Despite the doom and gloom of financial crises, global terrorism, climate collapse, and the rise of the far-right, a number of leading intellectuals (Steven Pinker, Hans Rosling, Johan Norberg, and Matt Ridley, among others) have been arguing in recent years that the world is getting better and better. Extreme poverty is nearly eradicated, violence is at historic lows, and only mass pessimism keeps us from realizing how good we have it in the twenty-first century.
The Glass Half-Empty debunks the most important arguments given by these “New Optimists” and exposes their progress narrative as being little more than a very conservative defence of the status quo.
At a time when liberal democracy appears incapable of stemming the tide of authoritarian populism, and when laissez-faire capitalism is ill-equipped to deal with critical socio-economic problems like climate change, inequality, and the future of work, the real advocates of progress are those willing to challenge established orthodoxies rather than hope that the policies that got us this far are the best to lead us into an increasingly uncertain future.
This is flying off the shelves so fast it’s being reprinted.
Not only is Grace Blakeley on a punishing tour to promote it, but Frankie Boyle and Owen Jones have endorsed it.
Another cool Repeater cover with a bird on it, cementing my reputation as one of Britain’s most brilliant and original graphic designers. *citation needed* .
A portrait I redrew in Illustrator to give some sense of strategies in diagrammatic form.
From Repeater Books:
‘Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz famously wrote that “War is the continuation of politics by other means”.
But what does Clausewitz mean to a world where economic, political and cultural conflicts are increasingly framed as wars?
Written after the Napoleonic Wars but left unfinished at the author’s death and not published until 1832, On War is one of the most influential and important works on military strategy ever written.’
Maurice El Médioni is 90 years old and still going strong.
I think I had one black and white photo to work from, but sometimes less is more, but never too much.
Max Reinhardt presents Radio 3s brilliant Late Junction, and if you know the show, you won’t be surprised to find that Maurice and the music he plays is well within his catalogue of joys. You can catch a flavour just by the title. Maurice was born to Jewish parents, and his journey from Africa to France is as rich a tale as you can expect. His style, called PianOriental is just exquiste, and he plays with a band called the Klezmatics in Paris!.
I’ve only just finished this artwork, but I really like how it turned out.
I’d just been reading about the pointlessness of it and I wasn’t surprised at Trump’s statement that ‘torture works’ and would be signing an executive order revising rules of detention. Imagine Trump being water boarded: “Whaddya wanna know? Yes of course I had no bone spurs!” And afterwards: “I was being tortured. I was telling them what they wanted to know.”
Peter Fleming is a funny and perceptive author on the sort of mess he conjectures in this book.
I’d started a painting of a motley crew of, well, I only knew they were inspired by a film of Alexei German called Hard To Be A God, which is an incredible feast of filth set on another planet where the Renaissance hasn’t materialised… You get the picture. The painting is called Feeding The Sea God In Dirt Bay. A jolly day out by the water for inhabitants of this brutal and toxic landscape.
“Donald Trump, Brexit, the impending environmental eco-blitz (or what NASA calls a “Type-L” collapse given the role played by elites) and the prospect of another Radiohead album give the appearance that things couldn’t possibly get worse. And yet, I disagree. They probably will.”
The author, Ron Purser, had the idea which I drew up on Illustrator after finding a great picture on the Adobe Stock library and filtered through Photoshop.
He’s already got a lot of ace reviews; here’s one that sets the tone nicely:
“This is it. McMindfulness is just the right book at just the right time. With crystalline clarity and delightfully lucent prose, Ron Purser prosecutes a devastating case that mindfulness enthusiasts have placed their practice in collusion with the malignant individualism of neoliberalism. Purser’s argument cannot be ignored. May it help turn the tide of western ‘spirituality’ toward a genuine model of personal and social health.”
— Glenn Wallis, author of A Critique of Western Buddhism and Director of Insight Seminars
A bit obvious, I know, but there was a need for a very simple, almost violently direct image to illustrate a subject which is frightening in its complexity.
