Archive for the '“The Process is the Product”' Category

Pegatinas Writing Assignment Part One: Annotating Images for Digital Archive

For the upcoming assignment at St. Lawrence University to have Marina Llorente’s students analyze political stickers from Spain, I decided to split the project into two parts. Part One will ask students to annotate the images, and Part Two will ask students to use the annotations to write about what the stickers mean (i.e., what are the larger issues that the stickers point to?). I’m doing it this way now because the last time we offered the assignment, students did well contextualizing the stickers but sometimes forgot to describe all of the textual and visual elements of the stickers. Those descriptions are important in a digital archive because people access images through word searches. If descriptive words are missing, access is curtailed. Descriptions fields are so thorny! If you think about it, one needs to list everything in the sticker, but one also needs to provide historical and cultural background and draw attention to issues beyond the sticker itself. Below is what I prepared for Part One of the writing assignment using this sticker from the Izquierda Anticapitalista (Anti-capitalist Left).

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ASSIGNMENT

For this assignment, you will be analyzing political street art stickers from Spain for a Street Art Graphics digital archive that is publicly available on the gallery’s Web site:

1. The first step is to annotate the images. This will help you with your analysis.

2. Open the image file in Preview and click on Tools/Annotate/Text.[1]

3. Choose a contrasting color and type large numbers onto all of the visual and textual elements in the image including each line of text, the images, logos, Web sites, and anything else. Number these elements in a way that makes logical sense. The most important elements should be listed first. Every element in the sticker is there for a reason, so it’s your job to figure them all out. After you number the elements, save and close the file. If you need to re-number anything, you’ll need to re-start with the raw image file again (once the numbered file is saved and closed, it locks the annotations in place). You’ll see below how #1A, #1B, #1C, and #1D all indicate text; #2 indicates a face; #3 indicates a logo; #4 indicates a Web site; and #5 indicates a QR code.

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INSTRUCTIONS

#1 text: Type all of the text that appears in the sticker in a way that makes logical sense. For cataloguing purposes, the first letter of each word is capitalized, and the remaining letters in each word should be small (not capitalized). Use a dash between different sections of the text so that it reads in a normal, common sense way. If the text appears in Spanish, translate it into English in the same fashion. Any and all Spanish text in the sticker should be in written in italics.

#2 image/color: Identify who or what is being represented in the image (people, objects, buildings, graphic design elements, color, composition, i.e., everything!) and include any other information that seems relevant or important. Be as specific as possible. For example, in my description below, see how I put “photo portrait” of Angela Merkel instead of “picture,” “drawing,” “illustration,” etc. “Portrait” here also implies head vs. her entire body in action. I also noted who Merkel is and how the type font affects our interpretation of the text. In terms of color, most stickers are either black on white or black and other colors on white.

#3 logo: Describe the logo’s shape, color, etc. and what the logo suggests. Does it play off any other existing logo (i.e., is it a form of “culture jamming”)? HINT: Take a close-up screen shot of the logo and drag the image file into Google Images and see what you find. It’s a handy way to see if and how the logo relates to anything else. Sometimes, it’s the only way to find out!

#4 Web site: Describe the purpose or function of the organization that created the sticker.

#5 QR code: Find the Web site where the QR code sends you. Is it something else besides the organization’s main Web site? What is the purpose of the Web site?

ACTUAL EXAMPLE OF ANNOTATED STICKER

#1 text: Des Obedece – ¡Su Deuda No La Pagamos! – Vota Anticapitalistas – Anticapitalistas.org; Disobey – ¡We Are Not Paying Their Debt! – Vote Anticapitalists! – Anticapitalistas.org

#2 image/color: Photo portrait of German politician Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany (2005-present). Her face is covered by a large circle that hides most of her eyes, nose, and mouth. The use of a bold graphic type font suggests an urgent appeal for a response. Black and army green on white.

# 3 logo: Faceted star-shaped logo for Izquierda Anticapitalista or Anticapitalist Left.

#4 Web site: www.anticapitalistas.org for Izquierda Anticapitalista or Anti-capitalist Left, a Spanish revolutionary, ecologist, feminist, and internationalist organization that fights against all kinds of exploitation, oppression, and domination over people and the environment. The full-color logo in red, purple, and green signifies the different ideas that the organization supports: socialists or communists (red), feminists (purple), and green movements (green).

