OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding October 2008

This exhibition, organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, examined the desires generated and promoted by democracy as a brand. Featuring work by over 40 international artists, the exhibition included online works, installations, sculptures, photography, video and film in addition to a public program of panels, lectures, performances, and charrettes. Project Projects designed the exhibition, its website, and a newsprint publication. The show’s graphic system created an illusory choice between apparent dichotomies of red vs. blue, which was enacted in the publication as well as branded, obligatory admission stickers. The stickers subsequently became detritus as visitors discarded them over the exhibition’s own titling graphic.

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

 

Exhibition website

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

 

Exhibition publication

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding

Design notes from OURS publication

The exhibition design of OURS operates as a participatory framework, actively shaping and altering visitors’ experiences. Employing dislocative processes and visual form, the design strategy enacts the innate conflict in the democratic process between centralized control and individual choice.

Upon entering the exhibition, visi­tors are asked to wear an admission sticker resembling a campaign button. While this procedure is familiar from both art museums and political events, visitors have to choose between a red or blue sticker, marking them imme­diately as members of one of two groups (as well as of the larger group of exhibition-goers). Subsequently, visitors’ rejection and disposal of the stickers may generate detritus in the exhibition space and beyond, thereby undermining the clarity of the exhibition’s presentation and its sense of authoritative graphic identity.

Throughout the exhibition, the dichotomy between the colors red and blue offer the appearance of alternatives. This nod to agency proves to be illusory: color is used arbitrarily to both package identical contents, as well as to suggest choice between incomparable objects. Additionally, a multitude of typefaces are utilized to create the appear­ance of visual diversity. However, all nineteen typefaces are designs from a single hand—that of canonical Swiss type designer Adrian Frutiger (1928–). Frutiger is best known for designing Univers (1957), a systematized family of typefaces merging Fordist rationalization with a touch of calligraphic humanism.

The OURS design system is totalizing and open-ended, monolithic and chaotic, autocratic and motley. Through these unresolved contradictions, the design acts to extend, question, and comment upon the show’s concept and contents.

—Project Projects, exhibition and graphic designers