Thursday, 22 February 2018

We Have a....

... coward. A crouching, hiding, creeping one. Creeping before anyone, who will bomb his country. He is a puppet of Putin. He is a puppet of everyone to whom it is of interest to use Syria as the black market of the world.

As such is he consistent. He has no moral, no courage, no one can even find him hiding underneath corner upon corner of pipes, from where he can send up a ghost-like message, using the pretender's favourite catchphrase these years.

There are always powers lusting for a black market. And he is still there.

Fadi Abou Hassan / FadiToOn, March 3, 2016.

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


Media interest is the antithesis to logic. The greater the scale and the longer of duration, the less it shall be covered.

On the single human level the reason is dealing with the unbearable. It is a notion museums have been working with for decades when dealing with situations of the past that there has to be some redeeming element to its tale. Otherwise, if the thought of it becomes too much for the museum guest, then that person turns its back before even visiting the museum.

Then there is the now. We have to see it; see it in order to act. This is our time. This is what defines us.

Khalid Albaih lets the word Syria fade before us. Into extinction.

Khalid Wad Albaih, February 20, 2018.

The cartoon series shown is courtesy of Khalid Albaih and must not be reproduced without his permission. To see more of his works, please visit:

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Nonfunctional Stylistic Dynamism

Riber Hansson, August 27, 2013:
"Today Charlie Parker's sax is singing to me with sore vocal cords".

They keep themselves on the alert in the role of turning the world inside out each new day. They handle the worst within humans, which the latter fight to keep hidden, while they stay firm on cartoons already drawn that others will try to make undone, such as drawing Virgin Mary giving information on contraception.

Cartoonists are continually walking the plank on the mutineer's ship that is human civilization. It is imperative to stay perceptive and to this end they go all out when off duty.

Cartoonists off duty throw themselves into total chaos.

Riber Hansson, September 21, 2013.
"Today my GPS broke down, so I taped this drawing
to the windshield instead".
To highlight the route off logic, Riber Hansson made a water color GPS to set forth and get totally lost. The watercolor was a page in his drawn diary, in which he creates a challenge for himself with each new day.

This way he places himself in a position to be inquisitive, setting up a wonder, in fact an obstacle, to which the brain and pen has to find an answer and as in the case of the GPS the answer incorporates the obstacle, making for layers that dance in and out of one another.

In like manner, hearing Charlie Parker is a layered structure in its own right of his giving his all; the musician's letting his blood in making a structure in time come alive before us. It is now a structure that we hear, when we see it. We recognize, what made Charlie Parker unique.

Parker crossing the boundary is at one with the cartoonist refusing to stereotyping, keeping his definitions open by way of:

Nonfunctional stylistic dynamism

Riber Hansson, August 17, 2013.
"Today I woke up exhausted. I had been sleepwalking and
brought the bed with me onto the roof".

There is of course a fully formed theoretical structure behind the letting loose. According to this - I am paraphrasing - an artwork need not have cadence or closure; it can be open, unresolved, ending in discord or confusion:

"The distinguishing attribution of the artist's role is to create occasions for the disorientation, and of the perceiver's role to experience it".

Riber Hansson, August 23, 2013.
"Today I am meeting the morning red-eyed
and with wispy hair"
Thus according to Morse Peckham's Man's Rage for Chaos from 1967. It has since been the bible in the multi-facetted artist Brian Eno's work. Brian Eno will cite from him, knowing every word by heart.

Chaos is another word for freedom, and freedom is made palpable, according to Peckham by way of obstacles. We just noted the layers upon layers in Riber's diary watercolors. Peckham would call them discontinuities, and mastery at that for their making a picture plane problematic.

The discontinuities are the reward for imposing on themselves an extraordinary number of rules, many in conflict, but all of which had to be obeyed so they might be violated:

Riber Hansson, August 15, 2013.
"Today the sun got competition from the moon, which got
entangled in a juniper bush".
"The drive to order is also a drive to get stuck in the mud. There must, it seems to me, be some human activity which serves to break up orientations, to weaken and frustrate the tyrannous drive to order".

