Wheatpasting is a direct action method for interacting with your neighbours and adorning your area, much like graffiti. Wheatpasting helps you to quickly and safely spread a complicated, nuanced message at numerous locations because it is simple to mass-produce posters. Repeating your message makes it more memorable to everyone and improves the likelihood that others will give it some thought. We have a large range of poster designs that you can print out or order in bulk if you’re searching for posters to paste up.
This is an excerpt from our book, Recipes for Disaster, which goes into great detail about numerous related strategies.
Create a paste
White or whole-grain wheat flour should be combined with three parts water to make wheatpaste. Any lumps should be removed, and the mixture should be heated to a boil while being constantly stirred to prevent burning. Add extra water when it begins to thicken, and simmer it on low heat for at least 30 minutes while stirring constantly. For more stickiness, some folks add a little sugar or cornflour; don’t be afraid to experiment. Once created, wheatpaste can be stored in sealed containers for a while, but ultimately it will dry up or decay; sealed containers of it have even been known to burst, which is terrible. If you can, keep them in a refrigerator.
Any home improvement store will also sell wallpaper adhesive; it comes in pre-mixed buckets or cartons of powder. When compared to wheatpaste, wallpaper glue is far quicker, simpler, and less expensive to mix—even if you have to pay for it. Get the strongest adhesive you can find instead of the “easy to remove” brands, of course.
To effectively convey information or ideas during wheatpasting, effective design is essential. Remember that the majority of people will view these from a distance, so keep the headline large and legible and use straightforward, high-contrast graphics. Make sure the title conveys the essential message. For those who are only passingly interested, you can also include a short paragraph in smaller size, and it’s always a good idea to include a website address or other relevant link.
Several photocopying franchisees provide significantly larger possibilities, so don’t limit yourself to pasting up standard-size photocopies. If such printing technology is not accessible, large images made up of smaller copies can be pasted up as posters instead. Consider other options as well, such as old anarchist magazines, police target practise sheets with pictures of masked men on them, bus schedules screenprinted with creative patterns, or income tax forms stencilled with the necessary messages about taxation, representation, and exploitation.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the thinner the paper, the better. Thinner paper absorbs paste better, and if an art hater doesn’t like it, they’re more likely to tear it off in tiny parts as opposed to all at once. Another approach to stop such philistines is to swiftly run a razor down and across each poster after pasting it up; if you slice a pasted poster in this way, it will only fall down in small pieces.
Put up a new poster, please!
Carry your little posters in a method that makes it possible for you to access them quickly without making it obvious that you are carrying them if you are pasting up a lot of them. For this, a messenger bag will work; just make sure you can reach into it and slide one out easily. When hanging large posters, roll them up with the top facing out so you can quickly unroll them along the wall, then rubber band each one separately.
You will require a container to apply the paste from. Wheatpaste is typically thick, so a large plastic bottle of water works well as a vessel; wallpaper glue, on the other hand, is typically thinner and more uniform, so it may be poured out of tiny holes, such those in a dishwashing soap container with a pop-up nozzle. A window-washing squeegee from a service station will do, or you could get a plastic wallpaper smoother from the same stores that sell wallpaper glue, to assist smooth the posters up on the wall. The application of wheatpaste can also be sped up using large paintbrushes. All of this could be done by hand, but you’d end up messy.
Select a suitable spot for each poster and make sure it is clean; smooth surfaces like metal, glass, or stucco will take pasting well, whereas wood, concrete, or brick will be less forgiving. Apply the paste next. Use the least quantity of wheatpaste possible to ensure that the entire poster sticks because the more you use, the longer it will take to dry. Apply paste over the wall, position the smaller poster there, smooth out any air bubbles or wrinkles, and then spread more paste over the top to secure the corners if you’re using smaller posters. Apply the paste to the backs of larger posters flat on the ground first before hanging them up on the wall, smoothing them out, and adding another coat of paste. As you ensure the paste is placed evenly, starting on the ground makes you less noticeable.
Consider where the poster will likely stay as well as how much traffic the area receives when deciding where to place it. You should also consider which demographics will find your design to be most appealing. A banner in an alley that will stay up for six months is frequently preferable to twenty along Main Street that will be taken down by midday.
It doesn’t hurt to act covertly when wheatpasting because it’s not entirely legal in many regions. A nice time for it is late at night when the streets are quiet but not yet empty and you can pose as students leaving for a party or workers returning from a bar. You’ll be astonished at what you can get away with if you act as though what you’re doing is completely legal while being careful to avoid doing it in front of law enforcement. Anarchists have nevertheless been able to cover entire districts in posters, even in cities that were locked down and under the control of thousands of riot police.
A bicycle is a practical tool for postering. The handlebars can be used as a ladder to reach areas where your art is more obvious and more difficult to remove, and they can be used to carry supplies in a basket. If the necessity arises, it can also help you make a rapid departure. Also, bring something to clean up with since wheatpaste can go all over your clothes even if you wear latex gloves to prevent your hands from becoming sticky from it, making it obvious that you are the perpetrator.
