I want to write about it, but there is a milieu of things I could say about Ai weiwei.
Mostly in regards to how the Chinese government have treated this 'dissident' earlier this year. But I will focus on this book as a window into the artist's mind.
This little snippet of weiwei is fascinating. His personality is huge, the way he sees life is fluid and unique and he speaks with stark honesty. Especially in regards to China.
weiwei's sunflower seeds was showing in the turbine hall of the Tate Modern when I started working there earlier this year. It is breathtaking. And the film that accompanies the installation is a beautiful story of how and why this piece came about. In fact, I almost liked it more than the tiny hand painted seeds themselves.
I think the thing that makes weiwei so incredible is the way in which he sees the world. Art is an attitude, a way of thinking, or a way of life. His insights into the impact of the Chinese cultural revolution, his fathers experiences, his relationship with books and architecture and blogging are completely fascinating.
"On the one hand I take art very seriously, but the production has never been so serious, and most of it is an ironic act. But anyhow, you need traces, you need people to be able to locate you, you have a responsibility to say what you have to say and to be wherever you should be. You're part of the misery and you can't make it more or less. You're still part of the whole fascinating condition here."
"And I have one regret: I feel sorry that I can't write well. That's the skill that I value the most. I think that, if I could write well, I'd give up my art for writing. For me, it is the most beautiful and effective way to illustrate my thinking"
Definitely worth a read.
We were inspired by some discussion groups we had been holding for those on our MA and on our Indigenous Studies course. It was the most incredible experience to hear about some of my friends stories. Stories of difficult childhoods, indigenous struggles, living through war, having children, fighting against corrupt or oppressive regimes. Stories that could have gone untold, and many stories that needed to be shared.
It was an incredible experience for which I am hugely thankful.
So we recruited some books from our group (and a few more from elsewhere), trained them, helped them identify their book titles and contents page and then put them on a shelf for others to browse and select.
It was a great success by all means.
Some books were read 9 times in the 4 hours our library was open, over 50 people attended and all of the books (more or less) were returned in a healthy condition, buzzing from the experience of sharing their stories.
Here is a little video we put together for the event:
Many thanks out to everyone who took part in the event and all of the student groups and individuals that supported us.
Not bad for two weeks notice. not bad at all. Well done team library!
Remember, don't judge a book by its cover... especially if it isn't a book.
What happens to the writer caught in the tide of round-the-clock surveillance, enforced isolation, detention without trial?
Think of a man alone in a room. This is the writer's classic condition, cruelly extended when the state locks the door to the room. Think of the writer in opposition, the man who writes against power, who writes against the coiled mechanism of the state and the entire apparatus of total assimilation.
It's the nature of language to pitch itself against the smothering oneness of the state. Words want to be free. Lui Xiaobo's crime is called "an incitement to subvert state power." This is an administrative term for the exercise of free speech - the very activity, Lui writes, that is the mother of truth.
Writers everywhere tend to feel a natural kinship, country to country, language to language. We write to be true to some urgency of self. We find identity in the lines of poetry we write, in the sentences and paragraphs of our novels and essays. We write to think ourselves into existence.
Sign the petition to free Lui Xiaobo here
And then I watched this video on consensus.
And It made my smile so much more bigger.
I have seen a lot of videos and photos and tweets and blogs around these occupations. And just like a lot of other protests and occupations of the past I have seen things that have made me angry. The authoritarian and brutal actions of the police. The manipulation of private enterprises into stereotyping and condemning the people standing up for their rights. The consistent untruths spewed out by the media day by day. But this video made me feel blessed to have a voice and to be able to use it. It made me feel like I am doing the right thing by working in human rights and vying for change each day, however far away it may seem on those dark days that we all have.
Good luck occupiers.
In Article 27's own words:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27:
- Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
- Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
You can also find a rather brilliant piece by the lovely Sushi on the french artist JR here: Women are Heroes
And a very touching photo tribute to Troy Davis, who unfortunately was executed amid national and international outcry last week: The execution of Troy Davis
As my friend Dilhayat told me this week:
earth without art is 'eh'...
I definitely concur.
Just look at her lovely thoughts and website and blog and enjoy her beauteous imagery. It is just yummy.
I am living her klubb based dream right now by being in the 'filmklubb' of Tromso Kino. She is one of the greatest and I hope you enjoy her talented talents.
All images copyrighted to aurelia lange.
Those at the Huffington Post have made this jazzy interactive map to show which states are in favour of/ against/ undecided toward Palestinian statehood.
Find the map here.
It looks like if the EU, France and UK pull through on the side of Palestine, there may be hope. Of course the US' veto power in the UN could always been thrown down on the table all too readily in favour of Israel, as we have seen in the past.
There are some more excellently informative articles of the proposition of a Palestinian state on the Huffington Post website, #palestinianstatehood.
Personally, I really hope it is time for recognition of the Palestinian people after such a long, bitter conflict that is played out day by day, checkpoint by checkpoint, bullet by bullet in an endless desperate struggle for liberation and security. I worry about what the price may be. Whether the Palestinians will have to make irreversible sacrifices in regards to territory, historical narrative and life.
In the words of academic Illan Pappe:
"It could be either painful and violent, if Israel continues to enjoy international immunity and is allowed to finalize by sheer brutal force its mapping of post-Oslo Palestine. Or it could end in a revolutionary and much more peaceful way with the gradual replacement of the old fabrications with solid new truths about peace and reconciliation for Palestine. Or perhaps the first scenario is an unfortunate precondition for the second. Time will tell."
"We can educate and increase the capacity for compassion among our children with this Art. We can make something magical, even of the present disappointing dilemma. We can encourage ourselves, and our children, never to be afraid to feel. No one dies from compassion, is a mantra they might like.
Empathy is a wave that need never be stopped. If our children can catch this wave, from the ocean of tears shed by Palestinian children, they might have a future in a more stable and saner world."
The exhibition is still rejected by the museum, but will be shown outside in the courtyard despite the museums refusal.
I saw this piece in the Guardian many a moon ago. But speaking with a friend regarding comparative immigration issues and policy cross-nationally, it reminded me of this Joe Sacco pull out; Not in My country. The short piece details the significant and overwhelming issues that concern immigrants on the small island of Malta. Read it here.
by Saul Williams
What my fame affords me
I will use to spread the light
that is caused by the book
that burns to clean the air
There are some
that would save
the book and others
that would write.
There are those
who would die
for it and soldiers
who would fight.
I have learned
of this book that burns
that it cannot be helped.
There are words
that will catch aflame
as others tend to melt.
There are phrases
soft turns of speech
that shake flesh to the bone.
There are ways
of our saying things
that shape truth into poems.
they outline a shape
that is already there
like the face
of my sweet beloved
framed by unruly hair.
And these strands
are just words combined
to comb through with
when you see them not.
his own heart?
and then put asleep
before he's cut apart.
like this only done
when arteries are clogged.
down the mountainside
with forests cut and logged.
will take shape
from the mountainside-
where climate will control
means of growth and the greenery
that springs up from the soul.
it is like the soil
-as i am into u.
as a seed of thought
now manifests as true.
for a rock to melt
-to decompose a corpse.
is full rich with time
like mountains rich with quartz.
Full of energy.
sucked from death
which is overturned
and risen to new heights.
life repeats itself-
the cycle of the wheel.
is a driving force
to feed, defend, and kill.
takes a different shape
as consciousness transforms.
to defend new life
and thus new crimes are born.
from a spinning wheel
is willed and welled
from the sculptors hand
nuanced by love and hate.
is grown out of love
of comfort and control
of fear/hope decomposed.
with creators hands
the music of the mind.
like piano keys
to ease thought to chime.
and every sound we hear.
all times ticking bombs
to distill hope from fear.
that we plant we tend.
We water, trim, and cut.
on its path to wine-
we smash beneath our strut.
We lean into each note.
We give time a new signature.
Small hand on big throat.
placed in mouths
all the tongues
for the silent times
play no part.
of the give and take
the build and break
a simple kiss
and our enemies
are much more
than they seem.
of light with their own
hopes and dreams.
with our own.
to our fantasies
and our poems.
how they turn to dust
how they blossom with time.
the farmer plants
with bare hands
in the mind.
feels the brush of wind
takes strangers in
by the pretty face
in it's silent place.
when she calls.
for a peaceful space.
it knows none of it.
by the feed.
all the gentler things
and cyclically bleeds.
flowing streams of words
through the silence of night.
of her inner thigh.
“What would You write?"
of a burning book.
How the words had formed families
sheltered from the unknown.
for the words could not hide
truths and meanings
they held within
took no sides.
could be fingertips
with soft breaths.
became the walls
and proposed new design
of the mind.
when I told her that.
and she stirred.
took a different light.
beamed and blurred.
of the city gleamed
as if all burned at once.
gently laid to rest-
the bequest of new Suns.
that would hold these thoughts
were the Suns that now burned
in small rooms that were
just like this
where we basked
and took turns.
that shine on me
navigate every touch.
to the darkest space
where small stanzas erupt.
they blind and quake
when too close
to the site.
