August 17, 2009

Half the Joker's On You. Real Joker Artist Remains Armed and Dangerous

Light, Lame, and Limp

Appropriationists: "Their work is caracterized by... recycling... cultural iconography by [arranging] elements of it in another context ...: a detour in which... the blow up of the reproduction can become more original than the original itself." -- American Appropriationists and the Lolita-Complex

The LA Times thinks it has "exposed" the Joker, but the real Joker artist is still at large. Half of the Obama 'Joker' Artist is a Palestinian Arab from Chicago, Firas Alkhateeb. All bets are off if you think you know where he's at politically:

"After Obama was elected, you had all of these people who basically saw him as the second coming of Christ," Alkhateeb said. "From my perspective, there wasn't much substance to him. I abstained from voting in November," he wrote in an e-mail. "Living in Illinois, my vote means close to nothing as there was no chance Obama would not win the state." If he had to choose a politician to support, Alkhateeb said, it would be Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
Dennis. Kucinich. ? Oh. Kay....

Photoshop, modern media, and whacko politicos are harsh taskmasters. Indeed it's not all that surprisingly that a million photoshoppers mashing up Obama, Time Magazine's obsessive Obamallatio, and Heath Ledger's creepy pre-dying fallguy, could throw up something like this and take it to Flickr.

But the mere making is only half the story, and the less interesting half at that.

Crafting a mashup and publishing it on Flickr is easy. Too easy. The common result is that the image just lays there, inert in the vast cold data soup of Flickr getting a few comments from friends and idle browsers. That's certainly what happened in this case. Mr. Alkhateeb reports that since uploading it on January 18 he'd received only about 2,000 views. And why would it get more than that? It's an obvious mash-up that says communicates only vague disgruntlement. It's got no punch. It's passive. Limp, simply.

Alkhateeb's work went nowhere until our still unknown Appropriationist found it, and kicked it up quite a few notches by removing the Time garble and presenting us with the raw image. This image has the colors and contrast punched up and the background scumbled out and the red border roughened by reproduction.

The result? A more arresting image but one whose message is still obscure and arty. Still not quite there.

Then the masterstroke. The propaganda bonanza. That gutsy and brilliant touch was to run underneath the image the stark bold word, "socialism."

Right, Tight, and Bright
"How about this image projected against a cloudy night sky high above a busy
-- Reilly

With that single addition you go from a somewhat interesting image to a work of art, of propaganda, that has real bite. You can tell it does by listening to the litany of carping and the predictable howls of "Racism!" rising out of the lap dogs of the left. That those howls are trumped by the origin of the image in the mind of "a Palestinian Arab from Chicago" is sweet.

By any interpretation we have a much more powerful image than the Time cover, one that grabs you in a glance. "Obama? Joker? Socialism? Humm, what does that mean? What could that mean?" Whatever you may think about the statement the poster still has power. Once seen, it cannot be unseen.

But wait, there's more.

Just because the image is finished does not mean that the Appropriationist's artwork is finished. For an image to grab you in a glance, you have to be able to see it. The real "art" here, the real edgy move, was to print this up in many multiples, and start plastering them in various urban locations.

That's the final move and the one that takes guts. After all, with Obama riding high as the dominant pop culture icon of the era, it wouldn't do to stumble into a group of his fervid supporters in a dark underpass while pasting these images up. You just might get popped for your art.

Once done, the last move in your bit of political agitprop is to fade back into the shadows and let the media take its course. The media. So obvious, really, aren't they?

The LA Times is trumpeting this "discovery of the artist" as a major scoop. It's not. It's just internet research from a Flickr tip. It's the kind of "reporting" that doesn't take more than a Blackberry and a telephone.

The classic "Who done it?" remains. It's not the Kuchinch supporter rendering spooky mash-ups on the Internet that's the hero of this classic bit of Appropriationist art. It's the mysterious Man in the Arena with a bunch of Samizdat Smash the State posters and a pot of paste for sticking them up.

Alkhateeb? Alkhateeb's a punk. The real artist remains a shadow, but whoever he is I'm putting him up as the official artist of the Conservative Revolutionary Front (CRF).


Revolutionary Appropriationist Video by alinskyrules's

Posted by Vanderleun at August 17, 2009 11:59 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I still think "Why so Stimulous?" or "Why so Socialist?" would have been tighter, etc.

But that's just me.

Posted by: goy at August 18, 2009 6:28 AM

"And now, for a little morning music...."

Posted by: Robohobo at August 18, 2009 10:03 AM

I think the whole Joker poster thing is a brilliant bit of mockery, and I don't think it's run it's full course.

For instance, wouldn't it be a trip to release a whole bunch of balloons with this image so the breeze would carry them over and onto the White House and its lawn?

How about this image projected against a cloudy night sky high above a busy metropolis?

Or suddenly popping up on the screen during a State of the Union speech?

Posted by: Roderick Reilly at August 18, 2009 10:27 AM

"How about this image projected against a cloudy night sky high above a busy metropolis?"

Oh, I'm promoting that concept into the post itself. Thanks!

Posted by: vanderleun at August 18, 2009 10:44 AM

A list of my No(s). Please share.

No Bailouts
No Stimulus
No Subsidies
No Guarantees
No Earmarks
No Pork
No Deficits
No Bubbles
No Tax Hikes
No Blank Checks
No Nationalizations
No Socialism
No Public Option
No Cap and Trade
No Single Payer
No Protectionism
No Public Funding
No Government Motors
No Government Cheese
No Pirates
No Bu11$#;+

Posted by: Fat Man at August 18, 2009 11:05 AM

One more upside to the Obama/Joker art... I'm betting we never see another red, white and blue commie-style campaign poster of Obama. Any takers?

Posted by: Western Chauvinist at August 18, 2009 12:45 PM

"""""I'm betting we never see another red, white and blue commie-style campaign poster of Obama. Any takers?""""""

You mean like the Shepard Fairey posters? Don't know if hard-core Obamatrons have any sense of irony.

Love that name "Shepard Fairey" by the way. It's sounds like an Ancient Greek insult or something.

Posted by: Roderick Reilly at August 18, 2009 2:49 PM

I have to give Shepard Fairey credit for one thing. He inspired Comrade Red Square of The People's Cube to create his deck of cards.

I bought one. The thumbnails on the website don't do it justice. Sheer genius, and a memorable snapshot of the American political scene circa 2008.

Posted by: rickl at August 18, 2009 11:59 PM

How tight would a loosely fitted, slightly tilted Che'G. beret atop that joker be?

Posted by: Joe Buzz at August 19, 2009 7:03 AM

Comrade - Thanks for the "pot of paste" for "Volunteers". Where do I sign up for the Conservative Revolutionary Front? Our next mission is the proper education of our next generation of revolutionaries:
"Teach Your Children - A Comparative Study"

Viva La Revolucion!

Posted by: AlinskyRules at August 19, 2009 8:12 AM

Such a small thing, yet with such potential to make an impression on our comatose youth.

Posted by: thud at August 19, 2009 3:42 PM

Hmmm... looks like the People are seeing (a) Red.

Posted by: goy at August 20, 2009 4:04 PM

Great post --a pony express --reads at a gallop and carries the mail!

Posted by: buddy larsen at August 20, 2009 4:14 PM

As I've said elsewhere, Shepard fairey is the graphic design equivalent of Sha Na Na: appropriate the work, then drain the content to make a hollow, feel-good statement.

Posted by: lordsomber at August 20, 2009 4:47 PM

Ha! When I read about Alkhateeb, I thoroughly enjoyed the irony of a Kucinich-leaning Palestinian-American from CHICAGO being the artist behind this searing iconic image.

And now, double HA! Of course, there was one more vital step to be had. Who is this Appropriationist, this Hidden Hero (hmm, perhaps I might call him our Batman?).

Whoever you may be, Sir, I clink my glass to you.

Posted by: Carol at August 20, 2009 4:49 PM

Fight for the Open Society!

Posted by: Incitatus at August 20, 2009 6:39 PM

This marks the end of Obama. He has lost the urban street artist demographic.

Posted by: Fred at August 20, 2009 7:32 PM

We need a new icon before this one fades. Who is going to be the next unknown Appropriationist or Artist? Lets come up with some other ideas that can be spread around. How about:

The One with his butt in the air facing the viewer. It has a list of words such as "cap and trade" or "stimulous Package" or "Health Care" or "Cars for Clunkers" on each cheek. In larger words is says, "Amrica" and below the picture, "Kiss my behind."

Another one I would like to see is the famous Hitler as a Knight riding a horse, only with Abama's face. It can have the caption "Socialist Hero." In place of the Nazi symbol is the round Obama slogan logo.

Posted by: Jettboy at August 23, 2009 10:16 AM

All you commenters are a damned brave lot. Whilst knowing the uber NSA/KGB/CIA/FBI are watching your every keystroke you continue to defame and mischaracterize Dear Leader. When will you get on board with the program? Our propaganda ministry is truly thankful to the volks at CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, et al, for realizing what a wonderful world is in store for all those who want progress instead of profit.

We have control now and we will not surrender easily.

Posted by: JD at August 24, 2009 8:00 PM

i realise that i post this epic late compared to the rest of you but obama can suck a big fat fvck1ng d1ck

Posted by: Styx66 at May 23, 2011 10:37 AM

i realise that i post this epic late compared to the rest of you but obama can suck a big fat fvck1ng d1ck

Posted by: Styx66 at May 23, 2011 10:38 AM

apologies on the double post

Posted by: Styx66 at May 23, 2011 10:40 AM

What kind of nonsense? This is bullshit. There is no such a thing.

Posted by: Jordan at August 28, 2011 4:16 PM