My collaboration with Martha Rosler for THE ART OF SAVING A LIFE

salk-comic-tile7My mother, Martha Rosler, and I have a new collaboration, in the online art/public service campaign The Art of Saving a Life. Sponsored by the Gates Foundation, the project brings together over 30 “world-renowned musicians, writers, filmmakers, painters, sculptors and photographers” to promote vaccinations (particularly in the third world). Some of the other creators involved the project include Annie LeibovitzChristoph NiemannDeborah KellyMary Ellen Mark, Mia Farrow, and Yiyun Li. (The project has been covered by, among others, The New York Times.)

My mother’s and my piece, titled “Gift to the World,” tells the story of Jonas Salk and his development of the polio vaccine. The nine panels of the comic float, bubble-like, on the surface of a radiating ripple. As a child of the polio era, this project seemed particularly personal to my mom. We were both moved by Salk’s comment (quoted in the piece), “Who owns the patent to this vaccine? Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” I can safely say that Jonas Salk is one of my mother’s personal heroes.

My mother and I have collaborated on a number of other projects over the years, including a monumental piece about the European debt crisis, a billboard graphic about education & prison spending, and a two-page comic on the Iraq War and Guantanamo. It’s funny, because when I got into the comics game, I figured our two creative worlds would never intersect, what with comics being a “low art” and her career firmly ensconced in the academy. Times have changed! Of course, the subjects of our respective work overlap in some places, particularly our shared interest in real people’s stories. Which is no surprise, as my mother has, through her raising me and through her long career as an artist, shaped my life’s moral compass.

Check out The Art of Saving a Life here. And support vaccination!

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Pull Up Those PIIGS!

My mother, Martha Rosler, and I have just collaborated on a public art piece in central Berlin. It’s on the topic of the ongoing European debt crisis, and it’ll be on display on the building (at Auguststraße 10, 10117 Berlin, Germany) until the end of November. (I wasn’t aware of this beforehand, but “PIIGS” is an acronym used by international bond analysts, academics, and the economic press to refer to the economies of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain in regard to the ongoing sovereign debt crisis.)

My mom came up with the concept and text, and I did the illustration. The project was commissioned by DAAD (in English, the German Academic Exchange Service). My mother is in Berlin for a year on a residency sponsored by DAAD. This is the second large public art collaboration I’ve done with her, the first being part of the MAK Center’s “How Many Billboards?” project from last year.

The piece is quite massive, approximately 35′ x 42.’ Here’s a photo:

Pull Up Those PIIGS

Pull Up Those PIIGS!

This is how the building normally looks (without the palm trees), sorry about the weird cropping:

Auguststraße 10 10117 Berlin, Germany

And here’s a link to a larger version of the original illo, complete with the groovy yellow-green background which they had to cut out for print-compatibility reasons…

“How Many Billboards?”

My mother, Martha Rosler, was invited by L.A.’s MAK Center to create a billboard as part of their “How Many Billboards” project. My mom suggested that we do a collaboration, and our billboard is up! It’s on Sunset Blvd, just west of Cahuenga, on the north side of the street, facing east. Here’s a shot. I’m off to L.A. tomorrow (weather willing) to take part in the opening festivities, etc…

"How Many Projects?"

NY Times: “Glossy Idealism on the Front Lines”

Sunday’s NY Times has a profile of Martha Rosler (my mom), in honor of her new show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. There’s also a pretty cool multimedia slideshow, where my mom narrates slides of her work. Check it out.

Misc. horn tooting

My mother Martha Rosler wrote, and I drew, a two-page comic (entitled “Scenes From an Illicit War: From Planet Invisible”), which has just been published in Silvana Editoriale’s System Error: War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. The book is a companion piece to an art exhibit of the same name (co-curated by Papesse head curator Lorenzo Fusi and New York- & Dhaka- based artist Naeem Mohaiemen) taking place at the Palazzo Papesse Centre for Contemporary Art in Siena, Italy (though May 6). I also have a couple of other war-related pieces (which can be read online here and here) in the System Error book.

