Book Review: Signs of Change

AK Press supplied an unsolicited, promotional copy of Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures from 1960s to Now used for this review.

With the current state of political upheaval and the growing strength of grassroots opposition in the Middle East, it might be a good time to visit the role of graphics in people’s movements. Dara Greenwald and Josh MacPhee (of Justseeds) do just that in their relatively new book, Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures from 1960s to Now. Produced as part of the Exit Art Curatorial Incubator Program, the book is a catalog for a 2008 exhibition of the same name but to call it just a catalog would understatement its value. It functions as a short but thorough encyclopedia of people’s political movements.

From the Australian Indigenous Struggle and the Iranian Revolution to the Counter Globalization Movement and Bike Activism, this book is a visual guide to all things counterculture and anti-establishment. Equal parts art and history, the book includes images of posters, flyers, photographs, and ephemera ranging from hand-printing to digital output.  Greenwald and MacPhee acknowledge that their goal was to err on the side of breadth. While the scope is huge, the format makes for a comprehensive primer- a fantastic resource and pedagogical tool.

The book includes numerous essays. Lauren Rosati of Exit Art succinctly states the exhibition’s ambitious goals —“to make connections between historical and contemporary leftist social movements; to show a geographic, artstic, and ideological continuity; and to explore activism as concerned with global sociopolitical and environmental issues.” Yes, it’s a lot to swallow but I think that’s the point. The strength of the book is that it provides an outline and starting point for exploring this rich topic. Buy it, read it.

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4 Responses to “Book Review: Signs of Change”

  1. Oh I’m gonna buy this right now!

  2. kevin says:

    Great look inside the book. The book is an incredible survey of graphics of the last 50 years, get it!

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