Archive for June, 2011

The Book of Threes

Last one, I promise.  Back to sticker sticky business after this little diversion.

The Book of Threes, Part III

New ones, post-trip.

[Earth, Wind, and Fire – the band]; [Buddha, dharma; sangha]; [33 1/3, 45, 78]; [home phone, work phone, cell phone]; [Tupper, Viggo, Frankie (haha another inside joke)]; [black, white, and gray]; [uptown, downtown, midtown]; [bacon, lettuce, and tomato]; [Word, Excel, Powerpoint]; [rock, paper, scissors]; [Caesar, Crassus, Pompey]; [boiled, fried, scrambled]; [red light, green light, yellow light]; [Moe, Larry, Curly]; [phone, Internet, cable TV]; [RGB Roy G. Biv]; and two from Bob Natowitz = [shake, rattle, and roll] and [going, going, gone].  Thanks, bud!

The Book of Threes, Part II

[Atkinson, Topeka, and the Santa Fe]; [apprentice, journeyman, master]; [greater than, less than, equal]; [igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary]; [A, B, C]; [X, Y, Z]; [ear, nose, and throat]; [citius, altius, fortius]; [NBC, ABC, CBS]; [Guy, Roger, Mike (haha inside joke)]; [Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod]; [lather, rinse, repeat]; [me, myself, and I]; [red, blue, yellow]; [orange, green, purple]; [walk, trot, and canter]; [hop, skip, and a jump]; [gold, silver, bronze]; [veni, vedi, veci, or I came, I saw, I conquered]; [small, medium, large]; [1st, 2nd, and 3rd]; [Huey, Dewey, and Louie]; [1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person]; [sun, earth, moon]; [red, white, and blue]; [truth, justice, and the American way]; [id, ego, superego]; [I, me, mine]; [liberté, égalité, fraternité]; [It’s easy as 1,2,3]; [Cathy, Carole, and Todd!]….

The Book of Threes, Part I

Years back, en route to the Arctic of all places, two colleagues and I came up with The Book of Threes, and I’ve wanted to put it to pen ever since (shout out to Carole and Todd).  Here is Part I.

[proton, neutron, electron]; [ready, set, go]; [lock, stock, and barrel]; [flat head, Phillip’s head, spanner head]; [positive, negative, neutral]; [north pole, south pole, equator]; [guitar, drums, and bass]; [breakfast, lunch, and dinner]; [coffee, tea, or me]; [bell, book, and candle]; [Peter, Paul, and Mary]; [woman, dog, and tent]; [stop, drop, and roll]; [stop, look, and listen]; [the good, the bad, and the ugly]; [love, honor, and obey]; [head, hand, and heart]; [no shirt, no shoes, no service]; [body, mind, and spirit]; [Judaism, Christianity, Islam]; [faster, stronger, harder]; [blood, sweat, and tears]; [ketchup, mustard, relish]; [Canada, Mexico, and the US]; [Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria]; [forward, neutral, reverse]; [water, earth, sky]; [control, alt, delete]; [meat, potato, veg]; [baked, broiled, or fried]; [3 muskateers]; [Mickie, Peter, and Davey]; [Barbie, Skipper, and Midge]; [Nancy, George, and Bess]; [mild, medium, hot]; [JFK, MLK, RFK]; [morning, noon, and night]; [ice, water, vapor]….

More to follow.  I really need to get a life….

By good fortune

By good fortune or great coincidence, I met someone in the Inuit art world who was actively involved in German street art in the late 1980s and early 1990s – working with others in stencils, stickers, and posters.  He contributed to the publication of “hoch die kampf dem: 20 Jahre Plakata autonomer Bewegungen” (“20 years of autonomous movements posters”) and “vorwärts bis zum nieder mit: 30 Jahre Plakate unkontrollierter Bewegungen,” which on Amazon translates awkwardly to “forward to the down with: 30 years of posters of uncontrolled movements.”  When I put “with others” above, he told me that individuals rarely worked alone.  Rather, people worked in collectives—by consensus in small associations for a particular protest, or in more long-term antifa movements and support network for autonomous centers (his words, not mine).  The first publication is available as a PDF PlakatbuchBand1, and it appears to be reviewed online here.  Both publications come with CDs, which may be a little more difficult to track down.

