Category Archives: Art

Art and images that are compelling in an increasingly digital society.

Viktor Hertz – Honest Corporate Logos

Viktor Hertz Apple Logo Redesigned

Viktor Hertz is doing some fascinating work with corporate logos – redesigning them as an honest expression of what the companies are (at least partially) about. Inventive and fun to encounter, they stick with you, perhaps because they reveal something you already know, but just don’t associate with the actual logo. It’s as if the logo is turned against itself, becoming starkly honest instead of offering the illusion that underpins our relationship with the company.

Hertz is a graphic designer and artist from Uppsala, Sweden. Besides the current Honest Logo series, he has also done a set of alternative movie posters, rock posters and the like. More on his site at http://www.viktorhertz.com/50714/home

Viktor Hertz - Dunkin Donuts Logo Redesign

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Newtown Creek: A Close-up View of Pollution


Here’s a novel way to get up close to Newtown Creek, the notoriously polluted body of water in NYC (Queens) that is now a superfund site. While there are finally plans for a clean-up, authorities still have to work out who is paying the cost, so don’t expect any major changes soon. But with a nature walk on the banks and a new art project, you can see all you’ll ever want to see of the water itself with the Newtown Creek Armada. Brooklyn artists Laura Chipley, Nathan Kensinger, and Sarah Nelson Wright have put together a novel flotilla of small boats and cameras with some simple technology, giving you the chance to see the creek through a new perspective. The small-boat Armada sets sail Saturday, September 8th and then continues on September 9th, 15th, 22nd, 29th and 30th.

It’s a cool idea, and worth seeing. Superfund have a way of being abstract until you get up close and personal to them. Just don’t watch the video while eating lunch.

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Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama Netting for Construction Site in NYC

Construction Netting Designed by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama at 345 14th Street

Construction Netting Designed by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

A new if temporary addition to West Village / Meatpacking area in NYC is a condo construction site covered with netting by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The site at 345 West 14th Street, which will be known as 345 Meatpacking, has become a temporary art project through the Whitney Museum (soon to be located in the area over by the High Line) and DDG Partners, the site developer. Yayoi Kusama currently has an exhibition at the Whitney uptown through September 30th and the building covering is replica of her black and yellow painting, “Yellow Trees”.

Of course, the building is playing off its proximity to the Meatpacking area which gone from a no-man’s a few decades back (except for my once favorite restaurant - Florent – that beloved hangout that was an oasis in the middle of the junkies and refrigerated trucks) to the hip place to be on a summer evening. Once you stepped over drunks and ducked under hanging carcasses of meat; now you get jostled by the crowds rushing to the newest bar.

It was a bit of a surprise tonight to stumble across this since I am out of town most summer weekends, leaving little time to keep up with the neighborhood. Photo is from an iPhone 4 and taken at dusk so not the best quality (somewhat salvaged by using the Camera+ App). You can catch a better image and a few more details over at Curbed.com.

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The Statue of Liberty Melting in NYC Heatwave


Amazing short video (28 sec.) posted on Mashable of the Statue of Liberty in the NYC harbor appearing to melt under the summer heatwave. The video is by German artist Vincent Ullmann shows the statue liquefying like an ice cream cone in a microwave. Well, it may not be that hot, but the combination of heat and humidity has made the summer unbearable, especially in the subway (I’ve reached the point where I dread going downstairs into the station in the morning).

I’m on the boat tonight, out on the water in Mystic, CT. and visually, it’s a beautiful evening. The moon-rise was stunning and a huge shooting star – almost a fireball – tore across the sky a few hours ago. But even with open hatches and fans running, you wish there was an air-conditioner. The light breeze is just bringing waves of humidity across the water. Fog is predicted for the morning which means . . . yet more humidity.

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Steve McCurry: People Reading Around the World

Afghanistan. Photo credit: Steve McCurry

Afghanistan. Photo credit: Steve McCurry

You probably know Steve McCurry’s photographs – or at least one very famous one, the Afghan Girl photo that was on the cover of National Geographic Magazine in June 1985 – but he has continued to produce a remarkable body work. He latest effort on his blog is a series of photos of people reading in various settings around the world. Add in the quotes from a number of famous writers and you have a thought-provoking visual essay.

