Shepard Fairy

Artist of Choice: Shepard Fairy, founder of Obey Giant.

Shepard Fairy was born in 1970, and accidentally started his obey sticker campaign at his 19, in 1989, when he was explaining the stencil making proces to a fellow student. They picked a random picture from a newspaper, and it turned out the be Andre the Giant. They start printing and distributing the first Andre the Giant has a posse stickers and other campaign material.

Their first street art/propaganda style campaign was born. One year later, Fairy released his Manifesto, describing this campaign as an experiment in phenomenology. What follows is the full manifesto, with some personal highlights:

The OBEY sticker campaign can be explained as an experiment in Phenomenology. Heidegger describes Phenomenology as “the process of letting things manifest themselves.” Phenomenology attempts to enable people to see clearly something that is right before their eyes but obscured; things that are so taken for granted that they are muted by abstract observation.

The first aim of phenomenology is to reawaken a sense of wonder about one’s environment. The obey sticker attempts to stimulate curiosity and bring people to question both the sticker and their relationship with their surroundings. 

Because people are not used to seeing advertisements or propaganda for which the product or motive is not obvious, frequent and novel encounters with the sticker provoke thought and possible frustration, nevertheless revitalizing the viewer’s perception and attention to detail. The sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react, to contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker. Because OBEY has no actual meaning, the various reactions and interpretations of those who view it reflect their personality and the nature of their sensibilities. Many people who are familiar with the sticker find the image itself amusing, recognizing it as nonsensical, and are able to derive straightforward visual pleasure without burdening themselves with an explanation. The PARANOID OR CONSERVATIVE VIEWER however may be confused by the sticker’s persistent presence and condemn it as an underground cult with subversive intentions. Many stickers have been peeled down by people who were annoyed by them, considering them an eye sore and an act of petty vandalism, which is ironic considering the number of commercial graphic images everyone in American society is assaulted with daily.

Harmony & Discord, Pace Prints

In 2012, economic circumstances similar to our situation today, inspired Shepard to make this series of images/posters. Hoping to show through his work how large corporations had too much power over legislation.

Source of these images is a 2012 documentary by Pace Prints, about Shepard Fairy printing these posters to be exhibited at their space in New York City.

The work consists out of 3 or 5 layers of screenprinting over a layer of collage, with added stenciling (spraypaints) done on top. (sanded and varnished afterwards)

He starts making his own paper by stenciling and screenprinting subtle textures and patterns to create a canvas that “gives the surface a feel of layering, that it has had a life, that there is an accumulation of materials just like we experience as we go through things day to day.”

I chose this artist and his work because it can help us better understand the effects and impact of printed media, through his research explained in his manifesto. His printing, painting and collage-techniques and propaganda style is also a visual inspiration for us.

3 thoughts on “Shepard Fairy”

  1. Goed stuk;
    geef je me nog in 5 regels een overzicht van wat je ervan meeneemt in je eigen onderzoekspraktijk?

  2. Je laat me lang op mijn honger wachten maar je serveert wel lekker eten. Dat dit gezond is of niet moet nog blijken. 😉
    Wat zal de performance(werk)/presentatie worden mis ik nog!?
    Lees mijn commentaar bij je andere gekozen performance(werk) omschrijving.

    Activeer en vul je Kanban in zodat we meer lekkers om te eten hebben.

  3. Dag Hilde, ik ben inmiddels bezig aan een volgende post waar ik het idee voor onze eigen poster beter wil uitleggen en concretiseren. Daar ga ik zeker ook nog verwijzen naar het werk van Shepard.
    1. Mensen die het werk zien hebben uiteenlopende reacties, afhankelijk van of ze het kennen en hoe ze zijn. Mensen die het kennen reageren vaak ludiek, zijn geamuseerd, gaan misschien iets verder nadenken over de boodschap en/of bezien het vooral als een knipoog naar elkaar binnen subculture. Mensen die het niet kennen reageren vaak angstig, gefrustreerd, bezien het als vandalisme.
    2. Phenomenology: laat het werk zichzelf manifesteren. Het werk krijgt betekenis door de reactie van de kijker.
    3. Public space wordt meestal slechts ingenomen door advertenties en signalisatie. De hypocriete reactie van mensen op iets klein, zoals een sticker, terwijl iedereen dag en nacht bestookt word met vaak veel agressievere advertentiebeelden.
    4. “placing something memorable in unusual spaces, has power.”
    5. Fairey zijn werk en stijl zijn een visuele inspiratie.

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