Since we were babies, we've been told that the world "just is" a certain way. As we get older, we start to ask ourselves that even though the world "is" like how we were told, should it be? Polish artist Pawel Kuczynski and Austrian artist Gerhard Haderer have been using their talents to answer that question through their satirical observations of humankind’s habits and obsessions in ways that are not only thought-provoking but are also a reminder that we must do better. Take a look at these unbelievably powerful illustrations and ask yourself if you agree or disagree with what the artists are trying to convey. Either way, you will not be able to stop thinking about them for the rest of the day.
Amongst his many statements, there is one particular criticism that is recurrent in Kuczynski’s drawing, and that is the power of Facebook in our modern world. The artist continues to poke at the popular social media platform since the beginning of his work and it only seems to get harsher.
In this illustration, he features what seems to be a man in an unusual confessionary, which is characterized by a new “religion,” Facebook.
This one hits pretty hard. While having access to phones and cameras has certainly come with many benefits, it has also come with what seems to be our downfall.
It is too common to see a person who needs help, but instead of offering it, viewers decide to record or snap a shot of it first.
This is one of those illustrations that could have several interpretations depending on who's looking at it.
But by the looks of it, it seems like Kuczynski is pointing towards the fact that one day (not too long from now), books will become the real treasures of the world. With television, computers, social media, and screens taking over, books are becoming rarer and rarer.
Ah, screens. One of the most controversial topics out there, and by the angle of this picture, we’re guessing that Kuczynski is not too impressed with where we’re headed. The sad illustration depicts a family supposedly saying a prayer while reading it from their individual screens.
It reminds us that the dependence on screens affects many aspects of society, including the ability to say a prayer without reading it from a tablet.
There is an old Japanese saying that notes: "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down." The saying couldn’t apply more to this illustration. The artist could be referring to the fact that we need to keep up with technology, and if we don’t, we’ll be mowed down.
Or, it could mean that if one stands out too much from others, they too, will be mowed down.
In this illustration, Kuczynski seems to be clearly sharing his stance on Brexit, with the drawing of a man in power reading to the little kids who all conform to his sayings, with the exception of one.
The colors resemble the European Union Flag and show a little child choosing to read for him/herself instead of interpreting the facts according to what “the man” reads.
This one is a really powerful one and a tough reminder of the inequalities that make our world. While some people have everything, or at least, they never have to worry about their next meal, others are not so lucky.
Too many people in this world are hungry and have little to no access to food for themselves or their families.
At this point, it’s not hard to understand that Kuczynski sees books as the jewels of knowledge, but this particular illustration was seen as a bit harsh for many.
Again, while this is subject to one’s own interpretation, the artist seems to be encouraging humans to climb the mountain of knowledge, while sort of equating disability to those who choose not to, or worse.
Kuczynski doesn't seem to waste an opportunity to criticize technology and our dependence on it. Perhaps his criticism is not so much the fact that we use it, but the fact that it has completely sucked us into the shallow pool of banality that characterizes the internet.
And while we’re in there, we miss and completely ignore the beauty of the ocean and the world out there.
Kuczynski has a way of making really sad things into something so satirical that for a second, we feel the urge to laugh while boiling anger inside. In this illustration, the artist attests to the continuous political garbage that we face every day from politicians from all over the world.
He kindly reminds us where all of them belong though, in the trash.
Here goes another illustration that may be interpreted in a thousand different ways. We may perceive it as a saturation point that one gets to once the screens get way too excessive.
It seems like people are so worried about their online presence and the image they portray on the internet, that it is inevitable that they'll experience some sort of panic or anxiety attack.
In this one, it looks like the cellphone or the screens have substituted the donkey's eyes, and are everything that the donkey can use to perceive the world. We are guessing that the artist is referring to us, humans, as the donkey, completely blinded by technology from all sides.
This makes it impossible for us to look forward, or anywhere for that matter.
Mmmmh, Pokemon Go fans will probably cringe a little bit when they see this one, but hey, there is always an opportunity for a peaceful and constructive discussion.
Even though the game came out with the intent of taking people out of their homes, in the first 148 days of its launch, the game may have contributed to almost 150,000 traffic accidents and some 250 deaths.
With technology and how rapidly news stories are able to travel these days, almost no secret is ever completely safe. At any given moment, that secret can be leaked to the world, and Twitter is certainly one of people's favorite platforms to do so.
In this illustration, the artist makes a very clear reference to how the platform has been used to spread gossip instead of Information.
We are going to attempt to interpret this one, though we're guessing that people will have many different views of it. One thing's for sure though, it is not an easy image to look at for so many reasons.
One could interpret it as this man slowly killing himself and his wings through his food, by choosing detrimental eating habits that include harming and frying his own wings in order to indulge.
Here goes another one of Kuczynski's powerful criticisms towards how much each of us puts into technology, resulting in most of us being alone.
When we immerse ourselves for hours in our phones, tablets, and laptops, what we really create are little lonely islands where the beauty of the outside world is invisible, and spending time with those we love has become rare.
Nowadays, reading a book or doing something other than being on our screens seems to be a sort of rebellion more than anything else.
To spark the debate even further though, many critics say that the artist may place too much importance on books, oversimplifying the benefits that come with technology and the useless books that exist out there.
Is this one, Kuczynski used the power of his art to abruptly reminds us of something really harsh. In his drawing, it seems like the cat is about to poop out one of the mice's friends or family members, while they anxiously wait to give the animal the respect and rest they deserve.
It could also mean that once we're eaten by our powerful governments, all they do is "poop on our grave" even after we're gone.
This one is a meaningful and brutal reminder that the work culture we have created in the world is completely destructive to any hint of creativity out there.
People become "slaves" of their work and their bosses, and work exactly as expected, big corporations and rich bosses plow the fields with the sweat and tears of those who they exploit.
