June 25, 2008. On June 20, Onamatopee Press and Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands published a book called Jurkjes & Jason, examining local, and student, perceptions of terror and terrorism today. Full of the irony and playfulness for which the design school is famous, the book contains ultidisciplinary concepts by students who were under the direction of professor and designer Annelys de Vet: a hoodie that converts into a terrorist’s face mask, a paper pattern that allows readers to dress their cell phones up as terrorists (since we are terrorized by our need to be accessible at all times) and a map of a subway system whose stations are named for places and ideas associated with the war on terror. Is our insecurity as great as the threat? Is the threat as great as the governments and media say it is? These are gray areas now, aptly expressed by the book jacket: an image of black-and-white snowcrash filling the screen of a television. De Vet answered a few questions about the project
What is the perceived security situation in the Netherlands today that made you decide to assign your students this topic: terror and terrorism?
There seems to be a general overstressing of "terrorism" in the media. The question is: Does the problem get worse the more you talk about it? What strikes me the most right now is the government campaign using big posters that read "In the Netherlands more than 200.000 professionals are working together against terrorism. What can you do?" and "In the Netherlands more and more people are collaborating to prevent others from seeing terrorism as a solution." Don’t campaigns with quotes like this achieve the opposite of what they intend? Fear of terrorism can easily be misused; fear narrows our minds. The term obviously needs to be de-emphasized. And that is what the assignment and publication are about: They reflect on how terrorism is being represented in the media today. Where did you get the title Jurkjes & Jason (Dresses & Jason)?
It’s the students who came up with this poetic title. It directly refers to work in the book, but it also opens up the mind of the reader. Because who would associate Jurkjes & Jason with terror?
Which students’ responses surprised you the most, and why?
What surprised me most is how the students made the subject their own. At first look, terrorism has fixed preoccupations and it’s associated with complex political issues. Each student was able to find a personal perspective and stay true to themself and their subject. All the views taken together show a broad palette of ways to approach the concept of terror. The book has become a visual analysis of the representation of terrorism nowadays; it helps us to understand our time.
Which response gives you the greatest reason for optimism, and why?
First of all, the students’ lack of fear, in terms of the way they dealt with the subject, as well as how they worked on the whole project. They managed their own finances, arranged that Lecturis was able to print it, put energy into approaching the press and finally made a beautiful, sensitive and poetic presentation at Onomatopee in Eindhoven. They really related to the subject and researched it to stay at a safe distance from the magnetic fields of mass media. This is an open mindedness that is a raison d’être for optimism. designacademy.nl