During the pandemic, it’s been a hard time finding things to write about on this blog. In Melbourne we have had a long time of on again-off again lockdown, and the ability to go out and find (or even make) public text-art has been quite restricted. However I still have access to the online public space, and I recently came across a post on facebook that showed graphic design being used to bring activism to the public space in a very interesting way.
In September 2020, Portland news editor Alex Zielinski shared images on her Twitter of seemingly innocent looking grocery food items on the shelves at the supermarket. At first glance the colours, font and layout on the jars or cans were exactly as they should be. Until you look closer. Placed discretely in between the rows of regular foods, a nameless San Antonio artist has created their own labels bringing attention to police violence in the USA.
The horrific regularity of police violence against people of colour has long been an issue not only in the USA, but also in Australia. It still continues now, with so much of the population of both countries putting up their blinkers and pretending that we live in a fair and just society for everyone, even with the constant news and protests about violence towards – and deaths of – black citizens at the hands of police proving that this is still a huge issue.
This re-labelling might seem like a small act, but it is a powerful use of activist and subversive public text-art, not to mention amazing graphic design skills. And not only is this act of protest visible for the everyday person, the artist has made the files available online for everyone to share in his activist artwork. That means even you can bring the protest to your own local supermarket or grocery store.
It’s important that artists like this one continue to use their work to comment on these topics, and that those who witness this type of protest-art in person use the best of their abilities to share it for everyone to see. Thankfully living in the time of social media makes that a really easy thing to do.