There is no doubt that some of Kuczynski’s illustrations are a punch to the stomach, and this one is easily one of them. The fact that this soldier seems to take pride in his violent role in war through his selfie is hard to look at.
The artist also brings in the fact that he is completely unaware of his surroundings, and has no idea at what he’s pointing at.
The picture strikes us as an exaggerated reference to the fact that people have completely lost it with the selfie situation. Someone decided to take a selfie with a shark, just before being eaten by it.
And well, the illustration couldn’t be more ironic since research shows that many more people have died from selfie-related incidents in comparison to shark attacks.
What a sad reminder that humanity has completely lost it when it comes to the priorities people have when looking at something beautiful. Instead of actually watching the sunset, every single person on this beach is taking a picture of it, completely missing the point.
That picture will most probably make it to social media after, and the sunset will forever be forgotten.
Life is hard, and the world has collectively experienced some of the biggest challenges and crises we’ve ever seen in the past year. So to stay smiling is not only a form of survival but also a reminder that something good still exists.
Here, artist Gerhard Haderer makes reference to people getting on their fake smiles from a smile shop, instead of working internally to get that smile back.
This is a hard one because it strikes as a bit of an exaggeration for something that could be debatable for parents.
We are guessing that the artist refers to the fact that baking cookies were once a Christmas family affair and a beautiful moment that parents got to spend with their kids. Here, the mother is baking her cookies alone, while all of her children are on their screens.
Haderer did an incredible job here drawing on the laptop cafe culture that has become so common in many places around the world. Local cafes often have rows of people writing emails, participating in video calls, and working their way into a fast-paced life.
So in this illustration, the artist makes reference to reading a newspaper in a coffee shop being “old-school”.
Well, this illustration might make many people out there very angry, but the truth is that it starts (or continues) a very important conversation around religion, priests, and the continuous accusations we’ve all probably heard of.
But in typical Haderer-style, the drawing may come out as a little bit harsh to some so we’re just going to leave this one out there for your own interpretation.
Here goes another criticism to the (lack of) government leaders we have in our societies, and unfortunately, as overemphasized as it may be, this situation may be too common worldwide.
In fact, political debates have become a sort of joke between certain politicians, and government meetings have become worse than house parties, just as the artist illustrates in this particular drawing.
Haderer points towards a very particular theme in his work which is centered around people missing out on real-life when they’re stuck to their screens.
The artist may have seen a bit of a futuristic scenery where people will no longer worry about spending time with each other or even fighting for what to watch together, each person will simply get their own TV or screen.
This picture brings up so much, and such disappointing feelings towards the fair trade of goods in the agriculture world and how cheap supermarket prices continue to swallow local vendors.
In this picture, the woman is selling her local tomatoes while in competition with the cheap price of European tomatoes, which may be a much worse quality than hers.
This one seems to be a pretty self-explanatory one. Haderer seems to be making a not-so-subtle criticism towards businessmen who never stop being hungry for more and more money.
This picture shows greed and perhaps warns us that the more one chases money, if karma works, the more one has a chance of choking on it and eventually becoming ill or even dying from it.
In this picture, Haderer surely makes us think about the previous or current White House situation, which depending on one’s political beliefs, can be pretty controversial.
In the illustration, a swarm of flies is heading in different directions, and we can pretty much sum up what the artist is telling us. Where are flies easily found? Exactly, on the trash.
Well, this one is pretty hard to look at, especially if you’ve gone down the lane of educating yourself with the way the food, particularly, the meat and poultry industries work.
In the illustration, Haderer seems to be making reference to the battery of farmed chickens and the atrocities that they are put through in order to give us eggs and chicken.
These people seem to be mourning the passing of the last fish found on earth. This is a reminder that global warming and the constant destruction of our environment will slap us in the face.
Though the signs continue to prove to us that one day we might all face drought or floods that will eventually be the end of us, many still ignore the important subject.
Yet again, Haderer may have chosen an exaggeration to illustrate the modern dating habits of the 21st century, the artist may not be too far from the truth.
This couple could very well be on their first date, and instead of actually enjoying their time with one another, they are either on social media or telling their friends about the awkward date.
And once again we’re back to a sad illustration of what some couples out there may do to celebrate the holidays. Many people love the holiday season, and well, who doesn’t like getting a nice present from a loved one?
Sadly though, this couple resembles what many have become during the holiday season, with the holiday often just passing by while we’re stuck to our screens.
We ask ourselves, how insane is it that this is our life? So many of us spend hours commuting in traffic while our life is wasted away, and like this guy, we continue to dream about things we can’t have.
The irony though is that he is dreaming about a sports car that he would never be able to use in that traffic.
Have you ever heard the famous saying: 'The pen is mightier than the sword'? Well, it seems like Haderer is referring to something very similar with this one.
It could mean that that together we could overtake guns or maybe, it could be profound in the sense that education is one of the best tools to combat violence and terrorism in the world.
Think about it, would you ever tolerate someone jumping over the fence of your house and taking pictures of you? Well, if not, then this drawing is a good reminder that drones may as well do exactly that.
Though the debate around the use of drones has been intense and controversial, something about this illustration really brings up the fact that we’re living in a "Truman Show."
As with many of his drawings, Haderer brings us another brutal illustration that is prone to different interpretations. On the one hand, we could just be looking at a couple enjoying their luxury life on a boat, while those who are not so fortunate approach them for what seems to be a harsh time.
The reference to the cupcakes and the luxury surely strikes pretty harshly.
Here goes another illustration that may bring up everything that is wrong with the work culture that we have created around us. There are no breaks, people work overtime and do what they’re told - we live to work, we don’t work to live.
In the drawing, the men depict exactly that, as they can’t even sit on the toilet without sending that email.