Beehive Design Collective. Members of the busy Beehive Design Collective refer to themselves as "culture workers" or "pollinators"; individuals use "bee" as a surname. The group is based in an old Grange hall and identifies with the Grange's nineteenth-century Populist fight against Wall Street. They oppose transnational corporations, free trade, biotechnology, industrialization; they believe that art (design, graphics, cartoons and caricatures) can play a pivotal part in conveying political ideas. They conceive their role in the fight to be designing elaborate, historically accurate posters; touring universities with graphic presentations on the issues; discussing same with other activists at the grass roots and giving away their posters.
3 Elm Street, Machias, ME 04654, (207) 255-6737, www.beehivecollective.org <http://www.beehivecollective.org
The Bubble Project. Artist Ji Lee cut out 30,000 blank white bubbles and plastered them on ad posters all over New York City. People responded by filling the bubbles with caustic, antiadvertising quips. Lee slapped the funniest bubbles on his website, which received 50,000 hits and crashed. In 2006 he collected some of the all-time great quips in a book called Talk Back: The Bubble Project. In late 2007 Ji Lee told us: "The BP is still going strong. The website has been visited by over two million people. The bubbling has spread to hundreds of countries. I receive e-mails every day from different bubblers around the world, from India, Australia, China to Turkey. Now Italy has a Bubble Project website (www.progetttobolla.com <http://www.progetttobolla.com
> ) as does Argentina (www.proyectoburbuja.com <http://www.proyectoburbuja.com
> ). The BP has taken on a life of its own, and it will keep going as long as there are ads on the streets!" Recently sighted on the Bubble Project website: "What country would Jesus bomb?"
The Busycle. A bicycle built for fifteen, a pedal-powered traveling art piece, this contraption sits on the stripped-down chassis of a van. Fourteen pedalers sit seven to a side, facing out, a set of pedals in front of each of them. The driver up front guides the Busycle as they pedal in unison. Their leg power is transmitted to a central gear shaft that turns the wheels. The Busycle travels to different cities on cross-country story-collecting tours. During stops, the crew invites locals to climb aboard, work the pedals and experience the purposeful joy of pulling together, of being cogs in a larger effort. Then they assemble around a virtual campfire to tell their stories, which are videotaped and shared with people at the next stop. The Buscycle was created by Boston-based artists Heather Clark and Matthew Mazzotta while they were in residence at the Berwick Research Institute's Public Art Satellite Program.
Center for Tactical Magic. CTM believes in opening creative lines of communication, spreading information and bringing people together. Over the past eight years they've mobilized more than 200 people on projects in cities across the United States as well as internationally. For example, they have a Tactical Ice Cream Unit (TICU) that distributes free ice cream and political literature from a truck, which "is familiar but different-it's a fully armored car that's an ice cream truck." It displays two menus: "treats for the streets" and "food for thought." The truck carries audiovisual equipment and is available as the centerpiece at rallies, providing the sound system, stage, music and refreshments.
1460 Madison Avenue, Memphis, TN 32104, (901) 722-3001, www.tacticalmagic.org <http://www.tacticalmagic.org
Critical Art Ensemble. CAE is a collective of five "tactical media artists"-Steve Kurtz, Robert Ferrell, Steve Barnes, Dorian Burr and Beverly Schlee, who are variously trained in computer graphics and web art, film/video, photography, text art, book art, performance art and science. They formed CAE in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1987, because they wanted a public voice and chose collective activity. "The idea is to look for cracks in the system and exploit them," says Kurtz. His 1994 book The Electronic Disturbance attacked the Internet and urged "digital disobedience." One CAE project in Halifax, Nova Scotia, invented a cultural tour of the city. CAE produced glossy brochures, icons and LCD displays of what was wrong with the city, such as its sewage-filled harbor. Marching Plague (see box), illustrated a 1952 British Army experiment, in which the spread of bubonic plague was studied by infecting guinea pigs. The installation was displayed at the Whitney Biennial in 2006.
Ron English. Call him English the Highwayman. He hijacks billboards. It all began back in the 1980s while he was a student in northern Texas. His MO was and is covering a billboard with his own message. Of course, this requires fast hands, and English has trained himself so that he can paste over a billboard in seven minutes flat. His messages have included: cigarettes kill, fast food makes you fat, right-wing talk show hosts are nuts, Jesus would not have driven a large SUV, and Apple Computer does not have the right to say what companies Albert Einstein would have endorsed (in its "Think Different" campaign). Since his first boardjacking, Ron English has covered more than 900 of them. Notable ones include: The Poor: What Good Are They?
