ivar's protagonist in his comics series Egoland, with which I for one grew up and qualified god for a living (albeit out of work), has hung his halo on the protective glass while conducting his scientific lecture on said paper. 

The sheet is indeed active. It can bee seen at first giggling mischievously to itself, then sobbing in self-pity and lastly moaning in delight:

Ivar Gjørup, September 24, 2006, part one.

"In dealing with priests the paper developed all the deploring properties which is the reason why today we neither miss it nor them.

Self-pitying and torn between cover and back-cover, devoured by its eternal longing for the Finnish forests - from whence it originates - full of hate and revenge and abused by...

Ivar Gjørup, September 24, 2006, part two.

... priests, militarists, bureaucrats! Only 1 profession loved the paper for its own sake...

The cartoonists!"

Ivar shares his birthday with his twin sister, the equally outstanding Gitte Gjørup. CONGRATULATIONS to the two of you and many happy returns!

The drawings shown are courtesy of Ivar Gjørup and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Akram Raslan, R.I.P.

Today brought the possible confirmation we have been fearing for so long.

Akram Raslan died following torture shortly after his arrest on October 2, 2012.

He was arrested while drawing at his desk. He was subjected to torture for his critical drawings against the blodshed Assad is conducting on Syria with the world as a passive spectator. In the span of 1 1/2 years from the onset of the revolution till his arrest, 300 critical drawings are known from his hand. Akram Raslan died in hospital following torture. Rumors of his demise have been traveling since. The news today came by way of a fellow detainee (F. Y.).

The Assad regime is taking absurd measures to obscure its own doings, among which the killing off of cartoonists. The still not formally confirmed murder on Akram Raslan has been denied, obscured and the UN has even been told of a formal trial to take place. An all too fitting image of the Assad rule - and how he is still able to make everyone dance to his pipe.

Akram Raslan drew in a bold contour, which spoke with a clear voice on the Assad regime. Every line unravels a violent truth.

Akram Raslan. The lethal red-spotted species of Assad.

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

"... or not!"

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him.

Flask, ...Ou pas! July 9, 2015.

Apart from the skull, Hamlet could be anyone. Which fundamentally he is, of course. There is no iconicity to his figure. It is not that exceptional that he is a she either, only this one is striking in her sharp cut appearance with an iconic predecessor of her own in the silent movie star, Asta Nielsen, when she did her Hamlet in 1921.

Those ringed in eyes. Those lines across the face that they actually produce her doubt, her Angst, her knowing all too much of human weakness. But a knowledge from having acted, not from having shied away. 

- The text frames are in German.

And today it is time to indulge in a toast as her creator turns 40: Félicitations!

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

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Playfulness of Modernity

The Wegener poster is to be seen in the middle at Cph Comics
contemplated by Kaja Meyer, a gifted design student of today
and a possible successor in a field till recently dominated by men. 
At the Copenhagen Comics in June the cartoonists had their own section complete with an exhibition in which they each had created a poster on a special predecessor. Ida Felicia Noack chose Valdemar Andersen and his son Ib. Gitte Skov drew the first female cartoonist around these parts: Gerda Wegener (1886-1940).
Gerda Wegener, watercolour from the suite Les Delassements d'Eros,
Erotopolis, 1925.

Gerda Wegener, "Le roi d'Angleterre est mort!"
TikTak, 1911.
"Around these parts" must be taken loosely, since Gerda Wegener is primarily known today for her artwork created in Paris.

If decadence by 1900 had turned its back on the double standards of morality, her work belongs to the playfulness of the genre. Playfulness as in the freedom of everything being possible and not least pleasurable, at times taking a darker turn when a possible rape is at hand, and still more often than not turning into a dance, such as the Le roi d'Angleterre est mort! in which the cherry blossoms balances out his ermine cloak leading her into that darkness or maybe he is the one being lead to her curtain opening onto which he has already grabbed hold.

