History of the Wedgeblade Symbol

In December 2006 I mentioned on the Wedgeblade dialogue mailing list that something like the wedgeblade symbol appeared in an Apple Computer advertisement. Here it is:

Apple wedgeblade.gif

This post stimulated a lively discussion about the origins of the Wedgeblade symbol. Excerpts are reproduced here. Feel free to add any other nuggets or edit the material here.

-- Tim Wegner Stan reminded me that after the WTO Summit here a few years back, when there was such an uproar, we had these symbols painted on many of the streets of Seattle. It seems that it is a symbol for the Anarchists and their artistic work lasted for awhile. I spotted one many months later and said, "Oh, look! Someone painted a wedgeblade/turn symbol on the sidewalk!" Sorry!

-- Carol Crow

I believe that the standard anarchist symbol is what looks like a wedgeblade rotated -90 degrees (point upwards) usually painted in red, and is an "A" for anarchism. Of course, painted on a sidewalk, it would depend on the direction from which you approached it that determined what it looked like.

-- Steve Rhea

Here's the anarchist symbol. Not quite the same:


There's a wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_symbolism

-- Tim Wegner

Yes, it is the anarchist symbol, much more prevalent in Europe, there have been some conversations over the years that ICA should change its logo because of those associations. Technically, that one with the wedge and the circle split in half is the "turn symbol" which was created after the summer of 1971 in reflection on the movie "Little Big Man" and as an attempt to state the dynamics of social change: Pro establishment, Dis establishment (the 2 halves of the circle) and Trans establishment, the wedge, bringing together pro and dis and moving them forward.

The wedge blade was the Ecumenical Institute symbol which old timers remember from the front of room A on the west side and was the main teaching image for the church lecture for the church as social pioneer -- in that sense standing between the no longer and the not yet, laying down your life on behalf of all, or something like that.

As my fading memory recalls, Gene Marshall's group in Summer 71 had a hand in developing that image.

-- Jim Wiegel

The wedgeblade was the central image of the church lecture in 1964--probably earlier. The turn symbol, as Jim describes it came along with the turn to the world--1972?

-- Doris Hahn

Well, Lee Early used to plaster the wedge blade on the wall and do a closing speech (altar call) at his LENS Strategic Planning workshops with many clients -- private and public sector.

-- Cynthia Vance

My recollection says that 1972 indeed was the year of the turn symbol, and a lot else besides.

I was fresh out of the '72 Academy and was attending one of Joe's "Room E" gatherings when he laid out exactly what Wiegel referred to in his posting on this. The memory is still vivid.

-- Adam Thomson

The church lecture mentioned below would be Reinhold Niebuhr, I think.

-- Mary Laura Jones

The Song of a Man Who Has Come Through 
D.H. Lawrence 1885 – 1930

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge 
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides.
Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.
What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.
No, no, it is the three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them.

Lawrence, D. H. ; Selected Poems; New York, NY, USA, Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 1959 

The church paper was H. Richard Niebuhr, and was a chapter titled, ‘The Social Responsibility of the Church’ excerpted from The Gospel, The World and the Church ed. Kenneth Scott Latourette 1946 Harper Bros.

-- Bill Schlesinger

I doubt the wedgeblade in either form was consciously taken from the anarchist symbol. That “Circle A” symbol has a long history and deep roots. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_symbolism#Description > Check it out- - you’ll immediately see the correspondences. The associations with it, however, would have made our early imagemakers run like stink in the other direction. For one, the original associations are all mystical – metaphysical – Joe steered clear of metaphysics and leaned toward ontology. To me, it’s coincidence that the 2 images are similar, but I wasn’t in the foundry when these images were shaped.

There’s yet another form of this image. In the mid – late 80’s, Ilona Staples did a painting in which the ‘wedgeblade with the circle’ was repeated 7 times from the left of the painting to the right. As the images go along the painting, each wedgeblade gets lighter in colour. We have it hanging in our office.

I have a feeling that we (probably JWM) invented the wedgeblade image. Joe was really good at creating graphics to hold complex ideas in a single gestalt. It very likely rose out of the combined ideas coming from the Niebuhr brothers, Mannheim, Bultman – that poetry and some of the existentialists like Sartre. Not to mention – dare I say it? - Joseph Stalin – in "Dialectical and Historical Materialism"

“Out of the conflict between the new productive force sand the old relations of production, out of the new economic demands of society there arise new social ideas; the new ideas organize and mobilize the masses; the masses become welded into a new political army, create a new revolutionary power, and make use of it to abolish by force the old system, of relations of production, and firmly to establish the new system.”

You can see the image taking shape as your mind passes through these ideas. (substitute other words for the economic imagery Stalin used)

We all know where the wedgeblade with the circle (the ‘turn’ symbol) came from in the early 70’s when we were re-imaging ourselves and self-consciously adopting a trans-establishment posture .

