Poster Boy and the Occupy Movement needs you! (To play truant on 1 May)
The streets of New York City are plastered with advertisements showing neon-toothed celebrities, airbrushed physiques and products we’re told we must have. It’s enough to make Tyler Durden heave, and for many these adverts have become an unwanted intrusion on the streets. So much so for one man, that you might come across a billboard with its features skewered, cut-out and rearranged. If so, it’s not a rogue advertisement man bored with his job, but more likely the work of street artist “Poster Boy”, an elusive character who is now calling for us all to play truant next month on 1 May.
Poster Boy, or Henry Matyjewicz, first gained notoriety after cutting up advertisements on the subway’s of New York whilst waiting for the train home. Speaking from Brooklyn, Poster Boy told me how he got into slicing up adverts: “I tried my hand at graffiti and stencilling, but never felt challenged. In the hood your ability to improvise is the key to survival, and because of that I’ve always equated intelligence with the ability to perform spontaneously. So I wanted to see how far I could go with a zero budget and a razor. Besides, what could I do with graffiti or stencilling that JA or Banksy haven’t already done?”
Culture jamming the subways, vaulting turnstiles and rearranging consumerist advertisements is more than random mischief for Poster Boy though. He and his crew are politically motivated and were staple members of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“We’ve been involved since day one,” he said. “Actually, we started doing pieces in January 2011 when we heard about what was happening in Tunisia. We started out just sleeping at Zucotti Park, marching and making protest signs. These days though, our involvement looks more like Project Mayhem from Fight Club.” Referring to the guerrilla warfare unit of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel and the subsequent film, it seems Poster Boy aims to take more direct action and is encouraging others to do so.
“I’m hoping that people start connecting the dots between all things messed up in this world. There’s an intricate system of cause and effect that no one movement or message can unveil. It’s going to take a large decentralised movement that is fuelled by social media and direct action. I mean who would have thought a bunch of ex-Nintendo playing 20 to 30-year-olds with ADHD would be causing such a raucous now?”
Protesting the evils of “The Man” is not something Poster Boy takes lightly, he’s even trying to get you, me and everyone else involved by skiving off work and school this coming May Day. Unveiling a piece of the puzzle for the next phase of his mysterious plans, Poster Boy is thoroughly backing the new “Occupy May Day” initiative.
“Traditionally, May 1st is a day of celebration and protest. For 2012, we’re asking everyone to show solidarity by skipping work and school that day. You got it, all the little boys and girls playing reindeer games!”
The idea is that May Day should be for the so called 99% and not a day for the elitists to further gain from our labour. The idea seems a lot less structured than the previous acts of the Occupy movement but if it gets everyone an extra day off it can only be a good thing.
Always keen to promote dissent and creative rebellion, I wondered what Poster Boy thought to fellow street artists Shepherd Fairey and Banksy taking time to create artwork for the civil unrest seen last year across the world. “It’s great when artists like Fairey and Banksy lend their celebrity to a good cause,” he said. “Sure, their fan base probably already supports the protest movement, but I think every effort serves a specific purpose. For instance, the propaganda put up by actual protestors may lack the finesse of a Fairey poster, but it has a more direct and immediate message, [whereas] the work put up by better known street artists – me included – look more like portraits of the movement, which is still important.”
Despite his eventful court appearances and near misses to serving time in the jailhouse, Poster Boy continues to wreak havoc on New York subways and is planning a little guerrilla warfare of his own, which he told me would be “seen and heard” around New York later in the year.Tagged in: Occupy movement, Occupy Wall Street, Poster Boy, truancy
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