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

Restricted Frequency #135

Seize the Art Fair, Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library #20, and an anecdote from a failed revolution.

1.

The Acme Novelty Library #20 (which you wouldn’t know was The Acme Novelty Library #20, not right away, not on first glance) sat on my shelf for about 5 years, and traveled with me between 4 different cities before finally being read.

Not because it’s big or daunting in any way, but because of perhaps the tedious demeanor implied by its unique Chris-Ware-ness; the four panels that detail a character’s fall off a bike, the five panels (some of them very small) that detail the picking of a pimple, the drip-drip of a ceiling leak into a bucket. But these are the very same reason you’d keep the book around. Over the course of consecutive moves, you’d cleanse your life of the weight of numerous books, but not this one despite not having bothered to read it not once. But every once in a while, when you do pick it up, and you do flip through it, the magic of its storytelling mechanisms are obvious enough for you to keep it around. You know, even without reading it, that it is a true work of art, and as such should stay.

Continue reading


2.

Whenever a new wave of change-demanding protests break out, governments (along with the media) are quick to accuse protesters of not being organized, not knowing what they want, lacking leadership, etc, etc. The same thing happened in Tahrir Square 8 years ago. When waves of protesters reoccupied the square following the ouster of then dictator Hosni Mubarak, the same media personalities that once hailed protesters as the nation’s saviors were then vilified and accused of not being able to agree on anything.

In response, I designed a survey with the help of a number of very bright friends and printed 20,000 copies of the thing (out of my own pocket, btw). On July 8, 2011, We brought them to Tahrir Square and with the help of more volunteers, gave them out and—over the course of a weekend—collected 10,000 filled out forms.

It took well over a year to extract all the data and finally publish the results on what is now defunct web journal I ran called Rolling Bulb. By then, however, the political landscape had already shifted and there was little interest in what protesters wanted or not over a year prior. A lot of the questions in the survey got to the heart of the basic principles of things, and I’d like to think that if you surveyed any group of protesters anywhere at any point in time with the exact same set of questions… results would likely be sooooomewhat similar. But that’s too bold a claim to make, I know.

In any case, in sifting through the carcasses of my digital archives, I came across the infographics I originally created for survey results, and republished them on the new ganzeer dot com.

Check it out


3.

Still clearing my space and mind of older work. On offer this week is this old linoprint from several years back. Only 4 left.

Buy


4.

Y’know, I’m not so sure about this whole Art Fair model.

There isn’t a gallerist I’ve spoken to who’s ever had anything nice to say about art fairs. But why would they? It’s a situation where you’re schmoozing and trying/hoping to make a sale for multiple hours on end, for several days in a row, just to cover the exorbitant costs of booth rental. And more often than not, failing absolutely terribly. It’s heartbreaking to see the almost pleading glitter of want, of hope, of despair in a gallerist’s eye as viewers (potential buyers) walk by glancing up at the work on display, pulled in long enough for the few seconds it takes for a gallerist to get their hopes up, only to have them crushed to pieces as said viewer walks on to the next booth. And if you’re there long enough, you see it repeated over and over and over. If you were a terrible sadist, you couldn’t possibly hope for anything worse to unfold before your eyes on relentless repeat.

But you could accuse those gallerists of being masochists, because come the next art fair, they come back for more. The reason they do it of course is that every once in a while, they make that really good sale that seems to make it all worthwhile. Or, even if they don’t, they’re compelled by the need to “stay on the map.” They’re forced to see it as a kind of promotional expense rather than a complete loss of investment.

The people however who almost never incur any losses from these art fairs are of course the fair organizers themselves. It’s a rather perverse situation where the company that sets up the fair not only makes money from booth rental to galleries, but additionally from ticket sales as well. It’s perverse because the people buying those tickets are doing so specifically for the galleries showing at these art fairs and even more so for the very artists they are showing. Take away the art, the artists, and the galleries, and y’know what? Visitors have absolutely nothing to go see.

It seems wholly unfair to me that the people who are the real reason these art fairs are able to happen are the ones incurring most of the losses most of the time. And it seems wholly logical that the best thing they could possibly do is completely do away with the middleman. That they seize the art fair.

To do so however would require the unthinkable: For gallerists to—instead of see one another as competitors—consider each other as partners. To band together to rent out the necessary space to create their own art fair. The cost-per-square-foot will without a doubt be a whole lot less than what they usually pay. On top of that, any revenue made from ticket sales, they can distribute among each other.

