The main inspiration of this project was the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war. We all (or most of us, at least) know that war is bad. We have witnessed countless moments of cruelty, grief, sorrow and anger brought by war. But we repeat the vicious circle of war over and over again -- we engage in war to fight against another war. I came to ask myself a series of questions -- why can't we see the simple truth that war is bad? why do we keep making the same mistake? and what can I do about it?
One of the essential causes of the vicious circle, I concluded, is the system (or systematic rhetoric) that keeps the mass from seeing the truth. I used the transcript of George W. Bush's speech on "War on Terror" as an example of such system. The point of the speech is very simple. Bush basically says that "terrorism killed our people, so we are engaging in war to retaliate terrorism." When the message is this simple, there is more room for rebuttal. Therefore, Bush diluted his main point in this long, convoluted speech, written in highly patriotic words and delivered in front of American flag. The speech filtered out retaliation and violence from the war, and overcoated it with patriotism and morality. It is this filtered message that is delivered to billions of people across the world through the media. In the first poster, the "War on Terror" speech forms a picture of George W. Bush delivering the speech -- this poster symbolizes how message is blended into the image, and how people end up seeing this image, not the message at its core.
This system of semiotic disguise keeps the mass from seeing the truth. Even when some people shout out that the war is just as bad as terrorism, the powerless cries are buried under more powerful words. In the second poster, I used red color to highlight the message deliberately hidden by the speech. The red letters read, "it takes fifteen thousand characters to hide the fact that war is just as bad as terrorism. Ten years have passed, and America is still killing many innocent lives across the world." Yet again, these red letters are hard to read because it cannot get outside of the rhetorical system. We need to deliver the message outside of the rhetorical formula. So I simply wrote the message "truth is simple. war kills. let's not be fooled (again)." on top of (on another layer/dimension) Bush's speech in the second poster.
I came to a conclusion that we should not stop at the stage of shouting out. Getting the message heard is not enough, for most of us who speak for the "other side of the story" do not have access to the media/message delivery system. We should make people see the other side of the truth, sit and think about the both sides of the story, really change their mind, and be active messengers.
For this reason, I hung up the poster in toilets, because there is no better place to make people sit, read, and think than bathroom.
When facing the door to the bathroom, a person will first see the "image" of American flag and George W. Bush. The person will then enter the bathroom, and see the poster on the other side of the door/bathroom -- the person literally opened the door and saw the other side of the story. Then the person will sit, and read the big letters on the second poster. If the poster is interesting enough, the person will think about the two posters, and some others might actively engage to read the small letters on the second poster hidden in the speech.
I put the poster in three different locations on campus: MCM production building, CIT, and Faunce. I am intrigued to find out which poster will be taken down first, and if the posters will get any type of response (I am expecting some form of graffiti on the poster as a potential type of response).