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Archive for February, 2010


The exterior of Glashaus in the Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego, home of a growing number of art+design hubs.

Some of you, as I write this, are partaking of the festivities (and revelries) at Glashaus in Barrio Logan , San Diego for the Moustache Masquerade – Anniversary Party . Last week, Jamie Huffman of Surface Furniture was so kind to let me roam around the studio with my camera, arrange his tools and wooden cars and play with rusty, coppery dust.

I have in mind to try rust watercolors in a future session, and to film the vents turning intermittently with the haphazard breeze, a’ la American Beauty.  There was so much to see at Glashaus, the Beauty of things made, the poetry of craft.

I am reading Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space, of which John Stilgoe writes in his foreword:

The Poetics of Space is a prism through which all worlds from literary creation to housework to aesthetics to carpentry take on enhanced–and enchanted– significances.Every reader of it will never again see ordinary spaces in ordinary ways. Instead the reader will see with the soul or the eye, the glint of Gaston Bachelard.

Indeed, whatever spirituality we can imbue dwellings with starts with the choosing, crafting, and careful shaping of materials.

The resin vapors and the tools reminded me of my father’s and my uncle’s boat and motor repair/workshop in Calabria, Southern Italy, a place that I can only now appreciate in memory–as a kid I saw it as a bit random, a bit dangerous, a bit of a world foreign to me, perhaps unknowable as a little girl, a place of working men, wood shavings, tools and grease. I was drawn to the dogs that were kept there, the boats, big and small, that were stored under the sheds. My favorite parts was the orchard of fig trees in the back, the grape vines, the fields beyond the property wall.

Visiting Jamie’s studio reminded me of  ‘the work of honest men’ and the Wabi Sabi principles of the aesthetics of rugged things. Running my hands on rough surfaces brought me closer to the material aspect of architecture, delighting in details, something that was definitely a learned trait for me.

Thank you so much for having me over, and Happy Anniversary to everyone at Glashaus.

The working space of Surface Furniture Studio and Make in the Glashaus.

Wooden cars designed and crafted by Jamie Huffman, a statement on mass production and commonplace of outsourced manufacturing products.

Surface Furniture Teardrop Travel Trailer

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Third Street Homes. Graphite and Watercolor. Feb. 25, 2010.

Well, here is the finished (first) watercolor layer.   One more iteration is needed, as much as I am ready to move on to the next project.

Contrast and shade and shadow, ink and lineweight, and perhaps a layer of color pencil for texture.  What I am looking for is for these homes to ‘pop’, and come alive – just as the first house on the left begins to do; perhaps one more targeted watercolor wash is needed (just on the areas of shade and shadow), perhaps just going over with ink.  Perhaps more art, less architecture.  I am proceeding with caution as there is a hair of a difference between a watercolor and a muddy mess.  Somewhere in between there is a rendering that satisfies.   I will keep you tuned.

Speaking about the Impressionists in class last Thursday, we discussed how they believed that an object, painted in a different light, becomes a different object altogether, imbued with a changing feeling, a changing ‘impression’.

Perhaps we, as viewers become different people too.

As I was completing the watercolor I met Wanda, a neighbor, who kept me company for my plen-air session. I told her how Monet painted the same cathedral and haystacks about a hundred times, and we pondered how much persistence and dedication it would take. Would familiarity become comfort after a while, a sort of therapeutic, zen-like activity?

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Third Street Homes- Ink on trace. February 24, 2010

Third Street Homes - Graphite and watercolor. February 25, 2010

I have been squeezing some plein air drawing/watercolor-ing in between classes, lectures and sketchbook exchanges.

This is the continuation of the project started last week. I inked the pencil drawing to use for a future marker rendering, and started to give it some lineweight, while I continued with some washes on the original- now finished- pencil drawing. Hope to finish to the watercolor tomorrow.

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Last week I was reeling from hearing a contractor repeatedly referring to Architecture projects as ‘products’ (can you please stop talking about Architecture as a manufacturing industry? thankyou) and from seeing this noble profession hijacked by what one student referred to as ‘technicians‘.

