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Updated: 2 days ago

Last time I wrote a short blog post introducing the Plumber King. The connection between a writer's environment (or just artist's environment, for that matter) and the produced art really intrigued me. Is art not just a reaction to one's surroundings? Please read my ramblings knowing that I have a grand total of zero qualifications on art history or philosophy.


Photograph: Lifestyle Asia


Some other thoughts. I couldn't help but notice a parallel between the guerrilla nature of wheatpasting and the guerrilla nature of Plumber King's adverts. I haven't travelled to everywhere in Asia, but I'm sure there are the "Plumber Kings" in other regions too. In China, there's a similar type of guerrilla advertisement.


Photograph: New Weekly


"Xiao GuangGao," literally translated as "little ads," loosely describes a range of illegally displayed advertisements. They advertise anything from labour services to (pseudo) medical support to fake IDs to prostitution, and everything in between.


These "Xiao GuangGao" take most often form in small paper stickers, stencils or brushstrokes advertising a good or service, and the corresponding phone number to reach out. These "Xiao GuangGao" are seen on walls, lamp posts, and any other urban canvas that can grab the attention of the passerby. It's a staple of China's gritty urban environment. it's a reflection of the local people and the local environment.


Photograph: Ifeng


Or perhaps, it's not a staple of China's gritty urban environment. But a past staple of China's gritty urban environment; a dying phenomena. Not only have city councils in larger cities like Beijing cracked down on "Xiao GuangGao," the digital revolution has rendered these ads redundant.


Photograph: Upsouth


Graffiti was born from an urge for self-expression. "Xiao GuangGao" was born from an urge for survival in a cut-throat urban environment (is that a bit too dramatic?). Yet both mediums overlap in their ideals in consistency and eye-catchiness. Both are examples of the few remaining forms of typography.


So next time you're in China, take some time to appreciate the "Xiao GuangGao." No doubt the "Xiao GuangGao" will be a part of a soon-to-be bygone era of China.



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