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Human Rights Watch

Around this time last year, I created an image of Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, who despite being elected prime minister in 1990 has been kept out of power by Burma’s military junta, and has been placed under house arrest for the better part of the last 20 years. The military regime has also imprisoned over 2,100 other political activists, including artists, poets and musicians who have expressed their dissent through their art.
It saddens me to know that there are places in this world where artists can’t make art or express themselves otherwise without fearing imprisonment or worse. It is a fundamental violation of human rights, according to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
I believe that all positive change stems from acts of self-expression, but the Burmese military regime fears change and fends it off by stifling expression. To an artist, that censorship is like an acid that corrodes the soul. Within a society, it is a contagious paranoia that Aung San Suu Kyi once summed up perfectly: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
Today there is some slim hope for democracy and human rights in Burma as a result of the diplomatic pressure that the UN, the U.S. and Japan have exerted. The junta has announced that there will be elections later this year, though they haven’t said when, and if the four illegal extensions of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest are any indication I’d say they have a habit of going back on their word. I consider Burmese democracy an important cause that demands more awareness and activism in the U.S. and around the world, not only because of the plight of Burma’s dissidents but because I believe that a global grassroots movement can help create real change there.
To the artists currently imprisoned in Burma, I would like to say that your voice can never be silenced, because it is the voice of everyone who believes in freedom. I hope that you will soon have the means and the rights to create again.
If you’d like to get involved in the grassroots movement to free Burma’s political prisoners, visit the Human Rights Watch site dedicated to the cause: http://www.hrw.org/free-burmas-prisoners/take-action

Here is a DOWNLOADABLE version of the Aung San Suu Kyi image

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Clean Up Your Own Mess

The sign in this photo points out a depressing irony. While BP seems to clearly understand that people should be responsible for their own messes at their gas stations, they may not intend to fully clean up their own mess in the Gulf. Most likely, billions of tax dollars will go to cleaning up the BP spill. A concept that I don’t think many people understand is that of COMMON ASSETS. About ten years ago I did a logo for an organization called the Common Assets Defense Fund. The idea is that companies that profit from harming the environment should pay for their environmental impact. When the government pays to clean up environmental damage created by corporations, in essence, tax dollars are subsidizing for profit companies. A concept similar to Common Assets Defense is Cap and Trade. Cap and trade is one method for regulating and ultimately reducing the amount of pollution emitted into the atmosphere. It is viewed as a more democratic solution to regulating pollution than a carbon tax as it creates a commodity out of the right to emit carbon and allows the commodity to be traded on the free market. Ironically, the conservatives who are usually advocates of free market principles fight cap and trade as stifling business… it seems they prefer the current corporate welfare, or at least government subsidy of corporate interests. I am more worried about pollution stifling the survival of the planet. The biggest obstacle to the passage of cap and trade is corporate lobbyists. Corporations spend huge amounts of money to influence legislation. Most people who oppose cap and trade are either on a corporate payroll, or are worried about corporations passing their environmental clean-up costs on to the consumer. The latter is a real possibility, but an even more likely result would be the corporations trying to be cleaner to avoid the penalties and save money in the first place. My friend Adam Werbach who was the youngest president of the Sierra Club, and the person I worked with on the Common Assets Defense Fund, has recently consulted Wal-Mart on their greening effort. I’m no fan of Wal-Mart, but they are getting greener to SAVE MONEY, possibly in anticipation of cap and trade passing, but either way, they are saving money and being less destructive to the planet. I think green technology may need to initially be subsidized, but ultimately its development will be driven by market forces if cap and trade is in place. Thanks for caring.
-Shepard

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The Cobra Shop x LA

I’ve known Mark The Cobra Snake since he was 17. He sent me a really funny letter with photos of creative and subversive things he had done with my images. One of them I especially liked was an “Obey totem pole” he had made that basically consisted of glueing my images all over an extremely heavy object and rolling it on a skateboard to the 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica to be left as an annoyingly heavy propaganda object. I was impressed by the psychology and ingenuity of this endeavor… if putting the totem pole there took slightly more effort than anyone was willing to put into removing it, then the object and propaganda would triumph. Mark asked me if he could come poster bombing with me sometime. I liked his energy and drove to Santa Monica to meet his mom. We had a good time postering and Mark soon became my first assistant (not my top assistant out of several, but actually the first one I ever had). I think that seeing my design studio and underground art dissemination played a part in Mark starting his website. We all want to earn a living doing mischief we want to do anyway, and Mark is no exception, other than that he’s been better at it than most. I’ll be DJ’ing his store opening Tues. night and there will also ATTENTION be a limited number of my prints pulled from my personal archive that are sold out on the internet. I’m sure Mark will have all sorts of random treasures he’s collected and curated. Check it out.
-Shepard

