We Want Strong Leadership is one of ten posters that Mark Titchner conceived for an installation entitled I WE IT in 2004. This series of works was commissioned by ‘Art On The Underground’ for display along the platform at Gloucester Road Underground Station in London. Each print quotes a different short, uncredited statement from the corporate manifestos of the top ten global brands. The texts represent a list of demands beginning with the words ‘WE WANT’. The accompanying artwork refers to the design of trade union banners; employing multiple borders and symbols to draw attention to the words. The posters were digitally printed on to Signicolor aluminium sheets and attached to frame structures using aviation grade Velcro.
Titchner’s work explores the relationship between language, thought and action. Using fragments of text that he finds in various sources including political manifestos, song lyrics, religious and philosophical literature, he produces a consistently stylised mode of address. Works are characterised by ornate graphic detail, hard-edged typography and dynamic combinations of black and red that evoke associations with agitprop. Words are encountered as orders, demands or declarations. A central theme is the relationship between what the artist has called, ‘human will’ and ‘inscription ... the idea that inscription, in any form, is a manifestation of that act of will – the act of writing following the act of speaking’ (quoted in Mark Titchner, p.90).
In this work, the title slogan, ‘WE WANT STRONG LEADERSHIP’ is printed in one of the artist’s signature typefaces. The words are centrally aligned, each extending below the one before. This pyramidic outline is underscored by the image of a mountain summit and a radial pattern in the background. Four circular icons resembling bosses mark the corners of the poster and the words are framed within a series of borders; the innermost emulating the shape of a heraldic shield. Titchner’s dense, graphic scheme draws associations with the work of William Morris (1834–96) and ornamental patterns that became popular in the nineteenth century when decorative objects began to be mass produced. It also infers the idea of transcendence or an alter state that is shaped by the artist’s interest in a diverse range of graphic design that includes artwork for psychedelic posters, heavy metal music albums and evangelical leaflets.
I WE IT conflates the mantras of late capitalism with references to radical politics. Titchner’s statements and their number are constructed in allusion to declarations such as the American Black Panther Party’s Ten Point Program (1966), a series of economic and political demands reflecting the hardships of the time when the Black Panther Party was active (1960s–1970s). Together they suggest an undefined form of agency or a set of aspirations, the notion of collective struggle towards common goals. They invoke a utopian quest for another reality, affirming a dilemma between the desire for progress and a persistent sense of failure that is a recurrent theme in Titchner’s work.
Mark Beasley (ed.), Mark Titchner, Why and Why Not, London 2004.
Mark Titchner, exhibition catalogue, Arnolfini, Bristol 2006.