Sunday, 25 October 2015


Sociopath, War Trilogy, Lviv, now partly damaged.
Photo via Tarek Alghorani/FREEDOM GRAFFITI WEEK Syria

What a sight above. Such artistry on the rejection of war, the magnitude of which we can measure against the man sitting in the background. The statement of it. Which is precisely how we are to take it in. The 3-D framing tells us to concentrate and give in to the power of art.

A momentous side to graffiti is its reflection of the geopolitics at play in its day. Subjects travel across boundaries mapping the larger picture as it is. Complete with a grid for easy transfer to surfaces of any size. In this case the motif is traveling from Ukraine to Syria to be sprayed in a neighborhood in Damascus.

Within a span of just two years the very same motif has become central for the happenings in both places, speaking of the very same aspirations for power. The application of Hitler is rather a cliché and yet so very well done here, changing just the eyes and creating for an oscillation between the two persons at play. His name on the other hand has taken the full step and has been changed into the defamatory "two boots, while the colors of the flag of the Syrian regime is formed with the Swastikas for stars.

Moscow, 2012 - his left arm added about the time Putin
was elected for his third term as president.
 Photo via Tarek Alghorani/FREEDOM GRAFFITI WEEK Syria

Another full face portrait is intended for Damascus. This one first came about in Moscow and this one makes its protagonist get caught in the act of severing the aspirations of the many voices. An act which turned into pure manipulation once his left arm was added. 

In the newest version he is cutting out a letter of his own name changing its meaning into an ass. He is in other words making an ass of himself for everyone to see in a neighborhood for which there is no strength to be drawn back into open strife. He will be there, though. He shall have a presence as proof of his factor in the war.


Special gratitude goes to Tony Daoud for solving the intricacies of the word play. For details of the stencils see more at: FREEDOM GRAFFITI WEEK Syria


At the end of the week let us take a timeout with The Solution to Everything.

The peace dove has taken a firm grip while seeing to the nourishment bypassing all separations, in the words of Fadi Abou Hassan: "We need love before peace in the Middle East":

Fadi Abou Hassan, October 20, 2015.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Fadi Abou Hassan and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Excuse me, Excuse me!

- was the cartoonist Gerda Ploug Sarp (1881-1969) known to state with the voice of a Stentor while elbowing her way through the wall of her male colleagues. She was but a tiny thing, which only added to her insistence of taking her rightful place in life and cartooning:

Mia Mottelson, Gerda Ploug Sarp, 2015.

Mia Mottelson, Gerda Ploug Sarp, 2015. Detail.
The poster above is by Mia Mottelsen, a young cartoonist of today, born long after Gerda Ploug Sarp was no longer here in person. The poster was Mia's contribution to the challenge at this year's Copenhagen Comics, where the cartoonists of today each drew a predecessor. Mia Mottelson deliberately chose a female colleague, one of those we hardly even know of today. So let us enjoy actually SEEING Gerda Ploug Sarp.

Mia Mottelson draws Gerda's life's story as one of passion. She began at an early age, drawing her teachers, when she was supposed to do math and she married a fellow artist, with whom she could share her passion. An artist, who would not dream of twarting her artistic endeavours. The Gerda Ploug Sarp before us turns her colleagues into a soft reddish background to her acid yellow; at once a cheerful color as one of bite.

Mia Mottelson, Gerda Ploug Sarp, 2015. Detail.
At 11 Gerda was already earned a living on her passion.
A passion she was later to share with her groom.

Mia Mottelson's analysis is a meeting of two strong personalities. Mia's style is the direct opposite of Gerda's. Mia draws with fluidity, while Gerda would be precise using a tough, dark contour securing as many details as the paper would hold. She was immensely popular in her day, making certain that there was no end to the rounded rosy cheeks on the young playing in the snow, while she would pour out pixies with a generous hand for each year's Christmas cards. She was a popular choice as a portraitist for the royals and any other, who would rather see him or herself drawn ideally. 

