Apr 13

Highlights from Hiatus


I’m still making and thinking about things, my energy has just been redirected and maybe stretched a little thin.

In February RDS collaborated with Mary from Justseeds for the Migration Now! Portfolio Launch. The initial opening was cancelled due to snowstorm warnings, so our live silkscreen activity was combined with the Justicia / No One Is Illegal / Beehive / RDS / Justseeds panel event.


We created a design for bandanas featuring animals with different relationships to migration. We also made a handout with backstories. The process was nice, we developed our ideas and practiced printing over the course of two dinners hosted at Bike Pirates. Our initial inspiration was thinking about the relationship between migration and colonialism alongside classifications of animals as ‘native’ / ‘invasive’ species and it evolved from there.

I also started a new tumblr in February called other orders because there was stuff I wanted to share that didn’t fit on free the streets. It’s mostly been a space for reclaiming culture and experimenting with digital design. So I get to make GIFs from Iranian cinema, remix and recontextualize Dr. Doom comics, and post images that would otherwise sit on my hard drive.

Image from Marvel Super Heroes Presents: Doctor Doom (#20, 1969) #GenderTrouble

A scene from 20 fingers (2004)


Sep 10

Acts of Defiance

Images of Defiance: South African Resistance Posters of the 1980s (1991) Posterbook Collective of the South African History Archive

This collection of South African posters was released during a hopeful period, coming soon after the release of political prisoner Nelson Mandela after 27 years in prison and the decriminalization of the African National Congress (ANC). Its authors speak about a transition from a “politics of resistance” to a “politics of transformation”. Mandela provides an introduction on the role of posters and graphics in the movement. Posters got the word out about meetings, campaigns, actions, events, political prisoners and martyrs.

Because they were recognized as a crucial component of the anti-apartheid movement, artists faced intense repression. Screenprinting workshops were firebombed. Artists couldn’t sign their work. Postering had to be done cladestinely. In fact, part of the reason that this collection focused on the 1980s was because so much of the earlier output of political artists had been destroyed. Due to these conditions, many designs are relatively simple. Artists sought to empower communities to produce their own posters and set up their own production units. Nevertheless, there are a number of posters with incredibly powerful designs.

Where there is oppression, there will be resistance. And where there is repression of dissent, there will be defiance. In Mexico City 1968, after government forces opened fire on demonstrators and arrested thousands just 10 days before the 1968 Olympics, artists had a rule that whoever printed posters couldn’t do anything else at the time:

Creating those posters was an illegal act, so if you were to engage in putting them up you would be committing two crimes. Meaning that if you were to get busted, it would be only for producing posters and nothing else. So we took turns printing and pasting. (“Mexico 68: The Graphic Production of a Movement” in Signal 01, 2010)

The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service (BPINS) was a weekly newspaper produced by the Black Panther Party from 1967-1980 with design and layout by Minister of Culture and revolutionary artist Emory Douglas. Despite drawing heavy attention from the state’s repressive forces, it never missed a week in its entire history:

Significantly, the BPINS came to be printed on the Party’s own printing press, which the Party built and operated. On the other hand, there was the cost, in terms of life and limb, of distributing the newspaper. Party members and others were assaulted, arrested, and even killed in connection with distribution of the Party’s newspaper. Among those murdered were, notably, Sam Napier, the Circulation Manager of the BPINS, killed in the Party’s New York City office, and Sylvester Bell and John Savage, shot to death on the streets of San Diego while selling the newspaper. FBI agents and local police delayed air and ground carriers transporting the newspaper, arrested Party members and supporters selling newspapers on the streets, raided and destroyed the presses of contract printers in the days before the Party had its own press, watered down and burned newspapers in distribution boxes, and otherwise did everything possible to delay or destroy distribution of the Party’s news organ. Still, there was never one week in its 13-year history that the BPINS was not published and distributed. (“The Significance of the Newspaper of the Black Panther Party”, Elaine Brown in The Black Panther, 2007)

Where there is oppression, there will be resistance. And where there is repression of dissent, there will be defiance. Tonight in Toronto, Alex Hundert, a G20 defendant and dedicated community organizer, was arrested for violating his bail condition against protesting for speaking at a panel event (in a university classroom) entitled “Strengthening Our Resolve”. It was reported earlier that he had been warned that conducting interviews with independent media risked violating the same condition, a transparent attempt at silencing a critical voice. An emergency rally and press conference has been called for Saturday morning outside Old City Hall at 9:00am.

Sep 10

Mapping People’s History

I just found out about this Labour History Map produced by CUPE Local 79′s David Kidd and Maureen Hynes from the School of Labour at George Brown College. The map consists of 3 tours organized by 19th century, early 20th, and post-war Toronto.

It joins a constellation of existing projects that are attempting to popularize a “people’s history” of Toronto like the Great Indian Bus Tour of Toronto organized by the Toronto Native Community History Project, the Missing Plaque Project,  and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty’s (OCAP) History’s What We Make It perpetual calendar. Long-time OCAP organizer Gaetan Heroux is also known to organize a tour on “Relief and Resistance: A Poor People’s History of East Downtown Toronto” and activists Bonnie Burstow and Don Weitz have given a people’s history workshop on “Fighting Psychiatric Violence and Oppression”. While a student I produced a Radical Map of UofT and folks have organized Disorientation tours.

With a much larger focus, No One Is Illegal – Vancouver produced a People’s History of Kanada poster project. It’s hard to mention NOII-Vancouver’s poster project without mentioning the Celebrate People’s History posters produced by Justseeds and their recent collectively-produced book Firebrands, or to even mention any of these projects without recognizing the foundational work of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States that has inspired so many of us.

People’s histories have taught me the invaluable lesson that we are not just the targets of historical forces and events – we actively shape it. History’s what we make it!

Two final recommendations: when I was in New York last summer, it was great to have Radical Walking Tours of New York Cityhandy, and to explore the Chicago Poetry Tour when I was there.

Jul 10

Autonomy Helmet

Since I started biking semi-regularly I decided that it was important to get a helmet – but not just any helmet, a customized one! While looking for ideas, I came to this image on Palestinian and Zapatista struggles for autonomy by Josh MacPhee from the Justseeds artists’ cooperative.

Using Josh’s image and a basic helmet from MEC, this is what I made:

So, process-wise, because I am not very confident in my hand-drawing skills, i) I taped up the helmet with masking tape, ii) then taped on print-outs of the design on top of the tape layer, and iii) cut out the areas to be painted with an exacto knife, cutting through the paper print-out and the tape, and leaving a “guard-rail” of uncut tape that is also great for producing sharp lines. I then iv) painted two layers of acrylic paint in the gaps, and v) peeled-off the tape. After some vi) paint touch-ups the last step was vii) spraying the helmet with a varnish, adding a little protection and shine!

Adjusting 2D print-outs to fit the curve of the helmet was the most challenging aspect of this process. I tended to split the faces into three horizontal pieces – top, face, and bottom – and as you can see, the scarf on the Intifada fighter rides a little low compared to the original image. If I were to do this again, I would try drawing onto the tape layer with the aid of a projector, or filling in gaps by hand with paint and tape guards.