Tag Archives: Aapr

Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

Since 2000, I have been showing some of my work under the title Associated Artists for Propaganda Research which was developed as a project to help explore and organize multiple political, philosophical and artistic ideas within the context of a collective. The projects tend to be political in nature and explore themes of propaganda, political dominance, corporate control and military prowess. Here’s what I wrote about it. The second paragraph is used as the introductory statement for the information page on the AAPR website.

The body of my work is channeled through an organization called the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. The A.A.P.R was developed as a project to help explore and organize multiple political, philosophical and artistic ideas within one common context. Through this “organization”, a framework is established in which many forms of art can be developed under one common title, that of the collective. By distorting traditional notions of personal identity, this restructuring helps loosen the conventional emphasis on a single, personalized aesthetic, instead placing the activity of art within a larger artistic context.

The Associated Artists for Propaganda Research has at its roots a critique of the political and economical disinformation distributed by those intent on protecting invested interests. These private tyrannies aim to circumvent democratic processes by misinforming the public through very select, corporate controlled media outlets while continuing to carry out illegal and often state sanctioned acts against popular interests. This elaborate system of control becomes an important tool of the status quo and provides, as “truths”, a systemized set of beliefs that can be easily assimilated into the greater society. Propaganda in this way provides an interesting study on how information, and therefore ideas, can be altered by an intricate filtering system intent on subverting intelligent discourse.

Over the years I’ve made a lot of different kinds of work under the AAPR title including installations, paintings, sculptures, drawings, posters, stickers, 3 websites and digital work. When I exhibited any work for the AAPR, it was important to do so using the name Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, not my own. This was an important detail that I felt was necessary in order to fully complete the illusion that I had worked so hard to create. For many years everything was placed under the AAPR banner but I eventually took out what didn’t belong. I liked the idea of the AAPR being a loose organization that allowed for non-political work, but in the end, thought that for conceptual purposes it needed to be kept political. In 2006 I had a show at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY which I tilted Epicenter City about the atomic bomb. After this exhibition I felt exhausted with the AAPR and briefly closed the organization down in 2008 after I felt like the political climate had shifted. Truthfully, I hadn’t done very much for the AAPR in the years leading up to it, so it seemed like the natural step. I started it back up in 2010 when I made Sursum Corda which is also a Future Living Projects piece and Silence is Golden in 2011. Since then I’ve been filling in a lot of older ideas that weren’t initially included like the rubber stamps that I made that said “AAPR Approved” and “AAPR Archive” and the T-shirts that I made that say “The Future is Now”. I made a lot of work without thinking about wether or not they constituted proper art objects. I was more interested in their digital format anyway so a lot of stuff I made web only which poses problems when trying to figure out what is and what isn’t art.

I have a lot of unrealized ideas for the AAPR including a zine called, “Strategy is for Fighting” which I’m still going to make one day. I want to present it as a book of zines that back date everything back to 2000-2008. I made a résumé lately that mimics one that I found in the back of a John Miller book that I have. Most of the information is true but some of the photos are faked, including several book covers. I also made a poster based on an old eye chart that I found. I thought that it would make a great announcement for a show. Here it is and below that are 3 different zine covers that I designed.

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186646591 Version 2 (Small Scale Model) and Drawings

Here is a small scale model that I finished in 2011 of the sculpture 186646591. It is a sculpture of a barcode. I made an earlier version in 2009 that had a much larger base which is why this one is version 2. This one has a small white “pedestal” base that I made for it and is 6″x10.5″x10.5″. I’ve used this type of pedestal base many times over the years, both large and small. I use it to frame my landscapes and to neaten their final appearance. I actually came up with the idea for 186646591 when I was in graduate school around 1999. I was interested in building a large outdoor sculpture in wood on the campus lawn that would be symbolic of the institution’s main goals. It would be symbolic, pop and minimalist all at the same time.

I started by figuring out how many “bars” I would need and buying 2 different thicknesses of balsa wood according to how many of each I would need. I worked out the proper dimension for the final piece and cut the balsa wood pieces down to the size I needed. I used small finishing nails that I then cut down to size and stuck them into the bottom of each piece of wood, leaving about a quarter of an inch sticking out of the bottom. I painted each piece of wood flat black with acrylic latex paint. I cut my base according to size and painted it green. When it dried I covered it with watered down Elmer’s glue and sprinkled foam railroading “grass” on it with a glass grated cheese shaker. This is a mixture that I made myself using 2 different colors of green. After it dried I turned it sideways and shook off the grass that didn’t glue to the base. I then measured out the spaces for each pin on the base with a pencil and drilled out each hole. I finished by pushing each balsa wood “bar” with a pin in it into each corresponding hole in the base and adjusted them so they were straight. In order to refurbish the model From version one to version two I first had to take off the original balsa wood pieces that make up the “bars” so that I could transfer them to a smaller piece of wood. I repeated the process without having to make the balsa wood pieces again.
I made a series of drawings of the sculpture as it will appear when it’s finished. I used the techniques from my three dimensional drawing class that I described in the I Was A Landscape In Your Dream post to accurately draw it in perspective and add shadows.
I’ve submitted the proposal to build and exhibit this sculpture many times but it has always been rejected. It may never get built. I guess no ones wants to see a giant sculpture of a bar code.

186646591 Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research186646591 Perspective Drawing with Shadow by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research186646591 Perspective Drawing by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research186646591 Scale Drawing by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Sursum Corda “Lift Up Your Hearts” (Panels 1 and 2)

Sursum Corda “Lift Up Your Hearts” (Panels 1 and 2) is a 2 part piece that I started in 2009 and finished in 2010. Both panels were first painted with special Future Living Projects white acrylic latex and then gridded out into half inch squares with pencil. They are each 36″x48″ in size and made with 6,912 squares totaling 13,824 squares all together. The left panel shows a dish used for receiving information and communications from space and the right panel shows the surface of the moon. I had both images in an archive of images that I’ve wanted to use for a long time. The surface of the moon image I was originally going to paint and use as a backdrop for an Apollo 11 model that I built, but has since been destroyed. For that model, I was interested in exploring ideas that had to do with a sort of reverse propaganda system where information is used by people in order to support conspiratorial ideas. In this case, it was about people who believed that we have never been to the moon, like the movie Capricorn One starring OJ Simpson. I did a lot of research on this phenomenon and was fascinated by how convincing some of the stories were that denied that we had ever been to the moon. The piece consisted of an old Apollo 11 model that looked like it was from the 70’s and a surface of the moon that I made out of plaster of Paris and spray painted grey. At the time I was also working on a series of drawings about space exploration called A History of Space and Communication (1926- ).

The title Sursum Corda “Lift Up Your Hearts” (Panels 1 and 2) is taken from a call and response prayer used in the Christian Church. I thought of the left panel as an image of something that is looking and the right panel as a dull response with no answer. Furthermore, I like the idea of the image being pixilated since it echoes the digitizing of information as it travels through space. Finally, I liked the idea of bringing a religious aspect to a purely scientific situation. This is one of the few pieces that I’ve used for both the Future Living Projects and the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, feeling that it fits into both contexts.

Sursum Corda (%22Lift Up Your Hearts) Part 1 and 2 by Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940

Today I finished Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940. I didn’t keep track of when I started but I think it took about a month to finish, which is pretty fast. When all was said and done I painted 2832 half inch squares. It should have been 2880 but the panel that I made wasn’t quite wide enough so I compensated by elongating the width of some of the columns and shortening the amount of pixels from 60 to 59 across the width of the painting. Luckily I caught this glitch about a third of the way through and shortened the original reference photo by one pixel before reeking havoc on the composition. In the end I made a few changes to the painting that were different from the photo so that it would look a little better in its final form. First of all I darkened the highlights on the faces of the figure on the right and the policeman on the left; the camera flash caused distracting bright white areas. I did the same thing to the figure second from the left which pushed him a little farther into the background. I took out a black square from under the left side of the ax, which was caused by the jacket of the man behind it, in order to give the ax blade more definition. I did the same thing on the right ax blade but this time I put in some black squares to give it definition. To do this properly, I photoshopped the original photo that I used, reduced the resolution, allowing the computer to reconfigure the pixels, and then made the necessary changes on the canvas. The last thing I did was to take out a white area at the bottom right of the policeman’s jacket and also blacked in part of his jacket on the top right to make it smooth.

I’m planning on doing another pixel painting sometime soon; something that deals with the atomic bomb. I already have 2 canvas/panels ready to go but the sizes are a little off I think so they may not be usable for this. I’m supposed to be participating in a show in The Hague sometime next year that deals with the theme Ghost Modernism, and thought that the pixel paintings would be really appropriate. They all deal with the advancements of technology in the last century and its relationship, either directly or as a subtext, to the “spectacle” of violence as seen through the photograph as media. The themes that are addressed in these paintings fall right in line with the progression of Modernism and its inevitable catastrophic failure.

Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940 By Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940

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October 20, 2012 · 1:43 pm

Silence is Golden and Paintings for a Brighter Future

Silence is Golden is a work from 2011 and is made of 6 drawings on panels, each 18″x24″ making the piece 36″x72″ in its finished state. Each panel was sanded and filled with wood filler twice before being primed and painted with the same off-white acrylic latex paint that I use for my Future Living Projects pieces. The imagery is of a model home being sequentially shattered to pieces by an atomic bomb in the Nevada desert in 1955. The series was taken by an automatic camera and shows the effects of the 35th atomic bomb test on a house built 1 mile from the point of detonation, over a period of 2.3 seconds until total demolition. I discovered the title Silence is Golden while at the movies one day while taking a break from the drawing. It was at the beginning of the movie and was meant to remind the audience to be quiet while the movie was being shown. At that moment I remembered the saying, “Loose lips sink ships” from World War 2 and thought that the two sayings were similar in their implications.

The destructive power of atomic weaponry is both frightening and awe inspiring. The imagery that I use captures a still moment, a quiet pause in time that reduces our humanity through carelessness and wanton massive destruction. I dealt with the same subject matter in the series Paintings for a Brighter Future from 2002 which shows various atomic bomb clouds painted in oils. I wanted all of these paintings to be framed in elaborate gold gilded frames with gold tags with the name of each bomb attached to them but this part of the project proved to be too costly. I did frame Operation Plumbbob (Hood) and Operation Teapot (Moth) which are shown below, but only because I already had the frames and custom made the works specifically for them. I even have an old gold light that attaches to the frame of Hood that further pushes the painting into a more classical and traditional context. These were some of the first paintings that I used for my project Associated Artists for Propaganda Research.

Silence is Golden by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

Operation Upshot-Knothole (Badger) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchOperation Hardtrack I (Umbrella) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchOperation Plumbbob (Hood) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchOperation Teapot (Moth) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940

Here’s a photo I took in the studio of the painting Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940. It’s maybe a third of the way done.

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And again, here’s the original photo that it’s based on.

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The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937

Here is another pixel painting that I finished in July of this year. This image is actually one of the first images that I had used when I started the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. The name came from a series of crudely made xerox promotional posters that I did in school all with a slogan, an image and a fake organization. The poster for the Hindenburg said “The Disaster Factor” at the top and on the bottom said Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. I don’t remember what the other posters said. I think there were 10 in all. Here’s an image of it:

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I wanted them to be akin to DYI punk posters. Early AAPR promotional material all mimicked this style until I decided to give the operation a slicker and more professional look. At some point I’ll probably post a more concise history of the AAPR and the work that went along with it. Here’s a photo that I took of the Hindenburg painting. It’s called The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937. Below it is a photograph of it in the studio from a slight distance. To the right is the painting The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, 1963.

The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937 Brian Higbee and Asociated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940

I’m working on a new pixel painting called Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940. I started it about 2 weeks ago. It’s 24″x30″ and should be finished in about a month or so depending on how diligent I am. The painting will be made using half inch squares which will make it 60 pixels wide by 48 pixels high equalling 2880 squares altogether. It’s part of a series of pixelated black and white paintings that I’ve been working on based on old photos that deal with violence and destruction. The first one I made was back in 2005 for the show “Epicenter City” and shows the first transportable atomic bomb in a suitcase called Davy Crockett. It’s 6′ tall and 8′ wide and is made on 2 canvases. It was made using 6912 one inch squares.

Davy Crockett from Epicenter City by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

I make all of my own panels that I then stretch canvas over. This way I can lean on the canvases while I’m working on them. I start by reducing the image down to the specific amount of pixels that I want and griding it out accordingly. I paint these using Golden Acrylics since it will dry faster and I can work without having to worry about smearing anything that I’ve just painted. I have a set of Golden Neutral Gray paints that I use that are numbered from N8 (lightest) to N2 (darkest) excluding Titanium White and Mars Black. I also mix inbetween shades which include 8.75, 8.5, 7.75, 7.5, 6.5, 5.5, 4.5, 3.5 and 2.5. I made a shade chart in case I need help. I start in one corner and start writing numbers in the squares according to what shade of gray they will get. I move the canvas around, filling in sections at a time until I’m finished. Here’s one that I finished earlier this year called The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.

The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

I like the idea of pixelating old photographs. At first I wasn’t sure about the significance of it as it relates to my practice or even if it was that interesting of an idea; I’m certainly not the first one to do it. But I like to think of my work as parts for a larger idea that I may or may not understand at the time of their conception which means that the process must be slightly intuitive. On a basic level I enjoy the space that the pixelating creates by establishing a language that is related to both abstraction and “reality based” work. It occupies both spaces at the same time and yet is perceived as one or the other depending on the viewer’s point of view. It’s a visual trick whereas the information is limited by the reduction of resolution and yet our brains, at enough of a distance, will fill in the rest of the information for us in order to complete the picture.

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