Television news images are increasingly shown out of context separating them from any sense of reality. They tend to fit too easily into simple sets of representation. The speed and repetition of the medium conceals its underlying agenda. No longer do these images have any direct reference to their historical, political or cultural origin.

The sanitised images begin to form their own identity, isolated and empty. By not going beyond the issues that are immediately visible, a world without contradiction is shown, limiting the range and meaning needed for an open public debate.

The Responses to the 1st poster, printed on the second are as follows:

J Keane on Adorno-Horkheimer.
"The culture industry mass produces mass deception, by encouraging individuals to identify with the media in order to escape from everyday drudgery. It makes them think that they are up to date with things, that they know what is happening in the world, and that they are successful and happy. Everybody is amused into oblivion. Satisfaction expressed in cliches prevails, pseudo-individualism becomes rife, and individuals are encouraged not to think critically about anything. They forget the suffering and injustice before their eyes."

Ian Noble (London) Debate what debate?
Theory, graphic design and education versus industry. 'Modern' or Contemporary graphic design has recuperated itself. The bland acceptance of mainstream approaches and values has been masked by a smoke screen of so called theoretical debate. Experimentation within the hothouses of art schools and universities has been, and is, rightly concerned with the growth of a dialectic within graphic design that draws upon theoretical thinking from without. Whilst this is a laudable and positive move forwards, it currently receives little or no support from the 'industry' and design lead bodies.

In academic circles and the design journals we have fallen into a trap of regarding work of merit or note as that which, at best, seeks to illustrate and confirm the theories of postmodern French theorists, Barthes, Sassure etc without a critical integration of those theories it purports to employ. This is aptly demonstrated in recent history by the failed attempt at the Cranbrook Academy in the US to explore the relationship between linguistics, in particular deconstruction and post structuralism, and visual communications. In retrospect it is possible to view the real value of the work of those students and staff as being significant for having raised the discussion of a genuine intellectual base for graphic design. What is unpalatable is the wave of shallow stylistic poses, and empty rhetoric, that have been subsequently generated elsewhere. The visual hubbub that followed the publicity surrounding that limited period at Cranbrook is indicative of the state we now find ourselves in. It could be argued that even education's well intentioned drive towards a theoretical positioning of graphic design has faltered. Are we now witnessing Graphic Design that is as dumbly pretty as ever before with the only difference being that we now have some interesting theories to justify its existence? Graphic Design, residing as it does in the pluralist confusion of the late 20th century, would do well to attend to its current stasis.

The short history of Graphic Design has seen a progressive dilution of the earlier social interventions and political project of the European modernists into a thinly veiled acceptance of capitalist values and hegemonic world orders. The safe experimentation of the last decade has clearly not lead to Jan Van Toorn's statement that 'experimentation is an anticipation of innovation' (issue 2 Zed). The lack of an ideological project within education re-enforced by a 'market forces' dominated industry has created a culture of compliance, non opposition and at best contained rebellion. We are witnessing the accelerated growth of visual pollution and more alarmingly a paucity of intention. The mediating role of design as a positive force in society has been sidestepped as in issue in favour of feeding a moribund industry with style analogues, content to plunder the work of more genuine experimentalists and trading integrity for stylistic conceit. Any future hopes for a more considered and intellectual project within graphic design are not entirely predicted by the consideration of the real role of theoretical approaches to the subject. But one might accurately predict that without a re-examination of the intention and perceived relevance of these debates we are doomed to produce another generation of Disney theorists and 2nd class postmodernists.

A drive towards the creation of a generic theoretical discussion from within the subject can only be brought about if certain conditions prevail. Whist some might argue that this approach may be irrelevant or unwelcome, the alternative is the continued dumbing down and increasingly subservient status of graphic design within the wider communications industry. Are all concerned content to accept that we cannot move forwards without either borrowing from without and aping the poses of others or retreating into the role of education as pimping for an overlord industry? No one is innocent but some are more guilty than others. In England, in particular, the usual target for criticism is art school education. Charges range from the lack of skills teaching to inadequate creative development - accusations made by a 'tabloid like' design press ordinarily more concerned with an outraged ranting about free pitches and stock market floatations than an informed debate surrounding education and its articulation with the industry.

The real villain however is the Graphic Design industry itself; content to repurpose creative innovation and wholly consumed with business and the creation of wealth. On the few occasions industry chooses to comment from on high about education the ill-informed statements only confirm its inability to see beyond its own short term preoccupations. It behaves like an adulterous lover - it is happy to go to bed with education but it really must go back to its wife now. What we should consider is the unfortunate continuing separation between training and practice - a cannibalistic process of recuperation and a hierarchical imbalance. The over provision of graphic design training and post Thatcherite competition within the educational establishments has lead to a weakening of the perceived value of degree and postgraduate education.

