Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-12

Work / Publication

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer visually tackle the concept of walls through “playschool politics”

Walls, a recent children’s book made by illustrator Jay Cover and art director Brad Holdgrafer, is a literal depiction of the political situation in both the US and the UK, a metaphorical exploration of the concept of a wall, and a “playful look at the problem” for the kids it’s aimed at and the parents reading to them, too. It started as a pet project between the two, over Skype and e-mail the book, which combines a rhyming poem by Brad and Jay’s illustrations, was a cathartic exercise initially, until Princeton Architectural Press got in touch and saw its cultural and visual worth.

The genesis of Walls is easy to spot – unless you’ve been stuck under a rock for the past few years. For US-based Brad the project “sparked into existence” when he wrote a rhyme “in response to his dismay at Donald Trump’s rhetoric during his presidential campaign,” regarding the proposed construction of a wall between the US and Mexico. Jay, too, was “very shocked and disheartened by the general attitude and how so many people seemed to be responding to it and backing it. I thought what was happening in the US reflected what was happening in the UK — at the time during the EU referendum as well as lots of emerging extreme opinions around Europe — specifically about immigration and migrants. What people don’t tend to know about me is that I’m actually, technically, a migrant — but one that is acceptable and not questioned because I speak English and I’m a middle class, white male.”

In turn the pair decided to attempt to simplify “this extremely knotty problem,” Jay says. “I guess I see the whole thing a bit like one group of people who own a lot, let’s call them ‘Group A’, not wanting to share with a bunch of people who own very little, ‘Group B’. ‘Group A’ have got together to make sure that ‘Group B’ don’t get any of what ‘Group A’ own. What I’d like to see is ‘Group A’ being grateful for what they have and finding a way of sharing it with ‘Group B’… Playschool politics.”

Brad and Jay were continuously on the same page through the project’s growth. It would be a book that playfully looked at the problem by looking “at walls from several angles” – both the good and the bad. “We hope that for kids it’s a kind of cautionary tale, but also or the adults reading it’s something to meditate and reflect upon.”

Children know about Brexit and they know about Donald Trump. “It’s hard to miss,” Brad points out. “The headline of every newspaper, city streets covered in street art about it, and topics of conversation their parents were having in front of them,” he tells It’s Nice That. “Kids are smart, they know about this stuff, they pay attention, learn and apply.” As a result, the publication’s title and ongoing illustrations depicting walls allows readers to easily work out the political relevance of the title. However, the “goal was to use something like that as a metaphor for all sorts of other walls,” the art director explains. “Trump’s wall is a wall… but the book isn’t just about Trump. Brexit is a wall, emotional walls, being scared to make something because of what someone might think is a wall, and also, of course, physical walls too.”

But what’s behind each of these iterations of wall, and what Jay and Brad have learned and communicated, is that “when you begin to break down these walls behind them is a person/people who can teach you something new, something about a different culture, even something new about yourself and, yes, sometimes when those walls breakdown it unveils new problems we have to face, but at least we would face them together.”

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-02

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-03

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-01

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-005

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-07

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-06

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-04

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-08

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-09

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-10

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Jaycover-walls-publication-itsnicethat-11

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls

Walls-jaycover-justinchung-illustraiton-itsnicethat-01

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls, photography by Justin Chung

Walls-jaycover-justinchung-illustraiton-itsnicethat-02

Jay Cover and Brad Holdgrafer: Walls, photography by Justin Chung