On Holbein, Thomas More, The Salvation Army, Barbara Arneil, and Hobbes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 7:52pm in



Yesterday, Barbara Arneil (UBC) visited us and gave a splendid lecture on colonialism as a distinct ideology developing ideas from her recent book, Domestic Colonies: the turn inward to colonies.  (See the picture just below.) Part of her argument was that Locke developed the ideology of modern colonialism (as distinct from imperialism). During her lecture she remarked that her cover was inspired by  the cover of General William Booth's (1890) In Darkest England and the Way Out. Booth founded the salvation army, and In Darkest England presents a "scheme of social selection and salvation." This scheme "will be governed, not on the principle of counting noses, but on the exactly opposite principle of admitting no noses into the concern that are not willing to be guided by the directing brain. It will be managed on principles which assert that the fittest ought to rule, and it will provide for the fittest being selected, and having got them at the top, will insist on universal and unquestioning obedience from those at the bottom." For good measure, Booth adds, "If anyone does not like to work for his rations and submit to the orders of his superior Officers he can leave. There is no compulsion on him to stay." (I have reproduced the full cover of that below.)



William_Booth _In_Darkest_England_and_the_Way_Out _1890 _Cornell_CUL_PJM_1104_01

As it happens, on Monday (recall) I had posted a piece on Thomas More's Utopia. In it I noted the connection between Locke's and More's ideologies of colonialism, and in it I treated Arneil's earlier book John Locke and America: The Defence of English Colonialism as authority.

So, I was primed to make the following suggestion. Booth's cover seems to me manifestly inspired by, or a re-interpretation of, the cover art for Thomas More's (1516) Utopia. Below two versions of it: first is the original cover. I believe the artist is unknown. Second is a (1518) cover of Froben's edition, published in Basel; this cover is by Ambrosius Holbein (the brother of Hans; Hans Holbein made a very famous surviving portrait of Thomas More and one -- destroyed in fire -- astounding portrait of More's family). Ambrosius Holbein's cover is clearly inspired by, but not identical to, the original cover art. (It's possible, of course, Ambrosius Holbein was the artist of the original cover, but I believe that is unknown.)

As an aside, it seems not much is known about Ambrosius Holbein. But he made one spectacular painting (see here), which tends to be dated to the same year as the cover of the Froben edition.  

In particular, some other time I'll return to the details of the Holbein cover. But here I just want to point to the two bridge-like connections (at eleven and one o' clock)  between the island in the center of the image and two land-masses. It is not entirely clear to me what Holbein is trying to convey, although, as I noted earlier in the week, from their island, the Utopians do dominate the surrounding countryside and plant colonies in them. In my view, More's Utopia is the source of the modern ideology of colonialism (with the gospel of work, with surveillance techniques, and (recall) eugenics). 

The artist of Booth's book-cover, has drawn at least five dotted lines, which represent four kind of colonial emigrations: two to the "colony across the sea;" one emigration pattern for "domestic servants" to "British colonies;" one emigration pattern to "Canada, US, etc" to "foreign lands;" and one emigration pattern to "all parts of the world." (This may be hard to see in the picture above, but if you blow it up it's pretty clear.) While there are differences between Booth's scheme and the Utopian one, the cover arts also reveal non-trivial similarities.


Utopia_Woodcut_(Holbein _1518)

One final thought: I do not mean to suggest that the cover to Booth's is only inspired by the Utopia cover. It is pretty clear that the bottom half of the image represents a kind of state of nature within society. This part of the image evokes Leviathan's famous cover; but the little men that make up  the Leviathan are now drowning in (society's) misery in the cover to In Darkest England and The Way Out 

Anton Petrov’s Tribute to Veteran Cosmonaut and Space Artist, Alexei Leonov

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 5:03am in

Last Friday, 11th October 2019, Alexei Leonov passed away, aged 85. Born on 30th May 1934, Leonov was one of the first Russian cosmonauts and the first man to walk in space. His obituary in yesterday’s I, written by Nataliya Vasilyeva, ran

Alexei Leonov, the legendary Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human to walk in space 54 years ago – and who nearly did not make it back into his space capsule – has died in Moscow aged 85.

Leonov, described by the Russian Space Agency as Cosmonaut No 11, was an icon both in his country as well as in the US. He was such a legend that the late science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke named a Soviet spaceship after him in his sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1982 novel 2010: Odyssey Two.

Leonov staked his place in space history on 18 March 1965, when he became the first person to walk in space. Secured by a tether, he exited his Voskhod 2 space capsule. “I stepped into that void and I didn’t fall in,” he recalled later. “I was mesmerised by the stars. They were everywhere – up above, down below, to the left, to the right. I can still hear my breath and my heartbeat in that silence.”

Spacewalking always carries a high risk but Leonov’s pioneering venture was particularly nerve-racking, according to details that only became public decades later. His spacesuit had inflated so much in the vacuum of space that he could not get back into the spacecraft. He had to open a valve to release oxygen from his suit to be able to fit through the hatch. Leonov’s 12-minute spacewalk preceded the first American spacewalk, by Ed White, by less than three months.

Leonov was born in 1934 into a large peasant family in western Siberia. Like countless Soviet peasants, his father was arrested and shipped off to Gulag prison camps under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, but he managed to survive and reunite with his family. 

