11 June 2012: Contested Games at Art Exchange
Mexico 68's Design Revolution
Square 5, Colchester Campus
Monday 11 June to Saturday 14 July
With London 2012 fast approaching, a new exhibition at the University's Art Exchange gallery is focussing on the official and unofficial uses of design during the Mexico 1968 Olympics. Contested Games: Mexico 68's Design Revolution examines how powerful imagery created by Lance Wyman's design team was appropriated by the student movement in Mexico as they protested for change in their country.
The exhibition is curated by Zanna Gilbert, a joint Tate/Essex PhD candidate based in the School of Art History and Philosophy, and draws on material collected collected by the British architect John Adam, who was part of Wyman's design team, as well as students' art works borrowed from the University Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City.
1968 was a year of worldwide social unrest, upheaval and protest. It was also the year of the landmark Olympic Games in Mexico: the first Olympiad in Latin America, Black Panther salutes by US athletes, the first woman to light the Olympic flame and a design programme that surpassed all of the previous Olympics.
The Olympic Organising Committee headed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez put substantial resources into ensuring the legacy of the Games and the chief designer, Lance Wyman, came up with undoubtedly the most impressive, memorable and innovative design for Mexico's moment in the spotlight. As Ramírez Vázquez commented: "We had the task of finding a language that the whole world could understand. We needed everyone to identify us as 'Mexico', but also as a modern, current, contemporary country."
Mexico 68's classic design has since entered the history books. An Op Art interpretation of Mexican vernacular imagery, it referenced indigenous Huichol weaving traditions and pre-conquest glyphs. Wyman developed a trans-linguistic system for negotiating the city that depended upon symbolic schemes and colours that were rigorously played out throughout all the design, from tickets and street signage to balloons, uniforms and postage stamps. The design aimed to transcend language barriers, extensively brand the city and to connect the geographically disparate Olympic sites.
The flexibility of the design's application is central to the story told by this exhibition: how the powerful graphics were appropriated by the student movement in a moment of political crisis in Mexico. The exhibition explores one of the most fascinating but underexplored aspects of the Mexico '68 legacy: the student movement's appropriation and resignification of the Olympic design.
The exhibition hopes to shed critical light on the Olympic Games in London this year, seeking to explore what is at stake when a country hosts the Olympics, what happens in the gap between the universalist values that the Games represents and the local realities faced by the host country.
The exhibition is accompanied by a series of related events including a Curator's Lunchtime Tour, a panel discussion called Designing the Nation: Olympics, Authority and Unrest from Mexico 68 to London 2012, which features Professor Valerie Fraser from the School of Philosphy and Art History, and John Adam, as well as an exhibition of Olympic based designs by local young people.
The official opening for the exhibition will take place at Art Exchange on Thursday 14 June from 6pm.
Thursday 21 June, 1.00-1.30pm
Curators Lunchtime Tour
Contested Games curator Zanna Gilbert will lead a tour of the exhibition.
Admission free but booking essential
Friday 29 June, 2.30-5.30pm
Panel Discussion - Designing the Nation: Olympics, Authority and Unrest from Mexico 68 to London 2012, featuring Professor Valerie Fraser and John Adam
Panel discussion featuring Professor Valerie Fraser of the School of Philosophy and Art History and British architect John Adam, who was part of the Mexico '68 design team.
Admission free but booking essential
Thursday 19 July - Saturday 28 July
Olympics by Design
Art Exchange is inviting young people in the local area to submit their own design for a follow-up exhibition Olympics by Design which will run at Art Exchange from Thursday 19 July to Saturday 28 July.
Opening Event facebook page
Contested Games (Arts on 5 website)