Sunday, April 26, 2009

New York Street Advertising Takeover

APRIL 26, 2009

"New York Street Advertising Takeover" Brings Art to Over 120 Illegal Billboards in NYC

Jordan Seiler's incrediblely ambitious "New York Street Advertising Takeover" became a reality yesterday, when over 120 illegal billboards throughout the city were white washed by dozens of volunteers.

NYSAT was organized as a reaction to the hundreds of billboards that are not registered with the city, and therefore are illegal. While illegal, these violations are not being prosecuted by the City of New York, allowing the billboard companies to garner huge profits by cluttering our outdoor space with intrusive and ugly ads. After the illegal spots were white washed, late in the day yesterday over eighty artists transformed these spaces into personal pieces of art.

Here are some of the initial photos that are coming in:

Some great sites about protecting the visual environment:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Singing Painters of Naya


Painting and singing stories told in scrolls (patas in Bengali) goes back to ancient times in India. For generations hereditary painter-singers (Patuas or Chitrakars) have been practicing their craft in the Midnapur district of West Bengal. This website introduces the viewer to the village of Naya, 3 hours from Calcutta, where many Chitrakar women have recently taken up the Patua craft.

Patuas are Muslims, and they tell the stories of Muslim saints (pirs and fakirs) as well as Hindu Gods and Goddesses, and offer devotion to saints at Muslim shrines. In the past they used to wander from village to village, receiving rice, vegetables and coins for their recital. They would unroll a scroll, a frame at a time, and sing their own compositions. But competition from other media eroded this way of life and nowadays the Patuas are trying to adapt to changing conditions.

Recently the Chitrakar women of Naya village formed a scroll painters’ cooperative. Anthropologists/filmmakers Lina Fruzzetti, Akos Ostor and Aditi Nath Sarkar have directed a film Singing Pictures about the women artists lives and work.
The exhibition web site:

Dimensions (cm): 284 x 56
Artist/Singer: Swarna Chitrakar

Listen, everyone, pay attention. I would like to talk about HIV AIDS
HIV came from the west & has infected hundreds in India.

It is not an infectious disease. It spreads from 4 things:
Using the same syringe for addiction, using the same syringe for injection; from pregnant HIV carrier women. Or having unprotected sex with ‘infected’ women

In case these 4 things are taken care of, HIV will not occur. That is why I request the Doctors; the syringes for injection should be changed.

In case of blood transfusion, the blood has to be checked first.

If a pregnant mother carries a baby, it can be born infected.

I appeal to all Indians to use Nirodh condoms.

If anybody has AIDS, don’t keep it secret. Get admitted to the district hospital. You can test your blood in confidence paying Rs 10 in VCTC centers.

Scroll Painting: Bin Laden – 11 September, Santal life
(The beginning image is of the two planes and the WTC)
Artist: Lutfa Chitrakar

My name is Lufta, and I was born in Banpura—although my parental home is in Paskura. My grandmother took me and my sister away from my parents at a very young age. My parents had divorced each other and were in no position to care for us. And although my grandmother was poor, she managed to struggle to provide milk, barley, sago and rice to nurture us. Later, my mother remarried and took my sister away from me and my grandmother. I suppose that in that way I had a fractured childhood without a traditional family.

After I grew a little older, I told her I wanted to live with my father. By then, he had married a woman and settled in a community called Tata. After I left my grandmother, I met a distant cousin of mine who also lived in Tata, and he took me to my father. I stayed in my father’s home for about six months and learned about him and the life that he had built for himself. He had a large plot of farming land, and he cultivated it year-round by farming rice, potatoes and wheat during their respective seasons. Sadly, while I lived with him, my step-mother used to abuse me to the point of torture. She would make me work all day without time to rest or eat—as if I were an animal. She would command me to sow seeds when it was time for rice crops; she’d make me haul bales of hay everywhere. During the potato season, she’d send me to gather potatoes from the field. Then she would ask me to work in the fields to harvest nuts, and I would have to turn over all of my harvest to her. Beyond working on my father’s land, I would sow potato seeds and till the fields that belonged to other members of the community. So much work! And yet I could never satisfy her despite my hard work. The abuse and enslavement was so horrible that I considered returning to my grandmother’s home. I told my cousin who had brought me there one day that I was sick of staying there, and he helped me to escape and return to my grandmother. Before I left Tata, my grandmother heard of my troubles and came to my father to take me home. She was so old at that point but loved me so much and it seemed as if she would do anything to ensure my welfare.

