Archive for November, 2010

Political parties in Germany

I spent a few hours on Sunday researching political parties in Germany, and here is what I have come up with so far (apologies for any mistakes or misrepresentations):

CDU (Christian Democratic Union) is a centrist party and the largest in Germany.  The CDU’s President is Angela Merkel and also the current Chancellor of Germany.  The CDU opposes Turkey’s entry into the EU.  Opposes the SPD and die Linke.  The color orange is used in in literature and signage.

Wikipedia: The CDU is Christian-based, applying the principles of Christian Democracy and emphasizes the “Christian understanding of humans and their responsibility toward God.”

Wikipedia:  In practice, Christian democracy is often considered conservative on cultural, social and moral issues (social conservatism) and progressive on fiscal and economic issues. In Europe, where their opponents have traditionally been secularist socialists, Christian democratic parties are moderately conservative overall, whereas in the very different cultural and political environment of Latin America they tend to lean to the left.

Die Linke (Young Left) is a socialist political party and the most left-wing party of the five in the Bundestag.

DKP (German Communist Party) far-left Marxist-Leninist party; Che Guevera pictured on Web site.

MLPD (Marxist-Leninist Workers Party)

The MLPD has a youth organization Rebell with Rebellmagazin photos on Flickr (including Aufkleber stickers that can be ordered).

NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany) is a far-right party with an ethnic nationalist position.  It was founded in 1964 as a successor to the German Reich party and is often labeled as a neo-Nazi organization.  Opposes Turkey’s entry into the EU.  The leader Udo Voight has had meetings with U.S. white nationalist David Duke.

PDS – former leftist Party of Democratic Socialism (1989-2007) merged to form die Linke in 2007.

SPD – the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany, the oldest in Germany; according to the party platform, freedom, justice, and social solidarity, form the basis of social democracy.

***All of this work only to see by chance today that der Spiegel has a quite useful summary of political parties (QUITE!, tho dated September 25, 2009).  I’m not sure why the NPD wasn’t listed among the parties in their article – need to look into.

Of all parties, SPD and die Linke stickers abound, and in some cases the two are joined in various stickers (need to look into that, too); to a lesser extent, I find stickers from the MLPD and a few from DKP.  Far-right NPD stickers are quite rare on the streets of Berlin.  When I do come across one, it’s usually torn or gouged like this one.

Arts in Society conference 2011

The sixth international Arts in Society conference will be held next May in… guess where?  Berlin!  I have submitted a proposal for a paper that will present a comparative study of political stickers from Berlin and New York City.

Here is my proposal:

For the last several years, sticker art in Berlin has dealt with issues that are highly political, such as national and trans-national identity, war and conflict, right-wing extremism, religious freedom, capitalism, gentrification, and surveillance.  In particular, “antifa” stickers from various anti-fascist organizations throughout Germany dot the city, covering most every imaginable surface of the built environment and addressing an elasticized range of topics.  Overarching themes include anti-authority, individual vs. State, solidarity, anarchy, and social and political autonomism.

Political stickers in NYC after the 9/11 terrorist attacks expressed scathing critiques of George W. Bush and his administration, U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the country’s never-ending need for oil.  With Barack Obama in office, political stickers like these have waned to a certain degree – something that is also due to municipal efforts to rid the city of graffiti.  Nowadays, stickers are often seen selling goods and services – from hip-hop music to skate decks, energy drinks, and clothing – undoubtedly reflecting America’s obsession with consumption and perhaps a flipped case of “the Man” stickin’ it back.  Most recently, political stickers in NYC comment upon national and global financial bailouts, Tea Party politics, and environmental issues.

Bad news, good news

The bad news is that Rizzoli has just come out with a spectacular new book, Stickers: From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art, and I didn’t write it.

The surprising good news is that my GWB  “I’m sorry” sticker was included on page 230 in the book’s Sociopolitical chapter.  Here is one of the stickers that I left on the ledge of the Coit Tower in San Francisco in 2008.

On the other hand, I do think I have a different angle in that I hope/plan to do more visual analysis in my writing than what I’ve seen elsewhere in other sticker publications.  Milton Glaser’s Design of Dissent publication is still the closest parallel I have found regarding my sticker project.  Ha.  Stickerkitty.  Milton Glaser.  Dream on, little kitty, dream on.  It’s good to have a fantasy life, tho, isn’t it?

“What is a cat?”

Today is my sister Jean’s 47th birthday, and with love and my dear Dad’s sense of humor, I share this poem that she wrote as a young girl.  It’s called, “What is a cat?”

“What is a cat?

I will tell you.

A cat is a funny thing (like a big fur ball).

Find a playful kitten and get under your covers and move your feet back and forth.  (See what happens.)

If a cat is pregnant it will roll back and forth, that is called heat.

The cat will go away for a couple of days then when it comes back her kittens will be tagging along.

I think cats are cute.

Backwoods in northern NY

Driving through some backwoods territory in northern NY this fall, I got a little lost and drove through Onchiota, where the Iroquois Six Nations Indian Museum is located (but unfortunately wasn’t open at the time).

Pretty tree near Onchiota

The six Iroquois nations include the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Tuscarora.  I thought (mistakenly) that Mohawks made up the Haudenosaunee, but I learned in fact that Haudenosanee represents all six nations.  Now that I think about it, duh, Akwesasne is the term for what used to be called the St. Regis Mohawks near where I live.

There were a bunch of political signs along the road there, as well as this White House for Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Bill and Hillary outhouse

A good weekend

Hello, Rizzoli!!!!!!!!  Or Taschen in a pinch.  I spent several hours this weekend organizing stickers for my upcoming SK STKRZ monograph.  I wonder if one can win a worthy Nobel for STICKERZZZZZZZZZZZZZ?  Or a MacArthur?  Ha.  Ya never know.  (Yeah, right.)  The big question?  How to combine the NYC and Berlin stickers in one book?  That is the trick, but I will figure it out.

Motomichi Nakamura

Today through Friday, the Japanese-born, Brooklyn-based, and internationally renowned artist Motomichi Nakamura is at SLU in conjunction with the exhibition Picto This!.  Motomichi is best known for his inventive character animations, prints, skate decks, and urban toys.

Many sticker artists work in other genres like decks and toys, which is why I have “08 Character Design” as a category on this blog – listed along the right hand column.  Matt Siren and Dalek, for example, are sticker artists represented in both the Picto exhibition with beautiful silkscreen prints and in the street art in Berlin exhibition with vinyl toys.  Motomichi has a skate deck and toys in the current street art exhibition, too.  All of which is to say there is a lot of blurry overlap, which is one of the goals of these two concurrent exhibitions.  I first saw Motomichi’s work at the 2009 Pictoplasma conference in Berlin (sorry for the fuzzy shot – it was taken from a video projection in a dark room).  Or the 2007 conference.  Now I forget.  [Berlin, xooxoxoooxxooo.]

I showed Motomichi my super kewl sticker collection today, and he recognized many of the political stickers from NYC, esp. from the GWBush regime.  It’s pretty rare in general to find someone so knowledgeable about specific s-t-i-c-k-e-r-s.  When I first told him about the collection, he asked about BNE, whose tags I am familiar with.  Nice.

Tomorrow, Motomichi will give a public lecture about his work, and on Friday, he will present a morning and afternoon workshop for students on character design.  Here is his description of the workshop:

“Character design as a branding and communication tool”

Although character design is often described as one more aspect of illustration or graphic design, it is a unique and distinctive art form that is strongly related to branding and advertising.  Step by step, this workshop will teach students how to communicate their ideas through the form of character design and create original and effective characters for commercial projects such as ad campaigns and toy design.  In class, hands-on drawing exercises, discussions and lectures will help students find their unique visual language style which will lead them to create their own set of characters.  At the end of the workshop each student will have a series of characters that represent the artist’s ideas and graphical style.

Morning (10:00 a.m. to noon): Exercise

– Short lecture about character design

– Drawing exercises

– Quick drawing exercises based on random themes

– Exercises to characterize the ideas

– Group discussion and critique

Afternoon (1:00 p.m. through 3:00 p.m.): Character Development

– Sketches, individual critique

– Final presentation and critique

And finally, here is what we put on the card for Picto This! (October 18 – December 10, 2010).

Picto This! is an exhibition that presents character-based art through designer toys, prints and skateboard decks—all expressions of a vibrant contemporary art movement that is global in scope and personal in attitude.  In this genre, artists, illustrators, graphic designers and animators create iconic cult-like characters that can be variously menacing, cuddly, one-eyed, authoritarian, soft, monstrous, lazy, hyperactive, spiky, friendly, loving, alien, childlike, vocal or mute.

Typically made of cloth, plush fabric, resin or soft vinyl, designer toys usually appear in collectible, limited editions that are marketed in large part to adults.  A sense of “cute” and “play” is readily evident in character-based art, which on the one hand appeals to a high-end urban underground audience.  On the other, such work has made its way to brand commercial airlines and also serves as mascots for 47 government prefectures in Japan.

Pictoplasma is a biennial conference in Berlin that includes artists’ lectures, screenings and roundtable discussions focused on character design.  Every Pictoplasma begins with a “character walk,” in which galleries are open to the public for visitors to see multimedia art installations, encounter large soft mutants on the sidewalk, or take photographs of their friends wearing oversized panda masks.

The “brain fathers” of Pictoplasma, Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler, write, “characters are not representations of living beings, but have a more animistic quality, of giving objects or mere thoughts the appearance of life.  As such, characters are often nothing less than projections of guardians to unknown territories and worlds.”

Sometimes/all the time

“Sometimes the pencil is stronger than I am” is my favorite quote right now from an Inuit artist, Suvinai Ashoona.  I can kind of relate.  Sometimes stickers and street art have such a strong presence and force, stronger than me.  Well, not sometimes. All the time. I hope that’s not too weird.  I love the creativity, the hope, the commitment, the optimism.  That people will notice.  That people will care.

Quick status report

1.  Oli and Nada head home to Berlin tonight.  (Boo.)  I heard from them today that they weren’t sure which was better during their trip to NYC — standing in front of paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat or happening upon a photo shoot in Central Park with Chris Rock.  That’s a tough one, but after seeing CR on TV this past week, I vote for CR.

Oli and Nada leaving SLU.  Don’t you love this pic?

2.  I’m listening to stories about the mid-term election results on NPR tonight and had a brief warm fuzzy about U.S. politics.  Democracy in action.  But then I remembered we’re screwed.  If Palladino wins NY, we are TOTALLY screwed.

3.  Paul Rand is in.  Christine O’Donnell is out.

4.  Everyone is asking for help financially.  The Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, NY, is out of funds as of October 20.  I got a phone call tonight from The Nation asking if I’d contribute $$ to be part of an associate’s club or something.  I said yes to both, lucky to have a little extra right now.

5.  There is much to share about the Berlin street art exhibition at SLU, which will all come soon with time.  I’m debating now whether to go back to Berlin next year for the 2011 Pictoplasma conference or for May Day.

(Wow.  That is one incredibly s-u-r-r-e-a-l combo.)



Flickr Photos

November 2010