Russ Bestley (Portsmouth) In reply to the above text:
I don't think graphic design ever had a progressive avant-garde, away from the mainstream. We can reflect on the importance of those values within art history, but graphic design's more recent development, and it's historic attachment to commercial interests, displays little that can be considered experimental or avant-garde in more than an aesthetic sense. "Recuperation" implies an outside or oppositional perspective to begin with - I am just not sure whether this critical stance was ever in place. I feel that this is precisely because those very theories are the criteria by which we assess and analyse the work. It's like being judge, jury and defendant all at the same time - a circular argument which is impossible to break away from.

All the academies have done is turn the rulebooks back on themselves - by holding up a mirror to the codes by which they are judged. Success in this arena has then been acquired by other schools and designers as a stylistic bandwagon - a method by which to avoid substantive criticism. I feel that education has reached a crisis point, where a genuine attempt at a theoretical underpinning of the subject has been corrupted by the industry and some lazy academics into a debate over style and "intuitive" approaches. Where the design schools are attempting to remain connected to the "real world" of the profession, and particularly where vocational application is an issue (for students and tutors alike), "modern", "deconstructive" and flamboyantly "intuitive" design is simply the latest of many design trends to absorb and reproduce.

I totally agree - that driving force, the "ideological project" as you call it, must come from within. We cannot wait for the "revolution" to come to us, and we should not view our work as separate from a wider political framework - the personal is political. Band wagon - jumping is a sign of the times. In Britain particularly, the vacuum left behind after the wholesale destruction of the political left during the 1980's has resulted in a widespread apathy and a lack of intent in the design community, and the creation of a visual culture concerned more with style and rhetoric than deeper ideological concerns.

The recognition that the 'cultural artefacts' that we produce are both a product of and a contribution to our cultural world-view would seem to be fundamental to a debate within design education on pedagogic approaches to the subject. An understanding of the wider contextual issues surrounding design problems allows education to address the problem-solving aspects of graphic design in relation to a cultural context, which in turn could help in the creation of an alternative approach from within the profession. These conditions must include a stronger sense of identity within graphic design education, and a re-affirmation of the importance of the subject and its links to the development and maintenance of modern culture and the "status quo".

Maybe it's up to the art schools themselves to address these issues internally, in the course of a detailed analysis of where we are going, and a recognition of our strengths and weaknesses, rather than laying ourselves open to criticism over our unholy alliance with the industry. The notion of Graphic Design as "industry", rather than "profession" is at the heart of this argument. As "industry", we are in a position of service, subservient to and intertwined with a market-driven system of values dependent on us for marketing to a passive consumer audience. Were we to take ourselves more seriously, to analyse our position of importance in the economy, and our responsibility to a wider culture, Graphic Designers could take pride in our position, rather than accepting the role of consumer facilitator so readily.

Critical Art Ensemble - Autonomedia
Through the use of nomadic tactics such as detournment, creative vandalism, plagiarism, invisible theatre, or counterfeiting, to name but a few, bunkers of power can be disturbed. Any work which can create the conditions for people to engage in the transgressive act of rejecting a totalising and closed rational order, and to open themselves up to social interaction beyond the principles of habituation, of exchange, and of instrumentality within an environment of uncertainty, is one which is truly resistant and truly transgressive, since participants can revel in a moment of autonomy. Only within such situations can dialogue occur, and only through this occurrence can pedagogy have enlightening consequences. No matter what variety of everyday life a person participates in, an element of radical practice can always be initiated within it.

Fredy Pearlman
"Even if we cannot yet see the breaches in the electrically charged barbed wire, we already know that inmates found their way out of the entrails of earlier mechanical monsters, camped outside the hulks that seemed so real, and saw the abandoned artificial carcasses collapse and decompose."

