Brexit threatens the very creative soul of the U.K. And so one creative is responding the best way he knows how: by fueling civil disobedience through art.
Pentagram partner Yuri Suzuki–who immigrated to London a decade ago himself–has spearheaded a fascinating new project, a freely sharable protest kit called Acid Brexit. Acid Brexit is basically a brand built to protest Brexit, consisting of music, images, and videos that the public is free to reproduce, recut, and redistribute at will.
It’s inspired by the sonic and graphic designs of acid house music. While born in the United States in the 1980s, acid house exploded in the U.K. in the late 1980s into the 1990s. The fast-paced club music gave birth to the rave scene–drug-friendly mega parties that were a decidedly inclusive atmosphere–which would cause a rift with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the government, prompting laws that turned partying itself into an act of protest, with acid house as its anthem.
Fast-forward 20 years, and the broader genre of house music itself has survived and even thrived in the U.K. club scene–all while social paranoia–and particularly, isolationist policies driven by bigotry, has escalated to new heights. In this climate, Suzuki has imagined a branding campaign that aims acid house music right at the xenophobic, anti-immigration laws of Brexit.
“Politically, it’s quite important to what’s happening now in the world,” says Suzuki. “Acid house music creates a tension [feeding] the young generation’s urge for opinion.”
The protest kit–with contributions from Pentagram Partners Jody Hudson-Powell and Luke Powell–includes a play on the European Union flag, with an upside down smiley face (the unofficial logo of Acid House) filling in for Britain’s lost star. An accompanying video features the smiley as a figure dancing through London’s streets.
The most unexpected twist is that Suzuki, a sound designer by trade, dropped three acid house tracks along with the branding package. The first, and most memorable track, is a supercut of Theresa May promising “strong and stable leadership” immediately followed by various voices saying, “my ass.” The message is adolescently subversive, making it the perfect complement to the overly simplistic, dance-friendly club beat.
“Music always tends to be ignored [as a protest symbol], because it’s a temporary thing. It will never be physical,” says Suzuki. “Protest is about finding people with the same opinion–and gathering people–[for this] music, and sound is really strong media.”
Pentagram has done plenty of pro bono work over the years, and its partners have released protest work, too. But combining free work with protest work to create a publicly usable protest kit is new. The firm has put Acid Brexit out there without fine print or legalese, encouraging people to post the media “anywhere” and use it in “any way.”
“I’m not expecting people to remix [the music], but I wanted people to use it for a party or any musical occasion as a reminder of what we’re facing now, and we shouldn’t forget what happened in the past as well,” says Suzuki. “The music is nothing serious, to be honest, it’s just funny music. But at the same time, young people need to remember what we’re facing now. I hope this is an element to help people take individual action.”