Sunday, 31 May 2015

Daeshtein


Create a monster and it comes back to haunt you.

Note the confrontation. And that (un)forgiving green.

And once again the power of fiction is before us, today's international political situation uncovered through a story written 200 years ago by a 19-year old woman.



Amine Labter / Vit'amine ! May 30, 2015.
Saudi Arabia: The monster strikes again!


The cartoon shown is courtesy of Amine Labter and must not be reproduced without his permission. A special thank you to Kader Bakou for the title to this post.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Demonstrating with Mandela



Zwewla, April 2, 2015.

Zwewla, January 16, 2013.
Watchword. Such a magnificent - well, word, but magnificent in its meaning of standing guard, and words and images alike are precisely that to Zwewla.

Their use of imagery and slogans may seem almost stripped raw and kept unto their very basic idea. They each embody a shouting out; a physical presence of having broken the silence and that it is now the time to take up their invitation and speak too.

Zwewla, January 19, 2013.
Zwewla has all along been true to their first objective to give poverty a voice. Given all that has taken place since we first heard from them at the onset of the Arab Spring, where they themselves were taken to court for addressing what should not be talked of, i.e. "spreading lies" and a constant menace of possible legal intervention since, add to that the fact that the Tunisian constitution eventually became a reality - all of which into one sentence alone is too much - it is all the more laudable how they have kept to said objective, pointing to the fact that the reality of poverty is as pressing a fact now as before.


Zwewla, March 31, 2015.

Since it is all too long since we last took a look at what Zwewla is up to, combined with the fact that they have been utterly busy, let us take a look across in time to imagery being reused for the Forum Mondial Social in March. Mandela was there, and Chaplin, Mohamed Bouazizi and Farhat Hached, all of them even larger in size that we have seen them before.


Zwewla, March 31, 2015.
Zwewla, March 31, 2015.
- Note the victorious arm for size.

In fact the persons chosen are still the very same ones, but their imagery has undergone quite a few significant changes. The photo used of Farhat Hached for instance has been substituted for another than the one first used. The trade unionist Farhat Hached took part in the national liberation and became a symbol of resistance and freedom after his murder in 1952.

The stencils above provide him with a direct, almost smiling presence, whereas he is looking away now as if to a higher cause. In the original photo he is actually looking in our direction, but the amount of darkness into which his eyes has been set provides him with a concentration as if looking away from us towards a greater future.


Zwewla, April 2, 2015.



His is the portrayal of a dynast, as are the portraits of Mohamed Bouazizi, who ignited the call for change in a cry against the immobilization of poverty and Chaplin's tramp, the fictional character giving poverty a face.

Zwewla, April 2, 2015.

Each is drawn as a monument where the areas left in white seems as if highlighted by the spotlights of public attention. They are taking on the role as monuments in public space creating a narrative of the whom of action through recent history. The poor do have a voice and a face, and their story is being told. In fact the story is literally being configured before our very eyes and the characters in it given the identity of the protagonists of the action.

The language of power through monuments; that most solid agent of public narrative, revealed for its inherent dynamics as it molds the contours of the action itself. And as that is a recurring theme on this blog, the photos shown here aim at recreating a little of the energy of Zwewla.

As Oussama Bouagila keeps stressing, there is need for action, not theory. These very characters keep reappearing in public space, and the ray of sunlight is quite fitting for that most empowering thought of them all:


Zwewla, March 31, 2015.


Imagine having demonstrated alongside Mandela.

Zwewla, March 31, 2015.



The photos shown are courtesy of Zwewla.


Saturday, 23 May 2015

"One day the drawing left me"


- On the very same day as a handful of beloved friends. The only difference being that it came back. Little by little. At once darker and lighter. At its return, I talked to it, cried, laughed, screamed, I calmed myself to a degree that the line cleared up. We tried to understand each other, the two of us. We said to each other, the drawing and I that we would never be the same. Like so many others. This book is not a testimony, much less a comic book, but the story of a reunion between two friends who came close to never meeting again".


Luz, page from Catharsis, 2015.
- Tell me, what you saw...
- Can I take a piece of paper, a pen?
- Of course. Take your time...


The words above are from the foreword of Catharsis by Luz, who survived the massacre at the premises of Charlie Hebdo by not quite reaching the office until that moment, when the murderers left the building. Having seen and yet not quite having seen, but having seen too much in the sense of knowing all too much, Catharsis is an album on being thrown into a sea of mourning and on learning to swim it by way of forging a voice for oneself.