A quote by Victor Hugo from the site:

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.

In the image above, you cannot help but wonder where these young Afghan girls will be in twenty years. Hopefully the future will live up to the potential in their eyes.

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A look Inside Admiral’s Row with Radiohead Soundtrack

Admiral’s Row, the exquisite row of deteriorating houses by the Brooklyn Navy Yard, will be torn down at some point (it was supposed to happen last January). Somehow, they hold on, their decay feeding upon itself as yet another railing or wall or floor caves in. There’s been a long and seemingly fruitless campaign to restore them – but sadly, it seems that all but two of the structures will be destroyed, replaced by a supermarket and heaven knows what else.

For now, enjoy the journey inside, appropriately set to a soundtrack using Radiohead’s “Separator”. More photos by the artist Max Touhey are available if you want to see it in photographs.

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Animated Gifs as Situated Art

animated gifAnimated gifs just never seem to disappear – and for good reason when a group of friends in Japan undertake a project and site known as rrrrrrrroll. Some of these are fascinating and make you want to go out into the world and spin around while being photographed. You can see a number of similar one’s here. If you go to the site, be sure to move your cursor over the page title.

I feel like I’ll be dreaming I’m a spinning top when I sleep tonight. Please stop . . . no don’t. From Kottke.org

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Sebastião Salgado: We Must Save What is in Peril

Sahara [man praying], Algeria 2009

Sebastião Salgado, Sahara [man praying], Algeria
2009   © Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images

Next year, Sebastião Salgado will open his Genesis exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum. Eight years in the making, one of the world’s most influential photographers has been on an odyssey to capture the last wild places. Already well known for his body of work on epic themes – migration, exploitation, war, etc.(sorry, I don’t mean to trivialize this list with an “etc.” at the end) – this time he has sought out people and nature living in equilibrium.

From early glimpses of the new work, he doesn’t disappoint. If documentary photography seems to run from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War, Salgado proves that the vision is alive and well in his own work, that in the midst of the tsunami of images and video within which we live – 72 hours a minute are uploaded to YouTube alone – there is still a place for the well crafted still image. Working solely in black and white, he’s pulls us back to stop, think, and reflect on who we are as human beings within the larger context of nature.

There’s an exclusive interview on the Canon site and a small selection of his upcoming work over at the Guardian News. Interesting that he uses a combination of analog and digital – shooting his work with a digital camera and then editing on contact sheets to produce physical negatives.

Take a moment to look . . . at the earth and ourselves.

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Blown Away: Tadao Cern Photographs Wind and the Human Face

Tadao Cern PhotographsTadao Cern positions people in front of high-speed fans and then takes their photograph. I find the strange dis-figuration of the human face, the transitory yet frozen quality compelling even if I simultaneously have the urge to turn away. Hard to get at the attraction/resistance here except that we might say we know the human face so well, it is so intimate to our relations with others; and yet, we truthfully don’t know it at all, take it for granted, see past its phyiscality to the person it embodies. Tadao Cern makes you look.

Almost hard not to look at them all – and there are a lot – over at behance.net and on facebook at www.facebook.com/tadaocern

And if you want to see the distorted features in motion, here’s a five minute video Tadao Cern’s subjects in front of a high-speed fan.   Via kottke.org/

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Guy Laramee: The Book as Sculpture

Guy Laramee - Browns BibleSince the book has fallen from grace, having become a target of the digital era, artists have been turning them into art pieces, particularly sculpture. Granted, the medium is a bit limited – how many ways can you carve a rectangular block of tightly packed sheets of bound paper? – but this work by Guy Laramee stands out above the rest.

Of course, there will always be a place for printed books – we just haven’t figured out where. The horse and buggy are still around, plodding through Central Park and making good on the tourist trade. One suspects the book has a brighter future than as curiosities for those in the future with a need to experience of an historical artifact, but where that place is has yet to be determined. It depends in large part on how eBooks develop and if we can address DRM issues.