She told me one day that she wasn’t able to feed me anymore, and I would have to work as well. She put me to work as a maid in a neighbor’s home. I had to wash dishes, clothes, sweep, and clean the cowshed there. I was able to get a couple of meals everyday, torn clothes to wear, and a little bit of money. One day, my grandmother suddenly showed up at the home where I was working. I asked her if something had happened, and she told me that she had arranged my marriage. I explained to her that I couldn’t marry just yet—I was so young! And when I refused, she explained to me that she was so old, and that she didn’t want to die without making sure I was married. She told me no one else would care enough about me to make sure that I got married. So, with that, I couldn’t refuse. After all, she was the wom an that had dedicated herself to raising me. So I married when I was about fifteen years old. Soon after, I had two sons and a daughter.

As far as scroll painting and singing went, my husband taught me a great deal. In the beginning he didn’t want to, though. He had a tremendous objection to my going out to paint or sing. One time, the opportunity arose for me to participate in a program in Calcutta. The fair there dealt with various diseases like malaria, HIV, typhoid, and others, and their prevention. I was asked to sing, but my husband didn’t allow me to go. At the time, he rationalized his restriction by saying that we hardly knew anything about scroll painting and singing. He told me that I shouldn’t exert myself and make such an effort by traveling such a distance. So I stayed at home, and looking back on it, I regret passing up the opportunity.But I joined the training center and learned to paint and sing in the women’s committee. The members of the women’s committee would go everywhere to participate in fairs, paint scrolls, show them, sing songs, and their husbands always cooperated with them—they would never stop their wives. But I’ve never had the opportunity to learn the songs that the committee women sing or to paint the scrolls that they make because my husband won’t allow me to go anywhere. He and I started off very poor, but now we are managing. Both of us sing and paint scrolls—he has softened a lot and allowed me to participate from time to time. He goes to other villages to make money by showing our scrolls and singing. I don’t go out too much, but we share what he makes. I do wish that I had the freedoms that other women in the committee have, but I suppose I understand my husband’s reasoning for limiting my participation.

This site was developed in conjunction with the exhibit Singing Pictures: Art and Performance of Naya's Women, which opens July 5th 2007. Special thanks to the National Museum of Ethnology in Lisbon, Portugal for their involvement with the exhibit, which opened from 5 July 2007 through 6 January 2008.
Ákos Östör, Professor of Anthropology & Film Studies, Wesleyan University
Lina Fruzzetti, Professor of Anthropology, Brown University
Special thanks to Aditi Nath Sarkar* for his contributions from long-term fieldwork in Naya Village.
Graphics / Coding – Jason Lalor

A Book about Story Scrolls in Bengal: Village of Painters: Narrative Scrolls from West Bengal (Paperback)
by Frank J. Korom (Author), Paul J. Smutko (Photographer)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The internet can be more like the telephone

Josh Breitbart responded to a post by Geoff Daily saying that the internet needed to have more local content and build up audiences. Josh wrote:

I don't disagree with these ideas about the importance of community media for expanding the Internet, but if you focus too much on the media, you miss that what brings people online is really the community.

The better analogy is the telephone, rather than cable television. The value of the phone is not that you can hear a local call or a long distance call, but that you can both speak and listen. The difference with the Internet is that you can speak and listen in multimedia, as an individual or as part of a group, in real-time and on delay.

This is the basis for how People's Production House and many of our peers like Media Mobilizing Project and Media Alliance approach digital literacy. A lot of computer literacy programs just teach people how to use the computer to consume media and some, like One Economy's Beehive, provide locally-specific content, but that's like giving someone a phone and just teaching them to pick it up and listen. Regardless of whether it was a local or long-distance call, if that's how people used the phone, it would make the whole network a lot less useful for all of us. Just a lot of folks sitting quietly with a phone in their hands.

