Entries in hands (27)
One of the proposals for On Site 28: sound is about recording studios and their particular qualities of surface and such. Sam Cooke was mentioned.
We were in English in grade 9 and Judy Butler who sat behind me told me Sam Cooke had died. This 1963 song, A Change is Gonna Come, sat, and still sits, at the heart of the Civil Rights movement.
1963 was an important year: Martin Luther King wrote 'Letter from Birmingham Jail', the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in Birmingham and four little girls were killed, King's 'I Have a Dream' speech was made in Washington, Medgar Evers was murdered. Not until the formation of the Black Panthers in 1967 did black power begin to overtake black faith that a change was going to come.
And, still thinking of things Olympic, it was at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City that the 200m gold and bronze medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, shared a pair of black gloves and made their stand for human rights. Last night on the Radio Australia's Asia Pacific Report, there was a piece about the silver medalist, Australian Peter Norman, who also wore a human rights badge in solidarity and was subsequently reprimanded by the AOC and not sent to any further Olympic games. His 1968 200m record of 20.06 seconds still stands in Australia. Evidently there is a debate in the Australian Parliament about apologising to him, although he died in 2006.
Why do people wait until someone dies, before their time in this case - he was only 64, before admitting they treated them badly?
This is Ruth St Denis dancing on the beach in 1916. Unlike classical ballet where energy flows off the body in smooth waves, St Denis, who changed dance radically with Ted Shawn in the 1920s, flings off energy from her body but then snaps it back with a tweak of her wrists.
It is similar to what one sees in some of the drawings of Patkau Architects in the 90s: a retaining wall shoots across the plan and then, when normally it would subside with a sigh into the ground where the topography finally meets the level, the Patkaus would crank the end and all the energy of the weight behind that retaining wall would jerk back toward the house.
It is a powerful ploy, no less in dance than in architecture, to embody resistance. What was Ohm's Law? resistance = voltage/current? This is the problem with going with the flow, no voltage, no resistance, no energy. Things change when energy is interrupted.
Thinking of the birds who live in prairie shelter belts including the beautiful and cheeky magpie, we have (unusually) a pair of hummingbirds living over the winter in the summerhouse. They are Anna's Hummingbirds, originally from California, but moving up the coast as it all gets warmer.
Then, thinking of other proprietal names such as Bewick's Wren, thought I'd have a look at Bewick's A History of British Birds which he put together between 1797 and 1804, illustrating it with beautiful wood engravings. Evidently he used tools for metal engraving on hardwood, and when he signed his name, added his fingerprint, both (the metal on wood and the fingerprint) unusual lateral forms of expression.
In the drawing of the rook, there is a scarecrow just above its tailfeathers – a tiny message about the rook's character. There are some obscure details of something behind the magpie – if ours are anything to go by it should be the 18th century equivalent of roadkill: magpies are omnivorous. The most endearing thing about these birds is that they all talk, chuckling away at each other and us, making jokes, issuing warnings, natter natter in the apple tree.
The caption to this image reads (with a bit of editing): 'the 52m-tall monument The Motherland Calls was the tallest statue in the world when erected in 1967. Mamayev Kurgan overlooks the city of Volograd, formerly Stalingrad, in southern Russia. The name in Russian means tumulus of Mamai. Today, Mamayev Kurgan features a memorial complex commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad.'
TopFoto is such an interesting place: each day an image from exactly 50 years ago. It is hardly ancient history, but not only is the past a different country, but the past seems a curiously innocent and optimistic country. 1961: people had survived the war, life was getting prosperous, tragedies were passionately commemorated, as above, on the eve of the Cold War.
V for victory is how it was used by Churchill in WWII. We know now how very close Britain was to defeat; it was important for Churchill to show indomitable surety that victory was nigh.
It is a combination of the hand of solidarity and the letter V. It is also the two-fingered Cub salute: the two fingers are the ears of Akela, the wolf cub. You remembered that didn't you?
