Republic Day in India

India just finished celebrating Republic Day, commemorating the establishment of their constitution on January 26, 1950.  Here is a sampling of patriotic images from the twittersphere drawing upon the Indian flag.

Lots of flags in silhouette against the Ashoka Chakra rising from horizon. From @ExcitingIndia.
A vegetarian tricolor. From @vijaysharma1620.
An orange hand placing the Ashoka Chakra onto a green hand. From @SachinTater.
The Ashoka Chakra appears, but only as one of many mostly religious symbols making up a map of India. From @RujutaDiwekar.
The Times of India goes with an image of boys parading through a field of flowers, holding progressively smaller flags above their heads. From @timesofindia.
Flying doves carry Ashoka Chakras between their wings as they are abstracted into a stylized tricolor. The quotation is often attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, though it may have originated with the American Quaker activist A. J. Muste. From @naqvimukhtar.

The Israel Flag at the Speed of Light

Posted to the Flag Art group on Facebook by Bill Trinkle.

James Rosenquist: The Israel Flag at the Speed of Light, 2005.  Three-color lithograph.
James Rosenquist: The Israel Flag at the Speed of Light, 2005. Three-color lithograph.

The website Artspace says about this artwork:

About the work

The Israel Flag at the Speed of Light highlights Rosenquist’s interest in taking familiar signifiers and removing them from their expected context. This work features an image of the Israeli flag deconstructed and then pieced back together in layered fragments, evidencing the difference in the way people see and understand a single image.

About James Rosenquist

Pop Art icon James Rosenquist exploded onto the scene in 1960 with his vivid, large-scale paintings. Trained as a painter of billboard signs, Rosenquist abstracted familiar imagery from advertising and pop culture through adjustments in scale and irrational juxtapositions that owe a debt to Surrealism. Though fragmented and overlapping, his images of spaghetti, Marilyn Monroe, hairdryers, and detergent boxes created visual narratives of American culture, at times with a political message. His most iconic painting, room-sized F-111, is a powerful deconstruction of the American dream. Rosenquist influenced a whole generation of painters, including David Salle.

In addition to being widely exhibited throughout the world and completing several major commissions, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum organized a full-career retrospective of Rosenquist’s work in 2003, and he received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Acheivement in 1988.

The Flags of Our Children

Carlos Fort Garcia is a “graphic designer and graphic activist” living in Barcelona, and author of a highly imaginative and playful vexillolographic project entitled Las Banderas de Nuestros Hijos: Deconstruvendo Banderas (The Flags of Our Children: Deconstructing Flags).

Carlos Fort Garcia (@carlossoyo)

The project text is in Spanish, and my Spanish, alas, is very rusty, so I am sure I am missing some subtleties. But it is also highly visual, and well worth investigating even by the Spanish-illiterate, either in its online form at lasbanderasdenuestroshijos.com or its 80-page booklet format (published by Play Attitude, ISBN-13: 978-84-15149-49-1, first printing May 2014) if you can get your hands on a copy.  (Full disclosure: I was one of the project’s crowdfunding supporters.)

The Flags of Our Children, in booklet form.
The Flags of Our Children, in booklet form.

The gist of the project, I think, is this:  In an increasingly interconnected world, national flags too often serve more to divide than to unify, even while peoples’ identities often do not fit nicely within a single nation’s cultural borders.  A person may feel equal parts American and Japanese, for example, or Catalonian and British.  So Fort Garcia has produced playful mash-ups of national flags to create hybrid forms to better represent such shared allegiances, or at least call strict boundaries into question.  Hybrids are created by first deconstructing two national flags into basic graphic ideas, and then recombining these elements into something the looks pleasing or at least inviting of attention.

Japérica o Amepón del Norte
Japérica o Amepón del Norte
Reilunya Unida o Catano Unido
Reilunya Unida o Catano Unido

I think it’s telling that the recombinations aren’t presented formally as strict rectangular flags, but rather with rounded corners as something like large graphic icons — actual hybrid flags might be seen as sacrilegious to patriots of either source nation, but by showing these to be flag-like (vexilloid!) creations but not literally flags, perhaps this goes a little way to begging forgiveness of such critics.

In the most politically-charged chapter, entitled Confluencias, Fort Garcia imagines uniting warring (or at least oppositional) countries.  These matter-antimatter collisions may be utopian, but they are certainly visually and conceptually provocative. They also feel more natural or legible than the other pairings — enemies, after are, are in a salient preexisting relationship, and so perhaps their flags already want to interact, at least in our imaginations.

Espadi o Euskaña (Spain + Basque Country)
Espadi o Euskaña (Spain + Basque Country)
palesel-o-isralestina
Palesel o Isralestina (Palestine + Israel)

Whereas the book is beautifully rendered and visually stunning, it doesn’t seem to be available currently for purchase. The much more accessible online version, unfortunately, just shows a relatively small number of examples.  Perhaps with added interest, there will be added development of the project.  Even so, it’s a nice contribution to the vexillology of the imagination and the art of flags.

Blog entry by Scott Mainwaring.

What is the Most Patriotic Color?

…asked Time Magazine in its “Answers Issue”, Sept. 8–15, 2014.

