Restricted Frequency #139

By any media necessary.

1.

I just woke up.

I’m on a plane in mid air and my watch tells me it is 9:30 am, but I think I’m just about crossing the timezone that puts me somewhere at 8:30 am. I boarded the flight from Boston International Airport at 7:00 am where I’m pretty sure I was already asleep for a good 2 hours (don’t ask me how I boarded the flight, I have very little recollection of that), because it just so happened to be one of those very rare times where I arrived to the airport early. Very, very early. Thinking my flight was at 5:00 am for some reason, I left for the airport at 2:30 am after a long night of drinks with the cast and crew of TAHRIR IS NOW, a night of songs from the hit musical WE LIVE IN CAIRO together with readings of fresh testimonies from Egypt. I read a few things of my own and also acted as the host for the evening, something I found out I’d be doing only a couple hours prior (it’s good to stay on your toes like that, I guess).

Here’s an excerpt from one of my readings:

Revolution.

Corporations will have you believe that a new car-hailing app is revolutionary, or a new meal-prepping scheme is revolutionary, or heck, that a reusable rocket is revolutionary. Revolution, however—real revolution—is structural. It does away with all the things that make the censorship of female nipples a common practice. It does away with the things that allow gaps in wages on the basis of sex, race, or age. It does away with everything that prohibits freedom of mobility and other basic human rights.

Yara Sallam is an Egyptian human rights researcher who spent 15 months in prison. This was 4 years ago but only recently could she muster the headspace to write about her experience in prison. She wrote about the need to occupy herself with daily activities just to ward off depression. She'd try to exercise, take on chores like laundry and cleaning the prison ward, and found genuine enjoyment in reading the daily paper. She took to making a list of pleasurable things that happened each day, but she also admits to sometimes not even having the energy to get out of bed. Because no matter how much you dupe yourself into thinking such daily distractions are great accomplishments, deep down inside you know that the greatest accomplishment of all would be your freedom.

Upon her release from prison, Yara tried to resume the life she had before going to prison. But... it was weird. It was weird going out to brunch with friends in Maadi again. It was surreal to reenter packed conference rooms at work, and to make sure rent was paid on time.

Reading about Yara's experience in and after prison got me thinking: Is life in jail just a microcosm of life outside of jail? Are we distracting ourselves with daily mundane things just to avoid the thought of not being able to change the larger structural things?

Are we all inmates in a much larger socioeconomic/cultural/political prison constructed over centuries?

And if that's the case, who are the wardens of this prison, and what will it take to bring it all crashing down? And more importantly, what do we want the world outside of prison to look like?

That is the question at the heart of the Egyptian revolution, the Lebanese revolution, the Iraqi revolution, the Palestinian revolution, the Sudanese revolution, the Algerian revolution, and every revolution to come.

We’ll be doing it again in NYC at Joe’s Pub on December 9th. Time and other deets to be determined, but I’m letting you know now in case you plan on being in NYC and would like to mark your calendars.


2.

One of the most powerful additions to the evening was the voice of a young lady from Lebanon named Lama. She sang a song by Mashrou’ Leila about a same sex couple that wants to be together, cook together, and raise each other’s children together. She also spoke a bit about the uprising currently underway in Lebanon—which needless to say I’ve been following closely on Social—and let me tell you, it is fire! They’re doing things that will certainly be informing strategies undertaken by future protest movements to come (which seems to be the case with every major protest movement in the past decade, don’t you think?).

When the Lebanese government tried to divide people up and pit them against each other (and if you know anything about Lebanon, you know that it hasn’t entirely healed from the trauma of the civil war which lasted from 1975 to 1990), the Lebanese responded by forming a human chain along the coast, connection North to South (the other thing you might know if you know anything about Lebanon, is that the entire country is more or less a coast).

When their Prime Minister finally started making concessions, they doubled down by furnishing their main square with rugs and sofas (and even a fridge) making it more than clear that they don’t plan on going anywhere and will continue their public sit-in until all demands are met: the resignation of “everyone means everyone” (one the most popular chants from the movement).