The future cosmonaut had a strong artistic bent and even thought about going to art school before he enrolled in a pilot training course and, later, an aviation college. Leonov did not give up sketching even in space, and took coloured pencils with him on the Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975.

That mission was the first between the Soviet Union and the US, carried out at the height of the Cold War. Apollo-Soyuz 19 was a prelude to the international co-operation aboard the current international Space Station.

Nasa offered its sympathies to Leonov’s family, saying it was saddened by his death. “His venture into the vacuum of space began the history of extra-vehicular activity that makes today’s Space Station maintenance possible”, it said in a statement.

“One of the finest people I have ever known,” the Canadian retired astronaut Chris Hadfield wrote. “Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov, artist, leader, spacewalker and friend, I salute you.”

Russian space fans have been laying flowers at his monument on the memorial alley in Moscow that honours Russia’s cosmonauts. Leonov, who will be buried today at a military memorial cemetery outside the Russian capital, is survived by his wife, a daughter and two grandchildren. 

Anton Petrov put up his own personal tribute to the great cosmonaut on YouTube yesterday, 15th October 2019, at his vlog, What Da Math. Petrov posts about astronomy and space, and his video yesterday placed Leonov in his context as one of a series of great Soviet science popularisers before Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene or Carl Sagan. Petrov shows the stunning paintings done by Leonov with his friend, the science artist Andrei Sokolov. He describes how Leonov’s spacesuit expanded so that he couldn’t enter the capsule, and was forced to let some of the oxygen out. As a result, he nearly lost consciousness. This showed both the Russians and Americans that spacesuits had to be built differently. He also describes how Leonov, during his 12 minutes in space, was profoundly struck by the profound silence. It was so deep he could hear his heart pumping, the blood coursing through his veins, even the sound of his muscles moving over each other.

Petrov states that the Russian cosmonauts did not enjoy the same celebrity status as their American counterparts, who could live off book signings. Many had to support their families with other work. In Leonov’s case, it was painting. He illustrated a number of books, some with his friend Sokolov. These are paintings Petrov uses for the visuals in his video. He considers these books the equivalent to works by modern science educators like Carl Sagan. They were meant to encourage, inspire and educate. Sokolov’s and Leonov’s art was not just beautiful, but very accurate scientifically and included some SF elements. Some of these elements were borrowed by other science fiction writers. the opening shot of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is somewhat similar to one of Sokolov’s and Leonov’s paintings. This became a joke between the two, with Leonov creating a miniature version for the great American director to keep. Kubrick also borrowed many of the ideas for the movie from the Russian film director, Pavel Kushentsev. An extremely talented cameraman, Kushentsev made films about the first Moon landing, the first space station and the first man in space decades and years before they became reality. And all of his movies were scientifically accurate. Some of his movies are on YouTube, and Petrov gives the links at his site there for this video.

Petrov explains that he is talking about these men because their era has ended with Leonov’s death. Leonov was the last of the five astronauts on the Voskhod programme, and so all the men who inspired youngsters with amazing paintings and film are now gone. He considers it unfortunate that some of their experiences in the last days of their lives were not very happy. They did not live to see the future they depicted, and their paintings were not appreciated by the modern generation. Kushentsev said before his death,

Popular science is dying, because there is no money. No demand. Nobody wants to educate. Everyone just wants to make money everywhere possible. But one mustn’t live like this. This is how animals live. Men have reached the level of animals – all they want to do is eat and sleep. There is no understand that this humanity has passed a certain phase of evolution. We must understand the direction of this evolution. For this, we need culture, we need knowledge. 

Petrov believes Kushentsev’s criticism of modern Russian society also applies more broadly to the modern generation in the West, to all of us as well. We are all doing what he said we shouldn’t – just living for the money, to eat and sleep. Unfortunately, according to Petrov, nothing has changed in the 20 years since his death. But there are people out there in the world working to change this, to produce culture, to inspire and share knowledge. But sometimes the world crushes them, simply because it can. But Petrov says that, like those Soviet men before him, despite not being a famous astronaut or talented artist, or even someone who has very good diction, he will continue doing his part of sealing the hope for humanity, continue the work of these great men and inspire new generations to do things, believe in science and create a better world. Because as Leonov once said,

the Earth was small, light blue and so touchingly alone. Our home that must be defended like a holy relic. The Earth was absolutely round. I believe I never knew what the word ’round’ meant until I saw the Earth from space. 

Petrov concludes ‘Goodbye, comrade, and thank you for all the paintings.

This is the first of two videos about Russian art from that era of space exploration. I’ll post the other up shortly.

I don’t feel quite as pessimistic as Kushentsev. Brian Cox, who’s now taken Sagan’s place as the chief space broadcaster on British television, has attracted record audiences for his stage presentation about science and the universe. There is a massive interest among the public in space and space exploration. At the same time, there are a number of really great science vlogs and channels on YouTube. Petrov’s is one, but I also recommend John Michael Godier and the Science and Futurism channel, presented by Isaac Arthur.

Sokolov’s and Leonov’s paintings, they are of a universe of rich, vibrant colour. Spacesuited figures explores strange, new worlds, tending vast machines. They stand in front of planetary landers somewhat resembling the American lunar module. Or crawl across the landscape in rovers, gazing at horizons above which hang alien, often multiple, suns. The best space art shows worlds you’d like to visit, to see realised. These paintings have this effect. It’s a pity that on the blurb for this video over at YouTube, Petrov says that these paintings come from old postcards, which are difficult to come by. It’s a pity, as they still have the power to provoke wonder and inspire.

