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From a clenched fist (2011) to Guy Fawkes (2012)

Published on 08 February 2012
Updated on 19 March 2024

guy fawkes maskpsm logoOne year ago, the global visual space was dominated by the image of a clenched fist, used as the main symbol of the Arab Spring. The clenched fist has long been used as a symbol of resistance. In the 1990s, it was used as a visual symbol of the anti-Milosevic movement in Serbia and subsequent protest movements in Eastern Europe (Ukraina, Georgia, Moldova).

This January, the mask of Guy Fawkes gained visual predominance as an emerging symbol of the Occupy movement and the hacker group, Anonymous. Lately, it is being used more widely, including by parliamentarians who oppose SOPA and ACTA. The visual etymology of the mask can be traced back to Guy Fawkes, a Catholic protester who, back in the sixteenth century, wanted to overthrow the English protestant monarchy and blow up the Houses of Parliament. He was considered a traitor in the UK, till the movie V for Vendetta transformed him into a hero. Today, he is being touted a libertarian and a reminder that the real power lies with the people. Will the clenched fist of 2011 be replaced by the Guy Fawkes mask as a visual symbol of protest movements in 2012? If yes, will this shift change the focus and the nature of protest movements?  

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