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Graphic Agitation 1 and 2
When Graphic Agitation closed on the notion of emerging technologies and global networks, it left room for a sequel. Liz McQuiston’s 2004 follow-up addresses issues relating to the Internet, globalization, and our post-911 society. Graphic Agitation and its sequel can sit on your shelf as time capsules, a collection of images with emotions looming behind the aesthetic.

Graphic Agitation (GA1) investigated design since the 1960s that had political, social, and angst-ridden agendas. (It may be difficult for some readers to digest the raw and disturbing visuals.) GA1 showcased how issues relating to AIDS, nuclear war, gender/sexual discrimination, solidarity, racial inequality, politics, war, economics, ecology, and eroticism are addressed through visual communication and expression. You’ll see design and art by the likes of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Grapus, and Bucky Fuller. Comic books, posters, packaging, billboards, television ads, and tapestries are some of the media used by the agitators throughout the book. For them, the method doesn’t matter as much as getting the message across. It’s all about what George Lois called the Big Idea: making it memorable and dramatic.

Graphic Agitation 2 (GA2) takes us into the present generation. It’s a time when subvertisers carry on the fight of Adbusters. Not only do we have print media, but now we also have websites that pour out information instantly—sometimes before CNN and MSNBC can get a crew on site, or in places they don’t dare visit. The authors and sojos (solo journalists) of this interactive media shape public opinion, or oppose it. Type, formal quality, contrast, and production do not matter as much as what is being said, and GA2 presents a great many voices yelling and screaming in its four chapters: The New Global Protest; Satire, Subversion, Subvertising; Perceptions of War; and Fighting for Human Rights. Chapter 3—Perceptions of War—is the largest of all four. Conflicts relating to the World Trade Center, Saddam Hussein, Lithuania’s Bloody Sunday, Bosnia, and Palestine/Israel sit at the forefront. Whether it’s the national media visualizing wars and conflicts through detailed maps or cartoonists/illustrators poking fun at our world leaders through political satire, McQuiston’s collection captures raw and upset emotions poured out with print and pixel.

After reading GA1 and GA2, the outlook appears bleak, and GA2 teaches us that resistance will always continue in some way shape or form. Those that have the technology to bombard audiences through the Internet will have an advantage, insomuch as the number of people they reach. GA2 only touches on this notion, and while it seems unorthodox for a book to document and critique websites, it would be a valuable endeavor. And if GA3 is in the works, hopefully it will focus on this emerging network where designers, artists, protestors, pedestrians, soldiers, and terrorists wage a war with messages online. We see mayhem and injustice, or learn about the ideals that fuel one’s fight from places thousands of miles away.

What most people don’t realize is that online media (website, blog, or game) is as ephemeral as paper. Just because you have a domain address and can host the site from anywhere in the world—even a mobile server sitting in an Army Hummer—doesn’t mean you’re untouchable. A website can be removed at any time, for whatever reason a government or agency desires; it’s no different than city crews ripping down posters and stickers from telephone poles and alleys.

And what happens after you’ve had your server confiscated and the web address deleted? Is it back to the streets with posters and adhesive, or something new?

Book Information
Graphic Agitation by Liz McQuiston
240 pages, Hardcover
11.4 x 9.9 x 0.9 inches
Publisher: Phaidon Press
ISBN: 0714834580

Graphic Agitation 2: Social and Political Graphics in the Digital Age by Liz McQuiston
240 pages, Hardcover
11.7 x 10.1 x 1.2 inches
Publisher: Phaidon Press
ISBN: 0714841773
Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Mar.24.2005 BY Jason A. Tselentis
Darrel’s comment is:

What most people don’t realize is that online media (website, blog, or game) is as ephemeral as paper.

I'm not so sure if that's entirely true. I've seen many a 'questionable' site get ripped down only to be mirrored instantly by all sorts of volunteers. Get some blog-worthy content out there, and within days you'll have dozen's of 'backups' of other's blogging your content. And then there's the always useful archive.org.

In many ways, the blogs are the boarded up, postered construction sites of the internet.

On Mar.25.2005 at 10:19 AM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

Good point, Darrel. And if your statement is true, when will we see more bloggers, net.artists, subvertisers, and fanatics start archiving there work? Should they do so in print or electronically? This track of thought is an all together separate article, but relevant to the GA books. McQuiston's success lies in capturing these items, in all their rebellion, before they disappear. Again, I hope to see her do the same with interactive and digital work. 1s and 0s can disappear as easily as paper and ink.

On Mar.25.2005 at 11:27 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:


Good post. While I admire anyone crazy enough to throw the spanner into the Culture-generating Machine, I think that sometimes the Anti movement embraces content that is sometimes more- cynical-than-niave about how the massive toxic culture eventually eats all the grafitti artists and poster makers and students. Then it spits out a duplicate version of revolution bite size and packaged with cool graphics and it starts all over again. Che t-shirts for children don't change the world.

I see the Adbusters web site running pictures of that fake Ward Churchill and it makes me want to walk away from the message.

What is encouraging, as an example, has been sponsorship of students in science. I'd heard a program recently (unfortunately I'd forgotten the name) that had budding geniuses working on such things as new efficient desalinization machines for victims of the Tsunami in SE Asia. Biomedical advances to treat diseases in impoverished countries. It was really hopeful sounding.Something above and beyond all the angry manifestos. Something real.

On Mar.25.2005 at 11:54 AM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

Pesky, your last paragraph sounds like that something new I wondered about...albeit, a renaissance.

On Mar.25.2005 at 12:00 PM
Joe Clark’s comment is:

Fix your character encoding, please. (That is, don't act as though you can copy and paste from Microsoft Word and have your apostrophes and dashes work properly.)

On Mar.25.2005 at 02:49 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Thank you Joe, as always, for your compliance concerns. We prefer technical issues be addressed off site by e-mail. Completely off-topic comments can be as unpleasant as bad character encoding.

On Mar.26.2005 at 10:04 AM