Illustrating Digital Power State of Power 2023
For TNI’s 11th State of Power report, TNI was privileged to work with two brilliant artists from Serbia. Here we introduce them and their work and also their reflections on working on the project.
Zoran Svilar is an illustrator for left-wing newspapers, magazines and organizations.
He works as an illustrator and Art Director for Serbian edition of Le Monde diplomatique newspaper, and Novi Plamen online magazine. His clients includes Transnational institute, ROAR Magazine, Public services international, VICE, and some independent projects. He has also had a number of exhibitions, and won some awards.
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/chewsomebubblegum/
Behance - https://www.behance.net/gallery/137983579/The-Age-of-Uprisings
Anđela Janković is a Serbian illustrator and graphic designer. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade.
Her work displays the absurdities of the quotidian, taking on the form of social commentary. As a freelance illustrator, she has worked with clients such as Wired, Architectural Digest, New Scientist, British Council and UNDP. She lives and works in Belgrade.
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/rawdraws/
Behance - https://www.behance.net/jankovicandjela
Working on this project was one of the more interesting commissions I had last year. I was thrilled to be able to contribute to this year’s State of Power report, after previously working on one of the Digital Power pieces. It was thanks to Zoran, who recommended my work for the issue, that we collaborated on a unique visual language to complement the essays.
Being genuinely interested in the topics of the essays I was asked to illustrate, the process was rather smooth. The ideas formed quickly. The main challenge was to translate the idea into a single image that best highlighted the key subject of each essay. I tried to solve this by writing down each idea in detail before making any sketches, and in discussion with the editor Nick deciding on the right approach for each piece.
I wanted to bring the topics closer to the reader by using common objects and symbols from everyday life. In the case of the tech militarization piece, I used topographical lines in the background to explain the layers between users, big tech, governments and the military. To visualize present power dynamics, I turned to architecture as well – whether the rigid structure of data centers, sanitized corporate corridors, or the well-known monumental complexes we associate power with. In all the illustrations, the characters are entangled and surrounded by architectural objects, which helps to illustrate the dominating nature of big tech in our lives.
The dependence on digital platforms and services and the more complex ways in which their power is manifested is something illustrators and designers often discuss. The fact that a couple of platforms create and sustain our livelihoods is already taken as a fact. This is why I find the report to be of great importance, since it brings into the spotlight the ways in which big tech is shaping all of our lives. I hope it is able to bring to attention these issues to people outside of the tech and creative industries too, in order to create lasting policy change. In the vast pool of images on the web, I hope my illustrations can engage with people as they read the essays.
Before introducing you to my illustrating process, I would like to thank every single person behind this collaborative endeavor from the outstanding intellectuals who wrote these articles, TNI`s crew of editors, designers, coordinators and administration staff, and my fellow illustrator - Anđela Janković - whose illustrations possess qualities I value most in an artwork: intelligence, imagination and spirit.
On the process of illustrating- the first step always is reading an article and coming up with ideas. Articles that TNI publishes are smart, often well written and bring something new to learn from. Afterwards it is communicating concept ideas with Nick and authors, and than drawing, coloring, and listening to a lot of music in the meantime. So to introduce my process of doing illustrations, I thought I would provide a playlist of tracks that I think would go well with the report, so we get to share an experience. Hope you will find something here that you like.
- Gil Scott-Heron - Revolution Will Not Be Televised
- M.I.A. - Born Free (explicit visual content)
- Plan B - ill Manors
- MGMT - Time To Pretend
- Slaves - Cheer Up London
- Pulp - Common People
- Repetitor - Kost i koža
When considering my artistic approach, I think my illustrations lack that Dostoevsky's ''Beauty will save the world'' attribute. Their major upside is not that they are pretty, but that they poke an eye and kick some ass. It is more practical that way.