If you want to get your art, political message, logo or just your name out there, stickers are the media of choice to reach the masses. Slap tagging – or sticker bombing – has been a viral art medium since before the internet even existed.
Spray paint or a marker takes time and increases the chance of being caught. Stickers can be slapped up quickly. It is mostly an urban art form that focuses on walking, public transit and public spaces where people wait and look at their surroundings.
Stickers are easy, cheap and can be made at home in bulk or printed at the local print shop. Priority Mail stickers can be obtained for free from the post office and make a great surface for drawings or tags. Sticker artists often trade their work with each other to expand their distribution.
Some slap their stickers next to friends’ stickers to say hello, or they place stickers next to better-known artists to get noticed. This is called spot jockeying or side busting.
Portland is a hub for slap tagging and, over the course of the past decade, has elevated Portland to be the sticker capital with Alberta and Mississippi districts having high concentrations. That’s because both have specific walls that are popular with local and national sticker artists.
Like other forms of graffiti, slap tagging can be seen as an unsightly nuisance that contributes to the negative impact on livability. Others see it as a form of chaotic and free human expression – an attempt to reclaim boring environments or public space.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation spends an average $42,000 a year on cleaning street signs and helps coordinate community volunteers to clean graffiti.
There are also individuals who take the task upon themselves – which can end up stripping the reflective surfaces off street signs and rendering them illegible at night.
Michel Reeverts, aka Maquette, holds a master of arts degree in art education, serves Alberta Art Works as director and Alberta Street Gallery as a board member. She is also a practicing artist. Contact her at Maquette@AlbertaArtWorks.org