Aquarian weekly

January 01, 1997


The legend of obey giant, like himself at one point, is growing exponentially. You can thank graphic designer Shepard Fairey for rekindling the public’s fascination with the wrestling world’s most dominant grappler (barring “Superfly” Snuka in his prime of course). Odds are, if you frequent NYC’s East Village, you have seen his cute mug stuck on a pole, stenciled or. pavement, or generally glaring down at you from somewhere with the big brother-like omnipresence of Rudy’s Army.

But like all images we are bombarded with on a daily basis, underneath the seemingly innocuous visage of an Andre headshot, coupled with the proclamation, “obey giant Has A Posse,” lies some dadaist social commentary-though these were hardly the intentions of Fairey from the outset. It started out as a prank, a reaction to the thuggish mentality increasingly permeating the local skate scene. Though like many things that start out about nothing (the “Seinfeld” phenomenon), the absence of a pointed message became irrelevant, and with its exploding popularity, ironically, the deceased Andre became very relevant. The “Giant Manifesto” explains the roots and effects of the Andre phenomenon quite concisely. Because Andre’s message is draped in ambiguity-it’s not an ad to sell obey giant tee-shirts accompanied by an 800 number -it’s an image that counteracts the numbed responses the overwhelming amount of paid advertisements provoke in all our desensitized minds. Whether we like it or not isn’t the point. Its point is awareness- actually to spur thought in an environament has bred thoughtlessness as a means to counteract these infinite consumer-based imanges we face daily. Andre simply stimulates curiosity, a building block toward–ding! ding!-critical thought. All its meaning comes from our reactions: amusement, nonsense, paranoid militia-type propaganda, or just annoying trash (which may explain why the sticker on my car was peeled off my bumper before its second day on display). Maybe tailgaters were struck with 520 pounds of fear and could bear no more.

Simplified, Andre’s posse and its absence of message is nothing more than vandalism subjected to the feeding-frenzy that marks consumer society. We don’t need a message, as McLuhan stated,” the medium is the message.” Do with it what you like. Applaud it, ridicule it, laugh at it. As long as it continues to provoke discussion about our surroundings, Shepard Fairey’s experiment in phenomenology is worthwhile.

Shepard Fairey’s original paintings and limited edition silk screens will be on display in CBGB’s Gallery through Oct. 9th.