This is also why symmetric Internet connections are so important. DSL and cable connections are like a phone where you are permitted one word to the other party's five words. Who would sign up for that?

The analogy continues: You wouldn't expect people to start using the phone if they could only ever speak and listen to people who use a different language or only want to talk about sports when they want to talk about cooking. To expand the Internet, you have to engage communities, not individuals. I hope this is what we can accomplish with the newly-available federal funds; the statute certainly seems to recognize this value, as you said.

At it's best, PEG does all of these things, but we're forced to shoehorn them into a system that was designed for one-way distribution. Undying gratitude to everyone who has done that shoehorning and continues to do it, but I hope we can be more ambitious with the Internet.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Developing Non-Corporate Video Publishing

A meeting in Wiltshire UK Spring 2009 - the idea was to meet up and get some documentation and development done on using Drupal with Video. There were different sides of the coin. A lot of work was done on the Usability side of the user experience, and a lot of work on the following development elements.

12 people attended including the Dog
* Importing Media rich feeds with file enclosures
* Subtitles displayed over video using JW player
* Grabbing non-corporate Flv files from URLs via the Embedded Media Field
* Transcoding with Media Mover and ffmpeg
* Mobile phone publication via email to Drupal website

For more information on all of this and to get involved check out the wiki page on Drupal .

The meeting in Wiltshire was a follow-up of several meetings which have been held over the past three years.
This is a report which was made in Italian about the first meeting, which took place in Rome.

The second meeting was in 2006.

A report on the Asia-Pacific Transmission meeting is presented on this blog at:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Message from the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca

Libertad de Expresión en Colombia from Adam Isacson on Vimeo.
More Attacks and Defamation Against ACIN's Communication Network
Dear Friends,
The following is a communique I just received from our friends in Cauca, from the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, and specifically, their communication team, which has been at the forefront of getting the word out about the struggles of Colombia's indigenous and popular movement.

Please circulate it widely as we try to build and strengthen the solidarity with ACIN and the dozens of communities they represent. -- Mario Murillo

"We want to help build a new country by sharing the truth and showing realities";
Emilio Basto, Indigenous Communicator at Police Headquarters in Santander de Quilichao, April 4th 2008.
Accused of a Crime: Showing documentaries to a community.
This is the framework within which our Tejido de Comunicacion is under attack:
Alvaro Uribe and Freedom of Expression from Adam Isacson on Vimeo

Yesterday, Emilio Basto, a Nasa native who usually runs el rebusque, a morning show in Nasa and Spanish on Radio Payumat, where he listens and exchanges with indigenous peoples from the fields, explains the process and the contexts, opens a debate on critical issues, does interviews so that everyone in their homes understands the project of aggression and continues to think and resist, was arrested by the police in Santander de Quilichao.

Emilio was coming back from Tacueyo, in the mountains of Cauca, where he was showing documentaries at one of the video fora, which are part of an agenda planned to "sweep" the entire territory to engage people in debating diverse issues. He carried with him a number of videos, including "The revolution will not be televised," "Water, our life, our hope," and "Spakapa is not for sale". He also had two documentaries done in Colombia, "The cost of Land" from the Paciufic Coast focusing on displacement for Palm Oil industries, and ACIN's own "Country of the people without owners," the latest documentary produced by our team that tells the story of last year's Minga, the National mobilization against the FTA and the economic model being imposed.

Emilio was accused of carrying subversive material and inciting to violence. He was interrogated for 2 hours without access to lawyers, phone calls or protection. His finger prints were registered as well as all information regarding his activities. There was talk about weapons, which he could not understand. He explained what he does and what we do. He demanded respect for his obligations as a journalist, for the freedom of expression, for the indigenous process and rights. Finally, they let him go, but we do not know whether there are charges against him or whether they will use this event in a judicial process against the communication network or in a physical attack against his life and the lives of all of the other members of our communication team in ACIN.

This is the rule, the pattern and what we must expect, as you will be able to see on the videos attached below on Mario Murillo's note on the presentation at the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights.