Vitruvius, Le Corbu, are your tired bones  spinning in your graves? They will soon design a software that, given site parameters and local codes will design the building by itself (look ma, no architect!). If they are not about to launch it already. As my friend Andrew Duncan said, we are looking at a software company deciding the future of architecture projects in this country, in form of who owns the -increasingly more sophisticated- computer models/simulations of buildings. And thus the nail in the coffin, the relevance of our profession is eroded, while we just sit and watch, and clap at the latest computer wizardry. What is it called when people clap at their impending demise?

I am so tired of seeing the creativity of our young architects being sapped by the grueling process it takes to be a ‘licensed architect’ here in U.S. And yes, it is just here and Canada, because everywhere else in the world you are an architect after having proven worthy of an architecture degree and after a standard, brief, state exam. So we/you are all architects in my eyes.

So as I was saying, I was a bit demoralized.  But then, during our Le Corbusier’s seminars, my students put these quotes up (underlining is mine):

I repeat: a work of art must have its own special character.

Clear statement, the giving of a living unity to the work, the giving it a fundamental attitude and a character: all this is a pure creation of the mind.

This is everywhere allowed in the case of painting and music; but archtiecture is lowered to the level of its utilitarian purposes: boudoirs, W.C’s, radiators, ferro-concrete, vaults or pointed arches, etc., etc.

This is construction, this is not architecture.

Architecture only exists when there is a poetic emotion.

Art is poetry: the emotion of the senses, the joy of the mind as it measures and appreciates, the recognition of an axial principle which touches the depth of our being.  Art is this pure creation of the spirit which shows us, at certain heights, the summit of the creation to which man is capable of attaining.

And man is conscious of great happiness when he feels that he is creating.


Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture. English Ed. 1931

Is it a coincidence that Le Corbusier uses the term Art and Architecture interchangeably?

Construction is for an architect what grammar is for a thinker; the architect should not vegetate there, Le Corb reminds us.

The desired effect is not a mass of grammatical rules, but prose,  or even better, poetry, which not only uses grammar, but trascends it.

Now look around you and tell me how many pedestrian masses of periods and exclamation points surround you, and where does poetry happen (does it at all)?

In class we talked about art being the product of the heart, and architecture the product of the mind.  I knew then these young men and women believe in Architecture, with the capital ‘A’ – not to be confused with building- and everything that it stands for, everything that our ‘architectural heroes’ tell us through the echoes of time, and whispher with their art, their sketches and drawings, their buildings, their irreverent portraits (just as Keating’s poets in Dead Poets Society).

More importantly, these students believe in themselves. Everything then went right in my world.

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MeghAnn and Sean Drawing. Self-Portrait of my hand. Ink and Graphite on Paper. Feb. 20, 2010

Graphite and Ink on paper. February 20, 2010

I  spent Saturday afternoon drawing with my favorite artist buddies|budding artists, Meghann and Sean. We drew each other, they drew me (see below) and did self-portraits of our hands.

Me as drawn by Meghann (first attempt)

Me as drawn by Meghann- Second Attempt.

Me as seen by Sean.

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Night Tree. Untouched Photograph. San Diego. February 18, 2010

Photography means ‘writing with light’.

Tonight the sky is lit up, and I took one of my ‘apnea photos’ as I was  walking home. I set the camera on the night setting, then, since I don’t have a tripod, hold still and don’t breathe until the camera finishes computing all available light.

Earlier in class  (History of Art Neoclassic-Modern) we discussed the concept of ‘organic photography’,  that is photography that is not retouched or  enhanced digitally (Photoshopped). Well, what you see above is a direct dump from my camera. I read the recent review of ‘Werewolves’ and our very own Duncan Sheperd mentioned a David Caspar Friedrich light throughout the movie.

The sky tonight reminds me of German Romantic poetry.

David Caspar Friedrich. Mann und Frau Den Mond Betrachtend. Oil. 1819

The one true source of art is our heart, the language of a soul infallibly pure.

A work that is not begotten from this source can only be an artifice. Every authentic work of art is conceived in a sacred hour, and borne in a happy hour, often without the artist’s knowing, by the inner impulse of the heart.

