Telling it like it is: Victoria Grant

As I have mentioned many times, I watch a lot of documentaries. There is so much about the world that does not make it past the mainstream media filters. The internet is a blessing in that regard because it makes alternative information more accessible to the general public. Pigtails in Paint is a case in point.

I came across a short video produced in 2012 of a speech by 12-year-old Victoria Grant about the nature of the banking system and how money works. Naturally, this is a well-rehearsed speech but I think the point is that the key concept is simple enough to be understood by most reasonably educated young people. Efforts by economists to make certain aspects of this system seem complex when they are not is really a cynical diversion to keep the public from realizing just how obviously unjust it is. Grant has followed up on this theme in subsequent years.

Victoria Grant and the Public Banking Institute - Public Banking in America (2012)

Victoria Grant and the Public Banking Institute – Public Banking in America (2012)

You can see the whole speech here.

Advent of the Attack Ad

In the United States, tomorrow is an election day. A couple years ago, I saw this interesting ad featuring a little girl. It was a scare tactic to get voters to vote for President Johnson in the 1964 election. His principle opponent, Barry Goldwater, was regarded as a warmonger and expressed a willingness to use nuclear weapons. It was designed to impress upon voters the gravity of their decision during a period of nuclear brinksmanship.

Tony Schwartz - Daisy Ad (1964)

Tony Schwartz – Daisy Ad (1964)

What I did not realize at the time was its historic importance as a landmark in political elections and that many believed it was responsible for Johnson’s landslide victory. Although the Johnson campaign staff was condemned for airing this powerful but indirect ad hominem attack, some commentators credit it for opening the door to the more vicious examples we see today. The ad was aired only once on September 7, 1964 and featured two-year-old Monique M. Corzilius counting the petals on a daisy before cutting to a missile launch countdown. You can read more on the “Daisy” Ad on Wikipedia where you can also view the entire ad.

Bug Splats

I noticed this item and it reminded me of protest street art writ large. Although it is a kind of escalation of the art form, given the magnitude of the issue, it seems perfectly appropriate here. And you will not find any local people calling this an eyesore or defacement of property.

Combat is messy, but in the modern age of advanced technology, combatants can destroy their targets from a distance, practically eliminating any emotional impact. This godlike power has no small psychological affect and drone operators often refer to kills as “bug splats”, since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed. To challenge this insensitivity and raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait in the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan—where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, an operator sees not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face. The child featured in the poster is not named, but is reported to have lost both her parents and two young siblings in a drone attack.

MQ-1 Predator camera footage - Not a Bug Splat Installation (2014)

MQ-1 Predator camera footage – Not a Bug Splat Installation (2014)

The installation is also designed to be captured by satellites in the hope that it will become a permanent part of the landscape on online mapping sites. Read more here.

Soviet Postcards, Part 9: Abram Shterenberg

This is the last (for now) installment of my Soviet Postcards series. Although this artist had a wide-ranging career as a photojournalist, it seems he did have a period in the 1930s when he had a special affinity for children.

Abram Shterenberg - Children in the USSR (1933)

Abram Shterenberg – Children in the USSR (1933)

This is the cover of a—perhaps unique—hand-made album of 12 vintage photographs mounted on card stock and bound by string. Since it was published by Prague University, the captions were written in Czech. This album featured Shterenberg’s photographs of young Soviet children in a state-run summer camp. Some of his images were then made into postcards and there are a few variations of “Olya”.

Abram Shterenberg -  Оля (1935)

Abram Shterenberg – Оля (1935) (1)

Abram Petrovich Shterenberg (Абрам Петрович Штеренберг) (1894-1979) was born in the Ukraine and began his apprenticeship as a photographer in 1909 before fighting in World War I. After working in B. Tapuskyansky’s studio in Tashkent, he joined the art and photography department of the Red Army in 1919. He began working as a photojournalist while living with his brother David, a painter, in Moscow in 1926, concentrating on post-revolutionary social issues. He made his name as a portraitist, showing a fondness for extreme close-up, an economic range of tone, strong chiaroscuro and soft focus. He joined the artist group October—founded by Aleksander Rodchenko and Boris Ignatovich. Accused of formalism, he returned to photojournalism, becoming well-known for his photographs of collective farm life and Uzbek landscapes. Later in life, he returned to portraiture while working as a photographic correspondent for the news agency Novosti.

[June 9, 2014]  I was able to uncover another version of the Olya image; I don’t yet know how many variations of this toddler were turned into postcards.

Abram Shterenberg -  Оля (1935) (2)

Abram Shterenberg – Оля (1935) (2)

[August 11, 2014] Here are a couple more—this time of a girl named Igusia.

Abram Shterenberg - Игуся (1935) (1)

Abram Shterenberg – Игуся (1935) (1)

Abram Shterenberg - Игуся (1935) (2)

Abram Shterenberg – Игуся (1935) (2)

A Second-a-Day

It is so easy to be out of touch with the latest technology as it is changing so rapidly around us. One of the remarkable new phenomena is the practice of using one-second clips and patching them together to tell a story. On one level, it is an interesting innovation but it also speaks to the need to find new ways to catch our attention while we are bombarded by media imagery. It also speaks to the diminished attention spans of those who have adapted well to the use of certain new technologies.

Ordinarily, I would wait to post something like this until it was properly researched since little material that comes my way is particularly timely. However, an associate of mine—who sends me a lot of curious leads—sent me this one. It is a second-a-day film just posted on YouTube on March 5, 2014. It is a part of the Save the Children, UK’s Syria campaign. It covers the change of circumstances of a little girl from one of her birthdays to the next in a theoretical scenario in which military aggression has taken place in the U.K.  Watch the video here.

