It’s got form, this image. First appearing in the The Morning Star though its creator couldn’t recall being paid so we’ve up-cycled Wank (2018) and are set to give it the flyingleaps treatment.
It’s been more than 200 years since James Gillray produced what, in Martin Rowson’s opinion, is the greatest political cartoon ever. It features two insatiable appetites: the beanpole British PM, William Pitt the Younger and a craven eyed Napoleon Bonaparte carving up the global plum pudding. The world is doomed. Plus ça change? Now it seems Boris wants all the pudding, erm, power to himself.
Rowson, who dubs himself a ‘visual journalist’, is on record as stating ‘satire is a survival mechanism to stop us all going mad at the horror and injustice of it all…’ He’s worked for pretty much every publication associated with old Fleet St. and many more besides. Rowson’s style is brutal, caustic and brilliant – brilliant in its fluid, witty rendering; its visual inventiveness – especially in terms of composition – and absolutely without fear or favour when it comes to subject matter. He spits truth to power. And boy do we need of some of that right now.
Warhead (2018) by kennardphillipps is a characteristically bold rebuke. It’s as if Trump’s head and body have taken on a physical manifestation of his gargantuan capacity to hate: he’s turning into an MQ 9 Reaper military drone.
In the foreground POTUS’s elbows rest on a floodlit airstrip, his tiny fists are raised and clenched in the way newborns can’t help for the first few months of their lives. The only other body part to remain recognisably human hovers eerily in the shadow of the drone’s nose: Trump’s shouty open gob, pink lips and bared teeth hang in the gloom like the mouth in Samuel Beckett’s play Not I. A relentless mouth that won’t let go.
Two dead French philosophers once wrote ‘Language is made not to be believed but to be obeyed, and to compel obedience.’ Trump has said recently he’d much prefer a more obeisant US public, you know, more like those happy souls in North Korea. Warhead is both a hideous chimera and an iconic image for the 21st century. It’s another incisive work by the art activist team kennardphillipps calling out demagoguery and calling for constructive civil disobedience: a clarion that all humankind ignores at its peril.
Dr. D aka Subvertiser
The brilliant Dr. D.’s I Remember The Future (2018) and a new iteration of the visual activist’s famous Curfew work are a fabulous recent contributions to the flyingleaps’ poster catalogue.
While the debate goes on as to whether flyposted and other oppositional art or visual activism has any direct effect in bringing about sociopolitical change, what it can do at its best is feed into the publics’ disposition.
Through strong imagery, cogent or quizzical text, humour, relatively speedy production and distribution, via its capacity to occupy anomalous spaces in the urban environment and through an imaginative, enacted engagement with matters of concern it can generate social media interest and help inform, even propel, opinion.
Dr. D’s targets include surveillance culture; the social effects of neoliberalism; commodification; mealy-mouthed and uncaring politicians; abuses of power in the media… Much more than bald sloganeering Dr. D’s imagery and text pieces often emerge, on reflection, as enigmatic meditations on twenty-first century existential angst.
Transgressing boundaries can reveal hidden rules. One could cite the precedents of the carnivalesque ‘telling truth to power’, vaudevillian comedy, Dada gestures in art but all of these, in a – it’s only a bunch of pucks/entertainers/artists – sense, operated in ‘sanctioned’ arenas. Dr. D’s contributions to the urban environment are rarely sanctioned and it’s this that contributes significantly to their traction and incisiveness.
The urban spectacle would have us believe that its over-riding character is, yes aspirational, but emphatically neutral and apolitical: that generally we’re going to be just fine if we carry on pretty much as we are. Dr. D’s pithy interventions, highlighting so many germane issues and employing such a variety of modes of address, repeatedly suggest otherwise.
I Remember the Future, Dr D, in Oslo
Curfew, Dr D, in Oslo