I’ve been plastering White Plains NY with memetic masterpieces on and off for almost a year now. A wguke ago, I made The Meme Bomb Collection, Volume Aleph, and it got me thinking about the meme bombs we’ve been generating.
A lot of the meme bombs we’ve come up with are effective in that they are self-contained information packages which in themselves suggest an attitude or position.
My favorite meme bombs are the ones which…
–Give the reader pause. It’s really easy to get lost in the “zombie lurch”, the “9-5 crawl”, the “pedestrian trance”, or whatever you want to call it. I like meme bombs which jar the reader out of that and make them suddenly focus on the present moment rather than where they’re going. Some meme bombs which accomplish this are ones which successfully address the reader. “Hey! You, in the Khakis!” (if you’re actually wearing khakis, it might be startling).
–Suggest something bigger going on. Such as “Congratulations! You’ve just found clue #3! The man in the green jacket will tell you what to do next.” These meme bombs make reality seem a little bit weirder than the pedestrian might expect. Is there some crazy game going on? When and where is it happening?
–Provoke critical thought. Such as “miscarriage is manslaughter“. When taken at face value their meaning seems clear – but they actually suggest something else entirely.
–Add some levity or humor to the reader’s day. I really wish people would stop taking their day-to-day shit so seriously. Sometimes hearing a joke or seeing a funny graphic right in the middle of your walk back from lunch is exactly what you need. The BIP refers to this as rearranging the machine’s local components to (hopefully, eventually) provoke a change in the whole system.
–The Absurd and the Surreal. The Principia calls these Mondos. like “If the telephone rings today, water it!” At first they seem to make sense, but the more you think about them the less sense they make. Personally, I get these phrases stuck in my head all day. “The womb is a prison – FETUS LIBERATION FRONT!”
I like meme bombs which appear friendly or light. Some of the meme bombs developed by the PD Community are hostile and bitter, or preachy and cerebral. Frankly, far left propaganda tastes just as bad to me as far right propaganda, so I dislike political meme bombs. I also dislike the ones which specifically seek to make people feel worse without provoking action. (such as: “Your wife is cheating on you.“)
I also feel that graphics and icons are essential to getting the reader’s attention. An attractive visual packaging makes the memebomb more likely to be remembered.
An ideal memebomb is something which the reader will repeat to others. Little kernels of wisdom are good for this, but I feel that most of them are a bit too dense or “heavy” to pierce the pedestrian trance.
a discussion from PD about memes and graffiti follows…
Rev. Whats-His-Name said:
I agree with your take on the “heavy” memebombs.
I, personally, really enjoy the last two categories you talk about. I love juxtoposition, absurdity, non-sensical sense, etc.
I remember when I was in college a buddy and I were having a discussion and I was trying to say “The Month of March.” except, everytime I tried to spit it out it came out as “The Munch of Marth.” And thus a meme-bomb was born. “Beware the Munch of Marth!” It’s stupid, it’s silly, but I still get a smile on my face thinking about it.
People need this shit in their lives, seriously. Anything we can throw out there that will get people to stop for a minute and derail their train of pre-programmed thought.
One reaction I’ve observed is a confusion about “what are you trying to sell me?”
It tickles me to watch the expression on people’s face as they try to figure out why someone stapled this weird flyer to a tree. Most stuff that catches your eye in public is either graffiti, city-sponsored art, or (most commonly) advertisements. I think it’s really cool to put up something which doesn’t quite fit any of these categories.
I used to spend a lot of time handing out surreal flyers, pamphlets, and charts. The most common question I was asked was “Why are you doing this?”
or a few weeks ago when I was stapling art to trees in my neighborhood, a kid asked me WHY? WHY are you putting this stuff up?
I resist giving people an easy, neat answer like, “It’s for a project” or “I’m trying to make the neighborhood nicer” or “I want people to see this art.” Usually I say something unrelated like, “It about the weather patterns,” or “In the near future, all this stuff is already posted.”
I’ve seen some really great memebomb graffiti in Toronto… I don’t remember the wording of it, but there’s one tag on a door in a park that invites the reader to joining the graffiti scavanger hunt. All over the city, you can find tags that say “I love you” and “I trust you”. I especially like the latter.
Lately I’ve taken to graffiting Metatron’s Cubes and detailed Golden Spirals (including their measurements and construction, but without using words) in the stalls of public washrooms. At some point I’m going to make photocopies of that one ink peice I posted way back when, and of the one I’m almost done and will have posted here in a week or so.
Rev. Whats-His-Name said:
I’m not a fan of the graffitti approach. From my personal experience, it’s a detriment to the process of getting the word out.
