INTERVIEW : SHEPARD FAIREY
Shepard Fairey is an old friend, and one of the first artists to plaster the walls at Ace Hotel Seattle with their work. You know his name, your grandmother knows his name (probably), but we wanted to catch up with the dude, not the legend. Above you’ll find a spread from Gingko Press’s OBEY: Supply & Demand depicting Shepard wheatpasting a mural in Downtown LA with the United Artists Theater — our new Los Angeles coat hook — in the background. Below you’ll find a few choice words from the artist himself, sans posse.
How are you, Shepard?
Good, just staying busy making crap — adding to the abundance of visual pollution we all struggle with daily.
Likewise. You’ve said that Obey stickers have always been an invitation to question and look for meaning, but aren’t intended to convey an implicit message. The Walrus’ Nick Mount wrote that, “Obey Giant is clever child of Duchamp, ironic conceptual art.” What relationship do you see between disruptive, ironic and humorous street art, and the Dadas who rejected prescribed narratives and embraced irrationality and trickterism to disrupt the dominance of state propaganda? Did you get all that?
Yeah, yeah I did. The project started off with a really silly sticker of Andre the Giant. That was something where I made an inside joke with some skateboard friends. What fascinated me and made it turn into a bigger project was the way that it became like a Rorschach test — in the Dada sense of throwing something out there that seemed like it had any number of interpretations. None of it was explicit. Who’s the Posse? Andre the Giant’s dead, who cares? It sort of invited people project onto it. In that sense the project’s always had a Dada side to it.
I’ve also connected it to various other things — Heidegger’s Theory of Phenomenology, which is the idea that people become so numb to their surroundings that they need novel encounters to reawaken a sense of wonder. It’s also like Situationism — the idea that people are dulled by routine. They need a bizarre spectacle to snap them out of their trance. I always liked those ideas.
The idea of a command to ‘obey’ but with nothing specific that they’re told to obey really seemed to irritate a lot of people. Some people understood that it was ironic. It really meant to question in an overt way how you’ve been asked to obey in a covert way or in an insidious way. All of that, the open-endedness, I thought would maybe get in there and fester a little bit.
Shepard’s 2010 installation on temporary plywood scaffolding in front of Ace Hotel New York.