Category Archives: Art

Emperor sans clothes: A sculptural protest

First, the artworks in question, via INDECLINE:

The Emperor has no balls

Program notes:

Artist: Ginger

Original Score: Ryder Reynolds

And the story from the Associated Press:

It’s Donald Trump like you’ve never seen him before.

Life-size naked statues of the Republican presidential nominee greeted passers-by in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Cleveland on Thursday. They are the brainchild of an activist collective called INDECLINE, which has spoken out against Trump before.

In a statement, the collective said the hope is that Trump, the former host of “The Apprentice” reality TV series, “is never installed in the most powerful political and military position in the world.”

The statues were created by an artist in Cleveland. They are of a stern-faced Trump with his hands folded over a bulging belly. Some parts of male genitalia are visible while others seemingly are missing.

“It is through these sculptures that we leave behind the physical and metaphorical embodiment of the ghastly soul of one of America’s most infamous and reviled politicians,” INDECLINE said in its statement.

Trump’s campaign declined to comment on the statues.

White Boy Privilege: An Atlanta youth nails it

A 14-year-old student won the poetry slam at his private school in Atlanta, Georgia, with a devastating take on the privileges inhering in the simple fact of being born white and male.

To be fair, Royce Mann is a talented professional actor who has appeared in feature films and acted on stage. He also writes, produces, and directs.

From Sheri Mann Stewart:

Royce Mann, Age 14, “White Boy Privilege”, Slam Poem

Program notes:

Royce Mann, 8th grader from Atlanta, GA, USA, wrote and performed this slam poem as part of a competition. He ended up taking home first place.

And the story, from U.S. Uncut:

Royce Mann, a white eighth-grade student and rising acting star, recently brought the house down in a passionate slam poetry performance about white privilege that is spreading like wildfire.

Mann’s poem, “White Boy Privilege,” is about awakening to the fact that the world has set the 14-year-old up to succeed while stacking the deck against women, people of color, and immigrants. In the poem, he at first celebrates his privilege, saying he “loves it” that he has innate benefits as a white male in American society, but later comes to the conclusion that his privilege wasn’t created by his generation, calling on other young white males to reject their privilege and actively demand the privileges afforded to them be shared with the rest of society.

Read the poem in its entirety:

Dear women, I am sorry.

Dear black people, I am sorry.

Dear Asian Americans, dear Native Americans, dear immigrants who come here seeking a better life, I am sorry.

Dear everyone who isn’t a middle or upper-class white boy, I am sorry.

I have started life at the top of the ladder, while you were born on the first rung.

I say now that I would change places with you in an instant, but if given the opportunity, would I?

Probably not. Because to be honest, being privileged is awesome.

I’m not saying that you and me on different rungs of the ladder is how I want it to stay,

I’m not saying any part of me for one moment has even liked it that way,

I’m just saying, I fucking love being privileged and I’m not ready to give that away.

I love it, because I can say “fucking” and not one of you is attributing that to the fact that everyone of my skin color has a dirty mouth.

I love it, because I don’t have to spend an hour every morning putting on makeup to meet other people’s standards.

I love it, because I can worry about what kind of food is on my plate, instead of whether or not there will be food on my plate.

I love it, because when I see a police officer, I see someone who’s on my side.

To be honest, I’m scared of what it would be like if I wasn’t on the top rung.

If the tables were turned, and I couldn’t have my white boy privilege safety blankie to protect me.

If I lived a life by what I lack, not what I have, if I lived a life in which when I failed, the world would say ‘Told you so.’

If I lived the life that you live.

When I was born, I had a success story already written for me. You, you were given a pen and no paper.

I’ve always felt that that’s unfair, but I’ve never dared to speak up because I’ve been too scared.

Well, now I realize that there’s enough blankie to be shared.

Everyone should have the privileges that I have. In fact, they should be rights instead.

Everyone’s stories should be written, so all they have to do is get it read. Enough said.

No, not enough said.

It is embarrassing that we still live in a world in which we judge another person’s character by the size of their paycheck, the color of their skin, or the type of chromosomes they have.

It is embarrassing that we tell our kids that it is not their personality, but instead those same chromosomes that get to dictate what color clothes they wear, and how short they cut their hair.

But most of all, it is embarrassing that we deny this, that we claim to live in an equal country in an equal world.

We say that women can vote? Well, guess what? They can run a country, own a company, and throw a nasty curveball as well. We just don’t give them the chance to.

I know it wasn’t us 8th grade white boys who created this system, but we profit from it every day. We don’t notice these privileges though, because they don’t come in the form of things we gain, but rather the lack of injustices that we endure.

Because of my gender, I can watch any sport on TV and feel like that could be me one day.

Because of my race, I can eat in a fancy restaurant without the wait staff expecting me to steal the silverware.

Thanks to my parents’ salary, I go to a school that brings my dreams closer instead of pushing them away.

Dear white boys, I’m not sorry. I don’t care if you think that feminists are taking over the world, or that Black Lives Matter has gotten a little too strong, because that’s bullshit.

I get that change can be scary, but equality shouldn’t be.

Hey white boys, it’s time to act like a woman. To be strong and make a difference. It’s time to let go of that fear.

It’s time to take that ladder and turn it into a bridge.

And just for the fund of it, here’s another take on the privileges of being born white and male from comedian Louis C.K. presented in 2014 at the 3% Conference:

Louis CK “White Male Privilege”

Map of the day: Working artists and writers in EU

BLOG Euroart

The details from Eurostat:

In 2014, according to Eurostat estimations, 6 million persons were employed in the cultural field in the European Union [EU], or slightly less than 3 % of the total number of persons employed. 6 out of 10 persons in cultural employment had tertiary education.

Of the almost 2 million artists and writers in the EU, nearly half [49%] were self-employed, a share much higher than that reported for total employment [15%].

Highest share of cultural employment in Luxembourg, lowest in Romania

At Member State level, the highest shares of cultural employment were observed in Luxembourg [5.2%] and Sweden [4.1%], followed by Finland and the Netherlands [3.9% each] as well as Denmark [3.8%]. At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest share was observed in Romania [1.1%], followed by Slovakia [2.0%], Bulgaria [2.1%], Portugal [2.2%], Greece [2.3%] and Cyprus [2.4%].

Share of women in cultural employment generally higher than in total employment

On average in the EU, women represented just below half [47%] of persons employed in the cultural field, just above the share of women in total employment. In most Member States the share of women in cultural employment was higher than the share of women in total employment, in particular in the Baltic Member States Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, followed by Bulgaria, Poland, Croatia and Romania. In seven Member States there was a lower share of women in cultural employment than in total employment: Austria, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Malta, France, Spain and the Netherlands.

More persons with tertiary education in cultural employment than in total employment

In all Member States the share of persons with tertiary education was much higher in cultural employment than in total employment. The percentage point difference was highest in Luxembourg, Spain, Lithuania, Poland and Germany and lowest in Malta, Sweden, Ireland and Denmark. At EU level 60% of persons in cultural employment had tertiary education, a share almost double that in total employment.

Dan Adel: The faces on Mount Trumpmore

Vanity Fair commissioned painter/illustrator Dan Adel to offer his take on the faces that would logically accompany The Donald on American’s iconic sculptural peak.

While we concur that Tricky Dick and Dubious Dubya are good mount mates, we disagree with his pick of Herbert Hoover, both because two men with backgrounds in a tiny minority religion are one too many [both Nixon and Hoover were raised in Quaker homes], and because there’s another Republican who’s a better choice.

Yep, Calvin Coolidge is our pick for the fourth man.

Yes, Coolidge was considerably more quiescent than The Donald, earning himself the sobriquet of “Silent Cal.”

But there’s another reason, too. Hoover, like Nixon and Bush, were notoriously monogamous, while Trump is certainly not.

And that brings us to our pick of Coolidge, who is best known to today’s younger Americans not as the businessman he was, like Trump, but for the Coolidge Effect, a trait Trump personifies:

BLOG 4 Trumpmore

And now for something completely different. . .

The late Ryan Larkin [and previously] was an enormously talented and deeply troubled Canadian artist and animator who lived his life on the streets.