Where did the original come from? Some of those involved in the Faith and Life community may recall when the wedgblade came into use.

I am only doing speculative back bearings - a pretty light touch. We seem to have to do a lot of that in order to make really meaningful connections between our historical roots and our current work and practice.

-- Wayne Nelson

My recollection is it wasn't one of the 4 theologians. it was one that we studied when we did back ground pedagogy. He taught at Perkins, I believe and was a new testament scholar and wasn't Albert Outler. Anyone have any ideas?

-- Marge Philbrook

I remember from seminary studying the early 20th centuryy. theological movement ("crisis theology") of Barth, Thruneysen, Gorgarten, and Brunner, who started journal called Zwischen den Zeiten (Between the Times), where the theological phrase "between the no longer and the not yet" was used. Joe and others were likely aware of this and molded it into thinking about the church (although the images were first used more in terms of the theology of the word in general). Also, seems like I also heard this connection in pedagogy or the Academy.

-- John Cock

I googled between the no longer and the not yet and got everything from the American Pharmacist Association to Karl Marx.

-- Jim Wiegel

The theologian of the church lecture paper is H. Richard Niebhur.

-- Peace, Harry Wainwright

Was it Hobbs? He did have a paper in we studied in one of the courses – can’t remember right now. However, I don’t have a sense of him being a source of the image. But hey, there’s a lot I’ve forgotten!

George Holcomb, what’s your memory on this?

-- Patricia Tuecke

Like Pat, I don't know how reliable my memory is. Ed Hobbs (Edward C. Hobbs) was the N.T. prof. at Perkins and he and Joe were very close. I believe he is finally trying to finish his work of passion on Mark as a transformation of the Exodus Story as a story of salvation history. My memory of the wedgeblade was that it was a teaching image used in the church lecture and came to prominence during "The Turn to the World." I have noticed variations of our wedgeblade in other cultures.

-- George Holcombe

Like George and Pat my memory these days has a few clouds over it from time to time. But, here is what I remember.

I, too studied with Ed Hobbs and with Joe at Perkins. I have no memory of the wedgeblade being used by Hobbs.

Doris and I also took numerous courses at the Faith and Life Community. I remember no wedgeblade. When we moved to join the EI on the West Side the last of August of 1964, It seems to me that the wedgeblade was in use in the Church lecture. I think it was in '65 that John Bagget, at that time a course grad,a member of the Clergy Cadre in Chicago and a pastor of a Methodist Church on the South Side, created a large wedgeblade out of 4x4 timbers for the Order to use. It was painted black and shading into bright red toward the tip of the point. So, he had had a course in which it was used. We all thought it was the greatest gift we had ever received. We placed it either in Room A over the blackboard or in the chapel. I cannot remember what was its first place of use, but it was used in both locations from time to time. With those memories, I think I know the wedgeblade was in use by the fall of '64.

-- Charles Hahn

As for the Wedgeblade, George and the Hahn's are right about the construction out of 4X4s, bloody point and all. It also had the entire teaching image including the "x" between the no longer and the not yet. It was designed to go over the door in the front of room A during the first spirit movement conference on the West Side. Prior to that it was just a teaching image, as we all know, used in the church lecture. The idea of using it as decor was based on the cadre of movement people intentionally deciding to be the "wedgeblade" in history. As such, it was the symbol well before "the turn to the world" and there were pins without circles around them, but at the big turn it was enclosed in a circle. The original "wedge" hung in room A for years.

-- John Baggett (via Lynda Cock)

I participated in my first second and third RS1 s at Lake Junalusca in one week in August of 1965. We went with Don Bundy (UMC minister at the USC Wesley Foundation) who had just come from Summer 65. We arrived before all the students from the UMC student movement conference arrived. Mary Laura, her first cousin Marilyn, and our good friend Will Balk all worked on the artform that adorned the wall in the meeting hall. It covered the wall on the stage behind the podium. The theme of the conference had JWM dialoguing with the God Is Dead professor from Emory University every evening.

The artform was a giant wedgeblade. We covered the wall floor to ceiling with newsprint. Then we painted lots of sheets of newsprint red and taped them on top of the newsprint to form the wedgeblade with the X of history to the right. I would guess the wall was 15 feet high and 25 feet wide.

I know that the bookstore on the westside had small wedgeblade pins for sale. However, I don't remember when that happened.

About the Wedgeblade that hung in Room A. I remember talking with Prabakher James sometime in the 90's about keeping it safe. At that point he was assigned to property and we had moved it from the Westside to the Kemper Building, and were storing it in the basement. Maybe Ken Otto remembers what happened to it.

One of our colleagues made a huge sculpture of the morphed wedgeblade turn Symbol which at one point lived in the lobby of the Kemper Building.

-- Don Bushman
Topic revision: r4 - 04 Feb 2011, TimWegner
This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding Foswiki? Send feedback