I’m not sure Leonov himself was quite so pessimistic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the main space museum was closed, and many of its exhibits sold off. Before it finally closed its doors to the public, they held a rave in it. I think Leonov was in attendance, sitting at the back with his wife. Someone asked him what he thought of it all. The old space traveler replied that they had found graffiti on the walls on Babylon complaining about the behaviour of the younger generation. ‘It is,’ he said, ‘the young man’s world’. It is indeed, and may cosmonauts, space pioneers, scientists and artists like Leonov, Sokolov, Kushentsev and Kubrick continue to inspire the young men and women of the future to take their strides in the High Frontier.

The Nazis and Post-War German Conservatism, The CDU

That determined opponent of all forms of racism and Fascism, and their Jewish version, Zionism, Tony Greenstein, has written a passionate open letter to the mayor of the German city of Aachen, Marcel Philipp. His letter is a protest against Philipp’s decision to withdraw an artistic prize from Raad, a Lebanese-American artist, because Raad supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement against Israeli goods and businesses operating in the Occupied Territories. In his letter, Greenstein shows how the BDS campaign is actually an anti-racist movement, despite the official condemnation of it as anti-Semitic by the Bundestag, the German parliament. Boycotts are the weapon of the oppressed. He notes that it was used against slave-produced sugar from the West Indies, and takes his name from Colonel Boycott, an Irish landlord shunned by his tenants in County Mayo in 19th Ireland. He also points out that the anti-BDS legislation is supported by outright racists and genuine anti-Semites like the Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany and Trump in the US. They do so not because they are friends of Jews, but because they believe that Israel is their real home, and would like the Jewish people in their countries to move there.

Philipp is a member of the CDU, the Christian Democratic Union. This is the German equivalent of our Conservative party, and was formed after the war from the merger of the Catholic Centre Party and a few other parties. Greenstein accuses Philipp himself of racism, due to the presence of former Nazis in the party after the War. He points out that the closest adviser of Conrad Adenauer, Germany’s first post-War Chancellor, was Hans Josef Globke, the legal expert, who drew up the infamous Nuremberg Laws for the Nazis. This was the legislation that put the Nazi social policy of racism, anti-Semitism and vicious discrimination and persecution into official state action. After the War, 77 per cent of legal staff in the German department of justice were former Nazis. At the Eichmann trial, Adenauer was determined to stop any mention of Globke and his role in the Holocaust. And so he sent Israel military aid, including submarines, and assistance with David Ben Gurion’s nuclear programme. 

Greenstein ends his letter

It is perfectly understandable that racists and white supremacists the world over should oppose the Boycott of Israel.  Racists have always opposed the use of BDS.  It is therefore no surprise that as a member of a racist German party should oppose Boycott.

My only message to you Mr Philipp is not to expiate your guilt over the Holocaust at the expense of the Palestinians. It was people like you who were responsible for Auschwitz and Treblinka, not the Arabs of Palestine.

The annihilation of the Jews in the Holocaust is no justification for the racial oppression and genocidal murder of the Palestinians today. Your party was once full of Nazis.  It would seem that old habits die hard.

The letter’s interesting, not just for Tony’s protest about the withdrawal of the prize and efforts by German, American and European Fascists – he also mentions Italy’s Matteo Salvemini, amongst others – supporting and calling for a ban on the BDS movement, but also for the light it sheds on the Nazi past of many members of the CDU. The Baader-Meinhof gang in the 1970s arose because of scandals like this. They were furious that former Nazis like Globke were continuing their lives and careers, untroubled by proper punishment for their horrendous crimes. And as Ken Livingstone pointed out in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, NATO and the various western intelligence agencies actively recruited them during the Cold War as part of their campaign against Communism.

In fact, the party that consistently fought against the Nazis and their persecution was the SDP and later the KPD, the German Socialists and Communists. These formed resistance cells even after they were formerly banned. Not that German Conservatives were alone in possessing extreme right-wing sympathies. Our own Conservative party and its press, like the Daily Mail, also had Fascist sympathisers before the War, and a Fascist fringe afterwards.

Forget the lies about Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the British Labour Party, anti-Semitism is and has always been far more prevalent on the right. Which is why we need to have decent, left-wing parties presenting an alternative to poverty, austerity and neoliberalism in government all over Europe. And to fight all forms of Fascism, even when it tries to present itself as friendly towards Jews, like Zionist imperialism.

The Wonderfully Queer World of Moomin

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/08/2019 - 5:00pm in


art, cartoon, Comics

Amidst the backdrop of WWII Finland, artist Tove Jansson created a colorful world in black and white.

How to Build a Creative Ecology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/08/2019 - 8:11pm in

In places that are not major arts hubs, sustaining an art career can be difficult, which is why artists in these places often move to other cities where it’s easier to make a living. Some cities, however, are finding ways to retain those local artists by cultivating the conditions that allow them to support themselves by making art. But how does it work? 

The World Cities Culture Report 2018 cited some of the ways culture is currently fostered, like mobile arts venues in Hong Kong and refugee artist residencies in Paris. In a vacuum, however, none of these efforts give rise to a self-sustaining arts scene. That requires a network of interconnected and interdependent actors and entities. Artists, funders, collectors, institutions and communities must achieve a symbiosis. There is no single way to do it (it’s more art than science) but there appear to be conditions that give rise to a creative ecology. 

