At DIY OR DIE! the upcoming Boo-Hooray exhibition at Milk Gallery, curated by Johan Kugelberg and opening July 17, we will be showing examples of Do-It-Yourself zines, record covers, and posters. Among these are original stencils from the Crass archive. Hand cut, they were utilized to full effect for the détournement of advertising billboards on the London Underground. They also proved to be the seeds for statements on the backs of tens of thousands of punker leather motorcycle jackets. These stencils are the ground zero of urban wall art in contemporary life, created with nothing more than scissors, cardboard, and paint.
“The idea of a stencil had been something in the air for a while. It almost pre-dated the idea of a graffiti campaign. There was a guy called Robert Indiana (aka Robert Clark) who did these paintings: he used stencil lettering and a lot of his paintings were circular. He did this image of the word ‘love’ with the letters ‘lo’ above ‘ve’; his work was an influence. Then there was a book that everyone was interested in called Herbert Stencil, he was called a quick change artist. So, for a while I was Herbert Stencil at art school. I’ve always been interested in trying to reduce something to its essentials.To make it as solid as possible – you can’t really break it. It has an irreducible quality to it – the solidity helps create that sense of resonance. I had a pretty good idea it was a strong piece.
“Also, because the pamphlet that Penny [Rimbaud] was making was being mimeographed on an early Xerox, and he wanted to do a certain amount of copies. At that time, there was no money or access to printing, so it was like what’s the simplest, easiest way – apart from potato cut! – to reproduce, and a stencil was perfect for that.”