You might not yet have heard of Montreal-based Revel & Riot (shame!), an LGBT rights organization and merchandising/art centre, but some other big names sure have taken notice of this innovative designer and activist duo.
You might also have seen their soon-to-be iconic “God Hates Bags” bags and marriage equality tees around, sported by famous clients like Tegan and Sara.
The duo is comprised of Montrealers EE Storey – the team’s graphic designer and illustrator – and Sarah Fobes – a writer and internet marketer. But Revel & Riot isn’t EE Storey’s only claim to fame; she also runs a design company called Storey Elementary and has many clients in the music industry, such as Tegan and Sara, Death Cab For Cutie, The Rentals and Paramore.
Designer EE Storey spoke to The Gaily about the meaning of design in social movements and what pride means to Revel & Riot, and why it has been so important for them to be involved in recent pride celebrations.
Storey – an obviously passionate activist and artist – looks to historical uses of design in activist movements for inspiration for her own work. She reifies the work of designers and activists like Emory Douglas, the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, and the iconic images of the AIDS epidemic like ‘Act Up” and “Gran Fury”.
“I think that design is a critical part of any and every social movement. Graphics can educate. They can also be used to convey powerful and complicated ideas in a simple, accessible and memorable way. Just like commercial interests use branding, social movements use design so that people can easily identify a message. Soviet poster art helped to inspire a proletarian revolution using intricate images and simple slogans.”
Even though they are based in Canada Revel & Riot recognizes that the fight for equality is global. They report a lot of US news, and have been quite present in marriage equality activism down south.
“The real fight happens in each LGBTQ person’s world every day”, Storey explains, “The fight for safety, the fight for health, for love, for shelter, for survival. We may have legal protections and be allowed to marry here in Canada, but that means nothing when LGBTQ youth are being disowned, kicked out of their homes, bullied at school, or denied access to proper health care and guidance. This is the main reason why we couldn’t have disagreed more with that article in The Grid.”
That is why Revel & Riot thinks it is so important to participate in and continue the tradition of pride celebrations, noting that “very few LGBTQ people grow up in this world without ever knowing secrecy, shame, and fear. Pride celebrations are a chance to celebrate our lives in a way that most aren’t able to do day to day in a repressive and religious society.”
This summer, Revel & Riot headed to San Fransisco to celebrate pride – and with some all-star hosts – threw a big Revel & Riot party, and also took part in the official pride celebration, where they had a booth selling their merchandise (most notably their big foam marriage equality hands).
“Another thing we did at San Francisco pride was bring thousands of our ‘go marriage’ equality’ foam hands, which we gave away at the trans march, the dyke march and the main event parade. Given that equality had just been achieved in NY a couple days before, it felt particularly relevant to be passing them out in California and we’re hoping people will be able to make use of them at upcoming demonstrations and rallies for LGBTQ equality. We loved seeing the foam hands bouncing around in the crowds, and people loved them ( i mean, how nostalgic is a foam hand, right?) Go marriage equality! or divorce equality! or just equality under the law! – however you feel about marriage, it is a fight for legal equality.”
To Revel & Riot, pride is about self-worth, camaraderie, strength, visibility and memory. They are not blind to the increasing commercialization of pride and increasingly less overt forms of equality activism.
“Our ultimate goal is not to be a capitalistic endeavor, it is to further the fight for equality for LGBTQ people and all people. Rather than avoiding a really effective method of getting the graphics and the message out there (ie. through products and design and the internet rather than one-of-a-kind art pieces) we decided to embrace it and use it as a means to disseminate information and generate funds to fuel the rest of our operation. I think that people who are inspired to do political work in the first place will not stop at wearing a shirt with a message on it. Meanwhile, some people who would never really end up getting involved may wear a shirt and find that it can inspire a lot of engagement…Our products are ALL ABOUT education, conversation, humour and pride, their main purpose is not fashion (though we hope people like the message even more because they like the style).”
And while they dream of everyone one day knowing about their merchandise line, the other major component of Revel & Riot is an extensive database of LGBTQ organizations, extensive resources and articles, and a news site on a wide variety of topics relevant to the LGBTQ community.
Their dedicated street team – armed with stickers, cards, educational pamphlets and buttons – distribute Revel & Riot merch in towns and cities all over in order to increase visibility and awareness for LGBTQ issues.