John Heartfield, the original culture jammer
07:09 am


John Heartfield

John Heartfield
I recently stumbled upon some images by John Heartfield, and I haven’t been able to get them out of my head. I had never heard of Heartfield before, but the more I look into him, the more central and essential his work seems.

Despite the WASP-y name, Heartfield was German, and although he lived until 1968 his best-known work was during the Weimar era and also the years preceding World War II. He was born Helmut Herzfeld in 1891 and, in a detail that tells you everything you need to know about him, he adopted the English name John Heartfield (“Herzfeld”) in 1917 to protest the anti-British sentiment that was engulfing Germany at the time. His brother was born Wieland Herzfeld and for reasons I don’t fully understand decided to add an “e” to his name, making him Wieland Herzfelde. Heartfield and Herzfelde (along with the expressionist painter George Grosz) started an influential publishing company called the Malik Verlag—that also happened in 1917, the same year Helmut became Heartfield.
Adolf der Übermensch
“Adolf, der Übermensch: Schluckt Gold und redet Blech,” 1932 (“Adolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Spouts Tin”)
Heartfield designed book covers for Upton Sinclair and many other authors and also designed stage sets for Bertolt Brecht. As with his anti-nationalist protest, Heartfield’s connection to the names “Sinclair” and “Brecht” indicates much about his artistic and political sensibility. He was part of the Dada scene as well (check out the “Soeben erschienen” cover below). One thing I didn’t realize until I began researching Heartfield was how much more politicized the German Dada scene was, as opposed to the French variety. If Heartfield’s work is anything to go by (it may not be), the German Dadaists were far more engaged with political struggle.

The man led an interesting life. As a child he and his siblings were abandoned in the woods by their parents—eventually an uncle consented to raise them. In the spring of 1933, the Nazis raided his apartment, but he escaped through the window. Eventually he emigrated to Czechoslovakia on foot—that is, he walked to Czechoslovakia in order to escape the Nazis.
This is the cure
“Das ist das Heil, das sie bringen!” 1938 (“This is the cure that they bring!”)
That’s enough about Heartfield’s life—let’s talk about the work. I’m hesitant to say that Heartfield “invented” photomontage or anything like that, there were certainly people doing that sort of thing before World War I. But there is surely a case to be made that Heartfield was one of the pioneers of photomontage and arguably one of the very first to use it to such powerful effect. In many ways Heartfield might be the first photomontage artist to influence directly a lot of the counterculture movements of the Sixties and beyond. It’s pretty clear he occupies a very special position, and many of his images are decades ahead of their time. You can see Heartfield’s influence in culture jammers of all kinds, from Plunderphonics to every kind of sampleriffic noise collage and beyond.

If you look around the world today, especially on the Internet, you’re sure to see a Heartfield heir somewhere in the mix. Every time you see the head of Obama or George W. Bush pasted onto something else as a political comment, you’re seeing the Heartfield ethic in action. Adbusters has been doing Heartfield-type stuff for years now.

The question arises, Why does Heartfield’s work seem so rich and penetrating whereas (as an example) the Adbusters approach tends to pall after a while? It’s tempting to say that it’s because Heartfield was so willing to go for the jugular in his images, but I actually think it’s something like the opposite. Adbusters isn’t exactly known for pulling its punches either, you know? No, I think what makes Heartfield’s images work so well is actually a kind of delicacy, a perhaps-Continental sensibility that avoids hyperbole in favor of nuanced depth—even the crazy images of Hitler and Goering aren’t all that hyperbolic, they’re witty and they have one foot grounded in the regular world somehow. In a way there’s a lesson there. It doesn’t take artistry of craftsmanship to come up with a visual pun, the craft comes in the execution, the ability to create an image that may have blood, skeletons, misery, and suffering in it and yet not make you turn away.
Hurrah, the Butter is Gone!
Siouxsie and the Banshees, Mittageisen
Siouxsie and the Banshees appropriated one of Heartfield’s most famous images when they released a German translation of their song “Metal Postcard”—you can compare the two images above. The name of the Siouxsie single is “Mittageisen,” which is a pun. The German word Mittagessen means “lunch”—Mittageisen would translate as “midday iron.” The original Heartfield print is called “Hurrah, die Butter ist alle!” which means, “Hurrah, the butter is gone!”—it’s a reference to Hermann Goering’s famous 1936 speech in which he said, “Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat.” Heartfield’s ingenious answer is to make a typical Aryan household in which there is only iron on the dinner table.
Here’s Siouxsie and the Banshees playing “Mittageisen” in 1979:

Here’s a playful documentary about Heartfield’s work:

After the jump, several more examples of Heartfield’s searing and sarcastic imagery….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
‘Beastie Boys Square’: Petition aims to give NYC’s Ludlow/Rivington intersection a new name
06:12 am


Beastie Boys

Paul's Boutique
An energetic New Yorker wants to have the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where the remarkable 360-degree album art for the Beastie Boys’ classic 1989 album Paul’s Boutique was photographed, renamed “Beastie Boys Square.”

