Category Archives: Art & Photography

Photo Essay: The North Korea Washington Doesn’t Want Americans To See

Doug Bandow writes for Forbes:

North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, long has been called “the Hermit Kingdom,” as the ancient Korean monarchy was known. The moniker long irritated DPRK officials, though 25 years ago when I first visited it was more accurate. There weren’t many Western travelers and engaging in common American activities, such a jogging, which I did every day, garnering stares from virtually everyone—though, even more weirdly, virtually no one made eye contact. On this trip, in response to an invitation from the Institute for American Studies of the Foreign Ministry, there were few stares.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration plans to ban travel by Americans to the North as of September 1. That’s a mistake, since U.S. visitors both educate North Koreans and are educated by North Koreans. It is a process that encourages social transformation and long term change in the DPRK, which is desperately needed in a system of monarchical communism which holds an entire population in bondage.

Although more Westerners visit the North today, Beijing remains the primary entry point. You can fly in on Air Koryo, as I did, or Air China, though the latter is known to adjust its service to reflect both economics and politics. Perhaps someday American airports will display Pyongyang as a destination. But not in the near future, since it soon will be illegal for Americans to travel to the DPRK. At least, their passports will be tagged as invalid for travel there. But Pyongyang could accept them anyway. I suspect Americans will continue to visit, just as Americans routinely traveled to Cuba illicitly despite the only recently modified ban.

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Paul Joseph Watson Is A Pop Culture Pleb

Anthony Fantano responds to Paul Joseph Watson’s latest video The Truth About Popular Culture, saying that he makes some of the dumbest assertions about pop culture and contemporary music. Watson has since posted a video titled: Conservatism is the NEW Counter-Culture(The Needle Drop)

The Sad Attempt to Make Trumpism Cool

Hua Hsu reports for The New Yorker:

In the fall of 2008, as the election of Barack Obama started to seem inevitable, many Republicans began wondering about their party’s future. Obama had won in part by harnessing the enthusiasm of young people. How would the right respond? How could conservatism be made into something swaggering and cool?

One answer was the Hip-Hop Republicans, a group of young, stylish African-Americans who loved both rap music and conservative values. The Hip-Hop Republicans weren’t an actual organization but a loose community that revolved around a blog of the same name. “It’s just refreshing to know that there is this spectrum of opinion out there that exists,” Michael Steele, a high-profile black Republican and fan of the blog, told the Times in 2008. After Obama’s election, Steele was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee.

The Hip-Hop Republicans didn’t catch on in the ways some people hoped. The original blog, started, in 2004, by Richard Ivory, still exists, but it’s not updated much. A despairing post published on September 1st begins, “How much will the Republican Party change after the Trumpocalypse? Zero. Nada. None at all.” The only thing a young, urbane conservative of color can do, it seems, is wait outDonald Trump and hope that the Democrats, down the line, self-destruct.

In the meantime, a very different group of young-ish people is attempting to make Trump’s brand of Republicanism cool.

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Is Robert Del Naja the real Banksy? Massive Attack member named as graffiti artist

Martin Robinson reports for The Daily Mail:

New theory: The hunt for the true identity of Banksy took a new twist today after a member of Massive Attack was named at the artist by an investigator who has plotted his art and found they matched to Massive Attack gigsThe hunt for the true identity of Banksy took a new twist today after a member of Massive Attack was named as the artist.

Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja, the founding member of the Bristol band, has been accused of being the guerrilla graffiti star because art keeps appearing near their gigs.

In 2008 former public schoolboy Robin Gunningham was named as Banksy by the Mail on Sunday – and scientists analysing his work also believe it is him.

But now investigative journalist Craig Williams, 31, claims the artist could be Mr Del Naja, or perhaps a team of people led by him and linked to Massive Attack who combine their concerts with graffiti.

Mr Williams has plotted Banksy murals around the world and said that on at least six occasions more than a dozen appeared shortly before or after Massive Attack gigs in the same cities over the past 12 years.

3D was a graffiti artist in the 1980s and has admitted he is friends with Banksy – but the journalist’s new research concludes he may be the artist himself.