Over the past few months I have been working part time for an online political campaigning organisation. Through this work I have been impressed with how statisitcs can be tranformed into real life tangible information that can be used and manipulated to evidence certain things. Of course this is not new (see freakonomics, wordle and almost 2 years of writing statistical reports for Barnardo's after leaving university), but recently I have been falling in love with how beautiful this information can look.
And then, when at my paid job, I found this book: information is beautiful
Which hit the nail on the head.
It is full of beautiful diagrams and colourful charts of how information can be translated visually. And then I found a whole host of treats on the blog here. Including lots of things to play with.
This diagram is completely lovely: http://www.rhfoundation.org.uk/
(although perhaps the data not entirely interesting on a personal level)
Consequently I found myself sat on the tube reading a leftover guardian environment supplement which was completely full of lots of lovely numbers and visualisations. for more, try the guardian's datastore here.
I heart information.
This tool allows you to focus in on Tahrir square during the protests. but really close up. More close up than I can possibly fathom.
its called a gigapan.
If you zoom in and out quickly enough, it will blow your mind.
The rhythm of the episode is beautifully calculated. It comprises of many long lingering shots- at times far too beautiful in contrast to the sadness behind Lucy's eyes. Its difficult to romanticise abusive childhoods, or growing up in care, but Morton steps on the edges of combining gorgeous visual melancholy with the suffering sadness of the individuls portrayed.
This programme made me feel desperately hopeless as to what will happen next under the coalition government and their spending cuts for those in the most need. Children like those featured in the unloved will be made invisible. I just hope enough children in care get to watch this programme and recognise that if Morton can succeed within a field that she loves, so can they. If anyone deserves it most, it is those children society always manages to sideline, ignore, or push to the bottom of the pile.
Angels in America is an epic film compiled from a tv series, adapted from a broadway play. It is searingly beautiful. It is extremely poigniant and it is fantastically acted with amazing vigour and carelessness and sharpness that only true stage artists can evoke - even on film. It is heartbreaking. It is terrifying. It makes you feel entirely helpless and completely powerful at the same time.
It makes you realise how vulnerable our bodies are, and how powerful our will can be.
The props are awful, the graphics very questionable, but it feels like you are watching a play on the screen, with all the gusto and glory of the theatre.
If you find yourself with 6 hours of spare time, I highly highly reccommend you spend it watching this.
This mainly include those by 'futute shorts' a fab little film production peoples that keep sending me little lush little treats in less than ten minute shaped moving images.
Three of my very favourites are as follows:
1. The art of drowning
Not quite as profound as, nor quite as enchanting as the waking life promises. But very simple and funny and beautifully graphic novel esquely animated.
2. The Ganzfeld procedure
Very adorable video to florence and the machine (I was told never to say adorable because it's apparently kind of offensive. but I really think this is lovely in a non-fluffy kitten kind of way)
3. and a new Earth
This is a little treat. so please watch it if you want to feel nice. by wirrow. lovely.
I had a fantastic day at 6 Billion ways today.
Full of intelligent, enthusiastic and interested people, I wandered the rooms, looked at the book stands, chatted with the other nice and interested and enthusiastic people, drank my tea and felt quite comfortable amongst my peers and academics and activists with things to say about the complicated world in which we live. I made it to three talks all in all, but tended to scamper off before the q&a's... You may call this childish (due to the lack of concentration skills at 26 years) but I find it almost impossible to sit still for more than an hour without a break, or cup of tea, or a wee.
So I cut short all of the talks i made it to.
Democracy now! Revolt in the Arab world was fascinating on many accounts and my favourite talk of the day. This was mainly due to the impassioned speakers, the description of the Egyptian uprising first hand by Gigi Ibrahim and the presentness of the subject matter (although the history of revolution in Tunisia was really bloody interesting). This talk resonated most profoundly for me as I felt it touched on the transitional reverberations that are rumbling (or being made to rumble by some hard and fast foot stamping) across this small planet.
It was inspiring to see lots of young virile human beings coming together to think and brainstorm and discuss issues of globalisation, human rights, democracy and the future of capitalism (all for free). It felt particularly forward thinking due to the prominent role of activists, activism and the power of the internet for all of these elements. The power of people indeed. If only this discussion could be taken out onto the street into open public spaces where 'ordinary' people have the opportunity to take part and engage... Those 'non-political' people who claim not to give a shit. The time is coming. Politics is seeping out on to the streets. And soon, following the disenchantment and outrage spurned by threats on the forests and NHS, people won't be able to distinguish between being political and giving a shit enough to do something about it.
