Citizenship

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

Courage is envisioning and articulating freedom that is yet to be actualized. Angela Davis talks about this—imagining change is the first step of making change. One year after his release following months of detainment without due process, Ai Weiwei wrote:

I often ask myself if I am afraid of being detained again. My inner voice says I am not. I love freedom, like anybody; maybe more than most people. But it is such a tragedy if you live your life in fear. That’s worse than actually losing your freedom.

…none of us have been dealt with through fair play, open trials and open discussion. China has not established the rule of law and if there is a power above the law there is no social justice. Everybody can be subjected to harm…

Stupidity can win for a moment, but it can never really succeed because the nature of humans is to seek freedom. They can delay that freedom but they can’t stop it.

(“Ai Weiwei: to live your life in fear is worse than losing your freedom,” Guardian, June 21, 2012):

Further, even as a known target of one of the world’s most secretive and repressive governments, Ai remains an optimist:

What I gained from the experience is a much stronger sense of responsibility, and an understanding of what the problems are and how one can understand what’s happening and remain a positive force. You have to see your own position from the other side. At the same time you have to maintain a passion for what you are doing. You have to have sensitivity and joy. If you don’t have that, you will be like a fish on the beach, drying up on the sand….

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Research, Sights

Feelgood art and Jeremy Deller retrospective

Wow! Isn’t this grand? Vanessa Thorpe’s article, “Feelgood art: the pick-me-up to get us through an age of anxiety,” appeared on Guardian.co.uk yesterday.

She cites artists encouraging positive emotions: Michael Landy’s kindness-on-the-Underground project, Tracey Emin’s “trust me” neon, the title of Jeremy Deller’s upcoming retrospective at the Hayward.*

But wait, I think all of these artists aren’t so one-dimensional that their work could be considered “feelgood.”

I’m thrilled to bits to hear about artists considering psychology from non-negative attitudes, as well as the influence of positive psychology expanding into the arts and humanities, but Thorpe’s article is not that. I think Thorpe set up an annoying happy face in the headline and lede only to slap it down in the article. It’s simple-minded to call artwork concerning positive affect “feelgood” and “pick-me-up.” It’s a misinterpretation of Deller, whose work has been consistently class-aware and courageous. Thorpe acknowledges as much, after rankling readers into mild outrage in their aversion to unabashed sentiment. Desparate, newsworthi-fying journalese.

*Actually, this is grand:

February 22 – May 13, 2012
Jeremy Deller: Joy in People
Hayward Gallery, London

Deller’s a brilliant artist, I love his work and thoughtful approach to developing projects and working with people. Plus, the Hayward is an amazing space. I really wish I could pop over to the Southbank Centre this spring for this!

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Citizenship

oakland: my fair city

I have a lot of love for Oakland, California, where I lived from 1994 to 2010. Here are a few new reasons to love Oakland:

General Strike poster

Love this General Strike poster. The illustrations, typography, and colors are pitch-perfect. Hard to make out the artist's name: R. Black? Source: OccupyOakland.org.

John Robb, from Fairfax, California, managed almost singlehandedly to shut down a Chase bank branch.

"John Robb, from Fairfax, California, managed almost singlehandedly to shut down a Chase bank branch" reported Adam Gabbatt, blogger for the Guardian (UK). Photograph: Adam Gabbatt/guardian.co.uk

“I got here at 10.30am, one my own,” Robb told the Guardian from his position seated in front of the entrance.

“Security kept pushing me away, but I stayed by myself for another 30 minutes. Then someone else arrived, they still pushed us away. Then the big march came past and we called everyone over, they came and the bank locked the doors.”

…Some protesters voiced their desire to smash the bank’s windows; other protesters stood in front of the bank and prevented them from doing so.

(As told to Adam Gabbatt for the Guardian, Nov. 2, 2011)

Skeptics demanding OWS’ demands ought consider this:

Occupy Oakland shuts down a Chase bank during today's General Strike.

Occupy Oakland shuts down a Chase bank during today's General Strike. (Source: Facebook, photographer unconfirmed.)

I think the message is pretty clear. If this doesn’t do it, how about this: We’re fed up with Big Banks, Wall Street, and rising inequity that grossly rewards the top 1%.

Not in Oakland, but it's a solidarity movement. This Brooklyn Bridge occupier's irresistible optimism is positively winsome. Source: OccupyWallStreet.org

Not in Oakland, but it's a solidarity movement. This Brooklyn Bridge occupier's irresistible optimism is positively winsome. Source: OccupyWallStreet.org

This photo is from a movingly penned post which proclaims:

And in our own backyard, in thousands of backyards, from Augusta and Jackson, Springfield and Sioux Falls, Vegas and Santa Rosa* and Green Bay: Americans celebrated the occupation in its infancy. Jobs with dignity. Housing fit for families. Education. Health care. Pensions. The very air we breathe. What can those who want democracy demand from the king, except his crown? Regime change is in the air. America is looking at itself, it’s place in the world and who we are to be.

This is not a demonstration. It’s participation.

(—Jed Brandt and Michael Levitin, originally printed in the Occupied Wall Street Journal, and reposted on occupywallst.org.)

(*My first hometown!)

Plus…

OWS artwork by the illustrious JL. Source: @justinlimoges.

Hallow's Eve papercut by the illustrious JL. Source: @justinlimoges.

While 10,000+ occupiers were reported to peacefully protest all day yesterday, an unruly few have marred the nonviolence with acts of vandalism, early the following morning. Once again Adam Gabbatt from the Guardian reports:

Adam Gabbat for the Guardian: "10.33am GMT: Some of the Occupy protesters have been repairing the damage done by a small group of people who did employ violence." Posted about 30 minutes after another posting about the "third use of tear gas," presumably the haze in the photo? (Photo: Adam Gabbatt; source: Guardian.co.uk.)

Adam Gabbat for the Guardian: "10.33am GMT: Some of the Occupy protesters have been repairing the damage done by a small group of people who did employ violence." Posted about 30 minutes after another posting about the "third use of tear gas," presumably the haze in the photo? (Photo: Adam Gabbatt; source: Guardian.co.uk.)

I suppose the saying about spilt milk could be updated in regards to broken glass. Still, the intention to make amends—however futile—for those who don’t understand the reasoning behind a nonviolent strike, is heartening. Cynics may lump all of Oakland and her protestors together, but they act independently, and many, as we see above, act with good intentions.

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Research

Drawing, the start of it all

Ooooooooh! The Guardian just launched a series of photos and first-person essays on drawing! It looks fantastic! Highlights include William Kentridge on the mystique of charcoal, David Shrigley on his idiosyncratic ink doodles, graphite master Paul Noble on his rather technical fictive drawings, and Ingrid Calame on her vector-y vellum tracings.

The timing’s great because I just taught the first session of my Sketchbook Drawing class at the Associate Student Union at U.C. Berkeley. It had been a while since I’d been in a figure drawing set-up, and I had a blast and I think my students enjoyed it too. I’m inspired to spend more time with my sketchbook soon.

Sometimes I find the idea of picture-making to be quite conventional, so it’s nice to be reminded of the immediacy and rewards of a fundamental mark-making practice.

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