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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

A Legacy of Resistance and Dissent

Signs of Resistance: A Visual History of Protest in America (Artisan Books) by Bonnie Siegler is inspiring celebration of the right to dissent. “In the months leading up to the 2016 election,” writes Siegler in her introduction, “I worked to spread the word about the dangers of a Trump presidency.” Obviously, the warnings went unheeded. So to refocus her fear, frustration and fury, she compiled an Adobe Max talk that spoke to the same feelings in others. That talk became this book. I have been collecting similar and same imagery—including some of the classics in this volume—for years in a talk titled “Graphic Intervention,” and other timely books have been published on various aspects of visual and verbal resistance. This one is particularly significant for its wide range of focused commentaries. It is important to make certain protest is heard and seen. I asked Siegler about her efforts to keep these flames alive.

Siegler will present a talk about the book and resistance on Tuesday, February 13, 6:30–8:30 at the Brooklyn Public Library (Park Slope Location) at 431 Sixth Avenue at 9th Street in Brooklyn.

All images excerpted from Signs of Resistance by Bonnie Siegler (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018.

Cartoon supporting suffrage, 1917. Photograph used by permission from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Signs of Resistance is a very timely theme. How’d you get this book together so quickly? I actually started researching the material last year, for my own sanity, to explore how other designers and artists had dealt with their anger and rage in different difficult times. When Adobe Max asked me to do a talk at the conference, I turned my research into a talk called “The Design of the Resistance.” I had just turned in the mechanicals for my first book, Dear Client, when I did the talk at my publishers, who immediately saw the possibilities in turning it into a book. Essentially, I already had done a lot of the curation, but I pretty much worked night and day for six weeks to find new things, write it, and source the imagery. And they to it printed and distributed lickety split.

AIDS parody by Gang, Act Up, 1990. Photograph used by permission from ACT UP New York.

“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” by André Carrilho, 2016. Photograph used by permission from Andre Carrilho.

Vietnam War protest by Napalm Graphics, 1967. Permission from Napalm Graphics, publisher, 1987.

Your categories are right on. is there anything on reflection that you missed or surprised you? YES! First of all, there’s tons of amazing material In each of these chapters that I just couldn’t fit in, but I would love to do another book with the missing categories: LGBT rights, climate change and environmental justice, no nukes, reproductive rights, occupy wall street, abolitionism, gun control, and now, me too / time’s up. …

Bush I War protest by John Yates Stealworks, 1989. Photograph used by permission from John Yates/

Satire on G. H. W. Bush’s famous saying by Gran Fury, 1988. Photograph used by permission from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SNCC poster with photo of Mississippi policeman by Danny Lyon, 1962. Photograph used by permission from Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos.

I notice there is nothing on the McCarthy era. How come? And McCarthyism. Especially now that we are living through another installment. I only had 240 pages!

What do you want your readers, and I hope there are many, to take away from this? In Obama’s final speech as President, he warned that “our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” My hope is that by reliving these moments throughout history when people refused to comply, refused to take our democracy for granted and fought for their rights, they will be inspired to get involved now. March, canvass, make art, design posters, reach out to candidates, host fundraisers, make phone calls, anything and everything helps. There are only 274 days until the midterms and a lot of opportunities to change hearts and minds, help get the right people elected, kick the corrupt people out of office, and turn this giant ship around. Additionally, I think the book offers a sense of hope, which we have to hold on to. We have gone through difficult times before and we will survive this one too. Personally, I feel more patriotic now that I have ever felt in my life. I am dedicated to fighting the undermining of our democracy and inspiring others to do the same.

Donald J. Trump’s #METOO moment by Lennart Gabel, 2016. Photograph used by permission from Lennart Gäbel.

Protest by The Chicago Women’s Graphic Collective, 1972. Photograph used by permission from the Chicago Women’s Graphics Collective, contact CWLU Herstory Project.

“Your Son Next?” by the Berkeley Political Poster Workshop, 1970. Photograph used by permission from the Shapero Modern, London, U.K.

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