David Caspar Friedrich

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Happy Tuesday. Throughout my four years of teaching Tuesday has always been my ‘work at home’ day, the one costant in the changing tides of quarters, classes and schedules. Today I thought I’d start a special Tuesday section, when I have more time to start new projects. So here is the first artuesday: this is the view I wake up everyday to, small happy townhomes in earth colors. I always wanted to do a watercolor of these homes on the edge of urbanity and nature (they sit on a canyon in uptown San Diego). Yup, I live near a canyon, yet in the city, more on this later. So here is my progress, I started with some guiding lines and this is as far as I got today. The watercolor will be a simple wash.
[click to enlarge. Unfortunately, soft graphite drawings are infamous for not scanning well]

Starting the drawing with tree shadows, to warm up the hand. From stationary point on the ground, the proportions are lightly drawn.

Vertical guiding lines.

Vertical and horizontal guidinglines of doors and windows-

Drawing and leaning on car, then sitting on the curb or grass in front of each house in my neighborhood was fun, and different cause I *never* hang out near my house. I even met a neighbor who was an artist! Doing art outdoors can tell you so much about where you live, and I am so glad no paranoid people called neighborhood watch on me (:P)

I used a Derwent Sketching for roughing in the proportions, the (only) tree and the tree shadows. You can see my new Faber Castell mechanical pencil, bought in Kuwait. What a dream drawing tool, see how ergonomic it is? (ok I will stop showing off now).

Derwent Sketching 2B, Faber Castell Grip Matic 0.5, Staedler eraser, Kneading eraser (to tone down lines).

A thing of beauty. The eraser part twists to reveal the eraser stick.

Sometimes I see my students sketching from photos, and it breaks my heart: there is nothing like the training of the hand to succeed as a designer and architect. I like to tell them to use the verb ‘draw’ as in ‘drawing information’.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SKETCHING

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a dinosaur.  I love Sketchup, as a 3D modeler use 3D Max, have done my fair share of CAD and Revit and  Photoshop is my religion, but, as this article says, if you don’t know how to draw and sketch, and quickly convey your ideas through hand-eye coordination, your role as an architect will be very limited. Thank you to Andrew Duncan for sending me this.

Should rulers be outlawed when sketching? I believe in training your hand to be a plumb weight, creating straight yet ‘human’ lines.

Ah, the ‘Tyranny of the Straight Line’!

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For many artists/designers endeavoring to build an online a presence, a blog is an incredible way to show up to their work and share new projects. Still, designing a high-quality blog and content is not enough. You have to get the word out ( is a blog still a blog if nobody reads it?)

So how can you make it inviting for people to visit your digital studio?

I believe a non-cluttered, restful design is key, for starters. My design zen inspiration is An Open [Sketch] book. Joining blog/aggregating communities such as networked blogs, technorati and notcot.org can bring like-minded people to your online home.  Also, blogging websites are full of advices on how to ‘get read’ (see ‘On Blogging’ on my blogroll).

In December, I designed my new business cards so I could share my online work and vision with artists and professionals I met  (do you like them? – ordered with Vista = very happy)

I also found a way to have a  digital V-Card as a gmail signature so that people could visit my art and architecture websites when I sent them an email- we will talk about this next.

But I believe the best way to reach out to people is to be an answer to their problem, i.e tutorials ( like I’m doing now…this is so meta). In other words, if you couldn’t find something online and had to build it yourself , save the struggle to other people and you will gain aficionados. In my case, I wanted to have a customized ‘Buy Me Coffee/Micro-Donation’ button for my WordPress blog, linked to Paypal, just in case someone wanted to take me out for coffee cause they loved my blog and art  so much:) A sort of digital tip jar.

What I found online did not fit my blog or design needs, and there were problems linking my button my free Paypal account. So i did a bit of code magic. I hope it helps you.

And if it does and you want to tip me…well… that would be just swell!

How to make a customized ‘Buy me Coffee’ Paypal micro-donation button


Premise:  You have a free PayPal (not-merchant) account, and a free WordPress.com blog.

Goal: You want to be able to place an attractive button where folks who enjoy your posts can drop couple of bucks to sustain your caffeine
addition (or other, who am I to judge?).