The thing is, it works. The brain jumps on the game every time. No obstacle tells you where to go, even though it speaks to you in imperatives, but it is of the open sort. Were you to meet the very same obstacles two days in a row, it would never take you to the same place.

Riber Hansson wilflully plays with perception itself, problematizes his definition of what comes from him and what is to be seen, letting the sun and his eye change their respective courses. Thus even natural phenomena, which can be verified. If the sun can be misconstrued, then what about everything beneath it?

Riber Hansson, August 5, 2013.
Today the desire to work is fading away in the sunshine.

There is an unmistakable humming at play in Riber Hansson's diary entries. His life's work in art concentrates on the worst of man, yet the two sides complement each other, or the disorientation of the one secures the disorientation to be embedded in the other, which Peckham denotes the necessity of art. Art refuses the comforts of validation. It reinforces our capacity to endure disorientation, and does so from a protected situation in which artist and beholder alike can rehearse themselves for the drama of life:

"Of all man's burdens, art is one of the most terrible and certainly the most necessary. Without it he would not, he could not be human".

Riber Hansson, September 10, 2013.
"Today I think Monseiur Gustave Courbet moved into the house next door"

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

Monday, 19 February 2018

Mary Annunciates

"Last night I was visited by a schizoid pigeon that was trying to decide on my body...

Ha! Someone tell him that this is why I have the emergency anti-conception pill".

Cintia Bolio, December 13, 2017.

It is that time of the year again when before we know it; it shall be The Annunciation. 

Only, this year someone is well prepared.

Cintia Bolio encompasses three layers of the Virgin Mary. Her storyline in which she of all knew not to ask: She bent her head and acquiesced, as the Bible will tell us. She now calls the bird schizoid in that it was emotionally and socially unable to take in her NO. This is the very storyline of a rape.

Mary is an intelligent woman with the Book open in her lap. She is sitting on her symbol - the moon - yet when drawn by Cintia Bolio it is a mouth of mega-size. This is about speaking up and having the right to do so.

Mary symbolizes help and support with the heart to understand. She is a trusted figure in a position to tell about a non-invasive solution. 

In fact that pill is the only non-invasive element of her presentation. That is the true scandal.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Cintia Bolio and must not be reproduced without her permission.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Waste Populace Production

Khalid Gueddar, A Government Without Dignity
November 26, 2014.
The legitimacy of a community is demonstrated by how it cares for its weak and dissenters.

Enter the garbage truck.

In an act of resistance cartooning has made the willful ignoring of a population into a motif.

Doubling up on the action, demonstrating that the ignoring was a willful act in the first instance, cartoonists have introduced said garbage truck to highlight the dirty gassy greasy work of it.

The motif takes on specific detailing in each case, all the more so for spanning continents; the present examples cover three continents and from autocratic and democratic societies alike.

The physical violence of a moral stance is at its most obvious in the oldest of the present examples by Khalid Gueddar. The population is all soft bodies; no faces and as such not exposed in their situation of need all the more in contrast to their perpetrator - or he doing the dirty job on behalf of the state - the Moroccan premier minister. The composition forms an energetic oval, from the head of the truck to the minister and back again with his throw.

Magnus Bard, Sorting, These Days, May 22, 2017.
- Excess renters after luxury renovations, what shall I do with that sort of thing?
- That is to be dumped in nature

Throwing has a violent indifference to it, while putting in neat bags is less messy, but no less hurtful. The chilling indifference is all the more intense. Magnus Bard has drawn the orderliness from a Swedish angle, when renters' homes have been renovated to attract a higher income group, leaving a deficit of residents, who do not fit into the new classification.
Mana Neyestani, January 14, 2018.

Sorting the garbage into minute types of material, with not even a softening to be found in the official answer. It is ready at hand from the depot official, highlighting that this is a well-organized country, indeed. Note the hardhat and tie of the truck driver.

Poverty and protesters alike are examples of populace indexed as being of the wrong sort. While the above examples are still of an implied nature, the Iranian scholar Kazem Seddiqi was leading the Friday prayer in Tehran in January, when he denoted the protesters as "rubbish".

This was not just a random remark; this was an act at state level as Mana Neyestani evidenced.

