Signage

“Post Mad Bills,” reads a mirthful sticker on a lamp post in Manhattan. And people often do. This gallery was initially inspired by the ubiquitous Obama iconography in the months around the election, but finally I began to notice all sorts of guerrilla communications pasted, painted, or posted in unexpected places everywhere I went—wry social commentary (“Which way to the Ground Zero gift shop?”), political statements (“Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for”), philosophical declarations (“God loves all people red brown black & white”), tantalizing double entendres (“Know Hope”), provocations (“Better History”). The unending public discussion embodied in stickers, marquees, billboards, graffiti, and “mad bills” of every sort represents an important and under-theorized form of communication in the current moment, a poignant sign of alienation and the yearning to talk back. In an environment where the public commons are increasingly commercialized and where the very idea of a broad democratic public has given way to the narrow ideological boutiques and niches of cable news and the internet, the visual cacophony of this signage accomplishes important work on behalf of individualized expression for a broad audience of chance comers. mj