Behind the Scenes: Why Alan Baker’s Illustration of an Unchanged World Matters
“Cops give a damn about negro/ pull a trigger kill a nigga he’s a hero”. When 2Pac spoke those famous words in 1992 he was talking about a world not too dissimilar to the one we live in today: racism remains, police brutality is still rife, and the so called “war in the Middle East” is ongoing. All that’s changed are the news stories.
London Illustrator Alan Baker sums this notion up beautifully in his 2Pac themed artwork about the various troubles in the world. Originally intended for our 2Pac Changes exhibition, his piece gives us new and old visions of societal breakdown in the form digitally reworked news clippings pieced together.
At the centre of the image stands 2Pac himself, head down, arms behind his back, looking somewhat sombre. With so much going on behind him, the impression seems to be that not much has changed since he left us. But, don’t take our word for it. Here’s what Alan has to say:
It’s our understanding that you produced two pieces for the exhibition, neither of which featured in the end due to technical hitches. What were those works of art?
My artwork is two pieces merged into one, showing past and present problems which haven’t changed. I chose to address the issue of police brutality in America towards black people by focusing on the lyrics “Cops give a damn about a Negro, pull a trigger kill a nigger he’s a hero” and this highlights an issue that was going on before ‘Pac’s time, during his time and after it, right up to the present day.
Your artwork tackles the concept of change of head-on. Specifically, what sort of message are you trying to evoke with it?
The message I was trying to put across is the central theme of ‘Pac’s song. He continually says “I see no changes”, which I’ve tried to illustrate by showing two different times, past and present, with similar news coverage. No changes have been achieved in either example, worryingly, but I think this is exactly what he was getting at – that certain things don’t change.
Your print makes use of a lot of, what look like, newspaper clippings. How did you source these and what was the reason for it?
I googled many articles of past and present headlines of police brutality and made digital versions, which I’ve scattered in the background. This again reinforces the same problem-different times concept.
As an artist, you’ve been known to turn people into their favourite characters. If 2Pac were alive today, what sort of character request would he make?
I don’t think 2Pac would want to be anyone but himself. But, at a guess, maybe a Black Panther: as they were all about protecting the land and rights of people. His mother was also, of course, a Black Panther, so there’s a family link there. Alternatively, I’d make him President of the United States, because who better to make a change than the writer of Changes, right?
Here’s a close-up video of Alan’s piece in the flesh. For more information, peep our earlier interview with him: