Lost Treasures of Revolution: The Graphics of Solidarity 1980-89 on display at Ulster University

Ulster University and the Polish Cultural Institute in London are hosting a unique “Lost Treasures of Revolution” exhibition at the Ulster University’s Belfast campus until 12 March.

The exhibition showcases 26 posters from one of the biggest social movements of the 20th century, Solidarity. As the leading political force opposing communism in Poland during the 1980s, the movement paved the way for the peaceful transition to democracy in 1989. This collection explores the role that graphics played in building the campaign and sustaining it during the difficult days of government repression and martial law.

From its iconic logo to spontaneous poster designs, Solidarity’s printed graphics created a rich visual culture of resistance that spoke to people from all walks of society. This Victoria and Albert Museum collection also features rarely seen underground stamps that bear witness to the grassroots creative spirit of the movement highlighting the role of graphic design to foster participation and political dialogue.

Marta de Zuniga, Director of the Polish Cultural Institute, said: “We are thrilled to be able to present the highlights of the Victoria and Albert poster collection as well as other graphics of Solidarity to the audience of Belfast in Northern Ireland, which are the legacy of Solidarity, one of the biggest peaceful social movements in the 20th century.”

Catherine Flood, the exhibition curator, said: “As well as famous poster designs, we are delighted to be showing a collection of underground postage stamps and graphic ephemera that provide vivid evidence of Solidarity’s multi-dimensional appeal in the 1980s. Most of these items were produced at a grassroots community level on small underground presses by designers and ordinary citizens working with few resources to create a new democratic beginning. As issues of social inequality and alienation are thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic, it is timely to reflect on the means by which social movements can bring people together through collective action.”

Cian Smyth, Ulster Presents Manager, Ulster University, said: “Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art and Design has a long history of producing some of Northern Ireland’s best artists and designers. The inspiration of design movements in social and political activism is also one we share deep interest in from our own experience of political conflict in the 20th Century. It is with great interest and curiosity that we present this exhibition for the benefit of our students, researchers and the public alike. It has already generated a lot of advance interest and we look forward to sharing it over the coming months.”

The exhibition has been organised by Ulster University’s Ulster Presents programme and the Polish Cultural Institute in London in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building.

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Tina Calder
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