Fellowships that retain artists

You can’t have a sustainable art scene without artists. But before emerging artists can make a living off of their art, they need time to develop—and the financial security to do so. To this end, several fellowship programs are designed to retain new and lesser-known artists who may otherwise be forced to move to bigger art hubs in search of funding or other creative jobs. 

The decade-old Kresge Artist Fellowship offered by the Kresge Foundation awards fellowships to artists from metro Detroit. Each fellow receives a $25,000 “no strings attached” grant along with a full year of professional practice support that includes workshops, networking opportunities and seminars. The “no strings” component is key. By letting the artists themselves decide how to best spend the money, the grants allow them to use the funds to pay bills and other expenses so they have room to work. As Detroit recovers from economic devastation, rising rents are displacing some artists—many of whom were pivotal in revitalizing derelict areas of the city. The fellowships help ensure they can stay there.

The Kresge Foundation’s Detroit program has funded the city’s Motown Historical Museum. Credit: Ted Eytan/Flickr

It appears to work. The Kresge Foundation released an impact study of the model, which found that “over 75 percent of these artists reported that fellowship funds were used to support critical life and art making expenses—from paying for burial expenses of a family member to replacing a roof on a house; from creation of an outdoor sculpture garden to travel to broaden horizons and make new contacts.”

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the arts have helped revive a neglected downtown with a cluster of institutions, like a satellite of the Philbrook Museum of Art and the Woody Guthrie Center, both opened in 2013. But here again, urban revitalization and the draw of more established arts centers make artist retention a challenge. The Tulsa Artist Fellowship is focused on retaining these local artists. Several of its spots are reserved for indigenous artists—its fellows include writer Joy Harjo, recently named the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate. And in addition to their unrestricted grants of $20,000, each recipient is given a year of free housing and studio space in the downtown district, allowing them to create without worrying about being priced out.

“We are dedicated to solving systemic challenges that have historically impacted artists and arts workers,” says Tulsa Artist Fellowship Director Carolyn Sickles, adding that the fellowship positions fellows for homeownership and offers education in business practices for the arts. “Tulsa is becoming a place where arts practitioners—many for the first time—are living healthy and sustainable lives.”

At the same time these fellowship programs allow local artists to stay local, these creative professionals contribute to a more sustainable and diverse economy at home. In its 2015 findings on the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry, Americans for the Arts found that the sector generated $166.3 billion in economic activity and supported millions of jobs. The $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments from this industry exceeded the $5 billion in arts allocation. “This study puts to rest a misconception that communities support arts and culture at the expense of local economic development,” the report concluded. 

Grassroots arts infrastructure

Making sure artists can afford to live in their home cities is one part of the equation. Cultural institutions to help make their work better known are another. But not every institution needs to be the Bilbao—sometimes smaller works just fine.

Guatemala City

In 2012, Stefan Benchoam and Jessica Kaire founded NuMu, the only contemporary art museum in Guatemala. It is artist-run, open 24/7, and tiny—an ovate kiosk originally built as a drive-through egg stand. It followed Benchoam’s 2009 co-founding of the Guatemala City gallery Proyectos Ultravioleta, which has been housed in unconventional spaces like a shopping mall basement and a wood mill. Both projects provide vital community space in a place with little contemporary art infrastructure.

The tiny NuMu museum. Credit: C-Monster/Flickr

“Operating from a context where there is hardly any support for the arts, be it private or public, one of the things we have been most focused on is supporting and empowering our artists’ visions so as to develop their work in the best possible way, whilst simultaneously participating in international art fairs to promote their work and generate a favorable economy for them and for the space,” says Benchoam. 

Community-oriented galleries and unconventional exhibition spaces allow artists to create art that reflects their culture. Proyectos Ultravioleta, for instance, provides more than just a gallery for artists. It shares space with Creatorio Artístico Pedagógico (CAP), which offers weekly programs on art history, art making and critical thinking for teens so that they can pursue artistic careers in Guatemala City, too.

While the influence of grassroots arts organizations on communities can be hard to quantify, there is evidence that thriving culture is important in connecting people to the place where they live. Over three years, concluding in 2010, Gallup and the Knight Foundation interviewed a random sample of 400 adults in 26 U.S. communities. They found that the availability of arts and cultural opportunities was rated higher than other social offerings in influencing their attachment to their communities. In 2012, the Third Sector Research Centre at the University of Birmingham released its own study on grassroots arts activity in the U.K., and found that arts groups “played a key role in sustaining and promoting community identity.”


Lagos, Nigeria, has also met the challenge of a lack of major arts institutions with a network of galleries and grassroots arts spaces, propelled by the 2017 launching of the Lagos Biennial and the 2016 founding of Art X Lagos, the first international art fair in West Africa. As the New York Times explored in a 2019 article, artist-run spaces in Lagos have been pivotal in keeping artists there, too. The first Lagos Biennial took over a disused railway yard, and the Revolving Art Incubator, tucked into the back stairwell of a shopping mall, has hosted installations and artist talks with visitors hanging out on the stairs. Tushar Hathiramani, the founder of the 16/16 and H-Factor arts spaces, told the Financial Times in 2018, “The absence of art infrastructure means that artists are going around finding rogue ways to show their art, sometimes in very random places.”