Victory and peace. We also know now that victory does not automatically mean peace. Nixon used to hold both hands up in a fractal of two-fingered Vs at the end of a two-armed V – this where the V for victory in Vietnam was at odds with the V meaning Peace, man. Throughout the late 1960s and early 70s peace meant withdrawal, not victory, an absence of victory as the battle was given up rather than waiting for defeat.
The V hand sign has emerged again in the Arab Spring, where valour, valediction, validity and victory has been signed by every child, every woman, every student and rebel in each country as entrenched power structures were dismantled. Tunisia and Egypt's demonstrations were non-violent resistance movements; this didn't work in Libya and isn't working in Syria. Here V stands for a victory not of the individual who as he is rushed off on a stretcher manages to lift a hand and weakly flash two fingers, no, here the victory is for a people who will never go back, no matter what it takes, even if it takes generations.
Shockingly, in looking for the images here, I found recent pictures of Ahmedinijad in Iran and Saif al Qadhafi both complacently saluting their audiences with a V: here they are indicating their roots in revolutionary movements from a long, long time ago. The green flag of Qadhafi's revolutionary movement, the target in the Libyan uprising, represented the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya: green is the traditional colour of Islam. Green was the colour of protest in Iran in 2009, one sees on the news Palestinian coffins draped in green. The V and Green seem to be very specific in their applications depending on which people are using them, where and at what stage are their revolutions.
There is something about all these symbols and signs that coalesce around peace, non-violence and solidarity, and revolution, war and victory. These conditions seem to be all very closely linked and the symbols oscillate between them.
The fist of solidarity. No letters here, just a clenched hand as a measure of intent. Wikipedia tells us it dates from ancient Assyria as 'a symbol of resistance in the face of violence'. It was adopted by the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, in 1917. It was the Republican salute in the Spanish Civil War in 1936-39, and the salute of Smith and Carlos at the 1968 Olympics during the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. It has become a symbol for human rights.
All of these symbols originate as demonstrations against violence. The fist works two ways: one as a punching fist, the other as a stilled hand: closed, the opposite of the open hand of the nazi salute. It is almost as if there is an implicit threat in the fist which can be a weapon but which actually comes from numbers, rather than any threat of individual action.
All the symbols this week have been against violence at the state level: civil and human rights, disenfranchisement, discriminatory policies. And while not all are ancient symbols, none of them are new; they aren't brands thought up by a marketting agency. Somehow these symbols carry a great dignity with them; their original intentions are so powerful that their message bypasses the intellect. I do wonder if this bypass of the intellect is not at the root of power, and can be used for both good and ill.
Below is a stencilled version of the sign for Autonomism, which is allied with socialism, marxism and anarchism, influenced by the Situationists and has a number of autonomist wings in several European countries. As the word suggests, it favours autonomous action against the structures and processes of capitalism, rather than an sort of organised mass movement. It appears to be more guerilla-like, under the radar, with activities such as absenteeism. But they have a sign.
No letters here, just action: the hammer as the tool of industrialisation, the sickle the tool of agriculture. They are wielded by hands, neither of them are weapons. One could be writing in the world of synecdoche here, and perhaps that adds depth to a symbol, but one can also write about hammers and sickles, factories and ploughs literally, without losing any meaning.
In pre-revolutionary Russia Orthodoxy, red was the colour of Easter and the resurrection: how easy it was to elide that with the resurrection of the Russian people, the peasants and serfs, over the European aristocracy that ruled Russia. And how simple to equate Christ's blood with martyred revolutionary blood.
The Phrygian cap of Liberty, le bonnet rouge of the French Revolution: Phrygia – today's Anatolia in Turkey. Paris, the cause of the Trojan War, was a Phrygian and wore what we could now describe as a soft Turkish fez. Red as the colour of liberty dates from the Roman Empire when freed slaves wore red Phrygian caps. It is interesting how involved ancient Greece was in what we consider today to be the hotbed of the Middle East. It is contiguous by land and shares the eastern Mediterranean. Modern Greece's default from European values, as it is being put, is perhaps more deeply rooted than the EU can accept.
