Designer Creates a 3D-Printed Stamp That Replaces Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill

Above we have a very short video of a hand stamping the face of freedom fighter and abolitionist Harriet Tubman, aka Araminta Ross, over the stony mug of Andrew Jackson, aka Old Hickory, “Indian Killer,” and slaveholding seventh president of the United States who presided over the Indian Removal Act that inaugurated the Trail of Tears with a speech to Congress in which he concluded the only alternative to forcing native people off their land might be “utter annihilation.”

Hero to America Firsters, Jackson has featured on the U.S. twenty-dollar bill since 1928. Ironically, he was bestowed this honor under Calvin Coolidge, a progressive Republican president when it came to Civil Rights, who in 1924 signed the Indian Citizenship Act into law, granting all Indigenous people dual tribal and U.S. citizenship.

Anyway, you’ll recall that in 2016, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced “the most sweeping and historically symbolic makeover of the American currency in a century,” as The New York Times reported, “proposing to replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman.”

Furthermore, Lew planned to add historic feminist and Civil Rights figures to the five and ten dollar bills, an idea that did not come to fruition. But as we awaited the replacement of Jackson with Tubman, well… you know what happened. Andrew Jackson again became a figurehead of American racism and violence, and the brutal new administration walked back the new twenty. So designer Dano Wall decided to take matters into his own hands with the creation of the 3D-printed Tubman stamp. As he shows in the short clip above, the transformed bills still spend when loaded into vending and smart card machines.

Of course you might never do such a thing (maybe you just want to print Harriet Tubman faces on plain paper at home?), but you could, if you downloaded the print files from Thingiverse and made your own Tubman stamp. Wall refers to an extensive argument for the legality of making Tubman twenties. It perhaps holds water, though the Treasury Department may see things differently. In the British Museum “Curator’s Corner” video above, numismatist Tom Hockenhull shows us a precedent for defacing currency from shortly before World War I, when British suffragists used a hammer and die to stamp “Votes for Women” over the face of Edward VII.

The “deliberate targeting of the king,” writes the British Museum Blog, “could be likened to iconoclasm, a direct assault on the male authority figures that were perceived to be upholding the laws of the country.” It’s a practice supposedly derived from an even earlier act of vandalism in which anarchists stamped “Vive l’Anarchie” on coins. The process would have been difficult and time-consuming, “probably carried out by a single person using just one set of individual alphabet stamps.” Thus it is unlikely that many of these coins were made, though historians have no idea how many.

But the symbolic protest did not stand alone. The defaced currency spread the message of a broad egalitarian movement. The ease of making Tubman twenties could spread a contemporary message even farther.

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Hieronymus Bosch Demon Bird Was Spotted Riding the New York City Subway the Other Day…

To me, the great promise of homeschooling is that one day your child might, on their own initiative, ride the New York City subways dressed in a homemade, needlefelted costume modeled on the ice-skating bird messenger from Hieronymus Bosch’s The Temptation of St. Anthony.

Rae Stimson, aka Rae Swon, a Brooklyn-based artist who did just that a little over a week ago, describes her upbringing thusly:

Growing up I was home schooled in the countryside by my mom who is a sculptor and my dad who is an oil painter, carpenter, and many other things. Most of my days were spent drawing and observing nature rather than doing normal school work. Learning traditional art techniques had always been very important to me so that I can play a role in keeping these beautiful methods alive during this contemporary trend of digital, nonrepresentational, and conceptual art. I make traditional artwork in a wide variety of mediums, including woodcarving, oil painting, etching, needle felting, and alternative process photography.

Not every homeschooler, or, for that matter, Waldorf student, is into needle felting. It only seems that way when you compare the numbers to their counterparts in more traditional school settings…

Even the tiniest creature produced by this method is a labor intensive proposition, wherein loose woolen fibers are soaked, soaped, and jabbed with a needle until they come together in a rough mat, suitable for shaping into the whimsical—or demonic—figure of its creator’s choosing.

Stimson matched her full-head bird mask to the one in the painting by equipping it with gloves, a blanket cloak, long velvet ears, and a leafless twig emerging from the spout of its hand-painted funnel hat.

An accomplished milliner, Stimson was drawn to her subject’s unusual headgear, telling HuffPo’s Priscilla Frank how she wished she could ask Bosch about the various elements of his “beautiful demon-bird” and “what, if any, symbolic significance they hold.”

