Will’o’wisps and fairytales strangers

in your eyes, reversed shards
tinted tiny tricks
and my tattered whispers trapped in the Box of words
among letters and your pretty shiny things
baby chameleons in the closet
of course they are always there
playing subtile and kissed stories from a lier
tounges tickling glaring Kaleidoscope
hope in the dept of your wishing well
I live all my episodes alone in soft Hideouts shelters
will’o’wisps and fairytales strangers,
walking my walk talking my talk
vibes and tunes not mine
your moves and chills
and in my bones your cheap thrills
and my ribs like thorns cut sharp through raw flesh

Poetry: Emma Holtze

Popee The Performer – Review

Text & Art: Annie Hansen 

Popee The Performer is a 3D animated kids show created by Ryuji Masuda. The show aired on TV back in 2001-2003 in Japan and it lasted three seasons with 40 episodes that have around a 4-5 minute long runtime.

At first glance, Popee The Performer might look like a bizarre and creepy low quality project with ugly, lazy animation and filled with over-the-top violence and immature content. Some people might therefore turn their nose on it and not give the show a proper chance. But there is so much more to Popee The Performer and it’s 100% worth giving it a chance. Keep in mind, this is early 2000s computer animation so it’s not going to live up to today’s standards, especially not with the small budget and tight deadline the creator had to work with. Ryuji Masuda took all the limitations and used it to his advantage and really made it work. The unique and somewhat off-putting artstyle and movement of the characters work in the show’s favor, because it adds more spice to it’s already bizarre nature.

The plot is quite simple. The show’s two main characters are, of course, Popee the performer himself and his assistant, Kedamono. The episodes often start out with the characters trying to perform a circus trick or something similar, and it somehow always goes horribly wrong. Popee is a clown with severe anger issues and he loves to use violence to deal with all of his problems. The one who usually has to suffer through Popee’s excessive violence is Kedamono, Popee’s masked purple wolf assistant. There are other characters that are introduced later on, such as Papi, who is another clown with a very flamboyant personality that loves to challenge Popee’s violence with even more violence. There is also a frog, an alien and a sentient elephant car. 

The series is filled with slapstick comedy and is pretty similar to Tom and Jerry, just way more extreme and bloody. The characters die regularly in very gruesome and violent ways. Anything from getting shot or hit by a car to destroying the earth by throwing the sun at it or even fighting God, could happen in this show. Because of its short runtime things need to happen fast. The plot of the episode therefore always escalates quickly in very extreme and bizarre ways and it is always hilarious. The creator couldn’t afford voice actors so the show had to rely on visual storytelling and physical comedy instead, which is a great choice since it makes Popee The Performer completely universal. Anyone, no matter what language they speak, can understand and enjoy the show. 


Popee the Performer got pretty popular in Japan back in the days. Both the TV-station and viewers of all ages seemed to enjoy it and there was even some merchandise and a manga made. Now, twenty years later it lives on as a bizarre series of videos with a dedicated fanbase that you might stumble upon on the internet if you are lucky. Go check it out.

Boardgame playtesting mixed with fresh new ideas – Cuties and Monsters – Part 1

Text & art & photos: Ushiri

The idea for the game came to me at 2014 but I postponed it since I had other projects. I then started developing it again in 2018 and have been playtesting it through 2019 to this date intensly with people I know and not know at all in different groups, also over zoom from different places in Europe. Game eveluation sheets are handed out both physical and digital to all playtesters.

Playtest & combined open-source development

The way I playtest is a sort of combined open source developement variant where all people can speak their creative mind and we directly test it in the game without hesitation. I´m a strong believer that regardless of your own creative ego you can allways take input from others. This can of course be challenging to keep the red thread and not to steeraway from your intended vision of what you want to achive in the end.

Excerpt from a Childrens book based on ” Sötisar & monster”

Bad gamedevelopement & playtesting

I meet boardgame developers where their ego can´t stand pure clean critizism of bad gamemechanics and when the game suffers of being boring. Playtesting with tons of people is the way to make a good game and not take it personal if someone says they dont enjoy it or just think it´s plain dull. If they say this ask them why and what it is they don´t enjoy to get knowledge of why it does not appeal. Perhaps the game is not for them or there really is a strong truth in what the say. The most important of playtesting is to amass a ton of people that are not your real friends and just random people to get more honest opinions because they are not afraid to hurt your feelings.

Developement so far 2021-06-03: Optimize card text, redraw illustrations on cards bricks, colourize them and continue to develope/edit the layout for the gamemanual. Further playtesting to streamline the cards for the basegame. Add more objects art to the gamemap. Reach out to new playtestgroups that will do ” Blind gametests” which in practice means that they will playtest it with me silently being in another part of the room or sitting over the net watching them play without me.

Sötisar och monster / Cuties and monsters ( All art/design/rulesystem names are copyright Ushiri Stenberg©2021

Content: 16 cuties, 4 monsters, 2-sided gamemap, 1 manual, 1 box, 1 dice, bricks, cards. Playtime: 60min

A tactical cute boardgame that has more depth than meets the eye. Rules will be available firstly in Swedish and then, German, English. Possibly French & Spanish.

