Sign Bombing is a new, legal kind of street art. It was unveiled on Jan 28th, 2018 by putting 450 honey bears on light and utility poles over much of downtown San Francisco. This installation also coincides with the release of a petition to the Board of Supervisors to decriminalize stickers and wheatpaste that you can see (and sign) here.
There are three points to this art installation.
I strive with all my art to create something fun for the public to enjoy. There are 25 different honey bear designs featured in this project.
Introduce Sign Bombing
Sign Bombing is perhaps the only legal way to get visual art to the public with complete creative control. San Francisco has no free-paint walls or other open forums of visual expression, and it in fact criminalizes several forms of street art that are more commonly tolerated (more on that below).
The key to Sign Bombing is the San Francisco Public Works Code, Article 5.6, Sec 184.57 that that supports the
importance of providing a forum for communication among citizens
a Sign [to be] placed or maintained upon, or attached to, any Lamp Post or Utility Pole […] provided that the following regulations are adhered to […]
What follows are 6 highly specific rules to which my signs conform.
Over the coming months I am hoping to push Sign Bombing as a model for legal public art and to get other artists involved. It is shockingly difficult to create legal public art in San Francisco, and even when you can it is rarely creatively free —literally never has someone told me “paint whatever you want”. I’m thus incredibly excited about Sign Bombing and its potential.
I decided to launch Sign Bombing over a huge swath of downtown in part to demonstrate through the absurdity of this project the absurdity of San Francisco’s graffiti laws, which — unlike California generally and most of the rest of the world — include stickers and wheatpaste (a kind of temporary glue that is used to temporarily adhere art to a wall). Stated another way, putting a 2” sticker up on a pole in San Francisco is a misdemeanor (and possibly a felony), where as California generally considers it an infraction. I think this makes no sense, and it has helped strangle sticker culture in the city.
A sticker might not seem like much, but there is a whole world of sticker art. People draw or paint onto sticker and then put them up on signs, poles, windows, and other places. I love stickers because they are truly democratic — able to be created by and appreciated by anyone, regardless of age, technical ability or socioeconomic status. Not everyone can paint a mural, and not everyone can politic effectively enough to obtain a legal mural wall, but anyone can grab a pen or a sharpie, sticker, and express themselves. This art form used to flourish in San Francisco, but due to a variety of factors, including its criminalization, it has dwindled significantly. I can wax rhapsodic on my love of sticker art, but I will spare you here. If you are curious, check out Instagram’s #Label228 collection, which shows art created on USPS Priority Mail Stickers (aka Label 228s).
Note that the petition is not to legalize stickers, just for the city to take an intelligent first step. Eventually I would like to see the city experiment with full legalization in certain places, and I suspect this could be cheaper than what we are doing now, which is patrolling every pole and peeling, scraping, or painting over stickers on a daily basis.
Thank you everyone who helped make this happen, including AlphaGraphics, Pagoda Arts, Care2, and the friends who gave part of their Sunday to zip tie honey bears to poles.