The modern world can look dim and dour, so combine arts and crafts with activism and urban art. Experiment with wheatpasting as an ecological alternative to flyposting. Wheatpasting recipe, application tips and ideology ahoy!
The modern world can be an ugly place. Concrete sidewalks, barbed-wire fences, and bare brick walls are everywhere. And while it is always good to find the beauty in the ordinary, it’s even more proactive to add beauty in a non-invasive, environmentally conscientious way.
Wheatpasting: A mookier alternative
Wheatpasting is similar to flypostering – adding your posters to public spaces. However, wheatpasting uses a wheat rather than a glue base as the sticky medium.
Wheatpasting as a medium for public art has a plethora of virtues. Unlike spray paint, it doesn’t release aerosols into the atmosphere and cause global warming. Spray paint can also cause lung cancer after repeated exposure.
Wheatpasting is impermanent. It can be removed relatively easily with a solution of water and soap and a good metal scraper (or fingernails, if you are so inclined). This means that previous instillations can be removed to make way for new ones.
It’s also a nice gesture for the city – you’re not permanently defacing anything, which can be handy if you get caught. We know that your art is for the sake of public beauty and expression, not vandalism, but your local public authorities may not look so kindly upon it.
Wheatpaste has been used to hang up everything from circus posters to revolutionary propaganda over the years. Many of the advertisements by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the famed nineteenth-century artist, were wheatpasted around the cities of France. Wheatpasting is also known as “flyposting” and “poster bombing,” depending on where you ask.
There are multiple variations of the wheat paste recipe, and you’re likely to receive a different version from whomever you ask. This version works well for me.
Ingredients for wheat paste
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1 cup BOILING HOT WATER. (Truly boiling water is necessary here – for whatever reason, the wheatpaste produced by anything less than zillion degree water is watery and icky.)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (if you feel like it)
Mix the flour and cold water together in a largish, heatproof container (it needs to be large and heatproof enough to handle the cup of boiling water you are going to stir into it). Then, after you have a smooth paste, add the boiling water slowly. If you add it too fast, you will get lumps – nothing that can’t be stirred out, but it’s nice to avoid that. Stir the paste until it coagulates into a viscous slime. Stir in the sugar, if you have it, but don’t stress if you don’t – you can make a perfectly functional paste without it. Let the paste cool and then put it in a container.
Wheatpaste can be transported in a Tupperware container, but there are even better options available for maximum conveniency. By taking a largeish plastic container with a lid, like a giant tub of yogurt, and cutting a rectangle in the lid, you can make a handy wheatpaste holder/brush Combo. This, in tandem with flat-bottomed tote bag, can be an invaluable tool for wheatpasting in secrecy.
Tips For Wheatpasting
Have the wheatpaste handy. Unlike other forms of public art, like spray paint, wheatpasting is a multistep process – getting out the wheatpaste and brush, laying out the art, and then pasting over it. I recommend you be fairly efficient with these motions if you are in an area where you run a risk of being caught. Practice makes perfect, you’ll make a system that works well for you 😀
For legal purposes we must tell you: ask permission before wheatpasting. Although wheatpasting is arguably less harmful than other forms of urban art (spray paint? Koff koff), it is still illegal. Sometimes.