In interviews such as here and here Luz has told how a little character turned up on the paper, when he was giving testimony and trying to draw a plan of where he had entered the office of Charlie Hebdo, finding it easier to express himself with a pen. And then this little man appeared, much like the ones Charb used to scribble at the editorial meetings, while trying to get something onto paper. So, by way of Charb, as Luz has explained, he tried to get to grips with it all through a dialogue with this little person; someone, who had seen something, he wished he never had, what have you seen?


Luz, page from Catharsis, 2015.
- Truth be told, I did not see much...


The encircling of the eyes, the almost manic repetition of that first encircling movement, breaking the whiteness of the paper, but not being able to break out of that circle to bring the line beyond. Those are not so much encircled eyes on seeing as they are the internal pain of realizing what is too much to realize and yet still trying to encompass it all, transforming it onto paper where realizations turn into reflections. This is what makes for a compelling narrative in that we are at the driving force of cartooning; the ur-drive of the artform.

Each page is composed as a dance with the softness of the line we know so well from Charlie Hebdo. The murderers even perform a ballet, choreographed as their action was and all the more visible for being void of substance in comparison to the ones we never see, their victims. Never to be seen as such, victims, they are the richness that has been lost.


Luz, page from Catharsis, 2015.
- When I climb into your heart, I am your sadness...
Your mourning at times impossible to bear.
- when I go to your head, I am the fear, the paranoia,
the shadow that follows you and is not yours.
- I shall often take over all of you, I will be
the unbearable helium of your anger and drinking from
your confusion of being alive as a survivor.


This is a story, which urges itself to be told. Almost every page depicts paper and pen as a problem to be solved or shy away from. As Luz has concluded himself, he never did stop drawing in spite of an initial belief of not being able to do so again. I know I shall be returning to Catharsis for his rendering on the force that is mourning and the many strange shapes it wrings us into; the insanity of grief literally possessing us.

Still, and this is what makes his tale so powerful; this is a story on never losing oneself, Luz manages to find a voice for himself in every step of the process. Grief itself is given a name, Ginette – oh, but that is the name of a Chihuahua, as Grief protests; Ginette being deflated, when she seemed at her strongest.

And first and last it is an album on love, on profound love.



Luz, Catharsis, 128 pages, Editions Futuropolis 2015. In French and was released on May 21, 2015.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Awwwww...


Jørn Villumsen, May 15, 2015. Detail of the cartoon right below.

Jørn Villumsen, May 15, 2015.

Jørn Villumsen, May 15, 2015. Detail of the cartoon above.

In the midst of the battle of the graffiti drones, the painting ones and the ones surveying those painting; let us enjoy the sheer delight of seeing the tower of the Copenhagen town hall with paint dripping from its cornices.

Note the shadowing on the building itself, mirroring the embrasures, making the red color plane come alive. Jørn Villumsen has tipped the tower and building toward each other, at long last uniting them visually. A dramatic one to boot, opening to an aerial perspective.

Let us zoom in on the littlest one of the ducks; the one who is always first being eaten, shot or run over. 

We just knew this one had it in him:





The cartoon shown is courtesy of Jørn Villumsen and must not be reproduced without his permission.



Saturday, 16 May 2015

"You love all destructive speech, you false tongue"


It is a humbling experience to visit an art exhibition with a cartoonist.

Humbling in the sense that you realize how busy you are shoveling on prejudices to hold up in front of you protecting you from taking in what is before you. For my own part there is a lot of art historian luggage - So, is that artist supposed to be a genius as the curatorial jargon wants me to believe?! - all of which I waste more time battling than to be present.

Not so the cartoonist. You suddenly realize that he is being very quiet.

He - Bonil (Xavier Bonilla) - goes directly to the artwork, daring to be silent to sense what emanates from it. He is creating a meeting, letting the artwork unfold itself at its own pace, while he begin deciphering the layers being opened to him. The two of them create the very fusion of horizons and with this our revelation that we are at the core of the cartoonist's own art.


Bonil, September 26, 2009:
The eternal struggle to master a foreign tongue.


A drawing by Bonil invites you in from the very first glance at it. It opens itself before you, composed as it is along the length of the paper.

Bonil, May 1, 2014.
"Why is May 1 represented by a clenched fist?
- Mommy... Are you here?" 
Such as the one above in what in an ideal world should have been a bridge of tongues. Only, our world is nothing near any ideality and so the epitome of human interaction unfolds before us across the picture plane, literally stressed on by brute lines of color complementaries.

