Within spitting distance of the United Center, a Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign sign hangs askance from a chain link fence; it’s the only indicator a poster revolution is taking place. Inside the otherwise nondescript brick compound, volunteers in ink-splattered jeans use stencils, silk screens and spray paint to create hundreds of anti-war posters. They’ll paste their work in neighborhoods across the city to coincide with the five-year anniversary of the Iraq War on March 19.
An organizer hunches over a screen that reads “Help End the War; Let Your Voice Be Heard.” The floor is carpeted with identical flyers. Bob Dylan blares from a music player in the window. The fuse in the warehouse keeps blowing (“Don’t plug in the space heater!”) and everyone curses the neighbor’s cat when it walks across an array of fresh prints.
“We’re called the Chicago Poster War…mostly because we needed an email address,” an organizer explains. “It’s more important that people make posters and get a dialogue going about the Iraq War…we don’t care if anyone knows we did it.” All three organizers have chosen to remain anonymous, and not just to support their modest mantra.
Mayor Daley’s anti-graffiti campaign and the subsequent police crackdown have made pasting a dangerous pastime. Where New Yorkers use spray paint to express themselves, Chicago’s urban artists rely on wheat pasting, which fades with the elements. The impermanence of the artwork is not lost on the protesters. “We want to cover the city, even if it’s just for a day,” one says. “Just to get war on people’s minds for one day and remind them it’s been five years.” (Laura Hawbaker)