Instagram tag: #sötisarochmonster and some videos not uploaded here.

Future playtester?

Are you interested in being a playtester with 2 of your friends or over zoom, don´t hesitate to write me at ushiri@ushiri.com

The need for grey scales. Reflections after reading “Mörk choklad” #2

Review of comic fanzine “Mörk Choklad” No 2. Edited by Lars Krantz. Contributions by Lars Krantz, Andreas Rosengren, Ushiri Stenberg
56 pages, black and white
Language: Swedish
Released: 2021

Out on the side-walk I realized I’d forgotten to talk to USHiRi about that collaboration; that text that a friend of ours maybe wanted to write for the magazine.

“I’ll do it next time” I said to myself, while pressing the numbers of the code to the lock in front of me. Earlier in the morning I had come through this door to go park my bike in the backyard on the next side of the vault. Now the lock didnt “click” like it used to.

I pressed the handle to check; it was locked. I pressed the digits one more time. Nothing happened. I pressed again. Nothing.

“I need to doublecheck the code” I thought and took up my phone to scroll through the chat we’d had the other day. There was the address to where I was right now, there was the code. There was no discrepance between this and the one I’d just tried. Maybe the door was broke or something. I pressed the code again. Now it opened. “I really should have said something about that text”, I thought.

On both sides of the vault were stairs up to the houses’ apartments. Sprigs were painted on the walls. Through the glass doors ahead came a bright, sharp spring sun and on the other side was the backyard and somewhere my bike. The next door I could just open, but before I went out into the yard I had to fasten the door with that springy little metal pole, so that the it stayed open.

Then I don’t know what really. I found my bike, got back, released the pole from the ground and let the door shut. It didn’t. It stopped half-way when the pole suddenly dropped down, by itself, and stuck.

Noone was there. I looked at the door and on the pole. It didn’t seem broke or loose. I released the door and with my one hand steering the bike through the vault I took up my phone with the other and called USHiRi about the collaboration.

In the beginning of Huvuden ska rulla (Heads will roll), the opening story of Swedish horror and sci-fi cartoonist Lars Krantz’s fanzine Mörk choklad No 2, (Dark Chocolat No 2), Lars is asked by his friend Martin if he is interested in drawing the artwork for a music video, for a song called Heads will roll. The song is about “ideological extremism”, inspired by a woman Martin knows of that believed she could communicate with God via the sun. She had these conversations just her and God first, while later introducing also her son. The experiences was described by the woman on Facebook. Appearantly she had a schizofrenia diagnosis.

Exactly why and when any heads are gonna roll, I’m not really sure of, and this, of course, builds up a certain suspense. Is it something that will be exposed or disclosed? Is it the woman, her alikes, and ideological extremism, that subsequently will be squelched? Or is it something else going on? Will people get killed?

In the beginning of the story, Martin talks vibrantly about an imminent apocalypse and Lars replies in an ironic tone that “Yeah, I guess God will have it his way, as always”.

Later in the night, after having discussed Heads will roll out on the pub, Lars wakes up in his room, only to find himself surrounded by skulls staring up to the sky. He gets out of bed, walks up to the window and put the blinds aside. He then discovers what they’re all glaring at; the sun. Conciously or unconciously, Lars seems to be very influenced by, or maybe even identify with, that woman Martin told about.

Women with visions of light and divine contact take some part in the subsequent story in the fanzine too; the dark and humorous narrative zest of Andreas Rosengren’s Guldbenet (The Golden Leg).

A girl called Veronica visits the library where André works, asking for literature on Hildegard von Bingen. Von Bingen was a Benedictine abbess, philosopher, mystic, visionary, writer and composer, who in the 12th century in Germany experienced the umbra viventis lucis, the reflection of the living Light, via which she could observe different people from “distant lands and spaces”.

Von Bingen wasn’t considered schizofrenic or anything, instead she was actually one of the first persons to be brought up for Roman canonization. Also in modern times, only ten years ago, Pope Benedict XVI said of Hildegard that she is “perennially relevant” and “an authentic teacher of theology and a profound scholar of natural science and music.”

Veronica’s interest in Bingen is the spark for a sexual, thrill-seeking and inevitably destructive relationship between her and André (who manage to ask her out after vivid input from his dick and his soul that say they’re gonna kill him if he screws up), later putting him in a state of something similar to dissociation.

André is mesmerized by Veronica’s beauty, and the notions of vertigo, abysms and adventure he sees in her eyes. Veronica, on her side, soon also reveals that what she wants is not conversations on middle age’s saints, but late night ventures and escapades.

She seems to have a complex relation to defenselessness and susceptibility; while at the same time indulging in intense experimenting with lust and desire through drugs, sex and death challenges with André, she shuns from conversations touching on vulnerability, making André for instance feeling totally dull when telling her about his depressions.