But for now, we have the digital version, the printed book, and a few that artists have remade into objects of art.  You can see more of Laramee’s work at the artist’s site. Via Kottke.

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The Very Cool Waveform Necklace – Using Interactive Fabrication

Waveform Necklace

Take a look at Waveform. I’m not a huge fan of this style of jewelry but I find these pieces fascinating. And the way these are created utilizing an interactive fabrication technique even more so. Waveform is a project by David Bizer that takes a sound recording of your voice or a segment of music – any recording will do – and transforms it into a necklace that represents the waveform of the sound.

Take a look at the images on the Interactive Fabrication site or, better yet, go to David Bizer’s site and see his work. His other projects are equally fascinating, including a T-Shirt that is printed with a map generated by your shipping address when you order it (your home is located where your heart would be under the shirt) and the “a pendant”,  formed from multiple letter A’s on a 3-dimensional grid, creating an icosahedron (now I finally know what that words means. . . I think).

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Playing with Shadows – Skateboard Video by Joe Pease

A beautiful and surreal skateboard video, “Peter Brings the Shadow to Life,” by Joe Pease of the ephemeral shadows of a skateboarder. Different than any other skateboard video without the tricks and crashes, but it’ll make you think about shadow, light, movement – and the disorienting perspectives of seeing your surroundings through a camera.  Skateboards are the harsh reality of wheels on concrete, but in this video they seem to float on air. Inspiration for the work comes from the essay, “Shades of a Shadow – Symbolism in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan” (with music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis) and the following quote:

It is not uncommon for children to play with their shadows or to imagine that they are tangible. However, in order to grow up, children must leave behind this fantasy…no one ever fully grows up. Instead, growing up is a process that continues throughout life. 

The video is on Buzzfeed.

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Street Art – Banksy “Celebrates” Queen’s Jubilee

This new street art appeared a week ago and while there’s no confirmation that it is the handiwork of graffiti artist Banksy, it’s definitely his style. Since BBC News is now running the story, we might as well repost a photo of the work, which is located in north London on the wall of a Poundland store on Whymark Avenue in Wood Green. The image of the small child sewing decorations for the Jubilee is a not so subtle reminder that despite the celebration in the U.K. of the Queen’s Jubilee, the decorative trappings may well be the work of impoverished children and families who do the work in other countries.

The image below is from Arrested Motion. As always, thought provoking.

New Street Art by Banksy

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The Ephemeral Light Show – 100,000 LED Lights on Tokyo’s Sumida River

A fascinating light show last weekend at the Tokyo Hotaru festival where Panasonic provided 100,000 solar powered LED lights to imitate fireflies floating down the Sumida River in the center of Tokyo. Lighting up on impact with water, the small lights (referred to as “Prayer Stars”) were later recovered downstream through the use of nets.

With all due respect to my many friends in Chicago, this surely beats dying the water of the Chicago river green on St. Patrick’s Day.  And as the technology becomes cheaper, smaller and more disposable, it becomes possible to undertake large-scale temporary projects like this. In a way, it is our effort to play with light just as people in the Middle Ages created their own narratives through sunlight and glass in the Gothic cathedrals. Theirs was more permanent, though the buildings had an ephemeral quality in the interplay of light and shadow. Our projects are entirely transitory, though they have an element of permanence in that they get recorded through digital photographs. Perhaps this is most appropriate for a digital world where everything solid seems capable of being transformed into the ephemeral and yet every digital activity leaves a trace that lingers long after the artifact has been dismantled (or deleted).