As a matter of fact, as I type this, reports of the Prime Minister’s resignation are indeed surfacing.

Notice the tacky attempt to invoke the spirit of his late father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, by announcing the resignation against a huge backdrop of his daddy’s face (another thing you might know about Lebanon, is that the former Prime Minister was assassinated in 2005 and largely considered to be a great hero of Lebanon).

The big problem with Hariri junior’s approach is that it exemplifies how absolutely tone deaf he is. One of big things that’s been bugging the Lebanese people for a very long time now is that their government has essentially been run like a big mob-club, with positions of power handed out to friends and family members with complete disregard for qualifications or competence. Nothing could’ve hammered that point home more than Saad making sure his daddy watched over him as he broadcast his resignation.

Lebanon still has work to do, but this is a hugem huge step and it was accomplished beautifully.


3.

It was only a week ago when I was in DC for the Cultural Majlis hosted by Sultan Al Qassemi. Glad to report that it was a full house and went very very well.

Not sure I can claim the prize for the smartest talk, but I think I scored pretty well on the scale of most inappropriate talk. 😇

Earlier in the day, I also had the chance to speak at Sultan’s class on Middle Eastern Art.

The great Egyptian author and Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz once said:

You can tell if a person is clever by their answers, and you can tell if a person is wise by their questions.

Sultan’s students had both great questions and great answers. Love being around smart students, for it always makes the future look that much brighter.


4.

Meher Ahmad wrote a great introductory piece for the Baffler on the long and complicated relationship between the IMF and Pakistan, and why new PM Imran Khan couldn’t end it despite promises to do just that.

I did the illustration for it, and yes, it is very much a flip-flop.


5.

Two more highlights from my very short 2-night stint in DC was getting to hang with Josh MacPhee and—separately—Elliott Colla.

Josh had a book launch and music-listening event at a very grassroots spot called Rhizome, which is essentially a small house converted into an event space; seats and speaking/screening area downstairs, right next to the kitchen, and gallery spaces upstairs, with admission being donations-based. It reminded me somewhat of the informal spaces I was familiar with in cities like Cairo, Beirut, and Berlin. Every city ought to have at least one. To quote Sara Ahmed from her 2017 book, LIVING A FEMINIST LIFE:

To be part of a movement requires we find places to gather, meeting places. A movement is also a shelter. We convene; we have a convention. A movement comes into existence to transform what is in existence. A movement needs to take place somewhere.

The book Josh was launching, AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POLITICAL RECORD LABELS, couldn’t have been more suitable for a music-listening party because what Josh did was play rare leftist records of many eras from across the world. Really good records I might add, and in the process of that you discover that there’s this big super important chunk of music history you had absolutely no idea about. Between each song, Josh would tell us a bit about the record label and the circumstances surrounding the specific recording. Really interesting history, some of which is documented in his fine 196-page book.

As an aside, there’s a bit about the publisher, Common Notions, in the back that I really, really love:

By any media necessary, we seek to nourish the imagination and generalize common notions about the creation of other worlds beyond state and capital.

I really love that.

Elliott Colla is a professor of Arabic literature at Georgetown University. He has a personal collection of old printed matter, predominantly from Cairo, which I had the opportunity of probing. For example:

To the left is AL-NADHARA (“The Specs”), first issue circa May 14, 1900. In the introduction on the front, the editor writes about his intent to create a weekly publication, “not quite a torrent of rain, but enough dew to foster the growth of an occasional rose”, which makes me wish I had a regular publishing operation of some kind set up.

To the right is GHAZL EL-BANAT (“Cotton Candy” the Arabic terminology for which is “Girls’ Flirtations”). Also a first issue, dating back to February 27, 1899, and it is self-described as an “illustrated, satirical, literary, and critical magazine”!! Do publications covering all that ground even exist anymore?

