October 22, 2004

Turf Wars

I think September 11th changed everything. Apathy is gone from our hearts.

Bethlehem, PA Homeowner

Bill Fisher's House for Sale Lawn Sign

Print your own lawn sign from Bill Fisher’s Yard Sign Project

Apparently, I’m not alone when it comes to being on the front lines of the Political Sign Wars. CBS ran a piece (Quicktime, 4.5 MB) on its nightly news yesterday about a neighborhood divided by Kerry and Bush lawn signs.

But unlike my own contentious Maginot Line, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania suburban street of ardent Democrats and Republicans seemed so civilized. While there was a bit of poster tit-for-tat, no political epitaphs were being lobbed into any front yard and no police cruisers were to be found. Everyone, it seemed, was looking forward to their annual neighborhood gourmet dinner, scheduled for after the election. Will the rest of us be so willing to break bread with our neighbors after November 2?

This morning as I was walking to the subway I noticed an unfamiliar lawn sign in the distance. Was this a new volley of partisan one-upmanship? As it turned out it had nothing to do with the election. With relief, it simply warned drivers and pedestrians to traverse this quiet street with care. But I started to think —the lawn sign: an interesting venue for alternative forms of social discourse. How could I use this very public medium? How could I subvert and extend this generally accepted cultural format? Suddenly, the dark early dawn brightened and the artist in me was now wide-awake.

When I got to work, in an incredible display of synchronicity, Bill Fisher had sent an email informing me of his Yard Sign Project.

Red, white and blue signs, approximately 1.5’ x 2’, are placed in front yards and other public locations. They are designed to resemble the ubiquitous yard signs printed commercially and posted in front of homes and businesses throughout the southern USA. The “Ten Commandments” yard sign includes text from the Geneva Convention as it relates specifically to treatment of prisoners. “Support Our Troops” includes officially suppressed imagery of the flag-draped remains of US servicemen and servicewomen. “Re-Elect” makes explicit the merging of secular and religious iconography implied by the rhetoric of our political leaders. “Home For Sale” includes an image of the American flag, violently out of focus.

You can download any of his four designs to place in your own front lawn or window. The politicians aren’t the only ones with something important to say.

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