These messing-with-reality-actions make me think a little of American neuro-scientist Erik Hoel, who has written a lot about the biological ground for fiction. The hitherto established idea of dreams is that they help create and establish long-term memories by processing our different experiences. Hoel, however, argues that dreams occur for the sake of themselves, as of assets of “noise injections”, to help us to not get stuck in a too well-known environment; to help us better perceive and recognize different kinds of things and beings. Hoel is inspired by machine learning; if an artificial intelligence is trained to recognize for example cats, and is presented to only one type of pictures of cats, it will be very good at recognizing these kinds of cats but no others. If “noise injections”, concisting of odd or weird pictures are mixed up with these data, the AI will have easier recognize a wider range of various types of cats; the generalization ability will improve.

In Kult, the final story of Mörk choklad (and the continuation of Heads will roll) Lars tells about his love for the dark and savage roll playing game “Kult”, “a deeply philosophical” game that offered “a terrible explanation of our existance”. He goes on musing about the current world, concluding that “things mustn’t come ready-packaged. If we don’t see the grey scales when we’re young then it won’t be easier when getting older”.

This is to some extent a reoccuring theme in all of the stories of Mörk choklad I think. It’s in Krantz’s explorations of different dimensions, worlds and beings, it’s in Rosengren’s description of foundations and paths of desire and confusion, and in (my friend’s and colleague’s) Stenberg’s playful recounts of odd characters.

The shortage in some people’s ability to recognize a human is told in for instance Stenberg’s Too tall, a (true) story about a dude who cannot sit straight on buses, cannot sleep in hotels bed, have difficulties finding things to wear, and is made fun of when going to the pub, because of being taller than average.

Sci-fi, oddities, fiction, the unknown, dirt or fifty shades of grey is perhaps more or less vital for humans. If we don’t see a difference between two things we’ll often try to find it; either in dreams, prejudices, fantasies, art, innovation, mental “illnesses” or in the theory of QAnon. Some seem to find exciting differences in numbers or location, in age or descent, time or space.

The collaboration I called USHiRi about that day when the code lock didn’t work and the door stopped by itself, later turned into a first-person recount about being isolated because of certain conditions that increases the risk for severe Covid-19 symptoms (Sweden hasn’t had the same extent of restrictions as many other countries; here it has mostly been extra vulnerable people that have had to stay home).

The woman writes about feeling lonely, how she just wants to go out, be noticed and socialize. She fears however that when society opens up there are gonna be lots of people like her, too many in fact, and where can everyone find their place? Her story is a recount of someone who doesn’t really have her needs fulfilled, and who thinks that everyone else is in the same situation; therefore fearing a fight over resources and upcoming opportunities.

I don’t really see the difference between her anxiety and Lars or Martin’s ideas about the apocalypse, their struggle with not getting jobs, or getting payed, with not being seen by an condescending girlfriend. But whereas they are certain that heads will roll and they will win, she seems for some reason worried that she will be left behind.

Text: Anna Karlsson

Interview with Thedöd

Short interview with Thedöd by Ushiri

We meet up over a couple of beers in a park in central Ängelholm in south Sweden and discussed important things like death, puke and angst..

How does it feel to have left Avocadocat behind you ?

– It feels very very very good because then you can get rid of the unserious ideas which has been hanging around which means I now can focus on the serious.

( Det känns väldigt, väldigt, väldigt bra eftersom nu slipper man ha det oseriösa idéerna hängande efter sig vilket betyder att jag kan fokusera på det seriösa. )

Ushiri & Jonte “Thedöd” Nilssson ( Thanks to randomgirl in park for photo)

Do you think you will make a guestappareance sometime with them?
– Ajjemän! ( Sure as hell! ( roughly translated)

You got any new fun musicproject in the works ? / Har du något nytt kul musikprojekt på G?

– The serious stuff I´m referring to is my new project Vomit Hell, which should be a very quick anti-humanity blacks peed metal band, but let´s see how ot goes.

Det seriösa jag syftar på e ju mitt nya projekt Vomit Hell vilket ska bli ett väldigtt fort anti-humanistiskt black speed metal band. Så vi får se hur det blir.

Is there any other bandmembers in it? / Någon annan annan bandmedlem man känner till i det

– Noo, Axel is there nobody that knows about / – Nää axel e det ingen som känner till

Any good Blackmetal band for the uninitiated that you should start listen to? / Finns det några bra Blackmetal band för din oinvigde som man bör lyssna på i första hand?

Mayhem (With Dead on vocals) , Veilgath, Malign o Darkthrone

What´s your carrot ?

-My carrot? An orange tall, shaved man, / Min morot? En orange lång, rakad man

(There is also another interview with the sexy Thedöd representing Avocadocat in USHiRimagazine #2 that can be bought at Malmökonsthalls bokhandel. )

We also visited a cool relaxed vinyl record store in Ängelholm, Vinylpågarna. A bit hidden away from the main street were we got a sexy psychadelic bag the have youré records in. But we didn´nt. Big thanks!

