Saturday, 28 May 2011

Communist Propaganda, Capitalist Lifestyle...

During my time in China I have frequently seen Maoist style graphics reinvented within a modern context, each time used for different reasons, and leading to differing end-results.

Modern Chinese pop-art seems to be particularly adept at invoking symbols of communism and inverting them in order to mark out and delineate the change in China’s direction, political standpoints, and economy. Chinese art is awash with using this style of propaganda print as a form of contemporary cultural communication.

In advertising its use is also far from clear; often it gives artistic simplicity to the ad which presents a visual emphasis on the product on display, as well as adding a bold adding a bold desirability to the product on offer. Of course, the use of it within advertising is particularly interesting:a style formerly a tool for lauding communist ideologies reinvented as a tool of capitalism.

In other kinds of situations I have seen this style used in public messages and displays (non-governmental), presumably where the strength of simplicity still manages to fulfil original aims. I have seen it painted on the walls around schools, bringing up a kind of idealism to the educational environment, and on entrances to bars and restaurants frequented by older clientele where the propaganda style image brings up a different recollection to the younger generation.

The government also still invokes a kind of stylistic simplicity in it’s public messages which seems redolent of government messages from 40 years earlier. However, often certain colours are softened, figures are given more of a realism and the characters within the poster look forwards to give more of an amiable and less of a non-personal look to the image.

Maoist-era Propaganda

Modern-era propaganda stylism

Above I have noted a couple of contrasts (and similarities) between communist posters and contemporary propoganda style posters which I have come across in the last week. Note the eyeline focusing away from viewer, the striking simplicity in terms of design and colour. The first pair are posters intended as public encouragement posters. Of the later pair, the first is part of Nike's Running Assets Campaign (Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai), the second is a picture taken at the entrance to a building site.

For those interested in original style propoganda posters, there is a wonderful selection worth looking at here.

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