Posts Tagged ‘posters’

Examining Posters

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

This 1987 poster reads “Less births, better births, to develop China vigorously.” The Chinese government became much more serious about the One Child Policy in the 1980s, and this poster was certainly part of that message. The government wanted people to believe that having fewer children would benefit the country as China moved towards modernization and prosperity. In other words, having fewer children was a patriotic duty.

The poster presents a family that the Chinese government presumably thought those who saw the poster would want to emulate. The parents are young, healthy-looking (or vigorous, as the caption suggests), dressed well (and western), and smiling. His hand on her back and the mother’s arms around her child lend them the aura of an affectionate family. And the father is carrying what looks like it could be a book, perhaps a symbol of education or business success. Both of the adults are depicted in motion, suggesting the forward moving trajectory of the country itself. The fact that the child is on her mother’s shoulder is important too because that indicates how the parents are investing themselves in her to help her reach higher. The toddler’s red shoes are the only red images on the poster aside from the text, but they are a subtle reminder that China itself will rise with this generation if parents act responsibly. The fact that child is a daughter could also mean that the government wanted parents to welcome girls as much as they would welcome sons and to give them the same opportunities to thrive that boys receive.

The background is a bit strange; the family looks as though they are going for a stroll through outer space. Space itself is futuristic I suppose, so it may be indicating the future and the bright tomorrow of China. And there is that little sun tucked away in the upper right hand corner. I almost missed it because it’s not red the way it often seems to be in Chinese artwork, but it is there and positioned in such a way that the little girl’s arms are almost reaching for it. This is a family ready to lead the way to a brighter future for China!

Cultural Revolution Posters

Monday, January 31st, 2011

“There are layers of trajectories of meaning that are common throughout the visual imagination of a society or group and that operate on the key level of assumption.”1

I thought the idea of “hegemonic discourse” that the authors introduce was rather interesting. During the Cultural Revolution posters were everywhere and dealt with a variety of topics, yet somehow amidst all of that visual stimulus a certain common meaning developed for different colors, symbols, or designs. But, as the authors point out with their example of the Red Guards’ behavior, common understandings can still provoke different reactions. Each individual viewer brings her or his own unique perspective to every poster seen on the street or in a home. As the posters were generally made to have a quick impact, viewers may only have had a few seconds to form an overall impression of what the poster meant or was asking. That leaves a lot of room for individual interpretation. My question is, how much did the Cultural Revolution posters play off of colors, motifs, or images already common in Chinese society? How much of the meaning behind these things existed before the revolution and how much grew out of it?

  1. Harriet Evans & Stephanie Donald, Picturing Power in the Cultural Revolution (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), 17