Guerrilla Girls. The Guerrilla Girls are five or maybe thirty or twenty-five (the number is secret) artists, who take aliases of famous women artists, such as Frida Kahlo or Georgia O'Keeffe. Their objective is to rag the art establishment for what they see as its systematic exclusion of women. Their means are humorous, because humor gets through to people. First, of course, are those gorilla masks they don before invading an exclusive art site (inspired by one of their members' misspelling their name as "Gorilla Girls"). Second, they create a lot of alternative art, for example, posters that have become collectors' items, been sold in galleries and hung in museums. These were published in a book, Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls. See also The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art and Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers. The GGs contributed an illustration to a special issue of The Nation on the movies called The Anatomically Correct Oscar-a drawing of a statuette of a fat white guy with his hands modestly covering the family jewels. This was enlarged and appeared on a billboard in Hollywood at Academy Awards time with the legend "He's white & male, just like the guys who win!"
Preemptive Media. This collective, born at cutting-edge Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, was the brainchild of Beatriz da Costa, Jamie Schulte and Brooke Singer. Its vision is making works of art that subvert actual technologies used by the government and companies to mine data and amass information on all of us. An example of their creations was the project Zapped! that focused on radio frequency identification (RFID) tags used by companies like Wal-Mart to track products and sales. Preemptive Media has held workshops that have instructed people on how to build detection devices to tell them they're being monitored. Still another work is called Swipe, created to blow the whistle on the way merchants lift data encoded in the magnetic stripe on drivers' licenses. PM sets up a real bar serving drinks at social functions with a real driver's license scanner. After reading his receipt, the customer can down a stiff drink to numb the knowledge that Big Brother, Inc., is watching-for profit or worse.
Speculative Archive. This two-person collective, comprising the Los Angeles-based artists Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, has been creating videos, photographs, installations and published texts exploring intersections of politics and life since 1999. One of their preoccupations is classified documents. They started with a twenty-five-minute video called It's not my memory of it: three recollected documents. The film includes interviews with CIA officials. Their work has been shown at various museums, galleries and at the California Biennial.
subRosa. This feminist art collective calls itself "a reproducible cyberfeminist cell of cultural researchers committed to combining art, activism, and politics to explore and critique the effects of the intersections of the new information and biotechnologies on women's bodies, lives, and work." It grew out of a reading club on the Carnegie Mellon campus in Pittsburgh in the late 1990s. Its central concern has been the effect of technology on the female body as well as on what it means to be feminine. The name honors feminist pioneers Rosa Bonheur, Rosa Luxemburg, Rosie the Riveter, Rosa Parks and Rosie Franklin.
Your Art Here. A nonprofit public art project founded "on the belief that everyone has the right to 'be the media,' " Your Art Here was born in September 2002. Since then, they have put together three community-run art billboards in Bloomington and Indianapolis. (They've since expanded into rented spaces and art on buses.) Perhaps their most gutsy campaign took place during the 2004 presidential election in very red Indiana. That was the Patriotic Art Series of four billboards, in which "each piece took a unique look at the media's influence on the mainstream perception of 'patriotism.' " It included a billboard depicting President Bush and shouting "Lies, Lies, Lies!" Another, called #2, evaded censorship by showing Bush next to the words "eats #2."
1419 S. Washington Street, Bloomington, IN 47401, www.yourarthere.org <http://www.yourarthere.org
GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDIOS
Avenging Angels. A New York atelier that takes liberal losers as its clients. "Winning isn't everything, but incessant losing deadens the soul, and, besides, when liberals lose, too many innocent people get hurt. If you choose to lose no longer, heed the Bible at Romans 12:19 (slightly amended): 'Justice is mine' saith the Lord; 'I will repay, but in the meantime, call these guys." Avenging Angels caught the media eye back in 2003 when it teamed up with Ben & Jerry's founder Ben Cohen, who started Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. AA produced television and print ads for the antiwar group opposing the invasion of Iraq. The television spots starred, among others, Susan Sarandon and Janeane Garofalo. AA counts The Nation among its clients and has worked for various liberal causes, such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, TrueMajority, Peace Action, United for a Fair Economy, John Kerry for President, and Riverkeeper.
10 W. 18th Street, New York, NY 10011, (212) 243-8100, www.avengingangels.org <http://www.avengingangels.org
Design Action Collective. Inkworks Press (see page nn), a mainstay of progressive-cause printing in Berkeley, spawned this Oakland-based group of designers, who do work for social change organizations in the Bay Area. DAC is a worker-owned union shop (CWA).
1110 Franklin Street, #300, Oakland, CA 94612, (510) 452-1912, www.designaction.org <http://www.designaction.org
Point Five Design. This atelier specializes in design "with an educational, cultural or political focus." It has served a long list of clients on the left, including Columbia Journalism Review, The American Prospect, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy (see page nnn), Catholics for a Free Choice and Feminist Majority Foundation.