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What happens when the carnival moves on: Decaying former Olympic sites across the world

Lucy Mae Beers reports for The Daily Mail:

A sign emblazoned with the 2004 Athens Summer Games' motto 'Welcome Home' torn in half by vandalsThey used to be brimming with tens of thousands of fans hoping for their countries’ teams to be victorious – but eerie photographs have revealed the sites of the past Olympics games have been reduced to rubble by neglect.

In Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the disused bobsled from the 1984 Winter Olympics has been vandalised and is now enjoyed by hordes of mountain-bikers, while the Mount Igman ski jumping course threatens to collapse from decomposition. 

There are similar sites in Athens, Greece, with a swimming pool in the former Olympic Village filled with brown, murky water with a sign emblazoned with the 2004 Summer Games’ motto ‘Welcome Home’ torn in half by vandals.

While the site of the Athens Olympic softball and baseball is still standing, the pitch has overgrown with brown weeds and the venue is now used as a shelter for refugees and migrants.

 The athletes village from the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany has had the windows boarded with timber and sheets of plaster have been ripped from the walls of the deserted building.

Nearby at the former Hellinikon Olympic complex, the Canoe and Kayak Slalom Centre has been completely drained, with the bollards formerly used as competitor obstacles still remaining, but now discoloured from the blistering sun. 

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Snowden Chronicler Laura Poitras Reveals Her Own Life Under Surveillance

Andy Greenberg writes for Wired:

laura-poitras-h_14755573Laura Poitras has a talent for disappearing. In her early documentaries like My Country, My Country and The Oath, her camera seems to float invisibly in rooms where subjects carry on intimate conversations as if they’re not being observed. Even in Citizenfour, the Oscar-winning film that tracks her personal journey from first contact with Edward Snowden to releasing his top secret NSA leaks to the world, she rarely offers a word of narration. She appears in that film exactly once, caught as if by accident in the mirror of Snowden’s Hong Kong hotel room.

Now, with the opening of her multi-media solo exhibit, Astro Noise, at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art this week, Snowden’s chronicler has finally turned her lens onto herself. And she’s given us a glimpse into one of the darkest stretches of her life, when she wasn’t yet the revelator of modern American surveillance but instead its target.

The exhibit is vast and unsettling, ranging from films to documents that can be viewed only through wooden slits to a video expanse of Yemeni sky which visitors are invited to lie beneath. But the most personal parts of the show are documents that lay bare how excruciating life was for Poitras as a target of government surveillance—and how her subsequent paranoia made her the ideal collaborator in Snowden’s mission to expose America’s surveillance state.

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UK Citizens May Soon Need Licenses to Photograph Some Stuff They Already Own

Glynn Moody reports for Ars Technica:

Changes to UK copyright law will soon mean that you may need to take out a licence to photograph classic designer objects even if you own them. That’s the result of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which extends the copyright of artistic objects like designer chairs from 25 years after they were first marketed to 70 years after the creator’s death. In most cases, that will be well over a hundred years after the object was designed. During that period, taking a photo of the item will often require a licence from the copyright owner regardless of who owns the particular object in question.

The UK government is holding a consultation into when this change should enter into force: after a six-month, three-year, or five-year transitional period. An article in The Bookseller puts the starting date as October 2016 without citing a source. In any case, the change is definitely coming, and it’ll likely be quite soon.

Similar to the recent announcement that it is once again illegal to make private copies of music you own, it is unlikely the public will pay much attention to this latest example of copyright being completely out of touch with how people actually use digital technology. But for professionals, the consequences will be serious and not so easily ignored.

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My Turn: Critics attack ‘disgusting’ anti-Hillary book cover, but the artist supports ‘sexy’ Clinton

Brendan James reports for International Business Times:

Hillary Cover“Gross,” “disgusting,” “deplorable” and sexist. Those are just a few of the words being hurled at the cover of a forthcoming book by author Doug Henwood, who attacks Hillary Clinton not from the right, but from the left. The Nation’s Joan Walsh, former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett and a slew of Clinton fans howled Thursday at the debut of Henwood’s cover, a jarring image of the former U.S. secretary of state in a red dress, pointing a gun at the viewer with a cold, dead-eyed stare.

“I keep hearing it’s unfair to think that some of the male Clinton haters on the left might have issues with women,” quipped Salon’s Amanda Marcotte with a wink, after seeing the cover.

