Johan Lindeberg has always drawn a strong lateral between 2011 and 1968. The latter, a year that saw the burnt-out, bored and restless students of Paris rise up against the outdated systems of their homeland. That parallel is even stronger now. The latest in the Wild poster series from cult-New York label BLK DNM – shot by Lindeberg himself – stars Tunisian-born Kenza Fourati, a woman hailing from similar rebellious soils that have also seen tensions reach flashpoint in recent years, eventually boiling over to strike the start of the Arab Spring, a series of revolutions which shook the Arab world into the beginnings of a new year; 2011.
Now in its eighth series of posters, it's clear that the label doesn't plan to stray from embedding strong, political messages into their images, with Lindeberg listing the core values of the brand as freedom, expression and strong, independent women. Such are the powerhouse women, including Karen Elson, Gisele Bündchen and Erin O'Connor, who have fronted previous posters. For this campaign – shot in Rio de Janeiro – Fourati stands with her back to the camera, facing the world head-on, her fist pumped in similar style to a member of the Black Panther party – yet another reference to Lindeberg's powerful, yet inevitably controversial at times, direction. Fourati said of the image, "I am proud that the image is with the fist raised high in the sky, it embodies strength and courage. It symbolizes defiance, resistance but also unity and solidarity."
As the latest posters are let loose on downtown Manhattan, we tracked down Lindeberg to talk John and Yoko, Rio de Janeiro, and why the Olympics are destroying the historical city.
Dazed Digital: First of all – how did this project come about?
Johan Lindeberg: I wanted an inspiring and positive message of freedom on the streets of NYC during the holidays, and Kenza immediately came to my mind. She's from Tunisia – where the Arab Spring Revolution started – and she’s been active; she's been on the street shouting ‘Dégagé’ (‘Let go’) to the government. She's truly idealistic in her democratic ideas about the Arabic world.
DD: Your messages are quite political in nature, how important do you think it is to use art and fashion as a platform for change?
Johan Lindeberg: Already, since I created the successful living campaign in the 90's for Diesel, I’ve had a vision of adding texture, a different dimension to advertising and branding. It doesn't make sense to spend so much money in communication without using it as a platform for an inspiring message to the world. When I started BLK DNM, which is a more personal expression than anything I’ve done before, I was inspired to create a brand with a voice.
DD: What was the concept behind this particular poster featuring Kenza Fourati?
Johan Lindeberg: Kenza and I talked a lot about the idea, we wanted it just to feel really energetic. It was very much inspired by the Black Panthers in Munich, who raised their fists to the sky. It was just really important to make the message energetic and the actual picture just happened. Kenza was standing on the edge in a very dangerous spot and all of the sudden she raised the fist to the sky. It was really powerful. I think she really felt she was in Tunis on the streets.
DD: Why did you choose to shoot this campaign in Rio de Janeiro?
Johan Lindeberg: As Kenza has said “The campaign is shot in Brazil, a cornerstone of this new generation and it's shown with no borders, an ocean an infinity of horizon and possibilities". I agree with her – Brazil felt like freedom. It was incredible to see a nation stepping out on the streets to protest against the money spent in building football stadiums instead of investing in education and hospitals. And football is like religion there. It really shows the spirit of the world at present.
DD: Your signature for this series was shooting the subjects from behind, what does this symbolise for you?
Johan Lindeberg: It’s a woman choosing her own path. The gesture of turning her back to the system or restraints, to show independence and strength. I also really like to write the name on the poster. To use the name to show the identity of the person; not the face.
DD: The way you disseminate your work is particularly interesting, are you inspired by anybody else who uses the same technique of plastering their posters across a city?
Johan Lindeberg: The way John Lennon worked was very inspiring he was very personal in his songs. And the way Yoko and he communicated their message has always inspired me. Thom Yorke has also a great way of communicating his work. Overall, alternative, guerrilla-type work has always intrigued me.
DD: For your last campaign you worked with the beautiful Karen Elson, what was it like working with such a powerhouse?
Johan Lindeberg: Karen was great. I decided to photograph her in Nashville, where she lives, and it felt real. Everyone who's been part of this campaign is a woman I admire. They all have great personalities and strengths. I want them to feel that they can be more their true self when we work together – to express themselves – rather than acting as model.
DD: You compare the year that BLK DNM launched as the 'new 1968', what was it about 2011 that made you feel that similarity?
Johan Lindeberg: 1968 has been such an inspiration for me. I grew up in a university town in the South of Sweden where the political energy was very strong. I always have been fascinated by the idealistic energy of the end of the 60's. And in May 68’, the student revolts towards Charles de Gaule and his system is a true symbol of democracy and freedom, and people went on the streets, and when values really change.
It was the same thing in 2011, what started in Tunisia, Kenza Fourati’s homeland, was a similar movement. People took down dictators. We had nuclear crisis, Wall Street occupations, we have seen a continuous movement since then. In Russia, Turkey, Brazil – Everywhere people are stepping out and saying what they want and feel is right. It's no doubt that the internet has contributed to the freedom movement around the word. People from everywhere can contribute to a better world – I am really proud that BLK DNM was launched during 2011.