If you haven’t heard of Culture Jamming yet, take a close look at your city. Look for subtle posters of sport utility vehicles resembling advertisements, with slogans berating their subject’s environmental impacts. Look for versions of the Golden Arches, perhaps not so subtle, portrayed next to obese people eating junk food. Look for images of oil company logos over poisoned fish or dead marine mammals. You’ve found Culture Jamming: the spearhead of resistance to capitalist excess.
Culture Jamming is the alteration of existing media propaganda to reflect the message of anti-consumerism and those who believe contemporary cultural behavior is destructive to society at large. The purpose of culture jamming is to resist calculated marketing schemes that persuade the public toward a lifestyle of consumption. Culture Jamming is at once a message of solidarity to activists, a blow to corporate marketing budgets, and a cry to raise public awareness of environmental and social injustices caused by the habits and lifestyles of modernity.
Advertising is everywhere; a constant barrage of persuasion. Thousands of companies battle for the sustained attention of individuals with the sole purpose of separating them from the dollars in their possession. The purpose of culture jamming is to balance this attack on individual will with an equally aggressive counterattack. Culture Jammers are the propaganda corps of an increasingly active anti-consumerism movement.
Art (visual, linguistic, and performance) is an important element in culture jamming. Poets write lyrics in bathroom stalls, on parking meters, insert them in newspaper boxes, and anywhere else they can place them. Graffiti artists use elements of graphic design, and many are skilled painters. Performance art has even made its way to culture jamming. Take, for example, the case of “Olympia”: a dancer who performed an hour long pole dance on a crowded San Francisco street in 2002. She was dressed in a conservative business outfit, and according the the San Francisco Chronicle the performance was meant to be a “surreal critique of Western consumer culture.”
Culture Jamming is becoming far more elaborate than quick pranks and graffiti. Web savvy Jammers, for example, are engaging in what has been dubbed “google bombing”: an effort to make search terms yield specific, unexpected results. The most popular example of this phenomenon is a Google search for the terms “miserable failure”. The purposes of culture jamming in this instance become clear as the results, a link to a website about president George W. Bush, clue us in to the Jammer’s politics.
For more information on Culture Jamming, and examples of some of the finest, check out www.adbusters.org and www.sniggle.net