Calling all designers and artists! The Anti-Olympic Poster Committee is a new initiative by the Institute of Barbarian Books, an independent print workspace in Fukushima, which has issued an open call for participants.
People are encouraged to “join” the committee by creating a poster “based on the idea of being against the Olympic spectacle” and sending the design to the organisers, who will print and display it at the Institute of Barbarian Books. If you have only a vague idea for a poster or require design help, the organisers welcome sketches of unfinished ideas that can be collaboratively refined with contributors. Posters will be exhibited at the Institute of Barbarian Books for at least a week each and also archived digitally on the AOPOC tumblr page.
It is especially apt that a site in Fukushima should launch this project, given that 2020 is overtly framed as the “reconstruction Games” that will bring hope and infrastructure back to the Tōhoku region. This mantra is vehemently rejected by both anti-nuclear and anti-Olympics campaigners, who see it as an attempt to gloss over the remaining problems in the district and the on-going Fukushima crisis.
Few stridently anti-2020 voices have emerged in the mainstream art and design field in Japan, though architects were initially some of the most prominent critics of the original stadium by the late Zaha Hadid, and the choice of design for the venues has attracted disparagement as uninspired and safe. With some notable exceptions, only a relatively small number of anti-Olympics works have appeared in public at major art museums (the Mori Art Museum, being privately funded, has enjoyed freedom in this respect). The situation is, of course, quite different on the independent or fringe scenes, where anti-government and anti-2020 voices are very common.
The Anti-Olympic Poster Committee recalls the Anti-Olympic Arts Council, an earlier project launched by Hangorin no Kai (No Olympics 2020) members as a call for support and a platform to share information on culture-related Olympics issues.
Two of the leading figures in Hangorin no Kai are Misako Ichimura and Tetsuo Ogawa, who both have art backgrounds. The anti-2020 activism has a strikingly artistic, and parodic, quality, as discussed here before, and Hangorin no Kai even once organised an anti-Olympics poster workshop event in February 2013. The Anti-Olympic Design Project was a deliberate counter-version of an exhibition showcasing the design achievements of the 1964 Olympic Games at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Instead of celebrating and facilitating the Games through art and design, Hangorin no Kai asked people to make anti-2020 posters and placards that they could then display near the museum one afternoon shortly after the exhibition started. The items participants created were consciously crude and polemical, since the activists’ sentiments did not require the sheen that Dentsu so expensively coats onto the pro-2020 publicity that currently surrounds our lives.
The guerrilla event was also timed to protest the mounting pressure on homeless people ahead of a visit to Tokyo by the International Olympic Committee in March 2013, which would eventually culminate in controversial evictions from public parks in the city after Tokyo won the bid.