It is sharp detailing by Mana Neyestani having added the "fragile" and right way up of the boxes of "rubbish" exposing the hypocrisy of treating any other type of goods better than humans.

Mana Neyestani, Rubbish, January 13, 2018.

The present cartoons show humans in the most undignified situation possible and yet they are each time shown to all the more valuable for it. Theirs are the scared looks, prisoners as they are, compared to the haughtiness before them. 

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Khalid Gueddar, Magnus Bard and Mana Neyestani respectively and must not be reproduced without their permission.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Land of the Unfree

Honoré Daumier, "Here, good people, here, my people, do you want more?
Here you are!"
Printed in Le Charivari, April 1, 1835.
April's fool anyone?

"I might as well just re-use my old cartoons!" 

Such is the outcry of existential despair when a young cartoonist transgresses the threshold to the domain of the seasoned cartoonists. Latterly the turn came to Khalid Albaih, and he like those who went before him and those who shall come after, found of course no consolation in the knowledge that such is the state of things cartoonwise.

Honoré Daumier, "This one could be set free! He is no longer dangerous",
printed in Le Charivari, September 11, 1834.
Note the chain running under his bed. The dramatic pose of the deceased
marks the allegiance from cartoonist and publication that he is very
much present, speaking volumes in death.
The existential despair has a hardening side to it since humankind never changes anyway and so why keep drawing?

And yes, humankind... but that was the reason for taking up the pen in the first place and well, the presence of strong imagery does have an impact as proved by cartoons of a autocratic ruler from almost 200 years ago.

The father of Louis-Philippe, had been guillotined in 1793. Louis-Philippe became king of the French following yet another revolution, the 1830-one, knowing full well what could happen to his own head and yet he found it intoxicating to indulge the rich to his own gain, covering his autocratic rule under the disguise of a constitution.

The manipulative negligence towards those in need, labeling them as dangerous, dragging in the institutions of the state to do his dirty work and going after the press with every means, using the courts not least, sounds all too familiar today too. An eco-system of corruption:

Honoré Daumier, Gargantua, December 16, 1831

The cartoon above cost its publisher, Charles Philipon AND its cartoonist, which was exceptional for its time, six months of imprisonment, about half of which was served at a mental clinic, which allowed them to continue their work. It was at this time too that Charles Philipon drew the king's portrait in court to prove his point that anything can be made to look like anything. Louis-Philippe was transformed into a pear, grasped immediately by the masses present in the court room - by design of Philipon, naturally - and soon pears were graffiti'ed on any wall in France.

Honoré Daumier, "Bread! Waiter! And a pear!".
printed in Le Charivari, August 9, 1834.
The pear is carried to the table of Louis-Philippe by the President of the
Chamber of Representatives, his name was Dupin. Dupin, dupe...

The pear is a simple form equating a simple brain. The torso of the king was in no lesser measure of peary dimensions. The higher the number of layers disguising the body in velvets and silks, the more naked he was to the eye of his beholders.

Is there a morale to all of this considering we have yet another pear on the scene?

Louis-Philippe is remembered in history as a mushy pear. He saved his head, but lived his final years in exile - with the enemy. He too was ridiculed for being clownish, but everyone understood what that meant: His rule was constantly exposed; his actions constantly laid out the more they were not meant to be seen.

In the case of The Drumpf, there is one thing his base repeats as if automatons thus contradicting their very words. But let them see themselves in in all of this; let them see that there is a free world and that they are not part of it.

Theirs is the Land of the Unfree.

To witness, Daumier drew Louis-Philippe keeping the free press and oppositional voices at bay, i.e. the mosquitoes and flies by way of issuing laws against both. Oh, behold the free and the mighty!

Honoré Daumier, "The Insect Net",
printed in Le Charivari, October 21, 1834.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

"I am from the Internet"

Khalid Albaih, Photo: Niels Larsen

Copenhagen has its very own ICORN / PEN-cartoonist: Khalid Albaih, and I interviewed him not long after his arrival for the Danish online comics magazine Nummer9. The interview in Danish can be read here. The interview is to be read at the Norwegian comics specialist site here as well and soon in Sweden, and so it is high time it can be read in English as well.