Peter Heinz: Posterschnitt - A1 Antworten
(this text is part of an A1 poster, cut down to a booklet revealing the following questions and statements - 2 colour)

Wer bist du?- who are you?
Was willst du?- what do you want?
Welche vergangenheit hast du?- what is your past?
Wen oder was liebst du?- who or what do you love?
Wo sind deine grenzen?- where are your borders?
Was trŠumst du?- what do you dream?
Was Kannst du?- what can you do?
Setze die dinge neu zusammen nutze das unnutzliche jede situation birgt eine chance- Put things together again, use the useless, every situation contains a new chance
Der kontext ist entscheident- The context is crucial
Geld assimiliert kulturen- Money assimilates culture
Du kannst nicht mehr subversiv gestalten- You can not design subversively anymore
Wer hat die macht?- whos got the power?
Wer hat das geld?- whos got the money?
Wer hat die verbindungen?- whos got the connections?
Wer hat das know how?- whos got the know how?
Wer hat die intelligenz?- whos got the intelligence?
Wer entscheidet was?- who decides what?
Wer hat welches images?- whos got which image?
Wer hat die verantwortung?- whos got the responsibility?
Wer ist glaubwurdig?- who is credible
Wer hat charisma?- who's got charisma
Wer hat gluck?- who's got the luck
Wer hat mut?- who's got courage?
Arbeite fur deine ideale- work for your ideals
Mache deine finger ubungen- do your finger exercises
Kunst gleich kapital- art equals capital
Gefuhle haben grunde- feelings have reasons
Wirkungen haben ursachen- effects have reasons
Taten haben motive- deeds have motives
Pfeile haben ziele- arrows have an aim
Implusomie jeder ist ein kunstler- everyone is an artist
Gedanken haben folgen- thoughts have effects
Die moderne ist ausverkauft- the modernity is sold out
Love evol geniesse den moment- enjoy the moment
Nie wieder arbeiten- never work again
Wir sind teil einer konsumierenden masse- we are part of a consuming mass
Alles ist zu leicht- everything is too easy
Alles ist so schwer- everything is so hard
Radical hei§t bis zur wurzel gehend- radical means going to the root
Bist du blind- you are blind Bist du taub- are you deaf Bist du stumm- are you mute
Die unmšglichkeit des mšglichen- the impossibility of the possible
Privatheit als buhne- privacy as stage
…ffentlichkeit als nische- publicity as a niche

The ABC of Tactical Media - By David Garcia and Geert Lovink
'Next 5 Minutes' Amsterdam. ...What makes our media tactical? In "The Practice of Every Day Life" De Certeau analysed popular culture not as a 'domain of texts or artifacts but rather as a set of practices or operations performed on textual or text like structures'. He shifted the emphasis from representations in their own right to the 'uses' of representations.

In other words: how do we, as consumers, use the texts and artifacts that surround us? And the answer he suggested was: 'tactically', or: in far more creative and rebellious ways than had previously been imagined. He described the process of consumption as a set of tactics by which the weak make use of the strong. He characterised the rebellious user (a term he preferred to consumer) as tactical and the presumptuous producer (in which he included authors, educators, curators and revolutionaries) as strategic. Setting up this dichotomy allowed him to produce a vocabulary of tactics rich and complex enough to amount to a distinctive and recognisable aesthetic. An existential aesthetic. An aesthetic of poaching, tricking, reading, speaking, strolling, shopping, desiring. Clever tricks, the hunter's cunning, manoeuvres, polymorphic situations, joyful discoveries, poetic as well as warlike.

Awareness of this tactical/strategic dichotomy helped us to name a class of producers, who seem uniquely aware of the value of these temporary reversals in the flow of power. And rather than resisting these rebellions they do everything in their power to amplify them, and indeed make the creation of spaces, channels and platforms for these reversals central to their practice. We dubbed their (our) work 'Tactical Media'. Tactical Media are never perfect, always involved, performative and pragmatic, in a continual process of questioning the premises of the channels they work with. This requires the confidence that the content can survive intact as it travels from interface to interface. But we must never forget that hybrid media has its opposite, its nemesis, the 'Medialen Gesamtkunstwerk'.

The final program for the electronic Bauhaus. Of course it is much safer to stick to the classic rituals of the underground and alternative scene. But Tactical Media are based on a principle of flexible response, of working with different coalitions, being able to move between the different entities in the vast media landscape, without betraying their original motivations. Tactical Media may be hedonistic, or zealously euphoric. Even fashion hypes have their uses. But it is above all mobility that most characterises the tactical practitioner. The desire and capability to combine or jump from one media to another, creating a continuous supply of mutants and hybrids. To cross borders, connecting and rewiring a variety of disciplines and always taking full advantage of the free spaces in the media, that are continually appearing because of the pace of technological change and regulatory uncertainty.

