How Loesje Posters are Changing the World

Words, words, words… Can you imagine our world without words? Neither can I. Words matter but sometimes we do not realise what an important role they are playing, especially when we discuss approaches of mass communication.

What about Loesje? Loesje is an international foundation, which was set up in the 1980s in the Netherlands to reduce social pressures and promote freedom of speech by making white and black posters in creative thinking workshops (open for everybody). The posters include interesting, funny but sometimes ironic texts which are created by using cultural associations and breaking linguistic and punctuation rules in order to describe social reactions to the surrounding reality in a surprising way. Texts are signed by mysterious Loesje, published on the official Loesje website and spread in the public space as posters, sticker art, murals, graffiti on the pavements.

Who is Loesje? This is a Dutch girl’s name used to embody an image of a teenager wondering about life. We do not know exactly howoldsheis–Loesjeisgoingtoschoolandat the same time she is studying at the university.

She is asking questions and looking for answers in many different countries (that is why she is speaking plenty of languages). She has a family and pets, whose names are also used to sign posters. But the truth is that posters are made by people living around us.

Why Loesje? Because of Facebook. Yes, that is true. Someday in February last year, one of my friends liked (or shared) one of Loesje posts which contained the newest Loesje poster, and I noticed his activity in my News Feed. I went to the Loesje official fan page. I was really amazed how interesting the content of these black and white posters is. Therefore, wanting to know more about them, I started searching information on the official Loesje website and found hundreds of posters published in many different languages. In October 2016, when I had to take a decision of my master thesis, I decided to research Loesje texts and analyse them in the light of sociolinguistic research methodology.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the most important philosophers at the turn of the 19th and 20th century (he lived in Cambridge between 191 and his death in 1951), introduced the concept of a language-game. Language, according to Wittgenstein, is connected with the world around us. Because of that, we can understand words only if we know the context in which they are or were used. Moreover, every description of the surrounding reality is subordinated to the specified rules – Wittgenstein, writing about that in his work Philosophical Investigations, compared them with the rules in a game, when a player makes a move and his decision determines the course of the game. Specific words used in every statement are depending on a speaker’s decision, so their meaning may be different according to the situation.

Loesje, breaking linguistic rules, creates her own way of the contemporary social narrative. In my research, I am focusing on presenting how creativeness changes set phrases and idioms, determines co-occurrence of new collocations.

I am also searching information about social, cultural, geo-political and historical factors, trying to explain the reasons for writing Loesje posters.

Besides comparing the key words in Loesje texts, I am discovering dominants, categorising them and building micro-databases to explore connections between particular posters. My research is a chance to better understand our modern society, its problems and values, anxieties and dreams. If words matter, Loesje posters can change the world. The question is: how?

About the Author

Joanna ŁaszczJoanna Łaszcz is a second year MA student in the Faculty of Languages. She is studying Russian philology and she is an author of about thirty conference papers, posters and publications about linguistics and Russian literature. Currently, she is engaged in sociolinguistic analyses of Internet communication in order to understand contemporary society and describe its linguistic worldview. She loves words and highly values creativity. Furthermore, she is also interested in the international relations between former Eastern Bloc countries, especially in the Poland-Russia, Poland-Ukraine and Russia-Ukraine relations.

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