By Arturo Romo
1) I love political posters because they are supposed to be the mouths of the street, the multitude of voices. But isn’t it true that political posters are rarely ears of the street? They rarely listen to those who see them?
What does a political poster that listens long enough (that is, in tight relation with community)
to speak well
2) Political posters, “street art,” and other DIY forms are not immune from stupidity caused by infection from virulent types of hyper-individualistic, capitalistic ways of thinking. In other words, poster makers who build “personal brands” displace the political power of their work with gentrified versions of political representation.
So wasn’t wheatpasting originally anti-commodification in its intent and format? How did it become just an analog precursor to internet advertisement? How can it avoid
3) Where do the “YOU posters” on this wall originate from? Who is speaking (like, who is the poster listening to?) and who is being spoken to? It’s an incredible inversion of power, it feels like the streets speak again in the voice of convivio, un grito.
One time, I was on Fig, and I saw someone walking, being trailed by film cameras. They were advertising their status, walking like the street was theirs, acting on the assumption that their private dramas were the center of our concern. The real lives of working-class and poor people, the streets that they made come alive despite generations of displacement, exploitation… all that life was “flavor” for the protagonist in the film, deracinated, as they say, for “texture”, “affect.”
So the YOU posters,
on the street,
counter the habit of the powerful to cast themselves as protagonist to every story. But also, they don’t replace one protagonist with another, notice that they replace individualist voices with the voice of many.
4) Posters in Northeast LA flutter (hanging off of remnants of packing tape wrapped around trees
All loose and sad looking after it rains)
Or peer out from beneath layers of dirt,
Sometimes it’s hard to read what’s left of declarative statements, softened by rain and time, bleached, peeled
“YOU are the reason that Spanish is no longer spoken on these streets”
“YOU ___ ____ ___elth you bri___ are ___ re__son why the poor and elderly are becoming homeles_”
They appear on the street, statements of the persistence of love and survival… appear as a memory that reminds us that we fought battles and we continue the struggle. They remind us that we don’t always win, but that the losses give birth endlessly to continuing struggle, continuity. That’s what corroded and flapping posters remind us, ourselves displaced and under threat of displacement. That we have fought and will continue.
5) Something breaks inside and gushes out, beaming, when we hear our collective truth spoken back to us. Why? Because our yearning for liberation and continuance is so routinely demeaned, derided, murdered, snuffed out, that it has become a secret we keep to ourselves so we can protect it. It even becomes a secret as to who is the one doing the murdering. Something that we keep to ourselves or speak about only in the most secure relationships.
Our yearnings, longings, need to be protected
how moving is it to see them boldly declared?
“Romo is a purveyor of turbulent urban dynamics, capitalizing on the often incongruent overlap of cultures in Los Angeles. By placing seemingly unassuming objects such as trinkets and talismans next to performative video works based in industrial landscapes, Romo challenges the viewer’s understanding of the sacred vs. the mundane nature of our surroundings.” —latinart.com
Arturo Romo graduated with a BFA in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2002. He hosts an online guide to East LA with writer Sesshu Foster that is rooted in both fact and fiction. Together they have co-authored ELADATL, East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines which according to Boom Magazine is “the mind blowing fictional history of an actual company.”
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