Creative Director & Photographer: Jessica Huynh
Models: Elaina Pawelka & Kevin Nguyen
FUKUSHIMA is both an informative and thought-provoking poster highlighting the short and long term consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster. With divided stance on whether the radiation levels are now safe, FUKUSHIMA behaves as a propaganda poster; it does this by persuading the audience to (re)evaluate the impact of the disaster and question the preventative actions being emplaced. The poster intellectualizes the viewer, while simultaneously playing into the viewer’s fear. This is ultimately done by using a variety of elements to convey binaries: Old vs. New and In vs. Out (n other words, are you being proactive or will you stay ignorant to what is actually happening?).
The foundation of the poster is a photographic rendition of the classic artwork L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas (1875-1876). My choice in choosing this particular painting was primarily due to subject matter. The complete desolation depicted on the faces of the two subjects with a faintly glowing glass of Absinthe leaves both an eerie and chilling image in the mind. Rather instantaneously, the idea began to formulate in my mind of a present day image depicting two people completely zombiefied to the fact that they were ingesting toxic seafood in sushi. This, in combination to my knowledge of Degas being infamous for using Japonism in his artwork, came together harmoniously.
The composition of the photograph thus depicts elements of Japanese artwork (such as the off-centre subject matter) which ties back to the Japanese causal to our current situation. The vector element included was a single green circle, which symbolizes Japan’s flag. The circle is intentionally green (not the standard red) to signify a transformation. ‘Dining with the Green Fairy?’ alludes to the substitution of the absinthe with the glowing sushi. Even to onlookers of the poster without prior knowledge of art history can assume that all is not normal in the scene.
The Founding Dada’s of America (America’s Dada) is a triad, propaganda poster that portrays three stages of American History. The intention of the poster is to propagate a cultural, political, social, and historical reflection of American iconography. The viewer is to dissect each poster in terms of its relevance and string together a cohesive understanding of the fluidity of Americanism. Each poster represents both a time frame and a concept, posing an end question of what is America and who shapes our definition.
In poster one, the ‘America’ portrayed is the classic American Dream. Symbolism in this poster references the America built by the White European fathers. The four ‘Dada’s’ in this case are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln as moulded in Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This is the America built and recognized on a global scale. Patriotism was a continuous theme in Poster One. Notable patriotic symbols include the Statue of Liberty, the American Flag, and the Bald Eagle. There is a repetition of a naked woman with a classic hairstyle to represent women’s role in society. I chose this particular image because of her coy and submissive body language, contrasting of her seductive gaze enticing the viewer to fix upon her. This, in turn, ties back to reinforcing a male patriarchy. The newspaper headline reads ‘The Free Love…” which represents the infamous saying, ‘America: Home of the Free, Land of the Brave.” The hands with eyes drawn on the nails symbolizes two things: 1) the hands that built America, and 2) the watchful eyes surveying the citizens. This alludes to and foreshadows to present day America, which has been under much criticism of moving towards an Orwellian state.
Poster two controversially presents the ‘original’ founding Dadas. In other words, the four Americans represented on the bottom of the poster are Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, and Red Cloud. This poster challenges the viewer to reflect on how our ideas of America is largely shaped by European settlers, while simultaneously paying homage to the original dwellers: The Indigenous People of America. Images used include the wolf, moon, and tree. The wolf represents power and independence, and is a symbolic animal in Indigenous culture. The moon and tree display the simple and naturalistic icons that bore meaning to the Native Americans. Lastly, the scrawled text on the paper reads: “there are days that all I can think is / I want to go home / even as I’m laying my own bed.” Being a rather general quote that many people can relate to on a personal level, it speaks projections in relation to history. As we know, The Indigenous People of America had their land overtaken by the European settlers. Consequently, their “bed” is not no longer their home. The purpose of this poster is to challenge the concept of America. Is America a place? A concept? A land? And who does America belong to if it was “stolen?”
The third poster reveals a more modern view of American. The Founding ‘Dadas’ in this poster are Mark Zuckerberg, Edward Snowden, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. These individuals represent the digital age and how our lives are micromanaged by larger bodies of power than ourselves (corporations). Facebook, the government (NSA), Microsoft, and Apple are four large groups that have dominated or paved way to our current social stratosphere. In a sense, the poster hopes to convey that we are being watched and guided by something bigger than we can realistically comprehend. With government surveillance, privacy issues, and police power generating much attention and discussions, it was unsurprising to have four “Dadas” that reflect the technological world and its advancement in being used to control and monitor their citizens. The image that best represents this idea is a surveillance camera on the top left of the poster. The strategical location indicates its “watching over” presence. Furthermore, there is a shift in America, in which traditional values are being replaced with commercialism, capitalism, and consumerism. These symbolic emergences are represented by my choices in images. The Iphone reflects our dependency to smart technology, money represents our capitalistic society, McDonald’s Golden Arch denotes our fast food consumption, and Mickey Mouse represents Disney, who owns a large portion of media and controls much of what we see on television and film. Even more, Barbie has surgical lines drawn on her, representing the controlled and fixated obsession we have on an idealistic and unattainable standards of beauty. Again, a circulation of inferiority cultivates an insatiable thirst for more. Ironically, wholesome toy doll Barbie is holding a shotgun. This reflects America’s lax gun control and open carry policy. This poster, in a sense, focuses on the mockery of America. To reflect American’s underground drug trade, which is estimated that $100 billion worth of illegal drugs are sold and circulated throughout the country, the inclusion of cocaine lines and a marijuana joint is present. Art is reflected by the Campbell soup (Andy Warhol) and sport is reflected by a football. America, as of recent years, have made notable impact in both the art and sport world and I have chosen to depict this through these images. Lastly, the cowboy is included to reflect the Southern and right wing views of many Americans. In a way, this reflects the political domain of America.
The original intend of Dadaism art was to artistically protest the colonial and national movements that would result in war. In this way, my poster takes this iconic and historical art movement and makes it both modern and relevant. The process of the project was both tedious and strategic. Each image was selectively chosen and arranged in a manner that works harmoniously or chaotically (depending on the reflection of the poster). Then, each image was painstakingly cropped and isolated from its original background to get a “cut-out” vibe. While time consuming, it creates a very neat and tidy composition despite having a cluster of seemingly unrelated images.