Bill Posters knows his street art and activism history.
From Beuys’ practice of ‘social sculpture’ and John Fekner’s blunt upbraiding of urban planning hypocrisies to AIDS activists using street art to shame government homophobia and the paint-bombing of a Mao portrait that led to the arrest and torture of the artists/activists for counter-revolutionary propaganda, he’ll give you a solid foundation on precedence for this rebellious art life in “The Street Art Manual.”
He also knows how to yarn-bomb.
And myriad other techniques for freelance intervening in city spaces that you own, that all of us own, but which are often commandeered for commercial messages, political propaganda messages, or commercial-political propaganda messages – otherwise known as fascism.
His new book on hacking public space is one of the most instructive, constructive, serious and light-hearted romps through your world with new eyes. He has mastered a balance of educational and fun, sane and irreverent as he takes you methodically with text, photos, and cleanly modern diagrams through practices such as graffiti, stencils, paste-ups, subvertising, large-scale murals, yarn bombing, guerrilla theater, dropping banners, light projections, launching paint projectiles, and mastering aerial art via drone.
One may say that it is a handbook for taking back your voice in a sea of disinformation to advocate for a point of view. But don’t take yourself so seriously, dawg. Also, mind your manners. For being a rule breaker, Bill Posters wants you to be gentlemen and gentleladies and gentlepersons – Don’t just hit the streets as a hormone-fueled dunderhead who rides roughshod over others in a toxic, abusive way.
Check out his list for how to do the most fundamental of forms, graffiti. The “DO” list includes admonitions to “say something more than your name. Stick up for those less privileged”, which may sound like a tear-jerking sermon. But then he also tells you not to bring your cellphone to the train yard, which just seems logical.
In the “DON’T” list he suggests you don’t go into train yards without experienced writers, and he implores aspiring aerosol mark makers to be original, “Focus on developing your own voice and your own style.” In many ways, Bill Posters is the supportive dad you never had, which probably would have helped you avoid this whole vandalism lifestyle to begin with.
But since you are a vandal or are unwittingly breaking some municipality’s law by wrapping a sculpture with crochet to look like a clown, he does offer direct advice on dealing with authorities, knowing your rights, knowing what your options are, and knowing that some times police actually like your art and might let you off if you don’t act like a jerk. All that said, this book is not about breaking laws, it’s philosophically about reclaiming public space and having a voice in your society.
“Throughout history, people have used creativity to push against conformity in search of experiences that create more meaning,” he says in his introduction. “Street art, and its predecessor, graffiti, are two art forms that do just that.”
And when doing your subversive or society-saving art installation under cover of night, elsewhere he recommends, “Don’t forget to scope things out and check for onsite security. Dogs are a real issue when you’re stuck on a fence, hanging there like a tasty human sausage.”
The Street Art Manual by Bill Posters. The Street Art Manual new US on-sale date is now Sept. 8th. 2020. Published by Laurence King Publishing Ltd. London, UK. 2020.