Designer community “Strike Placard” has created tens of impressive works; the most famous is I am a drop in the ocean that will change Ukraine: the drop which falls into blue-and-yellow ocean became a symbol of protests in the same way as a barricade or burning tire. This placard gave way to a successful project with its own Internet platform – www.kraplya.com.
After the victory of the revolution “Strike Placard” continued its activity within the campaign of resisting Russian occupation in the Crimea. On January 31 Den published an article about this community. Now we have an opportunity to ask questions to the artists themselves.
“EVERYTHING STARTED FROM SEVERAL TENS OF WORKS CREATED ON THE FIRST NIGHT”
When and under what circumstances was “Strike Placard” born? What was the impetus?
“For many people, for us in particular, the beatings of peaceful people in the Maidan on November 30 became a moment when we felt: what the hell is going on? What are they doing? People came out to express their opinion regarding the strange decision of the president to turn back from Europe, but they were hit in the head for this. It was unbearable to sit and simply read this on social media; we wanted to do something, to fight arbitrariness somehow. We were a group of creative people who gathered to discuss the ways to help in this situation. Everything started from several tens of works which were created on the first night and were immediately spread over the Maidan and during the first Viche [December 1, 2013. – Author].”
Are you a group with a distinctive structure and centrally approved decisions, an open community, where everyone brings his/her ideas, or a broad artistic movement?
“I think we are in between an open community and nothing. It sounds strange, but it’s true: we don’t have a structure, a plan, or political ambitions. ‘Strike Placard’ is a page on social media where you can send works on burning topics or download ready works and print them. There are no author’s rights or permissions, the works are available for everyone.”
So, everyone stands for himself? Is it an individual decision which works should be made available or there is a team choice?
“Everyone stands for himself. We have gathered only several times, rather to discuss and understand what was going on than to invent concrete ideas. Later we understood that it was a waste of time; rather than talking, we should be sitting and doing. Quality is one of the main criteria. We want high-quality works to be published on ‘Strike Placard.’ Demotivators and trash pictures for laugh are not our cup of tea. Maybe, it is time to start thinking about a concrete editorial policy, because some want to turn the community into a place for popular topics, articles, and memes, and others find it important to preserve the unique Strike Placard format, owing to which our society became popular.”
“CLASSICAL PLACARD DIED, AND THERE’S NOTHING BAD ABOUT IT”
How would you assess the visual and, in broader terms, cultural accompaniment of Euromaidan?
“It is outstanding. There are many interesting things: painted helmets, powerful performances, like when at the Prosecutor General’s Office people were lying on the ground and bribers had to step over them. There was a powerful idea with mirrors, which were placed before Berkut with an inscription ‘Is this really me?’ The extremist with the piano [‘Piano Extremist’ is a society of musicians who played the piano in front of police cordons and on barricades. – Author]. Mystetsky Barbakan [an exhibit stand with works of modern artists in Kreshchatyk in front of the City Hall. – Author].”
On the whole, in what condition is graphic, placard art in Ukraine, according to your observations? How has current crisis influenced the situation in your genre?
“The classical placard calmly died, and there is nothing bad about it. Simply today nobody needs it; people learn about the events from other sources, placards lost interesting clients and talented performers. For some people it is a hobby, nothing more. But now, in time of crisis, the placard turned out to be a needed instrument to express the standpoints and views of many people. Not all speak from the stage, but everyone can hold a simple and laconic placard which reflects our emotions. The demand for placard emerged at the beginning of the revolution; in the same way, it will abruptly fall after the final victory.”
In this concern, if you remember the Orange Revolution, what are the main differences of the visual component then and now?
“The Orange Revolution was very much branded by a concrete political force, imposed color and sign. Because of this, it was extremely limited and dull, like all Ukrainian political ads. By the way, I have a feeling that thousands of once insulted Ostaps Benders are involved in political campaigns in our country, and now they make us all look at huge faces on the boards and primitive slogans. Today people have created the signs and images which they find close, understandable, and interesting. And this is what makes today’s revolution unique and beautiful.”
What are the components of a successful placard? For even before your initiative there were many placards and leaflets on the Maidan, but namely your works became a kind of a face of the visual resistance.
“We, the team of ‘Strike Placard,’ of course like people’s non-professional works much more than what we are doing. They are beautiful in their frankness, slight naivety; they are full of energy and desire to express everything at once. But without experience it is complicated to visually formulate one’s thoughts and turn them into laconic images. That is maybe the reason why our works attract more attention – after all, among the participants of ‘Strike Placard’ there are many designers and creative people who have huge experience and are winners of international awards.”
Another professional question: how should the text and picture correlate in a good placard? What part is more important?
“There is no definite answer; any part can be the main hero in different situation. There is a good dialog:
- One picture is worth of a thousand of words.
- Yeah? Then draw what you’ve just said.”
What traditions of placard and graphic art do you take as a base?
“‘Strike Placard’ is unique due to its process: it is important to work quickly and recreate the current moment. The situation changes so uncontrollably that what you painted in the morning may lose actuality in the evening. Lenin’s statue was demolished: people are discussing and experiencing this moment right now, they need the material to express their emotions, and our task is to give it to them. In these conditions it is hard to take something as groundwork.”
“MOST OF ALL THE POWER IS AFRAID OF PEOPLE WHO ARE UNITED BY A CONCRETE PURPOSE”
Your most popular placard which generated numerous versions is I am a drop in the ocean that will change Ukraine. How did you come up with this idea? Did the popularity of this image come unexpected for you?
“Like many other people, at first we felt helpless when we saw the illegal actions of the power and asked ourselves, ‘what can I do? I am not a hero, a fighter, or a revolutionary after all,’ but then we saw thousands of people who were not fighters, like us, and they turned into a powerful element. Simple people like you start doing something, change something, go somewhere, and you join this stream. At some point you understand: there is no weakness in being a drop, vice versa, you start being proud of this. Yes, I am not strong or courageous, I am not a superhero, I am just a little drop, but I can make my own contribution to the struggle with tyranny and I want to do this. This is important. Here I stand, unarmed, and demand from the power to serve the people. Most of all the power is afraid of people united by concrete purpose. If ‘Strike Placard’ is a maximum quick response to the situation, ‘Kraplya’ is a strategic project with a deeper sense. A separate group of people took up its development, therefore it is more noticeable and integral than other ideas.”
Did some of the “Strike Placard” team suffer from the power for your creative work?
“No. But our acquaintances suffered for no reason. They were beaten, tried in court, and framed for no reason.”
How has your activity changed after the victory of the revolution?
“We have somewhat relaxed, because it is hard to keep up the active tempo for a long time. We want to exhale, gather our thoughts, and focus on more strategic messages. We have started to think on how to turn ‘Kraplya’ into a regular social project, which preserves the principle that people gather and make an important cause together, without waiting for someone’s help or instruction. We already have developments in this direction, but all this will be essential when peaceful time begins.”
What would you wish to fellow designers who are not involved in the movement?
“Try to create something not only for money. Go to the Maidan, stand near a cask, talk to unknown people which you would never meet under different circumstances. All this is extremely inspiring.”