Mike Alewitz and Guido Garaycochea
DescriptionFriends Mike Alewitz (70) and Guido Garaycochea (59) discuss Mike’s position as a censored artist, what it has been like to paint murals around the world and see them destroyed, all while conveying the message of workers' struggles.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Mike Alewitz
- Guido Garaycochea
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
- Anti War Movement
- confederate monuments
- culture wars
- Malcom X
- Political activism
- public art
- state of apartheid
- Status Quo
- Street Art
- texas abortion law
- voting restriction laws
- white supremacy
- working class
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00:00 My name is I am 59 years old today is Saturday. September 4th, 2021. I am in New London, Connecticut with my friend, Mike alewitz.
00:13 And my name is Mike alewitz. I am very old. I'm 70 years old and stay state is also incredibly Saturday, September 4th, 2021. I am in New London, Connecticut, in the belly of the Beast and I'm here chatting with keto and he's a fellow artist.
00:39 And someone that I very much respect and it's hard work but so much so much for the Latin American, you know, being being real polite and everything and I am I am ready to ask you about something that we have many many times before and about sensitive. And that what is that about that you are the most censored? Well, actually, as far as I know, in the most censored artist in the world and of course,
01:34 No one has ever heard of me. I'm so censored that. I'm not even in censored books. I am a but almost all of the work. I do, add your prompt murals and had my work destroyed by governments, Union officials by political parties during strikes and struggles. A lot of international stuff that I've created in Central America, Nicaragua in the occupied territories and Northern Ireland. Are the places that I go to South Central LA. A lot of my work has been destroyed, almost all of us and yet you never hear a word about it. And the reason that you never hear about it is because I don't do work that uses.
02:31 Workers simply as subject matter, but I create murals with workers that relate to the social struggles that they are engaged in strikes and struggles, the anti-war movement solidarity, movement, things like that. And so when you do this kind of work at your at your property, just combination of the words agitation and propaganda. You become as invisible in the art world as workers are invisible in mainstream culture.
03:05 In our mainstream culture, I painted mural Chernobyl for example. In the end kids came to me and they said TV. They said does anyone in America work? They're very serious in this question because when you watch television, you see people in nice apartments in New York having fine. You see cops, you see Rich lawyers, but you don't ever see a worker and so they legitimately wanted to know, are there any workers and and there aren't we have no images of workers? And so the people who feed us, the people who close us, the people who build our shelters, the maintenance people who keep our buildings clean and prevent us from getting sick, who serve us a food. All of these people are very invisible.
04:04 And so when you become part of their artistic expression, you become invisible to and that's why my it might be a trickle. I get a lot of press about them in the mainstream, press you. No. Other articles in the New York Times may be in any of the art press. There's not an inch about my galleries anywhere.
04:35 And and I'm not the only one, but as far as I know, I'm the most frequently paint from Europe. So how was that experience? And how long it was and what happened?
05:03 Well, I painted several pieces in the occupied territories, having a Jewish Heritage. I could easily fly to Israel. Although I had to get through a lot of protecting the way. We put these projects together as we have to create very broad start with individual a local unions. We build up we try to get a few celebrities people like that. It's so when I go to paint their it's clear that their broad forces involved. And then when I got to the occupied, territories had to meet with Palestinian unions, had to because it's an apartheid state for your separate Union had to meet with also Israeli Union. Try to get his broader Coalition together as possible because people take these things very seriously, and if you don't want to get shot or something,
06:03 You want to make sure you have your bass cover? We ended up meeting with a time with Yasser Arafat who is head of, it's okay. If I said, it's okay. So I painted the mural in the date shipper, in refugee camp. I painted a project with Palestinian construction workers who are being replaced by other immigrant construction workers within the state of Israel. Most of the construction is done by Palestinians, who don't have the same rights as his rally. I did a mural at the Rachel Corrie Peace Center, which Rachel Corrie was a student from Washington State, Evergreen State College, and she was murdered by the Israeli Defense Forces for opposing housing Demolition, and that one was immediately.
07:03 Back down by Israeli Army came, and knocked knocked the building down that I painted the mural on the idea, really behind them isn't so much. That me painting a mural is going to mean a lot in terms of, don't do it in a Banksy way. That is designed to promote myself about the importance of it. Is, we had a labor delegation that came along. We went, we were able to talk about and learn about housing, demolitions, these kind of things the state of apartheid, how it work. Come back and express that the people give forums publicize that things like that. And that's kind of typical of the kind of thing that I've been doing over a couple of decades.
