Monday, 10 June 2019

"We must remain on our guard"

Badiucao, Free Pu Zhiqiang, 2014.

Badiucao, 2013.
- Words by Pu Zhiqiang shortly before his arrest as a human rights lawyer, while campaigning for an official recognition of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Pu Zhiqiang had been among the students protesting in 1989. We still do not know how many were killed that first week in June 1989, when the Chinese government decided to use military force against the students. The official number was 300; while Amnesty International estimated that close to 1,000 may have lost their lives.

The official number, however, was a short-lived one. The massacre has since formed into a non-existence according to the Chinese regime, along with the fact of the protests themselves.

"No one heard me. No one knew I was there (...) There was nothing but pain" are the harrowing words by citizens caught up by an "anti-corruption" law in a video of interviews of detainees, who had undergone torture to procure their confession. Pu Zhiqiang was the interviewer, uncovering how that particular law could be used against any citizen along with their colleagues and family. Shortly after he too was arrested, disbarred and sentenced to a suspended prison sentence.

Badiucao, A Piece Of Red Cloth, 

The active act of silencing. Masking, obscuring, camouflaging and all the more actively so in that the regime is not holding back when it comes to inflicting pain to achieve its goal of hiding its own doings.

Let it be heard. Let it be seen and every work from the hand of Badiucao is a ROAR.

Badiucao, Good Catch Of Xi, 2015.

Badiucao, True Love, 2014.
From Mao to Xi of today.
His line has the carved quality of a woodcut and is all the more forceful from taking inspiration from Käthe Kollwitz from the first decades of the 20th century. She drew with an almost tactile black line on political and social injustice and how its implications could be read in the faces of her contemporaries. Badiucao does her proud constantly highlighting the faces of those silenced by the regime.

For the face of Pu Zhiqiang above, Badiucao is letting each line change from light in the shade and vice versa while it runs through the face. The two lines across the bridge of his nose from one eye to the other, while a dark line is running vertically by his right eye - those three alone makes for a masterly capture of a face that calls for our attention to what he has seen and has to tell us.

"Too strong for the street" the Egyptian street artist of renown El Teneen (i.e. The Dragon) said last year when Sulafa Hijazi and I talked Käthe Kollwitz with him in Berlin. Each artist develops a visual language to create readiness according to the specific place and circumstances. Where confrontation may create antagonism in the one place, Badiucao on the other hands asserts the language of being "too strong". The uncovering needs to be as unflinching as the covering up from the regime.

He is answering the regime back on the level of their actions, and right now all the louder as part of the opposition against the rights granted Hong Kong being chipped away one by one. The situation is all too known:
Badiucao, 2017.

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

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Charta, Carta, Cartoon

Show the cartoonists the respect they deserve and state their name, when their work is shown.

A century ago it was still a rarity that their names were mentioned - at least in continental Europe. At times it was even forbidden to state their names. Imagery was meant to blend in seamlessly as the face of the magazine or paper. Names denote personal interpretation.

What about the name of the profession then, considering its central aspect in creating interpretation that should under no circumstance be mistaken for a mere illustration?

Traditionally in the Scandinavian languages we have given the cartoon a name which spoke not of what it was, but where it was printed: A newspaper drawing. In Danish to boot we have been using the old-fashioned word for a newspaper, "blad", so that it would cover all kinds of printed matter for distribution.

Present day Danes do not even know that word, which means they have no idea what we are talking about when we talk about "a "blad" drawing". A what again?

Cartooning is part of the pulse of its day. Losing its touch, means losing its relevance, so why drag about a name, which so openly speak of a reality that belonged to yesteryear?

The solution is right at hand. Internationally the English cartoon has been adapted by the French - of all places - which solved mistaking comics for cartoons and vice versa when translating between the two languages. In Spanish too cartón is the term now used.

Three world languages down and counting. Hindi too for instance. Cartoon has made its linguistical victory lap a little over a decade now and it has made life so much easier. It highlights that we are part of same dialogue across the continents. I am as yet tentative about how we shall pronounce it in Danish, so it is still to be seen how it will take off. Spelling it might prove easier. In Malay for one it is spelled kartun, which would work well in the Scandinavian languages too.

Charta, carta... cartoon. The fundamental structure of the word was laid almost a millennium ago. Let's relight the fire from its original source.

Per Marquard Otzen, November 25, 2014.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Per Marquard Otzen and must not be reproduced without his permission.

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