Gerda Wegener, watercolour from the suite Les Delassements d'Eros,
Erotopolis, 1925.
Speaking of cherry blossoms complete with geisha and vase, the inspiration from the Japanese block prints is palpable in every detail. The illusion of depth is next to obliterated.

The line is everything, personifying the playfulness. Each of her works closes upon itself in a world of its own, in which the line willows while growing flower vines, textiles are ruffled and with soft frills around the neck and wrists of Pierrot adding fullness to his movements while his figure remains willowy, pillows and drapings each have their pattern leaving no part of the plane forgotten.

Everything is taking part in the encounter before us. There is no outside having a say, not even when looking in.

While Gerda Wegener added her flair to the age of art deco, she is a child of art nouveau about which an art specialist once said: "art nouveau is sex" seeing it was all about creating, sprouting and growing life.

Gitte Skov, detail from Gerda Wegener, 2015.
Note Gerda Wegener herself at her easel to the bottom left;
complete with champagne flute in the other hand.

Gerda Wegener, watercolour from the suite Les Delassements d'Eros,
Erotopolis, 1925.
Gitte Skov has collected a bouquet of some of Gerda Wegener's best known couples and twisted them a bit around a bit to create for a new setting for them all. Pierrot and Columbine are here, as is the devil and German First World War-soldiers, since seeing them in a new framework underlines the fragility of the world of joyousness, the lifespan of which would prove to be so short. But for a while they are gathered round the cushioned bed in which two art lovers are finding inspiration in Wegener's own works. In the play with meta-dimensions, even the papers on the paper are softly willowing.

Gitte Skov, detail from Gerda Wegener, 2015.

Gerda Wegener was the epitome of her own women of which she had proof as early as 1908 when she won a contest on drawing the true female Copenhagener. Wegener drew herself as caught in the rain with the umbrella adding magnificence to her already oversized hat while her skirts are billowing from the wind underlining the curves of her figure underneath.

She was the only woman to partake in the contest, embodying the freedom and confidence of the modern woman conquering the streets. Gitte Skov has then added the fact that the wind in Copenhagen more often than not wrecks the umbrella making elegance an impossibility outside the paper. 

Gitte Skov, Gerda Wegener, 2015.

Gitte Skov, detail from Gerda Wegener, 2015.

Gerda Wegener is not least known today as the spouse of the first man to become a woman, Einar Wegener, who later became Lili Elbe, and who modeled for her. Their story is encircling the central scene of Einar posing for her, and dying all to young from complications following transformational surgery. Note the last willowing rose dropping its petals, while a lonely potted plant eventually dies with her.

Gerda Wegener, watercolour from the suite Les Delassements d'Eros,
Erotopolis, 1925.

And just for comparison to her contemporary Valdemar Andersen, who too was known for his light, flowery and not in the least physical line. They are so obviously of the same era, although Valdemar Andersen was not cut out for the international scene. His is the understated touch, hardly even there, letting her lean forward, making for an intimate encounter of which the whole sofa partakes, inked in to set them off. Even the clerk revealed underneath belongs to the whole, complaining that no one notices what he does. 

Valdemar Andersen, Platmenagen, 1908.

Gitte Skov, detail from
 Gerda Wegener, 2015.
The drawings and poster shown is courtesy of Gitte Skov and must not be reproduced without her permission.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Kierkegaard Would Have Been Proud

Some images have it in them to represent an entire situation in its complexity. The most recent was Aylan Kurdi. The cartoon on him by Juan Zero for instance shown here became the most read post of all times on this blog within a few hours.

The demand was already there for new ways to depict the loss of human life in the Mediterranean in combination with Europe neglecting and/or refusing to react. Aylan Kurdi combined it all. He was no longer in the water, he was not pleading for help and he never made it to a European coast. He was monumental in the devastating calm of his little body with his face protected from the prying. He was every child to whom the interest in his life and wellbeing came painfully too late.

