Thursday, 22 December 2016

Transposed and Transformed

- All we have left is love. All we have left in the hell that is Syria right now. Through love we shall regain our humanity and a means of expressing love is in art. Art has become my objective.

The words above was in fact a much longer, beautifully winding impromtu monologue on the necessity of looking for the best in man, when everything is at its worst and spoken by Muhamad Ataya, who as a documentarist is following five Syrian artists in exile. We in turn did not even dare take out a smartphone to film the one, who had till then never spoken nor been documented himself.

We would not dare interrupt what had suddenly turned into that rare embodiment of a now. This was Adorno's appeal how critical art has a greater role to play than ever, spoken while surrounded by the exhibition walls of Animated Images by Sulafa Hijazi:

The above video was made by Sulafa herself, as were the "stills" as they are of her artworks printed in "Lenticular print technique". Each image moves with us in the room transposing or transforming the bodies therein.

Apart from the one notable exception of the exposed women - exposed but without the right to express themselves - the body is every time the male. A human form, which is not allowed to show emotion according to our cultural mores, whereas the female body already has its victimization. The effect is thus all the greater before us. 

Winsor McCay, When Black Death Rode, 1919?
The outlined body is historically linked to mass man at the opening of the 20th century. The stark white emptiness within every human form present in the dense drawings by Winsor McCay is just as terrifying in Sulafa Hijazi's work. Both artists manifest a danger against humanity by way of keeping intact the human form - the outline - while exposing the lack of anything within; the impact of which is all the stronger by being reflected in large numbers.

The stark emptiness is all the more striking to our eyes when seeing the suffering taking place. Wiping off someone's identity is a violent act. Yet, we watch just as we see the pattern forming from repeating the same tiny format image within each frame, bringing to mind the texturing, with which Sulafa has always been working. They have blossomed into their own tale, or rather exactly not, as it happens.

We crave images. 

We crave images to a degree that we make their subject matter extinct. Directly so in the sense that they lose their distinctive meaning while transforming into decorative patterns before us. But these were photos of war machinery found on the Internet, documentary material in which their drivers showed them off for their structural beauty, dedicating themselves to their care. We are willingly seduced, ignoring all context.

Winsor McCay, His Best Customer, 1917.

This is all created by us. We are the ones, who set the violence into motion when we walk by - the dangling from the noose and wiping off the face. Just as we set off the embrace of our new collective identity: Our grandfather as it is in the very first pixeled body. 

All the while there is a necessity to our digital existence. The Syrian diaspora needs social media to stay in contact and keep finding a reason for living. The most layered of the prints is of smartphones upon smartphones of which the repeated image is of Sulafa herself.

The critical self-reflecting art. Muhamad spoke of its necessity, prompted by Sulafa's very artworks there at the very center of the floor of her exhibition. This is the living example of the dignity for which the Syrians have been aspiring. And the grandest thing of all is that it is an aspiration for dignity they have been setting forward on behalf of us all.

The artworks shown are courtesy of Sulafa Hijazi and must not be reproduced without her permission. All photos were taken by Sulafa.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Rubble Age

The next time anyone declares how the true leader can be known by his or her Survival of the Fittest, simply point to Riber Hansson's portrait of Aleppo.

Indeed, Al-Assad and Putin are still alive.

Placing the hand of Death on everyone and everything around them, they crowned evolution with a "d", creating devolution. They are the degenerates leading the world to the Rubble Age.

They are proof that what is often perceived as strength is in truth just veneered cowardice.

The outlook of the one was to bat his own people to death, but he was too weak to do it on his own. The other needed to distract attention from the bleak economy at home following his poor management of the country and the quickie solution was as always to show muscles abroad.

All in all, they proved natural selection doubly wrong.

Riber Hansson, Assad and Putin; The Death Company, December 17, 2016.

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

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Usurper

How is it even possible to draw on a day such as this, when all we do is to listen to those we trust the most on news from Aleppo?

But then, the cartoons are already drawn. They were drawn on the onset of the Syrian revolution and are as true today as they were in 2011.

Juan Zero, 2012.

Ali Ferzat.
For one thing, Ali Ferzat and Juan Zero each created a persona on Al-Assad, a counter image to the constant presence of his official portraits in the public sphere.

Theirs was a whimpering asparagus of a usurper to the throne. His struggle to keep a crown much too big for him atop his head formed a series of drawings by Juan Zero during the early stages of the conflict, while it was the throne that challenged him time after time in the cartoons by Ali Ferzat.

Juan Zero, 2011.

