Street stickers as devices of disruptive narratives, a study on urban decals and their relationship with the public spaces they inhabit

Finding a fresh specimen in the wild is a tantalizing victory. At any given point of time, there can be hundreds scattered along a city block, adorning “NO PARKING” signs, affixed to broken traffic light controller boxes, attached to street names, or glued to parking meter payment stations. They all have different messages; many carry a purposely-indecipherable slogan or emblem: a logo; a drawing; a name; an illustration of the Count Orlok character from Nosferatu. And all share one common medium: a piece of paper with an adhesive surface on its back, used by many urban street art bombers and artists to plant them as part of visually subversive campaigns on public property.

“At its best, street art repositions the public space around it, making it a place where cryptic little messages are offered to those who care to see them. Even an image that might not resonate much on its own–a flower, a cartoon bunny–sends out a different frequency when it shows up on a banged-up city block.”[1]

So when a city dweller, walking about the city block sees a decal fixed in the back of a “walking zone” post, an instant connection is born. One that is absent from any of the traditional channels of visual communication technology; there are no screens, there are no lights, there are no prompts. Only an instantaneous analog visual interruption that lasts the second it takes the reader to identify the familiar emblem. And move along.

“Unlike interpersonal relations where most people have a great deal of personal and emotional investment, relations with urban infrastructures and locations often barely rise to the level of consciousness for most people.”[2]

Urban stickers have been appearing on city streets in the past several years as a form of evolutionary street art. They borrow from the subversive aesthetics of graffiti, being an intrusive medium, and yet, they rise above the illicit realm to an murky level where pop art, commercial design, and vandalism meet. “Street artists see their imagery as a counter force to the ubiquitous world of outdoor advertising. But with its canny repetition of images, it’s not so different.”[3]

If we were to classify this movement, we would have to start a new with every wave of new stickers that substitute the faded items from yesteryear; but the messages are there. Politically ambiguous, but poignantly current; intrinsically designed with an unknown brand; lowbrow and hand-made, or manufactured en masse, the common theme is simply the ability to interrupt the natural urban visual landscape, constantly and repeatedly.

Stickers in Public Space »

 

Street Adhesive Samples

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