Television news images are increasingly shown out of context separating them from any sense of reality. They tend to fit too easily into simple sets of representation. The speed and repetition of the medium conceals its underlying agenda. No longer do these images have any direct reference to their historical, political or cultural origin.
The sanitised images begin to form their own identity, isolated and empty. By not going beyond the issues that are immediately visible, a world without contradiction is shown, limiting the range and meaning needed for an open public debate.
The Responses to the 1st poster, printed on the second are as follows:
J Keane on
(London) Debate what debate?
In academic circles and the design journals we have fallen into a trap of regarding work of merit or note as that which, at best, seeks to illustrate and confirm the theories of postmodern French theorists, Barthes, Sassure etc without a critical integration of those theories it purports to employ. This is aptly demonstrated in recent history by the failed attempt at the Cranbrook Academy in the US to explore the relationship between linguistics, in particular deconstruction and post structuralism, and visual communications. In retrospect it is possible to view the real value of the work of those students and staff as being significant for having raised the discussion of a genuine intellectual base for graphic design. What is unpalatable is the wave of shallow stylistic poses, and empty rhetoric, that have been subsequently generated elsewhere. The visual hubbub that followed the publicity surrounding that limited period at Cranbrook is indicative of the state we now find ourselves in. It could be argued that even education's well intentioned drive towards a theoretical positioning of graphic design has faltered. Are we now witnessing Graphic Design that is as dumbly pretty as ever before with the only difference being that we now have some interesting theories to justify its existence? Graphic Design, residing as it does in the pluralist confusion of the late 20th century, would do well to attend to its current stasis.
The short history of Graphic Design has seen a progressive dilution of the earlier social interventions and political project of the European modernists into a thinly veiled acceptance of capitalist values and hegemonic world orders. The safe experimentation of the last decade has clearly not lead to Jan Van Toorn's statement that 'experimentation is an anticipation of innovation' (issue 2 Zed). The lack of an ideological project within education re-enforced by a 'market forces' dominated industry has created a culture of compliance, non opposition and at best contained rebellion. We are witnessing the accelerated growth of visual pollution and more alarmingly a paucity of intention. The mediating role of design as a positive force in society has been sidestepped as in issue in favour of feeding a moribund industry with style analogues, content to plunder the work of more genuine experimentalists and trading integrity for stylistic conceit. Any future hopes for a more considered and intellectual project within graphic design are not entirely predicted by the consideration of the real role of theoretical approaches to the subject. But one might accurately predict that without a re-examination of the intention and perceived relevance of these debates we are doomed to produce another generation of Disney theorists and 2nd class postmodernists.
A drive towards the creation of a generic theoretical discussion from within the subject can only be brought about if certain conditions prevail. Whist some might argue that this approach may be irrelevant or unwelcome, the alternative is the continued dumbing down and increasingly subservient status of graphic design within the wider communications industry. Are all concerned content to accept that we cannot move forwards without either borrowing from without and aping the poses of others or retreating into the role of education as pimping for an overlord industry? No one is innocent but some are more guilty than others. In England, in particular, the usual target for criticism is art school education. Charges range from the lack of skills teaching to inadequate creative development - accusations made by a 'tabloid like' design press ordinarily more concerned with an outraged ranting about free pitches and stock market floatations than an informed debate surrounding education and its articulation with the industry.
The real villain however is the Graphic Design industry itself; content to repurpose creative innovation and wholly consumed with business and the creation of wealth. On the few occasions industry chooses to comment from on high about education the ill-informed statements only confirm its inability to see beyond its own short term preoccupations. It behaves like an adulterous lover - it is happy to go to bed with education but it really must go back to its wife now. What we should consider is the unfortunate continuing separation between training and practice - a cannibalistic process of recuperation and a hierarchical imbalance. The over provision of graphic design training and post Thatcherite competition within the educational establishments has lead to a weakening of the perceived value of degree and postgraduate education.
(Portsmouth) In reply to the above text:
All the academies have done is turn the rulebooks back on themselves - by holding up a mirror to the codes by which they are judged. Success in this arena has then been acquired by other schools and designers as a stylistic bandwagon - a method by which to avoid substantive criticism. I feel that education has reached a crisis point, where a genuine attempt at a theoretical underpinning of the subject has been corrupted by the industry and some lazy academics into a debate over style and "intuitive" approaches. Where the design schools are attempting to remain connected to the "real world" of the profession, and particularly where vocational application is an issue (for students and tutors alike), "modern", "deconstructive" and flamboyantly "intuitive" design is simply the latest of many design trends to absorb and reproduce.
I totally agree - that driving force, the "ideological project" as you call it, must come from within. We cannot wait for the "revolution" to come to us, and we should not view our work as separate from a wider political framework - the personal is political. Band wagon - jumping is a sign of the times. In Britain particularly, the vacuum left behind after the wholesale destruction of the political left during the 1980's has resulted in a widespread apathy and a lack of intent in the design community, and the creation of a visual culture concerned more with style and rhetoric than deeper ideological concerns.
The recognition that the 'cultural artefacts' that we produce are both a product of and a contribution to our cultural world-view would seem to be fundamental to a debate within design education on pedagogic approaches to the subject. An understanding of the wider contextual issues surrounding design problems allows education to address the problem-solving aspects of graphic design in relation to a cultural context, which in turn could help in the creation of an alternative approach from within the profession. These conditions must include a stronger sense of identity within graphic design education, and a re-affirmation of the importance of the subject and its links to the development and maintenance of modern culture and the "status quo".
Maybe it's up to the art schools themselves to address these issues internally, in the course of a detailed analysis of where we are going, and a recognition of our strengths and weaknesses, rather than laying ourselves open to criticism over our unholy alliance with the industry. The notion of Graphic Design as "industry", rather than "profession" is at the heart of this argument. As "industry", we are in a position of service, subservient to and intertwined with a market-driven system of values dependent on us for marketing to a passive consumer audience. Were we to take ourselves more seriously, to analyse our position of importance in the economy, and our responsibility to a wider culture, Graphic Designers could take pride in our position, rather than accepting the role of consumer facilitator so readily.
Ensemble - Autonomedia
Posterschnitt - A1 Antworten
Wer bist du?- who are you?
The ABC of
Tactical Media - By David Garcia and Geert Lovink
In other words: how do we, as consumers, use the texts and artifacts that surround us? And the answer he suggested was: 'tactically', or: in far more creative and rebellious ways than had previously been imagined. He described the process of consumption as a set of tactics by which the weak make use of the strong. He characterised the rebellious user (a term he preferred to consumer) as tactical and the presumptuous producer (in which he included authors, educators, curators and revolutionaries) as strategic. Setting up this dichotomy allowed him to produce a vocabulary of tactics rich and complex enough to amount to a distinctive and recognisable aesthetic. An existential aesthetic. An aesthetic of poaching, tricking, reading, speaking, strolling, shopping, desiring. Clever tricks, the hunter's cunning, manoeuvres, polymorphic situations, joyful discoveries, poetic as well as warlike.
Awareness of this tactical/strategic dichotomy helped us to name a class of producers, who seem uniquely aware of the value of these temporary reversals in the flow of power. And rather than resisting these rebellions they do everything in their power to amplify them, and indeed make the creation of spaces, channels and platforms for these reversals central to their practice. We dubbed their (our) work 'Tactical Media'. Tactical Media are never perfect, always involved, performative and pragmatic, in a continual process of questioning the premises of the channels they work with. This requires the confidence that the content can survive intact as it travels from interface to interface. But we must never forget that hybrid media has its opposite, its nemesis, the 'Medialen Gesamtkunstwerk'.
The final program for the electronic Bauhaus. Of course it is much safer to stick to the classic rituals of the underground and alternative scene. But Tactical Media are based on a principle of flexible response, of working with different coalitions, being able to move between the different entities in the vast media landscape, without betraying their original motivations. Tactical Media may be hedonistic, or zealously euphoric. Even fashion hypes have their uses. But it is above all mobility that most characterises the tactical practitioner. The desire and capability to combine or jump from one media to another, creating a continuous supply of mutants and hybrids. To cross borders, connecting and rewiring a variety of disciplines and always taking full advantage of the free spaces in the media, that are continually appearing because of the pace of technological change and regulatory uncertainty.
Although Tactical Media include alternative media, we are not restricted to that category. In fact we introduced the term 'tactical' to disrupt and take us beyond the rigid dichotomies that have restricted thinking in this area for so long, dichotomies such as amateur vs. professional, alternative vs.mainstream, and even private vs. public. Our hybrid forms are always provisional. What counts are the temporary connections you are able to make. Here and now, not some vaporware promised for the future, but: what we can do on the spot with the media we have access to? Here in Amsterdam we have access to local TV, digital cities and fortresses of new and old media. In other places they might have theatre, street demonstrations, experimental film, literature, photography....
- a design collective (Barcelona)
Economy: Some of the communication systems are designed to be useful to a great number of people, but all need a specific technology for their emission and reception.These technologies (Broadcasting receivers, Computers, Phone lines, Modems..) are not available to all, apart from those with a high economic and technical level.
Language: Although English can be considered the current Universal language, due to social and economic influence. It cannot be forgotten that there are several groups of people who do not speak or understand this language; for example the majority of Chinese people the Arabian cultures or the Latin American countries.
Culture: Apart the countries named above, there exist many people with some knowledge of the English language that allows them to communicate to English speakers but not to fully understand the whole meaning of the messages, this is worse in complex Philosophy or technical essays etc...
Communication: The actual majority of mass media systems (with the exception of the internet, at least for the present) fall in one of the basic rules of communication relationships - Information is only sent from the emitter to the receiver, with the receiver not being able to return to the emitter.
Monopoly: There is no knowledge about the veracity of the information being sent out globally, it might be influenced by the Economy, Politics, Law or other powerful lobbies. We may have more information than ever before but we are less able to read the objective truth.
between commerce and visual communication".
from a lecture given in Buenos Aires - June 1997
Art, with its capacity to symbolically express the violence of our contemporary societies, can help question the most difficult problems, and awaken a taste for their complexities. To consider students responsible also means recognising their rights. Spaces and funding should be provided so that they can come together easily in study collectives or groups - in every organisation where their singularity confronts the other, learns from the other, experiments with the real ethical, civic and political means to emancipate themselves and fully exercise their vocation. But personal political commitment is often banished from pedagogy; the student is forced into silence about his own political beliefs, thus depriving her of her rights as a citizen in her place of instruction and throughout her school life.
To refuse the discussion of basic principles is not only to refuse solidarity (which is not an inborn gift). Knowledge itself is impoverished when there is no expression of a diversity of opinions, when the floor is left to the "specialists" and the powers that be, to their consensus vocabulary and their visual diarrhoea. The retention of ideas makes one deaf and cowardly! Such an approach merely reinforce the viewpoint of an elitist art, outside the struggle over ideas, outside history, an art whose expression and whose quality of meaning hide behind a virtuosity of forms, falsely conceived as the bearers of humanism by themselves alone.
contributions sent in for this poster included work by: