Although its been a while now since I worked there, I’ve always tried to keep up to date with what UHC are up to. An explicitly political art and design studio, their work is witty, thought provoking and beautifully crafted. One of their latest projects is an imaginative celebration of Darwin’s bicentenary, the ‘Ext Inked’ exhibition. As well as exhibiting hand-drawn illustrations of 100 extinct species, they will be asking 100 visitors to the exhibition to get tattooed with the same images. Yes, that’s right, permanently tattooed. I’ll let Jai Redman, UHC’s creative director explain:
We want to create a new social network, a living art exhibition of tattooed ambassadors against extinction. UHC want to mark Darwin’s birthday with an urgent call to speak up for the environment and celebrate evolution.
UHC have a long history of tackling controversial issues in novel ways. One of their earliest projects ‘This Is Camp X-Ray’ involved creating a mockup of Camp X-ray, the internment camp at Guantanamo bay, in the middle of Manchester, complete with volunteer guards and prisoners who inhabited the installation for a whole week.
What ‘Ext-inked’, ‘This is Camp X-ray’, and their other projects have in common is that they take causes that might fail to register through a conventional campaign and present them in ways that are more thought-provoking and memorable. Promoting something through an exhibition or an installation puts the audience inside the ideas, making them stop and think in a way a leaflet or a placard might not.
Disclaimer: I worked at UHC from 2004 to 2006, so am irredeemably biased towards them, but they are great people, so I don’t care.