Guerrilla Art


Guerrilla Art by Bruce Ray

Guerrilla Art is a public art poster project of provocative artwork and poems by Bruce Ray, a longstanding member of Gallery Gachet. Ray’s posters are socially and critically charged works that speak directly to political critique and issues around mental health, while the poster format emphasizes accessibility for viewing his artwork at street-level. The Guerrilla Art posters (a series of 8) can be found wheat-pasted to poles in the DTES, Mount Pleasant, and Commercial Drive neighbourhoods.

Guerrilla Art / Artist Statement by Bruce Ray

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”  Lewis Carroll / Alice in Wonderland 

The Gallery Gachet has always been an experiment.  It is our intent to educate the public about the stigma of mental illness and educate ourselves on the business of selling art. I have been a member for twenty years and I see the gallery as an alternative to the system. It is here where we put on provocative shows and challenge society. Guerrilla Art is like that. This is a show whereby we put artwork up around the neighbourhood. These are posters I have designed to affect an attitude. This is not parody or an affectation but an attempt to send a message. Each image is juxtaposed with a slogan and functions as an enigma. I have worked in Photoshop to evoke these visions. Posters are meant as advertisements -and here I have advertised the reality of phobia. I don’t pretend to say anything important but I speak to the questions I have considered here. Each slogan is meant to cause a reaction but not to give any answers. Surrealism has always been my preferred expression. Some of these images are deliberate while others are pure accidents. The art of juxtaposition is a process whereby absurdity is delineated through a combination of divergent symbols. The slogans are meant to echo their meaning and to provide an emanation. These posters are meant to be placed on walls and to give art back to the people. A neighbourhood is a perfect gallery -and it’s surely important that we remember our street credibility. Give to the people and illuminate them. 

The Gallery Gachet provides a service for the mentally ill. This service is to give an opportunity to those who otherwise would not fit in.  To give self empowerment is surely a progressive idea. This is not a thing that is considered by the state. Consumers (as we are called) are encouraged strongly to be dependent on the resources of the community. It is a basic human right to have work and to provide for yourself. We have no pride or self esteem if we are inactive. It only makes our sickness worse and gives us nothing but apathy. Here at the gallery we are involved in learning -and in this way we love to learn. A man who does not move will die.  In this way I would say that initiative is a sign of sanity. Activity is itself proof of stability. If we can make people busy in their expression we can give them a realization.  We don’t give water -we dig wells. This show I am involved in is called Guerrilla Art.  It takes place on the walls of the city -and in this way it makes an outside gallery. Landscape is now merged with political will. Make no mistake -I believe politics and art are the same thing. Landscape is the environment we use to put art out into the public arena. Give art to the people who otherwise wouldn’t dare to enter a gallery. Landscape is the ultimate gallery for the disenfranchised. In this world there is prejudice and argument. I want to speak to this in my art.  If these images are enigma they give a hidden truth. In juxtaposition there is a thing of secrets and renewal. I want to show in my creations an intimation of true freedom -that which lives behind alienation. 

It is my intent to put art out that challenges and asks questions. I do not give answers -I leave that to the viewer. It is said that if we question the truth, it will strengthen. The dissident voice is the muscle of society. Art and life are indelibly merged together. Political will arises out of the soul -and it is a function of the self. Another basic human right is the pursuit of knowledge. If we are blocked or stymied by another -who says ‘I have the truth’ then we are denied.  A seeker must be allowed to go further and to find the truth in what he sees. Mental illness is a part of this search where we reach self generation. To pursue knowledge is to be dangerous to others. If we are made harmless then we are not able to be cured. It is also true that in order to be cured -we must know the illness. This means that we must allow ourselves to know it intimately.  To seek out knowledge to dare the future. To acquire new things -we must know that life is always uncertain. In this irony we become certain in our ways. To gain the self is to lose the self.  Guerrilla art is an imposition of the will upon reality. Our gallery is now out on the streets -to be given to everyone. Art is the struggle of the will whereby we learn how to change reality. In this way poetry is the act of preparing for battle. 

And so I have put poems out with these posters. These poems are expressions of my life as an outsider artist. They have been put out on the avenues as generated thoughts. The walls and doorways of the metropolis are places of consideration. The present is the time when we celebrate free speech and justice. The moment is a page where the word is written. We will put up posters and they will be covered or taken down -and then we’ll put them up again. Guerrilla art is the ultimate subversion -what are these secret thoughts made public? All art is like that -rising up from beneath placidity. Society is an illusion after all -true revolution lives within. The peace and calm on the surface is a disguise -there is anger that waits underneath. In the shallows we live with prejudice and stigma. I believe that the struggle for racial equality, the marginalized and the environment are the same thing.  The troubles of the world, the signs of illness and the rage of modern man are a warning. How are advised on the problem by the problem makers. Even so, the tools of the master will be used to dismantle the master’s house.  If a slave has a fear for the whip -we can still overcome denial. How we use technology to fight technology.  Art is a way of strengthening spiritual muscles. It was said by a musician that discipline is a resistance to pain. He said that every man should have an obsession. I remember this in my craft (and I call it craft) as I return to pure essence.  