A couple of years ago a couple of asshats went around Portland, ME. spray-painting buildings, statues, etc with “FNORD”. They even tagged Henry Longfellow. These tards even broke into apartments and marked up people’s homes with FNORD in Sharpies.
So, this couple walks into my store, sees me wearing a FNORD neck tie, and then it’s guilt by association. They asked me to explain FNORD, etc, it but I could tell they weren’t really listening because they were thinking in their head. “Hmm, I wonder if that guy was one of the guys.”
If it had just been a leaflet left at their door or a flyer posted on their lampost, I don’t think there would’ve been the same blindfolded ire that the graffiti produced.
Besides, how do you know you aren’t tagging someone’s building who might actually be open to this stuff. And by tagging with graffitti, you’ve already welded the door shut.
I just think it’s a real piss-poor approach to opening minds. Destructive Disorder, if you will.
Triple Zero said:
really depends what you graffiti.
if it’s just somewhere on a empty wall, alley, under a bridge, highway crossing or something like that, it usually adds to the flavour of the place anyway.
if you go painting up individuals private property, especially if it’s non-ugly, then you’re an asshole.
i’m not sure how sensibly placed the graffiti kaienne’s talking about is.
i agree w/ both of the above (and especially the hallmark)
i dont like graffiti on nice things
but i dont mind it on things that already look like shit.
o.k. on-dilapidated back alley building already tagged by whoever
NOT o.k. on- the fountain by the rose garden in winter park.
Get a pad of Post-It Notes.
Write a Memebomb on each page, not peeling the page off.
Goto The Hallmark and put Post-It Note Memebombs into cards.
This way the Membomb stays in the card for someone to read and is easily undoable w/o damaging any of the stores stock.
Also if the person who finds it in the card likes it the can peel it out and keep it.
Or, get the Membombs on stickers and put the un-peeled stickers into the envelopes, the shoppes will not find them (most likely) but the recipient probably will. Therefore sewing some confusion as well as bombing with memes.
Kaienne defended graffiti thusly:
I’m not going to say so declaratively, but it sounds like you’re a victim of the same thought process; just as those people’s reactions to Fnord were damaged by the careless acts of others, it sounds like your reaction to well-placed graffiti has been damaged by the careless acts of others.
My favorite place for graffiti are on the insides of the doors in public washrooms. Imagine, you sit down to take a shit, look up at the door in front of you, and there’s a complicated, multi-coloured explaination of the Golden Ratio right in front of you. Or a Metatron’s Cube. Or some sort of other mystifying bit of sacred geometry or something. Not only are you gonna think “wtf IS this?”, as you sit there, not going anywhere anytime soon, you’re given sufficient time to expand and think things like “who the fuck draws geometry on the door of a public washroom?”
Not to mention, if you’re someone who’s already familiar with these concepts, it’s endlessly amusing.
Rev. Whats-His-Name responded:
No, I just think that one can mindfuck and meme-bomb people without destroying or damaging public property. If you want to spray paint shit on your house, go for it. But I think it’s weak to destroy or damage property that someone else is paying taxes or rent on. Or public property that everyone has to pay taxes for. Paper can be removed from trees, flagpoles, lamp-posts, etc. Spray paint is much more permanent and costs money to remove. And I personally don’t believe it’s really all that effective anyway. Guilt by association with all other graffitti, which in my experience, is largely ignored.
And then imagine the poor shlub getting paid 7$ an hour to either scour the graffiti off, paint over it, or replace the door. How have you helped his lot in life?
Triple Zero said:
it’s not too hard to make graffiti that doesn’t look like graffiti.
1) it shouldn’t look like a tag, or tag-like “graffiti” letters. nobody can read that shit anyway.
2) it shouldn’t look like a graffiti logo, no matter how pretty or colourful.
3) it shouldn’t look like whatever the latest fad of graphics design paper stickers invading town looks like
we know what we do
just make it look like some official sign already
hack the emergency exit signs to say ERIS instead of EXIT
and yeah, of course it’s gotta be REALLY clever! fuck, aim for nothing but the best. a mathematical proof or geometry proof on a toilet door would be awesome, but really only if it’s done with some care for detail, with a ruler, layouted nicely, etc. if it’s just quickly scrawled on some door with a ballpoint or marker, indeed it’s just like the rest of the crap, no matter what the actual content.
On a similar note, the most hilarious meme bomb I ever caught was in a bathroom stall.
I sat down, and right in front of me, someone had written
THERE IS TRUTH
I can’t really communicate the handwriting, but the way “THERE IS TRUTH” was written in all caps felt like the guy was experiencing an epiphany. Like he had been sitting on the pot for half an hour and then EUREKA!
I confess I’ve spread that one to bathrooms all over the country.
Goals for a public memebomb?
To paraphrase Hakim Bey: that it actually has an affect on someone other than the person putting them up.