08:03 You know, when I went to Northern Ireland right after that, same thing, the idea was to paint a mural that would inject the idea of protestant and Catholic Workers uniting together against their employers, instead of fighting each other and I change them, your old bat Malcolm X, who was a national. But as soon as I left, they destroyed that, that girl is destroyed too, and it was in, in a park and a lot of people are getting killed. I mean, a bomb went off when we were there shooting so that we had Church involved in all this kind of stuff to do to protect both myself and the other artists or more the other artists and needs when you're when you're in North America.
09:03 Artists even someone who's has denigrated like myself. You left likely, then it's your local, a lot of these projects are the ideas to use the art as a weapon. To use it as a way to really reject yourself into the social struggles that are going on and to, to use it at to give visual expression to these very important social struggles. That thousands of people involved and I'm just one artist, but it shows what a unique contribution artist can make, because people can use it as a focal point to Rally around or use it as a tool to the making of a mule.
10:03 Well, I'm when I work in these places, you know, that I have a picture of her here. And it's, I'm in Baghdad between the wars and I'm painting in their kids and we're having sloppy joes or exchanging ideas. This is when Saddam Hussein was still in power and you're building an organic solidarity.
10:24 All the places I've gone in the world. Basically the US is trying to strangle and there's every reason for the people to hate the United States. And they do not me. They love me because I'm part of their struggle against the United States and the United States. Most people. I am just treated so nicely, so wonderfully because exactly what you're saying, people know the difference and they know that we're fighting again and this is some of the people who were part of the delegation. I was there was a big motivation cuz there was some more provocations
11:24 One of them stations and they aren't you, why are you worried? And now everybody gets that. There's no, there's no troubles between joy and collaboration present capitalist interests. I mean, that it's official in this a construction that we have done. Just just to divide us.
12:24 Liberty drawn to divide. We have depended on you. In class is incapable of solving, the didn't even want. No, the one thing, they're very good at what, there was a time when capitalism was, right? And as brutal as they were robber barons, we called them. They're on there. As brutal as they were. They still had a vision. All right, I want to build railroads so that we have modern cities. And of course, they, they were brutal anti-immigrant bloody things, but they had this vision of creating something that the pharaohs created.
13:23 Architecture. That's better than anything we have today, right? Today's ruling class only knows how to steal.
13:33 They produced nothing new building that goes up is worse than the last. All they can see is how do we how do we steal?
13:55 Social Security, how do we steal? You know, whatever is after you no end and that's all it is. You you merged companies you merge Union. They're just so blind with greed that they can't even take a longer range Vision, you know, just look one last night. What's going on with Texas? I mean,
14:28 And these politicians are not stupid. They're just they just think I owe. We can just
14:35 The employers by getting rid of it by driving down, the rights of people of color by, not letting black people go by getting rid of women's rights through right to reproduce. We will make more money.
14:49 Who is this? This is going to be today in favor and well until until until there's a new explosion of social movements, which I believe there will be. No. I mean I've seen it because I saw I lived in the fifties and sixties and saw what happened in the seventies and eighties and everything became transfer station.
15:35 Because it's going to keep getting worse until people rise up. I mean, people I don't think are going to go voluntarily to species Extinction.
15:45 There will be a fight, people will fight to keep alive, their children to keep alive the world, as it is it. What what what they can do to change it. You see periodic uprisings, you know, black lives matter occupy two years ago has the amazing case of Columbia. The same moment that it was very convenient for the power and the part of the, you know, what, impelled the movement, the United States in the sixties too, because we related very much, we were
16:46 In the Revolutionary movements in Latin America. I mean, I used to dress up like Che Guevara.
16:57 I was wearing, I got a rest of the time. I was at Kent State University when the shooting took place. When I got arrested I had a big chase them. So I got a gun to my head and and I forget what I saw part of that and I want anyone but but now I think it's important to ask you. How do you how do you think it is?
17:35 Well Repair. Well
17:39 I think you have to take into account the relationship of class forces. I became involved in the anti-war movement in the late 60s when it was still could be maybe a minority move when I my first or demonstration organized in high school in 1968. And when the shootings took place at can't, we were becoming a majority movement after the invasion of Cambodia. It was clear into the army and it and it was a, it was a majority movement against the wall.
18:23 And when the shootings took place, what what Nixon on the ruling class hoped would do and they did the same thing in Mexico with the protesters earlier, much worse Bloodshed in Mexico, where they hoped and that will scare them and he'll go home. But that's not what happened. They misjudged that, instead. There was a national student strike with your name and then it went on for a long time. In the United States, millions of students went out on strike over 400 campuses were occupied and students began to run. The university is amazing moment in history and
19:15 Add of that came out of the anti-war movement in the women's movement movement of the ecology movement, all these social. And so there was that big explosion and they've never been able to turn that around, you know, the ruling class is trying very hard like this thing in Texas and they can pass a law to restrict women's rights, but that hasn't changed the consciousness of women's league baseball, right to vote. In the United States that I remember and they get back to where we started with the cult. The idea of culture wars. They're trying to the cultured what this thing they bring up about the culture wars. Everyone's what they're trying to do is
20:15 Trying to suppress the progressive ideas that came out of the social movements of the 70s. And so the ideas for example that you're supposed to teach black history, you know who you're being politically, correct? Well, yeah, there was a black history and we are and we are no longer willing to accept this. And today because I am old enough to remember when, before they were black studies programs before they were women size, you didn't I remember as we published Malcolm X speeches.