#5 QR code: A QR code on the sticker points to the Web site http://www.anticapitalistas.org/elecciones2011/index.html, which encourages people to vote for an alternative anti-capitalist government during the Spanish general election on November 20, 2011. The Web site states, “El 20N desobedece” or “The 20N disobeys.

Part Two: Writing a 150- to 200-word analysis of the sticker, placing it in a social and historical context. More information to follow!

[1] Photoshop is also fine for annotating images.

Marina Llorente – Fall 2014 Spanish writing assignment

SLU professor Marina Llorente will be having her students analyze stickers from Spain again this semester for her course Español 439: Literatura, cine y cultura de masas en la España contemporánea. She gave this assignment in the fall of 2012 (see previous posts on Catalonia stickers from 1970s-80s and stickers from Madrid, summer 2012, Solicitud de pegatinas españolas / Request for Spanish stickers, and New stickers from Spain for digital archive and writing assignment), and the students enjoyed it quite a bit. I’ve spent the last couple of months making a concerted effort to expand my Spanish sticker collection for this project and now have over 500 examples from different parts of the country (Madrid, Barcelona, Asturias, Galicia, etc.) dating from the 1980s to present day.

To prepare for the assignment, Marina and I met last week to go through my recent acquisitions from several contributors: the Spanish poet Jorge Reichmann, SLU professor of Spanish Steven White, Oliver Baudach at Hatch Kingdom, and Gabriel Garcia Ruiz and other contacts in Spain. Marina and I put together seven sets of eight stickers each representing a variety of socio-political themes: the environment, political parties, gender, the Spanish Constitution, workers’ unions, student strikes, and the Catalonian separatist movement. Students will work in pairs to write short bilingual description fields for each sticker that will be added to the Street Art Graphics digital archive. It’s a lot tougher than it may sound to write these description fields. One needs to list all of the visual and textual elements (subjects, logos, colors, composition, graphic design, etc.) and outline what these elements represent or mean. Descriptions are limited to 150 to 200 words each in English and Spanish.

Here is one from 2012 written by Michael Hickey ’13:

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Solidaridad Con La Resistencia Minera — Izquierda Anticapitalista (Solidarity With The Miner’s Resistance — Anti-Capitalist Left)

“In the spring of 2012, in response to the Spanish government’s severe austerity measures, Spanish miners from Asturias united to raise awareness and call for justice. With high unemployment, the miners became guerrilla freedom fighters looking to save their jobs and the mining industry. The protesters went on strike in late May and shut down the country’s coal supply to protest the government’s decision to reduce mine subsidies by 63 percent. Anticapitalistas.org is the Web site for Izquierda Anticapitalista, an organization that fights against ‘oppression, exploitation, and the domination of people and nature.’ The sticker depicts the profile of a man wearing a knitted watch cap and a bandana to conceal his identity. The sticker also contains a QR code, easily scanned with a smart phone application to spread the resistance movement.”

En la primavera del 2012, en respuesta a las severas medidas de austeridad del gobierno español, los mineros españoles de Asturias se unieron para concienciar y pedir justicia. Con un desempleo alto, los mineros se convirtieron en guerrilleros por la libertad intentando salvar sus trabajos y la industria minera. Los manifestantes fueron a la huelga a últimos de mayo y cortaron el suministro de carbón del país para protestar en contra de la decisión del gobierno de reducir el subsidio minero al 63 por ciento. Anticapitalistas.org es el portal de la red Izquierda Anticapitalista, una organización que lucha en contra de ‘la opresión, explotación y la dominación de la gente y la naturaleza.”’La pegatina presenta el perfil de un hombre que lleva un gorro de lana y un pañuelo para ocultar su identidad. La pegatina tiene también un código QR que puede escanearse fácilmente con la aplicación de un smartphone para diseminar este movimiento de resistencia.”

Here’s another one from the same student:

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Lluís Companys I Jover — 1883-1940

“This tribute sticker presents a photograph of Lluís Companys i Jover over stripes of yellow and red, two colors synonymous with Catalonia and the region’s long struggle to become an independent state. Companys was actually born in 1882 and was the leader of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) or Republican Left of Catalonia. Founded in 1931, the ERC remains a nationalist party that seeks independence from Spain. Companys served as President of the Generalitat of Catalonia between 1933 and 1940. After the Spanish Civil War, he went to France but was later captured by the Gestapo secret police and sent to a Spanish jail where he was tortured and later executed by a firing squad. Companys was one of the most influential martyrs of the Catalonian separatist movement, and his death has inspired thousands of nationalists who seek independence.”

“Esta pegatina homenaje presenta una fotografía de Lluís Companys i Jover sobre rayas amarillas y rojas, los colores de la bandera catalana que remiten a la larga lucha de la región por llegar a ser un estado independiente. Companys nació en 1882 y fue el líder de Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) o la Izquierda Republicana de Cataluña. Fundada en 1931, la ERC sigue siendo un partido nacionalista que busca la independencia de España. Companys fue presidente de la Generalitat de Cataluña entre 1933 y 1940. Después de la Guerra Civil, se marchó a Francia pero capturado más tarde por la policía secreta de la Gestapo y enviado a una cárcel española donde fue torturado y más tarde ejecutado por un pelotón de fusilamiento. Companys fue uno de los mártires más influyentes del movimiento separatista catalán, y su muerte ha inspirado a miles de nacionalistas que buscan la independencia.”

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As a side note, I needed to scan some additional stickers yesterday for the upcoming assignment. My associate at work, Carole Mathey, asked if it was a hassle to do all this scanning, but I described how it allows me to get to know the stickers a little better. Sometimes I see things in the digital image more readily than in print, and the scanning, cropping, and color correcting forces me to look very closely at each image. Carole called it “speed dating.” A muted, light grey version of Picasso’s Guernica is represented in the background of this sticker underneath bold red letters, for example, which I didn’t notice until I scanned the sticker.

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ZINE! Sneak preview

My friend Amy Hauber at SLU is helping with the graphic design for the Re-Writing the Streets exhibition zine.  Here is what she did with the photograph from my previous post for the page spread on U.S. historical political stickers.  We hope to send this puppy to the printer in the upcoming week!

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New sticker zine

I’m making a sticker zine for the Re-Writing the Streets traveling exhibition. I used to make a lot of zines with students when I taught bookbinding and a course on artists’ books. Back then we used old-fashioned copier machines, scissors, and glue sticks. Now I’m using Photoshop software and trying to learn a little InDesign, and it’s a lot more complicated. It will look good when it’s done, though. A friend of mine at school is helping with graphic design, too, thankfully. Of the over 800 stickers in the show, I’ve selected about 250 for a 28-page zine. I’ll probably have to narrow it down further, however, in order to make sure there’s enough room for text and photographs. Here is one of the pages I finished today listing some of the artists in the show. Back to scissors and glue sticks!

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Mysterious directional stickers in Berlin

Yesterday while biking around Prenzlauer Berg and heading toward Wedding, I came across another rash of mysterious directional stickers on sign poles along Eberswalderstraße.

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This was after finding directional stickers last spring further south along Stresemannstraße and turning onto Zimmerstraße. The stickers are typically orange (or faded orange) with an arrow or arrows pointing straight ahead or turning left or right.

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A couple of times, there would be a blue triangle nearby pointing in the same direction, as if the streets are telling us something.

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I also found two orange arrows last year by Marianneplatz on Bethaniendamm. On all three occasions, I photographed the directional stickers using my Canon SX 280 HS camera with built-in GPS unit, so you can see pictures and their locations on this Flickr map.

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This morning, I looked at the photos I took yesterday. I didn’t see it at the time, but that blue triangle appears again on a few sign poles, too.

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Weird! Three separate locations in the city, but what’s in common?

 

“The People’s Archive” instructional notes

Below are the notes I sent to the Weaving the Streets & People’s Archives team members today, focusing on the People’s Archive component of the project.

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

“The archivist, even more than the historian and the political scientist, tends to be scrupulous about his neutrality, and to see his job as a technical job, free from the nasty world of political interest: a job of collecting, sorting, preserving, making available, the records of the society.  But I will stick by what I have said about other scholars, and argue that the archivist, in subtle ways, tends to perpetuate the political and economic status quo simply by going about his ordinary business.  His supposed neutrality is, in other words, a fake.  If so, the rebellion of the archivist against his normal role is not, as so many scholars fear, the politicizing of a neutral craft, but the humanizing of an inevitably political craft.  Scholarship in society is inescapably political.  Our choice is not between being political or not.  Our choice is to follow the politics of the going order, that is, to do our job within the priorities and directions set by the dominant forces of society, or else to promote those human values of peace, equality, and justice, which our present society denies.”

- Howard Zinn, “Secrecy, Archives, and the Public Interest”

Let me begin with something John Collins has used to describe the Weave blog, which is the act of weaving together “texts” and “contexts.”  In Latin, the word textus means “1. construct with elaborate care; 2. plait (together); and 3. weave.”  Likewise, in Latin, contextus means “1. compose, connect, link, combine; 2. make, join, form; and 3. weave, entwine, braid, twist together.”

In literary theory and cultural studies, “texts” are any sort of phenomena that signify meaning, such as written publications, visual works of art, music, videos, oral interviews, etc. as well as clothing styles, architectural design, community-based murals, solidarity gatherings, etc.  Coming from a printmaking perspective, I myself tend to focus on hand-held physical texts or “artifacts,” such as street art stickers, political posters, flyers, leaflets, and photographs of these items (though in some cases, these physical artifacts are ephemeral by design).

Texts tell stories.  It’s up to you to figure out what those stories are.  One of the goals of WSPA is to identify the texts that you think are important and tell the stories surrounding those texts.  That’s the Weaving the Streets blogging component of our project, the contextualization.

The People’s Archive will also document the creative ways ordinary people make use of public space to express themselves.  The archive is intended to be a varied repository of selected texts that we gather to share with others.  It will consist of physical artifacts, as I described above, that will be scanned, catalogued, and added to the gallery’s Street Art Graphics digital archive (http://www.stlawu.edu/gallery/digitalcollections/streetartgraphics.php).  Take a look at some of the entries to get a sense of the cataloguing that’s been done.  It’s a work-in-progress, so some items are more thoroughly catalogued than others.  Non-physical artifacts, such as “born digital” documentary photographs, video or sound-based interviews, etc., will also be catalogued as texts and will reside on the WSPA group blog (http://weavenews.org/content/weaving-streets).  In some cases, physical artifacts will appear in both the Street Art Graphics digital archive and the WSPA group blog.

For each physical artifact or born digital item, you will be asked to identify:

  • the creator (artist, organization, sponsor, contributor, or unknown)
  • the geographic location where you found it (be as specific as possible).  For those of you with smart phones, you can even write down GPS coordinates for future reference.
  • a 150-200 word description (what it is about, why it was made, and who the intended audience might be).  Description fields are the most difficult but also the most fun.  You’ll do research to unlock the mysteries surrounding your artifacts or born digital items.  For examples in the Street Art Graphics digital archive, check out the description fields in the German “St. Pauli” stickers and the American “night raiders.”

Cataloguing information is known as “metadata,” or data about data.  Each artifact or born digital item will be catalogued using the fields listed above.  In addition, subject fields for each item will be populated by a university librarian.  Subject fields are tricky and need to follow certain guidelines determined by the Library of Congress and others.  That way, our work will fit into the larger body of knowledge for use by diverse audiences.

Alums can mail physical artifacts to me at the gallery, and students in the field can do the same or bring them back to campus next fall.  The gallery will scan each item and use your metadata to add to the digital archive and/or group blog.  John and I will leave it up to you to decide how many artifacts or born digital items you’d like to incorporate into your research, but we’re imagining somewhere between four to six.  This work is known as digital curation, which is like selecting artworks for an exhibition, for example.  Each of you will be curating your own show, so to speak.  You’ll want to choose your four to six items carefully so that they tell the story you want to share with others.  That is your role as an archivist/activist.

