American contemporary artist, graphic designer, and illustrator Shepard Fairey became known for his “André the Giant Has a Posse” (…OBEY…) sticker campaign, but his work became more widely known after he designed the Barack Obama “Hope” poster, and later appeared in the hit documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. Nows the Alamo Drafthouse and their art boutique Mondo hired Fairey to create a poster for John Carpenters’s They Live, starring Rowdy Roddy Piper.
They Live was a welcome return to form by the legendary cult film. The film revolved around a lonely drifter (Piper) who gets hold of a pair of sunglasses through which the terrible truth can be seen: the rich are aliens who have already taken over the earth! Billboard advertisements and television broadcasts actually contain subliminal messages such as “Consume,” “Watch Television” and “Marry and Reproduce”. Fairey’s OBEY campaign was heavily inspired by the film. Here is what he had to say about the connection to his work.
The This is Your God show in 2003 at the Six Space gallery in downtown L.A. was an opportunity to showcase the sociopolitical message of the Obey campaign by paying homage to John Carpenter’s They Live, which was a major source of inspiration and the basis for my use of the word “obey.” The movie has a very strong message about the power of commercialism and the way that people are manipulated by advertising. One of my main concepts with the show (and the campaign as a whole) was that obedience is the most valuable currency. People rarely consider how much power they sacrifice by blindly following a self-serving corporation’s marketing agenda, and how their spending habits reflect the direction in which they choose to transfer power. In They Live, the protagonist discovers hidden messages lurking behind billboards and anything commercial, and the money says “THIS IS YOUR GOD” on plain white paper. I designed a graphic that looked somewhat like real money but with that slogan, which we used for the invitations and a billboard I rented on the corner of Sunset and Hollywood to promote the show.
Here is the poster. If you haven’t seen They Live, I highly recommend you do so, and also take a listen to our review from episode 262 of the Sound On Sight podcast.
Also you can watch John Carpenter‘s video introduction to the screening of They Live at the Drafthouse. The show apparently sold out, and was introduced by Shepherd Fairey.
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