20:57 I remember going and getting a new speech by Malcolm X and going. Oh my God, this guy, he's amazing. And I would go to the Greyhound bus station and I get a new speech by Che Guevara. None of this was available. There were no speeches by women, you know, of, of the earlier waves, if it's a mass movement, nobody knew who did, you know, this was all coming because I added the social struggles and they want to put that back in the box with the Genie's out and it ain't going back. So they can try to make inroads and they have made some minor inroads. I think in terms of the abortion stuff, you know, people are a little less inclined to to be open about
21:56 That but that's really been the default of the women's organizations like is the lethargy of the Labour officials who are just sitting like lumps. While the species is being threatened. The union members would be okay, except we have very conservative Union officials and then they are just, you don't even see them but it's Unthinkable. I know and I can't think of any other country of the world where these kind of major assault would be taking place against the working class, where there wouldn't be some kind of official Act.
22:46 Even if it was meant to demobilize, even if it was really, but in the US.
22:58 So sorry, I mean information. Is there any weekly we are more than ever?
23:08 But there is no, there's no there's no response of the people for the people.
23:14 The American workers are further to the left in my opinion than ever before.
23:21 But the thing with the thing is hard to remember the United States, because we look at what the US does. We receive them bombing in this nasty. We see them bombing in Iraq. We see them doing drone attacks Isis. And we think o the might of the US is directed against these peoples of the world. And that's true, but actually much more of it is directed at us, but it's through our heads.
23:52 Everything, the media, the Arts, the education, the church from the day you're born, in the United States, you are or you come see that you are special. You're an American you're this year that and this stuffy and vote. If you vote, that means you're free. That is everything but it's the official religion of the country. So we are subject to the mental wear to the psychological warfare unrelenting from day one.
24:32 And it immobilizes and divides people.
24:36 And that is the biggest weapon. They have Steve Biko, said that the greatest weapon in the mind of in enhancing. The oppressor is the mind of the oppressed Freedom fire. And that is so true.
24:57 You no divisions among each other, any trick in the book. It's the one thing. The ruling class has got, you are so good. At any little thing that happens any disaster. They get people fighting, you know, down to the shop. For I worked as a machinist at one point. My life. As people say, you get some, you get some Eastern European workers here and you get them divided against Southeast Asian workers over every baby one.
25:37 And of course a lot of the work that I do is designed to try to overcome in to you notice, because you're working your work. You work? You tell you later, Mary. She's at work. If she's broadcast worker. You're an addict. I'm a I'm a retired worker now, but you know, I was a railroad worker, whatever. What is it mean to be? Next time you're in American, is when
26:18 They when they want you to go die somewhere so I can die somewhere. Then you in America or when you're paying taxes. What is the status coming out of the womb within a certain borderline or getting a paper that says died that big man upstairs? Malcolm X. I'm the victim of americanism and that's what we are. All our or the other victim of americanism.
26:59 Mike, yes, going back to listen your opinion about that, destruction of the public art in the one and say going to the anti-racist movement activists. Are we taking out and putting up so they can say they do that.
27:51 Well, it gets it gets complicated and the reason it gets complicated is because in reality working people have no control over the production of where consumers of culture and one of the things about artists and, you know, this as well as his life is spent trying to make art struggling to make art, which is a basic human need. It's just like we would fight to Breeze, we fight to make art.
28:28 So and there's no way to resolve this and and culture. It is part of how y'all this mental weapon. That is usually, so the Arts that were given the movies that were we watching all the stuff is designed to make us react to certain ways. And if you're good at it, you can make a lot of money Steven Spielberg to make a movement about World War II movie about World War II, that seems like it's anti-war, but it may be waving a little flag, and he's, so he's very good way to see. Can, I can offer me? Cuz I'm going to name the people responsible for sending our children to deaths.
29:28 And are they not they don't like that with the thing with the the the that came with the Confederate statues. Came out of the black lives matter and the whole issue of the brutal ongoing lynching and death machine that still is still intact and has existed since the importation of Africans forcibly into the United States. You basically had slavery in different and where is it? You said Mass spectacles of lynchings. They can no longer get away with that because of the Civil Rights Movement. So now you have police executions and the IT instills fear that you that the African American supposed to act a certain way. They have to you know, you have to do a certain way and it's designed to make people.