I remember two of her drawings at the hospice, where my Mother spent her last days. Or rather, I cannot even recall the precise subject of the one, but somehow the two comprised its first patron, Queen Alexandrine with the caretaking of the ill. The combination of the compassion of the official face and the official presentation of the most personal of life could hardly come any closer to what Gerda Ploug Sarp did best

Mia Mottelson, Gerda Ploug Sarp, 2015. Detail.
The octopus of cartooning.
Mia Mottelson, Gerda Ploug Sarp, 2015. Detail.

Gerda Ploug Sarp was detailed and a bit old-fashioned even in her own day, when cartoonists too had long experimented with the notion of drawing. Mia Mottelson has chosen to tell the tale in her own line, while Gerda's line is let loose in her speech bubble. She speaks in volutes. 

Seeing Mia's poster, I for one went back to Gerda to see how much I had wronged her. The precision is still there, but I suddenly discovered the quick sharpness in her drawing technique. The determination in achieving what she set out to do. 

Mia Mottelson, Gerda Ploug Sarp, 2015. Detail.

No more so than in her book "Encaged Women" (original title: Kvinder i bur) on the detained women during the Nazi-occupation of whom she herself was one. In a situation of not knowing what might ultimately happen, the women created a normality with the constant fear lurking of being sent on to Nazi-Germany itself. Gerda Ploug Sarp as always chose to do what she did best. She had her drawings smuggled out, turning them into a book in 1945, which is today a document on the life of the inmates. These are drawings for which we crave even more detailing. We savor every tiny precision in the storing of a teacup since it takes us closer to the fact.

As Mia Mottelsen said to me: That title alone, "Encaged Women" it is pure passion in the twist of its wording. The willpower of Mia is its equal, she has created a poster of someone we hardly know today and I am floored at the thought of what I have been missing out on. 

Mia Mottelson, Gerda Ploug Sarp, 2015. Detail.

The poster shown is courtesy of Mia Mottelson and must not be reproduced without her permission.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Such is the opening to a great novel

Photo: Niels Larsen, October 15, 2015.

An entrance with aspirations reaching back to Antiquity and yet unmistakably of the 20th century; that all too long and bloodied century. 

A door of proportions promising to open to a sizeable house behind it of which Thomas Mann and his Russian colleagues would have approved. The promise of a household or an enclave such as a sanatorium, where an amount of persons are placed together playing out their follies and weaknesses against one another. To the extent that the entrance was made extinct. No. 35 is now to be entered to the left beyond our focus. 

But the voices are still there. The layers of graffiti are still voicing each their protest pointing to that larger canvas of society, which had its hand in how the novel of life played out.

The photo shown is courtesy of Niels Larsen and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Iconography on Necessity

Sometimes it comes to pass. Something so disturbing that it instantly evolves into common imagery shared across the globe and what is more, it is shared with the same outlook and meaning to it. Such were the images of the abused and humiliated Abu Ghraib-prisoners. They are the iconography on necessity, i.e. human rights as a necessity and a universal one at that.

The present page comes from the sketchbook of Sofie Riise Nors, who wrote down her thoughts following a documentary last night on the imagery. In particular she noted the responses by the implicated, each of them denying any kind of guilt, not even a sense of such a thing. No Secretaries to the state resigned and Donald Rumsfeld declaring his personal responsibility were but empty words. Of the few ones convicted, the "no regrets" were the words heard on the footage.

Sofie was too young at the time to have known the images and thus reverted them to their origin. There is a certain resemblance to Jesus, the abandoned and disgraced human exposed for all to see, and she inverted the image pointing it right back to the perpetrators portraying them as the KKK. Those spineless ones, who do not dare show their face while wrecking havoc in fellow humans' lives.

Sofie Riise Nors, October 7, 2015.

Sofie Riise Nors is as young as she is fierce. She will go far if she should choose cartoon art as her highway in life.

The sketch shown if courtesy of Sofie Riise Nors and must not be reproduced without her permission.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

"When the revolutions began"

4 1/2 years into the Syrian revolution and at a time, when everything seems... but let me give the word to Tarek Alghorani to the accompaniment of Fadi Abou Hassan. Both as silent as they are eloquent:


"When the revolutions began

We wanted to extend it to all the earth

We wanted all peoples to feel the taste of freedom

We felt we had reached the absolute
We went out and screamed: No... Enough

Now...  It hurts to say what is happening inside us now"

Fadi Abou Hassan, Free souls of our children in Syria, October 6, 2015.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Fadi Abou Hassan and must not be reproduced without his permission.