It’s an obvious no-brainer, but it requires the audacity to abandon the vampiristic traits of competitive capitalism, and instead think and act like co-op. An industry wide co-op.

(This, I imagine, could very well apply to a fair or convention of any kind, btw.)

Ganzeer
September 7, 2019
Houston, TX

Restricted Frequency #134

New dot com, Selective Myopia originals, Hong Kong's new protest models, and the uses of Instagram

1.

New ganzeer.com is now live.

I ended up going with Cargo. The reason I was initially reluctant about using them was that—based on the examples showcased in their “Sites-in-Use” section—it seemed to be only really good for limited portfolio type things. But upon messing around with it a bit, I discovered that my assumptions were completely false, and you can in fact have an unlimited number of pages and easily categorize them using the handy metadata/tag system that made Tumblr so attractive to me some 8 years ago. But the backend offered by Cargo allows for more control and versatility, and it’s intuitive enough for non-coder types (it me! 👋). This has allowed me to create a browsing system that is… well, a bit more varied that what is common.

Which is just perfect because much of what I do isn’t so easily departmentalized and more often than not fits somewhere between commonly understood categories.

Personally, I’m really not a fan of the website-as-brochure model, where you just have a handful of static pages offering a feeble token of what someone does. What I am a big fan of is the website-as-archive. One of my favorite websites of all time for example is that of Experimental Jetset.

Unlike Experimental Jetset though, I couldn’t create an archive of eeeeeverything I’ve ever done, because I’ve been terrible about documenting my shit and even more terrible about safekeeping what little I had documented; a consequence of relocating (a lot), of hard drive crashes and even misplacement, and well… a general disregard for that sort of thing. Resulting in a ton of stuff either getting lost or just going undocumented. I did however unload everything of mine that I could find, with absolute disregard for what I think is “good” and what I think is “bad”, because if I start thinking in those terms, I probably wouldn’t even consider showing anyone what I did just last week. Part of the drive of making new work is looking at older work and saying: I can do better.

With that being said, I quite enjoyed rediscovering some of the older stuff I worked on and seeing how it relates to newer stuff. Like, there’s an obvious link between this little sticker I was putting up around Cairo in 2010 and say, the Solar Suits in The Solar Grid graphic novel for example. Or some of the social-activisty dimensions that were infused in some of my early commercial design work. Funny, it’s not how I remember my work in those years at all.


2.

Original art from my Selective Myopia comic is now up for sale on Garage.Ganzeer

Pages 1-5 are already sold, but pages 6-16 are still available, offered either individually or as one single lot.


3.

I enjoyed reading Alan Jacob’s dispatch of forms of organization and protest being used in the streets of Hong Kong (discovered via Robin Sloan’s consistently good newsletter).

Alan writes about protesters’ insistence on remaining leaderless (what Egyptians in Tahrir Square were criticized for in 2011), and about the various ways Hong Kong protesters are sharing minute-to-minute information to stay fluid in their mobilizations and tactics. It’s fascinating stuff.

(My one fear is it inevitably gets infiltrated because all “networks”, socially based or technological, are subject to infiltration. And once infiltrated—leaderless or not—it’s not so hard to influence actions and sabotage the movement.)


4.

One last thing before I go, somewhat related to the website-building stuff in point #1. Using social media platforms as your sole “portfolio” is no good. I’m old enough to remember when DeviantArt was the big thing among visual artists, and I remember when Dripbook got trendy for a while. Heck, I even remember when MySpace exploded. No matter how inconceivable it might seem now, neither Facebook nor Twitter nor Instagram will last, I promise you. They’re having their time in the sun right now but sooner or later a more superior social-networking platform will arise and steal their thunder, resulting in a huge exodus of users and very likely complete closures. And along with that goes all your data and all your audience. It’s imperative to have a website with all your stuff on it that can stand on its own legs regardless of what new platforms pop up or disappear; a reliable place for your “audience” to visit and revisit knowing that you and your output is there no matter what (hello, Charlie Stross).

I once saw an art dealer berate a young artist for having more selfies on her Instagram feed than actual paintings. Fuck that dealer. Instagram is not an ideal portfolio platform (just based on the fact that it has no “categorizational” capacity—which I guess isn’t important if all your work is one type of thing). What Instagram is truly good at is what it was originally created for: snapping pix with your phone—selfies or otherwise— and applying some stylish filter to them. That, and the Stories feature, which I enjoy quite a lot actually. It’s like watching a running TV station with all its programming made by friends!