The attack against Emilio was the latest in a series of attacks against ACIN's communication Tejido:

1. October 2008, during our coverage of the indigenous mobilization and while the armed forces of Colombia were shooting against unarmed natives, our website and listserve was blocked.

2. December 14th, 2008, an act of sabotage against the transmission equipment of Radio Pa'Yumat, leading to the silencing of this radio station until now. Two days later, Edwin Legarda, the husband of indigenous leader Aida Quilcue, was murdered by the Colombian Army in an attempted magnicide against her.

3. December 16th, 2008. Live radio interview on La W, a National radio station with a massive audience. We had called in to break the news in Colombia and the world of the assasination of Edwin Legarda, with direct information from the ground. The anchor, Fernando Sanchez Cristo, called us back for the interview an hour after we gave him the facts and put us on during a section of recognition to the armed forces of Colombia in their war on terror. The Commander of the Third Brigade gave his version of the facts first: The vehicle refused to stop at a police post and was suspected to be FARC. Manuel Rozental, on the line from Cauca, explained that the car had received 16 shots from automatic weapons, 14 of these in the front, a fact that contradicted the army commanders version. They shot him intentionally from the front. There was no police post. The general went off the air and Rozental was engaged in a live exchange with Sanchez Cristo on these lines:

JSC: You are the same Dr Rozental, a surgeon that works in Canada?
MR: Yes that's me
JSC: You are a close friend of the sons of the international representative of FARC there and you write for the Journal resistencia
MR: I know them well, as any Colombian engaged in solidarity efforts does. I have never written for Resistencia and what you are attempting to discredit a witness in the air in order to cover up a crime. I am not FARC, have never been and my life has been committed to a peaceful effort for social justice. I am part of an indigenous process committed to social justice, freedom and change through peaceful means. I hope we have not reached a stage where every journalist in commercial media serves a regime to silence the voices and rights of people
JSC: So do I Dr Rozental. You are right
MR: Who provided you with this false information against me?
JSC: A listener sent it on email, but don't worry about it.
Strangely, this interview was never posted on their webpage (all others are) and our request to obtain the copy of the interview and of the listener's message was never answered. All this points at Military Intelligence providing distorted information to discredit and threaten the witness on air.

4. February 7th, 09. Gustavo Ulcue. Nasa, member of the ACIN Communication network and webmaster, had just left his home in Santander de Quilichao, when two armed men arrived in a motorcycle, forced his brother to let them into their house at gun point and looked for Gustavo inside. They took away his laptop and told his brother Gustavo was lucky not to have been found as they came to kill him. Gustavo had to go into hiding. The armed men have been seen near his house since then. No police action was taken.

5. March 4th, 2009. Cambio (the equivalent of Time or Newsweek in Colombia) publishes a report against Hollman Morris, where it states falsely that Rozental and Morris are helping ELN (National Liberation Army) in their territorial struggle against FARC for the indigenous territory of Northern Cauca; These lies have been followed in the past by the assassination of those named. Rozental had to flee Cauca.

6. March 14th, 2009. For the second successive night, Hugo Dagua, arrives late at his modest ranch in Santander de Quilichao on his motorcycle. He had been conducting a video forum at an indigenous peoples encounter with participants from Ecuador and Colombia, where the video "Country of the People without owners" was launched. He noticed a motorcycle with two people following him and managed to escape. He is the main technician of the radio station and runs his own radio program. Hugo is under community protection measures and his wife and his year old son had to be moved out of town into their community in the mountains for safety.

Other threats and attacks against the communication process have been occurring. Now Emilio has been attacked. ACIN's communication network has been awarded the recognition as the best alternative media in Colombia in October 2007 and has become the strongest voice for a peaceful alternative in Colombia and an awareness raising and debate space for the base.

This is a crime in Colombia. As the policemen told Emilio yesterday: you are inciting violence with those documentaries. We will keep walking our word. Please see the following note and video.

April 5th 2009
Manuel Rozental
Santander de Quilichao Cauca
Mario A. Murillo
Host/Producer, Wake UP Call
WBAI Pacifica Radio
99.5FM in New York;

Executive Producer/Faculty Coordinator
Hofstra's Morning Wake Up Call
WRHU Radio 88.7FM
(516) 463-6062