This print is part of an ongoing series of work I’ve been making which directly engages with the history of political graphic production over the past 200 years. This small print is a re-imagining of John Heartfield’s famous antiwar photomontage of a peace dove skewered on a bayonet.
Heartfield created the original montage, entitled The sense of Geneva: Where capital lives, peace dies! for the cover of a 1932 issue of AIZ (A left-wing magazine which generally towed the line of the German Communist Party), where the dove and bayonet were collaged on top of an image of the League of Nations headquarters with a Nazi flag flying from it. The image is commentary—if it isn’t clear—on the League’s negotiating with and giving concessions to Hitler. A poster version of the image was produced in East Germany in 1960, with the League of Nations removed and the words “Never Again” added at the bottom in German. This more general—and economically designed—version is generally the one reproduced today. Versions of the dove and bayonet have been used on dozens of other posters, as well as on numerous books and records (including releases by both Discharge and The The).
In 1968, striking students in Mexico reworked the concept and created a number of posters and prints with bayonets skewering doves. The most popular of these is a painted placard by Jesús Martinez, which is much more flat and simplified than Heartfield’s original photographic treatment. The stylized dove is itself lifted from Lance Wyman’s designs for the Olympics then being held in Mexico City. In Mexico in 1968, the military actually attacked students with bayonet-attached rifles, moving the graphic from allegory to painful reality.
I was trying to think through the implications of the image for the 21st century, and was struck with how the logo of Twitter, a simplified bird silhouette on a blue background, has surpassed the peace dove as the most recognized white bird in the world. The profound irony of that is not lost given the widespread use of Twitter and other social media platforms for the massive dissemination of false and misleading information. If the peace dove could be so perverted, I wanted to try my own perversion of Heartfield’s bayonet, here used to slay Twitter. If the dove can be used as branding for racist conspiracy theories and anti-vax hysteria, than maybe Heartfield’s image can be used as a call to war on the information overload that is eroding our lives.