Home Uncategorized Eric Drooker harmonizes activism and artistry

Eric Drooker harmonizes activism and artistry

by The Concordian October 31, 2011
Using a banjo, a harmonica and a microphone, artist and activist Eric Drooker guided his audience from his childhood in New York drawing what he saw on television, to painting the wall in Palestine.
His “musical slide show” began by displaying the image of a cat and the words “General Strike” in about a dozen languages on a screen. He spoke of his appreciation of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is engaging citizens against economic inequality on a global scale. It’s a type of movement he hasn’t seen since 1968.
Drooker grew up watching television; the weird, sci-fi and fantasy shows influenced his art.  His drawings were striking and colourful.  They landed him in therapy.
“The Vietnam War was raging, napalm was being dropped,” said Drooker.  “And yet it’s the seven year old kid that gets busted and sent to anger management therapy.”
As a youngster, Drooker was introduced to the New York Beat Generation of Allan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac; they were a group of post-WWII writers who embraced sexual liberation, experimented with drugs, rejected materialism, and embodied spontaneous and unconventioal means of expression and being. He grew up in the same neighbourhood as Ginsberg, and developed a relationship with him.
As he spoke, the images changed from childhood drawings to slick cityscape panels, which Drooker called “sequential art.”  He tells his stories using a kind of comic book form using little or no words to tell their tales―a style he developed.
Next in his narrative, images from the cover of the New Yorker appear.  Drooker’s paintings have appeared regularly on the magazines cover since 1994.
How does a former street artist and activist wind up on the cover of the New Yorker?
“If you make it really beautiful, or if you make it really funny, they’re more likely to accept it in the mainstream,” Drooker explained.
Going back to Ginsberg, he continued his slideshow, talking about their relationship, their mutual inspiration and their collaboration on one of Ginsberg’s late collections of poetry: “Illuminated Poems,” released in 2006.
Their connection that continued after Ginsberg’s death when Drooker was asked to animate part of the 2010 film “Howl,” which was based on Ginsberg’s famous beat poem by the same name.
The screen rolled the films animation while Drooker read:
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
Starving hysterical naked,
Dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix…”
Ginsberg’s poem spurred a groundbreaking obscenity trial in 1955 when it was first released.  After the poem was found “not obscene” banned books such as D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover were released; the trial is essentially repsonsible for liberalizing America’s publishing industry.
The presentation concluded with a tour of Palestine through the lens of Drooker’s smuggled camera: destroyed buildings, confused children and the wall.
He plucked his guitar while casually detailing the travails of Palestinians in the occupied sections of Gaza and the West Bank.
The wall becomes central in the last part of Drooker’s presentation. He recounts painting a mural with neighbourhood children on a part of the wall that blocks the view from a family’s apartment. The mural, though beautiful, is unsatisfying to Drooker, who would rather the wall not be there at all.
His experience in Palestine influenced the title “Artists Against Apartheid,” and his presentation at La Sala Rossa on Friday night was followed by a workshop on art and activism at Drawn & Quarterly on Saturday night.

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