In case you missed me speaking about the threats that women journalists face online at the Media Convention Berlin last month, here’s your chance to make up for it. I was honored to speak to Der Spiegel ahead of the event and to see they’d recommended my workshop for visitors to re:publica. I was in such remarkable company, with several workshops dedicated to dealing with the threats and online harassment women are experiencing. If you’ve got 30 minutes, here’s a great overview of something I’ll be covering for the next several months.
After writing a feature on Anabel Hernandez’s reporting on corruption and drug cartels in Mexico — and the role that Europe and the US plays in the thousands of murders in Latin America that is driving migration and displacement — it was an honor to hear Hernandez speak in person at this year’s Global Media Forum. In creating a short profile of her work and reporting out the unique threats that journalists in Mexico face (it is, in 2019, the most dangerous country not at war for journalists), I learned what true courage is. Here’s an excerpt from her speech accepting the award; you can read it in its entirety at the DW Freedom page, where I’m a contributing editor.
“The killings of journalists are increasing all over the world. Journalists live in the most violent time in recent history, thus affecting society’s human right to be timely and truthfully informed. Each journalist killed means repercussions on hundreds of people who remain silent in the face of violence.
But why are they killing us? Why are they threatening us? Why are they imprisoning us? Why do they want to silence us?
The world is living in dark times in all respects, in all spheres. Where we look, everything is confusing, there is no clarity, there is no transparency, there is no accountability. Frontiers are becoming blurred, economic models no longer really differ from one another. The distances between left, center and right are shrinking.
In so many countries of the world, the same thing seems to be happening, putting democracy at great risk and the freedoms that to achieve have cost us so many sacrifices.”
My first summer in New York, Keith Haring’s yellow men seemed to be everywhere I went, especially on the Lower East Side and in Soho, where I spent most days. I hadn’t understood their appeal nor their meaning. At 19, I didn’t understand why this was considered such influential art. I was hanging out with club kids and skaters and street artists and I knew his work was important to them but I would never know why.
Twenty years later, I looked into Haring further, just ahead of an exhibition at the Albertina in Vienna and found a deeper meaning in his work than I could ever have read into back in the mid-90s, shortly after the artist’s death.
Perhaps most memorable of his figures were the yellow-colored outlines of people in movement, their arms and legs turned outward or raised to the sky in what looks like break dancing. These dancing characters appear over and over again in drawings, as do variations on a spiky-headed dog, a symbol that some considered Haring’s street tag, or signature.
Always interested in social activism, Haring turned a critical eye to subjects that were on everyone’s minds in the 1980s: apartheid in South Africa, the Cold War and the military-industrial complex, HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ rights. Although his drawings included no words to reflect his political beliefs, the symbolism Haring employed made transparent his feelings about the subjects: dollar signs representing the greed of the go-go decade or mushroom clouds reflecting the artist’s feelings toward nuclear disarmament. These overtly political statements helped the artist garner invitations to create work in cities across Europe, including a mural on the Berlin Wall.
Both a review of the astounding exhibition in Vienna and a glimpse at Haring’s biography, my response is over at Deutsche Welle’s culture page. What I didn’t get to mention — something I’d love to look into further in future — is how great a role fashion and the fashion industry has played in memorializing Haring’s work. And the way that his drawings appearing on accessories has made his art more accessible to the masses.