“Burning Man” wins photo of the year

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© Ronaldo Schemidt, Agence France-Presse

Venezuelan photographer Ronaldo Schemidt won World Press Photo of the Year for his image of the “Burning Man.”

The picture shows a fleeing José Víctor Salazar Balza engulfed in flames at an anti-government protest in Venezuela on May 3, 2017.

“It all took just a few seconds, so I didn’t know what I was shooting,” Schemidt told the British Journal of Photography. “I was moved by instinct, it was very quick. I didn’t stop shooting until I realized what was going on. There was somebody on fire running towards me.”

The photographer currently resides in Mexico where he shoots football matches and more recently covered the Mexico City earthquake aftermath. Check out more images on the Getty website.

 

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Questioning the potency of graphic design

With the slogan “Slogans in nice typefaces won’t save the human races,” artist Tim Fishlock AKA Oddly Head sums up the growing powerlessness of the entire field of graphic design. #design #art #poster #banksy #graphic #illustration
Slogans (2017) by Oddly Head (aka Tim Fishlock)

Shepherd Fairey’s iconic “Hope” poster helped electrify the Obama campaign in 2008. Yet, it was Trump’s simplistic “Make America Great Again” red baseball hat that helped spread his message during the 2016 election. The fact that the cap looked undesigned was its greatest asset. Bad design makes an indelible impression too.

Evaluating the impact of graphic design

We are living in a surfeit of graphic design just as we are taking an excess of photos without giving careful attention to them. Writes Edwin Heathcote in the Financial Times:

“When there were fewer images, they could be more memorable. We are now awash with slogans and signs, hashtags and memes so that they burn brightly but fade quickly. Perhaps there can be too much graphic design.”

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Barak Obama Hope Poster by Shepherd Fairey

Like most of the Internet-based content, it gets created, consumed, and then promptly forgotten. With the slogan “Slogans in nice typefaces won’t save the human races,” artist Tim Fishlock AKA Oddly Head sums up the growing powerlessness of the entire field of graphic design. His poster features now at London’s Design Museum’s new show, aptly titled *From Hope to Nope.*

“We’re living in an epoch of demagoguery and debacle. As a result, there is a process of inner migration, an opting out of reality. As a species, we’re running 21st-century software on hardware that hasn’t been updated for 50,000 years and we’re not coping at all well. Have we ever been so vulnerable and so self-absorbed? Against this backdrop, my work is an investigation but also an admission of my own fallibility.”

There will always be new and old texts to rally around, perhaps none more potent than Britain’s “Keep Calm and Carry On.” But there’s just too much of the fodder in our daily feeds, particularly on visual-first mediums like Instagram and Pinterest. Time will tell if Shepherd Fairey’s gun control posters stick.

Ultimately, the durability of any political art and graffiti rests on the strength of the issue at hand.

Remembering MLK in restored NBC video

In some rarely-seen footage from 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. talks about the new phase of the Civil Rights movement for “genuine equality.” For 26 minutes, he’s just as eloquent and sincere as you imagined:

“It is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps…And many Negroes, by the thousands and millions, have been left bootless … as the result of a society that deliberately made his color a stigma…”

King was assassinated 11 months later. Today marks the 50th anniversary of his death.

Jazz as an instrument of global diplomacy 🎺

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Louis Armstrong playing for his wife Lucille in Egypt, 1959 (image via New York Times)

From 1954 to 1968, the United States sent jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington overseas to help stem the tide of communism. Writes the New York Times:

Jazz was the country’s “Secret Sonic Weapon” (as a 1955 headline in The New York Times put it) in another sense as well. The novelist Ralph Ellison called jazz an artistic counterpart to the American political system. The soloist can play anything he wants as long as he stays within the tempo and the chord changes — just as, in a democracy, the individual can say or do whatever he wants as long as he obeys the law. Willis Conover, whose jazz show on Voice of America radio went on the air in 1955 and soon attracted 100 million listeners, many of them behind the Iron Curtain, once said that people “love jazz because they love freedom.”

America continues its cultural hegemony by spreading its talons of soft power around the world. Some say globalization is disguised as Americanization, and that black culture is American culture. In an era of populists and fake news, it’s interesting to ponder which musicians (Kendrick Lamar?) would serve as proper ambassadors today.

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Jazz in Cairo (Louis Armstrong House Museum)

(h/t poastcards)

In our time

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Lost and rediscovered. Cycles of peace trigger concurrent spirals of tyranny. People gravitate to the donut hole, blind to the big picture.

History is a gif loop

It doesn’t matter what the books reveal about our worst tendencies. People want to experience chaos on their own. In short, men fall casualty to “thinking with their dicks.”

But therein lies the message of faceless ignorance. Through massive error, society wakes up from the maw of boredom. They want to feel more alive!

Yet, evil always unwinds to the awe of freedom. “Not even a congenital optimist can see a pony in this Christmas stocking,” writes Steven Pinker in his review of Trumpism in his new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

The truth never expires. Kindness scales. We escaped the ominous clouds, only yesterday.

The Wild West of data manipulation

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gif by Ryan Seslow

Tech entrepreneurs are coming to realize their moral responsibility.

Outside parties were abusing stolen Facebook data to develop psychological profiles of voters. The data mining company Cambridge Analytica was central to the information warfare. They allegedly worked with Russians to stoke fears in the UK and America on immigration and other polarizing issues. So people got fake news and conspiracy theories in their feeds which led to Brexit and Trump.

28-year-old whistleblower Christopher Wylie who admittedly ‘made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’ at Cambridge Analytica is leading the charge against the product he helped build.

If data is the new oil, social platforms are the biggest propaganda machines.

Facebook is like an adult video game. People are obsessed with the sensational. And reality pays the price of fabricated events.

