4/5/2013 11:12:39 AM
With moss, graffiti artists and activists get green, literally speaking.
Quick, what can you make with a handful of moss, some yogurt, and a
can of beer?
Over the last several years, gardeners and graffiti artists
have been discovering common ground—on walls. While it’s difficult to pinpoint
the origin of the moss graffiti movement, Edina Tokodi—a.k.a. Mosstica—seems a
likely source. The Hungarian artist has been putting moss in public spaces since
2004 (above, a work from 2008; below, from 2004).
Since then, word has spread (alongside striking photos) about
how to make and grow this fuzzy paint. Methods vary slightly, but most follow
the general formula of this recipe
from Destructables or this
concoction featuring beer and corn syrup from Gardening Guru. These simple approaches have made the technique
accessible to internationally recognized artists and Occupiers alike.
While moss’s inclination to keep trim makes it a clear
choice for wall growth, the bryophyte has another quality that makes it ideal.
Because the “paint” making process involves putting the moss in a blender, this
technique would only work with a plant that spreads via spores. One drawback to
moss: unless you live in a rainy clime, this art will require upkeep. In drier
regions, the moss must be sprayed religiously.
Set in London,
Anna Garforth’s Grow seems to
encourage the wilderness that’s crept back into an unused plot of land (slated
for redevelopment). “It’s amazing how quickly the wild reclaims its space and
carries on growing even after is has been destroyed,” she writes.
Many are touting moss graffiti as a green alternative to
spray paint— aerosol and solvent free, with fewer cans left on the ground. While
street art techniques like wheatpasting have been environmentally-friendly
options for quite some time, the stunning effects of this green graffiti cannot
green graffiti at Environmental
Graffiti, or check out Good’s
round-up of cool
guerilla gardens from around the world.
Cattle (Brooklyn, 2008) and As It
Started (Budapest, 2004): Mosstika; Occupy: finiculi,
Grow: Anna Garforth
3/28/2013 2:48:55 PM
Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folk
Over Land and Sea
Available April 9th through Wanderer Records
Lauren Mann and her fairly odd Calgary crew are set to release their Over Land and Sea album this April and there’s hardly an instrument or sound they’ve left from the mix. Ukuleles, violins, violas, banjos, cellos, trumpets, vibraphones, melodicas, bassoons, trombones, flutes, drums, guitars, glockenspiels, clarinets, whistling, pianos, background vocals, hand claps, and Lauren Mann’s alluring, melodic voice all blend gorgeously in this collection of folk-pop.
The album's poppy, whimsical tune “How It Goes" would be well suited as the background music during an bright, early spring stroll in the park. But, as catchy and fun as it is, the airy instrumentals shouldn’t fool you. Mann’s lyrics are dynamic and poetic. She comes bearing a message. She’s ready to talk about life and about death, heartache, and all of the unanswered questions. The whole journey. And she somehow manages to do it with a bittersweet ethereal feel that leaves you feeling uplifted and ready to submerge yourself in this wild life while it’s here.
A sort of gentle call to action, Lauren encourages, “I’ve said my goodbyes / there’s no turning back / I keep singing this melody to keep my heart intact / and I know that we will never know / how the world keeps going how it goes / and all this time we spent waiting for our lives to happen / is time that’s been wasted while the world keeps moving and changing.”
Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folk aren’t going anywhere soon. Their infectious melodies will be on repeat for some time and in your head much longer.
Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folk Tour Dates
3/25/2013 1:33:03 PM
That Mad Game: Growing Up in a Warzone
By J.L.Powers Now Available through Cinco Puntos Press
“War doesn’t occur in a vacuum,” writes J.L. Powers in her introduction to That Mad Game, a powerful collection of narratives capturing the lives of children in warzones. “It occurs because of the stories we tell ourselves about the world we live in or the world we want to live in.” Most of us are used to thinking of places like the Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa as war-torn, violent, or otherwise unstable. In a CNN-fueled media culture, the most accessible narratives about, say, Congo are frequently punctuated by journalistic shorthand, generic violence, and occasional indignation for one or another atrocity. Lacking context or connection, we tend to objectify, heroize, and even expect violence and suffering from far-off places and people.
By contrast, the young people in That Mad Game, living in places like Gaza, Johannesburg, and Kabul, were neither powerless victims nor tragic heroes. They’re nuanced, imperfect actors who negotiate their realities as best they can. Often, that means facing difficult, even impossible, choices, like Burmese refugee Hlawn Tha Chum in deciding whether to pursue a life in the U.S. without her brother, who must remain behind. Or the community-minded parents in Juarez who refuse to leave the city they love, despite the escalating gang violence that threatens their family. “This is my home,” writes Fito Avitia with palpable resolve. “If everybody good leaves, what happens then?”
There is something of a Ruth Klüger-Still Alive quality in equations like this—a sense that the chaotic ethics of living through war do not match the moral certainty we frequently ascribe to violence and tragedy. But if the voices in That Mad Game are striking in their intimacy, the lives they’re living couldn’t be harder for most readers to imagine. Children like Rwandan native innocent Bisanabo experience and even participate in unspeakable violence and cruelty, and most often the refuge they seek brings them only faintly closer to the childhood they were forced to abandon. Some of the book’s most powerful passages, therefore, come as these young people struggle to maintain their core humanity in the face of atrocity and displacement. For Bisanabo, who walked more than 2,500 miles to escape Rwandan genocide, the inability to put his life at further risk to help others was a haunting revelation, but just as astonishing was the compassion he saw in other people.
As war in the 21st century becomes less about battlefields and borders and more about paramilitaries, counterterrorism, and failed states, more and more young people will be forced to reconcile experiences like these. If another future is possible, writes Powers, it is through narrative.
3/25/2013 1:04:31 PM
By Miles Olson
Published in 2012 and available through New Society Publishers
If you could rewrite the ending to Where the Wild Things Are, would you? In the beloved children’s book, Max—sent to his room for acting wild—imagines his escape to the world of Wild Things. When he becomes king of this new land, everyone celebrates with a wild rumpus. Such fun! In the end, though, Max realizes he does not belong with the Wild Things and returns home to his family (which happens to be sitting down to a civilized dinner). Its fun to be wild, the story tells us, but not our destiny.
Miles Olson, author of Unlearn, Rewild, is living out a tale parallel to Max, though it’s one that will likely end differently. There are no wild monsters in Olson’s story. Rather, every creature is wild. We must learn to live with the wild things, he suggests. We must remember that we are wild things.
From the book’s start, Olson outlines a framework for sustainability far more radical than any notion I’ve dared to entertain seriously—namely, that we should reorient our collective dream of the future and begin moving toward a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Not that such a change would happen in a lifetime, he notes, but over the course of several generations. “My thought is that most developed cultures are those that have the most seamless relationships with their land base,” Olson writes. “They are so good at tending their gardens that you can’t even see them.”
Living in such a society does sound idyllic, but getting there from five-lane highways, megamalls, and the American dream seems daunting. Somehow, at the point in my thought process when a little voice says, “That’s impossible, stop thinking about it,” Olson’s apparently says, “That’s a great plan, make it happen.” And it seems to be working. He’s been squatting for about a decade in the woods with friends, in cabins built from scavenged materials. He gardens and forages and doesn’t, apparently, need coffee to formulate sentences in the morning or whiskey to take the edge off at night. This experiment has lasted the whole of his adult life, so far.
The book’s back cover claims that Unlearn, Rewild is “part meditation, part ethical investigation, part hard-core survival guide” and it’s true. Olson’s ideas are well-considered, his solutions grounded. If you’re looking for a different ending to the story of civilization, the book is not to be missed.
3/25/2013 12:37:03 PM
Sony Pictures Classics
How do you overthrow a dictatorship? If you thought armed insurrection or mass protests were the answer, think again. In this sharp, darkly humorous political thriller about Chile’s 1989 referendum on the leadership of Augusto Pinochet, filmmaker Pablo Larrain shows how the superficial tools of popular mass media—rainbows, catchy jingles, and celebrity endorsements—upended an autocracy. The film follows skateboard-riding ad-man René Saavedra (terrific Mexican actor Gael García Bernal), as he comes up with the upbeat Coca-Cola-inspired commercials to effect the outcome of the election. Facing resistance from the Communists who hired him and the authorities who attempt to sabotage him, Saavedra struggles against all odds to change the future of a nation. Larrain nails period details with a sardonic specificity—from microwaves to “We Are the World”—but most of all, his film brilliantly captures his country’s tense, unsteady transition from brutal tyranny to tentative democracy.
