spray the message

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 the poster 


the message 


Everyday people, myself included, read posters about causes they care
about, that pertain to them, and that they may be committed to, and
yet do nothing. They can walk past the poster not having participated
in its cause or taking action in any way, without thinking twice about
their passivity.
I wanted to address this general passivity (oppressive tolerance? A
generation marked by passive complacency?) by making a poster that
directly challenges a passerby to take action and perhaps make them
question his or her complacency. By asking anyone who sees this poster
to take it with them and take action, it eliminates the category of
the passive observer and forces the viewer to decide to participate or
I also find very attractive Stephen Duncombe's reading of Walter Benjamin,
in which he claims that radical culture "erodes the line between
artist and spectator, producer and consumer, challenging the
hierarchical division of labor and encouraging everyone to create." I
had this and Brecht's concept of "umfunkionierung," or functional
transformation, at the top of my mind while making this poster. I wanted to
make a poster that would bridge the gap between producer and
consumer spreading consciousness and forcing action, as the campus is full of
posters calling our attention to various political situations or events, and yet
too often their messages stay on the wall, and don't effectively call people to
By making the poster a stencil and asking people to spread the message
while simultaneously giving them the means to do so, perhaps the
poster brings people closer to political action by letting them
participate and easily take matters into their own hands.
The dare challenges the viewer to act, and perhaps shames the viewer
otherwise: the difference, say, between blithely passing a homeless person
in a street with his cup on the ground, and the gnawing feeling of saying "no"
or ignoring the homeless person when he follows you asking you for money.

It struck me that a message I wanted to see spread around campus
should be relevant to a campus issue, highly pertinent to our
community's public space. The University does not acknowledge our
campus's sexual violence, and has no program or office for sexual
violence, treating it as a non-issue, further burying already
under-reported instances of sexual assault. By spreading this issue around
campus, particularly in grafitti, actors come closer to making the university itself
notice and take action. Posters denouncing a campus issue can be ignored,
or even condoned, by University officials, but vandalism and permanent
graffiti are more unsettling, and certainly more radical. Spraying
this "secret" on university buildings or sidewalks would hopefully
make the University uncomfortable enough to act.

See more by helena anrather

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