Webby for Good is a collaborative program formed by The Webby Awards and WP Engine to showcase Webby-recognized projects built to change the world.
What’s the elevator pitch for your project?
"The rights of artists to express themselves freely are under threat worldwide...”
STROKE Art Fair embraces the freedom of expression in arts and entertainment: a human right as of 1948 set out in Article 19 by the UN General Assembly.
Together with street artist Capo’s Finest, an immersive online gallery was created based on large watercolor portraits on handmade Khadi paper. The collection takes a bold look at eight political leaders and their decisions – the latter interpreted as tattoos to symbolize the irrevocability of political actions. Every motif is backed up by a video clip sourced from a wide range of global news portals.
What was the impetus for this project? What real-world challenge were you trying to solve?
Politicians have long tried to keep things from the public, even in democratic systems. What’s new is that a number of protagonists among them are now acting more openly against critics. Repressively and aggressively. With both words and images. We as communicators – who live with and from the values of Article 19 – wanted to make a clear statement and show people that artistic freedom is not a luxury of humanity, but rather a fundamental right. One that will always be worth fighting for.
The main challenge was to stay focused. We wanted to provide a modern interpretation of an online portrait gallery with an informational benefit – and this is hopefully what we achieved. The original artworks were painted on a 1:1 scale to ensure politicians and visitors met “eye to eye.” In order to create a similarly striking effect online, we opted for desktop only. Big and bold.
Once you settled on your idea, what was your first step in moving it forward?
Research. Deep research! Past the normal headline stealers to the dirt that flew under the radar of mainstream media. We studied the lives of the protagonists, digging deep to discover hidden secrets and facts that didn’t really get the airtime they should have. Then, it was time to put brush to paper: manifesting these stories and their impact as tattoos. That’s when the fun really started…
Was there a moment during the project where you ran into a hurdle; or faced a problem you didn’t know how to solve? Take us to this moment, what happened and what did you do next?
A breakthrough suggests we overcame something. Interestingly for us it was the hurdles we faced (rather than the solutions to them) that provided our main source of motivation. When we started promoting the launch of www.scars-of-democracy.com via out-of-home media, we encountered a number of problems—both in terms of our selected portraits and the locations chosen to display them. Some people even advised us not to go ahead with the project at all for fear of being harassed by political fanatics. But these reactions only spurred us on further: They showed us that we were touching relevant ground and hitting a nerve...
Did the real-world impact meet your expectations? Can you share an example?
The most rewarding moment for us was seeing the time people spend studying each politician. The average is 3:57 minutes! It’s great that people are not only “consuming” the artworks, but also the facts behind them. This is more than 280 characters, it required investment and people lapped it up. That’s when you know the content subject matters.
What technologies/media did you use to develop this project (AI, Social Media, WordPress, etc.)?
We covered the full spectrum of media/tech in creating the "Scars" world. Starting with paintbrush (watercolor) and easel, we combined film (for intro and navigation), high end html 5 technology (website experience), and of course social media to help spread the word (instagram, mosaic pictures).
Was the tech/medium you chose crucial to conveying your message? If so, why?
The initial portraits created by street artist Capo’s Finest were pasted in various international locations. Whilst gaining attention locally, we still felt the images weren’t reaching enough people or having the effect we were hoping for. Choosing the internet as the main channel to promote the values of Article 19 was therefore essential, accompanied by the appearance of the collection as a central exhibit at the Stroke Art Fair in 2018. Furthermore, we would never have been able to include the interactive video explanations of the tattoos without online help. We didn’t only want to provoke; we wanted to provide real evidence of what’s going wrong in politics – far beyond fake news.
How did this project defy your expectations?
Showing high-resolution images combined with around 200 video snippets, each with an acceptable loading time, really advanced our understanding of the possibilities provided by the latest browser technologies...
How will you use technology in future work to create inspiring, cutting-edge projects that also make a difference in people’s lives?
The seed for this idea was sewn well outside the field of digital technology – but the project really flourished with its aid. Technology provides scalability and engagement – and those are key to making a difference. With the technology we now have at our fingertips, we can engage users like never before: we can literally immerse them in new worlds; make things possible that weren’t possible before. Virtual and augmented reality allows us to take people places, give them experiences. We’re already thinking of inspiring cutting-edge projects using this sort of tech. What exactly? Well that would be telling…