We are in the kitchen

Steve Brodner and Annette Carlsen. All photos in this post were taken by me.

The photos in this blogpost were taken within a matter of minutes while rounding off the dinner following the cartooning master class organized by Erik Petri last Saturday. This turned into as long a sentence as the day had been full of intense hours of drawing and discussing. I am not sure how the present drawing session took off - I suspect Steve Brodner, who has one of the day's keynote speakers got hold of Annette Carlsen's own sketchbook, began drawing and in response she took out another drawing pad.

Besides, we are as humans not supposed to lean back in the restaurant of life. We must never see ourselves as consumers; we shall be in the kitchen doing our bit to the world, in the words of Steve Brodner. 

Note their respective drawing techniques. Annette's wrist is busily working in light and floating movements. Her arm is kept still having transferred all movement onto the wrist, making for subtle and hastily drawn lines instantly transferring the impulses from her brain. This is analysis in action. The pair of them is working so fast, their colleagues behind them hardly seem to shift position from one photo to the next.

Steve Brodner uses all fingers to sharpen the movement of his pen for greatest possible poignancy. The precision of each line makes it a carrier to the statement of the whole.

- The US history of the 20th century told through its presidents is to be seen on the paper table cover.

Stereotyping had been a recurring theme during the day since it is a hot topic these years. Especially the classical stereotyping, which sorts the population into categories of "facial hair" or "big this" or "big that". When told to abstain from stereotyping, exclamations have been made of the type of "then what can I draw?!" Not least around here, where everything is outcried as a threat against the freedom of the pen.

Personally I find the perseverance on stereotyping a mental laziness. Provincial not least. "What can I draw if I am not allowed to draw Mexicans with moustaches?" is not the sort of declaration, which will boost the reputation of the profession. Besides, it is valid saying that one is tired of being drawn as a stereotype, in the words of Steve Brodner.

There are Angry Beards in abundance on this blog. But they are bearded by choice, defining themselves as part of a particular group, insisting on blending in to a degree that they eliminate all traces of their own individuality. To quote Adorno, there is even an element of anger to this insistence. 

And in that case it is the mask, which shall be addressed, as Steve Brodner underlined. The mask is part of the performance art that is politics. And creating politics is the only type of movie, which is hurting people. Whatever characterizes the politician in his or her private life is of no importance. "By thy mask I shall know thee", wrote Karen Blixen and it is the mask with which the cartoonist is in dialogue.

The present two drawings were the antitheses of any de-masking. They were created in a happy relaxed atmosphere, and as much as Steve Brodner's portrait of Annette may appear exaggerated, it is to underline her radiance on all levels, using all of the paper to unfold it before the beholder. The text reads "A very bright light in the Copenhagen firmament". Amen.

Having posed with their portraits for an instant Annette turned over Steve's portrait, while he was looking away for an second making an even faster sketch of him on the other side of the paper having the outlines of his features in her pen. There is always a new drawing lurking; another endeavor to come under the skin of who this particular person is.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

"I am so awf'ly misunderstood"

Erik Petri presenting the day's topic. Section af The Graphic Recording.

Erik Petri and Steve Brodner
MISUNDERSTOOD was the topic of the master class organized by Erik Petri last week with distinguished political editorial cartoonists Steve Brodner and Matt Bors, the latter founder of the one and only The Nib, as keynote-speakers.

Misunderstood, as in cartoonists being pressured at every level of the drawing process. The beholders-by-chance for instance, who were not the intended audience, but intending to find every reason to protest. But not least there is the corporate world, at once all powerful and fearful of getting the most out of what it pays for, thus forcing the editors to avoid any hint of critical drawing on the same spread as its own adverts. As stated by Steve Brodner the hegemony of the US is the economical machine; a topic which by the way must not even be touched upon cartoonwise. 

The Graphic Recording of the Master class by Erik Petri and Thomas Thorhauge
and facilitated by Stine Spedsbjerg, September 26, 2015.

