At the university where I work as gallery director, I’ve created what I call a public “talk-back” bulletin board, where Sharpie questions are posed on Kraft paper to passersby for their inventive responses and comments. Questions have varied from “What’s worse, heat or humidity?” to one from a local high school student during summer session who suggested, “Which important figure in history would you call on a ‘drunk dial’ and why?”
Over time, you start to recognize handwriting in this sort of endeavor, and one day I came across a comment from a custodian in the building who had written, “Safety is an illusion, much like happiness.” I don’t remember the “talk-back” question, but the comment itself stopped me cold and still does to this day. Like a bit of a cliché, this custodian usually keeps very quiet and to himself. If I ever approach him with a direct question or comment, though, his responses are quick and astute. It kind of goes without saying that custodians like this guy and others in the unions where I work – in dining services and “facops” – do in fact tend to keep quiet and to themselves at a wealthy private liberal arts university in Smalltown, New York, USA.
Despite the magnificent odds, however, this guy had something to say. Anonymously, to a certain degree, yes. But he said it, and he said it in public.
Contemporary sticker art – some of it, at least – functions the same way. People have something to say.
This person has something to say.
Some of the time, people, this person, this person says, “Fuck you.”
[And hence begins my creative writing project on sticker art to be entitled, “Takin’ it to the Streets and Stickin’ it to the Man.”]