Mary Douglas called dirt ‘matter out of place.’ Graffiti is similar in that it’s ‘art out of place,’ often text in unexpected places. It shows up in sometimes jarring and incongruous ways, forcing viewers to reframe and reimagine spaces and places in which they encounter it.
The slogan “no one is illegal on stolen land” came to the forefront of the political debates the States in 2018 over the Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, two laws which guaranteed the rights, especially to education, of undocumented residents who arrived as minors. This slogan extends beyond this context – it drips with colonialism and post-coloniality, encompassing generations of land grabs, dehumanisation, and state-imposed disenfranchisement and violence.
I digitally imposed the slogan on photos from my travels around former colonies to underscore the impact of colonialism on those places, both historically and currently. The imposed phrase reframes the image, forcing the viewer to think about colonialism’s long reach. But colonialism’s impacts were and are felt in the metropoles as well. I took my slogan out into London, both out and about and into the British Museum, one of the most potent spaces of colonial legacy and post-coloniality. In the museum, I sought artifacts to match with my travels, and placed a homemade sign on or near them to reframe them. I also walked around London, finding the little legacies of colonialism and placed my sign slogan there as well.
I took one aspect of graffiti, text in unexpected places, and created a series of images that force viewers to listen to unsung counternarratives of colonisation.
By Anna Löfstrand