Two images below from the Creators Project website. From the ground, the Sumida river appears as ribbons of light trailing off into the distance; from the air, it is as if there is an electronic current coursing its way through downtown Tokyo. Enjoy.

tokyo hotaru festival - Sumida River

 

tokyo hotaru festival - Sumida River from above

Tokyo Hotaru Festival - Sumida River from above

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My Mood on a Beautiful Spring Day

While New York City has calmed down from its usual frenetic weekday pace and I’m off for four days, I have so much work and writing to do that I’m just working at home. Leaving tomorrow for Mystic, CT but it’s a beautiful spring day and I want to step outside now. An art work by the graffiti artist Banksy at Tottenham Green Road, London, captures my mood perfectly.

Banksy - No Ballgames

Banksy - No Ballgames

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Poetry in Motion Returns to the NYC Subway

The popular Poetry in Motion series ran for 15 years on the NYC Subways, only to be replaced for two years by a “Train of Thought” series and then, well, nothing. Careening underground in our relatively new subways cars on a system built over a 100 years ago, the Poetry in Motion project was always a moment of lightness, a reason to smile in the noise and chaos underground. Especially so when you were packed so tightly in a car that you couldn’t even get to your phone to read your mail.

According to the Gothamist, The plan is to have two new poems a quarter, eight a year, on subways, kiosks and some MetroCards. The series begins with “Graduation,” by Dorothea Tanning:

Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion Series returns to NYC Subways

 

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Street Phones as Art and Guerilla Libraries

20120229-011451.jpg

Old technology often fades away, simply becoming an underused and eventually unused part of the urban landscape. Take for example, abandoned streetcar tracks or overgrown sidewalks. But occasionally someone has a moment of inspiration and the neglected object gets repurposed for another function.

Here is an art and urban redesign project by a Columbia graduate who takes old pay phones and turns them into free libraries on the streets of New York City. John Locke has done only a few so far but more are on the way. A few details:

The concept, sponsored by Locke’s imaginary Department of Urban Betterment, is that New Yorkers will pick up unfamiliar titles while running their errands and then, perhaps, replace them the next day with favorite books of their own. That’s in an ideal world. Of the two guerrilla libraries that the artist has fashioned, one has been used properly while the other has had its entire collection repeatedly ganked by sticky-fingered pedestrians. Its shelves were also stolen.

But Locke has many more libraries planned. With plywood consoles that slip over payphones as neatly as aprons, these sidewalk objets are endlessly replicable. (No doubt they’ll feature in his 2012 Columbia course, “Hacking the Urban Experience.”)

Whether intended or not, the project is juxtaposing two disappearing technologies – the pay phone and the printed book. Both are transitioning to new platforms, the “pay” phone now a device in my pocket and the book distributed to my iPad or Kindle in my bag. Both are still essential, but less so in their original form. It’s almost comical to think of standing in line to make a call, but you did, particularly in a high traffic area like Grand Central in New York where an essential urban survival skill was sizing up who would end their conversation first at a crowded bank of pay phones.

Locke’s project is fun, provocative, idealistic and perhaps a little crazy, but it’s things like this that make New York endlessly fascinating. For more, including an interview with the artist, see the Atlantic.

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World Press Photo of The Year 2011 Won by Samuel Aranda

Selected by World Press Photo for one of the more prestigious awards in photojournalism, here is Samuel Aranda’s photograph of a woman comforting a wounded relative inside a mosque used as a field hospital. Taken for the New York Times, it captures a moment of pain and tenderness  during last year’s demonstrations in Sanaa, Yemen against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. You can see more of Aranda’s work on his own site along with the winners and runners up in the 2011 competition categories at the World Press Photo Galleries
World Press Photo of the Year - 15 October 2011
World Press Photo of the Year – 15 October 2011

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Livia Ritthaler’s Delightful Gramophone Made of Paper

Here is a no digital, low-tech gramophone designed by the German artist Livia Ritthaler. Constructed of a single sheet of paper and turned by hand it is no doubt something my great grandparents could relate to. As our world evolves into greater and greater complexity, it’s a reminder of the simplicity of sound and in some ways recalls the dystopian futures of movies such as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). You can see some of her other work at Livia Ritthaler.de - a wonderfully stark yet whimsical website of lomography photos (Lomography is a spontaneous and unpredictable  form of photography based on equipment originally developed by a state-owned Russian company, LOMO Plc.).