Elliott is also a novelist. He gifted me his first (and so far only) novel, BAGHDAD CENTRAL, which the UK’s Channel 4 recently picked up to adapt into a six-part series, after which the US’s Hulu picked up from the UK’s Channel 4. All this is only just happening, even though the novel was published over 5 years ago. I’m only about 30% in and I am very, very hooked. It suffers a bit from some very generic cover art, which makes it come off as one of the many run of the mill books written by American G.I.’s following the American invasion of Iraq. And although it does indeed take place during America’s occupation of the country, it in fact has little to do with American G.I.’s and instead follows an Iraqi ex-cop who is forced to get back to work in the most harrowing way imaginable. It’s got its noirish vibes, but our protagonist here ain’t just another nostalgic copy of some L.A. cop in a dumb hat. Like Elliott, he’s a lover of Arabic poetry, and bits of his poetic memory seem to come out at exactly the right moments. It’s really powerfully written, and I suspect that once the adaptations are screened (granted that they’re actually good), and the book is reprinted with new cover art, and the sequel is published (which Elliott is in fact writing as we speak), BAGHDAD CENTRAL will finally get the recognition it deserves.

Ganzeer
October 29, 2019
Somewhere between Boston and Houston

P.S. Not gonna lie, quite jealous seeing some of my Cairo homies getting to kick it with the Paul Pope himself.

Restricted Frequency #138

Coming to Washington, overthrowing Sisi, and new apparel

1.

This Tuesday, I’ll be in Washington, D.C.

As indicated in the image above, I’m there for the Cultural Majlis hosted by instructor, commentator, and art collector Sultan Al Qassemi. The talk I’ll be giving will delve into some of the processes behind a wide array of projects I’ve worked on; from street-art to paintings, prints, graphics, The Solar Grid, video art, installations, and more! I might even… throw in a joke or two.

Seats are very limited though, so be sure to RSVP if you’re in DC and would like to attend.


2.

In the newsletter’s previous edition (Sep 20), I shared an illustration I did of Sisi-as-cat-burglar, which shortly thereafter went pretty viral.

On September 21st, it appeared on the streets of Paris and a protest in Washington, D.C. It then sprung up in Berlin and New York City on September 22nd. On September 23rd, it was spotted in some of the backstreets of Cairo, and on September 24th it was all over Oslo. On September 25th, it was used for an ad takeover in NYC, and then another one by September 30th, the latter within proximity to the Egyptian Consulate. It also became the go-to social media avatar for those against Sisi’s atrocities, as well as the “Facebook event” banner for most organized actions against Sisi around the world.

(photo by Aymann Ismail)

This is nothing to celebrate nor is it anything to brag about, because Sisi is still in power and he is more ruthless than ever. The fact remains: Sisi must go.

This may seem to some like, I dunno, too ambitious a goal to set, but it is not. We unseated Mubarak, dictator of 30 years who had far more reach and far more clout than Sisi could ever dream of. Something he probably is in fact dreaming of given that after serving only one term in office, he amended the constitution to allow him to stay put well until the year 2030.

Now, allowing that to happen would—simply put—be a crime. It would be a crime at the expense of those living under Sisi’s rule today, and very likely the next generation to come. It’s a singular thing that would affect the lives of millions—millions—of people.

Let’s consider some numbers here, shall we?

  • More than 60,000 political prisoners since Sisi took office.

  • Over 7,513 civilians have faced military tribunals.

  • More than 3,270 Egyptians killed by their own security forces to date.

  • 2,658 death sentences handed out by Egyptian courts.

  • More than 461 deaths in police custody.

  • Over 500 people banned from travel.

All of this after just one term in office.

And in just the past month alone?

  • Close to 4000 arrests have been made.

This dwarfs the arrests made in Hong Kong over the past 4 months, which amount to no more than 2,022.

Yet, Washington Lawmakers found it fit to restrict the export of teargas, water-cannons, and rubber bullets to China. But as far as Egypt goes, well Egypt can get all those things and more—much, much more—for free.

Why is that?

