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Art Threat: An open letter to George W. Bush, the artist

Dear Mr. Bush,

I was heartened to learn of your recent exhibition of paintings at your own Presidential Library in Dallas. Some may have considered this a crude display of the vanity of power, but I happen to think such crudeness has its own aesthetic merit and honesty. It is crucial that world leaders such as yourself advocate and promote the fine arts, even if, during your presidency, you oversaw their continued economic abandonment (in favour of increased military spending), and even though many of your colleagues in the Republican party have been at the forefront of castigating, belittling and (Read more…)

Art Threat: Hugs With Arms will put affordable art on your walls

After seven years of putting political art on your computer screen, I’m now hoping to put some art on your walls.

We started Art Threat in 2007 because we felt that artists creating socially-engaged work weren’t getting the attention they deserved. After 1200+ posts over the years (and many more to come), I’d like to think we’ve managed in some small measure to introduce these artists to new audiences and help further the appreciation and understanding of political art.

About a year ago, however, I began to think about how I could do more. As someone who is an arts (Read more…)

Art Threat: Transform This: iconic Johnny Cash photo used to protest Saskatchewan university cuts

Things may soon be looking grim for many students and faculty at the University of Saskatchewan.

The Saskatoon-based institution is looking to slash up to $25 million from its operating budget. In a restructuring process the administration has branded TransformUS, the UofS is currently determining “university priorities”, after which they plan to “eliminate or reduce programs or services which rank as having lower priority”.

Many members of the university community have been vocal in their opposition to the planned cuts, arguing that the process lacks transparency and damages the traditional role of a post-secondary institution. Two open letters express (Read more…)

Art Threat: Should artists be able to pay taxes with artwork?

As income tax filing deadlines approach across North America, many Mexican artists will be counting canvases instead of pay stubs. In Mexico, a country that has lost over $870 billion to tax evasion and money laundering, hundreds of artists aren’t required to pay a dime in tax. Instead, they pay the government with artwork.

For decades the federal Mexican government has allowed artists to take part in their Pago en Especie (Payment in Kind) program, which allows them to pay their federal income taxes with their own artwork.

For artists in the program, tax math is incredibly simple. If they (Read more…)

Art Threat: Painting, Resisting, Giggling: An Interview with George Littlechild

I first stumbled upon George Littlechild’s art at the Comox Valley Art Gallery in my hometown of Courtenay, British Columbia. After reeling from the emotional turmoil and historical reopening, rapprochement and reordering rendered in his bold and colourful brush strokes and integration of collage through archives, I was delighted further to learn that Littlechild resided right there, in my little town. After several years run by a city council dominated by career politicians and land developers, Courtenay has come to resemble the big box subsidiary that many other communities in Canada have become after non-local retailers move in to newly (Read more…)

Art Threat: Banksy video asks that we stand #WithSyria on third anniversary of conflict

This week marks the third anniversary of the crisis in Syria, and a new campaign involving Banksy asks that we stand in solidarity with Syrians.

#WithSyria asks the public to place pressure on political leaders to “do everything they can to make this the last anniversary marked by bloodshed.” The campaign takes graphic inspiration from Banksy’s iconic Balloon Girl, which was reworked into a young Syrian refugee and placed into a video featuring Idris Elba and English alternative rock act Elbow.

“Banksy’s iconic “Girl with the Red Balloon” is a picture of hope,” explains the #WithSyria website. “The red (Read more…)

Art Threat: Michelangelo’s David takes up arms in American gun ad

An American weapons manufacturer is the subject of outrage in Italy — but this international offensive lies strictly within the cultural realm.

ArmaLite, an Illinois-based small arms engineering firm, has bestowed indignity upon Michelangelo’s David by using the classical sculpture as a prop in a rifle advertisement.

The tacky advert has incensed Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini, who made his displeasure public on Twitter yesterday: “The advertisement image of David armed offends and infringes the law.”

The ad itself is nearly a year old, having first been tweeted by ArmaLite itself as part of an promotional campaign last (Read more…)

Art Threat: Feminist Art editing marathon creates 100 new Wikipedia entries

Less than 13 percent of Wikipedia contributors are female, an uncomfortable imbalance that skews the content that is found on the tremendously popular resource.

Last week nearly 600 volunteers around the planet stormed Wikipedia in a marathon effort to put a dent in this disparity by adding 100 new pages about women artists, and contributing new content to roughly 80 others.

The Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, which was largely coordinated by the fantastic folks at Eyebeam, trained hundreds of new contributors on Wikipedia guidelines and culture before setting them loose to beef up content related to contemporary art and (Read more…)

Art Threat: JFK After 50 Years: Berlin to Dallas, Cold War to Camelot

Those of us, of a certain age, or so the story goes, can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on 23rd of November, 1963, when we first heard news of the death of President John F Kennedy.

