Back in the run up to the Iraq War in late 2002, and then after Bush ordered the attack in March of 2003, I worked with a grassroots neighborhood antiwar group called the Hyde Park Committee Against War & Racism. This group had been working at a local level since the week following September 11, 2001. I and about a dozen or more others started attending meetings regularly beginning in late 2002, driven to action and togetherness by the dismay and outrage over the impending war. Together with others in the group who were somehow art-identified, one of the ways I contributed was to help make signs and posters. It seemed entirely reasonable to expect that the artists take on this responsibility. In grassroots activist groups, all competencies are made available to the needs of the group. But what we, the art people in the group, didn't do then was seriously critique and evaluate of our creations, or, for that matter anybody else's, apart from the casual gripes or plaudits when seeing a political graphic that somehow catches attention.
HPCAWR is for all practical purposes history. There is a Yahoo Groups mailing list but not much else. Nonetheless, some of us who first met and worked together then continue to find ways to occasionally share work and ideas. One of my comrades from that time is Amy Partridge, and it was with her that Laurie Jo Reynolds and I kicked off the evening's discussion last Saturday night at Mess Hall. For Amy and I, it was what we didn't do earlier: make time to focus on the operations of political graphics. In the sense of this event capping a process of creation we had begun back then, and that we always were aware of as an exercise in modeling a form of activism, it was a nice way to close a circle.
Of course, it is six years later, and the political situation is very different. The issues in our minds and hearts are more dispersed, and range across many specific causes. Our starting point for the evening was the Just Seeds Ten Years of Critical Resistance portfolio, a suite of prints all addressing prison-related issues. From there we turned attentions to graphics created for the Tamms Year Ten campaign, also on display. The twenty or so people who joined us contributed many useful and sometimes brilliant insights. We went for a solid two hours, with a nice break for pizza and socializing in between two sessions of focused conversation.
When Aaron Hughes and a crew of vets from IVAW dropped in for the second half the circle was completed in another way. The question of political graphics in relation to the Iraq War resurfaced.