There’s one wrench in that theory, however: The artist who painted the image is not only a woman, but a diehard Hillary Clinton supporter.

“I love Hillary Clinton, I support Hillary Clinton, I very much want her to be president. I will certainly vote for her,” said Sarah Sole, who created the painting, in an interview with International Business Times.

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The Years of Stagnation and the Poodles of Power

Adam Curtis wrote on his BBC blog back in 2012:

Everybody is always remarking about how stuck our society feels these days. The music doesn’t change, the political parties are all exactly the same, and films and TV dramas are almost always set in the past.

We are also stuck with an economic system that is not delivering the paradise that it once promised – but is instead creating chaos and hardship. Yet no-one can imagine a better alternative, so we remain static – paralysed by a terrible political and cultural claustrophobia.

I want to tell the story of another time and another place not so long ago that was also stifled by the absence of novelty and lacking a convincing vision of the future. It was in the Soviet Union in the late 1970s and 1980s. At the time they called it “the years of stagnation”.

There are of course vast differences between our present society and the Soviet Union of thirty years ago – for one thing they had practically no consumer goods whereas we are surrounded by them, and for another western capitalism was waiting in the wings to fill the vacuum. But there are also echoes of our present mood – a grand economic system that had once promised heaven on earth had become absurd and corrupted.

Everyone in Russia in the early 1980s knew that the managers and technocrats in charge of the economy were using that absurdity to loot the system and enrich themselves. The politicians were unable to do anything because they were in the thrall of the economic theory, and thus of the corrupt technocrats. And above all no-one in the political class could imagine any alternative future.

In the face of this most Soviet people turned away from politics and any form of engagement with society and lived day by day in a world that they knew was absurd, trapped by the lack of a vision of any other way.

But in the late 1970s a post-political generation rose up in Russia who retreated from all conventional political ideologies, both communist and western capitalist, and instead turned to radical avant-garde culture – in music and in literature – to try and protest against the absurdity of the system. I want to focus on their story – because it is fascinating and forgotten (and they produced some great music) – but also because of what happened to them when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Despite the differences between east and west, I think that the fate of that post-political generation does offer a glimpse of what happens in a stagnant political culture when a door finally opens on a different kind of future. Especially as some of the choices they made were very unexpected – and the outcomes sometimes very sad.’

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Sex, Drugs and Excess: Russia’s Music Scene in the ’90s

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of pieces recently published by Calvert Journal on Russian culture in the 1990’s. 

Artemy Troitsky writes for Calvert Journal:

The 1980s were divided into two five-year periods in Russia, one black, one white. First there were the throes of Soviet power played out to the accompaniment of an extraordinary carnival of underground art: from the Necrorealist film genre, to Ilya Kabakov’s art works and Pyotr Mamonov’s hypnotic rock.

This was followed by the era of perestroika and glasnost — economic policies of “openness” and “restructuring” — where everything was for sale. The 1980s ended up like a lunar landscape: its heroes, like musician Viktor Tsoy, rock singer Mike Naumenko, and avant-garde musician Sergey Kuryokhin, were dead, or — if saleable on the international market — living abroad.

There had been a paradigm shift. Where once cultural life in the U.S.S.R. was led in conditions of all-encompassing censorship, isolation from the ideologically unclean “outside world,” and the complete absence of a market economy, now things were changing.

For all its obvious costs, this oppressive system also provided a range of secret weapons: It generated a devil-may-care dissident spirit, a distinctive identity. You could become the idol of millions without going on television once; you could create a smash hit while stoking a boiler or cleaning the streets; you could experiment without sparing a thought for sales.’

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H-Bomb by Anthony Freda

“They Live” Inspired “Consume” Posters by Hal Hefner

Artist Hal Hefner has put together a superb selection of “Consume” posters inspired by “They Live,” a 1988 film directed by John Carpenter starring former WWE wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper. If you’ve never seen the film you can watch it here.

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25 Years Since ‘Pale Blue Dot’ Photo

The palace of shame that makes China angry

Chris Bowlby writes for BBC Magazine:

A temple in the ruins of the Old Summer Palace, Beijing, China, circa 1860.There is a deep, unhealed historical wound in the UK’s relations with China – a wound that most British people know nothing about, but which causes China great pain. It stems from the destruction in 1860 of the country’s most beautiful palace.