Yet it holds true, soaking up the black liquid, allowing itself to turn its surface into something new, a tattoo of what is yet to come.
She loses herself.
Has it been an hour? A day? A month? How long has she been sat under this spotlight, hunched over her note book, churning out images that pull at her imagination, forcing themselves to take form. She stops and places the pen beside the paper carefully, as if she was nervous of disturbing the drying pictures, heavy with ink. She always pressed too hard when she drew. It is what gave her drawings such intensity I think.
She lets her hand drop to her lap and fumbles about in her back pocket for her tobacco and papers, still focused intently on the images before her. She breaks her gaze to roll a cigarette and rubbing the paper with her stained fingers, brushing her cheek with her hand, leaving a smudge of her creation on her jaw line. Lifting her lighter for her cigarette she catches sight of her hands, pale in the soft surrounding light on the periphery of her desk lamp. She flexes her fingers and holds her hands out, palms down, for an inspection. Flecks of ink spattered across her skin and dark patches shined where she had pressed down on spilled ink that still remained from the previous days work. Her short nails made her hands her own, feminine, light with their touch, still and passive. Insatiable.
She lowers one hand and finds her cigarette with the other. She leans back and smiles, wiping the loose hair from her face, rubbing her eyes, relaxing her smile and letting her head roll to one side. She closes her eyes and sees the images she had just painted dance in front of her.
Her eyes snap back open and she grins quickly, eyes sparkling as she stubs out her cigarette.
There was work to do.
I have recently finished reading 'Freakonomics' by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Which has now also become a documentary film.
It is one of those books I have seen kicking about for a while and I kept thinking that eventually I would get around to picking it up and reading it in a couple of sittings, like Gladwell's the 'Tipping Point' or 'Blink'. And true to my ideas, I found myself in Battersea library with some spare time and a new library card (Which I found painfully exciting... all those free books) and so decided this was the time. A new start at a new university, a new city, a new interest in economics (heightened by our change in government and the stronghold the economy has in determining the realisation of human rights) and so the time had come for this book.
And I have to admit is it extremely interesting- a little bit too neutral at some points, but able to show a side of data collection and analysis which makes me question every statistic that has ever been quoted before me. There are so many barriers and boundaries, so many correlating factors in the universe that attribute to a certain phenomenon, that it is nigh on impossible for a little left-winged student like myself to begin to grasp the ideas encompassed in this book. They did however, make me laugh out loud on the tube, smiling at the very ideas themselves and their blatancy.
It is very USA orientated, and very data heavy (of course) but the two Steve's have a magical way of explaining things without seeming condescending or over complicated, in a natural, lecturer to student kind of dynamic. They ask you to question what you thought you always new, and present you with a new, different way of looking at the links between different things... causality if you will. Which is very relevant in society today. After all, we are spoon fed things to believe in by the ever more conservative main streem media facets every single day. Why not question their angle?
The content you will have to judge for yourself, but the way in which the information is executed is fantastic and readable. The only problem is, I think it has planted a seed of doubt in my already cynical mind as to the nature of data and statistic gathering... so obscure and so dense, I honestly doubt I could see the trees for the woods.
Now, I have seen absolutely massive posters of this show plastered all over the underground, at every station, on every billboard. The picture shows what at first glance appears to be a favella, or bantustan, but is in fact, two villages divided by a wall. And the wall in question is the Israeli Security Fence, or the apartheid wall, depending on which side of the structure you are sat.
The fruition of this programme is very important I feel. And it ties in directly to the process of dehumanization of conflict we see in society today. The documentaries on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that have called to me the most have been those which encapture the human side of the conflict (eg. encounterpoint) and yet, address the fact there there are two sides, both trapped in a cycle.
The drama highlights the fact that these are real human beings, that live in a shared space, that affect one another completely in all aspects of their lives. And with this, the element of history is tied to the conflict with the role of British (which many forget and know very little about).
I am extremely interested to see how the programme develops. I felt there was a distinct lack of Palestinians in the first episode, yet I feel it has the capacity to show the extent of dehumanization of Palestinians and Palestinian Israelis. But we shall see.
Watch it here.
and read and interview with the director Peter Kosminsky here.
"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.
Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."