Is it because Hong Kong just so happens to be the media’s protest du jour? Or could it perhaps be because of the political antagonism that has long been brewing between the US and China? Or, is it because Egypt sits right in the heart of the Middle East, and Sisi knows all too well the right card to play?

The terrorism card obviously.

The counter-terrorism narrative indeed constituted Sisi’s speech at the UNGA and virtually every television appearance he’s ever made, including a 60-minutes interview he adamantly tried to keep from airing. He tried… and failed.

Sisi doesn’t always get his way. And it is up to everyone other than Sisi to make sure he gets his way less and less and less until there is no way to be had.

What’s particularly interesting about Sisi’s stance on terrorism, is that it stands on terribly feeble legs, because designated “acts of terrorism” have only spiked since Sisi’s speedy ascent to power in 2013.

(Full report by TIMEP)

Not to mention that these attacks tend to occur when Sisi needs them the most, like say for example the attack that took place the day Sisi returned to Egypt from the United Nations General Assembly. The day there were rumors of major protests to unseat him, the same day he had Tahrir Square on lock-down, and the same day he organized a government sponsored rally in support of his presidency. And only one day before multiple billboards went up all over the city announcing support for Sisi’s “war on terror”, one that has been ongoing for more than 5 years now.

This is indicative of one of two things. Either:

a) Sisi himself is sponsoring these “terror attacks”, fully knowing what he will get in return.

b) He hasn’t been doing a particularly good job at battling terrorism.

Either way, this isn’t someone who should be getting over 2 billion dollars in military aid to stomp out terrorism. That is, simply put, preposterous.

But so far we’ve been looking at numbers, and Stalin said it best: “When one man dies, it is a tragedy. When a million die, it’s a statistic.”

So let’s put aside these numbers and statistics and graphs, all of which are clear indicators of the murderous nature of the man in charge of a country of over 100 million people. Let’s put that all aside and instead take a closer look at some of the personal stories involved.

  • On September 29th, Alaa Abdel Fattah was blindfolded and abducted by Egyptian state security agents and instantly taken to the maximum security wing of Tora Prison. The minute he arrived, he was slapped and kicked as he passed through the prison gates. He was then told to strip down to his underwear and forced to walk down a long corridor of people, who inflicted terrible beatings on him along the way. This is known as the prison’s “Welcome Parade”, which lasted a full 15 minutes.

    All this prior to being charged with anything. When he was finally interrogated, he discovered that he was being charged with “joining an illegal organization, receiving foreign funding through said organization, and spreading false news through misuse of social media”. None of which is true, although he had taken to social media to criticize Sisi’s policies, which I guess is all it really takes. Upon his lawyer’s arrival to represent him, he too was arrested and accused of the very same charges!

  • Esraa Abdel Fattah (unrelated) was driving her car when she was suddenly stopped mid traffic. She was then slapped around by security agents and forced out of her car and taken to State Security headquarters for questioning where she was asked to unlock her phone for them. After refusing two “excessively large” agents showed up and proceeded to beat the living shit out of her. The officer assigned to interrogate her then proceeded to choke her, at which point she gave up her password. With her hands above her head, she was then hung by a pair of handcuffs as the officer proceeded to question her about some of the content on her phone. This lasted for 8 hours.

    Although Esraa is being accused of things not entirely dissimilar to Alaa’s, the papers reporting her arrest came with this headline:

    ”Nights of Debauchery in Esraa Abdel Fatah’s Home”

    Oh, it gets better. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

    "“She used to light social media on fire with her pictures on the beaches of Hurghada laid out in a skimpy bathing suit. She is the ‘activist’ Esraa Abdel Fattah. Social media is ablaze once again with news of her long nights of sweet friendship and good times with fellow activist Mohammed Salah.” (not the football player, btw)

  • Mahinour El-Masry, a human rights lawyer, was abducted by security officers in plainclothes before being bundled into a nondescript minivan. This after appearing at State Prosecution to represent others who were wrongfully arrested. She too is being accused of “aiding a terrorist group” and the “spread of fake news”.

