We’re working on another book close to our Head of Design Kristian Henson’s heart. It’s an ode to his younger brother, Kevin, an anarcho-crust punk musician and artist who fell ill and was forced to move back to the Philippines for a long road to recovery. It fell upon Kristian to pack up his brother’s Los Angeles apartment which contained a huge and painstakingly organized record collection of rare anarcho punk music.
The process of getting his brother’s records in order was a journey of sorts that found its way into a full-scale editorial project, initially executed as a thesis for Kristian’s MFA at Yale School of Graphic Design. The book is entitled In Darkness.
This manly-brotherly love story plays out in restrained black and white, the colors of a punk record collection guerrilla printed in one color for economy’s sake. In Darkness never wallows melodramatically in the hardships that brothers have to face. Instead it explores their relationship obliquely, through the mise-en-scène—music, literature and imagery—of the anarchist movement. The book includes a catalogue of Kevin’s records (with reviews written by him), some samples of Kevin’s abstract black ink drawings and writings and a special typeface designed by Kristian. The story was so good we had to reprint it, Recto/ghetto style and slightly modified to include new material on the history & current practice of anarchism in the Philippines.
To this end, we’ve been doing some heavy immersion (i.e. totally hanging out) with anarchist collectives in Manila. We’ve visited several anarchist info shops, all solar-powered by the way. They are basically open libraries around which community events are planned. Everything from food drives to anti-government protests to permaculture, biogas & solar energy workshops to concerts and street debates and everything-for-free markets are held by these tiny info shops with band-like names. Etniko Bandido. Feral Crust. On Site. Unlike in other more “developed” countries, these libraries are part of the homes of their owners, whose struggle goes beyond sticking up for a set of socio-political ideals. Their struggle is to make ends meet, typhoons and poverty line be damned. On Site’s owner, Bas Umali—whose writing style is strong, succinct and extremely intellectual—-supports his wife and two kids with a tiny internet café. Cris de Vera of Etniko Bandido drives a tricycle. Mel Canonigo and Mika Sanchez, the couple that run Feral Crust’s community garden, squat a small concrete hut in the middle of a slum-area road, sustained by odd jobs here and there. And MAN are they well-read, each and every one of them.
One of the conclusions we’ve drawn is that The OCD’s format and activity is almost identical to these info shops, except for some discrepancies on political beliefs and economics. We also work out of a private residence, struggle to find funding (though definitely not as much as the info shop warriors), have a pride-and-joy library, publish niche market pamphlets and believe in taking matters into our own hands.
In the words of Bas Umali:
"They are those you can classify (loosely) as anarchists, anti-authoritarians and autonomous activists. Though united through common grounds in various issues, these activists have no single ideological line […] . The unifying theme for them would be the primacy of engaging in direct action to resolve problems, as well as a common distrust of the state, and a shared pessimism of rigid organizational structures. Activities of these groups are being carried out based on non-hierarchical, non-statist values."
So yeah. The OCD has always resisted labels such as activist, feminist, relationalist, curator, artist (to describe ourselves), non-profit organization, non-governmental organization and a long list of etceteras. So we can’t say we’re anarchists. But it does feel like these info shops we’ve met are run by our brothers and sisters, all struggling through permutations of the same darknesses, trying to get to some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. We’re an optimistic sort of family, though. We really do believe that (cliché) light is there, at the end of the dark. It’s been 5 days since the power went out at the office due to Typhoon Glenda, so excuse us if we wax metaphorical about darkness, surrounded by candlelight, chasing 3G.