7th International invitasional poster exhibition7_ۏ҃|X^[W

Can Poster Art Contribute to New Society Coming after IT Society?

Noboru Matsuura
Director of Ogaki Poster Museum, Japan Professor of Kanazawa University

I failed in attending the opening ceremony of the 21st Warsaw International Poster Biennale on June 7th, 2008 because of the unexpected pileup of my work. As a couple of days passed after the event, I received emails from Poland worrying "Why didn't you come? Was there anything wrong with your health?" I sincerely thanked for them with deep regret.
I have dedicated myself to the posters for more than 30 years, and the channels with Polish posters and the Warsaw International Poster Biennale have been the ground of my studies of posters, so the failure in attendance was my heartrending regret. I however tried to soothe myself by thinking this was a perfect chance to review the Polish posters and the Biennale from the other side of the world, Japan.

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The great contribution by the late professor Jzef Mroszczak of the Warsaw Art Academy is well known for the foundation of Warsaw International Poster Biennale.

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He took his beloved disciple, Waldemar Swierzy, along with him and moved to the Warsaw Art Academy from Krakow Art Academy to uphold the Polish posters. He organized the Poland Poster School with the late Professor Henryk Tomaszewski during 1956 and 1963 and succeeded in innovating the Polish posters. I once met Swierzy and listened to his story directly regarding the process of the innovation through interpretation by his prominent daughter Dorota, a graduate of the Japanese studies of Warsaw University and a professional interpreter of Japanese. The first Biennale was held in 1966 and the Wilanow Poster Museum was opened two years later in 1968 when the Polish posters were at their peak. They were the nation's star of hope and the object of envy of all the designers from Europe, America, and Japan. They maintained the liberty and diversity of expression even in the era of cold war, jumping over the straight usefulness standing on the wide human view, and bringing the broad and universal contents as well as concrete messages. In other words they made up the Utopia of posters. In June 1994 when the Biennale was reorganized, the site of exhibition was transferred to Wilanow Museum from Zachenta Museum. An international conference for poster studies was planned to announce the innovation of Biennale, and I was asked to attend it too.
The honorary doctorate (the first) of Warsaw Art Academy was conferred to the late Yusaku Kamekura. I was present at both the investiture and the opening ceremony of the 14th Biennale. The following day I finally fulfilled my long-cherished dream to meet Professor Henryk Tomaszewski at his home and listened to him over dozens of episodes in those days. He calmly spoke "I was thinking the Polish posters be the best art and the top of all arts." I shivered to hear it because even Yusaku Kamekura would not have thought of the posters in that extent. I can say this was the moment when the well-known designers from Europe and America began to visit Warsaw and the young designers who were attracted by Henryk Tomaszewski entered the Warsaw Art Academy. Yet how many young designers in the current Poland know and understand this wonderful era? How many young Japanese designers know Yusaku Kamekura?

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As the world changed dramatically since 1960's to 2008, Polish posters have also changed. I can point out daringly that the originality, and the internationality and universality in expression that were sustaining Poland in 1960's are stumbling. Young designers who have won the political and economic freedom misunderstand the internationality with internationalization and rest apart from the previous originality. The universality, when viewed from the point of theme for expression, is the mutual theme of human beings, but when interpreted from the future outlook, it may have been transformed to the theme of Poland's own peculiarity.
What I want to say most is the sharp and vivid sensitivity that the Polish posters were proud of in 1960's are not observed any more among the young Polish designers, and myself feel the freedom and the diversity of expression are shading off. I understand the general opinion that Poland still has Swierzy and Franciszek Starowieyski being active in the Poland Poster School and a number of core designers who have inherited the spirits also very dynamic. I had a good friendship initiated in 1988 with the former director of Wilanow Poster Museum, the late Janina Fialkowska, who contributed to the foundation of the museum and whom I respect deeply. She once cited "Poland has been liberated in politics and economics but the young designers' freedom of expression in the posters is stumbling." This accorded with my opinion so much it is still branded on my ear. Where will the Polish posters go, and is it difficult for Poland to rebuild the Utopia of posters? They of course are unable to get back to the 1960's. I cannot help thinking they are drifting in the sky like a balloon that has left hands.

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Whenever I am asked "What is poster?", I answer "It is art and message" an "It's a mirror of society." I tend to add to them recently "and it makes human life and living richer." I don't deny the posters contribute for the benefit of enterprises and institutions but simultaneously I think they must contribute to the human life and social improvement. Posters have been displaying what the society needed in the previous epochs. They represent the culture of the country so there is no meaning to judge superiority or inferiority out of them. There are few posters that can impress us beyond the human races, but the posters of antiwar and peace do impact us. Works by postwar Picasso and Swiss Hans Erni are very famous and so are "Hiroshima Appeals" by Yusaku Kamekura in 1983, "Bosnia" by Alain Le Quernec from France in 1995, and "No to Nuclear Tests" by U. G. Sato in 1995. All these remain in our memory vividly. Wars and disputes deteriorate the world economy and lead to the environmental disruption, thus the posters for peace are regarded as the posters for environment, and many of them are unforgettable. "Water is Life" by Dietrich Schade and Juergen Stock who won the gold medal at the 5th Warsaw International Poster Biennale in 1974 is the one drawn on a small canvas with no copies.