I write about street art stickers on my research blog called Stickerkitty, and for your reference I have listed four links below to posts that weave together texts and contexts.  You’ll see how I often come across some unknown thing I find on the streets and then work to uncover the story behind it.

http://stickerkitty.com/2013/01/26/white-power-and-good-night-white-pride-stickers/

http://stickerkitty.com/2012/04/28/thor-steinar-storefront-in-friedrichsain-and-other-protests/

http://stickerkitty.com/2013/05/20/barbies-not-so-dream-house/

http://stickerkitty.com/2013/05/18/mapping-right-wing-stickers/

A few other references to archivism and activism are listed below.

Lile, Grace.  “Archives for Change: Activist Archives, Archival Activism.”  http://blog.witness.org/2010/09/archives-for-change-activist-archives-archival-activism/.

“Occupy Wall Street from the Streets to the Archives” (New York Times, May 2, 2012).  http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/02/occupy-wall-street-from-the-streets-to-the-archives/.

See also Ben McCorkle’s “Annotated Obama Poster” for his analysis of the visual rhetoric behind the Obama HOPE poster at http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/mccorkle12/work2.html.

“Forward to Recovery” sticker

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I recently found a great pro-labor political sticker about capitalism and the economy that looks very much like an I.W.W. stickerette due to its size, medium, and message.  It states “Forward to Recovery – Increased Activity – Price Rise – Employment.”  We see “Business” dressed as a fat cat in a fancy suit and pinstripe pants racing forward while being dragged down by the heavy anchor of “Low Wages.”  The artist’s name is difficult to decipher; the signature looks like “Terry Costello,” but I can’t find anything similar online or in any of my I.W.W.-related books and articles.  The reason I think the sticker comes from the I.W.W., however, is because it’s glued onto an envelope dated September 30, 1933.

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The envelope was addressed to Kenneth N. Rinker, 417 W. First St., Greensburg, Indiana, and it cost three cents at the time to send through the mail.  There is no return address on the front or back of the envelope.  The envelope was sealed when I acquired it.  I opened it only to find a blank sheet of white paper….

I thought I might find mention of the “Costello” artist in Franklin Rosement’s “A Short Treatise on Wobbly Cartoons” in the newer 1988 edition of Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology by Joyce L. Kornbluh.  I also checked “Wobbly” – 80 Years of Rebel Art, a catalogue that accompanied an exhibition at the Labor Archives and Research Center in San Francisco in 1987.  No luck.  I learned about many other I.W.W. artists, though, and discovered a few other sources to check later, including “The Iconographics of American Labor,” a chapter in From the Knights of Labor to the New World Order: Essays on Labor and Culture by Paul Buhle, and Images of American Radicalism by Paul Buhle and Edmund Sullivan.  (As a side note, in the late 1960s Paul Buhle founded the S.D.S. journal Radical America, which features a story about the I.W.W. in Volume 1, Number 2, and even mentions stickerettes!  I have a theory that S.D.S. stickers were inspired by stickerettes, which I plan to write about in the near future….  I need to connect the dots, and Franklin Rosemont and Paul Buhle are two key figures with interests in both the I.W.W. and S.D.S.)

Anyway, back to the mysterious envelope.  The little NRA sticker on the lower right states “NRA Member – U.S. – We Do Our Part” and shows a blue eagle clutching a gear, symbolizing industry, and lightning, symbolizing power.  You can read more about the NRA blue eagle logo here.

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I have other NRA stickers in the Street Art Graphics digital archive, but they aren’t from the National Rifle Association.  The early NRA stickers, which Arline Wolfe catalogued last year, were, as she wrote, “from the National Recovery Administration, a U.S. government agency established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to stimulate business recovery through fair-practice codes during the Great Depression.  The NRA was an essential element in the National Industrial Recovery Act (June 1933), which authorized the President to institute industry-wide codes intended to eliminate unfair trade practices, reduce unemployment, establish minimum wages and maximum hours, and guarantee the right of labour to bargain collectively, according to www.britannica.com.”  The Social Welfare History Project Web site also describes the NRA here.


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