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Peace signs of our times

This article is over 17 years, 10 months old
The anti-war movement has created the biggest ever outpouring of new art, says James Mann
Issue 1893

JAMES MANN has produced a wonderful book of original anti-war posters from around the world. The book is co-written with Nicolas Lampert and has an introduction by veteran US campaigner Howard Zinn. It makes a powerful case for politically committed art.

James spoke to JUDY COX about his celebration of the anti-war movement. ‘I AM from the US, but I have lived in Europe for five years now. Ever since Bush got elected, I had a bad feeling. After 11 September 2001 I realised things were going to change for the worse. I have always been outspoken about my political views.

Art has always been political. In the past artists were commissioned to glamorise wars by leaders. So artists have always been involved in politics in one way or another. In the whole history of humanity there has never been a creative output like that of the anti-war movement.

I wanted to document that. I was in Barcelona on 15 February last year. The demonstration was massive. I wasn’t really prepared for it. There were 1.5 million people on the streets. The population is only 2 million, so the other 500,000 must have been working.

There were so many home-made images and placards. I decided I wanted to make a professional collection of signs. I asked demonstrators, and e-mailed friends and peace organisations asking for images. The idea just grew from there. I was planning a magazine, then I realised it would make a cool book.

People loved the idea and wanted copies. For example, I got an e-mail from a woman in Bermuda asking if she could have copies for her peace group. With the spread of the internet and the computer, people can make something, print it out and enlarge it.

There is now a global communication network that makes it much easier. You could see it on the anti-war demonstrations. There were so many placards. Bush and Blair have become caricatures of themselves, so representing them is easy. And there were so many witty slogans that made you think as well as laugh. There is a wide frustration with the media. We didn’t need CNN-we’d got the BBC. The coverage was bullshit.

I wanted to show designs that were made for anti-war protests rather than being specially created for my book. The responses I have had have been overwhelmingly positive. I wanted to remember that there was active resistance, that people did not just sit back while the war was waged.’

Peace Signs (£19.99) is available from Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to James Mann will be speaking at Bookmarks on Thursday 18 March at 6.30pm.

Book and Exhibition

Images of the movement

2/15: The Day the World Said NO to War Barbara Sauermann AK, £18.99

THIS BOOK chronicles the international day of action against the war on 15 February last year. Using words and photographs it covers events in 40 cities-arranged alphabetically from Amsterdam through to Washington. The 200 pages show both the vibrancy of the movement and the creativity of many of the participants.

Pax Britannica: A Hellish Peace Aquarium Gallery 16 March to 17 April

Featuring work from Britain’s leading anti-war artists, this exhibition is well worth dropping in on if you’re in London in March or April. The exhibition draws together sculpture, drawings, paintings, photographs and ‘spontaneous street art’ taken from the 15 February demonstrations. Aquarium Gallery, 10 Woburn Walk, London WC1H 0JL-phone 020 7387 8417.

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