The title What When comes from the familiar chant of protest:
Person with big voice "What do we want?"
Everyone else "[insert demand]"
Person with big voice "When do we want it?"
Everyone else "[insert deadline for demand*]"
* it is worth noting this deadline is always "now" and never "in a fortnight's time".
When we were asked to submit an idea for Save The World IV we thought about the demonstrations that surround events such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference. We were moved by the effort and personal commitment of those who demonstrate and asked ourselves how effective such protests are. We considered how protests often provoke counter-protests and we reflected on how the evolution of mass communication has changed how people demonstrate.
We grew interested in making an installation which would provoke lots of these thoughts and proposed constructing a single protest march that appears to be travelling through time. We were most interested in hand made personal signs and so set about finding images of these. We selected 71 to recreate and added two signs from imaginary future protests. These signs are now placed in an approximate chronological order and for the most part are positioned at a height and angle that reflects how they were being carried when photographed.
Whilst many topics from around the world are covered by this installation, environmental concerns and particularly cimate change have been our strongest themes. The second reading of our title "What will happen when?" Asks about the future and that is still up for grabs. If enough of us act we help shape this future for the better.
What When was made by Stan's Cafe
Signs researched, selected, painted and installed by Simon Ford and James Yarker
Sign selection and painting by Craig Stephens
With additional research and painting by Zoe Hemington
Further additional painting by Eve Yarker
Research in Germany by Kathrin Ebmeier
Production support by Laura Killeen
Executive producer Roisin Caffrey
We would like to thank the good people of Theater Bonn who commissioned What When and for helping us construct it in their workshops.
We would also like to thank, in their absence, everyone whose signs we have recreated for this installation. We hope that were they ever to discover what we have done with their signs that they would be pleased to know that their protest lives on.
We must thank all the friends of Stan's Cafe who responded to an online appeal for photos of protest signs they had seen or made. Thank you for your commitment, we were touched and even if your image didn't get recreated for the installation you inspired us and forced us to think harder about what we were doing.
Finally, we'd like to thank all the photographers whose photographs captured these signs for us. We apologise for reproducing some of those photographs on this web page without explicit permission (using these images wasn't part of the original plan but people were so excited to learn that there were 'originals' behind our signs that we thought it would be useful to share the link). If one of these photographs is yours we hope you are pleased with its use here and if not just tell us and we'll take it down.
It was fun making What When for Bonn, we hope to find further opportunities to share it and if so expect it to evolve as it visits new places for new reasons.
Stimmrechte für Frauenn
This stark sign (circa 1900) was the oldest we could find a picture of. Its message is clear. In the UK votes for some women were finally granted in 1918.
We want to be free from Versailless
In Germany the terms of the Versailles agreement signed at the end of World War 2 were met with protests. (1920)
Die Bikini-Tests sind rein militärisch nicht wissenschaftlich
In the 1950s the USA tested numerous nuclear devices in the Pacific Ocean.
Liebe, kein Krieg
1968 was perhaps the most iconic year for popular protests and this is a version of one of that year's most famous slogans.
USSR: Suppression of CSSR
This sign protests against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Our photograph is black in and white but it suits our artistic purposes to imagine it was white on red.
Willkommen bei der Miss America Rinder-Auktion
In 1968 feminists protested against beauty contests. Now these events largely marginalised these events.
Ich bin ein Mann
This civil rights protest came at a time when black men in the US were regularly called 'boy'. 1968
Wir wollen Land nicht Wohltätigkeit
Native Australians' struggles for recognition in their homeland reached a particular peak in 1972. The man holding the original sign in this photos is Alan Sharpley outside the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which was pitched in front of Government buildings in Canberra.
A radiation leak at the 3 Mile Island nuclear power plant in the USA provoked early calls for the use of solar power. 1979
Solidarität / Solidarity
Formed in the Lenin shipyards of Gdansk, Poland in 1980 Solidarity was the first independent trade union in the Soviet block. Its membership rapidly grew into the millions and ten years later its leader, Lec Walesa was elected President of Poland. 1981
Stoppt Dämme im Amazonas
This sign protests against construction of the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil. The Amazon rainforest is one of the world's major carbon sinks and home to many peoples; dams threaten both. Although hydro-electric power is a low carbon energy source dam construction is energy intensive and flooding rainfores releases carbon dioxide. The dams also threaten biodiversity. It is a controversial issue.
Mr. Chancellor! The local pitman counts on your word.
In the 1980s in Germany as well as England there many protests to keep coal mines open.
Help Israel. Donate to German Bank, account number 025811
In 1983 German writer Heinrich Böll spoke at a rally in support of the state of Israel. This sign solicits financial donations to the cause.
Wir alle leben in Bhopal. Gerechtigkeit für Bhopal jetzt!
In 1984 a leak of poisonous chemicals at the Union Carbide India Limited chemical works in Bhopal led to thousands of deaths and ongoing health problems for local residents; their quest for justice continues. 1984
Lasst Nelson Mandela frei!
