The vast majority of works that could conceivably fall under a broad rubric of "radical media" do nothing but attempt to bring viewers to consciousness, or inform them. Or, more specifically, such works attempt to counter the tide of media information with which the urban subject is barraged by inserting bits of mis-information into the experience of the everyday. My poster "Fuck Apathy - Fuck You" is just such an attempt at misinformation. The viewer passively absorbs advertisements, slogans, and announcements without thought; this poster hops to force its audience to ask the questions: "Am I apathetic? What are the consequences of apathy? What do I have to do with tanks and slogans and revolutions?"
The answer to this last question cannot remain the standard "Nothing," because the poster has already inscribed the viewer into a position of absence within the image. The general purpose of the poster is to insult and accuse the viewer, a viewer who is necessarily absent and cannot identify with any figure in the image. Thus abused, the viewer cannot but question her own notion of location within the social system---or perhaps begin to locate herself within or outside of this system for the first time.
Several elements of the design of this poster emerged as the central effectors of this image-reader relationship. The first would be the bright red spray paint strips, which form strong vivid diagonals with the rows of tanks, all against the heavy black central bar. The choice of image is also key: the snapshot, taken by an amateur in June 1989 in Beijing, China, during a military crackdown on student demonstrations, should be recognizable to the average viewer, but should remain foreign or distant. The choice of image and clashing diagonals produce a general feeling of militancy that complements the verbal abusiveness of the poster's slogans.
The editing of the image produces the second effect in the intended interaction. In the top image, the anonymous figure has been replaced with a black silhouette, which almost vanishes into the shadow of the tank. There seem to be no obstacles to the progress of the column of tanks. In the lower image, more personally connected to the viewer by virtue of its caption, the silhouette has been filled red, making it much more noticeable---either as a symbol of hope, or as an even more glaring highlighting of the absence of the actual figure.
The time and place written in white along the central black bar refer to nothing in particular. In some ways, I do hope that someone will show up there and then, but this is by no means the purpose of the poster. The idea behind leaving instructions on the poster itself is to create the sensation that something is happening somewhere. This will produce an even greater sense of absence in the viewer, who knows she will most likely not be "there." The message, ultimately, is simple: apathy is absence.
The final element of the poster project is the deployment. The intended audience is large: the poster is addressed to anyone who believes themselves to be politically allied or involved in a given struggle but remains inactive. Brown University, of course, has no shortage of such potential viewers. I find it most pertinent to people who already consider themselves active in some way, so that they can be stimulated into more creative involvement---where that somewhere is, and what that something is. Consequently, I placed the posters in mid- to high-traffic areas frequented by viewers who might fancy themselves activists: outside Faunce 301, home to Students for a Democratic Society and the Young Communists, outside Loui's, frequented by westside punks and activists, and Finlandia and Watermyn co-ops.