Carlo Miccio is an Italian artist / designer whose recent series, Propaganda, is made of digitally manipulated Soviet propaganda posters, where the original texts have been changed into new slogans (recalling Micha Wright) inviting the masses to fall in love, to search for wisdom in sex / eros, and believe beauty is revolutionary.
The idea, he says, was to talk about emotions using the “inclusive language” of the Soviet post revolutionary propaganda. “I have chosen to assemble details from posters produced during the early years of the Soviet experience, in the decade following the October Revolution,” he says. “The source images are taken by Soviet AgitProp posters legally recycled from the internet and assembled using digital software.” I asked Carlo Miccio about this work and its impact on others:
I started working with digital manipulation twelve years ago, using downloaded images from the Internet and reworking them with Adobe Photoshop© The title of my first project was Pornosemiotika, and focused on mass-media communication in the aftermath of 9/11.
The Propaganda series came out much later, roughly four years ago, following a longtime interest of mine about Constructivism and, generally speaking, visual propaganda in the Soviet revolution.
The series is made of digitally manipulated reproductions of Soviet propaganda posters whose original texts have been changed into new slogans. They invite the masses to fall in love, to search for wisdom in eroticism, to believe that beauty is revolutionary and that some kind of new politics of feelings is possible too. For the catchphrases, I use Cyrillic-like fonts, which can be easily read when in English, or Italian.
What is it about Italian politics that are you satirizing?
I use the Propaganda technique in syndicated cartoons of political satire about the current news, which are published by some Italian daily newspapers. There is certainly no shortage of subjects, given the many colorful aspects of my country’s political scenario! In the Propaganda project, though, i.e. the series which is shown and sold in galleries and public displays, I try to do something more subtle and less linked to current affairs than ordinary political satire.
The idea behind the project is to talk about emotions using the confident and inclusive language of the Soviet post revolutionary propaganda. My aim is to reproduce the same mix of strong belief in the future, popular enthusiasm and stubborn drive toward radical change. I have chosen to use details from posters which were produced during the early years of the Soviet experience, in the decade following the Red October that is. In doing so, I avoided using images from the Stalin era, when the propaganda posters become instrumental in enhancing the cult of personality, as well as establishing the grey rhetoric of the Brezhnev years. This later language was very different from the brave and optimistic Bolshevik spirit of the early Lenin years, which was the one I looked into for my exploration into positive emotions.
No doubt Italy’s political scene is a mess, full of absurdities, crime and corruption. However, the men and women sitting in parliament have been elected by the people, since elections are still one of the many (unavoidable) nuisances of democracy. That’s why I reckon that reforming the government is not enough, without reforming what the Soviets called ‘the masses’: I’m far less concerned by corrupted politicians than I am by the people who actually vote for them. Which means that in order to change the world we need to educate the masses, and I try to contribute by implementing a conversation on emotions. I firmly believe that learning the value of empathy can be a useful tool to teach people NOT to vote for sociopathic sex addicts with a mafia-friendly attitudes — a decisive, necessary step to make of Italy a better country to live in.
Where do these posters appear? In digital form only or pasted on walls and buildings?
They can be seen on my web site (www.microcolica.com) and I hold exhibitions in art galleries and cultural institutions. My posters are printed respecting the original size on lambda paper foil, and then they are framed on an aluminum framework. And beside the prints, at the exhibit I put on display a 25 minutes video loop where I define the theory behind my work, putting the use of cut-ups in a line connecting the dada avant-garde (Raoul Haussman is considered to be the inventor of modern photomontage) to the work of a Constructivist artist like Gustav Klucis and down to the modern hip hop culture, based on recycling beats and pieces and re-shaping them to realize a brand new artistic product.
Great. Many people told me the Propaganda series had a strong emotional impact on them, which was my aim. Most of the viewers said they got in touch with feelings they already had inside, but somehow forgot to express. They often used the words to rediscover , as if talking about feelings was something they were no longer used to. Also, the fake Cyrillic fonts force the viewer to read the writing two or even more times, which somehow makes the slogan’s impact more effective. Some of the viewers talk about politics, too; however most comments are about love, happiness and desire. Which is exactly the kind of politics I wanted to discuss.
For more Steven Heller, check out Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility‚ one of the many Heller titles available at MyDesignShop.com.