After downloading images of 196 national flag from Flagpedia.net, Time added up the number of pixels of each color, simplified them, and grouped them into categories of white, black, red, blue, green, and yellow using a simple algorithm.

Time thus determined the frequency of colors by area in national flags.  Although perhaps flawed in detail, overall it is a sound analysis.

For an interactive browser, visit http://time.com/patriotic-flag-colors/.

(This item was published in our bimonthly newsletter, The Vexilloid Tabloid, Issue 48.)

Red: 31%, Blue: 21%, White: 18%, Green: 15%, Yellow: 10%, Black: 5%. Source: time.com/answerspatriotic
Red: 31%, Blue: 21%, White: 18%, Green: 15%, Yellow: 10%, Black: 5%. Source: time.com/answerspatriotic

Ted Kaye on South Sudan’s New Flag

Our very own Ted Kaye is on the 7/13/11 episode of Ian Chillag and Mike Danforth’s podcast How To Do Everything, discussing the new flag of South Sudan and principles of good flag design:

http://howtodoeverything.org/post/7577540667/we-tell-you-how-to-design-a-flag-make-perfect

Flag of South Sudan
The flag of South Sudan

Bastille Day and the Drapeau Francaise

By Patrick Genna

In 1991, I took my first trip to Paris. Before leaving, I had memorized 25 key French phrases. But once there I rarely used any of them as I was too intimidated to ask: “ou est le toilette?” Say something in French and you get a reply with comments that you can’t answer.

One of my goals in Paris was to visit the infamous prison fortress, the Bastille — only to be embarrassed by the fact it was not there. There is no trace of any of the original structure. Today, where the prison stood is a public square, Place de la Bastille.

To get to Place de la Bastille, I had asked a particular Paris gendarme (police officer) for directions to a certain Metro Station. He replied in English to my French question, saying that many police officers in Paris speak at least two other languages.

July 14, 1789

The events of July 14, 1789 that were to become commemorated as Bastille Day were predecessors to the French Revolution that descended into the Reign of Terror by 1790. Unlike our Independence Day, July 4, Bastille Day marks the start of a civil war — French against other French — whereas ours was a revolution or rebellion by 13 colonies against their owners to create a new nation, the United States. We did not march British loyalists or military to a place of public execution. When the Reign of Terror became known, both the Americans and the British were horrified by the senseless violence of the guillotine.

Today, like July Fourth, Bastille Day is celebrated with much national pride, with military parades and fireworks. But most Americans barely know of it and that it is celebrated 10 days later after our July 4th.

La Marseillaise

Bastille Day has always fascinated me with its war-horse-like national anthem: “La Marseillaise” (de Lisle). The words are not known to us as much as the tune is.

Some of us know this anthem’s tune from the 1943 film, “Casablanca”, where the character Viktor Lazlo instructs the café orchestra to play it so that it will drown out the strains of a group of German officers singing a kind of Nazi “Horst Wessel”.

The French Revolution

The French Revolution begins when an armed mob of Parisians stormed the unpopular Bastille prison and released its prisoners, a dramatic action that came to symbolize the end of the ancien régime. The Bastille was subsequently demolished by the Revolutionary government and Bastille Day (July 14) has been a French national holiday since 1880.

Following this event, the Reign of Terror would become its most visible symbol of political murder, paranoia, and power struggle. In the beginning, the royal family, most of the nobility, and the higher clergy would lose their heads.
Toward the end, the bourgeois revolutionaries themselves would suffer the same fate. No doubt the French Revolution consumed its victims without distinction.

How did it all start? Under the old regime, King Louis 16th was the State. Indeed, he actually declared this: “I am the State”! Everyone else was a subject of the King within three orders: clergy, nobility, and others (the Third Estate). There was no national citizenship!

Le Drapeau (The flag)

The French call their flag “the tri-color”.

In the beginning, the colors were represented by a cockade. The flag of the First Republic between 1789 and 1815 was a variation of blue, white, and red.

After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Restoration of 1815-1830 would end the First Republic and restore the Kingdom of France. The return of the very unpopular royal flag created public scorn and resentment. Napoleonic reforms provided new legal codes and public institutions had made the French people all too aware of the Rights of ordinary citizens.

The tricolor was not restored until the Second Republic in 1848.

The colors are symbolic. The white has been always been identified with the royal colors of the monarchy. The many variations of the familiar gold fleur-de-lis (lily flower) pattern has alternated between white and blue fields. The colors blue and red are identified with the Cite de Paris.

The Tricolor and the Red Flag

The red flag appears to have its origins in political radicalism and perhaps in the violence and blood of revolution.

From FOTW (Flags of the World website):

It is well-known that the French Tricolore flag was challenged by the red flag after the fall of King Louis-Philippe in 1848 and the proclamation of the Second Republic. Most history books say that the Tricolore flag was “saved” by Lamartine. Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) was a poet and politician known for his Romantic works and his complicated love life.
. . .
On 24 February 1848, King Louis-Philippe left and Lamartine, member of the Provisory Government, proclaimed the Republic at the town hall of Paris and spoke at the Chamber. The next day, he convinced the mob to support the Tricolore flag.

The flag has changed very little since 1830.