It’s been described as China’s ground zero – a place that tells a story of cultural destruction that everyone in China knows about, but hardly anyone outside.

The palace’s fate is bitterly resented in Chinese minds and constantly resurfaces in Chinese popular films, angry social media debates, and furious rows about international art sales.

And it has left a controversial legacy in British art collections – royal, military, private – full of looted objects.’

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Art in a Time of Surveillance

Peter Maas writes for The Intercept:

Colored bars created by composite grid of thousands of photographs.This just happened — while trying to figure out a colorful way to begin the story you’re reading, I toggled to Twitter and saw a link to a short film by two Brooklyn directors who used a drone to film actors having sex. Their project, somewhere between art and porn, hovers on the R-rated margins of a thriving cultural movement in which artists of all stripes are exploring what it means to live in a state of surveillance.

You can’t throw a rock these days without hitting a surveillance art project, and the remarkable thing is that so much of it is so good. Some of the Snowden era’s sharpest interrogations of collect-it-all tracking by corporations and the government are to be found in galleries and other art spaces. They are the opposite of the acronym-laden news stories we read: NSA, FISA, PGP, PRISM, ACLU, EFF, SIGINT, GCHQ, TOR, FOIA, HTTPS, are you still awake? They are playful, invasive and eerie, and best of all they are graphically visual. With a transgressive edge that journalism struggles to match, they creatively challenge what it means to be human in a time of data.’

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War Photographer Benjamin Hiller On His Time In Syria

Dick Cheney Portrait

‘Marlboro Boys’: Indonesia’s child smokers

From Dangerous Minds:

‘Canadian documentary photographer Michelle Siu records “vulnerable people and disenfranchised cultures.” In the past that has meant the First Nations people of Lake St. Martin in Manitoba, who have been displaced from their land by flooding, or the destruction wrought upon the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan. In her series, “Marlboro Boys,” the disaster is man-made.’

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The Battle Within: Sexual Violence In America’s Military (Photo Essay by Mary Calvert)

From The Daily Mail:

Heartbreaking: Melissa Bania holds a banner on the foot bridge across from the entrance to Naval Station San Diego. The sexual assault victim is part of a photo essay by Mary Calvert called The Battle Within: Sexual Violence In America's Military‘Pulitzer Prize finalist photo journalist Mary Calvert is revered for putting a spotlight on humanitarian issues that are ignored or that people are not aware of. While her work – centered on women and children in crisis – has taken her all over the world, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to India, her latest assignment is much closer to home.

The former Washington Times photographer has compiled a photo essay that attempts to expose the widespread sexual harrassment of women in the American military that is going unreported. Calvert says that an estimated 26,000 rapes and sexual assaults took place in the armed forces last year, however only one in seven victims reported their attacks. Only one in 10 of those reported attacks then went to trial.’

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Julian Stallabrass: On Selfies

Julian Stallabrass, art historian and photographer, writes for the London Review of Books:

Some selfies‘A few dozen photographs were taken of me as a child. I remember lining up with my family on the beach as a wealthy uncle tried out a new photographic toy and, bright glare of sun off sand in our eyes, being told to stand completely still so as not to ruin the shot. Film and processing were quite pricey, and being photographed was an event. We were behaving just like everybody else, so there is nothing remarkable about the scene except that I remember it. Such an image world must seem fantastically ancient to those today who are used to being photographed – and taking photographs – every day or many times a day.

When the Danish prime minister took a ‘selfie’ at Nelson Mandela’s funeral alongside Obama and Cameron, there was a flurry of alarm in the press. Photographic narcissism, commentators suggested, is now everywhere, the constant mediation of the lens is disrupting experience and memory. Photography, unthinkingly and endlessly made and shared, pollutes awareness of the real world and suppresses memory of anything other than the moment when the image is captured.’

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Amazing Satellite Photos That Will Change Your Perspective On Planet Earth

From Demilked:

Bourtange, Vlagtwedde, Netherlands

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53.0066°N 7.1920°E. Bourtange is a village with a population of 430 in the municipality of Vlagtwedde in the Netherlands. The star fort was built in 1593 during the Eighty Years’ War when William I of Orange wanted to control the only road between Germany and the city of Groningen. Bourtange was restored to its mid-18th-century state in 1960 and is currently used as an open-air museum.

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Hands up, don’t shoot: The images that define Ferguson’s protests

Lauren Williams writes for Vox:

‘Two hands raised in the air is a classic gesture of surrender to authority. But protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, have turned it into a defiant symbol and a rallying cry: “Hands up, don’t shoot!” Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot to death by a police officer on Saturday, August 9, in the St. Louis suburb. Eyewitnesses say that when the last shots were fired, Brown had his hands up. Ever since, many of Ferguson’s black residents have vented their frustration, anger, and sadness at a variety of protests, boldly facing a heavy, intimidating police presence with their hands in the air. And like that, the gesture of submission that police often demand of civilians has become a provocative challenge. These photographs offer a glimpse of the way “hands up, don’t shoot” has come to define the Ferguson demonstrations.’

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The Gulf War Photo No One Would Publish

Torie Rose DeGhett reports The Atlantic:

‘When Kenneth Jarecke photographed an Iraqi man burned alive, he thought it would change the way Americans saw the Gulf War. But the media wouldn’t run the picture.’

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What Gaza looks like 28 days after Operation Protective Edge

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View more photographs @ The Independent

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John Pilger: On Israel, Ukraine and Truth

John Pilger writes for CounterPunch:

‘The other night, I saw George Orwells’s 1984 performed on the London stage. Although crying out for a contemporary interpretation, Orwell’s warning about the future was presented as a period piece: remote, unthreatening, almost reassuring. It was as if Edward Snowden had revealed nothing, Big Brother was not now a digital eavesdropper and Orwell himself had never said, “To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country.”

Acclaimed by critics, the skilful production was a measure of our cultural and political times. When the lights came up, people were already on their way out. They seemed unmoved, or perhaps other distractions beckoned. “What a mindfuck,” said the young woman, lighting up her phone.

As advanced societies are de-politicised, the changes are both subtle and spectacular. In everyday discourse, political language is turned on its head, as Orwell prophesised in 1984. “Democracy” is now a rhetorical device.  Peace is “perpetual war”. “Global” is imperial. The once hopeful concept of “reform” now means regression, even destruction. “Austerity” is the imposition of extreme capitalism on the poor and the gift of socialism for the rich: an ingenious system under which the majority service the debts of the few.

In the arts, hostility to political truth-telling is an article of bourgeois faith.  “Picasso’s red period,” says an Observer headline, “and why politics don’t make good art.” Consider this in a newspaper that promoted the bloodbath in Iraq as a liberal crusade. Picasso’s lifelong opposition to fascism is a footnote, just as Orwell’s radicalism has faded from the prize that appropriated his name.

A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then professor of English literature at Manchester University, reckoned that “for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life”. No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron damns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin reveal the moral disaster of capitalism. William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalents today. Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice.  Among the insistent voices of consumer- feminism, none echoes Virginia Woolf, who described “the arts of dominating other people … of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital”.’

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Danish photographer Ulrik Pedersen’s North Korea in pictures

From the Guardian:

A worker waits at the metro station in Pyongyang

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Bush Creates Painting of What He Imagines Iraq is Like Today

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SOURCE: The Borowitz Report

Early Soviet anti-religious propaganda

From Dangerous Minds:

‘The images are from the Soviet anti-religious magazine, Bezbozhnik, which translates to “Atheist” or “The Godless.” It ran from 1922 to 1941, and its daily edition, “The Godless at the Workplace,” ran from 1923 to 1931. The scathing publication was founded by the League of Militant Atheists, an organization of the Soviet Communist Party members, members of its youth league, workers and veterans, so while it was in many ways a party project, it was not state-sponsored satire.

The Soviet Union adopted a formal position of state-atheism after the revolution but it wasn’t a clean break. The expropriation of church property and the murder or persecution of clergy was certainly the most obvious supplantation of power, but the USSR was a giant mass of land, most of it rural and much of it pious, so the cultural crusade against religion was an ongoing campaign for the hearts and minds of citizens who might resist a sudden massive secularization. The monstrous, violent art depicted religion as the enemy of the worker and footman to capitalism. You’ll notice a wide array of religions depicted, as the USSR was very religiously diverse.’

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500 Years of Female Portraits In 3 Minutes