Category Archives: Activism Art

Friday’s Foraged Blog Finds!

As I am supposed to be writing my dissertation at the moment, I find myself entertaining myself during breaks reading the most random blogs, articles and visiting some really cool sites . Now, I know they will come in handy one day and (I am trying to convince myself) they are contributing to my academic research in some way but for now, I am going to dump them on this blog! Enjoy!

#Eggs and Israelis

I absolutely looooveee the blog eyeteeth which is by Paul Schmelze,  a former editor at Adbusters and he recently posted a really great little blog about a Jerusalem street art stencil. Here’s what he says:

I’m not entirely sure what to make of the message. One Flickr user translates the text as “War isn’t cookies.” That is, it’s not a cake walk, a piece of cake, easy as pie. But the more direct read is that, like cookies chewed up and spat out by a hasty ravenous monster, soldiers are victims of war, too. In spite of the fact that, as an institution, the IDF is one of the world’s best-funded, most sophisticated fighting forces, the individual soldiers are, well, fragile. The sentiment brings to mind a speech by Haruki Murakami I often quote here. He used an egg and and a wall in a metaphor for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. One way to read the metaphor, he says, is that unarmed civilians are the eggs, while tanks, guns and white phosphorus shells are the wall. But he also offers a more nuanced interpretation:

Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others – coldly, efficiently, systematically.

#Why getting ripped off is really annoying

This was one of those rare interviews which had the right proportions of freedom and control to really bring out interesting stuff. It was in SEED Magazine which is a random science magazine which has some absolute gems of articles every now and then. Here are snippets of the interview with the Yale University psychologist Paul Bloom about   “essentialism”—a belief that there’s a deeper nature to things that makes them what they are.

Seed: You begin the book with an incredible story from the art world that, you say, illustrates the concept of essentialism.
Paul Bloom: Yes— the story of a famous Nazi, Herman Goering, who was Hitler’s favorite. Goering and his boss had this perpetual competition going over who could steal the most art. They went throughout Europe and pillaged, taking art from the people they conquered. Goering was a tremendous snob, and he bought a Vermeer from this art dealer, van Meegren. After the war, van Meegren was nabbed by investigators who discovered that he had sold all this art—including great Dutch treasures—to the Nazis. And they put him in prison. When van Meegren realized he was going to be executed for treason, he confessed. He said that he did sell the artwork to the Nazis, but that it wasn’t treason, because they were not actual Vermeers….He had defrauded the Nazis, he explained, because he’d painted them himself!

Now van Meegren, as you may know, was an absolute jerk. He was beset with petty jealousies; he was an alcoholic and a drug addict. He never got the respect he felt he deserved, so years earlier he had decided to start faking art as a way to get money. Not surprisingly, nobody believes his “I jipped the Nazis” story. So in court, while he was in detention, he offered to do another painting of the Vermeer, as a way to prove his innocence. As one Dutch tabloid put it, “He Paints for His Life!” His new work turned out far superior to the one he had sold Goering, and in the end, van Meegren was given a much lighter sentence. I like that story because it illustrates that who painted the artwork really mattered. And it mattered to everyone involved: It mattered to Goering—a guy who was responsible for the murder of millions and yet, according to his biographer, this was the first time in his life that he looked “as if he’d truly seen evil.” It mattered to all of the art critics who loved the Supper at Emmaus and several other paintings that turned out to be painted by van Meegren. They were horrified to discover that the paintings weren’t by Vermeer at all.

He also goes on to talk about this  syndrome called Capgras Syndrome, where people think that people they love have been replaced by exact duplicates because (proposes V.S. Ramachandran) the part of the brain responsible for intuitive feeling and familiarity doesn’t work.

“So you look at the person and you think, They have the same face as my wife or my boyfriend, but I don’t feel anything, so it can’t be them.”

So wierd. And kinda heart-breaking.


#Flourishing art scene but not one art gallery

Interesting (I use that word far too much) article on dissident art in Saudi Arabia published in Qantara.

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Who told you America is imperialist? Tell me. Who?

Over the weekend I went to see The Time That Remains: Chronicles of a Present Absentee, a film by Elia Sulieman a Palestinian from Nazareth- it  was AMAZING.

Now this may come off a little unfair but films on Palestine don’t tend to be cinematic masterpieces as they expect the issue (ie. the Palestine-Israel conflict) to carry the film and in some ways that’s fine- because they are about getting the message across. But this is just a gem of a film with moments of bright brilliance.


The Time That Remains
is the third installment on Palestinians living in Israel and is the most personal so far- including Sulieman’s earliest memories as well as his father’s diaries to tell the story of the invasion of Nazareth in 1948 and the subsequent exile of his family. It’s darkly whimsical and without giving too much away, the first half follows his father’s story which gives way to Elia’s own experiences as  a silent observer into the absurd, paradoxical and nuanced complexities of being a Palestinian in Israel and returning from exile.