A graphic recording was made on the points stated and the historical lines drawn (no pun intended, but doubly fitting in this instance) the whole of which is condensed in Gitte Skov's drawing:

Gitte Skov, September 26, 2015.
The caption reads: "If our cartoons are read from right to left, instead of left to right,
the readers might get another change of mood than our intention".

Matt Bors (in the background) with
Bob Katzenelson

- a drawing which can be read either way, just as its protagonist is doing; the quintessence of the situation of cartooning. A high concept drawing as put by Matt Bors, while Steve Brodner declared it an act of "eloquence" as in being at once elegant (simple) and eloquent (but not too simple). 

The drawing was Gitte Skov's response to the task given by Steve Brodner to the attendees: CONFRONT the cartoon with itself. Why wait to be misunderstood? Or rather, let us prove that a cartoon already contains its opposite. It is a dialogue within itself; only in this case cut a line right in the middle with a set of opposites on either side. Make the opposition a visible one. 

The archetypical cartoonist's desk
dreaming of giving in to the urges of doing anti-bullshit work.
Section af The Graphic Recording.

Annette Carlsen drafting from her sketches made, all done in matter
of mere minutes. She drew on that photo we have all seen of the terrified father,
who has just come ashore with his peacefully sleeping infant.
- or is it alive, seeing his reaction?
That penciled eye alone was hurtful to watch,
consisting of but a circle and two lines above and still the pain was on the paper.

Lined with ink; Steve Brodner drawing in the background,
the whole room humming, at once relaxed and nervous
from performing with all one's colleagues present.

My only contribution was to look up "infant swimming",
which turned out to have a formal description making for an even more chilling impact.

Annette Carlsen, September 26, 2015.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of their cartoonists and must not be reproduced without their permission. All photos were taken by me.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Elementary Nuclear Physics On The Creation of Art

It is no secret that Denmark as of this summer has a new government. It is sadly known within the very heart of Syria. The Arts are up next, and cultural institutions are to be moved out of Copenhagen and spread across the isles to make for an evening out of where culture is created in this country. Or so it is declared.

Per Arnoldi has penned a protest, but not just that: It is an analysis of how art comes about, which this blog cannot but heartily extol. Art springs from love nests, with all what that entails and once they are dissolved, we are left with the nightmare by Per Marquard Otsen how great passion is answered to as a convenience of practicality.

The English translation is below.

Per Marquard Otzen, The Sacred Fire, November 25, 2014.

Per Arnoldi

Under overskriften: ”BEDRE BALANCE I KULTURLIVET”,
præsenterer Kulturministeriet , i den store tvangsudflytningspakke, sine molboagtige analyser og løsninger for netop denne balance.
Men, desværre, kulturlivet lever hverken af eller i balance!
Et centrum opstår når talent søger sammen.
Måske i både u-balance og disharmoni.
Både de gode og de dårlige, de håbefulde, de kæmpende og de overfladiske, de grimme, de glatte, centrale aktører og anhængere og vandbærere deltager.

Centrum trækker yderligere masse til sig, til det kritiske punkt er nået og centrum begynder at udsende energi, nytænkning, oplevelser, resultater og ideer.
Dette centrum kan ikke skabes ved diktat eller tvangsforflytninger.
Det er en naturlov.
Talenter vil både konkurrere og sove sammen.
Had og kærlighed er aldrig i balance i kulturlivet.
Ingen beder os lave det vi gør, men alle bruger og høster og nyder, i større og mindre grad, resultaterne af dette, vores frivillige arbejde.
Vand løber ikke op ad!
Kunstnerne søger sammen.
Det er en naturlov.
Resultaterne kommer af synergi, både den frivillige og den ufrivillige.
Talent smitter, det skidt!
Tvangsspredning vil ikke virke.

Folkepartiets provinsielle had og  kynisk kalkulerede misundelse lyser ud af hele pakken.
Jubeloverskriften fra DF, at hvis dette lykkes vil mere følge… er en ren trussel.

Kulturministeren taler om at geografiske kvalifikationer skal veje i stedet for faglige.
Hvis man altså  bor i Neder Skrupstrup  vejer det tungere end egentlig faglige kvalifikationer. Dette formørkede nonsens taler sit eget sorte sprog. Når eksempelvis faglige
udvalgsposter skal besættes, er det i hans optik vigtigere hvor man bor end hvad man kan?
Resultatet af udvalgets arbejde vil uvægerligt blive derefter.

