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Culture Jam

Today in my “fundamentals of Art Making” class we watched a video called “Culture Jam” (IMDB link). It is a documentary that depicts a group of individuals and their efforts to thwart The Man.

Basically there were three types of culture jamming happening. One group known as the Billboard Liberation Organization took it upon themselves to alter billboards in an interesting or humorous way usually creating some kind of social or political commentary. Another group, through dramatic performance, raided The Disney Store in Times Square and announced that they were from the Church of Stop Shopping. He told the people shopping there not to buy anything because of their bad labor practices. He was consequently arrested. The third Culture Jammer shown was a girl from Toronto that put “no logo” and other anti-commercialism stickers on the ads and buildings around her.

Personally, I tend to think that the billboard guys were by far the coolest. My reasons – which didn’t seem to go over to well with the class – were that the Billboard Liberation Organization created a new piece of art that was well thought out and esthetically pleasing. It also was often humorous or thought provoking. They don’t believe in actually damaging the billboards and other than “time lost for advertising” there is no harm done. In fact it could be argued that they do the original ad a service because it brings more people’s attention to the modified ad.

The girl with the stickers on the other hand is in a lot of ways nothing more than a self-righteous vandal. For example there was a TV advertising something in a bathroom and so she wrote, “Never stop shopping” or something like that on it with a black felt marker and to top it off stuck an Enjoy Debt sticker on the screen. She also stuck No Logo stickers on a La Senza ad at a bus stop. She stuck them right over the woman in the ad’s chest and face. Seeing those stickers there doesn’t inspire any anti-corporate or anti-consumerism attitude; instead it makes me hate the person that vandalized the bus stop.

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