A message of solidarity via Satellite Selfie

14 August 2020

On the grassy roundabout in front of the heritage-listed School of Art & Design building, in fresh orange and white paint, are the letters BLM. The acronym for Black Lives Matter. 

The School has chosen to make a bold statement of solidarity as part of Canberra's Satellite Selfie, organised by ANU and National Science Week as part of the Where You Are festival. 

Head of the School of Art & Design, Professor Denise Ferris, says the School wants to draw more attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

"We want to publicly stand by the movement and send the world a message that the ANU School of Art and Design supports the BLM anti-racism movement and that change must happen now."  

This isn't the first time the School has conveyed a message loudly and proudly to the world. In the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016, the School lit up their front-facing clock tower in the colours of the rainbow.  

According to Professor Ferris, that generated a huge reaction, adding that Art, Politics and Social Engagement is one of the School's research hubs. 

With the Black Lives Matter movement swelling to new heights this year, the School considered how to show their support for First Nations people. The Satellite Selfie proved a ripe opportunity; for which Professor Ferris is grateful. 

"Weeks ago we wanted to place BLM signage or projections on the School but it was impractical at that time," Professor Ferris explains. "Now we can be seen and hopefully then 'heard' with our BLM sign via the Satellite Selfie." 

Foundation Studies Technical Officer Millan Pintos-Lopez facilitated the production of the 10 metre wide, 5 metre tall BLM artwork. As a white person, he's hesitant to say he "designed" the artwork itself. 

"I genuinely believe the BLM as an image has become almost a creative commons of POC. While we can use it, the copyright and ownership will always be theirs." 

In terms of the look of the lettering, he says it was a case where there were more limitations than options. 

"[This] is actually beautiful because it means the parameters of the project kind of lead you directly to the end result," Mr Pintos-Lopez says.  

"For example, it's all about being seen from space but also it was really important that people on the ground could as easily see it as well when coming up Childers Street. So all flourished fonts were inappropriate and it was really all about the most bold and strong fonts. 'Impact' was the best choice."  

As for why the design is orange and white - well, that turned out to be a product of limitations too. 

"The colour choices were really pre-determined by what was available within Bunnings turf paint selections," Mr Pintos-Lopez explains.  

The unequivocal presentation of the letters sends a clear message to students, staff and visitors to the School about the values it upholds. 

"It's important to us that People of Colour know the School is a safe space and is a place where we respect and honour First Nations people," Mr Pintos-Lopez says.  

"As an [alumnus] and part of the School's community, this message and activation of the School really reassures me that my pride in the School is well placed. And knowing that the School shares my values and proudly supports the BLM movement gives me confidence that it is being led in the right direction." 

Professor Ferris affirms that the School respects and honours First Nations people, as well as all people of colour.  

"We have deep and abiding connections with Indigenous Australians. We see the unfair challenges First Nations people face," Professor Ferris says. 

"We need social action! We stand against racism, oppression, bias and inequality."