Back to the future, Obey Giant styles

Still in the process of setting up my closet, er, bedroom, I recently came across this picture while searching for photos for the frames above my bed (Yes, *I hung them sans pictures because I thought it would motivate me to print photos ASAP. Mind you, I bought those frames two years ago when I moved into my first apartment. This is progress).

I’d decided to use three pictures of three different markets I photographed in my travels — New York, the Philippines and, where the above photo was taken, Barcelona. There’s nothing remarkable about this picture, I actually didn’t even post it on the blog I had back then, except for the sticker behind the blurred figure. I remember being a bit creeped out, taking the picture and moving on. What I didn’t know was it was a stencil of Andre the Giant by graffiti artist Shepard Fairey.

Why I’m bringing this up now, more than two years after this photo was taken, is simply because I love finding little nuggets like this. Without knowing it, I’d come across artwork by an artist who would blow up a little more than a year later.

Regardless of your political leanings, you most likely have seen this image, especially during the 2008 presidential election. Fairey created this stencil, which became the symbol of the Hope campaign. It has since become an icon.

In April, I was able to check out more of Fairey’s work at the ICA in Boston. Lo and behold, Andre the Giant’s face graced the top of the building. I soon noticed his stuff scattered across the city, on walls, on buildings, on lampposts.

What does it all mean, you ask?

Absolutely nothing.

As humans, we often search for meaning in what we don’t understand by finding tenuous links between things that are likely unrelated. Many who see Fairey’s work come up with their own interpretations.

The funny thing is, the sticker itself means nothing. Its whole reason for existing is to be questioned.  There is so much information out there on billboards, advertisements that we passively look at, ingest subconsciously and, without knowing it, accept as truth. Most commercials blatantly tell us what they’re selling rather than letting us discover things for ourselves (Remember when the G campaign first came out? That was an exception). With the Obey Giant campaign, Fairey aims to make us think actively about what we see and question our surroundings.

It’s pretty neat how something that didn’t mean much two years ago suddenly makes a bit more sense. I can’t say I decipher every little thing I encounter these days, but it does make me wonder about what else I’m missing.

Hm.

*Disclaimer: By “I,” I mean my boyfriend. I don’t know how to draw a straight line, much less hang a series of frames evenly.

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2 thoughts on “Back to the future, Obey Giant styles

  1. the obey campaign was such a big inspiration to me just because its simple creativity made to make us think outside the box, wich we rarely do with any other type of advertisement. the scary thing to me is that any other advertisment is always appealing to us even though its horrible for us. when we see the obey work all we think is of thats graffitie, basicly what im tryin to say is, are we brainwashed by simple advertisment of products that arnt good for us and be completely oblivious to what is good for us??

    • Hi Derek,

      Thanks for your comment!

      You raise an interesting point, and it’s something that’s being studied in classrooms and by researchers as we type. I do think we have been so conditioned to accept what’s around us without questioning things that when we do see something like Obey Giant, we don’t know what to do with it. There are some people, like you, who see it, are drawn to it and are driven to learn more about its origins. But I’m sure there are much, much more who don’t give it a second glance and keep on walking (which I did the first time).

      It really just makes me wonder what other things out there deserve a second look, and whether, if faced with an unpleasant discovery, we’d even mobilize to do anything about it. Further, it’s jarring to think that our likes and dislikes may not actually be our inherent responses, but instead are responses subconsciously triggered by something we’ve seen before.

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