(How to subvert Institutional Authority through
Graffiti and Other Tactics in 13 Simple Steps)
commonly wields power through the manipulation of sign systems
which individuals are collectively programmed to accept as valid
structures of discipline and control. Outlined below are a sequence
of actions that will effectively illustrate the aforementioned
dynamic. Further, the following sequence of actions also serves
as a general spell for revealing that "authority"
is a subjective force, and that victory is awarded to those
who play the 'Sign Game' best. While strict adherence to the
spell will often yield successful results, an accurate understanding
of the underlying principles will allow for delightful adaptations
and diverse applications. Have fun & Good luck!
Choose an institutional target (school, corporation, government
Create a small label (approx. 3" x 4") which includes
the institution's seal or logo, as well as the magic words:
Signs or Graffiti Permitted on This Surface (or an appropriate
variation of your choosing). Or use this template
(pdf file - 527k).
Affix the labels to various surfaces within the institution.
At first, it is best to target surfaces that have existing postings
or writing (e.g. - bulletin boards, bathroom walls, pay phones,
Begin responding to your own labels by covertly adding signs,
postings, and graffiti. Be sure to vary the content and use
multiple scripts or different graphic elements. Some gestures,
tags, or styles should appear more prolific than others so as
to convince the "authorities" that multiple individuals
are responding to the labels in no organized fashion.
On institutional letterhead, create your own notice harshly
condemning the labels, the postings, and the writings. The notice
should be brief, but the tone should sound severe and reactionary.
Citing non-existent laws or rules that promise extreme penalties
should be included to encourage debate. Mis-spelling a key word
or two will aid in undermining the voice of Authority, as well
as give the impression that Authority is, in fact, a small group
of controlling individuals that assert their will on the greater
Before the institution can respond to the postings and graffiti,
covertly distribute this notice as widely as possible. Post
it in areas where no previous postings have appeared as well
as in the most obvious places. Place notices in employee/student
mailboxes, on the windshields of parked cars, or in luchrooms
and other meeting areas. The distribution of this notice should
Replace any labels that have since been removed and continue
to add graffiti and postings. At this point some graffiti/postings
should be direct responses to the "institutional notice".
Some responses should sound incensed, while others should appear
mocking. Most likely, other anonymous individuals will have
joined in at this point and the debate should be widening.
Locate a blank section of wall, or an area where graffiti has
been allowed to persist. Using a slightly off-color shade of
paint, cover a large, uneven section of the wall. Affix a sign
alongside reading, "Wet Paint" and another stating
that "any graffiti which does not beautify the area will
not be tolerated). This will give the impression that the Authorities
are ineptly attempting to cover the graffiti, while simultaneously
giving a nod to "acts of beauty."
Create a second notice stating that employees/students/community-members
may be subject to random searches for graffiti paraphernalia.
Distribute it widely. Additionally, signs should be posted declaring
rewards for reporting graffiti as well as phone numbers to call
(police, management, etc).
Continue to add graffiti and postings, but extend the range
outside of the proximity of the labels.
If the debate has become heated enough at this point, create
another notice/email in the "voice of Authority" declaring
a "town-hall" meeting with attendance required. Be
sure to include a sentence indicating that food and beverages
will be provided (You may even want to place a large order for
pizzas to be delivered). The date of the meeting should give
the "authorities" as little time to prepare as possible.
A note on the workplace: If the target institution is the workplace,
then give consideration to the scheduling time. A lunch-hour
meeting will impose on co-workers and encourage opposition to
the institution. A mid-afternoon or mid-morning meeting will
result in a period of unproductivity that will provide a much-deserved
break for your co-workers. An after-work meeting time should
include a promise of overtime wage compensation for all attendees.
Have fun at the meeting, but be careful not to take sides in
a manner that will draw attention to you. At most, make constructive
suggestions or offer compromises such as calling for more communal
space or resources (a community center, lounge, or project funding),
asking for more community dialogue or representation (push for
shared power and self-management), or requesting conditions
that are less restrictive/oppressive (more time off, less rules
or better use of community funds). Or, just sit back and watch
If events haven't climaxed by this point, create a final notice
summarizing the institution's willingness to respond to concerns
raised at the meeting. Declare new policies and promises; be
sure to be creative about your desires (designated graffiti/posting
zones, slackening of rules or restrictions, school/business
holidays, etc.). At this point you and your community are the
authorities, so start acting like it by making the necessary
changes and organizing for a better tomorrow!