Identity, Gender, and the seach for a hammer Pt. 1 and 2.

Not a week have gone by since as long as I can remember without anyone asking me why I’m a feminist. It’s that kind of thing that provokes people. “Do you hate men?” they say, smirking at me. Astonished by their own wit. There is usually a spark in their eyes. Evil sometimes. Bloodthirsty. For a confrontation or the gossip my reply will bring them. (“that girl is nuts, some kind of lesbian or something. She hates all men”.)

I know this speech by heart now. I’m like a machine. “No” I say “I don’t hate men. I’m a feminist because I believe that men and women are equals.” This first bit is rational enough to wipe the smirk of their faces. They realise I’m serious. Before they have time to say anything I carry on “I believe that we’re all equal and deserves to be treated as such. There’s a bigger difference between men and men or women and women that it is between men and women. I don’t think that there is any argument that can justify the pay gap between men and women, the imbalance in the distribution of house work, the sexism in the media, the way women are judged by their looks before anything else. But feminism isn’t just about women. Men are also as affected by the norms we’re all forced to embrace as if it was all we ever wanted. They too have been brought up within the frameworks of the patriarchy, even though the patriarchy itself is slightly biased in their favour. I refuse to accept it. I refuse to use words like ‘bitch’ and  ‘cunt’ because if someone’s an idiot it has nothing to do with their gender. I count master suppression techniques in people who think of themselves as authoritarian before I decide to respect them. I’ll wear whatever the fuck I want. I’ll be as loud as I want. I’ll walk through the darkest alleys at night because I refuse to be a victim. (Women shouldn’t be told to stay indoors or have to take a cab home late at night, or told to wear rape-alarms. Rapists should be told that their sexual drive is no higher than anyone else’s and if most people can control themselves so can you. And yes, rape is rape, no matter what. )  Sexism is all around us and is a battle you fight every day.”

I’ve usually been interrupted by now. I know rants are not appreciated by anyone. No matter if the rant-er is on to something or not. People stop listening.  They go back into their munchkin world where men are from mars and women from venus.

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Irma Boom

Irma Boom is a dutch graphic designer, located in Amsterdam and specialised on book making. She workings in an unconventional way and has a say in everything that’s going in to her books. She controls text, layout and images alike. My favourite of her works is the so-called SHV thinkbook. It was printed in only 800 copies (500 in english and 300 in chinese), and was designed to be distributed all over the world. Irma Boom herself did the maths somehow and figured out that it would take 500 years before it has been around the whole globe. The book, commissioned by SHV Holdings in Holland,  is 2136 pages and took Irma five years to put together.

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First Things First 2000

First Things First 2000 is a manifesto signed by 33 artists (Jonathan Barnbrook who came to UEL last semester, Irma Boom and many others – most of them absolutely brilliant and insanely inspiring!). It was first written in 1963 by 22 visual communicators. It’s about working  against the massproductive world of adverts, how the market only encourages lucrative ideas and the quickest solutions. Like the manifesto says; one does not become a Graphic Designer to sell dogfood or diamonds.

Being a rather loud and uncompromising humanist the world of graphic design seems like a mad place to me. The first thing we were told, on our first day in our first year in uni was that we were expected to “produce produce produce”. This was to happen “now now now”. First day comes first and then comes the rest and I’ve grown to realise that making a living as a graphic designer will be a battle between my will to work and everything I believe in. I swear solemnly that I will spend my two remaining years training to be cunning enough to get through the obstacle race that the remaining 40 years of my working life will be without selling my soul. I’ve printed the manifesto and hung it on my wall. Signed, of course.

It’s so encouraging to see this manifesto, and the 33 names on it, and be reminded that there are people out there who’d rather work with educating the masses on things that actually matter than making dough. 


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Richard Weston (1996, pp.7) describes a modernism as someone who has “faith in the tradition of the new” while explains postmodernism to be “that reacted against the pared-down modern school by reintroducing classical and traditional elements of style.” Modernism was more of rational movement forward, with the use of new techniques introduced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century,  but the actual view on art and literature remain mainly the same. A piece of art had one deeper meaning behind it, given to it by the artist. It was a reaction to Realism, that proceeded the modernist era, the idea of science no longer fascinated people in the same way, but despite the expression being different it was still interpreted by the same means.

Postmodernism peaked during the mid-to-late twentieth century and the postmodernist artists had yet even more new technology at their disposal, enabling them to develop their art even further. The main thing that separated it from modernism, though, was the change in mentality. The dominating way of looking at art was challenged and a piece of art could have as many meanings as viewers. It has received a lot of criticism for being the death of fine culture, for being too populistic. British literary theorist Terry Eagleton once said that “postmodernism is among other things a sick joke at the expense of revolutionary avant-gardism.”

 Personally I think that the criticism was simply a scream in panick by the people who could still remember the times before media took over. (Like the generation gap between Martin and Julia in George Orwell’s 1984. He, being older that her, can still vaguely remember the times before big brother took over and is intimidated by the system. She, on the other hand, being a native to that regime knows nothing else, and can  slip through the gap and fuck the system up from the inside in a way Martin never could.)

