There's so much going on here that it's hard to know where to begin. The Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released this "NEW YORK TOUGH" poster. Based on American political poster art of the late 19th and early 20th century, it's a rather bonkers visual representation of how the governor sees his state's progress through the first 111-day surge of the coronavirus pandemic.
This isn't the first time he's done this. Earlier this year for New York's pre-pandemic State of the State address, Cuomo released a political poster featuring New York as a ship traversing The Sea of Division in 2020. Both posters are based on Cuomo's own sketches, reports The Intelligencer, and draw heavily from the style of a 1900s political drawing of Nebraska politician William Jennings Bryan.
On his website, Cuomo declares his love of history and poster art, writing: "We went up the mountain, we curved the mountain, we came down the other side and these are little telltale signs that, to me, represent what was going on."
Ok, let's talk about what's going on, because there's a lot.
Much of the action is oriented around "the mountain"—a favored Cuomo metaphor—doing the double work of representing both COVID-19 and the desired downward infection curve. On the left is an infected airplane of 3 million Europeans flying in on the "Fed Clouds of Confusion" and "Winds of Fear," as the river of "Economy Falls" crosses over the exponential growth arrow of "Projection Models."
The left side of the poster of the scary bits of the pandemic. Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
On the right side, a diverse coalition of New Yorkers—including Cuomo's daughters—pull down the curve using "The Power of We."
The aforementioned diverse coalition of New Yorkers. Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
He's even got a time line across the bottom of the poster detailing the peak of 18,825 hospitalized on Day 43 of the pandemic, underneath the U.S. motto. Also note "Subway Disinfectant" and "Out of State Ban" along the river of "Economy Falls."
I'm hearing that "111 Days of Hell" is the official NY term for the first surge of COVID-19. Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Perhaps my favorite part of the poster is this "Love Wins" across the top, an old slogan from the marriage equality days of yore. Sure love wins, but in this pandemic? Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and staying the fuck home is the ultimate winner!
Love the reemergence of an old slogan! Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
I must also point to the "Boyfriend Cliff" section of the mountain that apparently refers to an awkward presser moment when Cuomo talked extensively about liking his daughter's boyfriend
Hanging on by a thread! Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
While the poster is funny and strange, it does seem too early for the governor to be doing a victory lap, declaring the COVID mountain traversed by NY state and not considering the impacts the virus is continuing to have on unemployment
and housing stability.
"I mean this with 0% snark: how is this not wildly offensive?," tweeted
NY State Senator Zellnor Myrie. "This is an artful monument to death and tragedy being sold by the state. I’m legit perplexed."
As Cuomo wrote on his website, part of his interest in poster art is how the medium must communicate a politician's platform on a piece of paper. While certainly a quaint idea—and one that I did as part of my APUSH class—the literal flattening of a politician's platform onto an outdated mode of propaganda feels wildly hollow during a time when a global pandemic has laid bare the deep failings of our social, economic, and political structures. But, just so you know, Cuomo's office is currently taking preorders for the poster, selling them at cost to the public at large. New York Tough, baby.