Nature Is Bad For The Economy: This Street Art Makes You Question Your Values

“The Economy,” a guerrilla art project, wants you to remember that what’s best for the economy might not always be what’s best for human beings.

Two weeks ago, I saw one of the bumper stickers you can see here. A shock of irony sped through my retinas and a jolt of truth shot out my toes. I thought, “Who finally said–succinctly and artfully–what so many people ramble on endlessly about or refuse to acknowledge at all?” I knew I wasn’t alone in my wondering. So I sought out the artist, someguy, to ask some questions about his project titled The Economy. Here are excerpts from our email interaction.


Co.Exist: Shouldn’t we just lay back and enjoy the decay? Why point out the irony?

Someguy: I’ve considered this.

When did everyone get so uptight? 

You can buy pizza that has hotdogs embedded in the crust. Like, around the edges. We have the Sham-Wow and the Slanket and Jersey Shore. I don’t understand how anyone can be uptight in paradise. 

So what spurred you to do this?

The source of many of my projects comes from a growing unease with how politicians (on both sides) create narratives to fit their agenda. We’re told what’s important, and why. At the end of the day, we actually believe that we have opinions. In this case, I was struck by the framing of any policy argument that it was “good” or it was “bad” for the economy. Rather, I’d like, just once, for us to make decisions based on what’s good for people. We are, after all, people. (Sorry, I keep forgetting that corporations are people, too). 


How does the larger narrative of your life inform these works?

I find people are hypocrites (myself included). We vote against our best interests. We paint our faces and passionately support our favorite sports team, but won’t protest against warrantless wiretapping. We want to save the world, but not if it’s a hassle. We say religion shouldn’t play a role in an election, but then accuse Obama of being Muslim (which, last time I checked, wasn’t illegal). We trample people while madly rushing to buy things on sale. Observing this behavior–which seems to be accelerating–informs many of my projects.

What’s been the most interesting reaction to this work?

Most people get the Economy project right away. I did, however, witness (on someone’s Facebook wall), an entire argument ensue in which a person decided to argue that the sayings were incorrect. He pointed out how they were each wrong, and why. I’m not sure if he took offense, or what, but he wasn’t ready to be wrong about anything. So, back and forth the comments went. I never chimed in, being more interested in the dialog than the outcome. 

Regardless of your intentions, do you feel like you changed anything with this series?

No. Yes. Maybe. I have such an overwhelming sense that we’re heading in the wrong direction. And I don’t mean this from a political leadership standpoint, but as a society. We. Us. We’re heading the wrong way. We measure GDP, but not happiness. We think we’re number one, but really, that’s just in average number of hours worked per week … we work the most of any industrialized country. Hooray. 


People who know me best might characterize me as a pessimist. But, I’d argue that I’m a closet optimist, because regardless of the odds, I keep trying to change things. All it takes is for one person to change their thinking, and then another will, and eventually, change will happen. 

Anything else you want to say?

I’m often brought back to a statement (T-shirt? Poster?) that was passed around the web a few years back. It said (something like) “Designers can’t change the world. Go work at a soup kitchen you pretentious fuck“. Despite all that I do, I can’t argue with this. 

Someguy is offering a doorway through which people can pass and confront the faulty logic on which much of our economy is actually built. That may be a pretentious goal, but it’s a worthy one. And while it’s not soup, it is certainly a nourishing food that we don’t get served nearly enough.


About the author

Adam Butler is the co-founder and director of collaboration at The Butler Brothers, an Austin, Texas-based "idea production company."