Nelson Mandela was leader of the African National Congress a figurehead for the fight against apartheid in South Africa. The campaign for his release was vigorous and ultimately successful. Mandela was released in 1990 apartheid abolished a year later and he was elected president in 1994. 1985
Russische Truppen raus aus Afghanistan. Lasst Sacharow frei
In 1979 Soviet Troops invaded Afghanistan. Soviet Scientist Andrei Sakharov protested against the invasion and was sent into internal exile. 1986
Absolute Macht macht absolut korrupt
For a brief time in 1989 it felt as if popular protest in China centred on Tiananmen Square could bring down the country's communist government.
Gorbatschow reißen Sie die Mauer nieder!
In the 1980s Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was under pressure to order the dismantling of the Berlin Wall which had physically and symbolically divided Europe for more than twenty years. In 1989 the authorities stood back as civilians tore the wall down.
Von Unternehmen finanzierter Krebs
By the late 1980s a build up of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) had been linked with a depletion of the Ozone Layer in the Earth's atmosphere. Amongst other functions this layer protects the planet's surface from cancer causing ultra-violet radiation. Protests followed, legislation curtailed the use of CFCs and recently evidence has been found that the Ozone Layer is slowly recovering. 1991
Stoppt die Zerstörung, startet den Verkehrsabbau
In the 1990s protesters fought hard against new roads cutting through ancient woodlands. 1996
Sag einfach Nein zu GMO
In the 1990s protests surrounded the Monsanto corporation and its practice of genetically modifying crops in order, it was said, to tie farmers to their products. Public concern around the health consequences of GM food led to legislation about its labelling across the European Union in 2004. 1997
Wen würde Jesus bombardieren?
This question was popular at the time of the second Gulf War (2005) it is designed to play on the consciences of Christian politicians who favour of military action.
NATO raus aus Afghanistan jetzt
Eighteen years after Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan a different army is in occupation. 2007
Simbabwe wird nie wieder 2008 sein
In 2008 President Mugabe made a controversial speech asserting that Zimbabwe would never be a colony again. Here a protester references that speech to protest against his dictatorial rule.
Wir sind die 99%
The global banking crisis of 2008 provoked protests about wealth inequality including the popular 'Occupy' movement. This sign carries a familiar figure - the 99% refers to a widespread feeling that in this crisis a vast majority of the population were paying for the greedy actions of a very small minority.
Ich hoffe, dich in der Kleidung eines zum Tode Verurteilten zu sehen /
Hope to see you in death sentence prison clothes
Protests for regime change across North Africa became known as 'the Arab Spring' this sign is from Tahrir square in Egypt 2011. It refers to the regime of the time and the fact that prison uniform for prisoners sentenced to death is red rather than the normal blue.
Switching Off doesn't mean your brain!
This Greenpeace protest followed the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011.
Hört auf, die Körper der Dalit-Frauen für die Dominierung der Kasten zu benutzen
In India series of horrific attacks against women led to protests, here linking misogyny with caste politics. 2012
Systemwechsel nicht Klimawandel
We could only find room for one big fabric banner. Maybe there should be a version of What When just for signs carried by more than one person.
We were attracted to this sign because it is both witty and unusually artistic. Humanity is sitting on a branch happily working away at its own crisis.
Leugnung ist keine Politik
A prompt for climate denying politicians to face facts and take action. Colourful, bold with a picture of a polar bear and powerstation.
We have found many bilingual signs but increasingly English is becoming the language of protest in Germany when international issues are at stake.
Sag nein zu solar auf Ackerland
Though popular in theory renewable energy sources encounter more resistance on a local level. Here solar farms are objected to, but we could equally have chosen wind turbines and tidal barriers.
The use of fracking technology to unlock large quantities of previously inaccessible fossil fuels has created concern about environmental degradation, including groundwater pollution and increased carbon emissions. Some protesters spotted the similarity between the word Frack and an English expletive.
In 2015 the Greek public protested vigorously against an austerity regime imposed by a troika of international agencies. 'Oxi' can simply be translated as 'no' but it can also be used to summon Greek national pride. Oxi Day celebrates the day during the second world war when Greek Prime Minister gave this one word answer to Mussolini's demand that Italian troops should be allowed to occupy Greece.
Wir unterstützen 1,5 Grad
Fiji host the 2017 United Nations climate change conference in Bonn and their citizens lobby for governments around the world to target the agreed 1.5ºC climate change target. 2015
Nein zu schmutzigen Kohlekraftwerken
The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (APEC) took place in Manilla in 2015. Junk Apec became a popular slogan and the Centre for Environmental Concerns (CEC) protested for clean energy.
In 2015 staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were attacked and in revenge for the publication of a cartoon perceived as anti-Islamic. In response the slogan Je Suis Charlie (I am Charlie) spread around the world. We like this sign using multiple languages.
