Several people have asked me about my opinion about the 10th Tehran International Poster Biennial 2009, which has become an object of controversy among graphic designers within and outside of Iran.
A call to boycott the Biennial has been published in Facebook. The international graphic designers association AGI has published a carefully worded news item, signed by Ralph Schraivogel, whose intent supports a boycott. The restrained language is understandable as AGI would probably not want to obstruct an event presided by another AGI member, Ghobad Shiva.
The proponents of a boycott argue that a participation in the Biennial, either by sending a poster or as a jury member, would be a support of the Iranian Governement and it's suppression of the demonstrations after the elections of June 12, 2009.
The organizers of the Biennial have responded that "no governmental system has interference in these biennial unless they violate Islamic rules". Graphic designer Alain Le Quernec has explained in an interview in the french graphic design magazine "etapes" that the boycott is not directed against the iranian governement but against the change in responsability for the organisation of the Biennial.
The control over the 10. Biennial is a complex issue, involving a power struggle between two different iranian graphic design associations and other institutions, but also including questions about the role of graphic design and it's history in Iran, financial support, personality conflicts, religious and political considerations, fear of repression, pride, expectations for fairness and recognition, confusion, hurt feelings, idealism and probably more factors that remain hidden to an outsider. To reduce the situation to the simplistic formula "boycott the Biennial to support the iranian freedom fighters" is clearly wrong, in my opinion.
How the iranian graphic designers deal with their governement, or the graphic design organisations claiming to represent them, is best left to them to decide. But if graphic designers outside Iran now boycott the Biennial and break off communication, the lifetime achievment of the great Morteza Momayez and his colleagues to make iranian graphic design an equal and respected member of the international community is in shambles.
Morteza Momayez was well aware of the necessity of international contacts. At the start of his campaign to open iranian graphic design to the world, he wrote, in 2001:
I am therefore convinced that the memory of Morteza Momayez is better served by keeping his spirit alive rather than seeking confrontation, and I do not support a boycott of the 10th Tehran International Poster Biennial 2009.
I wish I could spend my time writing about posters rather than poster politics, and hope to remain on speaking terms with all involved, in particular the iranian graphic designers, the largest group of readers of Posterpage. I also think that we are better off "concentrating on what unites us, and not on what divides us", as I have said in my recent speech at the Tehran Contemporary Museum of Art.
The poster collection at Les Silos in Chaumont, France, has grown over the last 20 years from the annual poster competitions of the Chaumont International Poster and Graphic Design Festival, by about 2000 posters per year. When the city decided some time ago to make the collection public through an internet poster database, they soon found out that they had to obtain the permission of all the poster designers to publish the pictures, or risk copyright problems. They then realized that this was very time consuming, i.e. expensive, and drafted a standard contract that they planned to send to everybody who had ever participated in a Chaumont competition, asking to hand over the copyrights in exchange for the privilege to be shown in all future Chaumont publications.
Not unexpectedly, this caused an outcry of protest, and 3400 graphic designers signed a petition to the city of Chaumont to reconsider these plans. A meeting took place in Chaumont on March 23, 2009, between 13 lawyers, politicians, administrators, copyright specialists and 3 graphic designers (Alain Le Quernec, Francois Caspar and Jean Paul Bachollet) to resolve the problem.
I am not sure of the outcome, but find it sad that you now need a lawyer to read the fine print in a Call for entries to defend your interests. I also need a lawyer to advise me if the winning posters of the Chaumont competition can be shown on Posterpage with a resolution of more than 300 pixels.
Current copyright legislation, if it is enforced to the letter, will seriously damage poster competitions, exhibitions, publications, web sites, poster research, documentation and the free exchange of ideas. The absurd court case of the Associated Press vs. Shepard Fairey about his Obama poster is just an example. Copyrights will not make the poster designers rich however, as many are made to believe, because every publisher will avoid those designers or their descendants that make life difficult for him. When was the last time you saw a Roman Cieslewicz poster?
Also, the tide may be turning, and a designer has to pay for his posters to be shown, instead of receiving copyright compensation. It has already turned in the art business. Ask any painter (except Picasso etc.) how much he has to pay his gallery, and how much he receives from the copyright institutions.
There will be a discussion of copyright questions at the opening weekend of the Chaumont Festival, on Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 10:00 at the Theatre le Nouveau Relax, 15 bis Rue Levy Alphandery, F-52000 Chaumont.
The two documents linked to above were kindly provided by Jean Paul Bachollet.
Karl D. Geissbuehler has an exhibition of his theater posters for the Opernhaus Zuerich, Switzerland, from February 2 to July 9, 2005 at the Hochschule fuer Musik und Theater, Florhofgasse 6, 8001 Zuerich (CH).
The poster on the cover of the catalogue is for the opera "The silent woman" by Richard Strauss.
Ronald Curchod's web site has a new address http://www.ronald-curchod.net, and this is one of his newest posters, for a street festival in Ramonville (FR).
Krzysztof Dydo, the well know polish poster collector, dealer, author and exhibition organizer has an eye for new talents, and also supports the young designers by giving them comissions for posters for his Galeria Plakatu in the center of Cracow, Poland. He writes "My last posters were made almost exclusively by young students of Roman Kalarus, also this one by Aleksandra Naparlo "Ksana" from Katowice."
Kalarus, a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, is a master of erotic posters and art, but also a close collaborator of the Archdiocesan Museum in Katowice, and has painted sacred pictures in several polish churches. He too was one of the artists discovered and pushed by Dydo.
I'm glad Roman Kalarus has obviously communicated his joy of life so well to his students and am looking forward to see more of their work. The lady in the picture is one of Krzysztof's customers looking for posters in his shop (I think).
Miroslaw Adamczyk made the poster at left for an exhibition of danish posters from the collection of the National Museum in Poznan (PL) Gniezno Encounters with the Poster - Denmark that runs from November 5, 2004 until February 27, 2005, at the Muzeum Poczatkow Panstwa Polskiego w Gnieznie, in Gniezno, Poland.
2004.05 2004.06 2004.07 2004.08 2004.09 2004.10 2004.11 2004.12 2005.01 2009.05 2009.09 2009.11