The icons of the anti-nuclear movement—doves, the peace sign, flowers—haven't really changed since they were adopted by counterculture activists in the 1960s. But even though nuclear weapons are still very much a problem (there are over 15,000 weapons around the world now) it's not a cause that gets as much attention as it once did. A new campaign enlisted designers and artists to rebrand the movement.
"In 2016, the existing body of artwork doesn't necessarily resonate," says Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, a nonprofit pushing to eliminate all nuclear weapons, which partnered with the Creative Action Network on the new campaign. "And frankly, it reinforces the feeling that eliminating these weapons isn't realistic—that we're chasing a pipe dream of the '60s. Which couldn't be further from the truth. This is a problem we can solve."
The Creative Action Network, a global community of artists and designers, is crowdsourcing ideas for new imagery, printing it on T-shirts and posters, and then splitting the proceeds between the artists and Global Zero. Though there are a few references to the past, almost all have a very modern aesthetic.
"There's a great one I like by Naomi Sloman—it's a hipster janitor sweeping up nuclear weapons," say Max Slavkin, co-founder and CEO of the Creative Action Network. "I really like that, partly because it's cute, but also because it makes them so much less scary. We just need to get rid of them. We just need to sweep them up. It's not this hard, existential threat that has no solution."
The campaign is also simply a reminder that the problem exists. If the anti-nuke movement reached its apex in June 1982—when 1 million people demonstrated at Central Park—it faded after the Cold War, when people assumed that the weapons would no longer pose the same risk. "Baby boomers—who once protested widely and loudly—are focused on other issues," says Johnson. "Meanwhile, most young people aren't aware of nuclear weapons as an issue, if they consider them at all. It's remote and historical; yesterday's problem."
The posters might help change that. "Art drives social change: it influences how we view the world, unlocks us to new perspectives and possibilities," he says. "At the end of the day, that's what we're really working to achieve. Of course, we're trying to eradicate the weapons, but ultimately we're challenging the idea that security can be based on threats of mass destruction. It would be a profound, transformative shift with far-reaching implications. That's why we're so excited to draw in a new generation of artists that can push against this outdated view of the world."
All Images: courtesy Global Zero