‘Move fast and break things’ may be a popular hacker’s motto but it’s shown to breed more carelessness than good. Thankfully, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are facing up to the truth that while their tools bring us closer together but they also tear the world apart.

The damage has been done. The question now is how will they fix it? Some argue that the crackdown on Cambridge Analytic is just the start. Others like Om Malik are less optimistic. Pumping users and engagement are in Facebook’s DNA regardless of the consequences. Om writes:

Facebook is about making money by keeping us addicted to Facebook. It always has been — and that’s why all of our angst and headlines are not going to change a damn thing.

More to chew on here…

 

Artist Shepard Fairey supports National School Walkout Day with two protest posters

Widely known for Obama’s 2008 “Hope” poster, contemporary street artist and activist Shepard Fairey created two posters to aid students with their #NationalSchoolWalkout yesterday. According to EMPOWER, the National Women’s March group that sponsored the march, the campaign drew over 3,000 walkouts all over the country including London.

The students are protesting stricter gun control after last month’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida which left 17 dead.

#ENOUGH

The posters “Schools Not Warzones” and “An Assault On Our Future” are both free downloads via Fairey’s creative agency, Studio Number One.

 

The True Size of Africa

Africa is a massive continent. But for whatever reason, map makers make it appear smaller than its “true true” size. As Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski reminds us, “the map is not the territory.” Lines are ultimately arbitrary.

Map design is deceptive. But computer-graphics designer Ka Kraise took it upon himself to ‘fight against rampant immappancy,’ in particular the popular Mercator projection originated by Gerardus Mercator in 1569 which tends to exaggerate the size of continents and countries more than others. Greenland, for instance, is 14 times larger than Africa.

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As you can see above, Kraise illustrates the reality of Africa’s size, that which is “larger than the USA, China, Japan, and all of Europe, combined!” The Economist revisualized Kraise’s map as well.

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Kudos to Kraise for illuminating our ignorance about geographical knowledge, pointing the finger at Western and Asian students who tend to inflate the size of their countries when in actuality Africa makes everyone else look so small.

Read more in The Economist: ‘The true true size of Africa’

Late 20th century North Korean graphic design

These late 20th century North Korean graphic designs from Pyongyang’s Industrial Art studio demonstrate the kitschy yet nationalistic advertising in North Korea advertising.

© Justin Piperger

A picture is worth a thousand words

The candy-like posters paint a fruitful view of communism. Their meaning required little interpretation, exactly Kim Jong-il’s intention. “If the people who see a picture cannot grasp its meaning,” he said, “no matter what a talented artist may have painted it, they cannot say it is a good picture.”

© Justin Piperger
© Phaidon

Read North Korean design: the golden age of candy-coloured communism

In London? Check out the Made in North Korea: Everyday Graphics from the DPRK exhibition at the House of Illustration.

Facebook is a video game for adults

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Photo by Pawel Kadysz

Facebook is a video game for adults. The social network specializes in goading emotional responses that dupe the older crowd into thinking they are legitimate purveyors of news.

The reality is imperfect. Technology companies compel people to spread misinformation that emboldens preexisting echo chambers. A post-fact society threatens the plurality of opinion so fundamental to healthy democracies.

We could argue that CNN and Fox News are also culprits.

Screen staring and the rapid spread of information distort what’s real and what’s false. Unfortunately, it is the networks that benefit most from the gray space in the middle.

Facebook is a weapon of mass propaganda, a platform where conspiracy theories thrive. We should be giving our parents the same lecture they gave us on video games but about their manipulative online use.

Jedi mind tricks have their consequences.

Losing the freedom of mind

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gif via Adam Black

Lost, gone, vanished.

Our short-attention spans attend to media manipulation.

Yet, we are the purveyors of news. We can spread a thought or opinion on the internet without the slightest veracity, a task only governments used to be able to do.

But we no longer think for ourselves. Our thoughts are almost always somebody else’s. The opposition holds the same blind bias.


A war of words froths with inevitability in the online space

Tethered to the smartphone, we yield the liberated sense of self to the perfect selfie. We think we’re different but we’re just trying to be naked and famous like everybody else.

But our ability to woo others with pictures and words stop at the screens we share them on. We are fearful to express such individuality in the real world.

Without showing genuine authenticity between ourselves and others, we restrain society of original thought. Genius becomes a mere shadow of itself.

Wrote John Stuart Mill in On Liberty:

“In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.”

The naiveté of the shortsighted

“It is somewhat ridiculous to suppose that the invention of a motor car can render horses less necessary to man” – Saddlery and Harness Magazine, 1895

They used to think that cars would never entirely replace the horse.

Today we think it’s foolish that Bitcoin, or space money, has any intrinsic value. How can we have faith in things we can’t see or touch?

To think that machines can never model the human mind may be a bit shortsighted too. Artificial intelligence is looming; robot consciousness is brewing.

Whoever thought that America would rebut the world it paved? Politics and freedom don’t always move forward.

The torrent of revolution and disruption seems to convey a reoccurring event.

‘Democracy is an experiment…’

515WNWqnweL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg“Holmes would never have called himself a pragmatist; he associated the term with a desire to smuggle religion back into modern thought under a pseudo-scientific cover. But his belief that life is an experiment, and that since we can never be certain we must tolerate dissent, is consistent with everything James, Peirce, and Dewey wrote. What Holmes did not share with those thinkers was their optimism. He did not believe that the experimental spirit will necessarily lead us, ultimately, down the right path. Democracy is an experiment, and it is in the nature of experiments sometimes to fail. He had seen it fail once.”

— Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club

Never has democracy and pluralism been so fragile. As Hannah Arendt reminds us: in order to stem the tide of evil, we should be thankful for the peaceful consciousness we already have.