“I try and read everything Keith Kahn-Harris writes on British Jews and this intelligent book, on how anti-racists have lost their way, and how they can find their way back, is no exception.”
– Ben Judah, author This Is London
The much-missed Mark Fisher and the weighty anthology he deserved, with a cover of cosmic splendour and gold-embossed type. My approach was much more woodcutty and earnest until Tariq gave me the starmap.
“… He loved unsettling television and disruptive pop because these – along with the music press – had served as his education as a working-class boy cut off from high culture. Fisher’s enduring faith was that irruptions of the culturally new and alien could instil the confidence that change was possible in other areas of life. Such disturbances proved that the structures and strictures of the status quo were not immutable. Possibly overestimating slightly, in his characteristic and endearing way, Fisher hailed (Russell) Brand’s Messiah Complex performances as a tour de force showcase of politics as ‘the psychedelic dismantling of reality’…” – Simon Reynolds The Guardian
A lovely simple idea from Tamar Shlaim of Repeater which I think I drew in Illustrator. Note to self: get these covers up when you’ve done them, then you can remember how you did them.
“AC/DC were one of the first bands I heard as a child coming from my older brother’s bedroom. I instinctively loved them and failed to notice that when Bon Scott pronounced his desire for Rosie, he was saying it in spite of her not being a perfect size eight. I still hadn’t clocked this when I first saw them live at the age of 18 and was faced with the inflatable Rosie who was, quite literally, the size of a house.”
The author liked the simple red background and the speakers-as-skyline, but the route to simplicity was full of complicated and closely examined scenery. “Dead Precedents is almost pamphlet-length, barely 150 pages long – although accompanied by extensive notes, bibliography and further listening, appropriately – but it is no less emphatic in its argument that the 21st century truly began with these twin movements. And even if the cyberpunk moment encapsulated in the thrilling writings of William Gibson, Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling has passed, its spirit lives on in the Afrofuturist R&B of Janelle Monáe or the beats of Flying Lotus, the films of Boots Riley, the Afropunk festival, and a thousand other bionically blooming flowers of hip-hop culture. And this is before we even contemplate what the young people growing up on Black Panther will go on to create. Grandmaster Flash was ‘hip-hop’s first hacker, its first cyberpunk’, Christopher contends at one point; he will not be the last.” – Dan Hancox The Guardian
Only the strong survive In Tariq Goddard’s take on the Victorian novel.
It’s a tray-bake from hell; a gruesome and appalling bunch of characters roaming the pages, coming to no good. Wonderful stuff. There’s a novel-length party scene which is like reading Hunter S Thompson on the very special English gift of perfect rudeness . It’s a huge, electrifying book. I got the cover idea from Mat Osman, electrifying bassist mate of Tariq’s.
A taste: “Nature and Necessity opens in the 1970s and ends roughly around the present day. The lady of the house is Petula Montague, who married into money in the form of her second husband, Noah. She has two children from her previous marriage whom she alternately dominates and neglects; Evita eventually runs away and becomes a drug-addled hippy, whereas Jasper, or Jazzy as he is known, stays on the family estate as a disgruntled labourer, ‘like a cross between Arthur Scargill and Bill Sykes’. Petula lavishes all her attention on her daughter with Noah, Regan (the King Lear reference is entirely relevant). She encourages people to refer to them as ‘the sisters’, and we are told ‘there had never been a point in her life where she considered her daughter’s property or affairs separate from her own”. – Henry Jeffreys The Guardian
Repeater is that rare thing: a platform for writers who range from award-winning fiction writers like Tariq Goddard (cover detail shown) to cultural theorists like the late Mark Fisher and Eugene Thacker.
Everything is tackled in every genre. Music, sport, politics, philosophy, travel and general epiphanies abound. The first Repeater was Dawn Foster’s Lean Out, a rebuttal of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, a call for women to gather round, make a noise, get on that male-dominated board. Dawn’s book was a shout out to the cleaners and the not-so-rich who work hard for peanuts and then have to get the night bus home to make breakfast.