The answer lies in art history writer Stanley Meisler’s Smithsonian magazine article, "The World of Bosch":

…a monster on ice skates approaches three fiends who are hiding under a bridge across which pious men are helping an unconscious Saint Anthony. The monster, wearing a badge that Bax says can be recognized as the emblem of a messenger, bears a letter that is supposedly a protest of Saint Anthony's treatment. But the letter, according to (Bosch scholar and author Dirk) Bax, is in mirror writing, a sure sign that the monster and the fiends are mocking the saint. The monster wears a funnel that symbolizes intemperance and wastefulness, sports a dry twig and a ball that signify licentious merrymaking, and has lopping ears that show its foolishness. All this might have been obvious to the artist's contemporaries when the work was created, but the average modern viewer can only hope to understand the overall intent of a Bosch painting, while regarding the scores of bizarre monsters and demons as a kind of dark and cruel comic relief.

A field guide to Bosch’s bizarre images in the same article gives viewers leave to interpret any and all funnels in his work as a coded reference to deceit and intemperance... perhaps at the hands of a false doctor or alchemist!

Not every subway rider caught the arty reference. Unsurprisingly, some even refused to acknowledge the strange being in their midst. Those folks must not share Stimson’s dedication to examining “that which is unfamiliar, seeking out all that is yet unknown to you in both art and life.”

Within 24 hours of its Metropolitan Transit Authority adventure, the one-of-a-kind demon-bird costume was sold on Etsy.

(Holler if you wish Stimson had kept it around long enough to take a spin on the ice at Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park, where the majority of patrons would no doubt be gliding around in ignorance that, as per Meisler, Bosch equated skates with folly.)

See more of Rae Stimson’s needle-felted creations, including a full-body alien robot costume and a sculpture of author Joyce Carol Oates with her pet chicken in her Etsy shop.

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is a New York City-based homeschooler, author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her at The Tank NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How Jim Jarmusch Gets Creative Ideas from William S. Burroughs’ Cut-Up Method and Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies

As the nameless assassin protagonist of Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control makes his way through Spain, he meets several different, similarly mysterious figures, each time at a different café. Each time he orders two espressos — not a double espresso, but two espressos in separate cups. Each time his contact arrives and asks, in Spanish, whether he speaks Spanish, to which he responds that he doesn't. Each conversation that follows ends with an exchange of matchboxes, and each one the assassin receives contains a slip of paper with a coded message, which he eats after reading, containing directions to his next destination.

All these elements remain the same while everything else changes, a structure that showcases Jarmusch's interest in theme and variation as clearly as anything he's ever made. "Some call it repetition," he says in the page above from fashion and culture biannual Another Man, "but I like to think of the repetition of the same action or dialogue in a film as a variation. The accumulation of variations is important to me too." But to enrich the repetition and variations, he also makes use of randomness, "the idea of finding things as you go along and finding links between things you weren't even looking to link."

Jarmusch credits this way of thinking to William S. Burroughs (author, incidentally, of an essay called "The Limits of Control"), and specifically the "cut-up" technique, which Burroughs and the artist Brion Gysin came up with, literally cutting up texts in order to then "mix words and phrases and chapters together in a random way." He's also found a source of randomness in the Oblique Strategies, the deck of cards published in the 1970s by artist and music producer Brian Eno and painter Peter Schmidt. "You just pick one card and it might say something like, 'Listen from another room.' One of my favorite cards says, 'Emphasize repetitions.'" That last comes as no surprise, and he surely also appreciates the one that says, "Repetition is a form of change."

Those who know both the Oblique Strategies and Jarmusch's filmography — from his breakout indie hit Stranger Than Paradise to recent work like Paterson, the story of a bus-driving poet in William Carlos Williams' hometown — could think of many that apply to his signature cinematic style: "Disconnect from desire," "Emphasize the flaws," "Use 'unqualified' people," "Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities" (or indeed "Remove ambiguities and convert to specifics"). His next project, which will feature regular collaborators Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton as well as such newcomers to the Jarmusch fold as former teen pop idol Selena Gomez, should offer another satisfying set of variations on his usual themes. And given that it's about zombies, it will no doubt come with a strong dose of randomness as well.

via Dark Shark

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Jim Jarmusch Lists His Favorite Poets: Dante, William Carlos Williams, Arthur Rimbaud, John Ashbery & More

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Songs by David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads & More Re-Imagined as Pulp Fiction Book Covers

As David Bowie himself implied in a 1975 interview, "Young Americans" doesn't have much of a narrative.

