For this task we were shown different examples of political ephemera to support or denounce causes through the 20th century. My eyes were really opened to the innumerable ways protest art could be created. From hand embroidered banners and tea sets used by the suffragettes to mass printing of posters and prints. The variety and quality of work we saw was exceptional. Here are some of my favorites.
These pieces are firm favourites of mine. Left you can see the campaign poster for Barack Obama when he ran in the United States presidential race in 2008 on a ‘hope and change’ platform. It was designed by artist Shepard Fairey and is widely regarded as an iconic work. On the right is a less than flattering relief on Donald Trump, a piece of protest art designed to mirror the style of the original but in opposition to Trump. Both pieces are highly effective works, the second relying on the first to convey a powerful message.
Here we have an environmentally aware work by artist Anthony Burrill. The work was created in response to the tragic and devastating Deep Water Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill in the gulf of Mexico. Burrill was among those who volunteered to help clear what he could of the oil from affected areas. He actually used oil he collected to create his prints which only serves to enhance the depth and meaning of the work. The clear and forceful statement of the work, as well as its brilliant simplicity make it a very effective piece.
For my own work I would be drawing from my group’s manifesto, which revolves around animal welfare. I had a number of ideas going into the project, but quickly realized they would have little bearing on the final product. Instead of simply trying to encompass the entirety of the message into one piece, I decided to focus on the most graphic animal cruelty, poaching and hunting for sport.
I had memories of seeing an old poster which sought to demonstrate the cruelty of trophy hunting by switching the tables. A ‘how would you like it if it was done to you’ type of approach. The piece depicted a human splayed out to represent a lion skin rug.. I’ve been unable to find the original but I found an image that roughly represents what I’m talking about.
The notion of role reversal is very powerful to my mind. As the acts of cruelty displayed by trophy hunting and poaching are egregious. However many are unthinking and don’t see its true level of cruelty. This piece encourages a kind of empathy and for that reason I thought it was a powerful image.
I realized pretty quickly that a piece on this level would be impossible to complete in the afternoon I was allotted to complete the work. I did, however take away the key point of this piece, which was to create visual imagery not only to capture attention but to help convey the message in a way that would make it more real to people.
I decided I would focus on large, well known wild animals for my piece. People may not see an elephant in their lifetime, but everyone knows what an elephant is and what it looks like. This image is a very basic cutout of the elephant repeated and faded to express the population damage caused by hunting and poaching. I felt it was punchy and simple. It was rather unimaginative though. It served as a building block in my process, however.
I realized, if I want to create a piece of work that would be immediate and eye catching, I should probably simplify it, somewhat. For this reason I took my elephant template and, using a filter process, simplified its colours and edges. I decided I should pair my piece with some informative text as well. I didn’t want some meaningless platitude or rhyming phrase however. I decided to research some stories and statistics that would give the piece context and shock value and this is what I came to create.
Here are the two original posters I created. As you can see they share many similarities. I’d decided to draw from the ‘hope and change’ poster in terms of minimalism in colour. I intended this piece to be screen printed or at least for this exercise, to look screen printed. Had I continued with this line of work I would have added more to the image on the left, possibly a prompt in the white space left in the bottom right corner such as ‘are you willing to stop this?’.
I felt both of these pieces had merit, but again they were limited in their scope. They didn’t carry the shock value I wanted.
Here we have my final piece. A gritty image of death. The tally marks appearing scratched into the space above the loaded AK-47, each representing an elephant killed en masse in a single day. The visualization of the number of deaths makes it appear far more real and tragic than having it merely written. The gun appears to have been set down after a long and bloody day of killing. I could not be happier with this piece. It’s my first piece since enrolling in University that I have felt 100% satisfied in.
As a large proportion of my group were absent for this task I felt I would need more work to present at the end of the day and began to work on a second piece. This would be in the same spirit but focusing on Indian Tigers. I drew inspiration from seeing old warplanes with tally marks on the bodywork denoting the number of confirmed kills by that aircraft. Often symbols were used instead of tally marks.
Using this technique I wanted to expand on my elephant poster. I found an image online and applied similar processes in Photoshop to simplify the edges and colours. The individual images would be small and so minimalism would be the most appropriate way to achieving clarity.
This is what I created. I duplicated the image until I had 50 tigers, before changing the colour balance to give some vibrancy to the poster. I then added the text which I found here. I wanted to use black, bold text for its impact. This is Helvetica, commonly used in street signage for its clarity. As a final touch, I needed some way to convey the fact that these tigers had been killed. I thought about scratching them out or turning them red in a kind of video game death way, but none of these methods were particularly interesting or powerful. I finally elected to use bullet holes. This had several huge advantages, it gives the poster a three dimensional look, it conveys the violence inherit in poaching and the indiscriminate spray of the bullets symbolizes the senselessness and anarchic nature of the act.
This poster is equally a favourite creation of mine. I’m rarely satisfied with the quality my work. But I really feel I have done the best I could hope for in this project. The whole project was thoroughly enjoyable and informative.