Problem:

A. You have tried to generate the button code from your Paypal account but, once it is placed in your blog, it does not link to your
Paypal donation page. You tried messing with the code, and it still doesn’t work.

B. You need help with placing your own image on the Paypal button, or with creating the button on WordPress.

Solution:

Well, I struggled so you don’t have to.

1.If you are here, I am assuming you have a blog.  If you don’t have one, go to wordpress.com and sign up for one. It is beyond the scope of this tutorial to enumerate the qualities of WordPress, but people who have shopped around invariably choose to host their [free] blog here. You will be well-cared for. For the WordPress.org [paid domain] folks, there is a Paypal plugin, so no need to go further.

2. After accessing your blog, sign up or sign on to your Paypal account. Look at the tabs on top of the page: under ‘Products and Services’, click ‘Website Payment Standards’

You will land on  ‘Website Payments Standards Overview’ >Payment Button tab.

Go to  ‘Accept donations anywhere on the web’ and click on ‘Create one now’

Fill out the fields (skip Step 2 and 3 unless you want to upgrade your PayPal account).     You can customize your button now, but you probably want to substitute the ‘donate’ image with something more appealing at a later time. I did not customize for this tutorial, and did not fill the ‘Company’ or ‘Donation ID’ fields.

When you are done, click ‘Create Button’ at the bottom of the page.

This will generate the button’s code. Remove ‘Code Protection’, on the top right of the box (very important) and click ‘Select Code’.

Copy (ctrl+c) the code. On your desktop, right-click anywhere, select ‘New’ and create a new text (.txt) document, or you can use your usual html editor as well. Paste (ctrl+v) the code.

You will get something like this (where the red X’s are your id numbers):

3. Normally you would now go to your WordPress blog dashboard, choose Widgets, drag a ‘Text- Arbitrary text or HTML” widget  to your sidebar  and and paste the above code to obtain a button. This time though, this would result in an empty field, and we need a workaround.

You will use the ‘Image-Display an image in your side bar’ Widget

Drag it in the sidebar and open it:

A. Widget Title: You can name your button ‘Donate’ or ‘Feed the Starving Artist’ etc.

B. In the ‘Image URL’  place the URL address of any  image that is hosted on image hosting websites such as Flickr, Photobucket etc.

(I always recommend hosting your own images). You can usually find this code under a ‘Share’ button by the hosted image in these sites.

The address will look something like this (where ‘yourhostingsite’ and ‘youraccountname’ are a substitute for your actual code):

http://i231.yourhostingsite.com/albums/ee231/youraccountname/7338fccb7887.jpg

C. In the ‘Link URL’ (where you want visitors to land when you click your button) you will paste this code, derived from the PayPal code above (with a sprinkle of magic).

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&business=XXXXXXXXXXXXX

(the X’s are your ID code from the Paypal button code in Step 2)

Now we have the ‘ingredients’ for our customized button: an image hosted online, its address, and a link to your PayPal donation page.

I like to have the button centered, so I adjusted the size and justification of the widget until I was satisfied.

Be creative, you can design your button to include text and credit cards symbols, in a software such as Photoshop.

Hope you will enjoy your very own PayPal/Donations button and that this worked out for you!


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Happy San Valentino!

Here are some card designs I have been playing with, let me know if you would like a hi-res version, and  which one I should put in my future etsy print shop.

Finally, I have been listening to my Buddha Bar CD’s today, and in Buddha Bar II there is a Rumi poem recited by Deepak Chopra and Demi Moore, set to beautiful, haunting music. If you are interested in the CD, here you go. Here is the text, and may all your days, like this one, be filled with love.

A lover knows only humility,
He has no choice.
He steals into your alley at night,
He has no choice.
He longs to kiss every lock of your hair,
Don’t fret,
He has no choice.
In his frenzied love for you,
He longs to break the chains of his imprisonment,
He has no choice.

A lover asked his beloved,
“Do you love yourself more than you love me?”
And the loved replied:
“I have died to myself and I live for you,
I’ve disappeared from myself and my attributes,
I am present only for you.
I have forgotten all my learnings,
But from knowing you I have become a scholar.
I have lost all my strength,
But from your power I am able.
I love myself,
I love you.
I love you,
I love myself.”