Rather, it’s a portrait of ambivalence, viewed at some remove.

The same cannot be said for Young Americans, the wholly imaginary midcentury pulp novel.

One look at the lurid cover, above, and one can guess the sort of steamy passages contained within. Bowie’s sweaty palmed classmates at Bromley Technical High School could probably have recited them from memory!

Ditto Alison. The tawdry paperback, not Elvis Costello’s evergreen 1977 ballad. There’s a reason its spine is falling apart, and it’s not because young lads like Elvis Costello are fearful their hearts might prove untrue. That skimpy pink bikini top and hip huggers get-up is appealing to an entirely different organ.

Here we must reiterate that these books do not exist and never did.

Though there’s a lot of fun to be had in pretending that they do.

Screenwriter Todd Alcott, the true author of these digital mashups, is keenly attuned to the overripe visual language of midcentury paperbacks.

He’s also got quite a knack for extracting lyrics from their original context and rendering them in the period font, magically retooling them as the sort of suggestive quotes that once beckoned from drugstore book racks.

Font has been important to him since the age of 13, when a school art project required him to combine text with an image:

I decided that I wanted the text to look like the text I'd seen in an ad for a John Lennon album, so I copied that font style. I didn't know that the font style had a name, but I knew that my instincts for how to draw those letters didn't match how the letters ended up looking. The font, as it turns out, was Franklin Gothic, and, as a 13-year-old, all I remember was that I would start to draw the "S" and then realize that my "S" didn't look like Franklin Gothic's "S," and that the curvy letters, like "G" and "O," didn't look right when they sat on the lines I'd made for the other letters, because of course for a font, the curvy letters have to be a little bit bigger than the straight letters, or else they end up looking too small. I became fascinated with that kind of thing, how one font would give off one kind of feeling, and other one would give off a completely different feeling. And it turns out there's a reason for all of that, that every font carries with it a specific cultural connotation whether the reader is aware of it or not. When I drive down the street in LA, I see billboards and I can't just look at one and say "Okay, got it," I get a whole other layer of meaning from them because their design and font choices tell me a whole history of the people who designed them.

While Alcott discovers many of his visuals online, he has a soft spot for the battered originals he finds in second hand shops. Their wear and tear confers the sort of verisimilitude he seeks. The rest is equal parts inspiration, Photoshop, and a growing understanding of a design form he once dismissed as the tawdry fruit of Low Culture:

I'd never understood pulp design until I started this project.  As I started looking at it, I realized that  the aesthetic of pulp is so deeply attached to its product that it's impossible to separate the two. And that's what great design is, a graphic representation of ideas. When I started examining the designs, to see why some work and some don't, I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of artistry involved in the covers. Pulp was a huge cultural force, there were dozens of magazines and publishers, cranking out stuff every month for decades, detective stories and police stories and noir stories and mysteries. It employed thousands of artists, writers and painters and illustrators. And the energy of the paintings is just off the charts. It had to be, because any given book cover had to compete with the ten thousand other covers that were on display. It had to grab the viewer fast, and make that person pick up the book instead of some other book. I love all kinds of midcentury stuff, but nothing grabs you the way a good pulp cover does.

Not all of his mash ups traffic in mid-century drugstore rack nymphomania.

New Order’s "Bizarre Love Triangle" is the ideal recipient of the abstract approach so common to psychology and philosophy titles of the period.

Needless to say, Alcott’s covers are also a tribute to the musicians he lists as authors, particularly those dating to his New Wave era youth—Bowie, Costello, Joy Division, Talking Heads, King Crimson

I know I could find more popular contemporary artists to make tributes for, but these are the artists I love, I connect to their work on a deep level, and I try to make things that they would see and think "Yeah, this guy gets me.” 

My favorite thing is when people think the pieces are real. That's the highest compliment I can receive. I've had band members contact me and say "Where did you find this?" or "I don't even remember doing this album" or "Where did you find this?" That's when I know I've successfully combined ideas.

Todd Alcott’s Mid-Century Mash Up Book Covers can be purchased as prints from his Etsy store.