  • Malak El-Kashef, a trans woman, was held in a men’s only prison for 4 months. During this time, she underwent a forced “anal examination”. This despite the reasons for her arrest being connected to a call to protest following a train crash that killed 25 people.

    In recent weeks, there have been over 13 inflammatory news stories on Malak, claiming everything from “excessive lewdness” to, of course, “aiding a terrorist organization”. This has resulted in over 10,000 hate messages against her on social media, and most recently an assault on her and her flatmates in their Alexandria apartment.

These are just 4 stories out of thousands. Let that sink in for a moment.

It is unfair that this is the treatment that some people are getting all for what? For wanting peaceful assembly? For demanding a free press and more representative parliament? Are any of those really so terrifying?

Leader after leader after leader has made claim that “Egyptians are not ready for democracy.” Well heck, maybe they’d be ready if every fucking dictator that came to power wasn’t granted billions in military aid by foreign governments.

Nobody is asking for any kind of “military intervention” in Egypt to remove Sisi from power. We know how these military interventions go, and we’re good, we don’t need that. But at the very least don’t allow your governments to actively give weapons to Egypt, that’s all we’re asking. And it really ain’t much.

Aside from that, we got it. We have over 5000 years experience in building up our own deities and tearing them down. And you can bet that that will be the fate that meets Sisi, just as it was the guy before him, and the guy before the guy before him. And we will do it the way we do it best. We will sing and dance and make jokes and plays and films. We will draw and paint and assemble in public squares until our reverberations shake the foundations of Sisi’s high castle and bring it all crashing down for good.


3.

Aside from demanding your government to cease all supply of arms to Egypt (assuming you live in a real democracy and believe yourself to have that kinda pull), you can also print out any one of these hi-res posters and hang in your neighborhood:

(2-Color Poster and/or Black & White Poster)

Or, if that’s a little extra risque for you, you can also get yourself a bunch of these stickers if that’s easier:

It may not seem like much, but if the 60-minutes fiasco is any indication, Sisi really cares about his image. And that’s something we can definitely chip away at.


4.

On a completely different note, Garage.ganzeer is carrying a bunch of new apparel if you fancy:

Many thanks for bearing with me and talk soon,

Ganzeer
October 17, 2019
Houston, TX

One last thing!

Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary

Apologies for this, but I forgot to mention this one important thing:

My good friends at Booklyn, Inc. are holding an exhibition of collaborative works on paper titled FRIENDS, PEACE, AND SANCTUARY, which is the result of a project at Swarthmore College in which American and Egyptian artists collaborated with members of the Syrian and Iraqi refugee communities of Philadelphia. I saw some of the results myself at the Booklyn Artist-Book Fair earlier this year, and they were, hands down, the show stopper. Very powerful and very beautiful stuff. Here are the deets:

When: September 27 through October 26th, 2019
Where: Booklyn, Inc., Brooklyn Army Terminal, 140 58th St., Building B, Area 7G, Brooklyn, NY 11220
(For detailed directions visit: http://booklyn.org/info/visit/)
For more information contact: mweber@booklyn.org
Opening reception Saturday September 28, 6:00PM – 9:00PM

Presented will be works by: Abir AlArnab, Layla Al-husseini, Fadaa Ali, Roula Aljabi, Samah Alkasab, Amaal Alnajjar, Yaroub Al-Obaidi, Fadia, Osama Herkal, Abdul Karim Awad, Asmaa Diab, Marwa, Mohamed Okab, Hassan Muhtadi, Raghad Samir, Ali Salman, Fouad Sakhnini, Shouq Ramadan, and many others!

Do check it out if you are in or close to New York (which I am not… yet!).

My apologies again for the fluke. Carry on,
-G

Restricted Frequency #137

Revolution 3.0, Harvard ArtLab, Lana Del Rey, Comix Train

1.