Vi besökte även en skön vinylbutik namnad Vinylpågarna som var lite undanskymd där vi fick varsin cool tygpåse som va mega psykedelisk. Stort tack!. We will get back to Vinylpågarna in another article later on that will be written by Anna Karlsson.

Here below is a track he wrote when he was performing in Avocadocat:

A tribute song to Ushiri when they herd about Carrottribe and the strange art he makes.

TheDöds instagram about vinyl records

Smoking is healthy: pt. 2

Text: John Westlund Art: Ushiri Stenberg Smoking is healthy part 1

Kane

Before I met Mr Downearth and Freddie, I didn’t know who I was. Life had changed for the worse and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Valerie left, the kids too, and they were never coming back. So I left too; ascended with my new friends.

In the first year, it felt like my flat was eating me alive. I was suffocating, like an indebted wretch thrown to the bottom of a deep, dark canal. ‘Who am I now?’ The question echoed through the empty space of my room, bouncing off the walls in an endless, erratic dance. Who am I, with my lack of presence? No longer a worker, no longer a father, barely a functioning man. A nobody.

In the midst of my despair, Mr Downearth appeared. I hadn’t spoken to the fellow in many years, but I vaguely remembered him from the days I spent at the library with my wife. I remembered his smile. His honest, unrelenting eyes. I remembered picking up his books just to put them back down and truth be told, I remembered my desire to stay away, because in his studies he was up to more than I could really bother to understand. I mean, why bother with all of that strange business if you have no reason to escape? Back then that was my one and only truth. But now, I need a new truth. The pining, red-eyed mess of a man I’ve become… he desperately needs something.

I stand in front of the smoky, bird-footed creature that used to be a man. When I lean down to take a closer look I notice the name tag attached to his robe reading “0001” in neat, black lettering. I turn to Professor Downearth who’s been observing me from a corner of the room.

– Is that him? I ask.

The professor nods. I turn back to the monster to greet him.

– It’s nice to meet you, Kane.

A subtle sound like a stifled laugh. I ignore it and continue:

– I’ve read about you. Can I ask you a few questions about yourself?

Silence.

– Maybe about your wife? Valerie?

More silence. The professor steps in and puts his hand on my shoulder. He’s smiling, yet I can’t discern the expression on his face as he says:

– Now, what you’re trying to do is very interesting, but it’s no use. He doesn’t know who he is.

– Not at all? I reply.

– No.

– So he doesn’t even recognize you anymore?

– He does not, I’m afraid.

– Does that upset you, Professor Downearth?

For a second, his face seems to freeze. Then he smiles even wider.

– The results of the study have been positive, haven’t they? Trust me, there’s no reason to be upset.

As the professor swivels us around to exit the room, the smoke around 0001’s head seems to puff even thicker.

“People need colors”

Exhibition / Malmö

The new exhibition at the CARROTTRiBE Gallery is all about abstract and expressive colors. The two exhibiting artists, Linus Strömdahl and Julie Blumenberg, tell us a little about their work.

Art by Julie Blumenberg and Linus Strömdahl. Photo: Anna Karlsson

Text & photo: Anna Karlsson Photo: Clayton Monty

Linus:

“The visitors can expect amoroso and joyous paintings. If the paintings reflect my inner carrot I guess I have a very varicolored carrot; none with just plain orange, but all of the colors. I have worked very spontaneously, not very thought-through, just gone by feeling. Most of the paintings are made in 2012, 2015 and 2020, some in art classes I attended and some at home. For me painting is a way of expressing myself and canalize energy. It’s very therapeutic; when I paint I see patterns and the contexture of everything.”

Julie:

“I love to exhibit my art and meet people. I’ve had lots of exhibitions planned the last year that have been cancelled due to Covid-19, but here we go, finally! Some four years ago I started painting more abstract instead of doing portraits, which I’d done a lot before. This way I feel I’ve had it easier to find my own style and rhythm. Now I use a lot of colors, including gold, silver and coppar – that unfortunately don’t come out that good here as in the original paintings – , but anyhow… My paintings reflect my inner world, they are really an expression of that. I think we all need to put our conscious thoughts aside sometimes, at least that is something that makes me feel good. And people need colors too, especially in these times. I’ve put titles on my paintings, in Spanish, like “Otoño en fuego”, and some in English too, but I would also like the beholder to come up with their own interpretations.”

The exhibition lasts from July 15th up until August 15th. Opening hours are the same as those of The Vegan Bar.

Follow Linus and Julie on Instagram: @linusstromdahl @julyguli

Art by Julie Blumenberg. Photo: Clayton Monty
Art by Julie Blumenberg. Photo: Anna Karlsson

Smoking is healthy: pt. 1

Text: John Westlund Art: Ushiri Stenberg

A recent study conducted by the University of Escapism indicates that, yes, it is indeed possible to ascend through smoking. I went to interview the university’s own Professor Downearth for more details.