Some will have been in the concert hall in Boston when the performance was stopped and, in an uneasy silence, the conductor, Erich Leinsdorf, announced in a mid-European accent that somehow heightened the sense of tragedy and foreboding, that “the president has been the victim of an assassination,” and then, amidst all too audible gasps, “We will play a (Read more…)

Art Threat: Can I Touch It?

North Carolina based artist Endia Deal explores the relationships of minority women within the corporate space.

Her most recent project, “Can I touch it?”, is a photo series depicting white women in their 40s or older with traditionally black hairstyles. The final results show women with cornrows, flat twists, fingerwaves and somewhat apprehensive faces.

“I wanted people that had a certain idea of what you’re supposed to look like in the workspace, because it would be a challenge for them to understand what I experience in that space,” she explained in an interview with Slate.com. Endia, who sports (Read more…)

Art Threat: The Zombie Index explores the space between individuals and the collective

Artist George Pfau believes zombies are an irresistible cultural force. But while most of us limit our interest to binging on Walking Dead episodes, or perhaps taking part in a Zombie Walk, for Pfau the study of zombies makes up a huge part of his art practice.

His most recent project is the Zombie Index, a website that explores the ever-expanding breadth of possibilities of what a zombie can be.

“Zombies inspire me because they provide a fascinating middle zone between alive and dead, individual and collective, inside and outside,” Pfau explained.

This particular nature of zombies is (Read more…)

Art Threat: P.INK takes heathcare to an unexpected place: the tattoo parlour

As a man with no tattoos, Noel Franus is an unlikely candidate as the founder of P.INK: an organization that connects breast cancer survivors with tattoo ideas and artists.

But as anyone with a family member who is also a breast cancer survivor can attest, the urge to do something to help can be strong. For Franus, the urge struck when his sister-in-law Molly was diagnosed with breast cancer and was surprised to learn that after her mastectomy she’d be short two nipples.

“There were no resources for women with breast cancer, doing reconstruction, wanting to do something (Read more…)

Art Threat: 169 credit cards + $12.50 in change = Indebted States of America

Indebted States of America by Maine artist Eric Leppanen is created with 169 of his own credit cards, collected over the past 23 years, adorned with the 50 U.S. state quarters and framed in gold leaf.

“It speaks to the marketing of ‘Big Banks’ to indebt Americans with bait and switch tactics and easy/free money,” explained Leppanen in an email. “The last 20 years of credit card marketing has fueled the economic boom, collapse and enslavement of millions and our own government is a shining example for all of us to follow.”

“After 16 years working for Bank (Read more…)

Art Threat: Joe Sacco depicts one dreadful day of The Great War

The latest book by comic artist Joe Sacco isn’t really a book at all. The Great War is a single 24-foot-long panoramic image that illustrates the first day of the battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.

And while the style is certainly Sacco, The Great War differs from his previous projects, such as Safe Area Gorazde and Footnotes in Gaza, in ways beyond the book’s physical format.

From The Guardian:

There are literally thousands of people in The Great War, along with horses, heavy artillery, barbed wire, trenches and, as the narrative progresses, explosions, stretchers and (Read more…)

Art Threat: Banksy in NYC: highlights from the first two weeks

New Yorkers have spent the past two weeks tripping over themselves as they attempt to locate new Banksy works as they pop up each morning.

The British artist is currently halfway through a month-long residency “on the streets of New York,” and his daily creations, which include video and other creative interventions, have been generating heaps of buzz.

Banksy himself has been posting each day’s work along with text and audio commentary on his website Better Out Than In, but here are a few of the highlights from the first half of October.

The Sirens of the Lambs

Some (Read more…)

Art Threat: Fearless photography explores the Egyption women of the revolution

The woman in a red dress being blasted by pepper spray in Gezi Park, Istanbul, is not an anomaly. Women are on the front lines of Turkey’s protest movement and were also well represented in the series of upheavals that was dubbed the Arab Spring. But to gain a full appreciation women’s contributions, it’s probably best to look beyond the mainstream news media.

Fearless: Egyptian Women of the Revolution

Photographer and multimedia documentarian Tatiana Philiptchenko has given western audiences a rare insight into the revolutionary role of women through her new book, Fearless: Egyptian Women of the Revolution. The book (Read more…)

Art Threat: Butch Dykes: A Herstory told in zines

At the recent Montreal Anarchist Bookfair, where another (better) world of incredibly inspiring, provocative and boundary-pushing art and media is on display each year, I stumbled upon Eloisa Aquino and her wares – a series of zines on awesome butch dykes, appropriately called The Life and Times of Butch Dykes. The teeny books are what every great zine should be, for me: oozing with the love and devotion the creator, as well as political, punchy, fun, informative, and accessible. It’s a fantastic series—eight and counting—that brings to life the lives of important butch dykes from herstory. Soon after the Bookfair (Read more…)

Art Threat: The Art & Money Project

It’s no secret that money rules our lives.

