By: Tara Storozynysky
Under The Radar Magazine‘s annual “protest issue” will be full of signs created by an impressive roster of musicians. The signs will be up for auction to promote War Child, an organization focused on helping rebuild the lives of children living in war-torn areas all over the world. From funding schools in Congo, helping families reorient themselves after conflict in Georgia, to helping fund medical care for HIV positive children in Ethiopia, War Child seeks to be wherever innocent children have been victimized by conflict and poverty.
Both prominent and up-and-coming artists were asked to create pieces that reflect their views on the current global situations. There are big names involved: Chuck D, Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, and Michael Stipe of R.E.M., as well as a great variety of more underground musicians.
The marriage between social progress and music is perhaps the most natural and continuous relationship in our culture, born from an immutable spark in the 1960s and still burning. It’s fascinating to see how different musicians approached the sign-making task; some with situational gravity, others with philosophical lightheartedness. These works remind us why celebrities have such an impact on social consciousness; everyone here is selling not only their message but also their image to help raise awareness.
Michael Franti is well-known for his political activism as well as his unique style of music. The two often intermingle in his band Michael Franti and Spearhead, blurring genres such as funk, hip-hop, and rock to create a distinct sound to carry his thoughts on many social issues. Franti created three unique pieces for Under the Radar. There is one which simply reads “HOPE?” and another: “GEORGE BUSH HATES ____ PEOPLE.” His crowning achievement, however, is his use of the third sign to recreate the American flag with Xs in the place of stars. Franti has drawn a heart over the X in the lower right-hand corner. It is a slight and benevolent deviation, altering the bigger picture. The sign is inspiring in its sweet simplicity. It is symbolic of the little changes we all have to make in order to improve the world we live in.
Michael Stipe has always been outspoken about his political and social views. For his sign, the enigmatic frontman scrawled “GUTLESS PUFF-ADDER JOURNALISTS,” while the back reads “OPPOSITE [SIDE]: THINGS I HATE.” If Stipe’s distaste for the press were purely personal, it could easily be justified by all the bizarre rumors spread by gossip magazines throughout his career. However, the message is intended, instead, for journalists who are not truly doing their job. “You can see that [the TV news journalists] are just talking out of their asses because they get a fat paycheck out of it, or it strokes their ego to do so — possibly even as devil’s advocate, supporting a position that they themselves don’t even hold,” Stipe explained to Under the Radar.
English indie up-and-comers The Foals have gained quite a following over the past year. Their stripped-down, minimal sound has brought them critical acclaim and the adoration of tight-pants-wearing indie-hipsters on both sides of the Atlantic (yours truly has put them on every single playlist of the past few months). They lend a voice critical of American politcs and society, one sign reading: “GO BACK TO BED AMERICA, YOUR GOVERNMENT HAS IT ALL FIGURED OUT.” On the back, it reads, “BINS ARE FOR BOMBS.” It’s a statement which seems to flow naturally from these self-proclaimed “snotty art school dropouts hungry for the dollar,” whose genuine yet jaded outlook prove timely and charming.
Fellow Englishman Jarvis Cocker, former frontman of Pulp, created a sign which reads, “STOP BUYING.” Cocker has always expressed a distaste for the overly consumptive patterns of modern society, releasing an album with Pulp titled Modern Life is Rubbish and often dealing with class issues and vapid materialism in his songs. Cocker spoke to Under the Radar about his sign, explaining his feelings that “people spend their lives lusting after things which are really just garbage and, inevitably, people in third world countries tire endlessly to produce these ‘goods.’”
There is also the absurdist take on politics, reminding us that things are, in fact, infinitely more complex in this world than a sign could ever hope to express. Perhaps our reaction should be simpler to balance this. Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne’s sign was my favorite. Amid a sea of very serious thoughts about a very serious time in our lives and society, Coyne offers this advice: “JUST BE A NICE PERSON.” His message is simple and rings true like a great brass bell, resonating and summoning a smile. The world of politics has become a very confusing place, and while some people choose to completely ignore it, others feel too overwhelmed trying to discern what they can do on an individual level. Coyne’s sign is refreshing and uplifting in its straightforwardness.
There is an inherent connection between social consciousness and a career in creation and expression. It’s fantastic that so many prominent and underground artists jumped at the opportunity to help such a worthy cause as War Child.
All signs will be availiable for auction to benifit War Child starting September 30th. Hopefully these inspiring works can raise funds and a great of deal of consciousness in the process.
For more information and to view excerpts from Under The Radar‘s Protest Issue, visit their site.
To view all of the signs available for auction, click here.
To learn more about War Child, click here.