Shepard Fairey to Appear on mtvU's 'Stand In,' Teases New Series 'Rebel Music'
When it comes to street art, London’s got Banksy but L.A.’s got Shepard Fairey, whose bold, stark stencils and “Obey” posters are ubiquitous in East Hollywood, Silverlake and Echo Park. Tonight the street artist, whose humble punk-rock scrawlings in the eighties have since grown into a worldwide art enterprise, appears on mtvU’s 24-hour college channel series Stand In. He’ll join a list of past guests like Madonna, Bill Maher and Seth MacFarlane, who paid surprise visits to college classes where they lectured on film, art and media.
Fairey addresses a USC class on New Media for Social Change about Rebel Music, the six-part documentary series he is executive producing with Nusrat Durrani on mtvU. Debuting Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. EST/PST, Rebel Music is a look at musicians and artists around the world who take on the establishment, often at great risk to themselves and loved ones.
Your episode of Stand In airs tonight. Who are some of the other guests that audiences can expect to see?
I’ve only seen one other episode of Stand In -- it was with Seth MacFarlane and he was being himself and being very funny about how he’s hosting the Oscars. Was it the Oscars? One of those award shows.
What’s the lecture about?
What I try to do is make pictures that I think are strong as images but also have a point of view and reach an audience not just through the elite art world channels, but through popular democratic channels. People I admire who have done it really well, frankly, have been musicians, people like Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, The Clash, Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, The Dead Kennedys.
And what about Rebel Music?
The MTV team has gone to Egypt, to Israel and Palestine, to India, to Mexico and then interviewed people who are doing great stuff and have a connection to the music and are making it explicit. The idea that everyone in Afghanistan would hate America and have a barbaric attitude toward America is erased in an instant. It’s about empowerment and how these people are using music and other creative tools to empower themselves.
Is this a tough sell to young people?
When you look at the concept of reality TV and how much of an audience it has and how much of the dream is purely manufactured, but you take what the principle ingredient is of people wanting to be invested in something they’re watching, Rebel Music has all of that in heaps. And then it’s also about the real-world L.A.; it’s not about Beverly Hills, Orange County social life.
How do we get policy makers to understand art is essential in our public schools?
What does America make? We make not that much, but we make culture. And all culture is driven by creativity, so whether it’s fashion, movies, music, television, all of these things are driven by creativity. Creative problem solving is very much incubated by art.
We haven’t seen a lot of your work in your usual places along Sunset in Echo Park and Silverlake.
I still really love doing street art but I have to be really careful. I just got off probation. They’ve rolled back this mural moratorium, so I actually have several mural projects coming up. My thing is whether it's legal or illegal, the public has the right to encounter more than advertising in a public environment. I come from that punk-rock do-it-yourself background, but it’s not just because I want to break rules; it’s because I want people to realize there are more tools of communication than just Facebook or whatever.