Guernica — Antiwar Art

Last August I commented that…

Picasso’s 1937 Guernica was evidence that art does not have to be beautiful to be potent. The impact of that painting was colossal… Guernica was painted as a reaction to the atrocities of war…

From today’s The Writer’s Almanac:

And it was on this day in 1937 that German bombers attacked and destroyed the city of Guernica in Spain. Hitler… wanted to use the Spanish Civil War as a testing ground for his new blitzkrieg military strategy…

The first wave of planes dropped blast bombs that destroyed the principal buildings; the second wave flew low, gunning down the citizens; and the third wave dropped incendiary bombs to burn any remaining parts of the city. The attack lasted for three and a half hours… It was the first time in history that a city was completely destroyed from the air.

One of the people who heard the news of the bombing the following day was the painter Pablo Picasso, who was in exile in Paris. He was trying to come up with an idea for a mural to be displayed at the World’s Fair in Paris that summer, and when he heard about the bombing, he began a new painting called Guernica. He did it on a huge canvas: 12 feet high, 26 feet wide, worked on it for a little more than a month. The painting he produced showed no planes, no bombs, no explosions. It was just a black and white image of a wailing woman holding a dead child in her arms, a dead man on the ground holding a broken sword, a bull, a screaming horse, a woman on fire, a woman falling to one knee, another woman leaning in a window and shining a lamp on the whole scene…

It was displayed at the Paris World’s Fair and people weren’t sure what to make of it… some people saw the painting as a warning that everything they loved was about to be lost.

Two years later Hitler invaded Poland, using the same bombing strategy, and Picasso’s painting went on to become the most famous antiwar painting of the 20th Century.

So where are all the famous antiwar paintings today? There’s been a lot of publicized protests and antiwar rock concerts but where’s the honest reaction to war? I’ve seen more hate messages than legitimate antiwar protests. At UNCA on the sidewalk near the library is a spray painted image of President Bush with an antiwar slogan “Number 1 Terrorist.” That is not “shining a lamp on the whole scene” but rather demonizing the US government. Attacking one individual (though it be the leader of the free world) isn’t really “a warning” of the consequence of war nor what or who will be lost. High art embodies goodness, truth and beauty. Not all three elements need to be exhibited in a single painting. But all three need to be represented collectively in high art. Picasso’s Guernica is just as relevant today as it was the day it was completed.

Most of the antiwar posters, bumperstickers and banners which I have witnessed represent angry propaganda–and poor propaganda at that. Locally, there was an art show titled Dissension Convention last October which featured several paintings with antiwar sentiment–most were of the paintings more anti-Bush or anti-Republican (which shouldn’t surprise you). The only painting that seemed to convey the spirit of Guernica was presented by Joshua Vaughan. The painting suggests the idea that what you sow you shall reap. That painting alone has more longevity than the other works of art represented at Dissension Convention.

I suspect the void of serious antiwar art is due to the aftermath of existentialism and postmodernism. As intellectuals churn out book after book (or in Howard Zinn’s case audio CD after audio CD) proposing that nothing is objective and everything is subjective the whole message of antiwar becomes vapid. The key to “shining a lamp” on the national antiwar debate is to propose objectivity.

Posted in art

Paintings on Tour

Last night I delivered four paintings that are scheduled to make appearences further up the coast. If you’re in the DC or Baltimore area, check out my paintings and enjoy live music and poetry!

Back at the waterfront… more poetry, songs, peaceful vibes

Featuring Dave Cipriani, J Ryan Coffman, Pasckie Pascua, Reed, Shodekeh
Thursday, April 21 2005, 8:30 to 11pm
Wydeye Coffee House
1704 Aliceanna St., Fells Point, Baltimore MD 21231
Tel # (410) 342 7474
no cover, but donation is always cool

The Wind Cries Peace, Part 2

Featuring Dave Cipriani Band, Counterfeitmatt, Dawn Humphrey, Kelly Richmond & Blue Star Kachina, Pasckie Pascua, Shodekeh, Alex Udis
Friday, April 22 2005, 8:00pm to 1:30am
Cafe Mawonaj
624 T St., NW, Washington DC 20001
Tel # (202) 460 5929
$3 to $7 sliding scale donation

Posted in art


Imagine my surprise when I visited one of my favorite marketing weblogs, The Marketing Playbook, and found that they had linked to my weblog. The Marketing Playbook linked to a meager post about strategy and tactics. All I did was post two quotes (one from a book I read and the other from a post from The Marketing Playbook.

