Paper Politics

August 19, 2010

Paper Politics , on display at Space gallery until October 24th, 2010 , is an exhibit of grassroots political posters from around the world. The images depict and react to political and social issues of the past ten years. The messages are of solidarity, revolution, and empowering communities and individuals against capitalism and war.

paper politicsTopics of the posters range from war to evictions, pollution, genocide, Abu Ghraib, women’s issues, health care, transgenic foods, and labor history in Pennsylvania.

Many images play on corporate imagery, essentially uncoopting youth culture from corporations. One shows the McDonald’s arches upside down, reminiscent of the upside down flag, a symbol of maritime distress.

One striking image shows Jesus driving an SUV that is equipped with a rocket launcher.

Many posters show images from war, or from the streets, accompanied by facts or quotes.

Why must these images be put on posters and hung in community spaces? These are images that are not shown in the mainstream media because they show an America that many are uncomfortable with.

Let’s take a minute and talk about our current national discourse. What images and ideas are given to the people? What facts are presented? What phrases are repeated? Our national discourse tends to involve one person or organization proposing legislation. An opposing group claims that said American discourselegislation is being ‘shoved down our throats.’ In order not to seem too overbearing, the legislation is nixed. If a party or organization makes unpopular legislation, blocks popular legislation, or suffers from corruption, they take some other story and blow it up into a media frenzy. The media reports on the emotions of people, and facts are left at the wayside. So, if you want to present information and images about the world we live in, a world with an undercurrent of violence, a world with poverty, unchecked capitalism, war, genocide, greed and weapons, what can you do? You can make a poster and hang it in a public space. Space has a collection of hundreds of such posters, many of which show real images accompanied by facts. All the posters show what we the people are concerned about, and what the media doesn’t address.

Let’s talk about what ideas are considered unacceptable in mainstream America. Marxism is taboo. It seems heretical to many Americans to say that workers should own the profits of their labors. One American mantra is that the rich create jobs, and should thus profit heavily and be taxed lightly in order to incentivize them to create more jobs. I apologize for using the nasty word ‘incentivize’. The fact that that word even exists shows a fundamental believe that people only do things in order to reap a tangible reward.

In America, another entrenched thought is that we are all at the will of the economy. The economy is our ultimate boss, the force that shapes our lives more than any other, and one we cannot control, but can only mildly affect. However, as the posters at Space point out, the economy is a social construct that exists because enough people believe in it to make it manifest. It should not control us. We should control it. If we, as a nation, decided that poverty must be ended, we could end it. We could improve housing, distribute healthy food, and give everyone health care. But these things, although doable, are seen as impossibilities in a capitalist economy. The poster makers at Space are angry about this situation, but also hopeful that given a sea change of opinion, this circumstance can be changed.


Another common notion is that war can make the world better. People are killed because of their political beliefs, or because they happen to live in an area governed by people with unsavory political beliefs. It seems obvious that guns cannot bring peace, but somehow that is not part of our national discourse. The media argues how many guns and tanks are necessary to secure an area for democracy, but no talking head ventures that zero might be the ideal number.

The posters in the Space Gallery present images that address these issues. They represent ideas that so many of us agree with, but that are never presented in the mainstream. Seeing these images is refreshing, engaging, and provocative. The best advice I can give you is to turn off your TV, never turn it back on, and go out into the world and see what ideas are floating around in our free, shared, public space.

Space gallery is free and open to the public.


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