For today’s ANFSCD we bring you two of his musical animations for the National Film Board of Canada, the boundless font of visual wonders.

First up is a 1971 animation from Greek mythology with a solo flute accompaniment:


Program notes:

Borrowing from classical mythology, this very short film illustrates the story of Syrinx, the nymph who attempts to escape the goat-god Pan’s amorous advances by fleeing to a nearby river for help, only to be transformed into hollow reeds. Syrinxis the first film by Ryan Larkin, an Oscar®-nominated director who began his animation career in Norman McLaren’s student group. The technique employed is charcoal sketches on paper; the accompanying music is Claude Debussy’s “Syrinx” for solo flute.

Directed by Ryan Larkin – 1965

Our second offering, from 1972, features members of the community he called home, the streets.


Program notes:

Visual improvisation on music performed by a popular group presented as sidewalk entertainers. The illustration is by a young film artist and animator who sees life with an amused and imaginative eye. His take-off point is the music, but his own beat is more boisterous than the musicians. He ranges from the most convoluted of abstractions to caricature of familiar rituals, including the bath. A film without words.

And now for something completely different. . .

Would you believe a bicycle that walks?

Theo Jansen [previously] is a Dutch physicist-turned-artist, a creative mind who has fabricated kinetic sculptures, including a remarkable assemblage he calls the Strandbeest.

Here’s one example, a wind-powered version from his Strandbeest Workshop:

Amazing, no?

But what other possibilities exist for Jansen’s remarkable idea?

Well, Blaine Elliott and a group of creative friends in Santa Barbara, California, picked up the basic concept and applied it to the bicycle.

From Blaine’s Blog:

In late 2014, two friends and I decided to begin building a bike based on the Strandbeest. The Strandbest is a walking machine created by Theo Jansen in the 1980s. Imagine this machine below, scaled down to the size of a bike, where the back wheels of a bike are replaced with legs. That is more or less what we set out to do. The process involved 3 people, took 6 months and 1000 man hours to complete.

As complicated as this machine may appear to be, it can be simple when broken down. The Strandbeest is a series of Jansen’s linkage’s. Each Jansen Linkage imitates the motion of a leg. A leg by itself is trivial but when they function together, you get something much more complicated.

Our idea was to leverage the concept of the Jansen Linkage to construct a bicycle that has rear legs instead of a rear wheel. In this blog I’m going to review the various work that was involved in order to make that idea a reality. By this point, most of the bike is done. There’s some painting and fine tuning to do. I’m pleasantly surprised with the results. We had a lot of confidence this bike would work and it wasn’t until maybe 70% through the project we we really able to unit test it.

And here’s the result, from his vlog:

Riding the Strandbeest Bike

And that, dear reader, is something completely different. . .

Oh, and if you’re visiting Northern California this summer and interested in seeing more of Jansen’s creations and learning more about the artist, the Exploratorium is currently featuring through 5 September an exhibition, Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen.

The Vaquita, threatened by distant appetites

Marine biologist Barbara Taylor of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla is passionate about saving the world’s endangered cetaceans, and her focus in recent years has been on the Vaquita, a recently discovered porpoise in the Sea of Cortez now facing imminent extinction.

Taylor’s passion for saving the rare mammal extends beyond the laboratory and field research to the other passion of her life, art [she has her own gallery where you can purchase her graphics and jewellery featuring the Vaquita]. Here’s one example:

BLOG Taylor

What’s driving the extinction of the Vaquita is the same thing driving the extinctions of so many other endangered creatures: Chinese hunger for the organs of rare animals alleged to possess magical powers, most frequently, as with the horn of the rhinoceros and the penis of the tiger, those alleged to restore virility to aging Asian wangs.

But it’s not lust for the Vaquita that’s driving its extinction; rather it’s the hunger for part of another, similarly sized inhabitant of those same waters, with the Vaquita die-off only a matter of collateral damage.

From Newsweek:

A small fiberglass boat rocks on the surface of the water a few hundred yards from shore about 100 miles down Baja California from the U.S.-Mexico border. Two men in yellow slickers and rubber boots stand in the boat, pulling a loosely woven net from the water with their hands. Tangled in the gillnet are four dull silver fish about 5 feet long, each weighing more than 100 pounds. Known as totoaba, these fish live only in the upper Gulf of California and are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Mexico and the U.S. Since 1976, their trade has been prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora since 1976.

