Sunday, 29 January 2017

Devil's Rope

Valdemar Andersen, front of "Magasinet" for Politiken
- the image is a bit cropped, the photo was taken from a
95 years old newspaper, my sincere apologies for the quality of it.
About 95 years ago Valdemar Andersen created a front page for the Sunday edition of Politiken of a blackbird in the barely there spring. Everything is still just twigs and branches of the same black as the singing bird and yet even the blue sky is light and open. Everything is about to begin again.

The lightness of the predecessor underlines the seriousness of our world today, when the blackbird finds itself crying on a background of screeching solid yellow.

In a world of barbed wire even his thought bubble is encased in barbed wire.

Barbed wire or "Devil's rope" as if was known in the US, when it was invented to seal off land from other settlers. It defined US history by changing the landscape of the open prairie forever. In its stead came a fierce insistence to protect and keep out.

When protectionism makes the cage seem the safest place to be in, freedom has taken on the face of prison.

FadiToOn/Fadi Abou Hassan, The Freedom Has the Face of Freedom?
 January 29, 2017.

The cartoon by Fadi Abou Hassan is courtesy its cartoonist and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

On Moral Superiority

This is a textbook example on moral superiority.

Not the noise of the here and now showing off economical and physical muscles. Take the Trump Administration for instance, plumping up its feathers by way of issuing executive orders on the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

Antonio Rodríguez García first made the cartoon on the initial victory of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, when it was decided to seek out alternatives to drilling the Dakota Access pipeline under the Missouri River. That one leg on the wrecked pipeline speaks of powers. That was in December 2016.

Antonio Rodríguez García has created a symbol on the Standing Rock Sioux that surpasses the very symbol of US official life. This is the one, which was here before any Constitution was spoken of and this is the one, which will be here when there is no more such a thing as a US president.

It is not that it is forceful. It is the sheer moral calm of knowing what is right and acting accordingly.

Antonio Rodríguez García, December 5, 2016.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Antonio Rodríguez García and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Truthful, Not Neutral

"I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home".

Angel Boligán, Censorship, July 26, 2011.

Powerful statement of the horror implied of what we can expect from the new US presidency by Christiane Amanpour in her acceptance speech when honored with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award on November 22, 2016 by The Reporters sans frontières.

Censorship has its very own visual anatomy as proven by Angel Boligán. Note how his present cartoons are not new nor share their dates. Censorship is the key challenger to the cartoonist in everything (s)he does.

The anatomy is based on the human mouth and hand. In other words speaking out and physically attempting to halt someone from doing so. Hands are aggressors within the terminology of cartooning. When a hand is raised there is every reason to look out.

From those two elements grow a rich visual analysis before us. The mouth comes with a head; the speaker does so at a personal risk. The hand, however, tends to strike down from above. There is no identification; the clear-cut lines of a jacket sleeve state the absolutism of its power.

Still, at a closer look we may know the grounds for any power to come into being: the jacket belongs to just another lackey finding himself caught between his own thirst and his vulnerability, perhaps even his mortality:

Angel Boligán, The Censurer, February 21, 2011.

Censorship eventually transforms the human body. A transformation by way of torturous measures and therefore visible to anyone, who cares to see it.

The torture is all too easily disguised, however, from a constant state of alarm. A certain numbness sets in. Even the alarmist reaches exhaustion and then the abnormal takes on the air of normalcy.

After all, surely the despotism can go no further?

Instead we are the ones being transformed with every word that is allowed to go too far. However painful, it is a transformation so gradual that it too takes on an air of normalization to a degree that we do not see the humanoids we have become, letting a hand from above disguise itself for our mouths with a delicate thin red for lips.

This is but the beginning. Those measures were necessary, seeing we are the guilty ones. Christiane Amanpour described the dangerous slope thus in her acceptance speech:

"First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating--until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives.

Then they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prison--and then who knows?

Just to say, Erdoğan has just told my Israeli colleague Ilana Dayan that he cannot understand why anyone's protesting in America, it must mean they don't accept--or understand--democracy! And he thinks America, like all great countries, needs a strongman to get things done!"

Angel Boligán, The Dictator and His People, January 25, 2011.
- the date would become synonymous with the outbreak of the Arab Spring in Egypt.
The inscription reads, "I am god".

Constant Vigilant Criticism. The necessary and only solution.

A constancy, which would resemble dirty campaigning on normal terms, but when the terms are not normal, the right thing to do is not balancing a positive/negative-scale. When actions should be criticized it is not the time to be printing Trump's recipe on strawberry jam or Putin's for that matter to make up for legitimate critical points. As put by Christiane Amanpour:
Angel Boligán, Controlled Speech,
October 11, 2015.

"It appeared much of the media got itself into knots trying to differentiate between balance, objectivity, neutrality, and crucially, truth.

We cannot continue the old paradigm - let's say like over global warming, where 99.9 percent of the empirical scientific evidence is given equal play with the tiny minority of deniers.

I learned long ago, covering the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia, never to equate victim with aggressor, never to create a false moral or factual equivalence, because then you are an accomplice to the most unspeakable crimes and consequences".

Angel Boligán, An Extreme Job, June 24, 2011.

Boligán has given us the portrait of the constant vigilant criticism for us to recognize. This is a hand still attached to a person daring to put her/his personal life on the line. This hand expresses inquisitiveness and the ability to listen. It wants answers. It is a hand coming from below and there is pain at stake, but with the knowledge that there would be pain in any case. This is being ripped open, but not transformed into a lackey to the despot. In this vein let us give the final word to Christiane Amanpour:

"I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth."

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Angel Boligán and must not be reproduced without his permission. The acceptance speech by Christiane Amanpour can be read in its entirety - and it is truly worth reading - here at the homepage of The Reporters sans frontières.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Evolution of man

It is rare for a settled type of iconography to be of continued artistic merit, but the line-up of the evolution of man continues to be of interest.

In fact, it is hard to find a poorly composed one despite the very fact that its objective is very nearly always the same: Evolution of man turns out to be one of regression as proven by the final specimen; the one which should have been our self-congratulation on how far we have come.

Instead the final one is the worst of the bunch, lacking any means of self-reflection. We know all of this and still it is sharp and relevant next to every time we see it.

How is that?

Magnus Bard, The climate change issue can be difficult.
November 17, 2016.
The present trio of cartoons is classical in that they pinpoint specimens of our day, who are insisting on violence, verbal and physical alike. The past weeks Trump has proven to us all that he is precisely as "fucking outrageous" - to quote David Remnick in turn quoting his (in their own words) "emotionally fucking pissed" colleagues in The New Yorker - as Trump always was on the Twitter-front, demanding militaristic obedience to his own person of the press and art world alike.

What the f...?!

A situation, which ought to be unthinkable and which gives us our iconographic answer: The values we hold dearest are transient in kind and may be lost the minute we forget to nurture them.

Doaa Eladl, The Evolution of IS / Daesh, February 8, 2015.
 A clever double take on the subject, meant to be seen from right to left.
This one considers himself a successful evolution, burning off those, who act otherwise.

Riber Hansson underlines the vulnerability of evolution by way of crossing just the two evolutionary generations so that what was carved in marble may soon be taken down, not even needing a longer line of generations for its demise. Magnus Bard contrasts Trump to those who strive to better the world, as opposed to the one without the ability for abstraction needed for reading. He is all tension and noise next to the calm of the readers.

May the cartoonists stay "emotionally fucking pissed" in the years ahead of us.
Riber Hansson: "I think I have to show this drawing once more"
November 10, 2016.

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

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Flaming Grenade

As per the Anatomia Cartooniensa:

The flaming grenade or fire-ball is a symbol, which will celebrate its first 500 years of existence before long. It has been a military insignia for just as many centuries, empowering its wearer of thunder and show off in equal measures. 
Napoleon thus applied the symbol to successfully take on Poland, and so there is all the more reason for any speaker to use that very same strategy. 

Words too have their strategy of empowerment by way of becoming a reality. The present cartoon by Fadi Abou Hassan is a magnificent example of hot air balloons and the danger they entail, only too easily transforming into actual tools of murder. 

The juxtaposition of words and imagery is the ultimate forte, forgetting his role as a servant to a people. In Europe Russia demarcates the ultimate border of a despot; when the invasion of Russia is on the table, we know he is on the end of his line. Napoleon could tell. 

With this one, well...

Fadi Abou Hassan, January 15, 2017.

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

Friday, 6 January 2017

Opération Revanche

Two years ago today five cartoonists were murdered, underlining the frailty of life and the courage of cartoonists in spite of it worldwide.

The massacre at Charlie Hebdo remains an open wound in cartooning.

The very last cartoon by Honoré had been published on social media mere moments before. As a powerful piece of imagery on religious fascism it was made into a stencil by Tarek Alghorani in his honor. Let us then mark this date by the illegal act of giving Honoré his posthumous stencil:

Catherine Meurisse, from La Légèreté, 2016.