In 1976 Andy Warhol did a series of silkscreens called Hammer & Sickle where he photographed an actual hammer and a hand scythe in various collaborations. No one will ever be able to convince me that Warhol and pop art were not political. One can say Warhol valourised the American commercial landscape and endorsed celebrity, but this does not allow him a deep anarchic sense of irony, if that is not an oxymoron.
In the depths of the cold war, by de-coupling the symbol from the tools, he referred to the Soviet Union as industry and agriculture, not nuclear bombs. After the fall of the USSR when many previously inaccessible 'ordinary' people were interviewed and we were able to read literature of the era from the other side, what was revealed was a fear of the west and its weaponry, precisely what we had been taught to fear about the east. What a waste of the twentieth century it all was. So many died.
It all looks very odd now, but this is how I was taught: pages of O's done moving your whole arm sliding over the desk with ease. Practice makes perfect, and perfect was entirely without character or identity. When I looked at Jack Layton's wacky little fillips on his highly legible signature – well, this was usually the only place that individuality was added (much later in life than elementary school) to this relentless, flattened commercial script.
One could completely change one's writing style, especially if one went into architecture where you either did drafting printing for the rest of your life, or went to some sort of arty italic calligraphic script. But now, most people don't write at all, except blurted little shopping lists or illegible signatures at the bottom of a VISA bill.
Writing is like drawing, something we don't often do much either these days, preferring to cobble images together with Illustrator and Photoshop – activities that engage a completely different part of the brain than drawing, on paper, with a curious instrument holding either ink or graphite, in the hand.
For those who could possibly understand how such things work: a System for Biometric Authorisation of Internet Users Based on Fusion of Face and Palmprint Features.
There is a nice write up of this hand map on Strange Maps. It reminds me that there was a time when people got into cars and drove around, looking at things, usually on Sunday afternoons. Let's go out for a drive! Who today in their right mind would think this was a treat? but it used to be.
Driving has become such a chore: too fast, too much road surface, too noisy, an A to B experience, preferrably without incident. No time to look at scenery, no stopping for gas and finding a courteous attendant, in fact little courtesy on the road itself. It is all such a struggle.
Not sure how sati could operate as a form of colonial resistance. Although sati was banned by the British in 1829, when in 1834 the maharaja of Rajasthan, Man Singh, died his 15 wives left their hand prints at the inner gate to the Mehrangarh Fort before they laid themselves on his funeral pyre. Many would have been children, unfairly widowed at 10 years old, facing either sati or a solitary life dressed in white, dependent on charity, working as menials.
Roop Kanwar committed sati in 1987, a voluntary act that pointed out a serious clash of values between urban India and traditional village practice and lead to a trail where eleven people were charged with glorification of sati.
It seems all of a part with purdah, the burkha, child marriage, honour killings– things incomprehensible to me, child of the late 20th century west that I am. Feminist theory claims that empowerment comes from 'owning' such things, finding power in being scorned and reviled, viz the current furore around the slut walk. In theory perhaps, but in practice, one needs to live several centuries to see the benefits.
The fingerprint, the handprint, somehow we feel they make us unique. However, nothing is like the henna designs on hands, arms and feet found at a Muslim wedding. I think the picture above is a traditional Pakistani design, a tradition that has exploded across cultures, subject to fashion trends, co-opted by all and sundry as a kind of temporary tattoo. Arabic designs look to me more like Victorian lace fingerless mittens. Modern fashions seem to tilt towards floral sprays scrolling away over the body.
There are zillions of mehndi sites. The one the picture comes from (above) gives us a look at the extreme decorativeness of Pakistani, Indian and Arabian wedding jewellery, saris and mehndi: ornate, elaborate, fanciful, arduous to produce, signs of great attention and no doubt wealth.
It is all about the hand, our interface with the world, the holder of our fortunes. The good luck khamsa of Morroco, below, is at once a handprint, a mehndi hand and a hand held up to warn off misfortune.