(Before we get started let me restate that this is a blog about graphic design. I make no case for or against the political issues pictured below. There are plenty of political blogs and if you're interested in that sort of thing you could do worse than start here. OK. Pantones to the ready.)
Take a look at this. Is it graphic design?
It's a poster, it's been thought about, it's been considered. Not as obviously 'designed' as Lennon's anti-war posters but that type still fills that space on purpose. The colour has been used to highlight the message. The big text shows awareness that the poster will be read from a distance. All these posters are communicating a message. All of them have been created to get across a clear message to a clear target audience. So, in effect, it's been designed, right?
Except it's not design. It's art. Have a look at this picture.
At the weekend I went to see Mark Wallinger's exhibition State Britain.
For those of you who don't know the back story goes something like this. Way back in July 2001 Brian Haw began a protest in Parliament Square, London. Bang outside the entrance to the Houses of Parliament. He was protesting against the economic sanctions in Iraq.
Obviously, given the events of the rest of 2001 Brian's protest grew and grew. And so did his site along the edge of Parliament Square. It's hard to capture in a photograph but the protest ended up looking something like this.
Better, more comprehensive, pictures here.
On 23 May 2006, following the passing by Parliament of the ‘Serious Organised Crime and Police Act’ all 'unauthorised' demonstrations within a one kilometre radius of Parliament Square were banned. Shortly afterwards the police raided Brain's protest and took all the posters down bar a short 6ft area.
It so happens that the one kilometre radius bisects Tate Britain (bisects it a little too perfectly for my cynical eye) hence Wallingers recreation of Haw's protest and hence the title State Britain. Each one of the posters (which were destroyed by the Police) were recreated in Wallinger's studio and are now on display in the Tate Britain. So that's art, then?
But a minute ago we thought it was graphic design, didn't we. So is it both? At least we can agree it's a protest, right? What if Charles Saatchi buys it for £1 million, what is it then?
And what about the target audience we talked about earlier. Are they still the same people the posters were intentionally created for? From a visual point of view the posters look better against the lush green grass and historic stone of Parliament Square. The protest had an organic, scrap book feel to it that added to the vernacular of the weathered posters.
I was very quickly stopped from taking pictures by the security guards in the gallery. Why? An art exhibit that charges the police with curtailing freedom of speech but you can't take pictures of it. Does anyone else find that odd? I can take pictures to my hearts content in the Design Museum.
I left with more questions than answers, which is maybe the point of art, but I'm sure these weren't the questions that Wallinger, Haw or the creators of the banners had in mind.
What do you think?