Not all cartoons following his death have been lauded, with two drawings by Riss in the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo yet again at the center of debate. Mocking are they? The said drawings are heavy handed in all aspects of the word. Aylan Kurdi for one seems to have grown into an older boy. His position has changed and one eye is to be seen. The changes may seem minor at first, but the effect is fundamental. Both drawings are created along a them/us-dividing line, obviously aiming at mocking the Europeans, but their ideas are rather threadbare.

They have probably been seen already on most computer screens with ads on happy meal-offers next to the image of the drowned boy.

In the midst of the debate I could not but revel in the thought that even the staunchest opponents of the said drawings were arguing for cartoon art, singling out why these posed a problem to them.

It was not so much that Aylan Kurdi was drawn. There have been an abundance of cartoons on him in the first days following his death. Three of them are on this blog, drawn by a Syrian, an Egyptian and a Sudanese cartoonist respectively. If any drawing should prove disrespectful, it might have been the one by Khalid Wad Albaih on bayonetting a flag into his body. Only that cartoon is one of the very best, which points to the problem and solution alike. Khalid literally went to the core of the situation by incorporating the icon into the larger story, whereas the Riss ones resemble a first idea on division that was not further developed and thus remained exactly that – the image on division with two parts that do not correlate.

The discussions then ran along the rift; why make the division the whole point? Was it to underline the impossibility of crossing or that Charlie Hebdo endorsed the impossibility of it, implying human life of higher/lesser value on each side of it? In an Arabic reading right to left, what was Mickey Mouse was doing there - was Aylan Kurdi to be used in a meat factory? Questions, which were duly answered, each argument incorporating how they were made and what meaning was to be deduced from them.

The debate opened to another interesting aspect: The dehumanization. The mockery – let us ignore for a moment that it was never the intention - seemed dehumanizing in kind. Which was a notion that went both ways. The Europeans for instance, do they need re-humanizing? And if so can they be re-humanized by way of an icon? Really?

They were actually never arguing against drawing cartoons, but negotiating fundamental properties for a cartoon to be of quality, if the art form wants to be taken seriously. From two soon forgotten drawings, emerged an offspring, which would be Kierkegaard's pride and joy.

So to set an alternative them/us-dividing line and one adressing the very situation, which has led to so many drowning; Juan Zero has created the ultimate insult to the drawn paper. It is after all labeled the weakness of art that when all comes around the artwork is never the real thing.

Juan Zero, May 31, 2015.

The cockroach will still be here on the other side of a nuclear meltdown, we are told. Which seems just about right, when faced with a specimen of that creature.

And this is what makes for at special meeting before us: Juan Zero equals art with our utmost ideals, the courage to express them even when met with a most real force of nature. Art too aims at reality, only a reality of its own - not in spite of, but in its own way. I take the opportunity to quote my old hero Roger Fry that art "do not seek to imitate form, but to create form; not to imitate life, but to find an equivalent for life (...) in fact, they aim not at illusion but at reality". 

May the drawing come true.

The cartoon/photo shown is courtesy of Juan Zero and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

He Who Was Absent

He who has been known by his absence shall be seen by his absence.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister has been caught in this own net, pleasing the right-wingers taking a stand against admitting more than a handful of refugees into the country, while being caught up in the reality of Syrians fleeing the war.

Jørn Villumsen, Safe Passage and Inquiry, September 11, 2015.
Lars Løkke Rasmussen is to be seen in the background exclaiming:
- It works!

His easy way out has been to stay silent, rejoicing in the fact that the Syrian refugees prefer traveling on from Germany to Sweden. Which has left the police the delicate task of not doing their duty while doing their duty. In other words looking away, doing nothing, while seeing to the safe and secure handling of situation.

The National Commissioner of Police was the one granting the refugees a safe passage to Sweden. While the specialty of the Danish police is seeing to the safe passage of ducks, they are not meant to act on their own motivation in a democracy. It is in other words time to give the Prime Minister a lesson on the difference between police and politics.