In Tehran, a growing art fair has also been significant in supporting Iran’s artists. This June’s Teer Art Fair had nearly twice as many exhibitors as in previous years, even while sanctions make international sales a challenge. The fair included galleries from around the country. 

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“It’s important to have an annual art fair in Tehran because of the same reason it’s important to have art fairs in many other cities,” says Maryam Majd, director of Teer Art Fair. “The Iranian art scene is very vibrant and it needs an art fair for a more focused and extensive exposure.” It’s also vital for networking with foreign collectors, gallerists and art enthusiasts who travel internationally or locally to the fair. “This way they can see many galleries gathered under one roof,” Majd added. “This also improves the infrastructure for establishing other art events such as biennials.” 

As the Observer reported in July, even though art is exempt from sanctions, “gallerists, artists and collectors are forced to navigate a complex system of global transactions to keep their businesses afloat.” Iranian artists have a strong presence at the 2019 Venice Biennale, demonstrating the cultural community of Iran’s resilience through the decline in its currency and difficulties in shipping and selling artwork due to U.S. sanctions. 

Loans for collectors

A sustainable creative ecology supports not just artists, but buyers, too. This September, Belgium’s Kunst Aan Zet is launching in Flanders and Brussels. The government program offers collectors interest-free loans for works costing between €500 to €7,000 (USD$560 to $7,800). These loans are only for pieces created by local artists, making them a critical stimulus for artists early in their careers. A recent study by the Flanders Arts Institute revealed that visual artists in the first 10 to 15 years of their careers have some of the lowest incomes in the Flemish cultural sector. “Buying a work of art should be possible for everyone, even if you’re not an expert and don’t have a big budget,” Sven Gatz, Flemish minister for culture, said in a release

Kunst Aan Zet replicates the proven success of similar long-running loan initiatives, namely Collectorplan in the U.K. and KunstKoop in the Netherlands. Collectorplan, operated by the Arts Council of Wales, offers interest-free loans for the purchase of work by Wales-based artists. One collector told Wales Online that he had purchased over 50 pieces through Collectorplan and had “paid less per month for my paintings than the cost of a meal for two but still have them to inspire and cheer my spirit.” The 2018 report on Collectorplan stated that the scheme had generated over £1 million of sales in artists’ work over the past year, with 1,181 loans used to purchase art (up from 1,177 in the previous year). KunstKoop, run by the publicly financed Mondriaan Fund, offers Dutch collectors a service to pay for works by living artists in installments as small as €22.50 (USD$25) a month without interest. It currently involves around 125 galleries and continues to expand in supporting the Dutch art market and encouraging a connected system of collectors and artists. 

Creative placemaking

A sustainable creative network comes full circle to contribute to the community that originally supported it. This can occur when creative placemaking centers arts and culture within local planning and development. 

The California Endowment’s “Building Healthy Communities” initiative, for example, has included community engagement with arts and culture in its strategies for transforming 14 of the state’s communities now challenged by health inequities. Its 2017 report on “Approaching Community Health Through Heritage and Culture in Boyle Heights,” created with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, examined how a pilot project in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights revealed the importance of cultural assets, including ones that might not be immediately recognized, like street vendors contributing to a sense of identity and home. Considering what is meaningful for the neighborhood is especially relevant as there have been recent anti-gentrification protests over art galleries being established in the predominantly Latino area.

In 2011, ArtPlace America launched as a 10-year collaboration to bring together a diverse network of foundations, federal agencies and financial institutions. With $104 million invested so far, it is focused on growing creative placemaking by involving the arts and culture sector in community planning, not necessarily solely to support art projects, but to employ creative skill sets in solving current issues.

Their funded projects have ranged from a series of Rube Goldberg machines by the Denver-based nonprofit Warm Cookies of the Revolution in which local artists constructed contraptions representing the participatory budgeting process, to artist Caroline Armijo’s sculpting of hazardous coal ash in Walnut Cove, North Carolina, for a new park to draw attention to the region’s environmental issues. Each project has artists working in partnership with public officials, developers and planners to envision solutions to community needs. When the work ends in 2020, ArtPlace America plans to collaborate with local networks so they’ll have the resources to continue the placemaking started through the projects. 

“From 2018-2020, with the goal of building a stronger creative placemaking field, we are building on this work in three ways,” says Adam Erickson, Director of Communications at ArtPlace America. These three initiatives are supporting local practice by transferring the oversight of funds to local leaders, sharing knowledge and resources within local networks like higher education and community development practitioners, and bringing together creative placemaking individuals so they can work together to share ideas. “Each of these areas will require partnerships with organizations that share our values and goals of creating healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities and to help strengthen the field of creative placemaking,” says Erickson. 

This story is part of a collection called Art is Everywhere: Stories of artists making a living in unexpected places. Read more here

The post How to Build a Creative Ecology appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Johnson’s Fascistic Denunciation of ‘Collaborators’ with the EU

Yesterday Mike put up a piece commenting on Johnson’s Fascistic rhetoric describing those opposing a no-deal Brexit in parliament. Simply put, he described them as collaborators with the EU. The Blonde Beast said

There’s a terrible kind of collaboration as it were going on between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and our European friends, and our European friends are not moving.

