Not Hopeless, But Dangerous

A seven-day course in the methods to make it happen

Day 1

The Topic

Day 1 is getting out of your comfort zone and finding the topic you want to work on for this week. This will be going really deep into the source of discomfort. If you feel helpless from external circumstances, the root of that helplessness. It’s not about being smart or picking the right topic, it’s about finding what you can’t live with. Finding things that you can’t tolerate. What is the thing that makes you so angry all the time? There probably are more than one, but trying to get to one that is very deep, that is governing your anger, governing your helplessness. The source of it. What makes you so mad? Racism? Micro-aggressions from your colleagues? Capitalism or a particular way capitalism affects your life, or destroys your life, or destroys the planet?

These are a few examples of getting to the source, and really finding a topic that may be outside of your art-making comfort zone. Again, this week is about challenging ourselves and challenging ourselves together.

For borders, for those of us that have borders, and the lottery of birth and passports and citizenship, as something that we can’t live with.

Frontieres Repression Image Description: A poster with the words ‘frontieres repression’ at the top, and beneath, a person in a helmet holding a baton and a riot shield, in line art that’s crossed through with wide diagonal stripes.(Source: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/gabrielsanchez/11-of-the-most-iconic-protest-posters-from-history)

Or for an Iranian woman, hair and repression, the image of cutting hair -it’s so simple an image but has so many layers to it, and it does point directly to the source of the anger.

Comfort Women Image Description: Against a green background, a woman’s face, from the nose down, and one hand reaching across her dark hair, cutting across it with a scissors. The hair that falls away is rendered as chains.(Source: https://www.grapheine.com/en/graphic-design-en/symbolism-cut-hair-iranian-protest-posters)

Comfort Women, the women used by the Japanese army to sexually satisfy their soldiers. This is for sex work based on an actual formula, how many women you have to force to have sex with your soldiers per 100,000 soldiers - so sometimes we know how many Japanese soldiers were occupying a place by how many comfort women they forced. This is all over South-East Asia. This artwork, this sculpture, is particularly amazing because it’s a very simple sculpture in many ways, and it sits directly in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul and it’s been very effective in its protest.

Justice For Women

Image Description: Photograph of a sculpture in bronze of a woman sitting neatly on a chair, flowers at her feet and a bird on her shoulder, with an empty chair next to her. (Source: https://justiceforcomfortwomen.org/2016/08/24/1029/)

Nixon, Nixon’s mind full of dead bodies. Again a very simple and direct way of addressing helplessness. The Vietnam war was a thing that was imposed by greed in government, and this is a really wonderful way of addressing that.

Nixon Series, 1971 Image Description: A poster showing a crude illustration of Richard Nixon’s face, in blue with red eyes, looking sideways deviously. The top of his head is filled by a photograph of dead bodies. (Source: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/gabrielsanchez/11-of-the-most-iconic-protest-posters-from-history)

Because we’re artists, we’re the most dangerous people - we should be as dangerous if not more dangerous than journalists. We have these incredible skills and these incredible tools, and we have no limits on our imagination, so we can be the most dangerous people there are. This is not helplessness, this is power - and this week’s goal is from helplessness to being very dangerous. Ideas are dangerous, and we can execute ideas in a visual way, in a very simple visual way that can affect generations, that can affect powers, that can make change. This is a very simple image again that can make change.

So this day, Day 1, is finding the topic that you can’t live with. Finding the source of the discomfort. Finding a way to start, and making one artwork that is addressing that. It’s not about making a good artwork, or an artwork where people will tell you “OMG this is so amazing!”. This is about internal knowledge, making artwork that is right for you, at this point in time, with everything that is going on in the world. It doesn’t need to be big, or theoretical; it just needs to be finished in a day. That’s it, and these are inspirations for that day.