The satirical cartoons that provoked attacks on staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine also provoked this more peaceful response
Palm oil plantations are a significant factor in deforestation which contributes to global warming.
Klima ein globaler Notfall / Climate, a global emergency
The message is clear, the colours are bright and we haven't got enough French signs in this installation.
Right to stay for all!
The acceptance of large numbers of refugees into Germany was a controversial move provoking protest and counter protest. 2016
Schwarze Leben spielen eine Rolle
Deaths of black US citizens at the hands of police provoked the nationwide Black Lives Matter protest in 2016.
No violence against women
A spree of sexual assaults in Germany provoked outrage from men and women. 2016
After a majority of voters expressed their desire for the UK to leave the European Union (Brexit) those who disagreed took to the streets in protest. 2016
Verbrenne nicht meine Zukunft
This message carried and illustrated by a small child protests against the use of fossil fuels.
An den Rest der Welt: Könntet ihr bitte einen Platz für mein Land zum Bleiben vorbereiten
Harnessing the power of global media this sign gives a personal plea on behalf of a nation to stop climate change and rising sea levels.
Wenn die Macht der Liebe die Machtliebe überwindet, wird die Welt Frieden erfahren
This child probably didn't write this sign themselves, but them holding it adds power to the sentiment it carries.
Imaginative protesters can harness the media to spread the message of their banner around the world.
wenn alle Bäume niedergeschlagen sind, wenn alle Tiere tot sind, wenn alle Wasser vergiftet sind und wenn die ganze Luft unsicher ist zu atmen, erst dann wirst du entdecken... du kannst kein Geld essen
Greenpeace have used this slogan, which is version of Native American saying quoted by Canadian film maker Alanis Obomsawin. Wherever it originates from it neatly encapsulates the environmental sentiments of many.
Meine Arme sind müde, dieses Zeichen seit den 1960er Jahren zu halten
Sometimes, no matter how much you protest, things don't seem to change. This photograph was taken on a women's rights march.
Ich möchte, dass meine Enkel wissen, dass ich nicht still war.
This climate change protest emphasises that future generations will inherit the consequences of decisions we make today.
Animal rights causes are argued passionately, we chose this bold protest against bull fighting party because of its dramatic graphic quality. It's a shame we couldn't include the man with his red make up.
Ich bin schwul, heterosexuell, bisexuell ... eine Person
Issues surrounding sexual identity have been protested for many years with increasing prominence. We were like the way this bold sign cuts to the heart of things.
Frauenrechtsexperte - Babys werden hier ermordet
Protests can provoke counter protests. Here a 'pro-choice' activist undermines the message of a 'pro-life' activist outside a family planning clinic.
When Justice Becomes Injustice, Resistance Becomes Duty
This quote from Bertolt Brecht instructs us.
Es ist mir untersagt, meine Großmutter zu sehen
When the US introduced bans preventing entry into the country by citizens from a number of predominantly Muslim countries protests followed.
Baue die Mauer
Some people want to knock walls down, some want to build them. For some Donal Trump's proposal to building a wall along the US boarder with Mexico was a vote winner.
wir sind nicht alleine / We are not alone
Part of recent Catalan protests seeking independence from Span. Around the world desire for self-determination sparks protest.
So wie die Ozeane steigen, werden wir uns erheben
This sign combines a simple, child-like design with the kind of word play we enjoy.
Der Wald gehört uns / The forest is ours
Polish forests are under threat by open cast coal mining. 2017
No to immortality
What will we protest in the future? Imagine the environmental impact of a world in which humans and maybe our favourite pets never die.
Was geschieht, wenn Teile der Welt, wenn ganze Nationen im Meer verschwinden? Im November 2017 werden sich Diplomaten, Politiker und Vertreter der Zivilgesellschaft aus aller Welt in Bonn treffen, um bei der 23. Weltklimakonferenz Impulse zur Rettung des Planeten zu geben. Die Präsidentschaft in diesem Jahr haben die Fidschi Inseln, für die der Klimawandel schon heute massive Folgen hat. Während die Weltgemeinschaft noch über den Klimawandel diskutiert, bangen 62 Millionen Bewohner von Inselstaaten wie Fidschi, Kiribati und Barbados um ihre Heimat. SAVE THE WORLD, das Art meets Science Festival des THEATER BONN, verlässt anlässlich der COP23 die Räume des Theaters und bevölkert mit Künstlern, Experten und Aktivisten die weltpolitische Bühne rund um den UN-Campus.
What When is part of the fourth season of
Save the World produced by Theater Bonn.
It was commissioned by Nichola Bramkamp and Andrea Tietz, constructed in the theater's workshops in Beuel with help from Lisa Hedler, Felix Stoof, Jan Schulze, Judith König and other people whose names we didn't catch but to whom we are grateful.
Final tip: if you are travelling from Birmingham to Bonn consider catching the train, it's cheaper, door to door it's not much slower when you include check-in time, it's more comfortable, you see more out of the window, it's easier than you'd think and you emit less CO2 on the way.