Walking through the halls of the university, I feel the urge to question the tall gentleman once more:

– Is it true what you claim? Can you really ascend through smoking?

He simply smiles. He walks, I follow. As we walk, the walls start to cave in around us. Space crumbles, I follow. The professor saunters along the now non-existent floor nonchalantly. Dancing along to his own heartbeat in the thin air seems to be second nature to him. As soon as I manage to pry my eyes away from his feet long enough to start worrying about my own safety, he pulls me along with him by my wrist, saving me from falling into the lifeless abyss below. He walks, I follow. For a moment, or perhaps a million, I seem to lose my grip on the concept of time. When it finally, or perhaps immediately, returns to me, we are standing in front of a metallic door labelled “Air”. Professor Downearth’s calm expression remains even as he opens the door and says:

– Meet the Airheads.

The room inside is dark and foggy but I can see them clearly. Twenty-seven or so grotesque beings sitting huddled up on the floor. About half of them each hold a lit cigarette in their hand. These beings look human enough for me to not feel frightened, yet strange enough for me to become concerned. The shapes of their bodies I immediately recognize as my own. Their feet, however, are enormous and birdlike, sharp claws sticking out of coarse yellowish toes. It’s quite amazing. But the truly most amazing part is what I notice next: their heads. Or, the thick, swirling clouds of smoke that take up the space where a head should be. I’m not sure where their bodies end and the clouds begin. I’m not even sure if they really have heads, though I would guess they do. The lighting is a smidge too dim and the smoke a smidge too thick for me to confirm it, but in the center of the clouds above their torsos I can almost make out a dark, round shape that appears to be the core. It seems to hold some of the smoke together to form the shape of a head, while the rest of the smoke ascends and spreads throughout the room like a fleeting dream.

Whether or not the Airheads still remember who they are, I don’t know. Neither do I know if they are better or worse off now than they were before they were brought into the laboratory. All I know is that they seem to have peace of mind. They seem to be part of a community, their heads evaporating and connecting in the ceiling like a smoky hivemind.

Smoking is healthy part 2 Will be published 29th of June 2021

A crunch from the past

The Tricarrotops was once the crunchiest creature to roam the Earth.

I was asked recently by two Italian couchsurfers what to do if you had one day left in Malmö. “We’re thinking of going to the Copenhagen bridge” one of them said, “I mean, just to see what it looks like”.

I nodded, thumbs up, “Yeah! It’s really a pretty cool view almost anywhere the bridge’s included” I said.

“Do you know that there’s quite a thrilling limestone quarry nearby, as well? Where they’ve found lots of cool stuff!”

In my mind had popped up a sentence from a short article I read about the quarry last summer; “Discover the dinosaurs of Malmö and its rare plants and animals!” The article spoke about that summer’s guided tours, which, of course, never happened because of Covid-19.

The small notion about dinosaurs, however, remained in my mind, keeping me wondering “What the heck?”

Now, with two eager travellers right in front of me, it felt like the perfect time to pass this knowledge on. Giving tips and information as a local is indeed a little of the couchsurfing idea, and here I was, a breakfeast-eating Malmö local, at my friend’s – the host’s – apartment.

“I think maybe there are some dinosaur skeletons down there” I said. “I’m not sure, but since you’re already going there, why don’t you check? If you have the time? And you want to? Please also then tell us if you find something!”

The two young women looked at me firmly. I could see a tiny flicker of ancient-reptiles-findings-exitement in their eyes.

They made sure that they had the information written down.

A few hours later we all, however, realized that even if the area in the Limhamn limestone quarry stems from the approximately 66 million years’ old Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, when all the dinosaurs and a bunch of plants and animal species died out after a believed asteroid impact, the dinosaurs findings in this area haven’t been so prominent (algea, moss animals and corals’ fossils are more common).

Most of the skulls, jaws and limbs from these giant ancestors have actually turned into lime, making up a perfect foundation for sugar refining, paper, steel and tap water production, cow’s and chickens’ feedingstuffs, and fertilizers for seeds, for instance.

Thus, if the Tricarrotops was once the crunchiest creatures to roam the Earth, it might still be that. Only in a different form so to say. That coffee latte and the sandwiches we had that morning might have been either made possible by, or even born some traces of, Tricarrotops in the flesh.

In retrospect I don’t remember any carroty taste though, but everytime I see some sugar or bread… oh, nevermind.

Art: Harenheit
Text: Anna Karlsson

The half-dead slave

Text & art: bkdove Proofreader: Iain Dace

Unlucky people do not exist, it all depends on their state of mind. Weak people do not exist, it all depends on the tools in their possession. I was a slave of sector 74, assigned to the 10th wave deployment with the promise of freedom if I contributed to beating the main player in the combat arena. That’s every slave’s prize: stop your target, avoid being killed and you’re free to go. And if you achieve that, stay away from troubles in Vesta City or the troopers will bring you back here. This arena fight is not a complicated task. The only problem is that you’re on foot with only a rifle while your opponent is in a combat car, but apart from this small particular you can count on your squad members, if they manage to stay alive.

