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Culture Jam - Jam it up

Culture jamming or subculture awareness and breaking through the barriers of society

About This Group

Culture jamming is a tactic used by various anti-corporate groups in order to stop what jammers see as the commodification of public space and the increasing one-way direction of discourse in the modern world. Culture jamming is usually performed against corporations and can take the form of bilboard alteration (or improvement), such as performed by the BLF, other alterations of billboards or artistic ‘reclamations of space’ such as the Reclaim the Streets movement. It often uses the corporate momentum or brand name against itself, such as using the image already presented in an ad to re-work the message, forcing the viewer to rethink the image that is presented.

Culture jamming sometimes entails transforming mass media to produce ironic or satirical commentary about itself, using the original medium’s communication method.

Aims of culture jammers may include:

  • To have a good laugh (and to encourage others to do likewise) at the expense of prevailing social currents – many purveyors of which, in the opinion of many culture jammers, take themselves too seriously. Even culture jammers themselves are not immune to being the subjects of culture jamming, if they appear to be on their way to becoming as institutionalized and humorless as the original objects of culture jammers’ attention.
  • To reawaken a sense of wonder and fascination about one’s surrounding environment, inspired by the frequent intentional ambiguity of a specific culture jamming technique, which stimulates personal interpretation and independent thinking.
  • To demonstrate contrasts between iconic images, practices or attitudes and the realities or perceived negative side of the item object of the jamming (often the target is a trapping of monolithic power structures such as corporations, government or religions). This is often done symbolically, with the “detournement” of pop iconography.
  • To provoke an interest in civic engagement and social connectedness.

Culture jammers’ intent may differ from (but may overlap with) that of artistic appropriation (which is done for art’s sake) and vandalism (in which destruction or defacement is the primary goal), although its results are not always so easily distinguishable. Some street art and other actions fall into two or even all three categories.

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