DIY from Guerrilla Art to Design

When I was in college I had an insane art instructor who challenged the class to go sneak out late at night unto theBanksy hip streets of Harrisonburg Va and engage in politically charged guerrilla art. While extra credit was an incentive, in my college years there were no motives for me to spray paint a mural inscribed “f- the Man” or drape some historical monument in a banner proclaiming some righteous agenda. At the time my belly was full of ramen noodles and getting to 9am classes was at the top of my list of concerns.

Since that experience my instructor’s passion stuck with me, at the time she was some crazy hippy in my mind, but since her challenge I have realized the power of public art. A genre that intrigues me because it takes as much balls at it does skill.

Banksy’s Flower Chucker

While watching current I saw a pod on Banksy that inspired me to learn more about his work. With a keen sense of satire, the work of this guerrilla artist has managed to catch the attention of millions around the globe. Banksy’ s specialty is exposing the irony in human nature without exposing his own identity. Using stealthy tactics the locations where he chooses to showcase his work are often as thought provoking as the story they are telling. From Israel’s West Bank Wall to New York’s Meterpolitan Museum of Art, a part of the creativity in his process is how he actually gets his work to where it is.

Shepard Fairy’s work, however I have known for sometime…. I just did not know I knew it. Here in the states Fairy began plastering images of Andre the Giant, the wrestler on buildings, stop signs, and spray painting sidewalks. Fairy was more intrigued with the sociology of public art and how it caught on as a trend, rather than its ability to influence people’s perceptions… that was until about a week before super tuesday. Taking a guerrilla approach to distribution Fairy printed up hundreds of posters of Senator Obama and plastered them everywhere he possibly could, bringing street art to the forefront of American politics.

So this brings us to this month’s Refresh DC where Ellen Lupton the author of DIY Design (and a ton of other fantastic design books) spoke on a variety of topics, but the one that stuck with me most was that of the accessibility of design. She brought up the new fad in self publishing and touched on the excitement of crafters reaching people via Etsy.com. Essentially anyone can be an artist or a designer the tools are right there. She said when she published her book there was backlash in the design community, people were afraid that she was giving away our trade secrets, why would anyone want to hire a designer if they could design it their self?

Lupton’s talk reminded me of a book that is collecting dust on my shelf “DIY Guerrilla Art”. Its true, a little piece of me wants to hit the streets of suburban Alexandria and spray paint signs to make mindless businessmen on their way to Cosi stop and think about health care. I mean, heck… I bought a book that tells me how to fold up a stencil so I can run from authorities more quickly. I have the instructions, I even have the passion, but what is it that keeps me from going all Banksy up on this piece? Probably the same thing that keeps all of those aspiring designers from ditching their day jobs and making custom business cards that are detailed in Ellen’s book. Sometimes the inspiration does not come fromactually doing it yourself, its the fact you know its there to do it if you really wanted to. One day maybe a mysterious mural will appear on a street sign overlooking I395 and I will be all tired and disheveled from running from the cops, but why when there are so many badasses who do what they do so well?

One Comment

  1. Jim

    — August 6, 2008

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