Sketching anarchy

By PHILIP EIL  |  November 14, 2012

HOW DOES PROVIDENCE STACK UP AS A UTOPIA? IS IT A PLACE WHERE EVERYDAY ANARCHISM IS BEING EXPLORED? I think there is a younger generation of folks, like the Libertalia [the "radical social space" on Broadway] folks, who are trying to make things happen in a pretty great way. I support it. I try to come out to things when I can. I do little things for folks here and there, but I don't feel super plugged in to that. What I feel more plugged into is this sort of DIY arts scene that happens here that I think is a really special place where all these really talented people from really different disciplines and backgrounds and interests, they're all coming together. I really appreciate how, in form, it's very experimental. It feels very open in ways that other places don't.

IS THIS BOOK AN INSTRUCTION MANUAL? What I try to do with images is to form empathic linkages. I'm making this image of this huge crowd of people in Tahrir Square and I'm staring at all these faces for hours and hours as my wrist gradually cramps up and I'm falling in love with these people and I'm deeply engrossed in their lives and feel this deep care for the people I'm depicting in this moment of rebellion.

I'm hoping that that transfers to the viewer and they feel a similar empathy and solidarity with the figures that I depict. I think we live in a very atomized and splintered and alienated and depressing world. And so I'm trying to create these moments, even if it's a very bleak image, where people are feeling deeply for one another.

I really like [that image] because it gets at, I think, what the core of Tahrir Square was about. It was all of these things happening at the same time. You've got your kindergarten. You've got your self-organized trash-collection service. And then you have these martyrs' walls, you have people sleeping on the tanks. And it's all happening in the same space. There's all these forms of resistance that are all happening in organic concert with each other. I really like to challenge myself to make things as complex as possible because I think it's a very complex world and it helps me to understand it — feel at peace with the complexity — when I have this massive, busy image that I'm whittling away at every day.

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