It was a tale too of two types of captivity. He was caught up in a position of power, which was not legitimately his as visualized by the crown many sizes too big for him. This in turn exposed the indignity in which the Syrians were living. The latter had the courage to stand up against the former in 2011.

Ali Ferzat.
The weakling, however, understanding nothing, reacted with sheer violence; his warrior friends stepping in for him.

He can pretend to stand tall, but the Syria of his rule has turned into the black market of the world, as a friend of the artist Sulafa Hijazi says. Syria has become everybody's dirty game.

Ali Ferzat drew the cartoon below in the first months of the revolution. It is now time for Death to bow to the applause.

Dignity. The goal of the Syrian revolution was dignity.

Ali Ferzat, 2011.

The cartoons shown are courtesy by Ali Ferzat and Juan Zero.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

"You have no business to tell me what to draw"

"Zunar can draw whatever he wants, so long as it does not insult anyone. If the cartoonist draws things like old mcdonald or donald duck (sic) then go ahead, nobody cares. Just do not insult people."

- the Malaysian Inspector-General of Police was quoted for saying on Friday. Saturday Zunar announced that he would indeed draw Donald Duck and publish it today, creating great expectations on his drawn response:

Zunar: the IGP (Chief of Police) told me to draw Donald Duck, December 5, 2016.

The Inspector-General is as always part of the cartoon, this time wearing his own Donald Duck-mask for a mouth. In fact everyone is wearing one, with the prime minister right in front of us, while his wife is posing as Mickey Mouse. Her gigantic hair was made for those ears.

This is the society of drawing only niceties.

As Zunar put it: "Leader stole RM2.6 billion from the people and expect cartoonist to draw Donald Duck? You have no business to tell me what to draw"

On Friday the Inspector-General explained his Donald Duck-demand thus: "Let me put it to you. If a group of cartoonists decides to draw a cartoon on the Penang chief minister, with a ‘hidung senget’ (crooked nose), among other insulting things, would he (CM) allow me to stay quiet? No!"

Nor can we be quiet and let us be clear: Drawing a public person is not an "insult". That is baby talk. A cartoon is about the actions of said person. Noses of any kind are details to the whole, and focusing on the details by those, who do not wish their actions to be seen, are just a means of detracting attention from the issue being addressed.

Zunar is rigorous and clear-cut in addressing the actions of the Malaysian prime minister and his entourage.

Give them another nose and they are still amassing money away from those who need it the most. By focusing on noses, the Inspector-General only made the real issue all the more obvious.

All the while, the situation of Zunar is a serious worry and with him anyone, who discusses the society of which they are all part.

Every time action is taken against Zunar, the question is what may happen next. He is brave, acknowledging his personal fear, but feels morally bound to continue, as he answers when we ask him. He may face prison, he has just been detained by the police, a gang raided his exhibition, which gave the police the excuse to step in - we fear the stepping up of the aggression against his person.

 As always as ruled by Zunar his cartoons must be spread as much and as widely as possible.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Holberg, Plato and Ivar Gjørup in Triunity

Holberg to the right is in festive gear for The Holidays. He turns - just a second... 2016 minus 1684... 332 years today. May I as a Louise take another second to note that he was a Ludvig? The playwright of comedies and essayist and oh so much more Ludvig Holberg celebrates his 332nd birthday today and every year on his birthday we celebrate in his name those who enrich our lives.

Such as the very person, who after his predecessors had agonized for 6000 years, proved that THE TRUTH is to be found in a comics album.

Ivar Gjørup was awarded this year's Holberg Medal as a researcher and creator alike. He is a distinguished researcher into Plato, while he as a cartoonist has drawn meaningfulness and nothingness alike. Realizing the former may prove fatal as it did to one of his protagonists in his (sorely missed) comics series Egoland, which ran for 25 years until 2009, while his Socrates let his readers graduate last year with a Diploma into nothingness.

Ivar's Socrates and Plato's Socrates... Before we enter into a linguistic battle on Socrates in the plural, let Plato be our plead to Ivar.

Ivar Gjørup has just published a magnum opus on Plato, which will be an instant bestseller the day it is translated into English. May the day come soon. May in turn Ivar's next project - one of them! - be a drawn opus on Plato.

Plato wrote in images and it is high time he shall be dialoguing in and on imagery with an heir to The Truth, i.e. a cartoonist. May Ivar's interpretation below on Plato's Allegory of the Cave be but the hors d'oeuvre


The cartoon/comics shown is courtesy of Ivar Gjørup and must not be reproduced without his permission.

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