Here’s some of the news report, from DNAInfo’s Serena Solomon:

A Brooklyn resident wants to name the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington streets after the hip-hop trio, marking the corner shown on the cover of their groundbreaking 1989 album “Paul’s Boutique.”

“I think the Beastie Boys represent New York in a certain way,” said LeRoy McCarthy, 46, who earlier this year proposed a street co-naming for rapper Biggie Smalls in Clinton Hill.

“They grew up here. They are New Yorkers.”

McCarthy, a film location scout who previously worked for a record label in Atlanta, has gathered nearly 20 signatures so far on a petition for the Beastie Boys co-naming, including eight of the nine businesses on Rivington Street between Ludlow and Essex streets and many of the apartments on the block, he said.

He hopes to present his proposal to Community Board 3 soon.


“I think that the Lower East Side, what it used to be, is a good place to honor the Beastie Boys,” said McCarthy, who fell in love with hip-hop as a child.

“It represents New York. New York is always changing, New York is always on the move, New York is dirty [and] it is beautiful.”

Here’s the petition. Do sign it!

As it happens, I’m moving from New York to Cleveland in a couple of days, and completely coincidentally I held my farewell party about a block away from that Ludlow/Rivington intersection.

Here is that intersection as it looked in June 2011, according to Google Maps.
Ludlow & Rivington, June 2011
In May of this year Palmetto Playground in Brooklyn Heights was renamed Adam Yauch Park.

McCarthy is also looking to do something similar for Wu-Tang Clan “in the Park Hill neighborhood of the hip-hop group’s native Staten Island.” I definitely support this idea, but (speaking as a resident of Staten Island, even if only for another forty-eight hours) I propose renaming the “Spirit of America,” the only Staten Island Ferry boat currently in service that is not named for a human being, after the obvious choice: RZA. I would certainly sign a petition to that effect, and in fact I think if you jump ahead 25 years or so, it’s almost inevitable. Because RZA rules.

Here’s a very good interview from the AV Club with Jeremy Shatan, who took the original 360-degree photo. The interview is very informative, I’m a Paul’s Boutique nut but there were things in here I didn’t know.

via Brooklyn Vegan

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Mother Jones speaks: The only known voice recording of ‘the most dangerous woman in America’
06:51 am

Class War

Mother Jones

Mother Jones
In times like these, a voice like that of Mary Harris “Mother” Jones grows more and more needed with every passing day.

If you’ve never heard it before, take the time to listen to that voice. It’s the only recording we have of it. The occasion was May 1, 1930, the 100th birthday of Mother Jones.

If only we had a nationally famous person who would ever dare to say the kinds of things Mother Jones used to say. I can’t think of one.
Mother Jones
Mother Jones marching to give Theodore Roosevelt what-for about children spending their days in coal mines instead of schools.

Here are some other pithy things the microphone might have recorded if it had been available on other days in Mother Jones’ life:

I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell-raiser.

No matter what the fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.

I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.

If they want to hang me, let them. And on the scaffold I will shout Freedom for the working class!

By the bye, Mother Jones was capable of stretching the truth every now and then. This recording was supposedly made on Mother Jones’ 100th birthday, but the evidence shows that when she died later on in 1930, she was actually only 93 years old.

Politifact has called this “the lie of the last 100 years.”

via Lawyers Guns & Money

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Shell Oil gets more than they bargained for when slick pranksters invade their ‘Science Slam’
07:26 pm


Peng Collective

The Burson-Marsteller public relations firm held a “Science Slam” event in Berlin yesterday to try to burnish the reputation of their client—I believe the industry term is “greenwash”—the Shell oil company. A “Science Slam” is like a rap battle or poetry slam meets a TED talk. Presenters make—or try to make—entertaining oral presentations of their scientific concepts, inventions or advocacy, and then the audience chooses the winner. Shell can do things like this or sponsor an “Eco Race” with all electric cars or some bullshit like that and then pretend like they give a fuck about the environment.

Several of the presenters directly challenged Shell’s ethics in their presentations and a freestyle rapper offered up a spontaneous rhyming diss of the Dutch oil giant. Environmental disasters and climate change were apparently the main topics, but at the end, two “young scientists” brought out a machine they informed the audience was a CO2 recovery experiment. Once fired up, the machine sprayed black oil sludge all over the stage.