118 E. 25th Street, 10th floor, New York, NY 10010, (212) 414-4309, www.point5.com <http://www.point5.com
WBMG. Milton Glaser/Walter Bernard. Milton Glaser cofounded Pushpin Studio, considered the Tiffany of New York graphic design for more than forty years, with many advertising accounts. Glaser wears his liberal politics on his sleeve on occasion. For the 2004 GOP convention in NYC he concocted the Light Up the Sky demonstration that called on New Yorkers opposed to Bush and the war to hold silent vigils with a lighted candle, flashlight or light in their windows. Glaser founded Pushpin Studio with Seymour Chwast, Reynolds Ruffins, and Edward Sorel in 1954 at a time when photography and television were radically changing graphic design. Pushpin was on the cutting edge in creating a new design vocabulary, working in various media from record and book jackets to posters and websites. In 1974, Glaser created the famed "I § New York" logo. With Walter Bernard, former art director at Time magazine, he founded WBMG in 1983, which was and is dedicated to magazine and newspaper redesign (its clients have included The Nation).
207 E. 32nd Street, New York, NY 10016, (212) 889-3161, www.miltonglaser.com <http://www.miltonglaser.com
TUMIS. A design firm that "has participated in hundreds of progressive projects challenging racism, classism, homophobia, sexism, and corporate irresponsibility." Tumis is a member of the East Oakland-based EastSide Arts Alliance, a Third World artist collective. The shop is owned by women and has an ethnically diverse staff comprising designers, techies, artists, activists and youth advocates, according to the website.
2289 International Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94606, (510) 532-8267, (877) 738-8647, http://tumis.com
One by-product of the political ferment of the early 1970s was the Progressive Printers Network (PPN), set up by several print or copy shops whose employees had fought for the right to join a union and set up cooperatively owned ventures. They vended their sympathies and services to progressive groups that needed pamphlets, handbills, posters and other message materials. To recognize their historic role, in 1994 PPN with the Center for the Study of Political Graphics (see page nn) mounted a show called Freedom of the Press that celebrated the role of public printers in getting out the message.
Collective Copies. Back in 1983 this copy shop was called Gnomon Copies. The employees, fed up with low pay, decrepit machines and cramped quarters, organized themselves into a union and struck. Some in the community rallied behind them, boycotting the shop and honoring the picket line. The local media kept the strikers' cause in the public eye. By the end of the year negotiations were successfully concluded, but the landlord evicted the owners and the shop closed, apparently for good. The former employees then launched a new copying business that has thrived, added two branches, and moved to larger quarters with triple the staff and state-of-the-art digital equipment.
71 S. Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002, (413) 256-6425, www.collectivecopies.com <http://www.collectivecopies.com
OTHER UNION SHOPS
Community Printers. 1827 Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, (831) 426-4682, www.comprinters.com <http://www.comprinters.com
Grass Roots Press. 4011?2 W. Peace Street, Raleigh, NC 27603, (919) 828-2364, www.grassrootspress.net <http://www.grassrootspress.net
Inkworks Press. 2827 7th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, (510) 845-7111, www.inkworkspress.org <http://www.inkworkspress.org
Red Sun Press. 94 Green Street, Boston, MA 02130, (617) 524-6822, www.redsunpress.com <http://www.redsunpress.com
Urban Press. 1226 S. Bailey Street, Seattle, WA 98108, (206) 325-4060, www.urbanpressseattle.com <http://www.urbanpressseattle.com
ART AND HUMANITIES EDUCATION
The Center for Urban Pedagogy. CUP's in the business of making educational projects "about places and how they change." Their projects unite artists, graphic designers, architects and urban planners with community-based activists and advocates, organizers, government officials, academics and policy makers to work with CUP staffers to create educational services, exhibitions, community partnerships, public programs and media projects. In 1997 CUP-then a small, informal group-assembled a booklet titled "A How-To Guidebook for Urban Objects." CUP now works with teachers to develop a curriculum that teaches kids about urban planning and their neighborhoods. At an alternative school, called City-as-School High School in lower Manhattan, students studied how New York disposes of garbage. They visited dump sites, interviewed sanitation department officials and created a documentary film and posters telling what they had learned. CUP has also put together programs that look at issues like public housing, toxic waste sites and poverty. They enter into partnerships with myriad community-based organizations; for example, with residents on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to create Public Housing Television, a series of videos that ventilate issues of concern to people in public housing.
232 3rd Street, B402B, Brooklyn, NY 11215, (718) 596-7721, www.anothercupdevelopment.org <http://www.anothercupdevelopment.org
Excerpted from The Nation Guide to the Nation by Richard Lingeman Introduction by Victor Navasky and Katrina vanden Heuval. Copyright © 2009 by Richard Lingeman Introduction by Victor Navasky and Katrina vanden Heuval. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.