Painting Is the New Shouting, and Other News


On the Shelf

Detail from a painting by Kaya Mar reprinted in Satire Magazine.


  • We live in a golden age for clever protest signs. As bodies in the streets have proliferated, so, too, have canny shows of devastating wit. (Also, pussy hats.) If you go to a protest with an unfunny sign, or just kind of a meh sign, or a small index card with potential slogan ideas that you focus group on the fly, you could end up the laughingstock of the resistance. Kaya Mar will never suffer such a fate. He carries around stately protest paintings—elaborate political cartoons in oil on canvas. And the effort he puts into them functions as a kind of megaphone: people are too impressed not to take pictures. Sam Kinchin-Smith spoke with Mar, who lives in England: “The trick, he explained, is to ‘get your disappointment, anger, rage onto the canvas’ with a quick and simple story. ‘Everybody has to recognize what I’m trying to say, not just in England, all over the world … When you try to force meaning, you lose the plot. When you are tribal, you censor yourself, and you won’t produce something good’ … Mar finds out that rallies are taking place because photo agencies call to ask if they can stage some shots with him and his paintings: ‘Normally they give me two days’ notice, because they like to have me there. I have every one of my pictures on Getty.’ This isn’t a sham; it’s a strategy. Protests ‘haven’t changed anything in all the time I’ve lived here,’ Mar said. ‘Politicians love them because they are a valve. But to have your voice heard, you need television and print media.’ And Mar has infiltrated those more effectively than any other satirist I can think of, by feeding the agencies that fuel so much of the media’s output. He can paint whatever he likes, however weird or angry, and Alamy and Shutterstock, the PA and the AP, will guarantee it gets the national platform denied to the protesters he stands alongside.”
  • Fan fiction is great, but who has the time? Sarah Engeler-Young has married the art of fanfic to the art of compression; an aficionado of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she “writes fiction that retells Spike-centric episodes via haiku. She calls them Spaiku.” And she says: “Buffy’s is a hero’s journey for the ages, and it has been a wonderful show to watch again and again with my daughter as she navigates adolescence … My desire to interact with other people who love Buffy eventually led me to a very supportive online community at LiveJournal. I read (and commented on) tons of fan fiction, made fabulous new friends, and wished that I could contribute something as well. Alas, the plotting requirements of long fiction are completely beyond me. I thought, ‘Well, maybe if I made something very small … ’ ”

  • Dustin Illingworth looks at Literature Class, a new collection of Julio Cortázar’s 1980 lectures at UC Berkeley: “The unifying through line is Cortázar’s abiding insistence on the elasticity of literary art, the better to capture what he saw as a fleeting, contentious, and ever-fluid reality. At one point, Cortázar tells his students, ‘I had lived with a complete feeling of familiarity with the fantastic because it seemed as acceptable to me, as possible and as real, as the fact of eating soup at eight o’clock in the evening.’ The fantastic, then, was a means of leavening the flatness of the widely accepted, or the merely prosaic. The sentiment becomes something of a refrain. For Cortázar … the joyless—and, in cases, politically expedient—narrowing of lived possibility was forever conspiring with a larger falseness, one he called ‘the prefabricated, pre-established world.’ ”
  • Tim Parks looks at an issue that’s been simmering among translators for decades: Why don’t they get a cut of a book’s royalties? It’s … complicated: “Sentence by sentence, the work is already there. However difficult it may be bringing it into another language, translators do not have to start from scratch, and they rarely have much choice, at least at the beginning of their careers, as to what kind of work they are translating. Certainly, in my own experience, nothing could be more different than settling down to a day’s writing as opposed to a day’s translating … That translation requires creativity is indisputable. As a translator myself, I have no desire to undermine the dignity of the craft. But is this creativity of a kind that constitutes ‘authorship’?”
  • We’re never going to immobilize the white nationalists, Reinhold Martin writes, if we continue to erect massive structures that double as paeans to their worldview: “Real estate is never mere property. Or to put it the other way around, property is never a mere profanity. Under capitalism, property is the most enchanted thing there is. In this light, developers of property—real-estate developers—are conjurers, makers of meaning; they are neoliberal capitalism’s shamans, priests, rabbis, Imams. This special role arises out of the ground; first comes the land to be conquered in order for property to rule, and then comes what architects and real-estate agents call space, or the empty shell of habitation. Over and over again, this ground must be made into a homeland, and the shell made into a home. In Max Weber’s Germany, the two had already been conflated in the term Heimat, or home/homeland, which refers both to the national soil and to the locus of dwelling. Architects may remember the associated style, Heimatstil, and the associated heritage movement, Heimatschutz, meaning ‘homeland protection’ or ‘homeland security.’ ”