Opening the same week as the Flare Street Art Festival, the International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival took a different approach to the higher profile mural event, honing in on paper-based practices and employing a unique approach that balanced various modes of display and dissemination.
Created by the Slap City collective, and led by Vez and teethlikescrewdrivers, the Paste-Up and Sticker Festival was centred around the exhibition at Sydenham’s Tyan Haus (home of the Tyan DAO collective of crypto currency enthusiasts, and setting for InHAUS, a recent exhibition of NFTs), where framed sticker bombs, an exhibition of work by associated artists (curated by Hello We Are…) and a massive, cacophonous installation of paste-ups applied directly to the main wall, provided the audience with an impressive collection to survey.
Hampered by the red traffic light setting, the festival had to negotiate the associated restrictions, but still welcomed an enthusiastic (and masked) crowd on opening night. Wandering into the space I was drawn to the large wall of layered paste-ups, examining the assortment of images that ranged in size from Dr Suits’ massive cut-out squiggle and Mark Catley’s magnified Star Wars Wampa toy to much smaller pieces, some hand-drawn or spray-painted, some created digitally and printed. The hundreds of pieces were painstakingly pasted to the wall (using traditional wheat paste) by Slap City members over the week prior to the festival’s opening, the effect both chaotic and fascinating as unexpected juxtapositions revealed threads of information and kinship among the disparate productions. From cheeky and mischievous characters to skulls, food, typography, religious and nostalgic icons (such as Jimbo Phillips’ famous Screaming Hand) and pop cultural riffs, there was a pervasive sense of punky, subversive and anarchic energy. Although there was no unifying theme amongst the paste-ups (an intentional decision, in part based on the reality of collecting pieces not just from Ōtautahi, but from wider Aotearoa, Australia, the UK, America, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Spain, Finland, Slovakia and Canada), with closer inspection, connections could be drawn between the images; in places these relationships were evident in colour combinations or compositional echoes, at other times, the interplay between the poses and glances of the assembled characters provided knowing winks.
But as much as the installation echoed the variety and energy of the streets, the International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival was not contained within the interior setting, the city employed as a further exhibition stage, an extension of the work Slap City has been carrying out for several years through their collective exploits. Utilising an array of the group’s favourite (often unassuming and not technically permissioned) locations, the festival extended out across the city, creating a circuit for people to explore, surfaces plastered with fresh layers of stickers and posters. This is a vital element of the festival’s charm; it was an intentional combination of authentic approaches and the potential found in new environments. Rather than a massive budget, the International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival was achieved through time and effort, drawing on a sense of community and DIY spirit, recognising the inherent qualities of the forms the event celebrates.
In addition to the transformative legacy of the Flare Street Art Festival, Slap City’s International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival provides Ōtautahi with an event that reveals urban art’s diverse make-up and serves to further entrench the city’s reputation as a celebrated creative destination. Highlighting global networks (the international participants, at a time when such a presence is largely impossible, bring a larger online audience and the local artistic community, and this provides a template for even more initiatives.
1. Detail from the massive paste-up wall at Slap City's International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival at Tyan HAUS, featuring work from international collective The Postman
2. Detail from the massive paste-up wall at Slap City's International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival at Tyan HAUS, featuring work from international collective The Postman