Cease & Desist

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photo credit: wolfsheep.com

-originally published on wolfsheep.com July 2013.

There’s an idea in this world: an idea that one group can tell another how to act, how to think, how to feel. An idea that one group is synonymous with the lesser. This is a world where corporations tell us it’s unlawful to share the intangible. It’s also a world where people think they can tell us who we can and can’t marry. If we are truly to be equal, then the powers that be must Cease & Desist.

On July 5, 2013, Wolf/Sheep Arthouse in conjunction with Lab Salon presented Cease & Desist, a night of art, music, culture, and drag queens at Lucky Bar in Victoria, B.C., as a part of Victoria’s annual Pride celebration. Cease & Desist served as the launching point for new creative movement spearheaded by Wolf/Sheep founder Erik Van Kobra.

“I started playing around with basically what appeared to be public domain resource materials and mixing it with blatantly copyrighted stuff. I started with fashion houses and large well known brands because [they] stood out. I found the contrast of the two things really visually appealing. The ridiculous thing about it, is the design end is so basic, it’s not even fucking funny,” says EVK.

The art of Cease & Desist is a melding of iconic corporate logos of fashion and design with the hedonistic and decidedly non-glamorous world of pornography. The copyrighted logos of brands such as Ferrari, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and others contrast as they lay over images of women and men often in the throes of orgasm and exhibitionism. The point of the art isn’t purely a shock and awe campaign. EVK hopes to play with peoples conceptions about what is art and what is considered offensive.

“I think people are less quick nowadays to be offended. They’re more apt to be offended privately. I think they want to be thought of as accepting and cool and liberated and enlightened. The reality is, is that they live inside of a shell created for them. I think things like corporations have almost the same attitude.  ‘We’re for people. We have people in our ads. We’re real. We’re making stuff for you. Just behave. Behave by our rules. Don’t steal. Buy our shit and you’re our friend,'” says EVK.

We live in the social networking age. Millions upon millions of users share images online through image sharing sites such as Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and others. Images and memes are shared over, and over, and over, and over.

“On Tumblr, all bets on copyright are off. But how so?  How can you build a business around what is obviously blatantly copyrighted material on their part? The way [corporations] look at it, there’s 1 million or so 14-year-old kids sharing their shit on a platform like that, it’s free advertising.  The minute someone thinks about it, takes it seriously, say me or you or someone else, it’s a problem,” says EVK.

Cease & Desist was born out of the idea of pushing copyright to the limits where EVK might receive actual cease and desist letters from companies for using their intellectual property. Companies such as Napster, Megaupload, and The Pirate Bay have all been taken down by corporate bullies who didn’t agree with people giving away for free what they saw fit to profit from. The fashion industry, the music industry, and the creative industry all appear to be for creativity, when in reality they’re just trying to hold everything back and in line with their profit margins.

“We truly do live in an appropriated world. Our society thrives off of it. But the fact that someone out there owns that appropriated creative drive is stupid. It’s almost redundant. They shut down Napster, they shut down The Pirate Bay, they stop people from sharing things they don’t physically own. What is the point, where does it end, where does it stop, where do you start, how do you regulate it? Let it go, just let it go. Let [same sex couples] get married.  Who fucking cares?” says EVK.

Erik had been working on the art that would become Cease & Desist for quite some time before he was approached by Doug Macneil with the idea to promote a different kind of Pride event.

“When I moved over here I tried to go out, get involved in the scene or get involved in going out, it was done. I saw it so many times over and over again. To me I felt that Victoria – I’m not attacking anybody – because of what I had seen living over in [Vancouver], is that everybody is behind. I felt that if I could find somebody that was willing to bring it up to more of a speed that I enjoy, that’s where I wanted to go with it. That’s why I approached Erik,” says Macneil.

Doug wanted a different kind of Pride event. A far more aggressive event removed from the familiar tropes of Pride. One that freed itself of the labels and preconceived notions within a community. Not a gay event, not a lesbian event, an event that was all inclusive where any and all can celebrate Pride in a non-traditional Pride venue. The result became Cease & Desist.

“The idea right now within the gay community is a real civil liberties discussion. Why are they not entitled to the same rights as straight people? Why are they not entitled to the same happiness and unhappiness as the rest of us, even though it is very touted and explicitly stated in the majority of our society that they’re entitled to equality,” says EVK.

Cease & Desist at its core is about liberation. Be that the liberation of copyrights, sexual liberation, or the liberation of all preconceived notions of what it is to be gay or straight.

“I think that segment of society speaks pretty loud, and the artwork does the same thing. I don’t think that any of us are oblivious to it. It’s a fact. It’s generally in your face. The first knee jerk reaction is that people get offended by it. Beyond what they think, what they truly believe. ‘No, no, no, sure. Let those people be the way they are, until I have to see something I don’t really want to see,’ and I think sex a lot of the time is the first knee jerk icebreaker for that one. You really jump on a line. Either way, I think it’s enticing,” says EVK.

Doug brought in some of the most talented and androgynous drag queens that Vancouver, B.C., has to offer for the July 5 show.  The night was hosted by Kamelle Toe, a stand up comedian who commands attention. Other performers included Raye Sunshine, Mantra MMX, as well as DJs Kasey Riot, and Victoria’s own Monolithium.