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But a clear message echoing alerts us on the water pollution as anenvironmental problem. "Dead Trees" by Niklaus Troxler in 1992 has also no copies but sends out a powerful message on the problem of deforestation.
These two pieces demonstrate the definite characteristic of the visual language. We should regard the posters as public instruments to look for the peace and safe environment. What did we learn from the World Wars, Vietnam War, and Iraqi War? Yes, we have learnt the human beings are repeating the same stupid mistakes. Isn't it possible we get rid of them in this economy-prioritized society? Posters must accuse the stupidities that are recurring all over. We feel emptiness in this economy-first society, but if we abandon, it won't change. Isn't it this society that the citizens do seek, the society shifted from the economy-prioritized society to the matured culture society? The environmental problems are settled without having wars and disputes in the culture society, human rights are respected not to mention, and a family is considered as a unit in the society. Posters must contribute for the formation of balanced and matured culture society. In thinking this way, posters looking for the peace and culture must naturally include the globalism, localism, and universalism. "Glocal" with "global" and "local" being mixed is an important keyword for the society of 21st century. In other words the global problem is a local problem and the local problem is a global problem.

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Ogaki International Invitational Poster Exhibition began in October 1996 and the 7th meet will be held this year. With a huge amount of cooperation offered by many a designer from the beginning this exhibition has been recognized as one of the largest international invitational exhibitions today. We take it as our role to understand what the world's designers would like to believe and express without setting any specific themes. We need to put up an antenna and collect as much information as possible for this purpose.

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"The 32nd InSEA World Congress 2008 in Osaka, Japan" was held at the International House, Osaka in the middle of the hottest metropolis on August 5th through 9th. InSEA is a shortened name in English of "International Society for Education through Art" deriving from "Education through Art", a book written by Herbert Read, an English poet and thinker.
This is an international conference initiated by the United Nations' Unesco art education seminar in 1954 after the Federation of Education for Art (abbreviated as FEA) organized at the Expo in Paris in 1900. Since the Congress was held in Tokyo in 1965, this was the second in Japan after 43 years. The World Congress Chair, Mr. Kinichi Fukumoto addresses for "the Theme of the Congress" through Internet: "Unesco Art Education World Meet held in Lisbon, Portugal in March 2006 reports on a global trend that many countries are striving to grade art education in the development of creativity and the enhancement of industry powers in recognition of the indispensability of bringing up the creativity and raising the culture power all to have more international competitiveness, so they are placing art education at the basic education in their national policy." I was so interested in his address that I made up my mind to attend the meet because I wanted to review posters through art education although there was nothing directly related with posters. Regarding the art education in Japan the school hours continued to be reduced by the uninterrupted revisions of the government guidelines of teaching. The year of 2007 however maintained the status quo luckily because they simply couldn't reduce any more hours. The topic at the Congress was focused on the revision of the government guidelines of teaching at elementary and junior high school levels.
Teaching guidelines of China, Korea, and Japan were introduced at the symposium where it was made clear after comparison that China and Korea are taking art education very seriously for enhancing creativity and industry powers to keep their international competitiveness so they are strengthening art education in national policy, just identical as reported in Lisbon. I heard a report at a different symposium that the United Kingdom is putting art education and design education into the basic education in national policy to apply them to foster creativity and bring up industry growth. It is delightful that art education and design education are recognized as important and taken seriously as basic education, but I cannot imagine how they will be able to contribute for the foundation of new industries. Designing has contributed to the industry world providing them with colors, shapes, images, and ideas. If art education and design education do contribute to the creation of new industry society after the ongoing IT society (information-oriented society), the only thing that can be thought of will be the creation of new industry society that is founded upon the sensitivity based on the development of creativity. Can't this be established by the collaboration among sensitivity engineering, cognitive engineering, and other fields?

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The accomplishment must be linked to the creation of balanced and matured culture society in the 21st century which is different from "the 20th century made of war and science", otherwise the peaceful coexistence of the world will be inaccessible. It is a stupid question to ask how the poster art will produce the 21st century. Poster art always aims to contribute for the balanced and matured culture society. The ages of the designers attending the Ogaki International Invitational Poster Exhibition vary from 20's to 70's. This is one of the characteristics of this Exhibition that pursues internationality, regionality, and universality beyond the generation. Poster art was once whispered to fall into oblivion in the information-oriented society of 21st century, but if it can demonstrate abilities to pursue the internationality, regionality, and universality in the potency of expression, and contribute to build up the balanced and matured culture society, it may be able to create the Utopia of global poster art unlike that of Poland in 1960's. Ogaki Poster Museum Japan hopes to serve for the re-creation through the upcoming 7th Ogaki International Invitational Poster Exhibition.

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Swierzy and Andrzej Pagowski, right, and myself, left
(July 1988)

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The late Janina Fialkowska, former director of Wilanow Poster Museum
(July 1988)


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Mieczyslaw Gorowski at his workshop.
Gorowski, back left, WladyslawPluta, right end, Richard Otremba, right front
(July 1988)


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Piano concert performed before the stature of Chopin in Lazienki Park
(July 1988)


All the pictures were taken 20 years ago in Poland where the country was still under the old regime in 1988. Gorbachev, general secretary of the former Soviet Union, was making an address in front of the citizens of Warsaw at the park near Zachenta Museum. I clearly remember going into the Museum looking sideways at this sight. I traveled in Torun, Poznan, and Krakow to meet the Polish designers and artists. I came back to Warsaw and happened to listen to a piano concert before the statue of Chopin in Lazienki Park together with the audience on Sunday, my last day in Warsaw.