A Brief History
From the earliest cave sketch to the latest MoMa escapade.
15,000 B.C.First known form of graffiti: cave paintings in Lascaux, France.1535–1541Michelangelo, while working on the Sistine Chapel, subverts the work by putting patrons' faces on the damned. He also depicts genitals, which are later covered up by Daniele da Volterra, "The Breeches Maker."1773Boston Tea Party. This direct action protest puts "Buy Nothing Day" to shame.1800Francisco de Goya y Lucientes paints "The Family of Charles IV"-controversial because none of the people are made to look attractive. Rather, he paints them as unattractive as they actually appear.1890sWheatpaste is widely used as an adhesive for posters, especially posters of Toulouse-Lautrec paintings. The paintings are so popular and so frequently torn down that they come with instructions on how to remove them without ripping them.1916–1920Peak era of the Dada movement.1938Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" is broadcast, convincing many listeners that an actual Martian invasion is underway.1949Edward H. Seymour, on the suggestion of his wife, Bonnie, invents the modern aerosol spraypaint can in Chicago, Illinois.1957The Situationist International (rooted in Marxism) forms in the Italian village of Cosio d'Arroscia. Guy Debord is the most prominent French member.1960Jørgen Nash and Asger Jorn form the Situationist Bauhaus.1966–1971The first modern graffiti artists, "Cool Earl" and "Cornbread," begin work in Philadelphia.1968In May, students in Paris occupy the Ecole des Beaux Arts to produce posters that "give concrete support to the great movement of the workers on strike."1969John Lennon and Yoko Ono spend their honeymoon in Amsterdam in bed, performing their "bed-in" in the name of peace.1970Abbie Hoffman writes Steal This Book, a manifesto and instruction manual that advises readers on topics like growing marijauna, living in communes, pirating radio signals, stealing food and credit cards, making pipe bombs, and obtaining a free buffalo from the U.S. Department of the Interior.1977Billboard Liberation Front "improves" its first billboard, Max Factor 26.1981Jean Baudrillard publishes Simulacra and Simulation.1981–1983Parisian Blek le Rat begins a stencil street-art campaign (the stencils being a means of differentiating himself from New York graffiti artists).1982Jay Conrad Livingston writes Guerrilla Marketing.1985Negativland coins the phrase "Culture Jamming" on the collective record JAMCON '84.1989Shepard Fairey begins the OBEY GIANT campaign, what he calls "an experiment in phenomenology," and it proves to be just that: 13 arrests and 17 years later, his is the most recognizablestreet-art campaign in history.Barbie Liberation Organization is formed. Thanks to similarities in the vocal hardware of Teen Talk Barbie and the Talking Duke G.I. Joe, BLO is able to swap the voice boxes of the toys.1989Adbusters launches.1991Negativland releases fake U2 single by sampling parts of U2 songs. U2 sues (and, ironically, later uses many samples on their POP tour).1992Members of Negativland conduct an (ambush) interview with The Edge, who, once they reveal their identities to him, stutters and bumbles his way through the rest of the interview, claiming U2's label (not the band) pursued the lawsuit.1994Justin Hall creates his "Links from the Underground," the internet's first self-published home page, for which the New York Times Magazine later hails him as "the father of personal blogging."1997The Activist Cookbook: Creative Actions for a Fair Economy, by Andrew Boyd, is published.1999The Yes Men create www.gwbush.com in preparation for the 2000 presidential election. Bush, when asked about the defamatory site, says that the site went too far and that "there ought to be limits on freedom."2001January 5 Jonah Peretti orders a pair of custom Nikes with the word "sweatshop" embroidered on them. Nike refuses. The email dialogue circulates around the internet.January 15Wikipedia launches, inspiring debate about authenticity of and authority over information.2003Bar code artist Peter Coffin starts distributing downloadable, printable bar codes that, once adhered to a product and scanned, display a word ("want," "take," "give," "lose") on the register, instead of a price.2004Adbusters sues six major Canadian broadcasters after they refuse to air "subverstisements" for which Adbusters purchased airtime. This same year it launches the Blackspot Sneaker Campaign.2005Bansky places his works in the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum, and The American Museum of Natural History.Google Bombing: Yooter reports that "The Presidency of George W. Bush" is the first link that appears for the search "failure" or "miserable failure."Marissa Mayer from Google responds: "We don't condone the practice of Google Bombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results, but we're also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. Pranks like this may be distracting to some, but they don't affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission."