Consider the words as a collective, “visual language of protest”. At first they seem to work effortlessly together but did you really consider their collective meaning? What is visual language? If language is traditionally spoken or heard, how can it be visual. Consider an individual holding a silent protest; would they still be communicating through language? Personally, I believe the definition of these words string deep within the understanding of who a true artist is.
And by artist I don’t mean in the stereotypical sense of the term defining one who paints a landscape or sketches the human body. I am referring to someone who rethinks the traditional way of doing something, an individual who understands the way something works and is able to then approach it from a different perspective, subsequently brining forth-new ideas. During the 80’s and at the most critical time in the development of the aids epidemic, Gran Fury, an artistic collaboration, creatively developed new ways of bringing awareness to the people.
Lets consider one of their most iconic advertisements. Visually, one can see an off white square, directly in the center is a hand print, red in color resembling blood with black words around the hand”. This ad is successful in brining forth awareness from a number of different perspectives but specifically when considering the ‘visual language of protest’, the ad individually covers all three.
Visually, it is compelling, first your gaze is drawn to the bloody hand print guiding you to read the text around the boarder, the language –leading towards a desire to protest or make a change. Gran Fury offers us a very literal example, displaying the Visual Language of Protest. Now consider a different artist, Iraqi born artist Wafaa Bilal. Wafaa is a regular activist and artist displaying his work in various mediums including instillations, performances and video art.
When thinking about the visual language of protest we can consider his latest body of work, a series of models recreating bombed buildings and homes in Iraq. His models are powerful offering a sense of greater perspective at a size of just over 3’x3’. His work is visual in the sense that it offers a physical presence, allowing the viewer to better wrap his mind around the visuals. Its language is continuous, providing the viewer a first hand look at the aftermath and destruction inflicted in Iraq.
The work is inherently a protest, forcing the viewer to look and encourage nderstanding – often lacking when viewing similar accounts of devastation through the lens of television and media When considering art as a medium, I question whether visual language offers a sense of deeper meaning and understanding then its traditional written, spoken, or listening form. When we see something, does it strike a stronger feeling of reality? As artists create and the world continues to transform, we can look forward to new artists emerging with different ideas and ways of maximizing the potential of the visual language of protest.