Our final speaker at February’s Nicer Tuesdays was renowned British designer, Craig Oldham. With a portfolio that spans film, television, art and retail, Craig has experience in a wide range of fields. But it was his most recent project, They Live: A Visual and Cultural Awakening that Craig chose to speak through.
Revolving thematically around the 80’s cult classic, They Live, Craig’s new book is a case study and celebration of the American science-fiction action film. Directed by revered filmmaker John Carpenter, the now frequently referenced film earned status for its searing social commentary, political satire and cultural premonitions.
The subliminal cover title of the magazine which reads “Obey” and is revealed in the film when the protagonist looks at it through his sunglasses, and has since famously been adopted by artist Shepard Fairey for his eponymous streetwear brand Obey Clothing, and serves to demonstrate the film’s cultural reach.
Explaining to the crowd how he designed the book to function as a replica prop, Craig says: “Beyond just wanting to have an artefact from that world which embodies its spirit, I wanted to celebrate the fact that these films have a life of their own. Yeah, I love John Carpenter and bullshit B movie sci-fi, but there’s also a lot going on [in the film], and it’s actually a really pertinent and valuable film that we need right now.”
Craig then proceeded to expand on the film’s influence, inspiration and current relevance, referencing the campaign strategies of Ronald Reagan that utilised the subliminal impact of commands such as “Lets make America great again”, and how Carpenter attempts to tackle this kind of manipulation through media in They Live. “Trump is just resurrecting Reagan’s policies now and that’s why this film needs a reappraisal and why this book exists.”
Craig finished the talk by breaking down spreads from inside the publication, which is published by Rough Trade Books and features a foreword by John Carpenter himself.