Here’s the paper gramophone:

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2011 Lacoste Elysée Prize – A Tale of Corporate Sponsorship and Censorship

In only its second year of existence, the 2011 Lacoste Elysée Prize provided some end of the year censorship drama in the art world. The French luxury goods brand Lacoste removed the Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour from the shortlist of nominees after initially funding her work for the 2011 award. Lacoste only said that Sansour’s work was not in keeping with the theme of the contest, “Joie de Vivre”, but the sudden withdrawal of the artist’s name fueled speculation that they were either opposed to her project, “Nation Estate,” on the lives of Palestinians, or thought it was too politically sensitive.

At first, the Musée de l’Elysée sided with the sponsor but quickly did an about-face and cancelled its agreement with Lacoste to host the €25,000 photography award. And then the details emerged as quoted in ArtInfo:

Having submitted preliminary sketches for her work to the committee in November, and having received a €4,000 working grant from Lacoste, Sansour says the news of her removal came as a complete surprise. This surprise was compounded by a request from the organizers, asking her to sign a statement saying that she withdrew from her nomination “in order to pursue other opportunities.” This she refused outright.

“The process with Lacoste is a strange one,” said Sansour. “As far as I am informed, [they] approved my nomination, despite — the museum told me — raising initial concerns as to my nomination. But over the phone last Wednesday the director of the Musée de l’Elysée told me: ‘Although the work is not directly anti-Israeli, it is too pro-Palestinian for Lacoste to support.’ Yet a joint statement from Lacoste and the museum issued earlier today stated that the reason for my dismissal was that ‘Nation Estate’ did not comply with the theme of the show. This despite the museum having explicitly given all artists carte blanche to interpret this theme and also directly encouraged irony. Also, there has been no mention of my work not complying with the theme at all prior to today’.

In an interview in Hyperallergic, the artist said:

This kind of situation is exactly what I fear. Money ranking over artistic freedom. The fact that a museum initially decides to follow their sponsor’s wish to eliminate an artist is a very scary development, and it is crucial to expose this kind of thing.

Indeed, it is, but there are other issues at play here. The reality is that in a digital world art has the potential to be provocative in ways artists could only imagine in their wildest dreams at the birth of Modern Art in the late 19th century and Modernism in the 1950′s. What once played out in the relatively hermetic confines of the art world – France and Western Europe for Impressionism, New York and Paris for the New York School – now has the potential to immediately engage any segment of the global community. That’s an incredible opportunity for artists, finally placing them on a world stage, and Sansour is a good example of this – an artist born in Jerusalem, studied in Copenhagen, London and New York who does work with political themes that spans video, photography, books and the Web. But this may well mean the end of corporate support – except for the broader (and “safe”) institutional support – fearing that provocative works will engender a reaction somewhere in the global community.

One of the photos in Sansour’s “Nation State” series:

Photo in Sansour's

Photo in Sansour

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New Work by Street Artist Banksy

Banksy has new work up on the streets of London, visual commentary on Black Friday, the rat race lifestyle, and the surveillance culture that we’ve grown to accept as part of our lives. More images at Design Taxi.

As always, fun, perceptive and well done.

Bansky Street Art

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The Italian Street Artist Blu – A Little Art for the Weekend

Blu is the pseudonym of an Italian street artist living in Bologna. Starting out with the customary spray cans, he soon switched to paint on rollers with telescopic handles, allowing him to create much larger works. Bold and expressive, his work ranges from the whimsical to political/social commentary and urban issues.  His latest mural in Buenos Aires this past week shows a large crowd all blindfolded by the same fabric evocative of the Argentinian flag while behind (standing on?) them is a dark suited man with the presidential sash. Best seen at the This is Colossal site where there are photos from different perspectives:

Blu, Mural in Buenos Aires

Blu, Mural in Buenos Aires

And below is one of his controversial pieces done for the “Draw the Line” Festival in Campobasso, Italy.  Details of the mural can be found at the GoWhereHipHop site:

Blu, Mural for "Draw the Line" Festival

Blu, Mural for the "Draw the Line" Festival

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A Sunday afternoon Moment of Reverie – “Address is Approximate”

A short film by director Tom Jenkins. Leave your house / apartment and you never know what your computer and accessories might do. And there will probably come a day with different devices where indeed, they will play while you’re away.