I am your lover,
Come to my side,
I will open the gate to your love.
Come settle with me,
Let us be neighbors in the stars.
You have been hiding so long,
Endlessly drifting in the sea of my love.
Even so, you have always been connected to me.
Concealed, revealed, in the norm, in the un-manifest.
I am life itself.
You have been a prisoner of a little pond,
I am the ocean and it’s turbulent flood.
Come merge with me.
Leave this world behind us.
Be with me,
I will open the gate to your love.

I desire you more than food or drink.
My body, my senses, my mind,
Hunger for your taste.
I can sense your presense in my heart.
Although you belong to all the world,
I wait in silent passion,
For one guesture, one glance.

Rumi


Rumi’s words are often mysterious, yet often refer to his personal search and passionate, intimate connection with the Divine Presence within.

(via enlightenedbeings.com )


From: Love: The Joy that Wounds. Love poems by Rumi

PREFACE BY
Jean Claude Carriere

CALLIGRAPHY BY
Lassaâd Metoui

Everything – strength, joy and knowledge – comes to us through love.
Love burns and devours, love destroys life and it gives life.
Love is both secretive and revelatory.
This is how it was for Jelalaldin Rumi, the thirteenth-century Persian
poet, grand master of the Sufi tradition and founder of the brotherhood
of Whirling Dervishes.
Born in what is now Afghanistan, then settling in Konya, in Turkey,
shielded from the invading Mongol hordes, he was a venerated teacher,
an unrivalled scholar. People from everywhere came to listen to him.
Then one day he met a wandering dervish, a man who was very
sensitive to the cold, and older than Rumi was. He spoke in riddles,
was insolent and irritable, and his name was Shams al-Din of Tabriz.
Love blossomed between the two men. They stayed together, locked
away, for forty days and forty nights.
When they went their separate ways, Rumi was no longer the
academic whom everyone had known. He danced, laughed, made up
poems. He had been illuminated, as though from within.
In a lightning flash he had become a poet.
And for the rest of his days, he forgot his professorial chair and his
teaching, and, instead, sang of this metamorphosis to the whole world,
with unforgettable elan.
In all he wrote some 50,000 lines of poetry, much of it collected
together in The Book of Shams al-Din of Tabriz and in the Masnari, two
jewels in the world’s history of poetry.
Love is a grace, Rumi tells us over and over. It is a fire, it is
intoxication, an unceasing turning, a breath from heaven. It is a way
for all lost people and a cure for every fever.
And love is limitless, for it excludes nothing and no one. Here, lovers
are not alone in the world.
Quite the opposite. To love someone is to love the whole world.
Jean-Claude Carrière

The following poems were written by Jelaluddin Rumi in the 13th Century A.D.  His words are often mysterious, yet often refer to his personal search and passionate, intimate connection with the Divine Presence within.

The following poems were written by Jelaluddin Rumi in the 13th Century A.D.  His words are often mysterious, yet often refer to his personal search and passionate, intimate connection with the Divine Presence within.

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Turning into pattern/abstract thoughts. Digital collage. Original mixed media on glass. 2008/2010

Art is a wound turned into light.

Georges Braque

(Thank You Lamees)

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Mubkhar (Bokhoor Holder). Bokhoor charcoal on paper. February, 2010.

Bukhoor made from sandalwood. via alharamainperfumes.co.uk

The charcoal is heated on the stove or fire and the bukhoor is placed on top. The resulting scented smoke can be found in Arab airports, home, stores, offices.

I received a container of bokhoor, the rare scented wood whose fragrance is used in Arab tradition to perfume rooms, clothes, and hair.

One evening, while listening to Gipsy Kings, I thought of using the bokhoor charcoal  left in the mubkhar to draw. Actual charcoal is more challenging yet has a smokey, tactile, fragrant quality that I really enjoyed. 

Soy Gitano. Bokhoor Charcoal. February, 2010

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Francoise Gilot (Picasso's Mistress), Self- Portrait. Copy. Ink on Paper. I saw this at the San Diego Museum of Art, and needed to have it.

