Given the legal battle, probation, and $25,000 fine that ensued when street artist Shepard Fairey was found to have appropriated an Associated Press photograph without permission to create his iconic “Hope” poster for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, it would have been crazy for him to pick a bone with the artists who have recently re-made the famous design as a commentary on the recent National Security Agency scandal. But just in case, the Los Angeles Times asked Fairey what he thinks of the remixes — which feature the slogan “Yes We Scan,” a parody of Obama’s “Yes We Can” rallying cry, and an image of the president wearing headphones, presumably to listen in on average Americans’ phone calls — and he loves them.
“I have never been an unconditional Obama supporter or cheerleader,” Fairey told the L.A. Times. “So I’m pleased to see people subvert my Obama images as a way to critique him and demonstrate the wide gap between some of his promises and actions.”
One of the designs, pictured above, even features the slogan “Obey Us,” a play on the name of Fairey’s popular brand Obey. “Subversion of well known symbols and images for social commentary has long been a technique in my repertoire, so I’m glad to see it in the work of others,” Fairey added. “I have even subverted my own Obama image in support of Occupy. There are no sacred cows, and I agree that Obama needs to be called out on an NSA program that over-reaches to the extreme and shouldn’t be secret. We live in a remix culture and remix is a valuable form of communication when the re-configuration makes a strong statement.”
In a recent blog post about Russell Brand, however, Fairey shared far more pointed feelings regarding Obama administration’s role in the NSA’s PRISM program. “Warrantless surveillance under Bush was extremely disconcerting, but not surprising in the post 9/11 climate of fear,” he wrote. “The extent of Obama’s spying is unacceptable and I feel sickened and betrayed by someone I dedicated a huge amount of time, energy, and money to support based on the way he presented his views as the antithesis of Bush’s. The charge of Edward Snowden with espionage for exposing the Prism program only dims my view of the Obama administration further.”
— Benjamin Sutton