Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Moss Graffiti and Other Assaults

Last trip to the library, I stepped out of my nature-book box and picked up something from the art shelf. Linear-thinker that I am often ashamed to be, I read the cover note, “Everything You Need to Put Your Message Out into the World,” and thought that it was a book about graphic design and possibly advertising. I hoped it might help me learn how to promote various community events my family always seems entangled in (mostly donut, plant, baked goods, & jumble sales for group fundraisers). I should have noticed the folksy cover art, duct-tape-reminiscent spine, and unofficial subtitle to better understand this quirky, wonderful book: The Guerilla Art Kit: For Fun, Non-Profit, and World Domination.”

Non-linear thinking author Keri Smith (see her cool blog, The Wish Jar) is a street artist, meaning someone who performs anonymous acts of art in public spaces, “with the distinct purpose of affecting the world in a creative or thought-provoking way.” She immediately provoked my thoughts by quoting Thoreau:

It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. To affect the quality of the day—that is the highest of arts.”

This book, I realized, would have ideas not just for selling donuts but for spreading the word about nature books and other ways I would love to affect the quality of days on earth.

To prove that I learned something from this gently subversive volume, here are some randomly-selected topics Smith addresses (sadly limited here in their visual appeal by my limited tech skills:

Recipe for making seed bombs (native wildflowers only, please)

Visual definition of “obos” (Japanese term for pile of rocks that communicates a message)

Guerilla action checklist (e.g., offer free lessons such as “how to converse with a stranger”)

Find solutions challenge (e.g., transform garbage, sell nothing, create a piece of art that depends on the rain).

You’ll find a template for building a portable idea dispenser (maybe put one in a public library?), quotes to print and leave behind in pockets on the sales rack (“Do not be too timid about your actions, all life is an experiment.” –Emerson), and practical tips on non-permanent glues, chalks, and other materials to ensure the ephemeral nature of your work. Etiquette tips further remind perpetrators of street masterpieces how to avoid damaging property, though some may think Smith’s rules too lax. As my eldest son says, any art book with advice on how to avoid police detection at least qualifies as “edgy.”

I think the book could have value to all kinds of bloggers, who will resonate with Smith's belief in the creative stimulus of temporary efforts. "Creating work that is impermanent," says Smith, "helps us release our own attachment to the final product and lets us focus more on the process." While I can’t promise you’ll achieve world domination, trying activities in this book will at least set you free to try new things, whatever message you want to send the world. Now, go paint the atmosphere!


Texas Travelers said...

Thanks for the visit.
I really, really like this post.

I just recently bought a couple of books on nature sketching and nature journaling. This gives me some ideas. Thanks for the jump start. I'll get my personal battery recharged. I haven't done any sketching in a long time.


Dave Coulter said...

Cool! You KNOW I'm a fan of those seed bombs! ;)