Save the Children, UK (2014) (1)

Save the Children, UK (2014) (1)

Save the Children, UK (2014) (2)

Save the Children, UK (2014) (2)

This is an impressive little actress as the rigors of composing this piece and the sincerity of her numb expression at the end demonstrate.

By the time I got to see the video, there were already a lot of comments: I would say the usual gamut of mindless sentiment and requisite hate-mongering. One comment caught my eye because it is something I might have said if I hadn’t given it deeper thought. I think the commenter’s eagerness made him or her too hasty. Nonetheless, the idea was a valid one and one that I have made a few times on this blog (here and here): namely, the image of a little girl is a compelling one and that fact has not escaped the notice of top publicity people. The detractors were equally hasty, condescendingly pointing out that this is a non-profit organization and that perhaps such patent manipulation might at least have a noble purpose. Now, I am not personally familiar with Save the Children and I will not risk defamation by making declarative statements about that organization specifically. But I have learned in my years of study that almost any organization big enough to be known to the general public is driven by monetary forces that inevitably distort its stated mission and it is wise for us to view any publicity—whether it be called advertising, public relations or propaganda—with skepticism.

On another note, I would be delighted to know more about the production of this video. Perhaps the actress (or her family) will have interesting stories to tell about being selected and fascinating facts about its shooting.

Dorothy Hope Smith

Dorothy Hope Smith is best known for her iconic image of a baby for Gerber’s. Here she takes on WWII propaganda, which was literally everywhere at the time. Propaganda art featuring children is almost a subgenre all its own. In the future I will likely do a longer post on this, but until then, here’s one to tide you over:

Dorothy Hope Smith – Don’t Kill Her Daddy with Careless Talk

 

Fidus, Part 1

Hugo Reinhold Karl Johann Höppener, a.k.a. Fidus, was one of the more prominent Symbolist painters and illustrators of the Art Nouveau style, known as the Jugendstil in his native Germany.  In fact, Jugendstil got its name from the famous magazine Jugend, to which Fidus was a regular contributor.  In his youth Fidus was on the cutting edge of liberal politics, founding a commune and even submitting work to one of the first homosexual magazines, Der Eigene, though later he attempted to join the Nazi Party and was rejected.  While it’s true that the philosophy and politics of artists are notoriously fickle, my hunch is that Fidus never really supported the Nazis but tried to integrate with them as an act of self-preservation and to keep his work in circulation.  If so, the ploy failed, as the Nazis censored and confiscated his work on the grounds that it was decadent, a fate suffered by many artists under the oppressive Nazi regime.  Among Fidus’s favorite subjects was the nude child, particularly the nude young girl.

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Fidus – Der Wolken (detail) – Jugend No. 4 (1896)

Fidus – Wasser-Rosen – Jugend No. 12 (1896)

Fidus – Wasser-Rosen – Jugend No. 12 (1896)

Fidus – Frühlingslust – Jugend No. 13 (1896)

Fidus – Frühlingslust – Jugend No. 13 (1896)

Fidus – Der Undankbare – Jugend No.15 (1896)

Fidus – Der Undankbare – Jugend No.15 (1896)

Fidus – Die Kugelläuferin – Jugend No. 19 (1896)

Fidus – Die Kugelläuferin – Jugend No. 19 (1896)

Fidus – Schlingpflanzen – Jugend No. 23 (1896)

Fidus – Schlingpflanzen – Jugend No. 23 (1896)

Fidus – Schwule – Jugend No. 27 (1896)

Fidus – Schwule – Jugend No. 27 (1896)

Fidus – Das Feigenblatt – Jugend No. 20 (1897)

Fidus – Das Feigenblatt – Jugend No. 20 (1897)

Fidus – Untitled – Jugend No. 28 (1897)

Fidus – Untitled – Jugend No. 28 (1897)

Fidus – Glück – Jugend No. 29 (1897)

Fidus – Glück – Jugend No. 29 (1897)

Fidus – Du sollst nicht tödten! – Jugend No. 38 (1897)

Fidus – Du sollst nicht tödten! – Jugend No. 38 (1897)

Fidus – Advertisement for Vegetarian Restaurant (1900)

Fidus – Advertisement for Vegetarian Restaurant (1900)

Fidus – (Title Unknown)

Fidus – (Title Unknown)

Wikipedia: Fidus

Comments:

From Reverend Benjamin M. Root IV on July 11, 2012
I’m happy to say that I own the print “Schwule”. Not yet framed, but cherished all the same.

The Adventures of Patsy

Most people know the story of Little Orphan Annie, and that she got her start in one of the most successful and longest running daily comic strips of all time.  But they are generally unfamiliar with some of the other strips focusing on children that started around the same time but didn’t quite have Annie’s staying power.  One of these is ‘The Adventures of Patsy,’ written and illustrated by Mel Graff, which dealt with a child star living in Hollywood.  Personally, in terms of aesthetics, I much prefer Patsy’s big dark eyes and black wavy locks to Annie’s blank white circles and bushy orange lump of hair.  Another interesting aspect of the Patsy strip was that it easily transitioned from flights of pure fantasy to solid realism, and back again.  In fact, some scholars have argued that ‘The Adventures of Patsy’ featured comics’ very first masked superhero in the character of the Phantom Magician. Others argue it was actually Mandrake the Magician.  Whatever the case, Patsy’s sweetness, charm and chutzpah deserves to win her a new generation of fans.

Note: there’s a strip missing between the sixth and seventh in this series, but it transitions pretty well without it.

Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (1)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (2)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (3)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (4)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (5)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (6)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (7)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (8)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (9)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (10)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (11)

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Mel Graff – The Adventures of Patsy (12)

Wikipedia: The Adventures of Patsy