In this assignment students map an issue they want to explore, anything from the intimately personal to the social. The map must be typographic in nature, and the role of metaphor as a tool for understanding and engagement must be considered. Tutor: Jason Grant
With Wipe Out Joel has mapped surfing’s regression from a radically independent counterculture to a market-led globalised trend. He also reflects on his own cultural identity, interviewing surf culture participants to present an equally subjective and objective portrait.
Referencing Dick Hebdige’s 1979 critique of British, working class youth, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, Joel argues that surfing has followed a typical trajectory; beginning as a symbolic form of resistance, and eventually extinguished as the dominant culture contains its subversion through assimilation and commodification.
He has produced a series of T-shirts to codify surfing’s themes and commercial development in each decade since its popularity boomed in 60′s Australia.
The decades’ broad cultural shifts are portrayed on shirt fronts, with a pastiche of fashionable graphic and typographic cliches from each period presenting a relevant interview statement – from the naivety of nostalgic hand drawn lettering in the early decades, to digitally forged type culminating in the “Perfect Storm” of overwhelming corporate forces (“…becoming a normalised part of mainstream culture”).
On the shirt backs, the synoptic chart (weather diagrams surfers can use to predict waves) is applied as a metaphor for change and direction over time, showing both an increase in air pressure, indicating big swell (good waves) but also, symbolically, erosion of subculture and the series of cultural events leading to this “Perfect Storm”.
Lines of interview text are rendered as isobars showing “surfing’s proportion of influence in society”. Coded symbols interact to articulate surfing’s strength as a subculture, its general popularity, and degree of commercialisation.
The project has been conceived as an installation or performance, depending on whether the shirts are worn (walking single file in chronological order slowly down the beach?), or displayed as surf-shop merchandise.