I think what we’re now seeing is really the final and most ruthless stage of the integration of art and creativity into the capitalist market or, in other words, the final stages of art’s subordination to money.

But I think that almost all other ways of justifying art’s value are crumbling. When art was an elite commodity, say in the 19th century, artists and arts advocates used to be able to express art’s value in terms of some sort of transcendent humanism: art was the key to enlightenment, to compassion and sympathy, (Read more…)

Art Threat: Bank of Canada cries counterfeit over Duffy Buck cartoon

Editorial cartoonist Dan Murphy has created a parody of a Canadian bank note featuring maligned senator Mike Duffy — he of the fraudulent $90,000 in expense claims.

The humourless Bank of Canada, however, demanded the cartoon be removed in an email sent from their “anti-counterfeiting compliance program.” The Bank argues that the parody violated their copyright on the Canadian $50 bill.

Now, section 29 of Canada Copyright Act provides “fair dealing” exceptions for the purpose of parody, and the itself Bank referred to the cartoon as a parody in their own email.

Either the Bank of Canada (Read more…)

Art Threat: Ai Weiwei brings 1200 bicycles to Nuit Blanche Toronto

Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei will create a new edition of his Forever Bicycles sculpture at this year’s Nuit Blanche festival in Toronto.

The eighth annual event will take place between sunset and sunrise on October 5, 2013 and feature more than 110 contemporary art projects scattered across the city.

The installation by Weiwei, which debuted last year at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, features 1200 interconnected bicycles formed into a spellbinding, three-dimensional pattern.

This new version of the sculpture will be erected in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square, just a few short blocks from the Art Gallery of Ontario, (Read more…)

Art Threat: Hungry Planet pictures what we eat around the world

Whenever I shop for groceries, I’m reminded of our collective obsession with processed and packaged foods.

As someone who makes an reasonable effort to make decisions that are good for both my health and that of the planet, my shopping cart is largely filled with whole foods.

I’m certainly no saint — tubs of yoghurt, cans of legumes, bottles of beer and boxes of frozen pizza all involve unnecessary energy inputs and waste.

But each time I pull up to the checkout and dump dozens of fruits and veggies onto the conveyor belt, I find my selections are in stark (Read more…)

Art Threat: Mapping the world’s largest solar farm with Project 929

How large of a solar farm is needed to completely power the United States?

The simple answer is that a solar farm 100 miles long and 100 miles wide would be “more than enough to meet the country’s entire energy demand.”

The far more interesting answer, however, is that this hypothetical solar farm could be contained by a 460-mile line of chalk currently being drawn across Arizona by artist and activist Joseph DeLappe.

Project 929: Mapping the Solar, is both a long-distance bike ride and work of performance art. DeLappe hit the road on May 19 with a (Read more…)

Art Threat: Conservative Christ illustrates America’s evil Jesus

The latest work by American artist Michael D’Antuono has once again drawn ire from US conservatives for pointing out the hypocrisy amongst their ranks.

His latest work, The Conservative Christ, depicts Jesus with an AK-47 hoisted into their air, clutching tightly to a pot of gold, and sneering derisively at a poor, old man. By illustrating precisely what Jesus would not do, D’Antuono draws attention to the awkward dissonance between Conservative’s sociopolitical beliefs and their supposed adherence to Christian values.

It was in an attempt to understand this conflict that inspired him to create the work.

It seems like (Read more…)

Art Threat: Little girls are better at designing superheroes than you are

“Little girls are better at designing superhoroes than you are” is a part-time project of California based artist Alexandria Law.

Of the project she says: “Kids are more impressionable than you, but kids can also be less restricted by cultural gender norms than you. Kids are more creative than you, and they’re better at making superheroes than you. This is a mini art project where I draw superheroes based on the costumes worn by little girls.”

It’s practically tragic that there are so few opportunities to play with gender norms the way we did as kids, when we didn’t (Read more…)

Art Threat: Calgary muzzles artists critical of tar sands

The Raincoast Conservation Foundation had a permit from the City of Calgary to display their travelling art exhibition, Artists for an Oil-Free Coast, at city hall. However, once the show opened, a backlash from conservative politicians caused the city to revoke the permit, arguing the show was too “political” and violated municipal bylaws banning demonstrations inside the building.

Despite the show’s unambiguous title, the city claims they “weren’t aware there was a specific political agenda or cause associated with the art exhibit,” according to Sharon Purvis, the city’s director with corporate properties and buildings.

While the city is (Read more…)