3/25/2013 10:57:02 AM
When we look at the physical makeup of urban areas, it's obvious that we've transformed a natural wilderness into a modern forest of steel and concrete. The truth is we're still surrounded by nature in the middle of the city, but our lives are simply too fast and our attention too fractured to notice it. A pair of professors at the University of Rochester aim to change our perception of urban nature and help us better understand the evolution of our cities with a new smart phone app called Indeterminate Hikes+ (IH+).
Assistant professor of art Cary Peppermint and Leila Nadir, a writer and lecturer on sustainability, are the co-founders of EcoArtTech, a collaboration that explores technology and environmentally focused work with other artists and organizations.The IH+ app is their latest project and utilizes Google Maps to create task-oriented paths designed to slow us down and simply make us more aware of our surroundings. As a news release explains:
After downloading IH+, users "pioneer" a "hike" by entering a start and end location, similar to finding directions online. But instead of selecting a direct route, Google Maps generates a random path with prompts and activities that encourage users to look for wilderness in urban spaces. "The prompts increase awareness of the environment where you live and also cause social interactions—you're using the technology to reconnect with space instead of people," said Peppermint.
When following the route, users may be asked to take a photograph with their phones at selected points, write a "field note" on their phones, send a text message to someone, or perform a particular task—all in response to their surroundings. "Hikes" are intended to be performed in groups and with one phone, to make the experience socially interactive. "Wilderness is all around you and the app encourages users to give the same attention to inner city parks and rain gutters that we do to landscapes like canyons and gorges," said Nadir.
Image by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester
3/21/2013 2:34:22 PM
Long Distance Revolutionary
(DVD, First Run Features)
In late 1996, a year after Live From Death Row appeared in print to wide critical acclaim, Pennsylvania supermax prison SCI Greene forbade its author, radical journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, from conducting press interviews. Widely seen as an attempt to silence Abu-Jamal, a federal district court threw out the ban, saying it unfairly singled out one inmate. SCI Greene complied with the decision by simply prohibiting all inmates from conducting recorded interviews. The ban, which has since expanded to other prisons and states, has become known as the “Mumia rule”.
Chronicling his life before and after a widely condemned murder conviction in 1982, Long Distance Revolutionary situates obstacles like the “Mumia rule” within a long history of racial injustice and silence. Combining archival footage, poetry, and interviews with activists and writers like Angela Davis, David Zirin, and Cornel West, the film documents Abu-Jamal’s effort to explode that silence, especially around issues like black history, police brutality and the prison-industrial complex.
Emerging as a prominent activist and journalist in 1970s Philadelphia, Abu-Jamal’s potent writing always fed into action. In one of the film’s more powerful moments, he describes protesting a campaign rally for segregationist candidate George Wallace in 1968 (at age 14). After being discovered by Wallace supporters, he recalls being beaten by close to a dozen white men, including a policeman who kicked him in the face. “I’ve always said thank you to that cop,” Abu-Jamal says defiantly, quoting a passage from Death Row, “because he kicked me right into the Black Panther Party.”
His induction into radical activism, however, also led to a difficult, and in many ways impossible life of standing up to violence and power. Held until recently on death row in solitary confinement , forced to see his children only through bulletproof glass, Abu-Jamal has managed to defy his “bright, shiny, highly-mechanized hell” through study, discipline, and remarkable humanity. At one point in the film, when his daughter visits for the first time and is devastated to find out she cannot embrace her father, Abu Jamal is heartbroken, but quickly teases her into a smile.
“Most human beings would shrivel up, become very coarse in their consciousness and very hard in their hearts and very chilly in their souls,” says journalist Tariq Ali in the film, of Abu-Jamal’s incarceration. “It’s had the opposite effect on Mumia.” In his three decades behind bars, Abu-Jamal has authored seven books on everything from black spirituality to the prison system. In spite of unimaginable barriers, Abu-Jamal remains a critical and hopeful voice for the justice and freedom denied him.
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