The interview is already a few months old and one of the ideas, Khalid expresses, will soon be a reality. Such is his presence. He creates change, wherever he is, and without further ado let us go directly to his own words:

Let us take off in the midst of your joy: You have found your space

The day before yesterday was the first time I was using a public library. I had never been to a library before I began working at the Qatar Museum [Khalid is Head of Installation and Design - Art in Public for the museums in Doha, LCL]. We have a very good library, but it is highly specialized in Islamic art. And we have one in the museum of modern art, but it is very specialized too. Nothing there is open. I mean information inviting to be used.

The library is located in our neighborhood; It is a neighborhood function. It invites you sit down and work, and it really opens my eyes. To research styles, research illustrators and cartoonists. Until now, I have been going online to see artworks, and online it looks as if it has a lot, but it does not really. Here, however, you can actually hold the physical books in your hands, different styles and different ways of printing. I have as yet but come here regularly for a few days, but it has opened up a lot of spaces in my head.

My next project is to try to establish a cartoon library in Sudan. Not a bookshop, because I want free knowledge. Those who have the economy are not the ones with whom I try to make contact. At the moment, I speak to Egyptian and Lebanese publishers, they are also the only ones who publish graphic novels in the Arab language market in addition to a few in the Emirates and Qatar, and today I was in [the Copenhagen shop specializing in comics, LCL] Fantask with Dennis Rosenfeld, where I told them about the idea, and they immediately asked how they could help. I have a vision of reaching out to many people like me, who have never been to a public library before. In my opinion, it is a human right to have access to something as unique as graphic novels or cartoons; all that has to do with art and culture.

Khalid Albaih at his local library with his sketchbook on a
subject, which is a classic in the streets of Copenhagen: A mother and child
 on bike braving the weather. Photo: LCL.

A library specializing in graphic novels...

To me it is THE art form. That was the one I grew up reading. It was not only hard to get the books; it was also a niche thing. My dad used to buy Superman and Batman for me, which had been translated into Arabic. So I try to give back and create a diversity so you have access to read what you want. I do not think there is a library for the graphic novel in the Arab world.

Graphic novels contain it all. Seeing other things really opens your eyes and the same goes for politics. When you look outside, you discover that Mugabe is not the only choice, or Bashir is not the only choice; that there is a choice besides the one who ruled the country for 30 years. In the region, we feel that if someone takes power, he keeps things under control. Yes, but he does it by killing everyone else. We must see that change is possible and realize that there is no absolute right or absolute wrong.

I'm working on another project: Portholes, and Niels Offenberg is helping me with contacts. I always take the metro everywhere here and it is nice and clean in contrast to the trains in Egypt or in Sudan or in India. So I thought people should see how it is over there, and I wish people over there could see how it is here. Imagine going to Nørreport Station, and a screen will lead you into a transport area in Uganda or Sudan, where you will hear and see those who are there right now. Like a Skype-meeting, but with people you do not know.

Maybe we should put a microphone there. I know that in places like Sudan it is not legally possible to set up a screen, but we could do it in a guerrilla kind of way and it would be a point in itself to experience from here that you cannot even put up a screen.

It is the same type action I am trying to create with my cartoons. I try to break these barriers or just have curiosity, so my head is brewing with ideas on how to do cartoons in a physical way. Part of being here is that I have got a bigger space to think and it's also a chance to do things on a larger scale. My political statement is that you have to keep pushing for things.

It has been an inspiring beginning to have you with us

I've been here for a month and I have ideas about establishing relationships and spending the time I am here to do something that I can learn from and find ways too so that Danes can learn from my experience. It is the purpose of the program besides giving my family and me a place where we can think and work without worrying about other issues as well.

I do not want to be considered "the artist we saved". I want it to be an exchange of knowledge. Of course, I know that, in order to continue my work, I need protection and I am grateful to PEN, ICORN and the City of Copenhagen for their invitation, but again I think about what to do while I am here.