“We are alive and we don’t agree” is Repeater’s line.
Tristam’s book argues that the workplace conditions our empathy. I tried to construct someone who is tyrannically pretend-empathetic. We’ve all seen them. Brilliant performers but mercilessly self-interested. This is my photo-fit of such a desolate chameleon.
There were so many ideas and photographs thrown at me, that this minimal idea, based on chord diagrams becoming tower blocks, seemed, in hindsight, to be the only answer. The metaphor is stronger than I originally thought: turning complicated art into bland commerce.
“When you walk around the offices, hotels and speculative housing of Docklands it’s hard to imagine the noise and atmosphere of industrial process that saturated the whole eastern stretches of the estuary. Close your eyes to conjure up the atmosphere, and the sounds are too distant to recall. The aesthetics are also scrubbed clean, the fragments of industrial residue that are left, like the cranes and former wharf buildings of West India Quay stand as a congealed moment of the past, fetish objects to remind bankers of a sense of physical history as they gamble imaginary money in digital systems.”
– Will Jennings
In the mid-1960s, a new generation of young Turkish musicians combined Western pop music with traditional Anatolian folk to forge the home-grown phenomenon of Anadolu Pop.
But that was just the beginning. Through the second half of that turbulent decade, Turkish rock warped and transformed, striking out into wilder and stranger territory – fuelled by the psychedelic revolution and played out over a backdrop of cultural, social and political turmoil.
A complicated montage of Mount Rushmore being beheaded with The Parthenon and the palace of Westminster being dragged aloft by a hot-air balloon of public opinion. Another colourful job for me and Photoshop.
In recent years, the West has seen a rising tide of populist and anti-political feeling. Figures like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have gained power by distancing themselves from “the establishment” and portraying politics itself as the enemy of the people.
In this book, Eliane Glaser — one of the early commentators to call attention to this new wave of populism — takes stock of how we got here and where we’re going. At the heart of this is a vital question: Is the “death of politics” simply an inevitable sign of the times, going hand in hand with climate change, technological development and postmodern malaise? Or is it the intentional result of right-wing engineering?
Winner of the 2019 Stonewall Book Award—Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Book Award
“Using bisexuality as a frame, Go the Way Your Blood Beats questions the division of sexuality into straight and gay, in a timely exploration of the complex histories and psychologies of human desire.
A challenge to the idea that sexuality can either ever be fully known or neatly categorised, it is a meditation on desire’s unknowability. Interwoven with anonymous addresses to past loves – the sex of whom remain obscure – the book demonstrates the universalism of human desire.
Part essay, part memoir, part love letter, Go the Way Your Blood Beats asks us to see desire and sexuality as analogous with art – a mysterious, creative force.”
A pen nib drawn in negative space amidst some Caribbean foliage made this an unusually delicate Repeater cover.
In Decolonial Daughter: Letters from a Black Woman to her European Son, Trinidadian-American writer & activist Lesley-Ann Brown explores, through the lens of motherhood, issues such as migration, identity, nationhood and how it relates to land, forced migrations, imprisonment and genocide for Black and Indigenous people.
I thought this playful bit of illustration went some way to give a taste of what lay in store:
“Thus starts a surreal, philosophically maddening quest for meaning. Chasing the elusive Mosquito leads Proteus to in-between worlds where things do not quite hold together, and where the living and the dead must learn to live in and out of the boundaries of time. The further he gets from sanity, the closer he comes to something that may turn out to be wisdom.
Playful but unapologetically challenging, New People of the Flat Earth is a breathtakingly original novel that defies categorisation or summary.”
