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!
I am still feeling ebullient about last week’s River Run in support of Grassy Narrows First Nation (photo set and video). As Leanne Simpson writes in this article, the people of Grassy “have been coping with and resisting the violence of ongoing dispossession in their homeland for the last 100 years or more.”
This includes their resilience after 20,000 pounds of mercury was dumped into their river system by the Dryden paper mill in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which continues to affect the people of Grassy today by threatening their way of life as Anishnaabe people. In the face of moves to clearcut their lands, Grassy has “organized and maintained the longest-running logging blockade in Canadian history,” writes Simpson.
In 2012, I designed a poster and flyer for the previous iteration of the River Run. The absolute highlight of my participation was co-facilitating an art-making session with kids from Grassy where we printed the placards that were used in the march. By the end of the day, they were running the screenprinting station on their own.
This time around I designed the outreach materials with tings chak. And with the River Run art committee, I helped to coordinate and build art for the march based on the messaging and vision we developed with people from Grassy. In addition to bringing back the river, we made screenprinted nobori-style vertical flags, large banners, capes, fish windsocks, and large fish cutouts based on species native to Grassy. We also created a screen for kids from Grassy to print their own t-shirts for the march.
The lead banner in the march included the character 怨, which roughly translates as grudge or vengeance. It is a powerful symbol taken up by the people of Minamata, Japan, who also experienced severe mercury poisoning, and had to demand acknowledgment and accountability from their government over many years.
Recognizing that this symbol has also been taken up by anti-nuclear activists in Japan after 3.11, Sheila and I also printed some bandanas that tried to make this connection. We passed on some of these bandanas to friends who were visiting Tokyo and the Irregular Rhythm Asylum infoshop, which has been a hub of anti-nuclear organizing.
Photo by samycjs
Photo by tingschak
Photo by tingschak
Photo by tingschak
Photo by samycjs
This summer during the frenzy of World Pride, Radical Design School hosted a three-day summer camp. Our camp was an offering to people seeking a more critical and creative alternative to a corporate version of Pride that has lost touch with its political roots.
We were honoured to receive a message of encouragement from Gary Kinsman, a radical queer activist who was one of the organizers of the first Pride march in Toronto in 1981, which was read during our radical walking tour of the Church/Wellesley neighbourhood.
Gary’s writing on the social organization of forgetting and the resistance of remembering was a major source of inspiration for the Hidden Archives project we did in 2013.
Day 1: Radical walking tour with Rio Rodriguez, photo by Renee Nadeau
Day 2: Art-making following the creative writing workshop with Aruna Boodram, photo by Jenny Chan
Day 3: More art-making after introductions to the boxes we will be assembling with Tings Chak for installation on the streets, photo by rovelasquez
This poster is the second in a series, a follow-up to my Orderly or Disorderly film poster. Forough Farrokhzad’s Khaneh Siah Ast (The House is Black) is a uniquely powerful short documentary film that was released in 1963. You can watch it with English subtitles here.
The House is Black was filmed at a “leper colony” in Iran. Carefully crafted visuals are interspersed with recitations of religious texts and Farrokhzad’s own poetry (for which she is best known). The montage of these elements creatively conveys both the inherent dignity and challenging realities of the residents, while simultaneously calling attention to the debilitating effects of social stigma and ignorance.
As I thought about how to represent this in poster form, I was drawn to using shadows, which are also a reoccurring theme in Farrokhzad’s poetry, as a way to represent our dialectical relationship with the social forces and relationships we are born into and have to contend with.
Hamid Dabashi’s analysis in Masters & Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema (2007) expanded my appreciation for the film by situating the film in the wider context of Farrokhzad’s work and life. He suggests that Farrokhzad was able to forge a sense of solidarity with the people she met in the leper colony based on her own experiences of sexist social marginalization. The film can be read as part of her resistance to being branded with a scarlet letter by her detractors — instead she continues to insist on posing deeper questions about society.
Dabashi offers several translations of Farrokhzad’s poems, including “The World of Shadows” from The Wall (1956). The last stanza of this poem is quoted on the poster:
On the wet path at midnight,
How often have I asked
Myself: “Does life even find form
Inside our shadows?
Are we not the shadows of our own shadows?”
This spring I had the pleasure of taking a weaving course through the TDSB’s Learn 4 Life programming. Our teacher Line DuFour is an excellent educator who has cultivated a friendly and encouraging community of fabric and tapestry weavers at the Mimico Adult Learning Centre.
The space is filled end-to-end with floor looms. Since I elected to focus on the fabric weaving stream, I was set-up on a taple-top loom where I worked on producing a sampler scarf that represented over 16 different weaving patterns.
Once I learned to get over the fear of ruining, I made peace with inevitable small mistakes as part of the uniqueness of this labour-intensive process. Much like letterpress, I found weaving to be a helpful counterweight to the alienated experience of working in front of a computer most of the day.
During one of the class breaks, I stumbled upon an updated, somewhat sanitized government poster about British (read: white) immigration to Canada that recalled an earlier post I shared here.
When our friend Ali Mustafa was killed in Syria — along with 7 others on March 9, 2014 by an aerial bombing carried out by the Assad government — our utter shock, anger, grief, confusion, loss, and other complex emotions and memories found form, in part, in public gatherings, reflections and visual tributes.
Two images drawn by Nidal El-Khairy were screenprinted onto posters that we wheatpasted in Toronto neighbourhoods that Ali frequented. By chance, the posters perfectly fit into the in-lays of these concrete pillars.
Artist Omar Fathy created a mural of Ali in Cairo. And friends in Toronto created banners with flowers or plants indigenous to Egypt (jasmine sambac), Palestine (sage), Syria (hibiscus), Brazil (ipe amarelo), and Turtle Island (tobacco), representing Ali’s internationalist spirit and commitment to meaningful solidarity.
Rest in power Ali.
I made this poster/print as a tribute to Abbas Kiarostami’s Be Tartib ya Bedoun-e Tartib (Orderly or Disorderly), a short film released in 1981.
You can watch it online here, though unfortunately it is lacking subtitles. I was able to find a torrent elsewhere with English subtitles.
I was charmed by the premise of filming the same scenario from an “orderly” and “disorderly” perspective and the resultant complications and breakdowns that ensued. The impossibility of exercising “order” in the final traffic scene helps to underline a sense of doubt and critical engagement with a top-down disciplinary vision of society.
It’s tempting to read the question of “Orderly or Disorderly” in relation to the post-revolutionary environment it was produced in, however in my opinion the film transcends this particular context by evoking broader questions of social control, collective resistance, self-organization and self-destruction that I continue to grapple with.
Here’s a version of the image Radical Design School collaborated on for the launch of Harsha Walia’s Undoing Border Imperialism in Toronto.
It was a fun process (though somewhat tight for time) and a good opportunity for us to experiment with different levels of collaboration, from joint brainstorming and presentation of different concepts to one primary person doing the illustration, with another handling the type and background, and a team of two doing the final step of screenprinting the night before the big event.