All images published with the permission of Todd Alcott.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The 10 Rules for Students and Teachers Popularized by John Cage: “Nothing Is a Mistake,” “Consider Everything an Experiment” & More

The Brian Eno archive More Dark than Shark recently posted on its Twitter account a list of twelve rules for students and teachers used by John Cage. Though much has been written about the artistic affinities between Eno and Cage, both of whose compositions have pushed the boundaries of how we think about music itself, they also both have a deep connection to the idea of using rules to enhance the experience of creation. Where Eno has his deck of creative process-enhancing Oblique Strategies cards, Cage had this list of rules first composed by an educator, silkscreen artist, and nun named Sister Corita Kent.

Kent came up with the list, writes Brainpickings' Maria Popova, "as part of a project for a class she taught in 1967-1968. It was subsequently appropriated as the official art department rules at the college of LA’s Immaculate Heart Convent, her alma mater, but was commonly popularized by Cage, whom the tenth rule cites directly." That tenth rule, more of a meta-rule, reminds the reader that "we're breaking all the rules" by "leaving plenty of room for X quantities." But one can easily imagine how the previous nine, having as much to do with the enjoyment of the work of learning, teaching, and creating as with its rigorous performance, might appeal to Cage as well. The complete list runs as follows:

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher: Pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined: this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail, there's only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It's lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: We're breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything. It might come in handy later.

Some of the rules on Kent's list, which has now exerted its influence for half a century, sound faintly like the Oblique Strategies Eno and the painter Peter Schmidt would come up with in the 1970s. Take rule number six, "Nothing is a mistake," which brings to mind the Oblique Strategy "Honor thy error as a hidden intention." But we're all on the same field when it comes to techniques to move our minds in worthwhile new directions, as Cage, Kent, Eno, Schmidt, and most other serious students, teachers, and creators might agree. They'd certainly agree that, all rules aside, everything ultimately comes down to doing the work itself, day in and day out. "Craft," as Eno once said," is what enables you to be successful when you're not inspired."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Behold the Art-o-Mat: Vintage Cigarette Vending Machines Get Repurposed & Dispense Works of Art

It’s a well known fact that anyone who’s quitting smoking will need to find something to occupy their hands.

Many experts suggest holding a pencil or another vaguely-cigarette-shaped object.

Others prescribe busy work—cracking nuts and peeling oranges.

Hardcore cases are advised to keep those paws busy with a hobby such as painting or woodworking.

But from where we sit, the most spiritually rewarding, symbolic activity for someone in this tender situation would be creating a tiny artwork prototype to sell in an Art-o-Mat®, one of over 100 vintage cigarette vending machines specifically repurposed to dispense art.

Located primarily in the US, the machines are the brainchild of artist Clark Whittington, who loaded the first one with black & white, block-mounted photos for a 1997 solo show in a Winston-Salem cafe.

These days, there are a hundred or so Art-o-Mats, stocked with the work of artists both professional and amateur, who have successfully navigated the submission process.

A variety of mediums is represented—painting, sculpture, fine art prints, jewelry, assemblages, cut paper, and tiny bound books.

Worthington encourages would-be participants to avoid the ease of mass production in favor of unique items that bear evidence of the human hand:

The vending process is only the beginning of your Art-o-Mat® art. Once purchased and two steps away from the machine, your work is solely a reflection of you and your art. Many pieces have been carried around the globe. So, think of approaches that do not convey “a Sunday afternoon at the copy shop” and consider ways that your art will be appreciated for years to come.

The guidelines are understandably strict with regard to dimensions. Wouldn’t want to kill the blind box thrill by jamming a vintage vending machine’s inner workings.

Edibles, magnets, balloons, glitter, confetti, and anything processed alongside peanuts are verboten materials.

A certain popular decoupage medium is another no-no, as it adheres to the mandated protective wrap.

And just as cigarettes carry sternly worded warnings from the Surgeon General, artists are advised to include a label if their submission could be considered unsuitable for underage collectors.

If you need a hand to walk you through the process, have a look at crafter Shannon Greene’s video, above.

Greene became enthralled with the Art-o-Mat experience on a heavily documented trip to Las Vegas, when she put $5 in the Cosmopolitan Hotel’s machine, and received a box of string and painted canvas scrap bookmarks created by Kelsey Huckaby.

(Witness artist Huckaby treating herself to one of her own creations from an Austin, Texas Art-o-Mat on her birthday, below, to see a machine in action. Particularly recommended for those who came of age after these once-standard fixtures were banned from the lobbies of bars and diners.)