Even though I don’t speak German, I can see in the first publication that some of the themes and graphics found in contemporary stickers date back several years to the mid- to late-1980s, such as “Atomkraft: nein Danke!” (“Atomic energy?  No thanks!”) and “Kein mensch ist illegal” (No one is illegal”).

The other weird coincidence is that this guy from Germany goes by kleiner kosmonaut, and when I looked online, I found this:

Which looks a little like the wallpaper in the Jetson Room at the John Morris Manor B&B where I stayed when my twin nephews graduated from Hobart William Smith a few weeks ago in May.

Can’t make this stuff up!

“WTF. It’s only a sticker.”

My paper proposal, “WTF. It’s only a sticker.” was accepted for a panel at the annual College Art Association conference in 2012.  The panel, chaired by artist Wendy DesChene, is called “Disrupt this Session: Rebellion in Art Practices Today.”  Here is my proposal below along with my Tedford CAA 2012 Proposal PDF.

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Street art stickers, a form of post-graffiti, are now ubiquitous in the urban environment, and sticker culture permeates the Web on listservs, blogs, Flickr, etc. One listserv from PEEL Magazine called SLAPS Stickerhead Forum shows a thread from Tony, who writes, “who the fuck has time to do all this stuff? wheat paste over sticker? cut them up? put a clear coat over? for fuck’s sake it’s a sticker who gives a shit.” Stuntman replies, “that’s what I was thinking, its only a sticker” (sic).

Little Black Cart, a bookstore and Web site devoted to “the total transformation of society,” describes the international Situationist movement as being characterized by a “healthy opposition to ideologies.” This healthy opposition is readily apparent in the multitude of street art stickers and ephemera that say “fuck you” in one way or another to various forms of authority or oppressive control, whether it be the government, the police, the “Man,” Wal-mart, the rich, mass media, one’s boss, neo-Nazis, fascists, male or female, dead or alive.

Using primary examples drawn from my personal collection of over 3,000 stickers, I will compare and contrast how rebellion and resistance are represented in political stickers from New York City and Berlin since 2003. Topics run the gamut, including civil liberties, urban development, environmental degradation, right-wing extremism, and the war on terror, among others. Small stickers. Vast subjects.

Sticker artists utilize a range of rhetorical strategies in their public critique of society, from humor and hooliganism to militant resistance and anarchy. Some stickers shout. Others whisper. One U.S. sticker shows a portrait of Sarah Palin with “Trojan Horse” written below. Another simple office folder label suggests, “I don’t think we have the budget for this,” in tiny handwritten cursive. A new font was designed for “DUMBMOCRACY: no faith in politics,” with floating skulls bobbing amidst the words.

More militant stickers (these from Berlin) have Trinity from The Matrix pointing the mean end of a pistol’s extended barrel toward us at eye level, and “Gegen Sexismus und Homophobie; verpiss dich macker,” or “Against sexism and homophobia; piss off.” Another sticker reads, “If the kids are united, they will never be divided,” with cartoon punks standing in front of a hooded figure photographed throwing a lit Molotov cocktail, and the acronym ACAB, which stands for “all cops are bastards.” “Freiheit statt Angst: Stoppt den Überwachungswahn” advertises a demonstration for “Freedom not Fear: Stop the Surveillance Mania” in 2009, which drew thousands of people from across Germany to protest newly enacted laws and policies created by the European Union regarding government monitoring and data control.

Comparatively speaking, stickers from Germany reflect a citizenry that is more actively engaged in political dissent and at times through anger and violence. One could argue that post-WWII Berlin, and especially the former east Berlin, still operates as a police state, with frequent public protests and demonstrations showing armed riot police in head-on clashes with unarmed protesters and passersby. These events are rarely documented in mainstream media, but easy to find on YouTube and other social media. In Berlin, stickers and street art in general call for participation.

In contrast, political stickers are found in the United States, of course, but the rhetoric is markedly different. Not surprisingly, most of the stickers in New York City focus on entertainment and consumption, and attempts to affect social change through opposition and critique inevitably become absorbed by corporate America.


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