The face of the river, in time, became a wonderful book . . . which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it had uttered them with a voice.
-- Mark Twain
After Obama’s latest campaign fluffing effort – uh, I mean the jobs creation speech he delivered earlier this month – I thought it might be a good time to check out some alternative approaches to thinking about our current economic condition. In the spirit of cheap and fast book learnin,’ The Paper Boat now presents a primer in Marxist theory with this entertaining introduction to The Communist Manifesto… delivered in less than eight and a half minutes of delightful cartoon fun!
Karl Marx was a genius for his insightful and articulate observations about the cyclical nature of capitalist economics and the social perils of accumulation. I’m probably too great a fan of technology, religion, rugged individualism and the pursuit of ownership to be a good communist, but I will say the idea of giving up materialist acquisition does hold a certain Zen appeal.
Also a genius: whoever edited this little ditty I ran across on YouTube last night. Okay, perhaps not so genius was the choice of narrators for the piece – sorry, folks! (Note to the creators: why not be part of the jobs solution and hire a professional actor next time?) Still, I’m sure you’ll agree The Communist Manifesto Illustrated by Cartoons is worth a watch not only for its educational value, but for the fabulous sampling of Mid 20th Century animation design and concept work as well.
Last month there was a story in the LA Times about a local artist who got into a bit of a row with officials over his inflammatory artistic vision. The guy was on the street working on an oil painting of a Chase Bank branch in Van Nuys… depicting the roof as entirely engulfed in flames! Police were called out, and before the paint was dry on the canvas he found himself being questioned as a terrorist. Now he’s back in the news. That painting just sold for $25,000 to a German collector.
Joseph Campbell called the artist the “shaman” of modern society, in that the artist explores the spiritual realm, retrieving artifacts and insights that offer understanding and healing to the culture at large. Art facilitates the evolution of spiritual mythos through creating visual language. In this context, Alex Schaefer might even be called an exorcist.
Schaefer’s new series of en plein air paintings depicting banks on fire certainly strikes a nerve. It is also humorous. His work is similar in spirit to the Dada movement of the early 20th Century, but with all the blunt sarcasm of Punk Rock. The effect is cathartic and pleasurable. The viewer is provided with a much needed moment of Schadenfreude, as economists like to call that sweet feeling of enjoying someone else’s misfortune.
Schaefer worked in video games for years before deciding to focus his attention on the finer arts. He now teaches painting and drawing at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. After being questioned by police on the sidewalk while he painted, he was visited weeks later at his home in Eagle Rock by two plainclothes detectives.
“One of them asked me, ‘Do you hate banks? Do you plan to do that to the bank?’ ”
Schaefer explained the image was only symbolic.
“The flames symbolize bringing the system down,” he said. “Some might say that the banks are the terrorists.”
He is surprised by the attention he’s been getting for his work. After his story was featured in an article in the Los Angeles Times, Schaefer started to receive offers for his burning bank paintings. He decided to put the one of the bank in Van Nuys up for sale on e-bay, and received over 70 bids before selling it. Oh, the irony… first he’s stopped for burning banks and now he’s laughing all the way to one.