We need our European friends to compromise and the more they think that there’s a chance that Brexit can be blocked in Parliament, the more adamant they are in sticking to their position.

As Mike points out, Johnson is falsely claiming that the ordinary people, who don’t want a no-deal Brexit, have teamed up with the EU. It also identifies his enemies as a unified cause, which is also one of classic features of Fascism. Following the infamous forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hitler viewed everything that he considered damaging to Germany to be part of a massive Jewish conspiracy. Financial capitalism, socialism, Communism and democracy were all parts of this conspiracy to undermine Germany and destroy and enslave the White, ‘Aryan’ race. As were decadent modern art, music, literature and unAryan scientific theories, like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, because Einstein was Jewish.


Johnson hasn’t gone quite that far yet, and Mike points out that he isn’t a Fascist. But he is showing many of the warning signs. So much so that one tweeter put out a picture of BoJob with the caption ‘This man is the biggest threat to Britain since Adolf Hitler’. It’s an exaggeration, but a forgivable one, considering that BoJob’s Brexit is already wrecking British economy and industry, and that he and his backers in the Murdoch press are looking forward to a trade deal with Trump’s America which would see our agriculture and industry bought up by the Americans, including the Health Service, the welfare state dismantled, workers’ rights removed completely, along with our environmental protection laws. All so that BoJob and the elite rich can enjoy absolute unfettered capitalism and massive profits for their own businesses.

And I’m not surprised that Johnson is sounding like a Fascist. He’s a massive egotist, like Donald Trump, and both men are extremely authoritarian. Trump talked about having newspapers and press people, who criticised him shut down. Johnson, when he was mayor of London, spent millions of taxpayers’ money on three watercannon that were illegal in mainland Britain. And BoJob’s the leader of a highly authoritarian party. Under Thatcher the Tories had links with very unpleasant South American Fascist regimes, like Chile’s General Franco. The Libertarians in the party, including Paul Staines, used to invite to their annual dinner the leader of one of the Fascist death squads in El Salvador. The Freedom Association also wanted the suppression of trade unions, workers’ rights and the welfare state and NHS, and unfettered capitalism. It was very much freedom for the rich, and wage slavery for the poor.

And he’s supported by a fanatically authoritarian press. Remember how the Tory papers demonised the judges and lawyers, who had ruled against one of Tweezer’s Brexit plans as the enemies of the people. It was the classic rhetoric of authoritarian, Fascist regimes.

And you can bet that as opposition to Boris mounts, he and his backers in the media are going to become even more splenetic and Fascistic in their denunciations. They’re already demanding anti-democratic measures to get what they want. This is the suspension of parliament, as advocated by the Torygraph, so that BoJob can force through Brexit without opposition from MPs. Who are our elected representatives.

BoJob is a menace to British prosperity, British industry, British working people and British democracy. Get him out!


Storming Utopia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/08/2019 - 1:09am in


Literature, art

This event is an Oxford Public Engagement with Research and part of a Knowledge Exchange project. Organised by Professor Wes Williams (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages) and Richard Scholar (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages). Thomas More’s ground-breaking island fantasy, first published in 1516, asks us all what brave new world we are to wish for. What would a society better than ours look like? Who ought to be allowed in? And on what terms? These are More’s questions in Utopia, and they have never mattered more than today, as the UK prepares to pursue a political future outside the EU and walls go up in the US. It may seem timely to return to the traditional reading of More’s text as a blueprint for political change: Utopia tells, after all, how a peninsula cut itself off from the continent to make a better future as an island… Yet the name More created for his island – Utopia – means ‘no place’: the political message of More’s text is undermined by the surrounding irony that his brave new world is a Nowhere Island.

A group of East Oxford residents have come together to develop a creative contemporary response to More’s text and Shakespeare’s Tempest in the form of a new theatrical show, Storming Utopia, which they are performing at the Pegasus Theatre in Oxford and at the Fondazione Cini in Venice in 2017. This lunchtime discussion event builds on their perspectives and on the work of two Oxford researchers – Professor Richard Scholar and Professor Wes Williams – to explore what Utopia has meant since 1516, from Venice to Venezuela and beyond, and what it might mean here in Oxford in the age of Brexit. Participants will include: researchers working on the history of Utopian literature and thought from the Renaissance to the present day; writers, directors and facilitators working in the Oxford arts scene; members of the Storming Utopia project.

Speakers: James Attlee (author of Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey); Sara-Louise Cooper (Caribbean Studies, Oxford); Euton Daley MBE (long term artistic director of Pegasus Theatre, now freelance performance poet and arts consultant) ; Erin Maglaque (History, Oxford); Amantha Edmead (Performer), Richard Scholar (French and Comparative Literature, Oxford); Wes Williams (French Literature, Oxford).

NSW Government To Fast track Building Of Giant Milk Crate Sculpture In Sydney

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/08/2019 - 8:20am in

Milk Crate

The NSW Government has announced that not only is it taking it’s plan to build a giant milk crate sculpture off of the scrap heap but it will now fast track the construction with an aim for the sculpture to be completed by the end of the year.

“After yesterday’s horrific events in the city it’s time we made Sydney siders feel safer and what better way to do it than with a giant milk crate,” said a Government Spokesperson. “We have listed this project as one of state significance so after building the new casino this is our next priority.”

“Unless of course we have to build another casino in which case it will be bumped down again. But rest assured it is more of a priority than building new hospitals or schools.”