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One Second of Beauty – The Montblanc Film Competition

Check out the Montblanc film Competition (link appears to have been taken down so you’ll have to settle for the video below) developed by the Leo Burnett Milan ad agency to pay homage to the chronograph which got time accuracy down to a fifth of a second 190 years ago. Curated by Wim Wenders the contest is taking video submissions – anything as long as it last exactly one second, is shot from a phone or high-end digital camera and is in 16/9 landscape format. If you want to enter your own, you can go directly to The Beauty of a Second Challenge.

Some of these are really good, though I wonder how much they benefit (artistically) from context, as each video is viewed within a broader context of other one-second videos. Moreover, there’s a single soundtrack which unifies the whole segment but undermines the one-second format. Would I watch a one second video? Of course. How often? Not sure. Why? Largely because the technology still gets in the way – it takes far longer to pull up the movie then to actually watch it, though that doesn’t hold for a compilation of clips as in the segment below.

It will be interesting to see what makes it to the final round and the ultimate winner. Here is a minute of some of the one second video submissions from Round One. Enjoy:

Seconds Of Beauty – 1st round compilation from The Beauty Of A Second on Vimeo.

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Token Justice for the Face of the Egyptian Revolution – Khaled Said

A poster of Khaled Said with words “police at service of the people” written on the background

A poster of Khaled Said with words “police at service of the people” written on the background

If there was one symbol of the Arab Spring in Egypt, it would be the young Internet activist and blogger who was beaten at a table in an Internet cafe in Alexandria by plain-clothes police and then dragged off into an adjoining building where he was murdered. Khaled Said’s “crime” on the 6th of June, 2010 had been nothing more than uploading videos of police corruption and images of his battered body quickly circulated on the Web. Within days, a Facebook page created by Google marketing executive Wael Ghonim titled “We are all Khaled Said” became the most popular site in Egypt, with thousands of people replacing their own FB profile photos with the victim’s image.

The video that lead to his death does not even seem all that shocking (you can watch it here) – your basic run-of-the-mill police corruption around drugs, but it was more than enough to run him afoul of Egyptian authorities. Watching it, you quickly sense that it wasn’t the video; it was what he was doing with the video – putting it online – that made him a target.

Two police officers involved were put on trial in July of 2010 but it was postponed until February of this year. After three forensic investigations and endless arguments over procedural issues, a verdict was finally reached this week. And the result?

Seven years on a manslaughter charge.

The result has outraged Egyptian activists even though it was the maximum possible sentence. There will be an effort by the family to overturn both the verdict and the sentence and retry them for charges that could carry the death penalty. Activists were also outraged at the scene in the court, where the officers’ families attacked Khaled’s uncle and lawyers, and smashed benches in the courtroom which was closed to the public. As his uncle put it:

This case was like taking the pulse of the revolution, but the verdict tells us that the revolution has been aborted . . . . This is a signal on which direction the revolution is heading.

So I leave this with the image below, the classic Cold War symbol of oppression and freedom, all the more poignant with Khaled Said’s portrait . . . paradoxically the separated concrete slabs and the face staring ahead almost give it a distant echo of the hauntingly beautiful Fayum Mummy portraits from the Coptic period in Egyptian art.  One desperately hopes Khaled’s uncle is wrong. One hopes the walls are still coming down.

 

Graffiti artist Andreas von Chrzanowski, Khalid Saeed

The portrait of late Khaled Mohamed Said (1982-2010), internet activist from Egypt, was painted during the ceremony of the FES Human Rights Award by the graffiti artist Andreas von Chrzanowski aka Case on elements of the former Berlin Wall © Joel Sames

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