Dec 10

Infrastructure and Resistance

Wanda Gág, March 1927 cover of New Masses, in Andrew Hemingway, Artists on the Left: American Artists and the Communist Movement 1926-1956 (2002)

Art works by Rocky Dobey: Dark Age Ahead (Toronto), Carnival Against Capitalism (Quebec City, 2001), Take the Capital (Ottawa, 2002), Resist G8/820 (Toronto, 2010)

Cover design by Scott McCowen for Cary Fagan’s City Hall and Mrs. God (1990)

Are some buildings monstrosities? Can they be captured and catalytically converted?

In the first image, the skyscraper is a symbol for capitalism against nature. What nature? Possibly nature in a holistic sense: human and non-human ecology; or as a substitute for an idea of human nature: sustainable communities that put human needs before corporate greed.

The New Masses cover reminded me of Rocky Dobey because his work often features feudalistic skyscrapers. His structures are usually under some form of attack, often decapitated, suggesting that they must be destroyed because what they represent is rotten to the core. These pieces have an epic quality. Whether speaking to local struggles against gentrification or global convergences against capitalism, you get the sense that the whole world is at stake.

At this symbolic level, there is very little room for compromise. But what do we make of these structures? It’s an even more interesting question when you learn that Rocky has worked in high rise construction for over twenty years. If you are working on a particularly odious project, what do you say? “One day, it will fall”. Or “We will be back”? Imagine one hundred thousand construction workers Christening one hundred thousand toilets in luxury condo units saying “We will be back”. Not with our wallets, but with our tools, and our friends, and their friends, and we’ll come in a spirit of community.

Sort of like this re-imagining of Toronto City Hall that I randomly stumbled upon. The occupation of City Hall transforms it. Residential clotheslines and fire escapes eliminate the distance between residents and “governance”. In this image there is no bureaucracy, just direct democracy.

Oct 10

Facing Canada’s Racism and Colonialism

These posters are about Canada. They are about foundational myths. Foundational double standards.

If you are from the wrong side of whiteness, colonialism and capitalism – witness the frenzy and fury when you arrive at these shores.

Now, turn to these posters from Canadian Pacific Steamships, and consider, who is being invited to bring their families, to travel and to enjoy leisure – and at whose expense? Whose land, whose labour, whose bodies and whose cultures are being violated to underwrite these experiences?

Come Britishers. Bring your racisms, bring your patriarchies, homophobias, and ableisms to Canada.

Enjoy native land, enjoy native culture, enjoy native people, enjoy native land, enjoy our land, enjoy our land.

See the noble savage? See the servant?

Of course not, he has no face. She has no face. Coal face. Coal face has no eyes.

We do our duty to support the wars. Visit our tributes to empire. Stay a while, take comfort.

The world is in our hands. Sail the White Empress. Go Empress to the Orient. Go empire.

Go anywhere – until the empire strikes back, until truth speaks to colonial power, until the double standard is called, and boats show up on your doorstep.

No One Is Illegal!

Sources (in order of image appearance from top to gallery):

[1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11] Posters of the Canadian Pacific, Marc H. Choko and David L. Jones, 2004.
[3, 4, 5, 8] L’affiche au Québec: des origines à nos jours, Marc H. Choko, 2001.