And yet the fishermen cut open each fish, remove the swim bladder—a gas-filled organ that helps the fish control its depth—and toss the rest overboard. They may harvest 100 totoaba bladders tonight and earn anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on current market prices.

Buyers dry these bladders and ship them to markets in Hong Kong, where the price for the flat, yellowish, dinner-plate-sized organs sometimes goes as high as six figures. The Chinese buy them as gifts to cement business relationships, for use in traditional banquet dishes or to eat for their supposed medicinal and nutritional benefits. Totoaba bladders are a substitute for those of the giant yellow croaker (aka Chinese bahaba), which was fished nearly to extinction decades ago.

The imminent loss of the Vaquita has drawn the attention of wildlife conservation organizations, including one formed specifically to save the small cetacean. is a seven-year-old collaboration on the part of activists from several nonprofits, including the Cetos Research Organization, Save The Whales, the Monterey Bay chapter of the American Cetacean Society, ACS National, the Oceanographic Environmental Research Society, the Muskwa Club, and V-Log.

From Viva Vaquita’s Thomas A. Jefferson:

Clearly, despite the tremendous efforts of Sea Shepherd, and the dedication of Mexican authorities, illegal gillnetting continues to thrive in the upper Gulf.  The fishermen appear to have learned how to fish in secret, by operating mostly at night, and this makes ones wonder if this was going on even when so many eyes were on the gulf last autumn (eyes are not good at seeing in the dark!).  Enforcement efforts to date have not been nearly enough to stop the slaughter…

The good news is that Mexico recently announced that it will be stepping up patrols, including some night-time enforcement.  This is certainly an improvement, but one must wonder whether these increases can overcome the tremendous economic incentive that the Chinese markets are providing to encourage illegal gillnet fishing for totoaba.  We can only hope so, and we must continue our efforts to bring the vaquita’s plight to the world before it is too late.

Remember, Saturday 9 July is this year’s International Save the Vaquita Day.  We plan to have more venues than ever, with the addition of some new locations, and also the addition of new attractions, such as live music this year!  Mark your calendar, and tell all your friends about it.  Also, keep your eyes open for an upcoming story about the vaquita on CBS’s 60 Minutes!  And the new abundance estimate for the vaquita is in the works and should be released some time this spring.  I am sure we all hope that the numbers are not as low as we fear they might be.

This is shaping up to be the “make or break” year for the vaquita.  If rampant illegal gillnetting is not completely stopped very soon, it is likely that the species will reach a point of no return in the next 12 months or so.

Also calling for immediate action is the World Wildlife Federation:

Mexican authorities must immediately and indefinitely close all fisheries within the habitat of Mexico’s critically endangered vaquita porpoise – or we will lose the species forever.

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico, referring to data from the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), said on Friday that only around 60 vaquitas remained in the upper Gulf of California — the only place the species exists — as of December 2015. This is a nearly 40 per cent decline from the 97 vaquitas that remained in 2014.

“We can still save the vaquita, but this is our last chance,” said Omar Vidal, CEO of WWF-Mexico. “The Mexican government must ban all fishing within the vaquita’s habitat now and until the species shows signs of recovery. Anything else is just wishful thinking.”

So what is the Vaquita? And what are its prospects? And why should we care?

For answers, a video featuring Barbara Taylor from University of California Television:

Net Loss: New Abundance Estimate Reveals That Mexico’s Vaquita Faces Imminent Extinction

Program notes:

Barbara Taylor of the National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Fisheries Science Center, who participated in the last effort to save the recently extinct Chinese River Dolphin, or Baiji, gives a detailed chronicle of her involvement in documenting the decline of earth’s most endangered marine mammal, the Vaquita, found only in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. Their primary threat is death in gillnets, which until very recently supplied shrimp to the U.S. market. The catastrophic 80% decline since 2011 results from illegal sales of endangered totoaba swim bladders to China.