Sunday, August 23, 2015

Molly Crabapple's "Shell Game"

According to Kristen O'Regan, this is "A New England"; I located this with no idea what it was in a search for Occupy artwork. You can read more about street art in "Agora-phobic" at Guernica.

Animal's Marina Galperina explains that the painting I share here features "modern feminist icon Laurie Penny surrounded by protesting foxes and police hound dogs."  Animal shows all nine images of "Shell Game," conveying feminine imagery in a grand-mock Victorian Empire storybook style. It reminds me of a surprisingly tiny image I saw in London at the Tate , "The Fairy Fellow's Master-Stroke" by Richard Dadd. Not in its direct color, but in the wealth of detail filling the intricate canvas.

Dadd went mad. It is as maddening to consider how little impact the frustrations of ordinary people have against what idealistic anarchists call "impossibilism," the notion that resistance and revolt can overthrow our corrupt system keeping us in debt to bankers, cowed by lawyers, fearful of police, coddled by media and entertainment bent on distracting us, but convinced the next election=change.

I composed this after a week of legal upheaval. Obamacare upheld, Confederate battle flags taken down, and same-sex marriage approved. Argue as some may, decades of progress have paid off. Yes, many grumble at the imposition of federal power. Most, on these and other matters, reason that as with slavery and patriarchy, superstition and bigotry, we must evolve away from outmoded strictures.

Yet, how quickly will liberation happen? I sympathize with principled populism, but its long-range success seems co-opted by those elected. Ever more dependent on an unjust economic and political regime combined to make us compliant by measures at work, cameras in public, and data as tracked, how can we fight such ubiquitous power? The Net promised us empowerment twenty years ago. Now it seeks only to monetize all we do, cajoling us as shoppers and consumers, to exploit our very selves.

It's no longer fat white men in cummerbunds, like Monopoly game millionaires, pulling such strings. Women and those marginalized rush to shatter glass ceilings, but do start-ups differ from Fortune 500 firms that significantly? As the show Silicon Valley skewers, "doing good" is their cynical manifesto. 

What's intriguing about Molly Crabapple's art in the "Shell Game" series is that she incorporates female symbols and caricatures, both as villains and heroines. (If I can still deliberately employ that contested noun.) Her account of the years between 9/11 and Occupy will appear at the end of this year, Drawing Blood. Funded on Kickstarter, her work in the year after OWS continues her pen-and-ink drawings, O'Regan reports, which revel in "frenzied visual chaos and declarative allegory." Like others, the artist takes inspiration from Athens' street art and protests; I found this on the day that the banks were shut EU imposed austerity measures on this defiant/cowed Greek nation.

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