“I want to bring a little piece of my home and a little piece of my imagination and to go down the rabbit hole with Erik. It’s been tons of fun with the Wolf/Sheep guys. I have gay friends who have gained a lot of respect for what something serious as this can do,” says Macneil.

The July 5 show was a flurry of androgyny, neon, glitter, and culture. The brick walls of Lucky Bar wore the neon Cease & Desist artwork proudly. Kamelle Toe delighted with her humour, Raye Sunshine exploded on the stage in a spot on Rouge costume from the 90s X-Men, Mantra MMX exuded androgyny, and Kasey Riot and Monlithium provided the beats.

“Cease & Desist isn’t going to be for just Pride only, but this time around we thought this would be the time to push the boundaries of the scene in Victoria and give the masses something they have never seen or heard before. Hopefully that comes to a bigger thing down the road. It doesn’t need to be a Pride event,” says Macneil.

Cease & Desist is series of art by Erik Van Kobra and a clothing line by Wolf/Sheep. What it really is, is a movement, a glittered coated fist of solidarity pumping in a nightclub. It’s a reminder that we need to push boundaries, we need to question norms. If we cannot be counted equally, if we lose the freedom to share information, what are we?

“I as an artist should have the same rights as you as a gay person, and we don’t. There’s inequality there and I think that’s unjust,” says EVK.

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Septagon Studios

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Photo Credit http://septagonstudios.tumblr.com/

 

– Originally published by wolfsheep.com in Januray 2012. 

 

It’s not all capes and chaos. It is not all testosterone and chauvinism. We neglect comic books as an art form in favour of the misconception that it is all about fulfillment of boyhood fantasy and male stereotypes.

“We wanted to create a publishing company that did not focus on superheroes but rather put emphasis on the art, story and originality of the project,” says Philip Defina, Vice President and Art Director of Toronto, Ontario, based Septagon Studios.

Septagon Studios was founded in 2003 by brothers Philip and Domenic Defina and their cousin Nicola. The Definas grew up as comic book fans. It was the art that drew them in, illustrating their own comics and covers to pass the time. Many dream of making it big in comic books, however, the industry is notorious for the difficulty of new artists getting started.

“In the late 1990s  to early 2000s we spent some time hanging around different comic creator forums and websites. There were a lot of artists and writers out there that just wanted to be seen and heard,” says Defina.

Mainstream comics puts their focus on super-heroics, cancelling titles that sell under the 20,000 issue range and often letting art fall to the wayside. Septagon reached out to the indies. They looked for creators that shared their vision of comics as an art form. They decided to become an independent publisher in order to give those creators exposure.

“We are a small company and we do what we do out of our love for comics and helping comic creators. We are always keeping our eye out for the opportunity to collaborate with creators who have unique comics with strong original art connected to a great story. We really believe in publishing quality as opposed to quantity,” says Defina.

The Definas even chose an oft overlooked symbol to represent their vision of comics, “a septagon is a polygon with seven sides and seven angles. It is a unique shape that you don’t really see or hear about often. There is also a lot of spiritual symbolism related to the number 7 and creation. We thought the shape and name would make a unique comic imprint and it connects well with how we are trying to represent ourselves as an indie publishing company,” says Defina.

Current Septagon projects include digital and print medium versions of Masks and Archaeologists of Shadows. Each title bears its own artistic style which is uniquely individual.

“The artwork in Masks combines photography with digital painting and photo-manipulation. The artist and writer of Masks, Aaron Rintoul, did all the photography for the book and he weaved together a story that takes place inside the psyche of a girl named Sara. Masks is a non-linear story where the reader draws their own interpretation. We actually offer the whole first issue free digitally and we have a hardcover graphic novel edition for anyone that would like to have the book in their hands,” says Defina.

Archeologists of Shadows is a graphic novel that has been in development for more than five years. A.O.S. has allowed us the opportunity to collaborate with writer Lara Fuentes and artist Patricio Clarey all the way from Spain, with editing and adaptation by Preston Park Cooper. It contains over 100 pages of immersive story and art that goes beyond the typical superhero vs. villain comic. It is more of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Steampunk adventure that makes you think about reality, society, technology and the search for purpose. The art combines drawing, sculpture, photography, photo manipulation, and digital painting to create a real 3D feel. If you’re a fan of Lord Of The Rings or The Matrix, we think you’ll like A.O.S.,” says Defina.

Septagon seeks to strike out its own artistic niche in a world progressing towards a digital revolution within a traditionally printed medium, “the first digital comics were published in the mid 1980’s and some people have been saying that printed comics are doomed since then. I think there is a strong future for both print comics and digital comics. I believe there will always be comic fans that will want to have the experience of feeling and reading a printed book in their hands,” says Defina.

“We also continue to provide creator resources and help through the Septagon Studios Comic Blog and the Work In Comics Facebook Page. This usually keeps us pretty busy and out of trouble,” says Defina.

Check out Septagon’s various websites and social network feeds to keep up with the latest:

Septagon Studios http://www.septagonstudios.com

Tumblr http://septagonstudios.tumblr.com/

Work In Comics http://www.facebook.com/WorkInComics

Masks http://www.maskscomic.com

Archaeologists of Shadows http://www.aoscomic.com