No Less Than Mystic: A History of Lenin and the Russian Revolution for a 21st-Century Left
“Although it offers a full and complete history of Leninism, 1917, the Russian Civil War and its aftermath, the book devotes more time than usual to the policies and actions of the socialist alternatives to Bolshevism – to the Menshevik Internationalists, the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs), the Jewish Bundists and the anarchists. It prioritises Factory Committees, local Soviets, the Womens’ Zhenotdel movement, Proletkult and the Kronstadt sailors as much as the statements and actions of Lenin and Trotsky.
Using the neglected writings and memoirs of Mensheviks like Julius Martov, SRs like Victor Chernov, Bolshevik oppositionists like Alexandra Kollontai and anarchists like Nestor Makhno, it traces a revolution gone wrong and suggests how it might have produced a more libertarian, emancipatory socialism than that created by Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
We do not need another standard history of the Russian Revolution. This is not one.”
The Neurotic Turn: Inter-Disciplinary Correspondences on Neurosis
We live in an age saturated with images. Video screens loop multimillion dollar ads while we sit in the back of taxis. Teenagers scavenge through public parks in search of Pokemon. Technology has created for us a new reality; one which we are still struggling to understand.
Taking their cue from the work of Charles Johns, who has argued that, far from being an ailment, neurosis is in fact the dominant condition of our society today, an array of thinkers have gathered in The Neurotic Turn to address the question: How can the concept of “neurosis” help us understand this new, digitized world in which we live and our place within it?
With essays from Charles Johns, Graham Harman, Benjamin Noys, Patricia Reed, Dany Nobus, John Russon and Katerina Kolozova.
In the autumn of 1976, two young British Fine Arts students travelled to New York on a university grant, but instead of merely studying ended up staying with one of the city’s pioneering punk journalists, visiting the Museum of Modern Art by day and hanging out in punk epicentre CBGBs by night. It is from this trip that Gang of Four emerged.
Blending revelations from interviews with the band conducted by the author with snippets from newspaper articles and record reviews, Jim Dooley tells the history of Gang of Four as they remember it. From their days at art school through countless tours, records and reunions, Red Set is the definitive history of one of Britain’s greatest and most influential bands.
Shard Cinema tells an expansive story of how moving images have changed in the last three decades and how they changed us along with them, rewiring the ways we watch, fight, and navigate an unsteady world.
With a range that spans film, games, software, architecture, and military technologies, the book crosses the twentieth century into our present to confront a new order of seeing and making that took slow shape: the composite image, where no clean distinction can be made between production and post-production, filmed and animated, material and digital.
Giving equal ground to costly blockbusters and shaky riot footage, Williams leads us from computer-generated “shards” of particles and debris to the broken phone screen on which we watch those digital storms, looking for the unexpected histories lived in the interval between.
Mad Skills: MIDI and Music Technology in the Twentieth Century
“Blending technical knowledge, business history, and cultural polemic, Mad Skills is a sharp study of a human invention that stamped its post-human character over an entire era of pop.” – Simon Reynolds, author of Retromania and Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture
From A Whisper To A Shout: Abortion Activism and Social Media
Abortion remains legal in the US, but access has been slowly eroded since prohibition was ruled unconstitutional nearly fifty years ago. Simultaneously abortion remains culturally stigmatised – it is kept secret and presumed shameful. But feminist activists are working to increase access and challenge this stigma. Numerous organisations and campaigns are challenging abortion stigma using the internet and social media and intersectional feminist sensibilities.
“What exactly are the Weird and the Eerie? In this new essay, Mark Fisher argues that some of the most haunting and anomalous fiction of the 20th century belongs to these two modes.
The Weird and the Eerie are closely related but distinct modes, each possessing its own distinct properties. Both have often been associated with Horror, yet this emphasis overlooks the aching fascination that such texts can exercise. The Weird and the Eerie both fundamentally concern the outside and the unknown, which are not intrinsically horrifying, even if they are always unsettling”
I made the cover out of an imaginary acrylic painting, which seemed to suit the title, and retouched slightly in Photoshop. I subsequently called it A Fisher Moon.