Happy New Year! 2023! I posted this pic from 2003 to reflect on how things have changed and haven’t in the last 20 years. As you can see from the quality of this pic, digital cameras/phones have gotten a lot better. Digital tech overall has gotten a lot more sophisticated, with very mixed results.
This photo from London in 2003 shows a 7’ tall Obey Face paste up next to a billboard that would usually feature an ad. My Obey campaign has always been based on the notion that disrupting purely corporate and governmental control of public space with mischievous interventions can get people thinking about the value of expression and personal empowerment. I think that art should live outside of just elite spaces and be more democratic.
Encounters with physical art in public are meaningful because the art is tangible and visceral… it can be trusted as real! In 2002 when I put the poster up, I remember being very frustrated by the Bush administration’s propaganda campaign to justify invading Iraq, and how complicit a lot of media was, regurgitating talking points that seemed shaky to me. 3 years later there were no weapons of mass destruction found and the media reported that reality, turning public opinion against the war.
If today’s algorithms promoting echo chambers and confirmation bias had been around in 2005/2006, a large portion of the country might still think that WMD existed and the Iraq war was justified. As we enter 2023 I’m thinking about how many people are able to live in a digitally curated alternate reality. Some of them might be under the illusion that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 U.S. election.
The ways they’ve been misinformed are often not their fault, but the problem of disinformation will not be solved in the purely digital realm because that realm is far from neutral and often plays on our worst fears and impulses. I started doing street art to connect with people in their daily lives and disrupt their routines. I love the idea of stimulating a conversation that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
My New Year’s resolution for 2023 is to amplify the spirit of connecting with people through my art and generating dialog to solve problems and increase compassion. A lot of it might even happen in the physical world. I’ll see you out there!