In Modernism, reality used to validate media.
In Postmodernism, the media validate reality.
If you don’t believe this,
just think how many times you’ve described some real event as being ‘just like a movie.’” 
  – Brad Holland
R. Weston. 1996, Modernism. London, Phaidon Press.
C. Jencks. 1987. Post-Modernism, The New Classicism in Art and Architecture. London, Rizzoli, NY and Academy.
J. Lack and S. Wilson. 2008. The tate guide to modern art terms, London, Tate.
R. Huyghe. 1965. Larousse encyclopedia of modern art, art and mankind, from 1800 to the present. Great Britain, Keyspool Limited.
T. Eagleton. 1996 The Illusions of Postmodernism. Oxford, Blackwell publishing. 

Migrant Mother

I was reading about the Dusty Bowl Depression  to try to find a link between that and Dusty Springfield (turned out to be Wellington boots) when I stumbled over the story of Florence Owens Thompson. She was portrayed by Dorothea Lange during in 1936. At this time she was a 32 years old pea-picker, mother of seven. Lange wrote this about the family “Seven hungry children. Father is native Californian. Destitute in pea pickers’ camp … because of failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tires to buy food.” Lange exaggerated. Troy Owens, Florence’s son, told the New Times that “There’s no way we sold our tires, because we didn’t have any to sell.” 

31 words on a woman’s, a woman just like herself, misery. 10 of them were false.

And as grateful as I am for Dorothea’s work I can’t help but wonder where the world went wrong when she could sell vintage prints for $822,400 and the woman on the picture, iconic and immortalized, carried out her life working 16 out of 24 hours a day until she died of cancer in 1983. I’m not at all placing any guilt on Dorothea Lange since I believe that educating people about the world around them is one of the most important steps towards improving anything, and she did amazing job doing this.

But isn’t it rather repulsive when a picture of poverty becomes a luxury commodity?


Gordon L. 2009., Dorothea Lange A Life Beyond Limits, New York, W.W Norton &Company inc.

Frank, 2008., The Americans, Germany, Steidl’s.

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Sesame Street

Last night I was reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, there is a chapter about Sesame Street that I found was appalling enough to deserve a blog entry.  

Sesame Street was first  broadcasted in 1969, with a plot cunningly calculated by pedagogics directed to preschoolers. It was a mash-up of educational and commercial television. It was structured to keep the children’s’ attention long enough to educate and influence them. Gladwell (2000:100) states that “it is the formal features of television – violence, bright lights, loud and funny noises, quick editing cuts, zooming in and out, exaggerated action, and all the other things we associate with commercial TV – that hold our intention. In other words we don’t have to understand what we’re looking at to keep watching.” This is the way Sesame Street was constructed until 1998, more like a magazine that a book; without any clear narrative, just a number of short sketches.

Sesame Street won 118 Emmy awards, was broadcasted in 130 countries and has been running for 42 years and counting.

Say what you want about influencing children, and educating all of us after guidelines set by the state with no respect for individuality (after all it’s a bit like an institution preaching to students to think for themselves but marking them down if they don’t quote other people.) but I loved Sesame Street as a kid and always prefered Count to Bram Stroker’s Dracula.


Gladwell, Malcolm., 2000, The Tipping Point, Little Brown, UK.,9171,943327,00.html?iid=digg_share

John Stezaker

John Stezaker claims that his work is very political. I don’t agree. I think it’s very inspiring and it really makes you question the celebrity culture and beauty norms but I don’t find it political in the radical way he’s describing it himself. They way he uses collages actually makes you see the images clearer that the usual sepia-toned classical beauty we see all the time. It’s rather ingenious.

He was a part of the Situationists International movement during the 60’s and took part in the legendary student demonstrations in 1968. Anyone calling for a general wildcat strike has the right to call themselves radical whenever they feel like, in my humble opinion. In the 70’s he was one of the first conceptual artists to break free of the dominating pop art, and since then he’s kept a very clear profile in his work and his art has been exhibited all over the world.

The main reason why I picked John Stezaker of that list is because I’m a big fan of  Pete Kennard. Pete Kennard is brilliant. Since Pete and John went to the same uni (Slade University of Art) at the same time (1960’s) I figured that John couldn’t be half bad if they’re both doing collages as well. I thought they’d be pretty much the same person. Can confirm, though, after a bit of research that they are not the same person. Glad we got that sorted.

I’ve tried to do reasearch for this entry but it’s been close to impossible to find anything on John Stezaker. I haven’t even managed to prove he exists. Therefore I’m concluding that there is a possibility that he don’t. Or that he’s working under a pseudonym. Or that he’s a group of people working under a pseudonym, like some people claim Shakespeare was. All I know for sure is that he’s definitely NOT Pete Kennard. I’ve made an image to illustrate this. Enjoy.