The reason I have been studying marketing (specifically strategy and tactics) is partly to support marketing clients at my current company and partly for the marketing of my upcoming poetry book. Trust me, poetry books need all the marketing genius you can throw at them.

Last night, at writer’s group, I was asked how I organized the collection of poems that make up Late Night Writing. The short answer is that I wanted to create a purchasing/reading experience that left the reader with a feeling that they made a good buy and literary investment. That’s how I buy music albums and books. The packaging and content work together to create an intellectual and emotional reaction. For example, I just received Over the Rhine’s latest release and the packaging art and the band’s musical offerings work well together. I enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) that experience and naturally evangelize that product. That’s how I want my books or products to be received. And that’s why I’ve been researching marketing.

Like a narrative, marketing will do you no good unless you know the desired target. The first thing most established writers will tell a novice is that you can’t start writing a novel unless you know the ending. Marketing without strategy (the plot) and tactics (chapters, paragraphs, sentences) is pointless.

Now if I can just make sense of distribution…

“The map is not the terrain”

Strategy and tactics intertwine in their usefulness, but they are not synonymous.

“Strategy is the art of making war upon the map, and comprehends the whole theater of operations. Grand Tactics is the art of posting troops upon the battle-field according to the accidents of the ground, of bringing them into action, and the art of fighting upon the ground, in contradistinction to planning upon a map.”
–from the The Art of War by Baron Henri de Jomini

And here’s how it applies to marketing:

“To really understand the terrain you have to go to it. If trying to understand the gaps/needs of your targets/customers – be one, use your products, talk to other users, spend a day with them (not just an hour in a focus group drugging them with M&Ms). If trying to understand your competition don’t just read their website and read their reports – use their products, go to their trade-show booths, interview their customers, try to think like them, maybe even hire some of them. And if trying to understand your own strengths and vulnerabilities, don’t rely on yourself – go back and ask those above. It’s great to map all the gaps in your playing field, but remember the map is not the terrain.”
–from the post The map is not the terrain by Marketing Playbook

New Media Marketing Strategy

With homage to and help from Seth Godin’s Music Industry: Aspen Report, I assembled this strategy.

Last summer I suggested to a publisher of a national newsmagazine the possibility of creating downloadable (PDF) versions of his publication. With micro payment purchases ($0.50), he could add revenue to the Web side the company. I withdrew that position recently after reading up on the concept of permission marketing.

Here’s two reasons why I think newsmagazine Web content should be free:

One, the Web audience contains individuals that will copy/paste, reference or hyperlink to the newsmagazine’s Web site. It’s a personal positioning statement (here are my friends’ links and my trusted news source link). The newsmagazine does not pay them and they spread news content more efficiently than the USPS. These individuals trust this newsmagazine as a reliable source and in turn share it with people who trust them. It’s the best and cheapest public relations effort.

Two, the newsmagazine’s Web site could potentially provide an enormous email list for potential paid subscribers. In order to read the newsmagazine content, a reader must click on “This week’s issue.” With one click, the newsmagazine can ask a reader to submit their email address. That’s all. Simple and free. The “email request” window could offer a monthly “newsletter direct to your email box” message or something along that line. This would offer newsmagazine’s marketing department an avenue to target online marketing and deliver value to already loyal, influential readers.

How is this newsmagazine supposed to the bills with that kind of strategy? Simple. It’s the same basic principle as direct mailing.

OLD STRATEGY: On a small direct mail campaign of 500,000 names, the newsmagazine might acquire 5000 new subscribers. Of those new subscribers, the newsmagazine may lose as much as 1500 due to unpaid subscribers. Direct mail campaigns cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire 3500 new paid subscribers.

NEW STRATEGY: What if the newsmagazine received 20,000 new email addresses monthly? If we apply the same numbers, then the newsmagazine could benefit from 100 to 200 new paid subscribers. Though the newsmagazine may want to offer something other than subscriptions (gift subscriptions may work) in email campaigns. Possible product suggestions would include company branded day-timers, coffee mugs or other existing branded product. Each one of these branded product ideas would help maintain loyal online readers and support their personal positioning as well as promote the newsmagazine beyond our current subscriber base.

Any thoughts on this strategy are welcomed.