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These lightbox signs are part of a long running series of electric signs that Durant has been making since 2001. Typical hand-written slogans from protests and demonstrations are transformed into large format commercial signs. The impulse to communicate, to be seen and heard is a deep human need, and one to which Durant’s lightbox signs point.
The signs are commercially produced outdoor illuminated display units. They are of the type found on the sides of small, local businesses such as convenience stores, restaurants, liquor stores and auto repair shops. They are so ubiquitous and unremarkable as to be almost invisible in the vernacular landscape. The early signs were produced in collaboration with master commercial sign maker David Burgess in South Los Angeles, Durant now employs local companies to fabricate the works in the places where they are exhibited.
The slogans and texts are sourced from photographs of demonstrations, marches, street graffiti and other events. When Durant started the project the focus was mainly on events in the 1960s and ’70s in the U.S.. The series has since expanded in scope, reaching further back historically up to current events with examples from around the world and languages other than English.
The criterion for selecting the slogans is both simple and specific. The photo should contain an image of a handmade sign and the message on the sign should be general in nature. The slogan should not refer to any specific event, cause, person or time, in other words, text that could have more than one meaning depending on the context or time in which they are seen. Through this transformation the hand-written slogans appear to become timelessness and placeless, trans-historical and trans-locational. This decontextualizing effect allows viewers to make new connections with the texts. The event to which the slogan was originally addressed ceases to be the focus and we can concentrate on the words, the message and the visual effects of the hand lettering. Human presence, imagination and agency comes to the foreground.