Although Tactical Media include alternative media, we are not restricted to that category. In fact we introduced the term 'tactical' to disrupt and take us beyond the rigid dichotomies that have restricted thinking in this area for so long, dichotomies such as amateur vs. professional, alternative vs.mainstream, and even private vs. public. Our hybrid forms are always provisional. What counts are the temporary connections you are able to make. Here and now, not some vaporware promised for the future, but: what we can do on the spot with the media we have access to? Here in Amsterdam we have access to local TV, digital cities and fortresses of new and old media. In other places they might have theatre, street demonstrations, experimental film, literature, photography....

From Grrr - a design collective (Barcelona)
Global Media: This is relative to a group of people, in this case this term seems to be referring to humankind. If this includes all the different mass media (Broadcasting, Press, Television, Internet, etc...) is there any mass media that includes all humanity? No.

Economy: Some of the communication systems are designed to be useful to a great number of people, but all need a specific technology for their emission and reception.These technologies (Broadcasting receivers, Computers, Phone lines, Modems..) are not available to all, apart from those with a high economic and technical level.

Language: Although English can be considered the current Universal language, due to social and economic influence. It cannot be forgotten that there are several groups of people who do not speak or understand this language; for example the majority of Chinese people the Arabian cultures or the Latin American countries.

Culture: Apart the countries named above, there exist many people with some knowledge of the English language that allows them to communicate to English speakers but not to fully understand the whole meaning of the messages, this is worse in complex Philosophy or technical essays etc...

Communication: The actual majority of mass media systems (with the exception of the internet, at least for the present) fall in one of the basic rules of communication relationships - Information is only sent from the emitter to the receiver, with the receiver not being able to return to the emitter.

Monopoly: There is no knowledge about the veracity of the information being sent out globally, it might be influenced by the Economy, Politics, Law or other powerful lobbies. We may have more information than ever before but we are less able to read the objective truth.

"The relationship between commerce and visual communication".
Ian Warner (Berlin)

The text is to be set in 11pt Helvetica Neue 95 with -2pt letter spacing and 13.6pt leading. All numerals will be set in 10.5pt to optically compensate for their comparative weightiness in the overall text density. The text will be justified throughout with a minimum spacing value of 60%, an optimum spacing value of 70% and maximum allowance of 85%. Character spacing will be fixed at 0%. Single words will not be justified. Hyphenation will be set to automatic, the smallest breakable word of which will contain six letters with a minimum of three letter before the hyphen and two after. A kerning value of 10pt must be inserted between all numerals followed by the suffix 'pt' or 'mm', just as a kerning value of -10pt must be removed from the space between the numerals '1' and '7' and a decimal point. The text will be set in a white text field 240mm wide and tall enough to contain the full transcription. The text will be fully credited to its author whose name will be set at 10pt in Neue 55 of the same face as previously mentioned, whereby any numerals will be reduced in size by 0.5pt. The name will occupy a new paragraph one whole line below the text.
(this is a visual piece - but you get the idea)

Gerard Paris-Clavel. from a lecture given in Buenos Aires - June 1997
Intellectuals and social workers An artistic education implies the ability to challenge taboos, to break through the norm and the average. Education in images means a confrontation with citizenship: critical inquiry and debate. Creativity must step out to meet the world of labour, intellectuals must dialogue with social workers. Culture should actively participate in social conflict.

Art, with its capacity to symbolically express the violence of our contemporary societies, can help question the most difficult problems, and awaken a taste for their complexities. To consider students responsible also means recognising their rights. Spaces and funding should be provided so that they can come together easily in study collectives or groups - in every organisation where their singularity confronts the other, learns from the other, experiments with the real ethical, civic and political means to emancipate themselves and fully exercise their vocation. But personal political commitment is often banished from pedagogy; the student is forced into silence about his own political beliefs, thus depriving her of her rights as a citizen in her place of instruction and throughout her school life.

To refuse the discussion of basic principles is not only to refuse solidarity (which is not an inborn gift). Knowledge itself is impoverished when there is no expression of a diversity of opinions, when the floor is left to the "specialists" and the powers that be, to their consensus vocabulary and their visual diarrhoea. The retention of ideas makes one deaf and cowardly! Such an approach merely reinforce the viewpoint of an elitist art, outside the struggle over ideas, outside history, an art whose expression and whose quality of meaning hide behind a virtuosity of forms, falsely conceived as the bearers of humanism by themselves alone.

Other visual contributions sent in for this poster included work by:
Class Action (New Haven)
Jordi (London)
Doug Minkler (San Fransisco)
Yves Haubois (Paris) and
Sean Perkins (Iowa)

The 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th poster continue the dialogue. Return to the 1st.