On the day of the massacre, four of the cartoonists were declared dead at the scene, while Honoré was fatally wounded and passed away too within the hour. The press, however, has a slow mind, and once the number four had been mentioned, the press and public mind stayed with the number of four cartoonists murdered. 

A beautifully and technically masterful memorial line of stenciled portraits by Rob.Ink in which each of the portraits takes on a different pose from the ones next to it made for a vivid personalization of the murdered cartoonists. Alas it too omitted Honoré. 

In November 2015 in an act of need for action Opération Revanche, Sigolène Vinson (judicial chronicler at Charlie Hebdo, and who was present at the killing), Hélène, (the daughter of Honoré), and cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo, Catherine Meurisse, stole to the street where the massacre took place and made the omission good.

The honorary wall of those we have lost is complete, from the left: 

Honoré, Wolinski, Cabu, Charb and Tignous

Catherine Meurisse, from La Légèreté, 2016.

Catherine Meurisse, La Légèreté, Dargaud, Paris 2016, to be ordered here.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

The Nature of Drawing

Looking back while going forth: New Year invites to reflection. Before any demagogue, politician or anyone else for that matter has had the time to occupy the cartoonists of the world, let us take in Riber Hansson's words how the act of drawing is part of our DNA.

Riber's original words in Swedish are in Italics below.

Riber Hansson, 2010.

By Riber Hansson

We need drawings more than ever. In the present downpour where everyone shares endless trains of random snapshots via all channels on the Internet, we need to be reminded of what an image can be too. What it can communicate by being open to interpretation. And what amazing traditions onto which drawing is based.

No form of communication is so understandable, well-preserved and so unchanged through the ages as the drawing.

Humans of today can regardless of the original intent of the image grasp, understand, and enjoy a 30,000 years old drawing on the cave wall of in French Chauve, as well as a 3,000 years old Greek vase, a Gerda Wegner-cartoon from the series Les Délassements d'Eros 1925, or a drawing by Per Marquard Otzen in the daily Politiken from in 2005.

Anyone who thinks that drawing changes across the ages is wrong. Drawings survive. And they persist because they defy temporary fashions and has a kind of related quality which whatever that is, at least it has nothing to do with Naturalism, Academicism or any other -ism.

To the superficial eye, it looks as if changes take place when the carving of flint in the Stone Age is replaced with the brush of the Greeks in 500 years BC or when Ingres begin drawing with a pencil in the early 1800s, Birger Lundqvist with a fountain pen in the 1950s and the younger generation with the felt tip in the late 1990s.

But basically, the drawing remains what it always was. A personal experience of form. I do not buy that the entrance of electronic devices on the stage should have fundamentally changed our way of drawing.

Drawing takes place inside the head, in the brain which does not change within a span of a few tens of thousands of years.

Riber Hansson, 1994.

Vi behöver teckningar mer än någonsin. I detta skyfall då varenda människa delar med sig av oändliga rader tillfälliga snapshots via internets alla kanaler, behöver vi bli påminda om vad en bild också kan vara. Vad den kan förmedla genom att vara öppen för tolkning. Och vilka fantastiska traditioner teckningen bygger på.

Ingen kommunikationsform är så begriplig, välbevarad och så oförändrad genom åren som teckningen.

Dagens människor kan oavsett det ursprungliga uppsåtet med bilden, ta till sig, förstå och njuta av en trettiotusen år gammal teckning på Franska Chauve-grottans vägg, lika väl som av en teckning på en tretusen år gammal grekisk vas, en Gerda Wegner-teckning ur serien Les Délassements d'Eros från 1925, eller en teckning av Per Marquard Otzen i Politiken från 2005.

Den som tror att tecknandet förändras över tid har fel. Teckningar överlever. Och de består därför att de trotsar tillfälliga moden, och har ett slags likartad kvalitet som, vad den än är, åtminstone inte har med naturalism, akademism eller annan -ism att göra.

Vid ett ytlig betraktande ser det ut som om skillnader inträffar när stenålderns ristande flintsten byts mot grekens pensel 500 år f Kr eller när Ingres börjar teckna med blyertspenna i början av 1800-talet, Birger Lundqvist med reservoarpenna på 1950-talet och den yngre generationen i sena 1990-talet med filtspets.

Men i grunden är teckningen densamma. En personlig formupplevelse. Att elektronikens inträde på scenen skulle förändra tecknandet i grunden tror jag inte på.

Tecknandet försiggår inne i huvudet, i hjärnan som inte förändras på några tiotusentals år.

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

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