Umm Kalthoum was a famous Egyptian singer in the 1950s and '60s, singing a poem by a Sudanese poet, Al-Hadi Adam Al-Hadi: "I'll see you tomorrow." It is a love song; but yesterday, its philosophical weight struck me: "Tomorrow will be great, tomorrow will be fantastic, tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow we are looking forward to, but today is the best for now." I really want to use that, that Yes, tomorrow... but right now I am here, so right now I am preparing.

You have a new slogan: Bring the Internet to life

I am from the Internet. That is where I feel where I am really from because growing up we did not have the chance to do many things, but the Internet allowed us to do that. We could not get visas as young kids, it was hard for families to travel, but the Internet became our access to chat rooms, websites and blogs. I am not from Romania, where I was born. I am not from Sudan because I am a 36 year-old man still getting lost, when I am home. I am not from Qatar because I cannot come from Qatar. The only place that was home to me was the Internet.

This is the living Internet in physical space while still involving the Internet. Everything is about establishing communication, how we can use all of these things in a way that creates.

Khalid Albaih, September 9, 2017.
The kneeling Colin Kaepernick to which Khalid Albaih added
the glove of the Black Power-movement. The khartoon took off immediately and can be found on any t-shirt and mobile cover, neglecting the copyright of the cartoonist.

Many cartoonists talk about financial censorship because they are having trouble living on what they do and you have a cartoon in circulation yourself, which you are the only one not making money on 

You cannot be a dictator on the Internet. People will find a solution and crop your cartoon for example, so it is best that you give your cartoon for free, because then it will give back. I would like to be accredited for my work, so I ask for, for example, the Kaepernick-drawing that they just mention my name. People begin reacting, when others are showing it: Oh, this image is of that person, and for me that is the culture of the Internet.

If it doing its effect, as in the case of the Kaepernick drawing, and I experience that when I talk about my work, I see it on people that they recognize it immediately. It is huge. I want to get the point where you know that a drawing is made by me when you see it, even if it does not have my name on it.

You are refer to cartoons as speech

My work process is to read a lot, I read a LOT. I try to read as much as I can from different sources, which is really hard, because nothing can be taken for granted and we need to know where the sources come from and how. I talk to as many people as I can and then form an idea, form a question that I want to talk about. I try to form questions the simplest way possible and I get deeply frustrated when I can not make it simple. I need that myself when you speak to me, it must be simple for me to understand you and I think most people are like that, academics or not: Tell me what it is. What are we talking about here.

That is what I want: Something simple and straight to the point that looks good. It should look good that is part of it. I come from the 1990s and 2000s, and I like to use pop culture. I like to mix. In the beginning I would do stencils. I loved Banksy, and when you compare Banksy and Naji al-Ali, they both work in black and white, they look at the world from a question mark, and they are both sarcastic in a very sad way. I wanted to be a mix of them. Make street art because I wanted to use public space and the only public space I had was the Internet.

I am not a good artist. I do not draw well so I use graphics and with pop culture it is easier to deliver a message. And because there are great artists out there like Emad Hajjaj, Osama Hajjaj, Marilena Nardi - she is amazing! Doaa Eladl too. They are so beautiful, pure art. Because I work on the Internet things go very fast so I need to attract attention, so I would mix the two things, street art stencilling and cartooning. Just mix and see what happens.

It's really just about making things simple. Many people understand pop culture and relate to it, and occasionally I make drawings about what crosses my mind, such as "Trump did this or that" or this happened in Saudi or Lebanon. Information. And then in between, I will talk about Muslims or Sudan, places that you never see in the headlines. Different layers of types of drawing, and I try to work on it in the style I like; experimenting a little each time.

Khalid Albaih, November 7, 2017.
The Saudi crown prince as the opposite of what civil disobedience
and the civil rights' movement represent.

The last word should be yours too

Many wonder why I do it. I do not work for anyone, so why do you do it, I sometimes wonder myself. Especially when it began getting me into trouble, it was kind of worrying: "What is the use?" I was really thinking that this is not making anything better and it is certainly not making my life better, but it IS making my life better because I have to keep questioning. And my kids, the many people following my work and if I just step down, what does that mean?

I have that moment. On the Internet it is always that now, you have that moment. You know what to do with it.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Khalid Albaih and must not be reproduced without his permission. To see more of his works, please visit:

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