There are some really iconic moments such as Sulieman calmly pole-vaulting  across the Apartheid wall, stalking tanks, off-the-wall neighbours, blind-as-a-bat aunties whose plate of lentils are dumped straight into the bin but one scene which really stands out for me is Elia being scolded by his teacher in an Israeli  school who asks him:  ‘who told you that America is colonialist?  That it is imperialist?’

Doesn’t he know that kind of talk isn’t suitable for the classroom?

It’s a great scene which shows how the conflict and confusion starts at a young age and isn’t ever entirely shaken off. It also reminded me of an event I went to that was organised by the NUJ and the reaction of a Zimbabwean journalist Foster Dongozi- when he was asked about whether he was concerned about America’s imperial and colonialist agenda.

It clearly made him uncomfortable because for him, that was something that the Zimbabwean regime constantly spouts to hinder press freedom and so he wanted to clarify that they were routinely arrested for being the ‘running dogs of the imperial state of America’.  I guess Mugabe is going for the whole better-the-devil-you-know card…but just because it’s (ab)used as an excuse by an awful dictatorship does it become less valid? I don’t know.

Anyway, the whole film is littered with unfinished and silent scenes like this which recall events but leave  you to decide what to think. They seem to be waiting for the viewers reaction, their memory and attempts to make sense of it all.

If you get the chance, go and see this film!

Pranking for Change: Astoria Scum Bridge

Cute little video about a project by Jason Eppink and Posterchild whose urban prank embarrased the local government to fixing a street problem. How great is that?!

Art, Kids and Migration

I’ve been doing bits of reading on migration for university work and one of the most interesting that came to the surface is how flawed our perceptions are of population movements.

Especially in the west, we tend to think that migrants are swamping our oasis of calm and stealing our resources. That more and more are coming every year and soon there will be space for no-one. In reality, almost of all of migration occurs between developing countries and only around 3% actually make into the developing world. Clearly some where along the way, there has been some serious miscommunication.

Talking of communication, I also stumbled across an interview with UK Photographer Caroline Irby on Immigrant Children by the brilliant Qiana Mestrich of the blog Dodge & Burn: Diversity in Photography.
Here are some stand out bits:

CI: Of the estimated 565,000 migrants who arrive in the UK each year, 26,000 of them are children.  The numbers are often analyzed in the media, but for every number there’s a story.  There are stories dancing around in playgrounds across the country and they are seldom told.  I learned, from talking to all these children, that they rarely speak about where they have come from or what they’ve been through.  And I think we should take the opportunity to ask and listen to them: we can learn a lot when we do…

QM: These children all come from different countries each with their own experiences. Is there anything that you’ve found they have in common?

CI: With most of the children who are here indefinitely, I felt an undertow of nostalgia, fed not so much by the desire to return home as by the impossibility of it, because the home they remember has changed, and they have changed too.

However well integrated the children are, almost all fantasize about returning to the countries they have left, but when questioned on this, most told me that returning for a holiday is enough – that they no longer fit in the place they have come from, that the UK is now home.

Something else I found these children often shared was an acute self-awareness: having experienced life in more than one country; their vision is already global.  In the process of moving and adapting to another culture they have had to understand a lot about themselves and where they are from.

There were many recurrent themes in what the children said in their interviews but perhaps the most consistent was that they miss their Grandmas.  They miss their friends, their food, their animals and homes, but it was almost always the Grandmas they said they miss most.

Aaawwwhhhhh. That is simultaneously super sad and super cute.

Because Politicians are a Laugh

Hilarious poster on the Tories that I stumbled across on the Headstretcher blog [ Steve Connor from Manchester’s Creative Concern]. I think it’s important to see the funny side of politics…. I am sure politicians poke as much fun at the rif-raf of humanity that is the general public too.

Image via Make A Mark

Joe Sacco’s Footnotes on Gaza

Joe Sacco probably has the best job in the world- he’s is a cartoon journalist. Now I know there isn’t many of those but even if there were, he would defintely be one of the top journo-toonists. Ever.

I read his ‘Safe Area Gorazde’ for some university work and was totally blown away. Not only is he a talented cartoonist but he has real knack for telling personal stories in moving away [i.e. minus the drama] with the factual accuracy and political/social background you [should] expect from a journalist.  Safe Area definately comes highly recommended especially if you want to know more about the war in Bosnia. I recently read ‘Palestine’ which was his first full graphic novel on …well, Palestine. For those wanted to get more on the situation the book is great but I am looking forward to getting my hands on his latest book ‘Footnotes on Gaza’.

Mondoweiss has more exclusive pages of the book, so check it out

From the Book FOOTNOTES IN GAZA by Joe Sacco. Copyright © 2009 by Joe Sacce. Reprinted by arrangement with Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company LLC.

– Arwa Aburawa