A Guerilla Art Attack Hits Stockholm
Akayism. Your only protection," reads a liberated billboard in the Stockholm subway. Faces in the waiting crowd glance and wonder. Should I know more about Akayism? Exactly who is my Akayist candidate?
There is only one, and while he may be campaigning, he's not running for office. Akay is a young Stockholm artist, and the streets of the Swedish capital are his ever-expanding gallery. "Stockholm is too boring," says Akay. "As soon as the city comes to life, they try to sweep away any sign of creativity."
Akayism is about confusion and beauty and reclaiming the streets. Akay's work is semiotic guerrilla warfare that serves no other agenda than the idea that public space belongs to public expression. "I just want to make people think and wonder," he says. "If there actually were an obvious ideology behind Akayism, people wouldn't need to reflect the way they do now."
A former graffiti artist, Akay's approach is methodical. He wears the apparel of a professional bill-poster, and has acquired a set of keys to access the subway system billboards. He has also emerged as a timely critic: last year, Stockholm was proclaimed the latest epicenter of cool by Wallpaper and Newsweek. Gone is the image of stoic Scandanavians in a Moscow-gray landscape. The new Swedish symbol is the young and wealthy digital entrepreneur, cell phone tucked against an ear.
Simultaneously, Stockholm's civic leaders have taken aim at the likes of Akay. City hall has launched a campaign to clear the streets of illegal posters, the marketing channel of alternative culture. More room is being made for the corporate voice, more public space turned over to private interests.
Last year, wide-screen TV advertising began appearing in the subway. Street artists redoubled their efforts to present alternatives to commercial memes. "Always Coca-Cola," chimes the familiar TV polar bear. "I want my planet back," responds the Akay poster.
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