Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Obey Or Else

Several months ago I noticed an assortment of Shephard Fairey "OBEY" stickers plastered on the bike rack and other surfaces near the train station in my town.

I thought to myself, it only took a couple decades for that graffiti to ripple out to the western suburbs. Of course, now you can buy clothing, bags, mugs, mousepads, toasters, jello molds, etc. of that OBEY image. The person who placed the stickers didn't make those stickers -- they bought them.

Seeing those stickers makes me think about a lot of things. I think about how counterculture can be easily packaged and sold and completely defanged. I think about how the original graffiti that has been turned into a commodity was not particularly countercultural, or dangerous, or interesting in the first place. I think about how the artist Shepherd Fairey appropriates images for his own use and makes a profit on them, while simultaneously zealously protecting his own work when other people attempt to appropriate it. He's kind of a dick, probably.

All these thoughts really don't have much bearing on the real world, I suppose. I'm not thinking about war, or peace, or hunger, or how people should be nice to each other. They are the thoughts that a white guy with a comfortable life can think as he prepares to board a comfortable train to take him to his well-paying-but-not-too-particularly-stressful job.

Anyways, I saw something interesting today. Someone added accompanying graffiti to some of the stickers near the train station.

What did the person who wrote "OR ELSE" mean? Was it ironic? Was it brilliant? Was it redundant? Why did they feel compelled to write that? Isn't the "OR ELSE" already implied?

I walked around the other side of the pole and noticed another Fairey sticker, and more graffiti.

Ohhhhhh. That's nice.

So, now, more questions. Was "NIGGER LOVER" written at the same time as "OR ELSE"? Or was it written at a different time? Was it written by a different person? Note that the "L" in "LOVER" and the "L" in "ELSE" are different.

Did someone feel spontaneously compelled to write "NIGGER LOVER" on a pole, or was it in response to the André the Giant sticker? If it was in response to the sticker, did the person who wrote the graffiti think André the Giant as depicted in the sticker was black?

What do you think?


I accidentally took a picture of my foot when I was taking the graffiti pictures. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Carla Furca said...

My two cents:

1. Shepherd Fairey probably is a dick. I mean, who protects an image as his own that he obtained from someone else? A dick, that's who.

2. The supporting graffiti appears to be written by two different individuals. I'm now wondering, did they both practice their vandalism together, or did each one leave his mark independently?

3. Welcome to the late '80s, suburbs!