Françoise Gilot. Self-Portrait. Copy, ink on paper. January, 2010. Françoise was Picasso's long-time mistress, an accomplished artist in her own right. I saw this piece at the San Diego Museum of Art.

The original drawing. I couldn't find it anywhere online, so hope it helps someone. No photos allowed on this one *cough*

Somebody bought me blue roses....Watercolor and Graphite. January, 2010.

Photograph edited in Photoshop. February, 2010.

Coffee Carrier (delle). Graphite on paper. Kuwait. January, 2010.

Miniature Pomegranate. Watercolor on chocolate wrap. Kuwait. January, 2010.


February 1st, Monday. I like it when a new month, sparkling with possibilities, starts on a Monday, a beginning of a new week. This February finds me physically incapacitated ( I have been down with a bad cold since last week)-  but my spirits are up, because of the things I have been reading, the art documentaries I have been watching, the places I have been (a brief jaunt to San Francisco) and the interesting people I met. I have been feeding my mind and doing lots of different things, so today I want to catch up, and share.

What I have been doing: Teaching. This quarter my classes are First Year Design Studio; History of Architecture; Art: Neoclassic to Modern (where my students are researching Women Artists); and Non-Western Traditions (where I can share my travels in Kuwait). Perfect, but insanely busy.

What I have been listening: Gipsy Kings and Sweetheart 2010, a Hearmusic compilation. Great. Now I have to buy the others in the series. Damn you, Hearmusic, why are you so good?

What I have been reading: Design Anarchy (it is a dangerous book, Buy It), Che Guevara- Una Vida Revolucionaria, Feminist Literature, The Guerrilla Girls Bedside Companion to Western Art. My brain is broiling- in a good way.

What I’ve been buying: My only shopping in Kuwait consisted of pens, pens, pens. I received a bounty of gifts, so that anything I could have wanted to buy, was given to me. And for this I will be forever grateful. But my contribution to the Kuwaiti economy can be seen below:

Pens such as these can be found in regular, small office/school supplies stores in Kuwait. In Italy they would be called 'Cartolerie'.

So I gave myself a belated Christmas present by buying a much-needed 1.5 TeraBytes External Memory (It’s a thing of Beauty), and shopped at NaraCamicie, an Italian brand known for the best shirt design in the world. I was so delighted to find it in San Francisco. I visited their Firenze store three years ago, and have been pining for Nara since then. Apparently there are only two U.S stores and when I saw the San Francisco one, I promised myself a visit for a special occasion.

What I have been watching: Art:21, a series of PBS (Public Television) documentaries on contemporary American artists, mostly alternative, independent ones.

What I have been pondering (on Photography):

Joe Nicholson, the First Year coordinator at my school, a veteran academic, who brings a Yale-borne rigour to our class and an incredible dose of warmth, fun and passion for art and architecture (and who I consider my mentor) shared with us this anecdote:

When I was a young man and new to San Diego, I stumbled upon a photographer’s studio. ‘Oh, so you take pictures’ I said to the Photographer. And the Photographer answered: ‘I don’t “take” pictures. I make pictures.’

Joe Nicholson



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Ink on tracing paper. Kuwait, January 2010. The scene at the bottom is what I saw-or decided to see- at The Avenues, the most popular mall in Kuwait City. There is nothing like seeing photography and drawings from a trip abroad to let it sink in that all reality is subjective, and we choose to see what we want to. We just don't realize it in our own backyard.



This was my small parting gift to my art-sister
Ghadah. I went to Kuwait without a proper gift for her, so I thought I would leave her with a low-tech collage, on tracing paper, of my trip. In keeping with the theme of censorship, which fascinated me- and was the basis for a project of a good friend of Ghada’s-I smudged the personal writing. Censorship frustrates me, and in some cases, puzzles me (especially the haphazard application of it); in other it surprises me- when the censor shows some obvious artistic abilities and inclinations- and I wanted to explore this in something I made. Seeing blurred information makes me feel denied.

(Mis)Using the name of a british band, Does It Offend You, Yeah?

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