Other repurposed machines in the Art-o-Mat stable include the zippy red number in Ocala, Florida’s Appleton Museum of Art, a cool blue customer residing in Stanford University’s Lantana House, and a 6-knob model that periodically pops up in various arts-friendly New York City venues.

As the jolly and self-deprecating crafter Greene observes, at $5 a “yank,” no one is getting rich off this project, though the artists get 50% of the proceeds.

It’s also worth noting that these original artworks cost less than a pack of cigarettes in all but six states.

We agree with Greene that the experience more than justifies the price. Whatever art one winds up with is but added value.

Greene does not regret the considerable labor that went into the 100 tiny journals covered in retired billboard vinyl she was required to crank out after her prototypes were greenlit.

To determine whether or not you’re prepared to do the time, have a peek at Katharine Miele’s labor-intensive process, below. Even though the artist’s contact information is included along with every Art-o-Mat surprise, there’s no guarantee that she’ll hear back from anyone who wound up with one of the geometric chair linocuts she spent a week making.

Other Art-o-Mat artists, like Susan Rossiter, have figured out how to play by the rules while also realizing a bit of return beyond the Pippi Longstocking-like satisfaction of creating a nifty experience for random strangers. The machines are stocked with originals of her tiny multi-media chicken portraits, and she sells prints on her website.

Or perhaps, you, like mononymous physicist Colleen, find a meditative pleasure in the act of creation. To date, she’s painted 1150 cigarette-pack-sized blocks for inclusion in the machines.

Still game? Get started with an Art-o-Mat prototype kit for $19.99 here.

(As Greene joyfully points out, it comes with such goodies as a little journal, a pencil, and an official Art-o-Mat eraser.)

Take inspiration - or dream about what $5 might get you - in the collector’s show and tell, above.

Feeling flush and far from the nearest Art-o-Mat location?  Support the project by dropping a Benjamin on an Art-o-Carton containing 10 tiny artworks, custom selected in response to a short, personality-based questionnaire.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Eleven Rules for Writing from Eight Contemporary Playwrights 

Chances are most of us won’t be immediately familiar with the eight mostly British playwrights reflecting on their process in the National Theatre’s video, above.

That’s a good thing.

It's easier to choose which pieces of inspiring, occasionally conflicting writing advice to follow when the scale's not weighted down by the thumb of celebrity.

(Though rest assured that there’s no shortage of people who do know their work, if the National Theater is placing them in the hot seat.)

It’s impossible to follow all of their suggestions on any given project, so go with your gut.

Or try your hand at one that doesn’t come naturally, especially if you’ve been feeling stuck.

These approaches are equally valid for those writing fiction, and possibly even certain types of poetry and song.

The National wins points for assembling a diverse group—there are four women and four men, three of whom are people of color.

Within this crew, it’s the women who overwhelmingly bring up the notions of permission and perfection, as in it’s okay to let your first draft be absolutely dreadful.

Most of the males are prone to plotting things out in advance.

And no one seems entirely at home marooned against a seamless white background on a plain wooden stool.

Jewish identity, school shootings, immigration, race, climate change, and homophobia are just some of the topics they have considered in their plays.

Some have worked in film and TV, adapted the classics, or written for young audiences.

They have won prestigious awards, seen their plays staged ‘round the globe, and had success with other artistic pursuits, including poetry, performance, and dance.

Clearly, you'll find some great advice below, though it's not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Let us know in the comments which rules you personally consider worth following.

Eleven Rules for Writing from Eight Contemporary Playwrights

1. Start


2. Don’t start. Let your idea marinate for a minimum of six months, then start.

3.. Have some sort of outline or plan before you start

4. Do some research

5. Don’t be judgmental of your writing while you’re writing

6. Embrace the terrible first draft 

7. Don’t show anyone your first draft, unless you want to.

8. Know how it’s going to end


9. Don’t know how it’s going end

10. Work with others

11. Print it, and read it like someone experiencing it for the first time. No editing aloud. Get that pen out of your hand.

And now, it’s time to discover the work of the participating playwrights. Go see a show, or at least read about one in the links:

In-Sook Chappell

Ryan Craig

Suhayla El-Bushra

Inua Ellams

Lucy Kirkwood

Evan Placey

Tanya Ronder

Simon Stephens

The National Theatre has several fascinating playlists devoted to playwriting. Find them here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Wednesday, May 16 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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