The story of Biafra, Inc.

Pretty ladies and punk rockers lay behind the mystery of the Biafra Inc sticker movement.

Photo courtesy Biafra, Inc.

Ashley Goetz

Photo courtesy Biafra, Inc.

Stuck up high above the street on a telephone sign in University Village is a sticker whose only message is in large bolded letters spelling âÄúBIAFRA INC.âÄù Below is a picture of a young woman gazing dreamingly into the distance. The stickers are becoming more and more common around campus, but even for those who have gotten used to seeing them, the meaning is often hard to find. âÄúI thought it was Hillary Clinton at firstâÄù admitted economics senior Jeff Lundberg. Kayla Petrich, a first-year in graphic design, said she had seen it but that she didnâÄôt really know what it meant. âÄúTheyâÄôre sporadic enough to notice,âÄù said Conor Flood, also a graphic design first-year, though he too admitted that he didnâÄôt know what they meant. As it turns out, Biafra Inc. is an art project based right out of the mighty Midwest that has distributed more than 20,000 stickers in the past two years. More than 300 people in the Twin Cities have received stickers from Biafra. The stickers are distributed for free, largely through BiafraâÄôs MySpace account. A&E got in contact with Biafra to ask a few questions about this artist that was formerly shrouded in silent mystery. Why Biafra? I chose the name Biafra Inc. largely because of Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys . I was introduced to them in middle school, and they sort of opened me up to new ideas, so I guess in a way IâÄôd like to open people up to new ideas as well. Why Edie Sedgwick ? I think that a lot of people have sort of forgotten about her, which I think is really sad, so IâÄôm sort of trying to bring her back âĦ ItâÄôs cool because IâÄôll get messages asking who the lady is or something and IâÄôll tell them, and often theyâÄôll say, âÄúOh, cool.âÄù I had no idea who she was, but I Wikipedia-d her and sheâÄôs really interesting. How did Biafra start? The name started five years ago when I started stenciling, then when I started doing stickers a couple of years ago I added âÄúInc.âÄù as sort of a last name when I needed something else on the sticker. The stickers started two years ago after I saw this news report on BNE, whoâÄôs this big legend in the sticker world because nobody knows who they are, where theyâÄôre from, or anything else. I saw the reports and I was like, âÄúOh that sounds really cool, maybe I could do something like that.âÄù What is BiafraâÄôs purpose or artist statement? Biafra Inc. is best explained as a way of getting art in the hands of the people and getting people more involved in the arts. The main way I try and accomplish this is through stickers. Giving people stickers gives them the power to put it up where they want and when they want. ItâÄôs something tangible that you can go back to and say âÄúOh hey, I put that up.âÄù The other ways I try and accomplish this are though posters, shirts and actual paintings. I designed the stickers in hopes that instead of conveying a blatant message (like meat is murder), the viewer could use their knowledge and past experiences to create their own meaning, and if not their own meaning, at least the sticker would spark a memory. IâÄôve talked to people who have told me the sticker always reminds them of womenâÄôs rights, hope or something else thatâÄôs important to them. So all in all, the art is there to spark interest or a thought, and to put the art back in the hands of the people. Why stickers? Stickers are fast, and theyâÄôre tangible âĦ you can put them up, and walk by them later and just sort of smile. And I really enjoy stickers âÄî I always have. I grew up skateboarding and I loved putting skateboarding stickers all over my stuff. All my ramps were covered, my boards had stickers, any flat surface. TheyâÄôre just fun. Is Biafra Inc involved in any other projects? IâÄôve got a couple of gallery shows coming up in the spring that IâÄôm trying to get ready for, but other than that, my friend SMUDGE (Minneapolis âÄòzine artist) and I are doing collaborative shirts, and weâÄôre hopefully putting a new shirt out soon.