I was ready, mentally trained and half brainwashed, with just my legs, my weapon and a black helmet like the ones which only show chin and mouth. I jumped in the deployment truck assigned to stage 11, a hell of flames and metal. The other 5 guys from my squad continued to scream during the short trip. I stared at their desperate faces before the back door slammed on the burned floor. Slaves mostly die in the arena, they are just part of the entertainment, but that was not the case for me, at least not totally. We were lucky our driver was a good one, he avoided a minefield on the left and several chunks of debris in flames. If a driver dies before he can stop the truck and open the deployment door, we slaves are dead too. You know what I mean. The combat area was bigger than I imagined, a former warehouse converted into a fighting arena, very impressive. The audience was screaming, the stage lights were blinding and several rays of light were penetrating a big cloud of grey smoke. Some debris fell from above. I checked if my helmet was properly fastened.

The first thing I saw was a yellow laser shooting through the cloud of smoke and I heard screaming tires. That was our main target, a fully armoured black Viper model, drifting while disappearing again in the same cloud of smoke. We all shot with our rifles, we wanted that promised freedom. We didn’t hit. There was zero cover, our truck was gone. No wrecked car skeletons around. I realized why slaves die so often in the Carsteroids arenas. I also realized you have a few seconds to discharge all your firepower praying for your good aim and especially praying that your opponent does not notice you too soon.

We stayed in formation, we saw again our target on the right, it was busy trying to avoid a couple of explosive barrels. We shot and we hit! The barrels exploded, but the Viper spotted us and quickly turned around. He was on fire and charging us at full speed. We maintained our formation, we screamed and kept shooting straight ahead. The last thing I remember was the metallic bumper breaking my leg, me falling on the ground and the car passing on my arm. The helmet saved my head, but half of my body died. After that battle all our squad achieved freedom, but I am the only one able to tell of it.

Intervening structures of life and society

Street Art / Hamilton, Canada

Meet Andrew Lamb (CAN), the artist and puppet-maker behind the Neighbourhood Watch Project in Toronto, numerous cardboard creatures and lots of other cool stuff

Text: Anna Karlsson (Co-Editor of USHiRi Magazine) Location: Hamilton, Canada (via Zoom)

One day in November last year I learned that the top part on your feet are in Spanish not “toes”, but “fingers of foot” (“dedos del pie”). Later in the evening, when lying in bed, trying to name actually all the parts of my body (as was the homework of the Spanish course I attended), I came to think about the anatomy of horses that I studied when making drawings back in the days of my early adolescense. I remembered that the horses’ hocks up on their back legs are sort of their heals. In the same way their front knees are what we would refer to as wrists. In their “splint boon” are degenerated “fingers”. Their hoofs are more or less the tip of the nails.

Calling up professional puppet-maker, puppeteer and artist Andrew Lamb (CAN) for a video conversation on Zoom one Saturday in April, I ask if the echoes of traits usually strike him when making a cardboard Wendiceratops for the visitors of the Royal Ontario Museum, or a roaming beaver puppet for Canada Day celebrators in the City of Mississauga, or a zoot-suit wearing praying mantis stomping the streets during the Art Gallery of Ontario’s 2015 Massive fundraiser and other events in Toronto.

I love cardboard because it is cheap, easy to work with, strong for its weight and is fairly environmentally friendly. It also burns, which is a fun thing to do once the puppet has lived its life.

Andrew Lamb (CAN)

Not really, it turns out, although he is very aware of for example the function of joints, the concepts of balance and sympathetic movement, combined with different kinds of hardware. But in the end, he’s rather unsentimental about his creations.

“I prefer my work to be cheap to make, free to see and furthermore to be seen unintentionally. I love cardboard because it is cheap (often free), easy to work with, strong for its weight and is fairly environmentally friendly. It also burns, which is a fun thing to do with some friends a night at the beach, once the puppet has lived its life”. 

“Really?”

“Yeah, haha. One thing you discover when working with these things is that they take up a lot of space, and space is at a premium in cities. It becomes a pain to find new homes for them, as I am only working out of a two car garage.”

The echoes of traits I was talking about earlier is probably the concept of genetic coherence, he says. Which, true, is the case, at least to some extent.

Genetic coherence, which is the evolutionary principle involved in the linear evolution of anagenesis, where you have a gradual evolution of a species and the species continue to make babies with each other, as in opposition to cladogenesis, where you have a split and eventually end up with new species.

Once you produce it, it goes out and does its own thing, interacts with the world and people, is interpreted and loved or hated.

Even if humans and horses, along with for example cats, beavers and even dinosaurs, share the notion of a “hand”, used for whatever purpose: walking, gripping or creating art, they are of course seen as different species (although horse brothels were running in Denmark up until not so long ago. But that is a different story, I believe).

Researchers used to debate whether present day humans originate from Africa or from Afro-Eurasia, with respects taken to the afore-mentioned aspects.