When asked why the project was being rushed through the Spokesperson replied: “Some projects just need to get done, besides which we talked to the State’s most important person Alan Jones and he was cool with it.”

“Of course Alan wanted it built no where near his house but besides from that he had no problems with it.”

Mark Williamson

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Brendan O’Neill Claims El Paso Mass Murderer ‘Eco-Terrorist’

Is there no lie so low that Brendan O’Neill and Spiked won’t stoop to? Spiked magazine, as has been pointed out by various left-wing blogs, is completely unrelated to the satirical magazine of the same name that briefly appeared in the 1990s. That was an attempt to compete with Private Eye, but rather more left-wing and much more scatological. It had a cartoon strip spoofing Clinton with the title ‘Clinton’s Got Aides’, for example, which was presumably a pun about both the presidential staffers and the disease. The modern Spiked is frantically right-wing. It’s what happened to the net work around Living Marxism magazine after Communism collapsed. Instead of carrying on the ideological struggle for equality and workers’ rights, the former Revolutionary Communists decided to throw on in their lot with capitalism and became extremely right-wing. And one of their latest pieces of drivel is very unpleasant indeed.

On Thursday, the Sage of Crewe put up on Zelo Street a piece taking apart an article by Brendan O’Neill, one of Spiked’s hacks, who decided to vent his spleen and try to smear the left with the El Paso massacre last weekend. You’d have thought this would be difficult, as the murderer was a White supremacist with a bitter hatred of immigrants. Like the White terrorist a few months ago who shot up the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, because they were Jews, who were heavily involved with a charity for immigrants. But no, for O’Neill it was because the mass-murderer was an ‘eco-terrorist’. O’Neill’s piece began

“In his alleged manifesto, the killer, alongside his racist rants about Hispanic people and the ‘replacement’ of whites, attacks modern society for being eco-unfriendly. Westerners’ lifestyles are ‘destroying the environment’ and ‘creating a massive burden for future generations’, he says. He seems obsessed with the core element of green thinking.

He then went on to state that the murderer in his manifesto was also strongly opposed to urban sprawl, consumer culture for producing thousands of tonnes of plastic and electronic waste, and humanity’s decimation of the environment. He also alleged that the murderer targeted a Wal-Mart as an act of ‘eco-Malthusianism’. O’Neill speculated that he not only wanted to kill Latinos, but also shoppers. He also claimed that the butcher, who opened fire on the worshippers at the mosque in Christchurch said that he was an ‘eco-Fascist’ not a Nazi. The Zelo Street article effectively tears O’Neill’s nonsense to shreds, quoting a comment by Zubaida Haque:

“Brendan O’Neill’s piece is utterly dishonest. I’ve seen the manifesto thru a journalist. It’s almost entirely focused on immigrants and barely mentions environmentalists. And there’s a whole section on guns, how it’s great that US have them and how the killer needed to adapt his”.

Zelo Street notes that, strangely, O’Neill’s article doesn’t mention that. He also skewers the article’s attempts to appear mildly even-handed by throwing in a few ‘perhaps’ and ‘it seems’ when the title of the wretched article asserts that ‘El Paso was a vile act of eco-terrorism’. He concludes that O’Neill is a massive charlatan, ‘so no change there then’.

There are several points of interest about the article, and how it tries to divert attention from the attacker’s real motives. One is O’Neill’s careful avoidance of informing his readers that the El Paso terrorist was a gun nut. The Republican party gets a considerable amount of funding from the NRA, whose leadership get donations from the gun and munitions companies. Most Americans, including the rank and file members of the NRA, would actually like tougher legislation on certain types firearms to prevent atrocities like this occurring. Or at least, preventing the killers from having access to military-grade weaponry. But because of the power of corporate sponsorship, this is ignored in favour of the fanatics, who believe that every American should have the right to own the type of guns and armaments wielded by professional soldiers. In the name of freedom, of course.

The argument here is that a free people need guns in order to defend themselves from an oppressive regime. The Holocaust is often cited as an example. If the Jews had guns, it’s argued, they could have successfully fought off the Nazis. This ignores the fact that the legislation permitting and demanding their persecution was gradually enacted, so that it is difficult to tell when German and eastern European Jews could have rebelled before it was too late. Furthermore, while the Jews were disarmed, the Nazis were also very firmly in favour of ‘Aryan’ Germans owning firearms. And in many cases, Jews did not go passively to the gas chambers, but rose in heroic revolt. But this didn’t help them, because they were pitched against the massively superior force of the German armed forces. No matter how incredibly bravely they fought, it was inevitable that, with the exception of the Russian Jews, who banded together in that country’s forests, they’d lose.

Guns don’t guarantee freedom. And the availability of military-grade weapons to the public just makes atrocities like El Paso possible, regardless of the views of doubtless responsible weapons hobbyists.

