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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Best Posters of 2016

"Best" Posters has become a yearly feature of RST, and here we are once again, offering the "best" of 2016, all found in Rome in April, May and June.  Though the internet has doubtless eroded the presence and influence of posters in Italian culture, they nonetheless have a role here that they don't have in the U.S.--except perhaps in times of political upheaval like the late 1960s.  I am tempted to claim that postering is more common in societies with a significant leftist heritage--they were a significant feature of the visual landscape in China in 1979, for example, when we were there--but I can't say for sure that's true.

Postering also appears to aggregate in specific places.  Some locales in Rome--especially outlying suburbs--are more likely than others (e.g. the Centro) to have large numbers of posters.  We found an especially rich lode in Serenissima, on Rome's outer eastern side.

What makes a poster "best"?  Design.  A compelling message.  A story we haven't heard, or, if we do know the story, the sense that the poster reveals something quintessentially Italian or Roman.  In 2016, as was true in 2015, some of the best posters are those done by the far-right fringe.  They're angrier, and that can make for more compelling posters.  And most of the centrist political posters--ubiquitous during the run-up to the Rome mayoral election--are pedestrian.

Still, the left can produce some decent posters.  The one below at least goes beyond Vota Communista ("vote Communist").  It's both weird and refreshing to see that Italian Communism still exists; it all goes back to the important role played by Communists in the Partisan movement that battled the German occupation during World War II.  Today, according to the poster below, the enemies of the Communists are petty politicians (politicanti), the European Union, NATO, and the banks.
Enough! (vote Communist Party).
This poster (below), which appears to be part of the student mainstream at one of Rome's great universities--La Sapienza--strategically links the current generation of anti-fascists with the partisan wartime resistance:

Yesterday partisans, today anti-fascists.
What's with the German?

Resistance is also the theme of the poster below, authored by an organization (we presume) called Partizan.  Although the poster would seem to be appealing to thoughtful people ("Thinking people must resist"), the gas-masked figure looks anything but thoughtful.

Casa Pound, a right-wing bad-boys organization named after the American poet, Ezra Pound, who cozied up to the Mussolini regime in the early 1940s, is perhaps the most frequent posterer in Rome, helping to keep the form alive.  The Casa Pound folks are opposed to immigration, and beyond that they're big on not surrendering to the powers that be.  They appear to relish physicality and to locate their heroic heritage in ancient Rome.
Alcuni Italiani Non Si Arrendono!
"Some Italians Don't Surrender!"

"What is written with the blood of the fathers is not erased with the saliva of the politicians."
A close-up of the upper left portion of the above poster:
Scary dudes
The Blocco Studentesco ("Student Block"), responsible for the poster below, is a 2006 offshoot of Casa Pound, focusing on school issues.
Not quite sure what's doing on here.  "They Aassault/We Laugh!" Joyous resistance.
Once in a while the poster left gets its act together and posters against Casa Pound.  This poster grounds its opposition in an open immigration ideal--in Italian multiculturalism.
And mostly in English
As in the United States and England, there's strong opposition in Italy to international trade agreements that presumably cost workers jobs.  The message below is significant: No al TTIP refers to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed trade agreement between the EU and the United States that's been in the works since 2014.  The anti-TTIP folks are concerned that the nation states of Europe will be victimized by transnational corporations--especially, according to the poster's graphic, American companies

"Let's liberate ourselves from the 'Liberators'"
 Also under attack are austerity measures advocated by wealthy, creditor countries (like Germany) and imposed on poor, debtor countries (like Greece, Spain, and, to some extent, Italy). A decent graphic here (Piano B [Plan B]), but the poster's too busy to be visually arresting.

One of our design favorites is this poster, of uncertain political ideology.  It reads Roma non si vende"--"Rome is not for sale."  And it communicates this message with a delightful image of the Coliseum in a shopping cart.

Another top-design candidate is this anti-immigrant political poster ("We'll Stop the Alien Invasion"):

The poster below is austerely anti-design.  And yet its message--Siamo Già Tra Voi ("We are already among you") and signed "(hashtag) Enemies of the City," is compelling in its mystery and threatening tone.

The "What Happened to Dino?" poster that we found near Porta Metronia was mysterious, too, because we had no idea who Dino was.
Do you know what happened to Dino?
The most common poster in April was, understandably, the one below, announcing Liberation Day: 25 April.  It's not obvious why the date April 25 was chosen in 1946.  Although Liberation Day in general celebrates Italy's liberation from the horrific German occupation--and honors the resistance to the occupation--the country was not actually entirely free of the Nazis until May 1, 1945.  According to some sources, April 25 is important because on that date the National Liberation Committee of Upper Italy (CLNAI) proclaimed in a radio annoucement the death sentence for all Fascist leaders (Mussolini was killed 3 days later).  Others note that April 25 was the day Turin and Milan were liberated from the Nazis.  More than you needed to know.

For the best of... 2014 and 2012, check the links.

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