No word what the half trillion dollar oil company made of this debacle, but the audience members voted these oily pranksters—two members of the subversive activist group the Peng! Collective—as the winners. Then the contest was promplty cancelled!

Via Nerdcore

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Now might be a good time to talk about Gloria Steinem’s time as a CIA asset…
07:28 am


Gloria Steinem

By the way, the other woman in this photo is Dorothy Pitman Hughes, an amazing activist who has received neither the press nor the institutional acceptance of Steinem
Last week, 79-year-old feminist icon Gloria Steinem was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During her acceptance speech, she graciously declared,“I’d be crazy if I didn’t understand that this was a medal for the entire women’s movement.”  Should you be under the impression that this award is indicative of a tacit endorsement of feminism by either the the Obama administration or even the U.S. Government, allow me to brush you up on a little feminist history.

In 1959, Gloria Steinem attended the communist-sponsored World Youth Festival in Vienna as the head of the Independent Service for Information, a CIA front. The ISI had been set up at Harvard to send young anti-communist Americans to attend the World Youth Festival, where they could defend the US against communist critics and report back on their Marxist counterparts. Steinem was in charge of recruiting those young anti-communists.

Currently, Steinem is an honorary chair of Democratic Socialists of America (my comrades and former employers). The primary initiator of DSA, Michael Harrington (then of the Young People’s Socialist League), was also offered a free trip, but declined. Though he was a socialist, and critical of communism, Harrington refused to go unless he was also given license to criticize capitalism. Apparently Ms. Steinem felt no such moral conflict.

Before I’m dismissed as the Alex Jones of feminism, Steinem’s time with the CIA is public record. In the video below (yes, I know it’s from a conspiracy theory nut), she discusses her time as an employee. Now, I’m not accusing Gloria Steinem of being some sort of secret government fake feminist spy, but I do think it’s important to remember that we boner-killing, man-hating witches are not a united front, and we certainly aren’t all working towards the same goals. Some of us worked for the CIA for four years, others of us want to smash capitalism, and guess which ones get medals from the President?

Steinem may think she’s accepting an award “for the entire women’s movement,” but she sure as hell isn’t accepting it on my behalf.

Bonus: Gloria Steinem poses with Terry Richardson...

Special thanks to Phoenix on this one!

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
This could suck: Kathleen Hanna on public speaking
01:31 pm


Kathleen Hanna

Feminist performer, punk icon, writer and frontwoman for Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin, Kathleen Hanna’s talents also include being an engaging public speaker. Thanks to her experience talking in front of journalists, unruly crowds at concerts, tamer audiences in university classrooms, libraries and lecture halls, she knows what she’s doing. Here she explains how to get up in front of a group of people, who may or may not be throwing things and yelling sexist insults at you from the mosh pit, and get your point across without undue worry about whether you suck at public oratory.

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
Help stop the trade of live animals as keychain / lucky charms in China
09:50 am



0000bantrade.jpg have a petition to stop the sale of living animals as keychain/lucky charm.

The petition calls on the United Nations to:

...demand the Chinese government to ban the manufacture and sale of amulets and jewelry containing live animals.

As the petition explains, this “new fashion” jewelry in China has:

...animals living under plastic containing a liquid nutrient and oxygen that allows them to live up to 2 months.

This is cruel and should be condemned by the international community.

Though it has been claimed that the animals can live up to two months in the “nutrient” environment, this is not true, as the animals die within days through a lack of oxygen.

This story has been featured in the news since 2008, but nothing has been done to stop this horrific trade.

Please sign the petition to help highlight and stop the sale of amulets and jewelry containing live animals. Thank you.


With thanks to Lindsay Reid.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Billy Bragg makes surprise visit to union rally in Minnesota
04:32 pm

Class War

Billy Bragg

Activist and singer-songwriter Billy Bragg showed up at the University of Minnesota’s American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union’s Rally for Affordable & Accessible Healthcare for All this week, spoke about his support for the workers, and played “There is Power in a Union” and “Keep the Faith.” The AFSCME is the union for the university’s clerical, technical and health care workers. The are fighting for a simple sliding-scale health care model, but the university’s administrators – at an institution that is supposedly so very progressive – won’t even discuss it. Bragg happened to be in Minneapolis to play a gig last night at the Cedar, but still took the time to get to the noon rally. 

He was interviewed by Margaret Cho on the Monsters of Talk podcast in May, when he talked about the need for universal health care in the U.S. and Breaking Bad. And some of Cho’s tattoos. Their point is similar to the recent Breaking Bad, Anywhere But America Edition comic strip.

Bragg tweeted this pointed comment at Senator Ted Cruz on Wednesday:

Animated excerpt from Monsters of Talk podcast with Margaret Cho interviewing Billy Bragg:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
Ai Weiwei skateboard decks: ‘As Graceful as Throwing Stones at a Dictatorship’
05:01 pm


Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei skateboard decks
The well-known Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has just released three gorgeous skateboard decks in association with the Dutch skateboard company The Sk8room. Each of the models is a limited edition of 150, is hand-numbered and signed, and costs 300 Euros (about $400). Proceeds from the sale of the decks will go to Skateistan, a nonprofit NGO that promotes skateboarding and educational activities.

The slogans directly reference Weiwei’s ongoing struggles against the Chinese government, which has repeatedly harassed the whimsical and outspoken artist and even arrested him for “economic crimes” in 2001. The three slogans are: “There Are No Outdoor Sports as Graceful as Throwing Stones at a Dictatorship in the World,” “Maybe Being Powerful Means to Be Fragile,” “The World Is Not Changing If You Don’t Shoulder the Burden of Responsibility.”

Weiwei paid homage to his own artworks for the decks. One of them uses an image from his installation Sunflower Seeds, which was shown at London’s Tate Modern in 2010, and another borrows from his work He Xie, which featured a group of ceramic crabs and was displayed at Washington D.C.‘s Hirshhorn Museum.
After the jump, some close-up views of the three Ai Weiwei decks….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Parenting pioneer Dr Spock’s radical politics
03:33 pm

Class War

Dr. Benjamin Spock

Dr Spock
Dr. Benjamin Spock is best-known for writing the baby bible, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. A drastic departure from the parenting techniques du jour, Spock opposed the strict schedule and limited affection espoused by prior child experts. He promoted such crazy techniques as “cuddle your baby,” “feed it when it’s hungry,” and “let it sleep when it’s tired,” all with a friendly, nonjudgmental tone. His primary advice for parents was, “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”

Spock was actually the first pediatrician also trained in psychology, and of course, countless medical doctors and psychologists have confirmed his infant-centered parenting over the years. In fact, that’s why people no longer try and toilet-train 3-month-olds with suppositories. Seriously, it was common practice to attempt to toilet train three-month-old babies, and in the 30’s, it was even recommended that suppositories be used to regulate infant bowels. I can’t imagine a more agonizing Sisyphean futility than dangling an infant over the toilet (I assume you’d have to dangle them), but suppositories for a baby sounds nightmarish.

Despite Spock’s groundbreaking work, his critics often insisted that his methods were too soft, and instilled no discipline in babies, who would never become diligent and upstanding citizens without proper baby-molding. This was certainly exacerbated by Spock’s outspoken radical politics.

Joining SANE (The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy) in 1962, Spock was a dedicated anti-war activist from the start. After both a statement of support and a very public donation to draft-resistors, he was convicted of conspiracy to counsel, aid, and abet resistance to the draft in 1968. (He was sentenced to two years in prison, but it was overturned in appeals.)

Spock also marched with Martin Luther King, and many activists encouraged him to run as King’s Vice-Presidential running-mate, though neither had any interest in the presidency at the time. That changed in 1972, however, when Spock ran for POTUS on The People’s Party ticket; his platform positions included a guaranteed living wage, socialized health care, and the repeal of laws restricting abortion, homosexuality, and marijuana use.

Dr. Spock actually completely embraced the politicization of his parenting philosophy, and even published a book, Spock on Vietnam with the referential image of a Vietnamese toddler on the cover.
protest poster
Protesting the war with Dr. Spock. This event was co-sponsored with the New York Council for a SANE Nuclear Policy, Women Strike for Peace, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and the Student Peace Union
What’s more, while he was adamant that his baby book be regularly revised (acknowledging that he didn’t have all the answers, and he had made mistakes) Dr. Spock never budged from his political principles. From his 1994 book, Rebuilding American Family Values: A Better World for Our Children:

The Permissive Label: A couple weeks after my indictment [for ‘conspiracy to counsel, aid and abet resistance to the military draft’], I was accused by Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, a well-known clergyman and author who supported the Vietnam War, of corrupting an entire generation. In a sermon widely reported in the press, Reverend Peale blamed me for all the lack of patriotism, lack of responsibility, and lack of discipline of the young people who opposed the war. All these failings, he said, were due to my having told their parents to give them “instant gratification” as babies. I was showered with blame in dozens of editorials and columns from primarily conservative newspapers all over the country heartily agreeing with Peale’s assertions.

While the baby-boomers of late seem to be under the impression that millenials are entitled little pansies raised by helicopter parents, it behooves us to get some historical perspective and remember that every generation is under the impression that they’re the last of the rugged cowboys.

Here’s Spock addressing his legal charges, careful to avoid incriminating himself or admitting guilt, ending his statement with a shout-out to the kids.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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