We see at once the best of worlds and the worst of them and please do note how the clenched hand is drawn. Simple and masterfully done; it is indeed making what should have a situation of exchange into being all about its own demands.


Bonil, July 30, 2014.
"If this is the INDEX, what shall be the EPILOGUE?"
- Can I speak my mind?

Bonil, April 5, 2015.
"Your tongue is sharp as a knife, you schemer.
You prefer evil to good, the lie for truthful speech.
You love all destructive speech, you false tongue"
(The Book of Psalms, 52,2).
- I have admittedly translated from my old Evangelist-Lutheran copy.


The sheer size of that hand, not to speak of that tongue and both of them always in the singular. Body parts, which symbolizes movement with the possibility of creating chance, making it all the more grotesque when they are kidnapped with the sole objective to clamp down on any opinion apart from the office of President Correa.

Correa is ready to make the strangest verbal dance moves in order to cover for his actions. "The lies, those lies!" seems to be his constant excuse and reason for clamping down on his fellow men.

To this end he is using the appearance of dialogue to shortcut all communicative exchange. The presidential deslenguaje, as Bonil fitting has stamped it, i.e. the presidential speak dissolves language when spoken; a tongue literally dissolving itself. Bonil lays before us the very logic of the dissolution, using the solidity of the tongue to undress the absurdity of Correa's strategy.

And so, Bonil received a direct presidential phone call on an early morning. A sickening sweet tale proceeded on how his drawings were been followed with great interest; a classical maneuver of the "Beware, we see all you do", particularly since Correa was not able to point out any drawing in particular, when asked.

Since then has followed a string of allegations and ensuing court cases, constantly draining and threatening the cartoonist alike, which is of course sadly the main objective, making Bonil a cartoonist at risk in this world.


Bonil, November 2, 2014.
"Constitutional Court
- and our verdict iiiis...
The information will be proportionate to the "state"
and the re-election will be indefinite..."
-  an amendment to the constitution has made it possible for Correa
to be re-elected indefinitely.


Bonil, Gallery of presidents.

The perspective of the eternal red carpet having winded its way into the pillars of democratic society above and thus Correa is very much on his way to have defined how he shall be reflected in history.

Bonil has rightly referred to the drawing on the left as one of his best. Only may it be almost forgotten in lieu of new great favorites, when it is time to look back on our present time. Otherwise it would mean the times had not changed.



The cartoons shown are courtesy of Bonil and must no be reproduced without his permission.


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

"I shall never forgive"


"I laugh of what I want to when I want to". As stated by Charb in his Petit traité d'intolerance from 2009 on the things to avoid in life such as the theorists on laughter. 

A true Rabelaisian (with that analysis by Glucksmann added on) Charb underlined that the problem is not be found in the "You can laugh at everything, but..." - combination. The "but..."-continuation changes nothing. It is the sentence itself "You can laugh at everything" - Cette sentence parfaitement imbecile - which is the problem, i.e. someone granting to others the right to laugh: "I do not need your benediction and I am not at all forced to laugh at everything. I laugh of what I want to when I want to". 

Charb is no longer with us and what took place on January 7 this year shall remain an open wound in cartooning. For anyone trying to write off the murdered Charlie Hebdo-cartoonists as it has been attempted the past weeks from a number of members of the American PEN, it must be remembered too the impact of Charlie Hebdo had. While rendering inspiration is not a prerequisite for exercising the freedom of speech, the impact of the Charlie Hebdo-cartoonists tells quite another tale than that of any alleged hate speech. They inspired those, who could only speak up at their personal peril - which in itself is a sentence that hurts writing considering... 

Particularly in the French-speaking Northern Africa their impact has been of a long-standing nature. Ali Dilem for one has been and is once again a member of the Charlie Hebdo-staff, and Nadia Khiari has stated all along what Charlie Hebdo and its predecessor, Hara Kiri, has meant to her. The magazine created a space in which anything could and would be questioned, and within this developing a language for critique, which having no affinity to a blame game, focused on sharp wit that was even transformed into the drawn line daring to be at once ugly and lovingly rounded.

The clear-cut one-liner with that wry precision in the turning of a quotation is instantly recognizable in the art of Amine Labter too with a daring, to which he answers himself that the paper sheet is his protection against possible adversaries to what he draws.