A well-organized crew may cover a city in posters in the course of one evening if they divide the territory, choose their targets in beforehand, and act quickly enough to leave no trace before anyone notices the new posters popping up everywhere. Additionally, wheatpasting can be used to change the visuals and messages on billboards. For distribution to other organisations with the time and motivation to participate, a group participating in a mass mobilisation may create wheatpasting kits including ready-to-use wheatpaste, posters, and maps highlighting vulnerable areas of the city.
In order to encourage others to take part in beautifying your town, you could also post posters with this wheatpaste recipe and a call for entries.
Appendix: A Narrative of My Wheatpasting Adventures
There isn’t much to say about wheatpasting because it typically goes so easily, but it’s always possible to push the envelope, and this is the tale of one occasion when we did.
On the eve of the anniversary of September 11, 2001, we had swindled more than two dozen five-foot-tall by three-foot-wide posters from the neighbourhood photocopy shop to draw attention to the urgent problems of terrorism and war. The main shopping sector and a few key thoroughfares were the ideal sites for these after we had cased our city. In order to accomplish the most in each region of the city before the police became aware of our activities, we planned out the area and determined the optimal order in which to visit these spots. Then, we moved on to another zone.
Five roles were split among us. One of us would travel by bicycle, conducting reconnaissance within a few-block radius of each location. The other four of us were going to ride in a car. Since most of our targets were on one-way streets, this vehicle would drop off a scout to serve as a lookout at one end of a street, then drop off the two people who would do the pasting around a corner and out of sight from the target, before driving down the cross street to serve as a watchful eye in the opposite direction. The two would adorn the locations they had selected in that area before meeting the driver around another peaceful corner. The three would then pick up the pedestrian lookout and go on to the next location, being followed by the bike. Two-way radios with earpieces connected the driver, the rider, the scout, and the pasting crew so that information about the movements of police or others could be instantly shared among us. We were taking precautions since the corporate news media had made a great fuss about the considerable security measures that had been put in place for this anniversary.
We brewed wheatpaste for a few hours before leaving at midnight. Without incident, we reached all of our objectives in downtown; at one point, the bicyclist warned us that a police officer had pulled up a driver a few blocks away, but we swiftly completed our tasks and left the area before the police car moved.
It was actually a bit of a relief to be rushing around in all black with enormous plastic bottles of wheatpaste and rolled posters after doing some smaller-scale wheatpasting where we were trying to pass as law-abiding residents. Everything was on the table; all that was left to be done was to move quickly and be vigilant. When I shouted hello to a bystander as we sped past him at one point, he simply stared at us as if we were Martian invaders.
The final aim was an underpass for a motorway where eight columns supported the opposite lane. Eight posters were to be put up, four facing each direction of traffic. We were having some difficulties after having such great success since wheatpaste had unavoidably gotten on our clothes and was clogging the two-way radio’s microphone and earpiece. Nevertheless, the scouts took their positions, and we were left to finish the task adjacent to the underpass. We completed four columns by ducking under approaching cars and springing up to place posters in their path. We then vaulted over the concrete guardrail to cross the motorway. I had to throw myself over the wall while holding the wheatpaste and the posters in one hand and crash comically to the ground without the use of my hands in a scenario straight out of a slapstick film. I was helped over the other wall by a friend, and then we started the fifth column.
At this point, our radio started making some sort of noise, but the wheatpaste made it hard to hear the words. Headlights suddenly appeared, so we ducked behind the column and gently manoeuvred behind it as the car drove up and passed us. A police car, that is. We resumed wheatpasting as it continued to move along, but as soon as we did, spotlights arrived from the opposite direction, forcing us to turn around once more and hide as another police car passed. It was beginning to appear bad. We abandoned the posters and swiftly started walking out of the underpass because it was now difficult to get our radio to work. I threw the final jug of wheatpaste into the bushes as additional headlights came into view ahead.
The first side street we came to, we turned down. Wheatpaste stains are more noticeable on dark colours, so we stood out as suspicious-looking in our black camouflage with paste stains all over it, especially so late at night in a neighbourhood with no pedestrian traffic. Even worse, it turned out that the route we had chosen was a long passageway with no side exits that passed through a deserted warehouse district; no excuse could sufficiently account for our being here. A police car pulled onto the street at that very moment and slowed to a crawl as it approached us. We continued to move forward while acting as though we were unaware that the police officer was inching closer and openly staring at us.
It’s odd that he continued going! Though the stains on our garments would have revealed us upon closer scrutiny, he must not have believed that he had enough proof to warrant our arrest given that we had no posters or paste. We continued on through further side streets and returned to our covert location, where the others were waiting, happy that we had made it out and eager to tell us about the police cars that had started to pursue them and forced them to leave us.
After a brief period of sleep, we left shortly after morning rush hour to check our job.