Hele regeringens pakke er, på trods af både erfaringer, sund fornuft og fagfolks skepsis, almueromantik og Molboidyl.
Tilflytningen til de store byer taler for sig selv.
Det er, nu , her det sker.
Det er her talentet fortættes.
Det er elementær kærnefysik.

Øvelsen fremover er meget vanskeligere, end lidt tvang og overfladisk pendling lader ane.

Det gælder om at forfine resultaterne af den samlede energi, både landets og byernes egenart udstråler.
Det gælder om at fortætte den energi til meningsfyldt vækst.
Det er ikke nemt.
 Byer, store områder og små samfund bliver lagt smertefuldt øde.

Men ET skridt frem er meget vanskeligere end de to tilbage, regeringens forslag om tvangsforflytning drømmer om at tage.
Lad os hypotetisk antage, at alle de 3900 deporterede statsansatte sagde op og blev hvor de var.
Sidder der så 3900 kvalificerede medarbejdere og venter ude på heden, som aldrig har søgt hen hvor deres kvalifikationer kunne komme til udfoldelse?


Det er sjovest at tale om noget man har forstand på.
Derfor er dette lille skrig mest om kulturen.
For at pege på en absurd detalje: Statens værksteder for kunst, som tæller 8 arbejdspladser omfatter altså ikke de hundreder af kunstnere, der hvert år i kortere eller længere perioder arbejder her.
Nu skal de otte fastansatte flyttes til Helsingør!
Til Kronborg, intet mindre.
Tradition, miljø, ånd, stemning, historie, viden og erfaring som de eksisterende og utroligt velfungerende værksteder på Christianshavn har ophobet gennem 30 år tæller ikke i den lille gnidrede kalkule.
Det er ellers det kunsten lever på og kulturlivet består af.
Men hvor er kunstnerne blevet af i ministerens fikse regnestykke?
Kunsten og kulturlivets knopskydninger trives i U-balance… og befrugtende tæt samliv.
Harmoniske resultater fødes af kreativt kaos, hård konkurrence… og stærk tradition.
Statens værksteder for kunstnerne er IKKE kun en lokalitet – det er en ide og et univers.
Et lille hjørne af vores samfund, hvor den ideelle ånd, der var kærnen i loven om statens kunstfond for over halvtreds år siden, har overlevet og blomstrer  vildt og vidt forgrenet.

Men et mønster tegner sig.

Min lumske mistanke om, at netop den befrugtende u-balance er drivkraften i AL energi og alle resultater, også i samfundets mere komplekse funktioner, holder jeg for mig selv.

Per Arnoldi, 1 okt. 2015

Per Arnoldi

the Ministry of Culture presents - as part of the major package on forced relocation - its hillbilly analyses and strategies to this specific balance.
But, unfortunately, cultural life lives neither by nor in balance!
A nucleus emanates from talent finding one another.
Perhaps through un-balance and disharmony.
The good and the bad, the hopeful, the combatants and the superficial, the ugly, the smooth, key players and devotees and water bearers take part.

The nucleus attracts a wider mass of people to it; the critical point is reached and the center begins to emit energy, and creativity, experiences, results and ideas.
This nucleus cannot be created by decree or forced displacement.
It is a law of nature.
Talents will at once compete and sleep together.
Hate and love are never in balance in culture.
No one asks us to do what we do, but everyone uses and reaps and enjoys, in varying degrees, the results of this, our voluntary work.
Water does not run upwards!
Artists seek one another.
It is a law of nature.
The results come from synergies, the voluntary as well as the involuntary.
Talent is contagious, that filth!
Spreading them by force does not work.

The provincial hatred and cynically calculated envy of the (nationalist, LCL) People's Party (DF) is striking in the whole of the package.
The Jubilant heading from DF that if this succeeds will more follow... is an unadulterated threat.

The Minister of Culture states that geographical qualifications shall weigh in ahead of professional ones.
Living in Neder Skrupstrup is consequently a greater qualification that an actual qualification. This obscurantist nonsense speaks its own murky language. For instance, when a professional
Committee is to be appointed, it is in this view more important, where you live than what you can?
The result of the committee's work will inevitably be of that level.

