I have lapsed in my updates, even more than usual, so here are five snapshots from the second half of 2015, hopefully all seeding for 2016.
Even amidst tight timelines and resources, some great collaborations came out of this year’s May Day organizing.
I worked with my friend Samay to develop the poster. We began with an idea inspired by the 9th photo in this set, and shot some photos with volunteers at the epic cross-campus long march during the York and UofT strikes, however the frigid temperatures were not very conducive to staging a scene of solidarity with our metal screen.
Based on feedback from the organizing committee, we arrived at the above image, and Victoria produced a website that echoed the visual scheme of the poster.
Since austerity was identified as one of the focal points of our messaging, we reached out to the recently launched Unite Against Austerity campaign, and their awesome designer Kevin Lo, who offered to share their repertoire of graphics with us. In turn, I produced this draft artboard to show the organizing team.
I offered to source and screenprint the flags at Punchclock, where I am a renter, while other volunteers took the lead of making the large banner a reality.
Mary and Jesse from Justseeds hosted a screen printing workshop as part of the Mayworks Festival, and over the course of the evening, participants printed over 150 placards and bandanas for May Day, along with some other great artwork.
All in all, I’m really happy with how things turned out! And of course, I have some reflections as well.
(1) On being strategic: We need to invest more time into developing strategies that respond to our current political moment, so that our actions are exciting, powerful and nourishing. Our actions need to have coherent messages and visuals that build on these strategies. May Day presents an interesting challenge and opportunity because it is a day that seeks to unite people together from across many different organizing spaces, while highlighting the intersecting ways in which particular communities, such as women and trans people, as well as Black and Indigenous peoples, are most impacted by austerity policies.
(2) On being practical: Part of face-to-face organizing and building “infrastructures of resistance” is framing our actions in a way that is welcoming and invites broader participation. I would have loved to involve more people in the art production process, and we could have certainly used more support with distribution, staging, documentation and debriefing. It was interesting to see how excited people were about the bandanas, while still somewhat hesitant about committing to hold a placard or flag for the whole march (understandably). In this way, I think small pennants and loose posters may have also been more desirable, and continued to be valued and displayed by people beyond the march.
Photo 1 by Samay C
Photo 3, 8, 9, 10 by Yellow Sweaty Gorilla
Photo 5, 6 by Mayworks Festival
beware of the everything store
[front cover jacket]
as a booklover, i have a complicated relationship with amazon. price, selection and convenience make amazon hard to resist. but the more i learn about how amazon operates, the more motivated i become to find and support alternatives. according to a new yorker profile by george packer, amazon was never intended as just an online bookstore. books were easy to ship for amazon founder jeff bezos, and typically bought by educated consumers with high disposable incomes. getting their information was the real objective. while establishing a stranglehold on online bookselling, amazon set its sights on becoming the ‘everything store’ by trying to sell anything its customers could possibly need. by 2011, amazon had $50 billion in annual revenue, representing 1/3 of all online sales. and yet, if you can believe it, amazon was still not a profitable company. for amazon and its investors, everything is about the long-term.
[back cover jacket]
the ‘everything store’ is now much more than an online store. amazon‘s cloud storage service recently signed a $600 million contract with U.S. intelligence agencies. amazon is a borg-like mass of ‘innovation’ that harnesses data about our preferences and buying patterns to establish monopoly power. in order to keep growing, amazon must squeeze its workers harder, eliminate any competition, and convince us they are indispensable. as long as consumers are happy, everything else is considered disposable. if you’re reading this, it’s not too late. both ‘consent from below’ & ‘persuasion from above’ are necessary to create conditions for domination.
what we can do:
 support local cultural producers and independent booksellers
 resist ‘big data’ by practicing security culture
 ally with amazon workers against bad labour practices
designing this dust jacket was a way for me to unpack my relationship with amazon. i came to see intersecting issues of labour exploitation, surveillance, and monopoly power as inseparable from amazon’s core operations. the book cover is hand-printed and hand-folded, inspired by a regular practice by staff at kinokuniya bookstores (itself a large corporate chain). the jacket simultaneously anonymizes the book underneath, while drawing increased scrutiny with its curious design, which is only fully viewable when unfolded. the relationship between the large singular box and the smaller borg-like cube is deliberately ambiguous. is it a change-oriented ‘chase scene’ — an inversion of the dominant relationship between grassroots actors and large corporate forces — or an origin story — showing how individual (consumer) choices figure in producing and maintaining new systemic realities?
danboard | the box man: a novel | kinokuniya
let me know if you have ideas for distribution!
My feelings about the film (you can see it online here) haven’t changed — if anything I’ve come to appreciate it more — so I’ll just say a little about the design process.
I didn’t care if it was too obvious — I wanted to do something with cats — but wasn’t getting very far in terms of representing or reacting to the scenarios the film presents.
I had a breakthrough when reading issue 3 of B|ta’arof magazine, which has two different references to members of the Iranian Students Association in the late 1970s donning paper bag masks during anti-Shah protests in the U.S. This was done to conceal their identities from SAVAK (the Shah’s secret police) and protect family members back home.
The imagery stuck with me and began working its way into the design — first, as above, with the cat eyes placed within the paper bag and later, as below, a full bleed image with a curled corner to mimic file icons on digital desktops.
The torrent file is how I received the film — with a special message from the director to his audience — and digital file-sharing is part of the repertoire of the kind of subjects portrayed in the film, who find creative (albeit still risky) ways to resist and organize together in the face of repression.
Not a perfect parallel by any means, but I felt a strong urge to draw a line to connect these moments in time and space.
The printing process proved to be its own adventure — working around ghost images that didn’t want to leave and stopgap duct-tape solutions for a screen in need of repair.
I’m planning to do a second round of printing in the new year, as well as hopefully producing even more new posters. I’ve covered a film from the 1960s, 1980s, and 2000s, so why not the 1970s, 1990s, and 2010s?
I screenprinted these wallpaper-style posters for OCAP with the help of our awesome participants during a silkscreening workshop for Tools for Change co-facilitated with my friend Hazel. I also did up some quick placards based on the same design.
The OCAP action called for the city to follow through on their commitment to open a much needed 24 hour drop-in space for women and trans people. Five women who calmly occupied a Shelter and Housing administrative office were forcefully arrested.
Una Lee of Love & Justice has a new post up about the icon Chanelle Gallant and I co-designed for STRUT, a new sex workers’ justice organization. My deep appreciation goes out to Una for organizing the Co-Design Jam — as well as facilitating this post-workshop dialogue/reflection — and to Chanelle for being such a great collaborator!