Detail, Color Code ‘SOS’ flag, Luftwerk and Normal

SOS Color Code 2020

Sep 15th–Nov 3rd 2020

+++ For interviews, activities, and more visit the SOS Color Code 2020 Museum From Home page

This Fall the Elmhurst Art Museum is one of the host sites for SOS Color Code 2020 by Luftwerk & Normal_._ Beginning on September 15th, the International Day of Democracy, through the 2020 US Election Day on November 3, SOS Color Code 2020 will transform the international signal of distress into a sign of solidarity and connectedness. Using the universal languages of morse code and color theory, the three flag installation will appear in multiple locations throughout Chicago and the US, calling for humanity and a willingness to help one another. Visualizing morse code into dots and dashes a pattern forms with each flag representing the letters S (three dots) O (three dashes) S (three dots) allowing it to remain an effective visual distress signal, an ambigram that can be read upside down or right side up.

When the international distress signal SOS was adopted in 1908, its easily recognizable and unique code produced aural unity, a sense of calm in life or death situations. As the world adjusts to new norms in challenging times, SOS Color Code 2020 offers a reconsideration of how language, objects and symbols, and even color can help us find stable ground and safety no matter where we are. Situated in specific public and domestic settings, during the crucial time leading up to the US Election, SOS Color Code 2020 reminds us, as US Representative John Lewis said, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

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Luftwerk is the artist collaboration of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero. With space as their canvas, they transform environments into immersive experiences. Since founding in 2007, Luftwerk has amassed a significant body of work ranging from site-specific installations to experimental projects that interpret data. In each project, they are interested in the abilities of how light and color can be utilized to shift perception and enhance the experience.

Normal is a multi-disciplinary graphic design practice based in Chicago. Normal believes thoughtful design and collaboration strengthens our collective knowledge and defines new ways of seeing, communicating, and experiencing the world. Normal is Renata Graw, Tim Curley & Noël Morical.

This installation will be installed outside the Moy Pavillion, facing South Cottage Hill Avenue.


Elmhurst Art Museum, CNL Projects & Art-In-Place, Cleve Carney Museum of Art, Luftwerk, Mattress Factory, Minnesota Museum of American Art, The National Public Housing Museum, Normal Studio, Sarah Skaggs Independent Curatorial Projects, University of South Florida Institute for Research in Art Contemporary Art Museum, Comfort Station, H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute