By Ernesto Aguilar
Political Media Review
September 4, 2010
Visually delectable and politically pointed, Signal: 01 bills itself as “an ongoing book series to documenting and sharing political graphics, creative projects and the cultural production of international resistance and liberation struggles.” Lofty much?
In all seriousness, all you need to know is that Signal: 01 is a beautiful chronicle of political posters, fliers and rebel art, along with incisive interviews with the artists who made them.
Edited by Alex Dunn and Josh MacPhee, Signal: 01 is anchored by a fabulous interview with Jesus Barraza, Melanie Cervantes and Favianna Rodriguez, three artists creating the most important works galvanizing the movements against Arizona’s SB 1070. No doubt those familiar with other upsurges have seen their efforts, though. From Palestine solidarity to urban farming, Barraza, Cervantes and Rodriguez have created the most iconic pieces since Emory Douglas took up the pen for the Black Panther Party. Though the interview was conducted before the Southwest struggle came to full boil, the trio talk about the process of art development, their diverse range of campaigns for which they have created art, and, as Cervantes puts it, the role of the artist as organizer.
An examination of Mexico City’s visual art inspired by the political movements of 1968 is a potent application about which Barraza, Cervantes and Rodriguez speak. National Public Radio referred to the Tlatelolco massacre of that year as a moment “cracking the system it was intended to preserve at all costs.” Militant and artist Felipe Hernandez Moreno, a veteran of the self-proclaimed ‘propaganda brigades,’ relates what those heady days were like in Mexico, and how the art of this time — a year which also featured the renowned Black Power salute by John Carlos of the Summer Olympics held in Mexico City — came to walls, buses and street lights everywhere. Peppered here are also tactical choices radicals made in production, art placement, actual distribution and evasion of the authorities. Although of a distinctly different time, Hernandez imparts knowledge for those not only making the art, but the craft that composes repression, inspiration and resistance.
Signal: 01 is dotted with stunning photography that will certainly reel in many people who are into unusual art. Political graffiti gracing trains, unique playground designs and the covers of the defunct Anarchy: A Journal of Anarchist Ideas are among the features here. Clocking in at just under 140 glossy pages, Dunn and MacPhee do an impressive job of conveying not only what is new and relevant in political art, but also its history and its presence in the everyday.