In our current technology-infused reality, it could – if one is free to muse – perhaps be interesting to discuss how much “artificial” influence is possible before humans turn into a new species? An artificial cardiac pacemaker is ok. Micro-robots swimming through blood vessels delivering drugs. Electrical limbs in contact with finger stumps. Microchip implants. Interacting with Siris or Liza and Hannah.

What will create the split?

Strandbeest by @theojansen_official Photo: @Marco Zwinkels

Andrew Lamb says he is kind of interested in Theo Jansen (NLD), who in 1990 began building large skeletons out of yellow plastic tubes from Dutch electricity pipes, and named them strandbeesten (“beach animals”). The animals are able to move on their own with the help of energy from the wind. Theo Jansen is cited on his homepage, saying: “By developing this evolution, I hope to become wiser in the understanding of existing nature by encountering myself the problems of the real Creator.”

(Editor’s note: This is perhaps a more humble form of juxtaposing yourself with a higher power. Another standpoint, the one in the old notion that artists can be directly influenced or even steered by a higher power will be discussed in a coming review of Lars Krantz’s (SWE) comic fanzine Dark Chocolat. Check the page in the coming weeks if you’re interested in that!)

Theo Jansen’s way of seeing his strandbeesten as a new life form is kind of fun, thinks Andrew Lamb.

“At least as much as it applies to the idea of artwork as much as animals. Once you produce it, it goes out and does its own thing, interacts with the world and people, is interpreted and loved or hated, and so on.”

His interest in making puppets came when he, as a teenager fighting with his parents and don’t wanting to go to school, ended up volunteering at a small theatre, by which he could get school credits without having to go to class.

“I met a woman there who built props for a living, and I remember one morning while making a bow and arrows for “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, deciding this would be a career that would be the least like actually work I could find. Which was foolish, because working in entertainment is often, really long hours and can be demanding. It is a case study on creating meaning in life I guess, because for the first time I was focusing and trying to get better at something. The ideal of quality and craftsmanship started to grow in my mind. In a round about way, I found meaning in my life through a trade by trying to avoid finding a “real job.”

Today, about ninety percent of his professional life is making puppets for musicals, touring shows and cruise ships. This job pays most of his bills. Beside this he also does a little of puppetteering, and various art projects.

Making a puppet for a musical requires or building a cardboard mantis for a street event is pretty much the same thing if speaking of skills and techniques. In terms of content, or meaning,though, they are two different things.

“Most of the puppets I’ve built don’t have much meaning behind them, they are just pleasing and entertaining to watch, which is totally fine and great on it’s own. Other projects of mine though, none of which have really been puppet based, tend to carry more meaning or have some reason behind them, even if it is a simple one.”

One of his most interesting and unique projects, if choosing himself, was the project that made him break through as an artist back in 2012; the Neighbourhood Watch Project. This was an installation in which he refaced “This Community Protected” municipal signs in Toronto with Mulder and Scully, Baby Yoda, My Little Pony, He-man and other cartoons’ and cult television series’ heroes from his 80’s and 90’s childhood. The project spread well through the, at the time, rather new phenomenom Instagram.

“It lent itself well to people sharing images and hash tagging them. The whole thing had a scavenger hunt aspect to it” he says.

Growing up in Toronto, Andrew Lamb had no formal training in art and he wasn’t, according to himself, raised in a very artistic household. He became kind of absorbed in the mashed up surfer, skateboard, biker and comic book aesthetics of the lowbrow style, an underground art movement that emerged in the Los Angeles area of California in the late 1960’s.

“As a younger person I was intimidated by conceptual art or “high” art, I felt like I needed a university degree to understand artistic statements I was reading, or to even talk about art. The lowbrow style seemed kind of approachable, something I could do.”

He saw a lot of other art as devoid of humour, while finding it in spades in lowbrow.

“Also I guess the aesthetic is kind of childish and easy to get; it’s very direct. 

Beside lowbrow he was also interested in culture jamming; ideological based manipulations of massmedia and advertising for example, transformations of public messages or well-known logotypes, to “expose the methods of domination” of a mass society.

The appeal to him with the Neighbourhood Watch Project wasn’t perhaps primarly to expose methods of domination, but rather just to make people happy, which he said to a reporter in Vice in 2014.

“Haha yeah, that sounds really corny to me now too, but yes, give the people bread and circus. Maybe not to be happy, but to be entertained is important.”

And people became entertained; Lamb received lots of love and appreciation from everywhere for his work.

“The media attention really caught me off guard, I didn’t even have a website at the time, or really any explanation for why I was doing it. But I think that’s what people liked about it, the anonymity of it coupled with the superhero theme. The fact that these signs seemed like a relic of another generation but the connectedness of the entire thing across a city.”

He worked with the Neighbourhood Watch Project for approxiamately six years. Some of the signs looked decent for years, he says, others peeled off in a few months.

