In the concluding episode of the 4-part documentary on sticker art, "Stick To It," director Alexis Deforges examines how "Style and Message" is essential to the history of sticker art culture. From propaganda tools to bumper stickers, through skateboarding brands artwork and street art, there was always from the very beginning, a sense of subversion in the act of slapping stickers. This mix of visual elements and messages make stickers an essential item of the counter culture sphere!
“The medium is the message. Just doing something that encourages other people to take action, that democratize things in general and makes the world better,“ says world-renowned street artist and avid sticker artist, Shepard Fairey.
We sat down with director Alexis Deforges as we conclude the documentary, to get his story on the making of and his appreciation for sticker art culture and "Stick To It."
What initially attracted you to sticker culture?
When I was a teenager, skateboarding in my mid-size french city, stickers were to me… like a little piece of California! You could only find them in a few sport stores (we did not even had skate shops there) and they were being sold. They had a substantial monetary value but also a huge emotional significance! They would allow us to customise our notebooks, moped, bedroom walls… They were tools to express some individuality and transform our environment to something we wanted to be a part of. Stickers are always a way to appropriate your surrounding and transform it into something that belongs more to your tastes. Also, stickers were like a graphic design handbook: the types, the compositions, the colors... plus the explicit messages which inspired us some rebellion or at least some anti-conformism…
Then, when it was time to try to make a living out of something, I worked in the boardsports industry, a crossroad of sport, visual Art and music, and just like many others, I filled up skateboarding shoes boxes with stickers… for years! With this background made of image making and marketing, I had this clear vision of stickers being a central element of the « Street culture". From Santa Cruz wheels to Ninja Tune records and finally Obey stickers, those little pieces of plastic belong to the street. Until today they don’t fit in the mercantile Art spheres mechanism. You don’t make money out of stickers, they are this little present that triggers the excitation of the kid buried inside. Stickers are creative self expression available to everyone. That's what got me into documenting that underestimated sphere.
There are stickers that get on the street, there are stickers that are made for trading. I assume your collection is massive now, what are some of your treasured stickers?
Yes, I have a rather « deep » collection… One of them, pop to my mind… that SIMS (snowboards) sticker! It is one of my first sticker owned for collection, it was very BIG, with bright neon colors, and … I had to steal it from the wall of the brand's booth on a trade show… It was a trophy! …and one of the coolest brand in this world at the time, inspiring me a creative lifestyle. Santa Cruz stickers are also a very common reference.
But then, there are the hand made stickers that were directly passed on to me by artists and friends, and those are very special. It’s not quite like receiving a postal letter from you girlfriend back in the days, but it has something touching about being handmade and sometimes done especially for you. Of course, they are MANY others. Actually, stickers are like photos, when you go through the shoe boxes content it brings back memories, stories, locations, sensations… It s a whole world in each of them, a travel in time… just like photos.
Do graffiti laws change the way sticker artists approach putting stickers on the street?
Putting up stickers on the street require less skills than graffiti. It’s not the same sport, but that is also the beauty of it. It has different rules, different references, different champions… even though it has the same purpose.
As Shepard Fairey often quotes: "The medium is the message!" One of the function of stickers is the potential to transform others into your ambassadors. Sometimes people you have actually never met, but in any case, it is a call for creativity, the transmission of a message that travels like a virus… Street stickering is also about hijacking the corporate brands behaviour in the public space, and either spread a message (political) or proceed to some self promotion. Graffiti has something more individualistic and elitist, but both Art can’t be compared really.
What surprised you when making this doc? Parts of the culture that you didn't know about and now changed your mind about stickers?
I was not too much in the hand made trading sphere before… Meeting artists like Chris and Veng from Robots Will Kill and all the guys around them (it’s a long list) taught me the absolute dedication they have in this love of stickers, and this very visceral need of expressing themselves through stickers, drawing all the time, days and night, one by one, for the streets or for others… Their passion for what they are doing is extremely strong and touching.
In the same field, I also have to name 9eme CONCEPT a French artistic collective which has been setting up Art performances for over 20 years, endeavouring to trigger creativity within their public and always producing and distributing stickers. There is a genuine generosity in this use of stickers, it is not only about promoting yourself.
Off the top of your head, the most prolific sticker artist is.... ?
ABOVE!!! It amazes me the number of time I am traveling a city and (as I always have one eye looking for the messages on the walls) I get to see one of his stickers… It happens all the time, anywhere… Paris, London, Hong Kong, New York, Berlin… It makes me laugh! But Shepard Fairey is also a name you cannot not mention, when it comes to be prolific. He is undeniably the godfather of stickers in street art.
"Stick To It" episode 4 features Chris RWK, Veng RWK, El Toro, Shepard Fairey, Kristy Henderson (PETA), Dave Kinsey, DB Burkeman, CJ Ramone, Shepard Fairey…
Directed by Alexis Deforges
This Episode of STICK TO IT Was Made Possible By Jakprints
In Collaboration with Wallplay
Soundtrack courtesy of Born Bad records