He is still silent, by the way. But he has been made visible now. And oh, the historians will have a feast discussing for generations to come to which end their books already have their cover photos ready at hand.

Bob Katzenelson, September 11, 2015.
"Immediate action to be taken;
Some wish to see more resolution and less tolerance from the police":
- Find a political solution to the problem, damn it!!!

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

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

You Are The Head of State

... and the declaration of a state of emergency is a convenient tool to halt the activities of not just murderous madmen, but your political adversaries as well. Especially when the latters had planned to take to the streets to demonstrate this Saturday against a law you had just insisted on.

Of course you vowed that the freedom of meeting and of the press would not be restricted, when the state of emergency was first declared this summer.

But Nadia Khiari nailed your intent as that of any other criminal enterprise. The mask of course equates the varnish of official speak.

Nadia Khiari, WillisFromTunis, September 8, 2015.
The Ministry of the Interior has prohibited demonstrations of any kind for security reasons
- If nobody moves, nobody will get hurt!!
- Don't move!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Children at War

A toddler curled up all on his own, exposed to the perils of nature and man alike. There is no protection to be found within the contour of the world of grown ups, which not even the grown ups themselves know how to survive in. For the past week we have had a boy before us in this very position dressed in this very way and colors, only this boy was drawn six months before Aylan Kurdi drowned.

A fact which sadly highlights how children are constantly caught up in the wrongs of the world and the cartoon is by Arifur Rahman, who is the creator and publisher of the online cartoon magazine tOOns MaG. The cartoon is in the exhibition by Fadi Abou Hassan Children at War in Avistegnernes Hus in Drøbak, Norway. The exhibition comprises works by cartoonists, who have seen all too much themselves. Most have experienced the impact of war on their own body.

Arifur Rahman, February 22, 2015.

Children at War, September 10-November 8 at Avistegnernes Hus, Lindtrupbakken 1, 1440 Drøbak, Norway. See more at tOOns MaG.

Children at War is a traveling exhibition, which is offered institutions worldwide by way of the Internet.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Bashar's Victory

Doaa Eladl, September 4, 2015.
Little Aylan Kurdi was turned into an icon the minute the photos of him were released this week. Most of the cartoons on him have focused on the hypocrisy of Europe (Hey, mythological Europa crossed the Mediterranean riding on the back of Zeus transformed into the bull) and Doaa Eladl created the dance macabre of media attention. Who are the truly dead?

He himself has remained untouchable all through the drawings. For one thing he is sadly only recognizable lying in that very position considering how many Syrian children have already been drawn sharing his fate. And then he is given the respect of not adding to his plight, giving him a little of the protection he did not have in time.

But there is a reason for children and their parents drowning in the Mediterranean and Khalid Wad Albaih is pointing directly at one culprit Bashar al-Assad. It is a constant point of debate whether to give him the limelight in cartoons as opposed to giving those struggling for freedom a face, but Assad has thrived on the visibility of other evildoers. He was the reason for the civil war, way before IS or any other factors, as Khalid Wad Albaih points out.

Besides, his piercing the hearts of his countrymen is precisely on what he builds his regime. His red tie combines him to the child and the flag; he is an actor, not just a shadow.

Khalid Wad Albaih, Bashar's Victory, September 4, 2015.

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

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

"Do you prefer....?"

This is an instance of a drawing being an ouch! When life is being handled as if it was a matter of taking tea. As is case of the Syrian massacre as seen from Europe these days. 

Juan Zero draws in a sweeping line for letters and figurative elements alike, which softens the sharp precision of both: The Syrian flag personified, the two of them turning their back to us, and both transgressed by the blue for that borderline of hopelessness. A devastatingly true scene of today.

The cartoon hurts all the more in that this blog is written in the country geographically placed between Germany and Sweden; the country with a disgraceful government doing its utmost not only to neglect, but to abuse those in most need of its taking action.

Juan Zero, from the album Syria 2015, September 2, 2015.

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

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