Amine Labter /Vit'amine! May 1, 2015.
"The cartoonist Tahar Djehiche sued"
- I shall never forgive

Amine's colleague Tahar Djehiche was at court today, accused of having insulted the president Bouteflika in linking him to the growing opposition to the drilling of shale gas. An aggravation to the charge was having shared the drawing on the social media.

And so, if it is a matter of not wishing to face the responsibility, Amine Labter has literally drawn the consequences on behalf of the president. En face and on that very color, only the sign is not one of benevolence this time.


The cartoon shown is courtesy of Amine Labter and must not be reproduced without his permission.



Monday, 4 May 2015

It's Not Funny


"Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler"


Khalid Wad Albaih, Who should I be today? February 12, 2015.


And this is where the struggle between those claiming power and the cartoonist sets in. The latter is Khalid Wad Albaih, whom we have met on this blog as the artist behind the best definition of democracy I have seen to date (that impossible task, drawing democracy, but he nailed it); not to mention mapping the 21st century so far and pointing out the IS/Daesh as killers of Islam.

On May 1 his special exhibition It's Not Funny opened at The Arab American National Museum, which is a joyful occasion to take a look back at his recent works and see how closely the notion of identity is linked to his distinction between simplicity and the simplistic.

Just look at the head of this blog post with the first drawing above and sense the lightness and shine emanating from it, as if it radiates a room for calm and openness. Khalid transforms his reflections onto the picture plane, posing genuine questions to us. Which is not at all to be misunderstood as his drawings being insecure or without bite. On the contrary, he is an intellectual in the original meaning of the word, putting his analyses out to us wondering each time if this can be right, how this can be true, directly inviting us as beholders to join in. When asked about his intentions for a drawing, he will laugh politely and return the interest to the beholder him- or herself.

Which makes his questioning all the more painful such as in the drawing above. There is no way the lining up of identities will add up; each one of them is imposed upon him, except from the one he as a Sudanese would dearly wish to take on; only that particular one is impossible given his status as a cartoonist in exile.

At once a compositional technique and content, the questioning finds its antithesis in the notion of identity. Identity turns out to be a tool. It is part of an agenda in the hands of those in power, shaping others to serve their own needs and intentions. It hardly gets any more simplistic than this.


Khalid Wad Albaih, Musical Chairs - 12 years after the fall of Baghdad,
April 9, 2015.


The cartoonist then takes the labellers on their own word. They too are denied a face in his art, exposing them as empty outfits with nothing but a void where the eyes should have been. They are defined by their power games in which the one is no different from the others as seen above.


Khalid Wad Albaih, Saudi Flag, March 26, 2015.
In breaking up positionings taken by power, Khalid Wad Albaih has a weak spot when it comes to those seemingly solid, seemingly untouchable planes that constitute national flags. What is in a flag after all? By making even the subtlest of change, removing the reverie of the ceremonial sword for the presence of oil, nobility for money, while fighting disrupts all intention of unity; well then, the flags are no longer planes before us, but seen for what they are: Layers of ambition.

Khalid Wad Albaih, ISIS destroying Iraq historical sites, March 8, 2015.


And so Khalid himself is right now in the US, having reflected upon the latest uprising on that continent placing another uniform before us, this time hooded along with that cross of hatred. Note, how detailed the figure is. Wristwatch, police badge and firearms, and we see it all in spite of the diminutiveness of the image. There is a calmness, there is room to discern it all. We can actually sense the stubbornness of the figure through its detailing, void as it is within:



Khalid Wad Albaih, Baltimore Uprising, April 30, 2015.


It is not funny! - the title is poking at us, inviting us into the discussion. The link to it is right below, and oh, I cannot enough recommend seeing the exhibition if you happen to be in its vicinity:


It's Not Funny: Political Cartoons by Khalid Wad Albaih,
May 1- July 30, 2015
The Arab American National Museum



The Khartoons shown are courtesy of Khalid Wad Albaih and must not be reproduced without his permission.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

On World Press Freedom Day



Ivar Gjørup, Egoland, September 20, 2006/ No. 5557 - part 1.


"How did the paper obtain this power over people? That is the big question: Did it contain toxins, was it some kind of rays...

... What was it about the paper that made people go crazy in a globalized civil war? The scientists are still looking for an explanation"



Amine Labter /Vit'amine! May 2, 2015.

"Was it the words on it?

That is a very bold theory!!"


Ivar Gjørup, Egoland, September 20, 2006/ No. 5557 - part 2.


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



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