Friday, December 7, 2012

Iconography (Part 3): Remember, Remember

Following from the final image in the previously posted sample set of "Hope" memes, one character in particular makes an appearance who will be the second subject matter for us to consider as far as iconographic representation, and how it can serve as a useful tool by which to interpret and understand such works.
From 1982-89 Vertigo published "V For Vendetta," an extremely - by industry standards - successful series by British writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd, which in turn was further popularized by the 2006 movie adaptation of the same name. As with the Obama imagery: what is the historical context that these mediums drew upon for inspiration, and not only where did it come from, but how did it continue to evolve thereafter?

The central character for each was based upon the infamous Guy Fawkes, an English traitor who attempted to  assassinate King James 6th as part of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. This event (or rather the prevention of said attempt) was subsequently commemorated in annual rituals such as Guy Fawkes Day and Bonfire Night, and is depicted in the above aquatint/etching “Festivities in Windsor Castle” by Paul Sandby (1776). Also pictured (upper left) is a pen and ink illustration by British caricaturist George Cruikshank (1840), and also (upper right) in a painting by Henry Perronet Briggs titled the “Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot” (1823). Now fast-forward a couple of centuries...

... and we again see the motif and character appropriated and inverted by members of both the Anonymous and Occupy movements, which dominated international news cycles over the course of the many protests across Europe and America.
While there is a certain irony in the peripheral profiting by corporate behemoth Time-Warner in the usage of it's intellectual property, there is the factor of a people's reclamation and reappropriation of a potent symbol, employing familiar iconographic imagery in a similar fashion as the Social Realists did, and fueled by the power of mass media and social networking on the internet.

Next up : homework!

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