“I’m not sure if any of them are still visible, as I have moved from Toronto. It eventually became creatively uninteresting and then, unfulfilling for me. I am prone to living in the past in my own mind, and that the project deals with nostalgia started to wear on me. The larger idea was always primary in my mind: the project as a city wide installation of unique signs, each neighbourhood or street having its own protector. Although I enjoyed the ritual of putting the signs up and curating the individual images, once the original idea was widely understood, which probably happened in the first couple years, it became more maintenance than a creative outlet.”

If anything ties all my work together, it is trying to break the rigid structure of life with some sort of intervention.

The past year has been a lot about renovating his new house in Hamilton, outside of Toronto. A few months before the pandemic and a subsequent insane inflation in housing prices all over the country, he managed to get a hold of a rough but beautiful piece for a reasonable cost. He now knows how to fix plaster walls and has also started thinking of a mural painting on the back of his garage. But apart from that, and the production of some stickers, he hasn’t done very much of creative or artistic work over the last couple of months, he says.

Sticker by Andrew Lamb. Photo: Instagram, @dcism
Sticker by Andrew Lamb. Photo: @dcmism

“I am still not sure about what kind of artist I am or how to define myself. Puppet maker? Artist? If anything ties all my work together though, regardless of meaning or form, it is trying to break the rigid and planned structure of life and work with some sort of intervention. I realize that might sound like a vapid Peter Pan type goal, but it still rings true to me. I’ve always loved stickers, especially ones that are unique. Like the kind you would find in a truck stop vending machine, that you would probably never see again. I like graffiti and stickers and the idea of competition for public and mental space.”

If speaking generally, he thinks it’s easier to get out with the things you want to say today.

“Even if some of the channels like Instagram or Facebook are kind of mediated and have their way of how you communicate and what the algorithm prioritizes. It’s no longer like it was in the beginning when anyone would make just a random website which looked like nothing else. I think artists often prioritize social media over having your own website now, which is unfortunate. The internet was supposed to be an open space, and was like the wild west for a while, anything goes. It seems we have given ourselves over to being organized and sorted by tech companies, I get it, there are really positive aspects of them, it’s much easier to find new artists or have them suggested to you, no coding, no hosting fees, but there is something in the constant hustle and visible follower metrics for comparison that is certainly unhealthy for peoples mental well-being.”

The current COVID-19 pandemic has had different implications for art professionals around the world. Some haven’t been able to work much at all, others have found completely new venues, and some have expanded their online presence, in an attempt to reach the audience. What the pandemic will do for artists, or for art itself, in the long run, Andrew Lamb isn’t sure of.

“Obviously this is a strange time with the pandemic, but I suppose that will return to normal eventually. I think the bigger long term change is with social media and the decentralization of media and information and that has been happening for the last 10 years or longer. I’m not sure what this means for art collectors or art institutions, but it has certainly has changed things for pop art and commercial, small scale producer art, easier exposure, marketing and easier to sell your own art. Especially now with NFT’s apparently for digital art. But I suppose its still difficult to stand out in this large social media jungle, everyone wants your attention.” 🥕

Andrew Lamb with the Running Rabbit puppet. Photo: @dcmism 

More on dinosaurs on ushiri.com

USHiRi Magazine got a drawing of a Tricarrotops recently, made by the artist Harenheit. This veggie-horned reptile must have some sort of relation to the Wendiceratops that Lamb interpreted for the Royal Ontario Museum (see top of article), we believe. There is no current research on it (at least what we’ve found), but after having examined its features we think there is a possibility at least for a matter of maybe second cousins?

Anyway, next week we’ll try to get under its skin to see if we can reveal some of its secrets. Look out for that!

*UPDATE 06/21 -21* Here are our findings: ” A crunch from the past” – Story by Anna and Art by Harenheit

Horseman

Text: Ushiri Stenberg Translation: John Westlund

If you don’t drink your coffee, the horse man will cut your face to pieces. Nobody wants their face cut off, especially not when you can influence the inner factors by slowly beating your head against a wall. The fractures you create makes it so that the horse man likely won’t appear. You want to avoid the horse man, do you not? He lives across the street in the entrance over there. Whatever you do, don’t peek through your keyhole at 1 o’clock in the night. He will most likely stand there. If he sees a ray of light he will strike and strike until your door is beaten down. Whatever happens next is anything but good, especially for the neighbours who will hear your shriek in the night. So come on, drink your coffee. Otherwise the horse man will guard your door every night, and the night it’s unlocked is the night you lose your face. The first stories of the horse man were told in the 17th century and can be found in the diary notes written by the former landowners of Häckeberga Castle. A heavily built man with a stooped back and a laugh like a neigh was seen near the water mill. That’s how the millkeeper told the story in the beginning of the 19th century. Shortly thereafter he hung himself in the barn. In 1932 the stables were ravaged by fire as two children disappeared from the village. A few days later, a boy said he had seen the children sitting on the stooped back of a man who was playing with them and who sounded like a horse. They were headed for the water mill at nightfall.   /Ushiri