Logos: Born Again in the U.S.A.
By Megan Wilson
Since 9/11 and the U.S. War On Terror, the Bush Administration has used Christianity as a banner for U.S. patriotism, and spiritual and political superiority.
Throughout both terms in office, George W. Bush has frequently used what theologian Martin Marty described as “God talk” in the March 10, 2003, edition of Newsweek. He called for a “crusade” against terrorists, professed that “our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world of justice,” and declared "Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity."
At the same time, Jesus has become an emblem for the hip, fashionable and profit-driven. Celebrities, including Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton, have been sporting “Jesus Is My Homeboy” t-shirts by the Los Angeles-based company Teenage Millionaire (one million of units have sold, according to the New York Times). Fashion's 2005 fall season featured sweaters by Dquared with the slogan “Jesus Loves Even Me,” collections by Derek Lam and Yves Saint Laurent included Christian iconography, and the Christian Booksellers Association reporting $84 million in sales at bookstores and gift shops in 2004.
Capitalizing on these recent trends, "Logos: Born Again in the U.S.A." explores the relationships between Christianity, fashion and American patriotism and propaganda.
I created two designs for 20"x20" posters: 1) an image of Jesus and 2) the fish symbol with “USA” scripted inside of it. Both images are in red, white, and blue with a highly graphic/commercial style.
The posters have been and will be installed in different contexts:
— In San Francisco they've been posted on commercial poster walls, competing with and adding patriotism to the propaganda of advertising. The images are purposely ambiguous, with the intent to create a dialogue. Posters will continue to be distributed throughout the city during the summer and fall of 2006.
As I posted on the iPod wall in downtown, what looked to be a well-to-do couple stopped to look, and kept asking if it had to do with the war in Iraq as a protest, to which I asked them what they thought the message was. They launched into their support for the war and that they are Christians and believe “we” (the U.S.) are doing the right thing. 2) Two other groups of people got the message and were in complete support of it, believing that Christianity is being used as a tool for propaganda.
— In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, I collaborated with a group of 10 young artists (Novi, Anton, Puji, Roly, Anto, Aries, Karyadi, Gedhek, Nova and Arie Dyanto) on a large wall that included the posters, stencils and spray paint works. The project took place over two weeks, starting with discussions about the message that the Bush administration is communicating to the Muslims around the world. The posters were installed in a configuration that highlighted literal bombing as well as airdropped propaganda leaflets in the Middle East and elsewhere. The response was overwhelming supportive, with many passersby honking horns and giving the thumbs-up. The owner of the wall came out and thanked us for our work, as did the family across the street. We also got covered by a local newspaper, TrulyJogja.com.
— In the fall of 2006 the posters will be installed in Montana (my home state), a primarily Christian and conservative state where the juxtapositions I present are less common.
San Francisco artist Megan Wilson (www.meganwilson.com) will return to Indonesia in 2007 for a residency with AntennaProjects.org.