There’s also the attempt in O’Neill’s article to smear Green politics with the taint of Fascism. The Republicans in America have been doing that for a very long time. I remember coming across this type of argument in the 1980s. This argues that because the Nazis were very ecologically aware, environmentalism itself is somehow automatically Fascist. This obviously ignores the central features of Fascism – dictatorship, extreme nationalism, racism and militarism. It also ignores the fact that the roots of the modern Green movement lies in the increasing appreciation of the threatened beauty of the natural world from the 19th century onward by thinkers and social movements that had nothing to do with Nazism or organised anti-Semitism. One source of the American Conservationist movement, for example, is working class huntsmen. The same people the American Right tends to celebrate and defend. In fact much of the early Conservationist movement in both America and Britain came from the first few generations of factory workers, who yearned for the beauty of the countryside their parents and grandparents had left in search of work. At the same time, local authorities and the wider public in Britain became concerned about the threat to the countryside from urban sprawl and the dangers to health from industrial pollution, lack of sanitation and overcrowding. One early example of this new sensibility in art is Cruikshank’s 1829 cartoon, London Going Out of Town, which shows the capital, represented by decaying buildings, and personified by marching, anthropomorphic buckets and spades, invading a terrified, equally anthropomorphised countryside.

O’Neill’s piece also shows how desperate the Anglo-American Right are to divert attention from the role of nationalism in the rising racism and the resulting atrocities. Remember how Candace Owens, when she appeared over here to promote Turning Point UK, tried to distance nationalism from the Nazis? She notoriously claimed that, in her opinion, Hitler wasn’t a nationalist. He was the opposite of a nationalist, she claimed, because he didn’t want what was right for his own country. He imposed it on others. She was rightly torn to shreds for this piece of utter bunkum by people, who pointed out that her wretched comment seemed to suggest that it would have been all right for Hitler to exterminate the Jews, if he had just kept to those in Germany. They also pointed out that Hitler actively said that he was a nationalist. It was in his party’s name: the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). Conservatives, not just in America, like to claim that he was a socialist on the basis of the party’s name, despite the fact that the Nazis weren’t and were actively hostile to it, whatever they said to the contrary. But they really don’t want to face the fact that he also rightly claimed to be a nationalist.

O’Neill’s article is thus absolute rubbish, designed to protect nationalism and the gun lobby by throwing the blame instead on the Green movement. It’s an example of Spiked’s absolute mendacity, and is pretty much in line with the Right’s hatred of environmentalism and its increasing concern to defend racism and extreme nationalism. And unfortunately, as governments in America and Britain move rightward, I fear we can expect more of this dangerous nonsense.

Hell and the Mean and Exploitative Rich in the Non-Canonical Gospels

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/08/2019 - 9:58pm in

Leafing through the book The Apocryphal Jesus: Legends of the Early Church by J.K. Elliott (Oxford: OUP 1996) yesterday, I got to the chapter on heaven and hell. The book’s a collection of extracts from apocryphal Christian literature, the Gospels and various lives of the Apostles that weren’t included in the Bible because they were not considered historically reliable by the bishops of the Early Church. Despite being outside the accepted canon of scripture, they were nevertheless widely read and have influenced Christian art and literature. These writings include descriptions of the delights of paradise and the torments of the damned. Most of the torments are for moral offences, like fornication, adultery and homosexuality and failure to live according to proper Christian standards or neglect or rejection of Christianity. It’s grim stuff, and is the type of material and doctrines that now puts people off religion. How can a loving God inflict all these torments on people for all eternity, especially since the sexual revolution of the 1960s? Pre-marital sex is now the norm, homosexuality is accepted and opposition to it is seen as bigotry. It’s a good question, and I’m no fan of the hellfire and damnation preaching myself. As for Hell, I tend to follow the Father Duddleswell attitude from the books about the Irish priest by Neil Boyd. God’s justice demands it exists, but his mercy means there’s no-one in it.

But several of the torments described in these apocryphal books are for the rich and the exploitative. Like some of the people in the Tory and Brexit parties. One of the extracts is from the Acts of Thomas, in which the apostle raises up a dead woman, and commands her to tell what she has seen. And amongst the damned were people hung up by various parts of their bodies, including the hands.

Those hung up by the hands are they who took that which did not belong to them and have stolen, and who never gave anything to the poor, nor helped the afflicted; but they did so because they wished to get everything, and cared neither for law nor right. (p. 191).

In the Apocalypse of Peter, it is Christ Himself who describes the torments of hell, including those reserved for the rich.

‘And beside them, in a place near at hand, upon the stone shall be a pillar of fire, and the pillar is sharper than swords. And there shall be men and women clad in rags and filthy garments, and they shall be cast thereon to suffer the judgement of an unceasing torment; these are the ones who trusted to their riches and despised the widows and the women with fatherless children … before God.’ (p. 194).

In the Apocalypse of Paul, it is this apostle, who is taken by an angel and shown the heaven and hell, including this description of what happens to usurers:

And I saw another multitude of pits in the same place, and in the midst of it a river full with a multitude of men and women, and worms consumed them. But I lamented and sighing asked the angel and said, ‘Sir, who are these?’ and he said to me, “These are those who exacted interest on interest and trusted in their riches and did not trust in God that he was their helper.’ (p. 202).

We now have a government that is packed full of rich, highly rapacious individuals, who really don’t have any thought for the poor, the widows and the fatherless. And all too many of them are connected to the financial sector, like Jacob Rees-Mogg. Mogg and several other Tories come from the Christian right. It’s a pity they don’t read these passages, and those in the Bible itself, urging concern for the poor, the sick and marginalised, and do the right thing.

Which is stopping these exploitative, murderous policies of immiseration and exploitation, and resign!

As an old piece of graffiti in Bristol used to say: ‘Repent of your sins, Maggie Thatcher!’