Coercive Silkscreening, and Other News


On the Shelf

The cover of the Amache Camp brochure, made by the silkscreen shop. Photo: Amache Preservation Society, via Atlas Obscura


  • Colorado’s Camp Amache was one of many hastily constructed internment camps that opened in the early forties, built by American armed forces to house thousands of Japanese Americans. Its detainees were dragooned into all kinds of labor—including, in an unlikely turn, printmaking and silk-screening. As Cara Giaimo writes, those at the camp became de facto artists, producing posters and pamphlets for the U.S. military—the same military that had sent them to the camps in the first place, and that kept snipers posted at all hours of the day: “In the spring of 1943, Maida Campbell, a Red Cross nurse with an artistic background, was sent to Camp Amache to see whether it would be feasible to open a printing operation there. Campbell set up the shop in a recreation hall and began advertising in the Pioneer for employees. A month into their work, the Pioneer reported that the shop’s 25 artists had printed ‘some 185 large posters, 250 stickers, and 100 cards’ … Over the course of 1943, the shop printed at least 120,000 posters in dozens of designs, depicting everything from signal flags to principles of seamanship. Employees took on the entire process, from design and stenciling through color selection and printing … The pay topped out at 19 dollars per month, about half of what one could expect to receive for similar work outside. Despite Campbell’s evident respect for her employees, she, like other administrators, wrote frequently about how the shop provided ‘vocational training’ for them—never mind the fact that their detainment at the camp was preventing them from pursuing their actual vocations, hobbies, and lives.”
  • Fashion, part 1: a few words on hair and baseball. Clint Frazier, a prospective outfielder for the Yankees, has a set of luscious, curly red locks vivid enough to catch eyes in the nosebleedingest reaches of the ballpark. But will the Yankees and their crypto-fascist grooming standards let this man shine? Beneath this cosmetic dispute, writes Billy Witz, lies a matter of philosophy: “In short, the Yankees do not do big hair (or beards), under a policy set years ago by George Steinbrenner and vigorously policed by his daughter Jennifer. Now there is a guessing game over whether the team will send Frazier to the barber before sending him to the plate. ‘I think people are making my hair bigger than my game,’ Frazier said. ‘I’m here to play baseball.’ He said he was getting so irritated by persistent questions about his locks that he might just get them sheared off … ‘It’s a balancing act,’ said Allen Adamson, the founder of Brand Simple consulting. ‘The Yankees have to balance their respect and embrace of tradition with accepting what’s new. What’s new is, the individuality of players is important in making a sports event engaging and interesting.’ ”

  • Fashion, part 2: a few words on clothes and caskets. The famous may die nude, but they’re buried in full regalia. As Philippa Snow writes, a dead celebrity has run one last gauntlet of public interest and lurid fascination: the open casket. What do you wear to your eternal resting place? Looking at Marilyn Monroe, Snow writes, “When they found her body, she was naked. One can almost imagine her having been buried the same way. One can almost imagine the open casket. One can never really imagine that body becoming a body, meaning a body in the sense of a real cadaver, as you would never say that a Cadillac had ‘died.’ You would never suggest that a bottle of Coca Cola had died. You might say one had broken down, and the other had smashed … They put her broken-down chassis—an ex-symbol—into a green dress by Pucci because, simply, it was her favorite … While in Mexico earlier that year, Monroe had been shot in the dress at a press conference. Some reporter or other had told her how lovely it looked, and she’d said in that Marilyn way—the one that let you know she was far smarter than her babywoman persona, and probably smarter than you: ‘You should see it on the hanger.’ … It both did and did not matter what they buried Marilyn in, because—just as she knew when she’d quipped in the green Pucci dress six months earlier—nothing could fill its potential unless she were filling it.”
  • Han Yujoo looks at the tentative, fitful emergence of a Korean national literature: “This year is the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Yi Kwang-su’s Heartless (Mujong), known as the first modern Korean novel. I’ve read it many times, and it’s always made me wonder about the linguistic confusion that Korean writers active at the beginning of the twentieth century must have felt. During the Japanese colonial period, from a young age Koreans had to absorb Japanese as the official language, and Korean as their mother tongue, along with Western modern culture; intellectuals, moreover, would have had to study Western languages such as English, French and German. What could their literary language have been like? I’m also interested in the fact that most of the characters who appear in the fiction of the time are unable to find a place for themselves, a destination toward which to direct their energies both physically and psychologically. Such a place fundamentally does not exist.”