Madeline O'Donoghue Signs of Protest

  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Don Chooi, Eddie Wong, Jocelyn Janon, Jim Murray, Tammie Leong
  • School
    Media Design School

rotests serve as essential instruments for dismantling systems of silence. They offer individuals a platform to voice dissent, express disagreements, and engage in meaningful dialogues with like-minded peers within the public sphere.

At the heart of these protests lies a profound mode of communication—a handwritten, hastily crafted sign bearing personal messages of despair, anger, panic, and sadness. These signs are gestural expressions of authenticity, carrying the narratives of the people. They are graphic manifestations that channel "the language of the unheard" (Dr. Martin Luther King, "The Other America," 1967-68), often accompanied by forward movement—a deliberate stride toward intentional progress. Together, these elements amplify voices that have long been marginalised.

Despite their tremendous value, protests exist within temporal boundaries, and when they conclude, the signs, language, words, and energy of the protests often dissipate, leaving a void in everyday life.

"Signs of Protest" embarks on an exploration of the visual language and messaging of resistance, placing emphasis on the signs crafted during protests. Additionally, it delves into other elements such as writing, walking, vocalisation, chants, poetry, and rhythm—the very processes that define protest. This research seeks to transcend the immediate context of protest and exist as a personal toolkit, enabling acts of protest to persist and catalyse grassroots change.

The objective is to dismantle prevailing systems of silence that smother individual expression and impede social progress. By extending the reach beyond demonstrations, "Signs of Protest" aspires to offer a toolkit that guides individuals through a transformative process, enabling them to find their own voices. Active engagement with internal dialogues, pain, anger, and sadness, expressed through a series of experimental exercises that foster freedom of emotions and speech, allowing for healing, the dismantling of personal inferiority, and, ultimately, a personal liberation. This initiative serves as a processing tool for the people.

The current body of work represents the documentation of this research practice and the author's experimental journey over time. Presented in a timeline format, it moves resolutely away from its starting point, page by page, unfolding in all its rawness—messy, emotional, imperfect. It becomes a deeply personal and vulnerable form of gestural communication, crafted from readily available, inexpensive materials. It serves as a graphical representation of time, a record documenting a series of actions and steps taken to achieve a specific outcome—a testament to the process of change. It lays the groundwork for the potential scaling up of a toolkit to serve a broader purpose beyond the author.

"Signs of Protest" is the inception of a larger project that seeks to empower individuals and minority groups whose voices often go unheard, offering them an opportunity to speak up for themselves. As an interactive program, toolkit, book, or course, "Signs of Protest" can benefit the public at large. The project has begun to establish a visual brand across various mediums, including video, print, and digital platforms, poised to make a significant impact as an agent of change.

Moreover, "Signs of Protest" envisions becoming a digital archive, meticulously cataloging protest signs throughout history. Additionally, it aims to embark on a separate venture, "Poetry of Protest," which highlights the authentic poetry and words found within protest signs. 

By dissecting the processes of protest, this project endeavours to dismantle prevailing systems of silence and amplify diverse voices in an everyday context.

Silence is violence.