Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Prestigious TED Prize Goes to Graffiti Artist

"Women Are Heroes in Kibera Slum," J R's sprawling installation in Nairobi, Kenya, in early 2009.

$100,000 to a street artist?

The celebrated TED Prize, previously awarded to humanitarians like Bill Clinton and Bono, was awarded to Parisian artist J R, who paints elaborate, king-sized murals of local people in the world’s poorest slums. Like many street artists, J R remains anonymous because of the illegal nature of his work.

According to the New York Times, the award is prized just as much for the publicity it raises as the cash:

For most recipients, the value of the six-year-old award has less to do with the money than with the opportunity it grants the winner to make a “wish”: to devote the funds to a humanitarian project that will almost inevitably draw donations and other help from the organization’s corporate partners and influential supporters. The chef Jamie Oliver, the 2010 prize winner, recently proposed setting up an international effort to further his campaign against obesity; Mr. Clinton’s wish has channeled significant resources toward the creation of a rural health system in Rwanda.

"Portrait of a generation," Paris, 2006.

Banksy and Shepard Fairey are household names, with commercial work and museum retrospectives. Now, J R joins Bill Clinton in an award for humanitarian work.

Is mainstream acceptance toward street artists changing, or are the artists themselves forcing change?

Filed under: africa, art, politics, racism, social justice, world, , , , , , , , , , ,

Art or Photojournalism?

President Obama, pre- and post-Photoshop

When is it justifiable to modify a real-life image?

The Economist photoshopped its most recent cover of President Obama, emphasizing his formidable challenge with BP and the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In the original photo, Obama is shown with Commander Thad Allen and the president of Lafourche Parish, Charlotte Randolph, as they briefed him on response efforts. In the Economist‘s cover, however, Obama is shown hunched, alone, seemingly deep in thought about the environmental disaster–to great visual effect.

Issues of copyright infringement aside (we have to assume the Economist editors ok’d the change with Reuters, the copyright owner–unlike Shepard Fairey, whose iconic reproduction of an AP-owned Obama image led to a well-publicized court case), the cover is most definitely more compelling without the pesky bureaucrats in conversation with the President.

Emma Duncan, deputy editor of the magazine, provides this clarification:

Yes, Charlotte Randolph was edited out of the image (Admiral Allen was removed by the crop). We removed her not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers…I asked for Ms. Randolph to be removed because I wanted readers to focus on Mr. Obama, not because I wanted to make him look isolated. That wasn’t the point of the story. “The damage beyond the spill” referred to on the cover, and examined in the cover leader, was the damage not to Mr. Obama, but to business in America.

I agree that it’s the right of the magazine staff to crop or modify graphics for the visual impact, the sake of the story. Somehow, though, the fact that this image is so close to the actual photograph seems disingenuous.

If you saw this cover on the newsstand, would you assume it was a mocked-up design or a photograph?

Filed under: art, media, obama, , , , , , , , ,

Best Fiction Featuring…Animals?

Boldtype published a kind of addendum to The New Yorker‘s recent publication of a short story by naturalist A.O. Wilson entitled “Trailhead,”about the travails of a put-upon ant, which includes, in part:

“The only thing he had ever done was accept meals regurgitated to him by his sister”

Later, the literary website expands on the genre of animal narrators with its own list of nearly two dozen narratives featuring sex-crazed anteaters (Dave Eggers’ How We Are Hungry), abandoned dogs (William Maxwell’s lyrical So Long, See You Tomorrow), and, of course, Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

I’ve included here the super-cool cover art for Animal Farm, created by artist/whiz kid/criminal Shepard Fairey. The book is a powerful reminder of how prescient Orwell was in publishing his political novel back in 1945.

Filed under: literature, , , , , , , ,

Shepard Fairey’s Obama, Part II

R1085COVERShepard Fairey’s second Obama commentary (because that’s the only thing to call it–more than art, Fairey is a master of cultural criticism), thoughtfully designed and gracing the cover of Rolling Stone. All those college kids summering at home while August slips through their fingers are gonna go nuts.

My first thought was the placement of the presidential seal behind Obama’s crown. Intentional, surely. Approaches a bit of bombasticness. The great Barkley Hendricks used the halo (or an initimation of it) to much more powerful effect in “Lawdy Mama,” his stunning gold-leafed portrait that typifies the 70’s mantra of “Black is Beautiful.

About his second Obama cover, Fairey writes:

However, a lot can and will change. As Joe Strummer of The Clash once said, “The future is unwritten.” In my illustration I make reference to Gilbert Stuart’s famous unfinished portrait of George Washington to capture the idea that, although we’re quick to judge, it’s too early to tell how Obama’s presidency will turn out. Hopefully Obama and all of us who have stood behind him will do everything we can to fill in our incomplete future the way we’ve pictured it.

It’s a great thing to ponder: As he enters the second part of his first year in office, will President Obama step boldly into the fray, fulfilling his promise of hope? Or will he suffer under the necessary weight of compromise?

Filed under: art, politics, , , ,

Writing

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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Inside W.E.B. DuBois' library

Commemorating the great pan-African writer

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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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