Meanwhile, Nick Flynn & yours truly’s latest poem-comic, “Bag of Mice,” is printed in the March–April 2007 issue of World Literature Today, a special issue dedicated to “graphic literature” (and also featuring such notable names as Jessica Abel, Lynda Barry, Anders Nilsen, and Joe Sacco).

In addition, A.D. protagonist/AntiGravity magazine publisher Leo McGovern interviews me about A.D. in the new issue of AntiGravity, which coincides nicely with the brand-new A.D. Chapter 1: “Riders of The Storm,” now live on SMITH (And mentioned in an earlier post. Whew; busy day.).

Still Stoopin’ After All These Years

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI’m what you’d call a dedicated stoop-seller. For the last five years I’ve had an annual sale here in Brooklyn (at my friend’s place in Cobble Hill to be exact), and I’ve had sales at many other places over the years. In fact, I may hold some kind of stoop/garage/yard/sidewalk/street sale-location record, with (in reverse order) San Francisco, Chicago, Manhattan, and San Diego also on my list.

It must be in my blood: my great-grandparents included a Turkish rug merchant and the proprietor of a Lower East Side corner store. In addition, my mother, who’s an artist, has integrated a huge traveling garage sale into her installations for more than thirty years. But whereas my mom uses the form of the garage sale to comment on the nature of art and commodification, I just love sellin’ stuff.

Believe it or not, though, it’s not the profit motive that compels me. What really jazzes me about a sale is the idea that somebody wants something — a shirt, a picture frame, an old magazine — that I no longer need. And when their eye lights on that thing and we exchange some token amount of money, we both walk away from the transaction feeling like winners. I guess this confirms something about the world, about perception and point-of-view. Eye of the beholder and all that. And I gotta admit, it doesn’t hurt to get rid of a lot of junk and have some extra change jangling around in my pocket!

(Which is also why I’m an inveterate online auctioneer. I made my first eBay sale back in 1998 and I’ve been a regular there ever since. I go through periods of obsessive selling, but I’ve pulled back a bit and only put things up when I’ve got the time, which lately isn’t very often.)

But stoop sales are what I really look forward to, the opportunity to meet your customer and make that exchange face-to-face. Being a self-employed stay-at-home type, the stoop sale is my once-a-year chance to rub shoulders with — and sell stuff to — New York’s melting pot. Even in the white yuppie stronghold of Cobble Hill, our patrons include veiled Muslim women, Latino immigrants, Caribbean truck drivers, Chinese vagrants, European tourists, and the usual allotment of grungy hipsters.

An added bonus of a good sale is the chance it offers to spend time with your friends. Recently, we’ve been doing group sales, with five, six, or more buddies, and what other opportunities are there nowadays to hang with folks for six hours? The social sphere of a sale is filled with chances to chat one-on-one, join together in a good pitch, swap clothes & junk, and dandle each other’s pets and babies. And when the day is done, the stoop is clear again, and the leftover stuff has been sent to Goodwill, there’s noting better than spending your earnings on good food and drink with the sales gang.

Being a merchant at heart, I’m not much of a stoop sale customer. Unlike Sari, who will cross the street to check out a sale, I pass ‘em by without a second look — unless a vintage comic or cheap DVD catches my eye. Otherwise, I’m strictly a seller. Which is not to say that I haven’t “stooped” to accumulating inventory purely for the purpose of re-selling it. Being an artist, I’m not averse to “finding” stuff on the street (or in a garbage can or dumpster), not to mention the odd incredible deal at a thrift or antique store. But I know this is an unhealthy practice, and I try not to let it control me. Mostly my inventory is actual my stuff that for one reason or another has become obsolete or unnecessary. And of course all those useless holiday gifts that are un-returnable or not even worth re-gifting!

So, in honor of the form, here’s a blow-by-blow list of sales I’ve taken part in, from way back in the 70s, to the hair-raising East Village of the 80s, to sprawling sales in Chicago’s Wicker Park in the 90s, all the way to this decade in (to quote fellow stooper WJC) “The Lyn of Brook”…

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