And I’m out! Building the new Ganzeer.com involved way too much time on my computer over the past couple weeks which finally culminated in 48 sleepless hours before the thing went live. And I really need to not be looking at a screen of any kind right now. Double vision is only fun for a short while.

Take care and happy weekending,

Ganzeer
August 31, 2019
Houston, TX

Restricted Frequency #133

Reviewing Andy Warhol's Popism, The Solar Grid Soundscape, art-sale, and moving the newsletter.

1.

You may notice something different about this edition, and that’s probably due to my moving the service from Mailchimp to Substack.

Substack is somewhat limited in how you can go about designing your newsletter, but given the toned down design of RESTRICTED FREQUENCY in recent editions, I think we can work just fine within Substack’s limitations.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the change of service doesn’t result in this edition landing in your spam folder. If it does, please be sure to add the new sending address (ganzeer@substack.com) to your contact list (unless of course, the thought of not getting this newsletter comes as a sick relief).

Okay, now that housekeeping is out of the way, on with the fun stuff.


2.

The second track in THE SOLAR GRID SOUNDSCAPE, a serialized album by N Slash A has dropped! Moody textural sound art goodness.

In case you missed it, The Solar Grid Soundscape is the auditory companion to The Solar Grid Graphic Novel, with tracks being released as N Slash A finishes them. Sort of along the same lines of my method for working on graphic novel. I absolutely love what he’s doing, and with each listen I always notice new stuff - which, I guess is also kind of like the graphic novel.

Give it a listen.


3.

In most of his interviews, Andy Warhol wasn’t very talkative and came off as hella awkward while simultaneously being kinda snarky, often dicking interviewers around. So it’s quite refreshing to be getting his take on things in his own voice. 300 pages of it, no less. Sure, you can bet the actual writing was done by Pat Hacket, but you can be equally sure that the voice behind the writing belongs to no one but Andy Warhol.

“Very few people on the [West] Coast knew or cared about contemporary art, and the press for my show wasn’t too good. I always have a laugh, though, when I think of how Hollywood called Pop Art a put-on! Hollywood?? I mean, when you look at the kind of movies they were making then–those were supposed to be real??

It’s also nice to see him recount his transition from his commercial art practice to his early beginning within the gallery circuit– when he was still not quite sure of himself– before he became a superstar and way before his studio became the go-to place for every major counter-cultural figure in America.

“By the time Ivan [Karp] (who worked at Leo Castelli Gallery) introduced me to Henry [Geldzahler] (who at the time was a new young ‘curatorial-assistant-with-no-specific-duties’) I was keeping my commercial drawings absolutely buried in another part of the house because one of the people Ivan had brought by before had remembered me from my commercial art days and asked to see some drawings. As soon as I showed them to him, his whole attitude toward me changed. I could actually see him changing his mind about my paintings, so from then on I decided to have a firm no-show policy about the drawings. Even with Henry, it was a couple of months before I was secure enough about his mentality to show them to him.”

But if it’s the explosive Factory years you’re interested in, rest assured there’s plenty of that as well. One of the best things about this book though is Warhol’s observations about the times.  Because that is very much what the book is: a window onto the 1960’s through they eyes and words of Andy Warhol. It starts off in 1960 and ends in 1969. By all accounts the 60’s was a very special decade in America, and Warhol’s retelling definitely drives the point home

Read full review of [Popism: The Warhol 60’s - by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett].


4.

It’s that time of the year when I need to clear up space to make room for new art, so I’m doing a sale on these bad boys right here:

To the left is a screenprinted version of the cover I designed for the Arabic edition of Slavoj Zizek’s THE YEAR OF DREAMING DANGEROUSLY, published by Dar El-Tanweer in Cairo back in 2013.

To the right is a graphic I created in support of Pussy Riot when they were arrested in 2012, after their little cathedral intervention.

Both are approximately 11x17 in (28x43 cm), signed and numbered on the back and going for $50. As I type this, there are only about 13 left of each and they will never be reproduced again.

Snatch ‘em while they last (And if you want them signed on the front, please leave a note upon checkout).

That’s all for this edition. Enjoy your weekend and be kind to animals. Even if they insist on taunting you right outside your window, whichever city or state you live in.


Till next week,

Ganzeer
August 23, 2019
Houston, TX

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