Today is Graffiti Wednesday and this post is a sticker bomb primer.
Every day, Americans navigate the interesting battleground of messages in cities across the nation. We live in a high context culture that demands extensive street and highway signage. Our highways are full of digital and traditional billboard advertisements. We can’t pass a boulevard without seeing a garage sale sign. Yards boast signs for political candidates. Corporations and organizations aim to create iconic signage on their buildings. People put bumper stickers on their cars. Even some churches have become quite notorious for posting ridiculous messages outside their houses of worship.
Suffice to say, we are constantly bombarded by messages. As a result, companies and organizations struggle more than ever before to capture the attention of consumers, donors, patrons and stakeholders.
Into this cluttered world of watered-down meaning and hyper-agendas comes the sticker bomb, a sub-genre of graffiti or street art. I think it holds the potential, albeit temporary, for trend-setting communication (i.e. guerrilla marketing). The practice involves publicly displaying a message or image using stickers. They are often affixed to utility boxes, traffic signs and phone booths, but I’ve seen entire collages on an abandoned building in Oklahoma City.
Interestingly, sticker bombers often use labels provided to priority mail customers of the United States Postal Service. They use other materials, too, like name tag stickers and more expensive and less destructive vinyl stickers.
The messages in sticker art varies, and may or may not promote a social or political agenda. I discovered the sticker-bombed utility box in the picture above and to the right last Friday evening. This is located at a gas station on the corner of NW 23rd Street and Western Avenue in Oklahoma City. It’s actually not a utility box, but it looks like one. It’s really a box that houses the compressor for an air hose.
There’s a pole on the sign and on the top of it are ads for Visa and MasterCard. I surmised that the big shark in the sticker bomb is the evil credit card company and the little green fish is the American consumer about to get eaten alive. When I mentioned this interpretation to a couple of graffiti artists I ran into at Better Block OKC, they laughed and said, “Or it means nothing, and it’s just a couple of fish stickers.” I thought that was pretty funny.
According to Claudia Walde who wrote Sticker City: The Paper Graffiti Generation, the modern graffiti movement began about 45 years ago. Today, it’s taking a fresh new turn with Gen Y via street art. By all accounts, it’s on the rise in cities all across the world. The subculture in Oklahoma City is very small. I don’t know if it’s growing or if I’ve just become more aware of it. I just know I don’t see much, and not much is posted on the Street Art OK Facebook page.
I recently saw the phrase “EAT PIGS” stenciled on a couple of utility boxes several miles apart, but I didn’t have my camera with me and didn’t write down where I saw them.
Have you ever seen a sticker bomb?