The book I choose to influence artists is Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman. How do I know this book is influencing artist? Because I just introduced it to you. This is known as a social fact, and once a social fact is known it can’t be unknown, thus, you are influenced. (Deal with it. if you haven't noticed, this will not be a normal publication. [deal with that!])
But now, in what other ways does the book influence artist? A lot! This book is an idea machine! For example the title also doubles as a command Steal This Book (steal it). How very influential. But who is this very kind self styled Freak who wants you so very much to have his book (by any means necessary)? Meet Abbie!
Hi Abbie! What would you like to share with me?
Steal This Book is broken in to three basic sections, Survive Fight and Liberate. Let’s look at each one and see what we can learn.
Survive! In this first section the author and instigator lists a myriad of ways for anyone (an artist) to live for free off the pigs of Amerikas’ bacon, including the best ways to get free clothing housing and food. This section also includes the best ways to travel, with a go amount of time detailing how best to hitch. If you’ve never done it I recommend it, the people are great and often provide you with other goods listed in this fine tome such as free dope. And let’s be honest being an artist in Amerika during a double turn down recession, artists need all the freebies they can get.
Fight! This section of the inspiring reading lists how you (the artist) might go about spreading your message and work cheaply after you succeeded in bilking the man for all he’s worth. Start your own newspaper, or underground print company. Make stencils (think Banksy) to get the word out. One part of this section titled Trashing speaks very well of how a group of young hip demonstrators could coordinate a protest to smash the system and fight the pigs. I like to think of it as an interventionist performance artwork with direct action on society as committed by collectives.
Liberate! This section lists very specific places for the young revolutionary to get started in taking back Amerika from the pig. It lists where to get started in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, where to meet likeminded freak power sorts and start taking back your country from the man.
Published in 1971 this text may seem a little dated at times. There is a part where Abbie tells you to record the sound of a dime registering that you paid for the phone call than play that recording back into the receiver of any pay phone and then you never have to pay for a phone call again. Up to five or ten years ago this method of getting a free phone call would work, I know because I used to do it. I also knew the linemen’s code to call people long distance talk for hours and never pay or one red cent. (Maybe I shouldn’t tell you about potential felonies… ah screw it I can always just say I made the whole thing up.) Anyway the point is Abbie never encountered the digital age, and we don’t pay for phone calls with a dime any more, now it’s a dime and a quarter, that is if you can find a pay phone to begin with. As well I’m willing to bet that none of the places listed as potential crash pads exist as places for you, you young hoodlum. But the guy gets you thinking doesn’t he? He wanted you to use every available technology of the time (circa 1971) to get out there and start something, be something, attack, fight, love, be. The question than is not how is this dated Yippie (yes Yippie not Hippie) rag good for me today, but rather how would Abbie have used the technology of today to affect the world of today?
Well come on think about it how? Time to start using your brain type thing. Go on do it!
One fine example is flash mobs, the Arab Summer, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the World. I think the internet really would have turned Abbie on. He’s not here anymore and we miss him. But now it’s your turn, so, what are you going to do? I can tell you have an idea or two rolling around your head, I can feel it.
So get going get started good luck and remember, STEAL THIS BOOK (by Abbie Hoffman).
- Miguel Garcia