Hope Chu


Power Play

We make stories. We make stories to explain why things are the way they are, to establish our place in the world, to justify our actions, to convince others of the reality of our vision.

Stories are verbal, written, visual. They can be consciously produced and digested, or they can pose as matter-of-fact. They can be told by a single source, or they can emerge from the collective unconsciousness.

A convincing story, believed by many, becomes a dominant reality. To wield power is to envision and communicate such a story. As the producers of commercial and cultural messaging, graphic designers are participants in this reality-making.

Through a process of research, analysis, and synthesis of form, this thesis presents a critical look at the stories that have gained a stronghold in the American popular imagination. I look at the leavings of cultural and commercial production, the visible surface of the dominant stories of our time. I focus on the visual language of American politics and culture, paying particular attention to symbolic places, persons, events, and images and their manufacture, circulation, and perpetuation. I extract and re-present this evidence to create a critical reading and, consequently, a subversive reality of my own making.

A life-long liberal and atheist, I wonder what desires, fears, and values drive the political and consumer choices we make. I am interested in how dominant visions of reality in the U.S. use visual rhetoric to shape these motivations. I am also interested in how this language can be turned back on itself to reflect not only its makers, but our own complicity in the telling and re-telling of the story.