Fight the Power - The Labels!

Twenty Years of the Political Poster An exhibition of shock and awe by graphic designers from around the world. At Zellig, the Custard Factory Birmingham, from 3rd to 26th June 2010

INTRO - Fight the Power!
A REMIXhibiton by Scholars and Warriors The political poster is dead, the Guardian wrote earlier this year. Photoshop, they say, has murdered the creativity of today's artists. Shepard Fairey's iconic "Obama / Hope" image was the exception that proved the rule. But radical action has always embarrassed the middle classes, and the need to protest against injustice is in our DNA. • • • In Chicago, twenty year old history student Firas Alkhateeb "Jokerizes" a picture of Obama from "Time" magazine, and created counter culture clipart. In the UK, David Cameron's smooth features provide the battleground for Photoshop showdowns between designers on the Left and the Right. In Switzerland, Werbeagentur Goal's anti-minaret propaganda poster "Stopp" sparks a xenophobic landslide that shocks liberals across Europe. But how did we get here? In 2002-04, curator and protest expert Liz McQuiston's "Up Front and Personal" show toured South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique, collecting local posters and presenting the best in British design. This exhibition draws from her archive at the British Council, and adds new perspectives and public submissions.

TWO - Battle for the BBC
“This is a huge step backwards; maybe ten or twenty years” Tigerstyle Last year, press baron Rupert Murdoch - through his chief executive and fourth son James - mobilised against the BBC. In providing the public with free online news, he declared, the BBC was stealing from the pockets of those who could rightfully charge for it. The BBC quickly responded - launching a surprise attack against their own digital services. But the cuts they announced turned out to be in an unexpected direction. Instead of restricting their online news output, they targeted two youth web channels - "Switch"

and "Blast", and two niche digital radio services - "Radio 6 Music" and the "Asian Network". If BBC executives thought they'd hit at minorities who could raise little fuss, they quickly found otherwise. Small as they are, these two stations have some of the most passionate and articulate listeners in the country. Crucially, both represent a new model of "narrowcasting", where station and the listeners form part of the same small community circle. This has now become a battle of ideas.

THREE - Scramble for Africa
“We face neither East nor West; we face Forward”. Kwame Nkrumah Africa, her peoples and cultures, have suffered injustices unique in modern history. Africans have fought against oppression with intensity, ingenuity and righteousness. Successful or otherwise, these struggles have created models of dissent across music, art, politics, style and language. Often unconsciously, other communities find they challenge injustices around them through templates laid down by Black pioneers. Only a few have successfully carried their message straight out of Africa and into the Western consciousness. One of those was Nigerian musician, performer and activist Fela Kuti. Fela's sleeve artist, Lemi Ghariokwu, was - and is - an Pan Africanist; dedicated to the conscious union of Africa and her people. Today he sees this as more of an ideal, or an approach to life. He drew this "Blackism" emblem as a "coat of arms" for African unity at the optimistic age of seventeen, when he first began working with Fela at his creative compound in Lagos. ManneQueen fashion by Yetty D. Diptych by Kal Malhi.

FOUR - Flashmob the Show
Make yours cause ours! Email your posters to If you're sitting on some great protest or propaganda art which you think should be here, email it over to us. We're also excited by flags, banners, buttons, T-Shirts, flyers, personal experiences, narratives, diaries, photographs and newspaper clips; contact Michelle at the same address. We that believe that peaceful and creative protest against injustice is part of our DNA, and part of our social duty. This show is here to remind people of the contribution made by art, style, fashion, literature and music from the counter culture to British social and cultural heritage. Judgement on what goes up on these walls is based on quality of design, historical interest and a genuine radical nature. Scholars and Warriors, in their role as Remixhibitionist and Selector, have the final decision as to what goes in and why. No discussions will be entered into, but healthy debate is encouraged at the show's Facebook group;

FIVE - Storm the Barricades
“A riot is the language of the unheard.” Martin Luther King The proper battleground for ideas is the mind. But the proper place for posters is where they will be seen - up on walls. Today, communities and interest groups often find that their own streets are out of legal bounds to spontaneous public protest. When those streets are instead full of aggressive multinational advertising and government social engineering campaigns, this can be the beginning of much bitterness and strife. Sometimes, authorities are unsure where "the street" ends. During the recent UK General Election, a sixty year old man was handcuffed and threatened with arrest over an "offensive" poster of a candidate he had in his window. Prolonged violent protests, like those which have recently rocked Greece and Thailand, or now regularly follow Western economic summits, are not caused by posters or pamphlets. They don't reflect creativity, but desperation. A riot is the triumph of censorship.

SIX - Create the Future
“I didn’t want to be a f*ing pop star. I wanted to be a protest singer.” Sinéad O’Connor Now you've seen what's here; can you do better? We invite you to sit down, take up your pen and draw or write your own revolutionary ideas. When you've finished, just post it into the box provided. If we think it's creative, interesting and radical enough, we'll use it. You're also invited to put down your thoughts about the show here (or send to or If we like them we might put them on the wall too. You're here reading this, so why not sit down and read some of the books in our Revolutionary Reading Room? Share and discuss your ideas with your family, friends or other visitors. Planfully and passionately you can make the world a more interesting, more just and more creative place for everyone, starting today.

SEVEN - Message Boards
"Another world is possible." Noam Chomsky Governments know that walls, windows and noticeboards are easy places to exchange ideas. That is why they keep them out of use for ordinary people. In the main, public spaces are costed up and given over to whatever messages companies can afford to put on them. The penalty for postering without permission can be anything from an ASBO to the stiff sentences formerly reserved for drug dealers. This is why sandwich boards are now back on our streets. Each placard person is a one man wall, exploiting his right to roam across our public spaces, carrying whatever message he chooses.

Redhawk Logistica decided to join in and find out if they could help reclaim the high street. Half a dozen operatives are placed strategically throughout Birmingham's retail centre. Each is carrying a sign with messages culled from public announcements, religious notices and corporate hoardings. This project is still underway - look for it on the street today. Photography by David Rowan, design by Agent Six. for more information

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