Faster Stronger…
by Philippe Cao

Rhode Island School of DesignUSA
Published online
August 26, 2016

For this project students were required to design a poster depicting the manifesto of their choice. Tutor: Nancy Skolos

Faster Stronger Better is a series of posters intended to re-contextualize F.T. Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto for the digital age. Phillipe intends the posters “to underline the absurdity of Futurist ideals, which demand technology’s assumption of nature as means of human progress and promote war as ‘the world’s only hygiene’”.

Phillipe writes: “I chose to depict roughly rendered animals that have been poorly uploaded into the grid of cyber-space as means of pointing to the inadequacies of industrial technology. The use of Spanish, Chinese, and Thai – languages of countries infamous for mass-production – is used to refer to the dangers of a totalitarian approach to industrialization. I wanted the posters to be aesthetically brash and brutal, as a reflection Futurist ideology and Marinetti’s manic and surreal writing style.”

The digitally corrupted animals relate to each of the texts in the posters: the gorilla is ‘stronger’ in Spanish; the leopard is ‘faster’ in Chinese; the ant is ‘better’ in Tai – each become metaphors for aspects of industrialisation synonymous with the chosen countries. With no literal reference to Maranetti’s manifesto however, the posters risk a confusing ambiguity and inaccessible abstraction that restrains the intended indictment.

Using contemporary visual language to link current and historical expressions of ideology, the posters’ ambiguities do help convey the anxiety and alienation that are symptoms of the digital age. So perhaps the semiotic jest and conceptual ambiguity is intriguing enough for some level of engagement. These qualities can also be appreciated in some of Philipe’s other student work such as Eurofuture – “A web-based narrative envisioning a dystopian ultra-capitalist future in which soft foods, canned dairy and vitamin supplements are religiously consumed.”

Do these posters represent the limitations of an approach that is becoming more prevalent with online posters, away from their traditional “productive sites of conflict” (ie. the street)? Are they intrinsically too abstract, and the denunciation too subtle, for the medium of posters? Or does this decontextualisation represent a tendency for the poster to become more like a ‘painting’ – so the context might not be embedded, but external, for example a suggestive title, or supporting text with enough clues to decipher intention? A kind of augmented impact?

  1. Guest comment
    by Pierre Bernard

    I am assuming this is a cultural exercise and a pedagogical workshop that had little to do with the traditional declarative function of a poster.

    A few years ago realised how difficult it is as a teacher to construct a *just* (thanks to J.L. Godard …a just image or just an image…) approach to each project of graphic design… (and that was in French language and working in a common urban community of people).

    The three drawings are well drawn and the different elements are well composed but it’s Pure Work of Art. Without more explicit visual or textual references it becomes fantasy! And unfortunately today, fantasy is permitted! recommended! favoured! It’s one of the main consumptions of visually educated citizens. The problem with so much ambiguity is that the posters are just too far from a pronounced denunciation.

    [editor's note: Pierre's comment is an edited version of correspondence written some months before his death on 23 November 2015. His vital inspiration and example, along with our profound gratitude, will never ebb. See this 1991 interview by Rick Poynor in Eye and Inkahoots' eulogy.]

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