Egypt is erupting again. This of course isn’t entirely surprising. Too many people knew that a “third revolution” (more like a continuation of the original revolution) would be inevitable given the grievances that lead to the revolt of 2011 were never adequately addressed, but have in fact been compounded upon. Any support Sisi had in ascending to power and maintaining it for the past 5 years was only possible through coercion, fear tactics, and deception (he was after all Director of Military Intelligence and Reconnaissance).

So, the fact that we’ve reached this point isn’t surprising. The hows and whys though are pretty interesting. Pay attention:

  • A 45-year-old man by the name of Mohamed Ali, predominantly known as a film and television actor posted an inflammatory video on his Facebook page, detailing dealings between his construction company and the Egyptian military.

  • His construction company has in fact been working closely with the military for over 15 years (well before Sisi’s administration), and he claims he has never seen as much corruption as he has witnessed in the past 5 (knowing well that Mubarak’s regime was already corrupt as hell).

  • In short, his company was commissioned to do the preliminary construction work on palaces and villas exclusively for Sisi, as well as a 7-star hotel for one of Sisi’s closest friends (and fellow military officer), with costs in the billions (this in a country bootstrapped for cash no less). He explains the projects in detail, maps out all the wrongdoing, and implicates several high ranking officers by name.

  • He also explains that he has been swindled out of over $12 million US, and that the officers responsible took “legal” action to swindle him out of even more. Within a military dictatorship, this kind of means you’re fucked.

  • He sells everything he owns and quietly moves to Spain, before posting the aforementioned video.

Now… here’s where it gets particularly interesting:

  • Ali posts another video, claiming to have been contacted by “high command” promising that he will get everything he is owed fair and square. He decides: fuck the money, it’s time to expose these corrupt motherfuckers. And expose them he does.

  • His page (and videos) are removed by Facebook.

  • Sisi holds a televised “youth conference” in which he actually responds to Ali’s allegations (!!!). His response isn’t quite a denial, and amounts to little more than: “you kids have to trust us.” Uh, not good, Sisi.

  • Ali hits back with a series of videos on Youtube got over half a million views within a few hour's of being posted) which are carried forth by supporters on other Facebook pages, and even multiple Arabic-language news channels based outside of Egypt.

  • In his final video (which got over half a million views within a few hours of being posted), Ali calls for a nation-wide protest following a big football (soccer) game scheduled for this Friday (September 20).

  • Tanks and armored vehicles are deployed in major public squares.

  • September 20th arrives. It is a calm day, even after the big game. But come night fall, the chants begin.

    It’s still too early to tell how things will play out, but you can be sure of the following:

    1. If allegations from one single contractor are enough to get Sisi to respond directly and deploy military vehicles in public squares, then there’s definitely way more dirt where that came from.

    2. Sisi is obviously very, very afraid.

    3. The regime (as are most regimes, btw) is far more fragile than we thought.

All in all, you may want to keep an eye on Egypt over the next couple of weeks. The timing is particularly interesting because Sisi has just made his way to the UN General Assembly. If anyone within the military had any intentions on double-crossing the big boss, it seems to me like the opportunity may have just presented itself on a silver platter.

Turbulent times may lie ahead, but turbulence is better than a “stable” situation that benefits a handful while placing misery upon most. And turbulence at least allows for the potential of things tipping in the right direction.

I’m often asked when and/or if I ever plan on returning to Egypt. My answer is always the same: the next revolution.

Here’s hoping this is the one.

(If of any interest to anyone—particularly in Egypt—a hi-res version of the above image can be downloaded from this link. Feel free to print, photocopy, fly-post, etc.)


2.

Coincidentally, the paintings I did emulating the walls of Cairo circa 2011-2013 for WE LIVE IN CAIRO’s (a musical) lobby experience, are now on display at the Harvard ArtLab in Cambridge, which as of today (September 20th) is open to the public.

(Photo by Roba Khorshid. Pretty telling picture, innit?)

In any case, if in Cambridge feel free to stop by.

The Harvard Gazette has the full story.


3.

