Pop Culture

What is Guerrilla Art?

“Guerrilla art” is a phrase used interchangeably with “street art”.

It may typically entail any of the various art forms: graffiti, wheatpasting, stenciling, stickering, performance, video, LED, or installation art and must take place in a public place anonymously. Basquiat (graffiti), Banksy (stencil, graffiti), Shepard Fairey (wheatpasting, stencil), Improv Everywhere (flash mob, performance art), Reverend Billy & The Church of Life After Shopping (performance art, culture jamming) are a few famous examples of guerrilla artists.

I f’ing love guerrilla art because it forces the creator and the viewer to think outside of the box. I especially dig it when the art taps over into the realm of culture jamming, and creates a whole new spin on how we view the norm. I daydream about changing my name to one word and stenciling pictures of David Byrne dancing with a lamp all the time…. that’s not really an example of culture jamming, but who doesn’t love David Byrne and lamps…dancing?

The quintessential guerrilla art book is Keri Smith’s Guerrilla Art Kit. Truly the only book of it’s kind, Smith teaches the layman how they too can become a guerrilla artist. From wheatpasting to seed bombs to moss graffiti, Smith covers all the bases.

Every time I read this book, it inspires me to go out and starting planting anonymous art all over the city. Then about five minutes later I forget about it and won’t remember until I pick the book off my bookshelf about six months later.

While living in Los Angeles, the want to participate in guerrilla art was strong, but effort futile. It was too much work to find a location and lug any equipment there and run the risk of getting caught by the police. Upon moving to Austin, I was disappointed with the lack of public art pieces and graffiti, but it wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realized Austin did have it’s own street art scene, albeit a small one. Probably one of the city’s most notable pieces comes from Shepard Fairey (artist behind Obama’s “Hope”, “Andre the Giant Has a Posse”, and “Obey”), who at last year’s SXSW, pasted some of his landmark graphics around town (Emo’s, Home Slice, Mellow Johnny’s, Red 7, East 6th).

Below is one of Fairey’s graphics pasted outside of Home Slice.
(Anyone know what the name of this graphic is?)

Austin also has it’s own example of “yarn bombing”, another popular form of guerrilla art, located in front of Domy Books on Cesar Chavez.

I took my first step in becoming a baby guerrilla artist this weekend.
Subtle and doesn’t run the risk of landing my ass in jail…

The next one I want to try is moss graffiti:

And LED art:

If you want to start making some guerrilla art, but don’t want to end up calling your parents at 2AM for bail money, Smith lists some “light” exercises you can practice:

Found in the Environment– rearranging objects found in your surroundings.

Found Photos– take photos of yourself in various location and post them close to where you took them.
Book Leave-Behinds- post note on book that you no longer want, either deeming the book as a gift to a stranger or leaving your email in order to “track” the book, and drop in a public area.
Love Letters– write a love letter that you would like to receive and leave in a public place OR write a love letter to someone you admire and send to them anonymously.
Chalk Quotes– collect quotes that you like and them start writing them in public areas.
Another great guerrilla art reference is Graffiti Research Labs– “Dedicated to outfitting graffiti artists and activists with open source tools for urban communication.”
Have you ever done any of these forms of guerrilla art? Who is your favorite guerrilla artist?
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  • Reply theTsaritsa September 20, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Wow, I love that lamp post cozy! Very unique. I've been a big fan of graffiti and street art for forever, but I don't think it's my calling, necessarily. I dreamed of being a graff writer, once.

  • Reply theTsaritsa September 20, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    By the way, I tagged you for a challenge on my blog. Check it out 🙂

  • Reply Christina September 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I love the guerrilla art in Austin! Have you seen the RayBan sunglasses graffiti?

    Thanks for the book recommendation, I am always on the lookout…

  • Reply Hipstercrite September 20, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    @Tsaritsa- I will check out!

    @Christina- Yes! I like the Wayfarers. Thanks for linking to your blog too! I dig it!

  • Reply Sophie Neutron September 20, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Love Guerrilla art/graffiti I used to be obsessed with it.
    But I hate mindless tagging…I saw my name tagged on a train a few weeks ago. I even got questioned by police about it (my given name is…unique).

  • Reply Jessica September 20, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    I wish I was creative enough to contribute…thank you for the ideas. I've tossed seed bombs, but that's about it.

  • Reply Adria September 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    I've been wanting to do this for a long time. And by "this" I mean exactly what you've done. Write out one-sentence quotes and put them places around the city.

    Glad you beat me to it. Maybe I'll have the courage now.

  • Reply DavidRayDog September 20, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    We've done guerilla gardening in our neighborhood in the past and will again in the future. The bees, butterflies and neighbors like it. The plantings eventually get unkempt and overgrown, but that's OK – it's a green spot.

  • Reply carissajade September 21, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Oh man, I've been talking about doing some guerilla art for the last few weeks. The ex lives in an area of Dallas (Deep Ellum) that was chock full of it. We would go exploring at night to see what we could find. On nearly every lamp post and brick wall, there was usually a find of sorts. And I've missed that. Thanks for some suggestions! I'm definitely going to check out this book.

  • Reply Annabell September 22, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I am diggin' your photos

  • Reply ???????????????? February 15, 2013 at 7:41 am

    i don’t think its right to say street art and guerrilla art are the same because they are not!

  • Reply Guerilla Art – Love and Hope | Cr3ativ3arts April 3, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    […] Guerilla art is very similar to “street art” and is usually located in public places anonymously. Showcasing guerilla art can express different ideas and views to other people. The guerilla art we decided to do was to fold origami art and wrote positive messages written inside. We chose this as our form of art because we wanted to transfer the positive culture we learned as a child to Toronto. So we proceeded and bought coloured origami paper and folded away! […]

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