The Cobra Shop
Hollywood and Highland, 4th Floor
Opening Tuesday, June 8th, 6-9pm
RSVP at [email protected]

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Obey Clothing Summer Sample Sale 2010

Summers here and you know what that means! Shorts! Don’t worry we have you covered, Obey Clothing Summer Sample Sale 2010. Same rules as every year: Cash, Visa, MasterCard only. All Sales final. No returns or Exchanges. No Bags. No Backpacks. No Obey is to be worn.

Date/Times:
Friday, June 25th
from 8am – 7pm

Saturday, June 26th
From 8am – 2pm

Address:
3500 W. Carriage Dr.
Santa Ana, CA 92704

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PSFK Speaks with Shepard Fairey on Social Injustice and Youth Expression Through Art

PSFK Speaks With Shepard Fairey On Social Injustice And Youth Expression Through Art
JUNE 1, 2010

The New York CityKids organization is a non-profit youth development program that brings together young adults in inner-city communities. Under the theme “A Positive Thought Cannot Be Denied,” CityKids worked with contemporary artist Shepard Fairey last month to organize a series of murals and expression of ideas on issues of social justice. These topics ranged from teen violence to environmental and education-related issues; the participating youth were encouraged to build on Fairey’s street-art aesthetic to share their perspective through art.

Fairey shared his thoughts with PSFK regarding the importance of reaching out to youth in addressing these larger cultural problems. Watch Shepard talk about the project in the video above.

Skullphone x Subliminal Projects

We are very pleased to announce OBEY’s close friend, Skullphone, is opening his new solo exhibition at Subliminal Projects.  Please join us June 5th for…

DIGITAL MEDIA
New Paintings by Skullphone

Opening Reception:
Saturday, June 5th, 2010 / 8-11PM
DJ Set by Shepard Fairey

June 5th – July 2nd, 2010

Digital Media, the new solo exhibition by Skullphone, brings the playfulness, obsession, irony and anxiety of the Los Angeles-based artists’s renowned street installations into the Subliminal Projects gallery space.

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Sound Strike against Arizona

Zack de la Rocha has gathered a group of courageous artists to boycott against Arizona and its racial profiling law SB1070. The law gives authorities the right to target and single out anyone they “reasonably suspect” may be undocumented. Please join the fight and take a stand against this odious law!

Artists can join the boycott by visiting http://www.thesoundstrike.net/

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Texas Textbook Massacre

Ultraconservatives in Texas have approved radical changes to state educational curriculum. In a shameless attempt to infiltrate their agenda in the classroom they have decided to eliminate crucial events and people from our country’s history.

For more information please CLICK HERE

Sign the petition urging the textbook publisher to stop production on this conservative manifesto.

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MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART SAN DIEGO CALLS FOR WALLS

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is looking for sites in the downtown San Diego area that can be used by artists — featured in the upcoming exhibition Viva la Revolución: A Dialogue with the Urban Landscape — to create murals and other site-specific works on building walls. The exhibition will take place this July in SD and will feature Shepard and a major group of incredible artist. Click more to see the full roster of artists and info on offering your location.

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Wall Street’s War

Most people are aware of the stranglehold big business has over our government. In my opinion, the problem can’t be fixed without campaign finance reform. Many of the laws that are made to protect big business, or are NOT made to protect average Americans are negotiated in the background and then justified to the public with dramatic spin. Matt Taibbi has a great article in this month’s Rolling Stone with Russell Brand on the cover, illuminating why finance reform will not be as potent as it should be to protect average Americans. The insidious manipulation by big business and it’s lobbyists must be countered for government to represent the interests of those below the top of the pyramid. There is a great organization called Fix Congress First whose goal it is to counter these problems. The web site is http://www.fixcongressfirst.org/.

For Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article click here.

Thanks for caring,
Shepard

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