I couldn’t care less about Lana Del Rey (whoa, talk about curveball!), but this article by Audrey Wollen for Frieze about the myth Del Rey has managed to carve out for herself is pretty fascinating. And there’s no better sign of fine writing than the kind of writing that you can’t stop reading even if it’s about a thing you have no interest in whatsoever, and that’s exactly what Audrey Wollen did here.

My favorite bit is on Del Rey’s knack for recycling lyrics.

I don’t think there’s a single song on the new record that doesn’t borrow phrases or riffs from someone else. Her lyric cosmology includes The Beach Boys, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, The Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, countless girl groups, and so on, and so on. It’s beyond pastiche; it’s library-like, almost career-as-archive. Del Rey remembers and memorializes while simultaneously erasing authorship and context: ‘I heard the war was over, if you really choose,’ she intones in ‘California’, converting John Lennon’s anti-war slogan into a woozy rumour. ‘But sometimes, girls just want to have fun/ The poetry inside me is warm like a gun,’ she lilts in ‘Bartender’, merging Cyndi Lauper and George Harrison in such an unexpected combination that both become almost unrecognizable.

But it’s not just music history that she cuts and pastes from, it’s apparently her own discography as well!

In Norman Fucking Rockwell!, she repeatedly refers to the titles of her songs within other songs. (She quotes ‘Venice Bitch’ in ‘Mariner’s Apartment Complex’, ‘Norman Rockwell’ in ‘Venice Bitch’.) Musical phrases recur across the album itself, a shiver of déjà vu. This repetitive tendency is sometimes somnolent, mantra-like and narcotic (‘Dream a little dream of me,’ she sings in ‘Fuck It I Love You’, quoting Ella Fitzgerald; ‘Dream a dream, here’s a scene,’ she sings in ‘Love Song’, a few minutes later).

I kind of really love that.

Don’t worry, you won’t catch me listening to Del Rey anytime soon—unless I’m out of sleeping pills—but I’m thinking how I might incorporate a similar process in my own work. Something to think about and experiment with.


4.

This may be due to the fact that I am very much in the thick of my graphic novel (and feeling a little extra burdened by my inability to wrap it up in a more timely fashion) but I think that once I’m done with the thing, I’ll probably want to start fiddling with some other medium. That’s not to say that I won’t undertake any more graphic novel projects ever again, but it most certainly won’t be a regular thing. Generally speaking, I like to operate within what to me look like a cultural vaccuum. And I think that, as far as comix are concerned, I should be able to address those vacuums in 3, maybe 5, graphic novel tops (and even 5 would be pushing it), each completely different in tone, genre, and structure.

(And by other medium, I’m not referring to the film/TV cliché—though I’m not against it—but I’d really like to mess around with more contemporary art stuff.)

On a somewhat similar note, this edition of RESTRICTED FREQUENCY marks the end of weekly updates. Since it’s inception, I’ve largely treated the RF Newsletter as sort of its own project, which requires quite a bit of time and headspace in the lead up to each dispatch. It’s time I dedicated that time to all the other [shamefully] open projects I have going, not least of which is THE SOLAR GRID. And that is precisely what I’m going to do.

That’s not to say this is the end of the newsletter. It will still go out, but only when I have enough new work to share with y’all. Which will make the, uh, frequency (ahem) of this newsletter pretty irregular. At least for a while.

I hope you’ll continue to follow along, and still feel inclined to persuade all your cool friends to sign up.

Till next time,

Ganzeer
September 20, 2019
Houston, TX

Restricted Frequency #136

Burchfield's journal, Hitler's Aesthetics, Hong Kong for Dummies, Washington, D.C.

1.

July 3, 1948

A.M. writing in Studio. The glory of Thursday has come back; as I look at the sketch I made, I rejoice in the fact that after 33 years, I have been able to capture again, and bring to completion, an idea that I jotted down in pencil in that rhapsodic summer. Then I experienced the emotion, but had not the experience of language to put it down in concrete terms; now I have these, and thanks to God, the emotional experience was given me again. Much of this came from watching that swallow—wonderful little creature!

