1999: For a change we produced a book for this year based on the theme "the politics of time" including a manefesto and brief history of the project so far. Ten books (16pp) bound together, printed in an edition of 500, these books are still available - see the swaps page to order.

Below are some sample spreads from the mini books and the texts printed within.

History of the project

1996 saw the inception of Carrion Culture, an ongoing project initiated by students, ex-students and tutors of the Portsmouth School of Art, Design and Media in southern England. The project was set-up in response to an invitation from organisers of the annual International Festival d'Affiche in Chaumont, France, to put together a small exhibition of work on the loose theme of 'spectacular culture'. The role and aims of the group has been defined as much by the Chaumont Poster Festival as it has by the general philosophy of the Portsmouth School, which amongst other things seeks to encourage a more pro-active, critical and theoretical line of thinking within graphic design. Carrion Culture was born out of this background, and it was understood that the project should become a platform for the exploration of themes and issues more wide-ranging than graphic design itself. The Festival provided us with the opportunity to communicate these ideas to an active and critical audience.

Themes explored in the first year were diverse, each person in the group being able to express their ideas on two half-width, A0-sized screenprinted posters including the following themes: the life-affirming mundaneness of domestic ornamentation; the increasingly voyeuristic nature of tele-visual entertainment; the problematisation of the notion of 'cyberspace'; Esperanto and the realities of a 'universal language'; French nuclear testing in the pacific; video gaming and immortality; the cultural differences illustrated by the definition of 'culture' in different languages; detournement; and the new British National Lottery. The posters were hung inside an enormous concrete converted agricultural grain-silo; Chaumont's central library 'Les Silos', where a bi-lingual manifesto was also distributed.

By the following year, half the group were living and working in London, Berlin and Maastricht. This dispersal, although creating new logistical problems of communication and organisation, gave the group a more 'networked' identity. This coincided with the desire to include many of the people we met during the first exhibition, who had shown enthusiasm for the subject and idea. Along with a number of design students from Portsmouth, their efforts were vital in the realisation of the year's 'honeycomb' format where each contributor worked on a hexagonal format under the title 'Transference', and to the theme of the virus in all its forms. The hexagon here became symbolic of the network itself, since each individual piece became a part of a whole once displayed next to each other in a large mosaic. A morning was then spent in Chaumont, pasting the hexagons onto a specially provided space on the town's beautiful Post Office building. This paste-up was accompanied by an internet site created by students back in Portsmouth, in conjunction with the Mertz Academie in Stuttgart, where anyone was invited to add to the honeycomb.(address)

1998 saw a more consolidated return to form, with the core group e-mailing each other ideas four months before the Chaumont deadline. 'The Global and the Local' informed our work for this year, and we returned to our sliced A0 screenprinted poster format of Carrion Culture 1, this time in a landscape format and on thick tracing paper. Stephane Troplain, our connection and collaborator in Chaumont, had secured us a perfect location, an unused shop-floor called 'Maison d'Art', the name of which didn't go uncelebrated. Fishing wire and kilo of staples assisted the construction of the exhibition, with the posters suspended in a motionless free fall between floor and ceiling, whilst the view into the darkened backroom was interrupted by the projection of short phrases written in the foregoing weeks by the contributing members. Once again, the theme-as-jumping-point was fruitful: mass-media, Frank Gehry's architectural storming of Bilbao, the disappearance of metropolitan public space, money as a cultural litmus, the subliminal nature of mathematics in architecture, modernism, global and local attitudes towards money and culture, and the cultural value given to objects materials, all came under close scrutiny.

This fourth project, taking 'Time' as its theme, marks itself by the change in format: the A6 booklet, the offset printing and the inclusion of a second manifesto as faceted as the group itself, should perhaps be seen as a necessary punctuation in the group's body of work, as we approach our fifth birthday in 2000.


Constructing Culture
Reality is a social construction, passed on as existent fact. Existent fact, the 'way things are', is concrete; to deny reality is to deny our existence as physical entities in a social space - for we have no other means by which to understand ourselves. From an early age, a need is created whereby the individual is required to identify with recognised modes of behaviour, acceptable or unacceptable, which leads to recognition of status within the cultural hierarchy. The paradox of this system however, is that circular process by which identity is created around existing, stereotypical modes of behaviour, and as a result subjectivity is denied. Language guides the way that we think - our words are not an expression of abstract thoughts, but a part of a logical construction as a means to expression; in using existing codes and conventions of language, we reproduce the existing ideological codes inherent within that language. This applies equally to visual, verbal and written codes, as each occupies a place within the cultural matrix. For those members of society involved in cultural production, this is significant - the codes and conventions utilised by artists, designers, writers and film makers cannot be seen as neutral.

