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The alarms have already been
sounded and the authorities are ready for flaring tensions during the
Republican National Convention in New York City. Not all of the
preparations target the anticipated demonstrations. There are news
reports that terrorists plan to attack the massive gathering. Despite
the warning from the Department of Homeland Security, demonstrators
appear unwilling to cede their right to redress. So, the question is,
How can legitimate disapproval and valid security concerns be balanced?
Perhaps this is a job for Design (with a capital “D”). Milton Glaser’s
“Light Up the Sky” acknowledges the Republican’s right to a peaceful
convention and the opposition’s right to express their concerns in
public. In this interview he discusses the rationale for the following
Poster for Light Up the Sky, by Milton Glaser.
The Republicans have every right to meet and choose their candidate
in our city without abuse. At the same time, the convention creates an
opportunity for all of us who disagree with the culture of
militarization and violence that our current leaders represent. It is
time to change the mean spirited and abrasive tone of our civic
discourse. We need an alternative to the harsh and degrading words and
images that have filled our consciousness since the war began.
On August 30, from dusk to dawn, all citizens who wish to end the
Bush presidency can use light as our metaphor. We can gather informally
all over the city with candles, flashlights and plastic wands to
silently express our sorrow over all the innocent deaths the war has
caused. We can gather in groups or march in silence. No confrontation
and. above all, no violence, which will only convince the undecided
electorate to vote for Bush. Not a word needs to be spoken. The entire
world will understand our message. Those of us who live here in rooms
with windows on the street can keep our lights on through the night.
Imagine, it's 2 or 3 in the morning and our city is ablaze with a silent
and overwhelming rebuke... Light transforms darkness.
Heller: What inspired you to design the lights project?
Glaser: I was thinking about how dreadful the city was going
to be during the convention, the rage, the acrimony, the police beating
people over the head - in short, all of the dreadful images that would
be produced by the confrontation. I thought there must be a better way
to deal with the anger and passion that people now feel. What was needed
was a solution that would not create civic disorder.
Heller: Within weeks after the 9/11 attack a New York public arts
organization, Creative Time, launched its two twin towers of light
spectacle as a testament to the victims. Is there a relationship between
your light project and this?
Glaser: The image of light may have been, in part, stimulated
by that brilliant twin towers of light project. But the idea of light
transforming darkness is a long recurring theme in civilization.
Heller: Given the planned demonstrations and terrorist alerts how
do you think that your lights concept will impact the political
Glaser: The benefit of the light imagery is its simplicity and
avoidance of conflict. I have no idea of its effect on political
Heller: I understand that this proposal is an effort to thwart conflict, but do you envision any other effects, good or bad?
Glaser: The viciousness of political rhetoric must be lowered.
The first group to do this will help create a climate of decency and
Heller: Presidential conventions have long been rallying events
for the faithful, but we know from the riots at 1968 Democratic
Convention in Chicago that they can also have an impact on the average
voter. Should the protests turn nasty at this convention would it have a
negative impact on the rest of the nation?
Heller: Former Mayor Edward Koch has recently become the poster
boy for a televised campaign encouraging New Yorkers to be courteous,
kind, and helpful to the city's Republican guests. How do you feel about
Glaser: My instinct is to treat the Republican convention with benign neglect.
Heller: The constitutional guarantee to stage non-violent protest
is, of course, a good entitlement. But you obviously have qualms.
Glaser: I’m all in favor of non-violent protest having
participated in more than a few in my lifetime. But when you have tens
of thousands of people pressing up against police lines, violence
becomes inevitable and ultimately counterproductive. Although people
want to express their deep feelings about the political situation, what
must be considered is the question of how their objectives can be
realized most effectively. Rage encourages rage. Contempt encourages
Heller: Can light (and seeing the light) really change minds?
Glaser: I don’t know if light can really change minds. What are our other choices?
Sean Adams and Noreen Morioka were recognized with the AIGA Medal for bringing wit, charm and a distinctly Californian sensibility to design, and for their commitment to leading the design profession through an era of change.
Section: Inspiration -
AIGA Medal, interview
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