The above is an excerpt from the journals of Charles Burchfield, an American artist known for his watercolors, particularly of townscapes and nature scenes. A very small portion of his journals appears in Art in America 1945-1970: Writings from the Age of Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Minimalism - by Jed Perl which I am now reading. I’m quite fascinated by these journal entries because they are very much of a time when journaling entailed conversing with no one but yourself. Unlike modern-day blogging (or heck newslettering) which assumes a reading audience and thus takes on a public-facing voice, Burchfield’s journals come off as an artist’s personal record, logging in the mundane day-to-day stuff that goes into art-making, with hints of poetics shining through every now and again.

August 23, 1948

Most of day spent in making studies of grasshopper, & conventionlizations of them, for a projected grasshopper picture.

Starting to fantasize about experimenting with something similar, possibly in this here newsletter, but wondering if folks start imagining me with an itchy Rorschach voice and begin fearing for their lives (assuming everyone here has either read or seen Watchmen, right?).

August 24, 1948

To Zimmerman Rd. to do the grasshopper picture. An ideal day for it—hot, dry, the air full of insect sounds.

Set up my easel first, at the edge of the swampy pasture at the north side of the woods—then ate lunch.

All afternoon on the painting—unpremeditated was the introduction of a yellow & black spider (Miranda) feeding on a grasshopper. I found it to be an ideal way of working—i.e. on one day to work out the conventionalizations & abstract motifs, then the next to work on the spot, so as to be able to give life to the form invented. I worked boldly & with great absorption.

I am now convinced that I will only ever be a real artist when my journal entries start looking like that!


2.

Together with the above, I’m reading another book: Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics - by Frederic Spotts, which I picked up upon spotting at the excellent Kaboom Books here in Houston. It is of course widely known that Hitler was a failed artist, but by that same measure you might as well consider over half the working artists on the planet today to be failed artists as well. In the sense that Hitler was indeed selling his watercolors to get by (like every other artist on social media taking on commissions), but was never regarded highly as an artist, not by the art establishment, galleries, museums, etc. I’m surprised that with a guy like Hitler’s taint on the world, that some people still have the audacity to attribute things like carefree love and feminism and anarchism to artists. That a society run by artists instead of bankers is the magic answer. Not necessarily, as Hitler’s example can attest to. Unfortunately, there are horrible people in every profession (even doctors ffs).

I’m only a third of the way into the book, but reading about how he essentially used all of Germany (and much of Europe) as one demented “art project” is really just off the hook. And I will never get over the fact that the man responsible for waging the biggest war in European history was essentially a mediocre painter with little-to-no military background to speak of. Unless you count his short stint as an infantryman then as a messenger runner during WWI, which I’m not exactly sure is a competent gateway for high military command.


3.

This Protest Guide for Dummies from Hong Kong (discovered via the Nothing Here newsletter) reminds me of a guide I created in the lead up to the toppling of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

I wonder if these kind of infographic-like guides tend to spring up in every major protest movement. And if that’s the case: book idea!

I mean, I’m not gonna do it, but I’d gladly pay good money for a book collecting protest guides from across the world over the course of history. So I’m just putting the idea out there so someone else can go ahead and do all the hard research/publishing work for us.

The similarity in tactics, by the way, between Hong Kong and Tahrir are uncanny. Down to the use of green laser pointers! Still though, the protests in Hong Kong are visibly more evolved and organized, and I sense will change the face of protest tactics forever. Lasers In The Tear Gas: A Guide To Tactics In Hong Kong is a good overview if you haven’t been keeping up.


4.

I’ll be in Washington, D.C. next month for only two nights, Oct 21-22, to do two things: speak in Sultan Alqassemi’s class at Georgetown University, and then again at his Washington DC Cultural Majlis, a kind of cultural salon he hosts in home - open to the public, but RSVP required. More deets forthcoming, but I’m putting this out there now because whenever I travel East, requests to do things tend to multiply very quickly and time is often very limited. So best to plan ahead!

Aaaand I’m out.

Take care,

Ganzeer
September 14, 2019
Houston, TX

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