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The Consumerist Aliens From “They Live” Are Back–In A Guerilla-Style Art Installation

Artists Stephen Zeigler and Calder Greenwood created a living homage to John Carpenter’s They Live, with consumer-baiting signs and an actor dressed up like one of the movie’s memorable advertising aliens.

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“I’m here to chew bubblegum and kick ass . . . and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

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Sadly, the above line, spoken by wrestler-turned-actor “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, is probably the best-remembered bit of dialog in the seminal 1980s flick, They Live. Perhaps the more salient enduring legacy of the John Carpenter sci-fi allegory about consumerism, though, is its influence on Shepard Fairey. The film is said to be the basis for his use of the word “obey,” owing to its strong message about how people are manipulated by advertising. Accordingly, perhaps the influential street artist would be proud that a couple of artists have taken the message of They Live out to the streets in a very literal way.


In the film, a very well-built private citizen comes across a pair of magic sunglasses that reveal grotesque aliens passing for humans all around him, using advertising as a Trojan horse for delivering subliminal messages. It’s not a subtle message, but it’s a resonant one. Now, according to LA Taco, artists Stephen Zeigler and Calder Greenwood are paying tribute to the film with a guerrilla-style installation that recreates the idea of the movie in downtown L.A. Various bus benches and other signs carry messages similar to the commercial creeds seen in the film, while an actor decked out in business gear and a ghoulish mask parades around nearby. It’s a fair homage to the foresight of Carpenter as we await any cinematic response he may one day make to the rise of branded content.

Have a look through more images from the installation in the slides above.