Monday, 4 May 2015

Kandy-Kolored Konstituancies: The Geography of Electoral Markings and Political Paraphernalia

By Paul Bower

Risk! in game play. Image by Laura Blankenship under a CC License

General Elections foster a culture of visual marking of territory in the United Kingdom, which only Royal events, Christmas, football World-Cups and Northern Ireland can typically match (but rarely surpass for a mass tribal event which isn’t violent).

Visual markings, united by their temporality, can take many forms in the run-up to a General Election. As election-day approaches they start to appear at an unrelenting rate. The physical and territorial paraphernalia of a General Election enters the public consciousness through our cities, neighbourhoods, streets, windows and letterboxes. Posters, leaflets, flags, balloons, billboards, placards and rosettes of all colours act as non-digital visual signs - nostalgic reminders of an age before Smartphones and the Internet - of an eccentrically antiquated democratic state.

Staunch party members and decided voters will often place such signs in their front window, or allow one to be staked in their garden informing passersby of a territory recently taken, as if they’re partaking in a huge game of Risk!

Like the strategy board-game, territories or Parliamentary Constituencies make up the board on which this game is played. Pollsters attempt to rig the game by predicting places where a swing in vote is most likely and where Party efforts should be focussed to maximise impact and sway the electorate to amass a majority. Such focus tends to reveal itself territorially as party funds are re-directed, the printing presses roll and political paraphernalia is circulated around the streets by a foot-army of dedicated party members walking door to door. Meanwhile, in so called safe-seats, where a political party has all but conquered, very few visual signs of a General Election can rarely be seen at first glance.

Colour takes on an added political hue during a General Election. Constituency maps are coloured in by their dominant political party colours and the paraphernalia placed in the built-environment is no different. Battle-lines of colour are drawn and political strategists direct efforts from their ‘war-rooms’ and colour co-ordinated campaign-coaches touring the country.

Election day arrives and the territorial paraphernalia has reached its best-before-date. The ultimate mark of a black cross in a box is to be made. One more day and all but a few of the visual signs will be recycled as the next Government is decided.

What is seen on a micro level is taken to the macro-max as Polling stations close. The country becomes visualised as a fragmented map of 650 ‘isles’, reminiscent of Rupert Thomson’s dystopian novel Divided Kingdom, each awaiting to be filled in one by one, like a democracy colouring-in book for the watching masses.

The people sit in their living rooms watching the live count and wait for the verdict. Which colour will their territory remain or turn? The result is announced and the territorial marks fade whilst new contested territories - often a lot less visual - emerge.

Paul Bower is in the process of finishing an architecture PhD at Queen's University Belfast, which has attempted to probe 'post-conflict' architectural practice in Northern Ireland.


  1. This is a nice informative blog article. You have discussed about election aesthetics , in which there is the information of geography of electoral markings and political paraphernaliais. Thanks for sharing such impressive information with us and please keep sharing your thoughts.

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