30:28 Yes, but now we have demonstrations and that is the only thing that will tie the hands of these people when they see thousands of people in the streets protesting during these people react to these symbols of white supremacy. And the shoes were not, we're very consciously done as part of the Jim Crow movement as part of establishing and suppressing reconstruction, after the Civil War movement. Okay, and so frequently censored. Even, I'm looking at this and I'm going on. I'm glad to see that happen.
31:28 Now, what happens is it then becomes unfortunately, kind of an official at a political strategy of what I would call some Ultra left some at, you know, people sometimes self-balancing like, we're going to go down. Well, yes, and I don't, I don't, I think while I support all actions against a misguided and the main problem with things like that, it makes working people spectators.
32:15 Instead of participants,
32:18 Yeah, we are. We are demanding. There's a difference between marching and demand that you have a different kind of culture, different kind of like to whatever. It's not really doing anything. And there's a certain that if you get rich Thomas Jefferson the logic of that unfortunately is you're going to you go in and you empty the Museum's because
33:06 It's, it's all the history of women shows them is possession. So once you start down that road, then you have a big problem. And I thought the way the Cubans handled example of Columbus, for example, was a much better way than saying we should take down statues of Columbus, which is why you can't do that is evil and it represented. Here's what happened. But here's what else have you had this encounter between Europe and Indigenous people and that's why you have tomatoes and Italy and that's why we grow these vegetables, different places and that's why we learned how to make tools, so you can't just look at it. You can't replace one simplistic narrative.
34:06 History, Columbus discovered America and they were statues, there were natives there and he brought civilization with, this is just evil and it would have been better. If she comes sitting out. There were already people that we have to learn. We have to we have to look at it with a torch. And the main thing is Art should be pedagogical and it should not be destroying a statue of Columbus is not how you engaged.
34:46 With anti-racist activity that does nothing to advance. And now, what do you think? I'm just wrapping up about the president of Mexico, asking the crown of Spain to apologize for these things are these are political right? Positions are very good at this point, the whole world.
35:38 Is it is a melting? You know, it's all anybody. Everybody is everywhere. And you know, when they talk about, when I want to get the cancel culture in our last couple minutes cuz this idea of cancel the working class being cancelled from culture, and I happen to be a good example of that. It's not just that I'm censored. I am canceled. I do not, I'm not invited to be a visiting art.
36:18 I hold the title of the most censored artist in the world, probably. Right? What?
36:32 Never once never an into the safe food products and grows our food. Where are the people who grow our food? Why isn't there a TV show about then? Why aren't they on the radio? We hear the story of their lives, what could be more dramatic than Mass migration of human beings to come and feed us to catch our fish.
37:08 To create clothing for us to where we live in little bubbles. They create they put us in little Bubbles and, and they allow us to choose.
37:34 A certain model of bubble in the way, we get to choose a certain model of automobile. But really they're all pretty much the same, right? You can be you can be a broadcaster in Brooklyn and are you can be over in Queens and the in University there or I can be up here painting a couple of murals or whatever and I wear black and you wear one thing and somebody where's Grimes and then you can be kind of chips or whatever. You have a butt.
38:24 All of us are discouraged from really doing the kind of work that can advance as collectively they can make us think and act like it's all designed to make the atomizer is so great with the children. Yes. That is why I'm very confident about a lot of things today who because all the obstacles a day plays people are very good at figuring out of ways around it. They really are and I think it's going to be an a
39:12 Amazing social struggle unfolding, which I probably won't be around to see you, but the steaks today are so much greater than they were in the 70s. Periods of intense, labor up, grass and stuff, but really the steak. And so, this is right? And a huge battle is going to unfold and young people today.
39:44 Are much more worldly in their Outlook and are much. They are much cleverer about finding ways to work together.
39:55 And yeah, and and I think I was teaching street art, and a mural painting only courses in the country street art. You see every night? And it's amazing thing to think about it, every night. And 1,000 of young people around the world in every country, every city go out in defiance of the authorities to make art.
40:28 You know, they face the rest. They taste death animals. We are social beings, we are social being for us making our is as important as breathing, it really is. And so, we're going to do it. We're going to do, we're going to find a way to do it, right? Sending the stock that I love you, and I love you very much. And why is it that you have youthful enthusiasm, you know, you are an amazing artist and you have to follow the direction of your art.
41:28 Very beautiful pieces of work. Very different. I can I could not do it, and this is amazing. There's no right way to make card. I do ask you for a part. That's what I do. And that's right for me, where I come from and whatever you have to follow direction of yours. And and your I've noticed the direction you're going in your eye.
42:10 He's great. Thank you.
42:15 Are you happy then? Are we done? Did you wrap it up to do? It was a very, very bad.