The entire government's package is, in spite of both experience, common sense and professional skepticism an idyllic hillbilly romanticism.
The migration into the cities speaks for itself.
It is, now, here it happens.
This is where talent is condensed.
It is elementary nuclear physics.

The exercise in the years to come is much more difficult than what a little forced and superficial commuting suggests.

It is important to refine the results of the total energy exuded from both rural and urban uniqueness.
The idea is to condense the energy to achieve meaningful growth.
It is not easy.
Cities, large areas and small communities are to be painfully barren.

But ONE step is much more difficult than the two steps back, which the government's proposal on displacement is dreaming on taking.
Let's hypothetically assume that all of the 3900 deported state employees will resign and stay where they are.
Will there be 3,900 qualified employees just waiting out there, who have not till now decamped to places where their qualifications would come to fruition?


It is the most fun talking about something you know about.
This little scream is thus most about culture.
To point to an absurd detail: The Danish Art Workshops, which counts eight jobs does not include the hundreds of artists working there every year for shorter or longer periods of time.
Now the eight permanent employees shall be moved to Elsinore!
To Kronborg, nothing less.
Tradition, environment, spirit, atmosphere, history, knowledge and experience in the already existing and incredibly well run workshops at Christianshavn accumulated in 30 years do not count in the small grubby calculation.
Although that is precisely what art and cultural life consist of.
But were are the artists in the spruce equation made by the Minister?
The offshoots of art and cultural life thrive in un-balance... and a fertile intimate cohabitation.
Harmonic results are born of creative chaos, fierce competition... and strong tradition.
The Danish Art Workshops is NOT just a location - it is an idea and a universe.
A small corner of our society where the ideal spirit that was the core of the Law on Danish Agency for Culture over fifty years ago has survived and is flourishing wildly and widely.

However, a pattern emerges.

My sneaky suspicion that this precise fertilizing of un-balance is the driving force in ALL energy and all results, in the more complex functions of society as well, I shall keep to myself.

Per Arnoldi, October 1, 2015.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Freedom Comes from Thinking

"While my mother and father were kneeling to Jesus and Bacchus
I was left with a couple of simpler gods, Fantasos and Alone also known as Set.
We became friends for life.
we drilled ourselves towards the center of the earth
and flew to the outskirts of the universe
Like bumblebees ignorant about the curved space of Einstein".

Riber Hansson, December 13, 2011.

The very memories explaining to us how a master of Riber Hansson's caliber came about. The inquisitive mind, not even distinguishable from his companions as they roam the infinite black, the white lines creating a flickering light that is theirs, never resting, never tired of exploring new realms.

The inquisitive mind. Life is a cumulative process, as Ian McEwan constantly stresses as quoted by Riber Hansson from today's Dagens Nyheter:

Riber Hansson, À propos Boko Haram, May 14, 2014.
"(There) is a freedom, which is essential and without which the diversity of the values that are squeezing themselves in beneath the umbrella of freedom would never have materialized. Every freedom we own or are struggling to achieve has first been thought out, said and written up, and for that reason the freedom of expression is the cornerstone upon which all the others are resting. The ability to give and to receive information, to reflect, criticism, fantasies based on the full expanse of our intellectual ability is that freedom from which the others are hatched. Freedom has a tendency to grow and evolve - if you let it do so. " (emphasis by LCL)

To which Riber Hansson added his own thoughts:

"I am delighted that he points out a thing that I have tried to bring up a few times, the importance of the possibility of taking in information, which is in my view, forgotten in the debate, but an equally important part of the freedom of expression".

The importance of taking in, listening, learning, never make the silly claim of being the first of one's kind. What it means, is what we have before us. Riber Hansson places the apparent randomness of today's actions within an existential frame, in which the black of ink in the instance above is turning so dark that the knuckles shine towards us on the lives crushed. Any lives. All lives.

The inquisitive roaming child has never ceased to roam in his own poetically inquisitive way. The wind for instance. Could it be the one tamed by the tree? "

Riber Hansson,
I saw a tree today, which was conducting the wind,
August 1, 2013.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Riber Hansson and must not be reproduced without his permission.

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