Political Culture
The perpetuation of current representational normalities is a political act. In attempting to criticise 'culture', we occupy a dubious position, for our discontent is due at least in part to that culture we seek to criticise. Attempts at 'cultural intervention' are meaningless without an understanding of the nature of cultural production and the transference of ideological codes from a dominant hierarchy to a received social 'reality'. However, by exposing the machinations of cultural production to those targeted as 'audience', and by questioning and criticising the codes utilised in the everyday communication of messages, we can expose brief glimpses of that which is generally hidden from view. The language system depends on a system of 'centred' ideas which repress and marginalise other cultures and societies; these viewpoints being built around 'binary' oppositions in which the dominant view is represented as natural, central and correct, whilst the other is marginal and unnatural. Binary oppositions are then projected onto other cultures via popular opinions, advertising imagery and concepts, television and newspapers etc. On another front the public relations industry moves steadily forward. Globalisation suggests a 'community' where as it is obviously the opposite, bringing 'liberalisation' to all - their argument for openness is ultimately not convincing. The producers of communication media then have a social, political and cultural responsibility to positively enable and empower the receivers of that information.

Conservative Culture
Cultural artifacts act as recognitions of a shared social space; a safety zone of comforting similarity and of resistance to change. Convention governs the methods by which words and codes can be ascribed 'meaning', but less obvious to the viewer is that convention by which delineation of the word category is assigned - a tacit agreement where things are divided from each other, and boundaries are set in place to mark out the representation of reality. The categorisation and organisation of both concepts and objects reinforces a dominant world view established as 'objective reality'. Creativity is a collective experience, it is accumulative. The visual artifact is not a product of individual creative genius; it is an adaptation from a determined condition, built on what has gone before. We draw on the collective visual environment:- challenging, adapting, reinforcing and opposing, growing.

Positive Culture
A positive feature of culture is that it can act as a catalyst, challenging and changing existing ideas and structures. We can be expressive, poetic, artistic - the aesthetic can transcend the boundaries of language. Culture is created by man - the heart of its construction lies in systems of social organisation and production. Man is created by culture - social organisation, history, politics, ideological codes, common values and understanding are all passed on from generation to generation as factual information, and structure thought processes accordingly. The producer of cultural artifacts has some degree of control over the methods and nature of those recognitions she produces, and acts as a mediator in the transference of ideological codes; as such, change can be effected by intervention in the act of communication.

The Banality of Culture
The banality of culture lies in its position as both spectacle and consumption Today lets celebrate the continuous feast of commodity capitalism and all it stands for, all it devours. Only through the celebration of that we wish to reject, the creative understanding of its banality and injustice, can we fully integrate to oppose. To promulgate a nihilist culture is patently a nonsense, but if we alter the syntax, cultural nihilism has both sense and possibility. Under-standing society is less relevant than understanding the marketplace. Not understanding society is normal; not understanding the marketplace is deadly. The job of selling capitalism is getting trickier, in a sense the ideas are running out, the menu on offer is repetition and omission, as much as you can take. This may not be a problem for the window dressers, but for those who wish to oppose it. Advertising squeezes its way into every nook and cranny of our public space, creating a suffocating environment - this intrusive element is the point, to get under your skin, and be noticed in a one way transmission of information. The shared values of a true, democratic comm-unication are subsumed beneath a power structure that sees its audience merely as receiver and consumer. People should have the right to freedom of expression of opinions, information, and ideas, without interference by public or private parties. For people to exercise this fundamental right there must be free and independent channels of communication. Media should be independent from governmental, political or economic control. Commercial control of materials and infra-structures essential to the production and dissemination of print and broadcast media prevent access. Free media are pluralistic media. The current trend towards the predominantly commercial provision of information and culture must stop. Create your own access.

The Duality of Culture
The duality of culture lies in its position as both creation and creator. Conformity and rebellion are borne of the same cultural tradition, that system which allows us to act; we cannot somehow liberate ourselves from these social structures, for their existence enables any and all activity on our part. Cultural change is transmitted through the transference of ideas, through collective understanding. What we term culture cannot be fixed, captured in a frozen moment in time - it is illusory, transitional, indefinable, forever subject to transformation. Change can be promoted by disparate and independent channels of communication. Decentred and unconstrained by media control, the network has power. Cultural production today is subject to structural pressure in all areas, dominated by the market model through television - magazines - newspapers through to individuals who self-censor, and imitate the world around them. An absence of criticism maintains the consensual silence. The holders of instruments of diffusion need to to reveal where opposition may be brokered, and to open up to our communities for scrutiny the hidden constraints on individuals in the media - to crack open the lies and expose the hidden agendas at work. To resist now is to exist.

Borderless Culture
We are caught in the belief of a borderless society - but we have to accept its non-existence. This failure lies in our understanding of media and its dictating central force. That central force is not only capital but also public relations; it is this, so wide spread that we find it hard to see round or through anymore. Itís basic tenet is clear - to improve an image - but how it can be challenged is a bigger question. The reduction of the nation state by the global market negates the strategy of subverting traditional centres of power and communication. Structures of authority are tending to disperse, leaving no single centre to be 'occupied' and used to transform radically civil society. The dispersed state is more susceptible to the initiatives of social movements and citizens' groups, backed by networks of communication. These are needed to counter new forms of censorship emerging over the past few decades. As a decentralised form of solidarity, networks are more able to develop underneath and beyond the traditional structures of state power. Communication networks dispel the isolation induced by the fast-cut mass media, and enable people to act both locally and globally on related issues.

Network now!

Five issues were exhibited between 1996 & 2000:
Spectacular entertainment
Local / Global
Politics of time
Modes of engagement