Is there anyone who wasn’t sick of 2020’s nationalistic sloganeering? Big and little Trumps the world over rediscovered the brute power of propagandistic cliches.

Vexed is a gesture-controlled projected installation inviting participants to either wave or destroy flags displaying slogans of jingoistic nationalism.

In Australia sound bites like “gas-fired recovery” (using the pandemic as an excuse to cling to fossil fuel dependency) positions environmentalists as unpatriotic. Likewise, the unemployed – with rehearsed slogans such as “you've got to have a go to get a go” (positioning the under-privileged as outside the national social-contract). While “now is not the time” is the standard conservative cop-out, recently applied to everything from welfare and tax reform, climate change, First Nations rights, and pretty much anything that needs urgent action.

Vexillology is the study of flags. To be vexed is to be attacked, harassed or troubled. The word comes from the Latin vexare, meaning “to shake, jolt or toss violently”.

Although there have been frequent efforts to criminalise the desecration of the national flag and make an offence of “burning, mutilating or otherwise destroying a protected flag or ensign”, it’s still legal in Australia. But the sensitivities around flags prove the potency of national symbols, and the related enduring potential of flag desecration for dissent and protest.

Vexed follows on from UnsettledNew Anthems and Hoisted, continuing Inkahoots' critique of sovereignty, nationalism and national identity through graphic design’s expressive modes of visual language.

The installation was commissioned by the Institute of Modern Art for their Making Art Work initiative. It was live at the IMA in Brisbane from the 9th until the 22th of December 2020. Accompanying audio 00:04.09 loop.

For more about Making Art Work see here.

Read more on Typeroom.

Photography by Charlie Hillhouse. Video by Tnee Dyer.