A show on the streets is the ultimate subversion. What is graffiti but a thing of wonders and signs?  As it is said -there are prophets here. As I walk the avenue -I am aware of potential. These walls and doorways are places of opportunity. They should be covered with artwork. Upon grey and greasy blue -there should be bright colours.  On the desolate realms of the forgotten there should be memories. I speak as an outsider artist -that is my profession. I believe that the ‘outsider’ is truly an ‘insider’  he see’s with perspective and allows himself to live on the fringes.  But surely it is true that what lives on the outside is also inside.  The upper light is the same as the lower light and the many and the one are not divergent. To put out posters in this way -we do our work ‘out doors’. We are now not limited by a gallery space -we are going out into the wilderness.  Let people see what they want to see -for Guerrilla Art is for everyone -even the doubters and sceptics. Landscape and imagination are now together. How I created my art in isolation -apart from others. Now I offer it to the public as the excesses of my vision. I pour over from my cup, a bitter wine. The Gallery Gachet has always been a place for experiments in some way or another. As long as I’ve been a member here -I have been impressed by the  courage of those who dare to expose themselves.  All art comes out of daring and vulnerability. If they call us ‘mentally ill’ it’s because we are different. 

We send out our foot-soldiers into the city. We give them these pictures -to delineate harsh reality with pure expression.  When we put these posters up they will be taken down.  We will then put them up again. In this way we are going to war.  We are enacting a strategy of radical will. We are fighting the ignorance of those who know the truth but ignore it. This is our faith -after all faith only comes out of a certainty of purpose. We dedicate our creations to anyone who would take them. How I am merging poetry and art as a single imposition. I am joining body and soul together -my art is spirituality and belief. Guerrilla Art is a way of proving what others haven’t seen. As the man who stands on the outside -I see the inside much better. These posters are the dreams I have taken from the heart of the world.  I give them to the people as eternal revelations. Reality is elastic and alway’s returns to its former shape. In this way what has been distorted is reconsidered. All mental illness is a proof of hidden creativity. It has been said that states and individuals are opposed to each other.  

Many artists and poets in history were attacked for their expression. Even so, all art is a foretelling of the future. It predicts what is inevitable and constant. These posters are only things I see by the reflected light of my dreams.  Slogan, image and environment are together. Gallery is landscape and character in its principle. We give art that is shown by the naked light. We offer up a mirror to the sun and the moon. just like a graffiti artist and a muralist -I’m putting my name out there.  In this way I risk being a fool. It is said that a man is mad if he adapts to a mad world.  This is evidence of my sickness -the sickness of ‘being alive’. These posters are contraband and proof of the crime. They show the distractions of a deluded soul. Guerrilla Art is a thing of deviant behaviour after all.  What is ‘normal’ but abnormality?  Who decides on the rules? Who makes the borders of knowledge by where we are judged?  My art is a thing of conscience -I can’t help but express it. And if I provoke in you a reaction -I am truly gratified.  How I throw a stone into a river and wait for an answer. My creativity is a way of reaching out, for madness lives in isolation. I want to return to the community and be a part of its contributions.  I demand that I be taken in -and given justice. All apartness is an illusion after all. Let these posters show that I am alive.  Let this daylight gallery be a thing of consciousness. How I am giving my thoughts to the crowd that walks by. 

It is said that Truth is a virus. We take it in when we see it and it enters our genes. This toxic wisdom is a thing of forbidden revelation. The prophet said that ‘the first is the last’. In this way truth is contrary to the world.  It comes like a riddle and an enigma. How an artist throws sand in your eyes to make you see. The artist questions even though he has no answers. It is the philosopher who gives answers. How truth is ever regenerative and self replicating.  An image (or a word) is a powerful form of magic. You might say it is a drug or hallucinogenic. To give images to the people is to provide them with weapons in the struggle for human rights. These posters are just sympathies I give out.  If art is seen as an isolated act -that’s a lie. Artist and audience are indelibly linked together.  All expressions are a collaboration between the soul -and ‘the other’. That mysterious substance is somehow disturbed and caused to be changed.  Artist and beholder are now at one. To give truth is to take truth in return. A cross pollination of flowers is known in nature.  It is also true in human concerns that we are a part of a larger pattern.  Guerrilla Art is the subverted vision. What is true on the surface is not true beneath. The streets are a thing of the unconscious. It is here where the light shines in the darkness.  It is in this realm where we know true reality. This is the secret dream of the city. Let my posters be seen as dreams and visions.  Let my art be known as intimations. They are here and gone -on these walls for a while -then forgotten. Covered up or taken away -as other posters replace them. Fate has no mercy after all. This show is a temporary thing -as all shows are. In any case don’t you always wake up from a dream? In the morning you try to remember but you can’t.  


Bruce Ray. 

This entry was posted in Events, Exhibitions, News
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