Cultural HiJack: Campus Dealer

For this assignment, I set out to find images I found oppressive. Spending the summer at home in Los Angeles, I saw a lot of billboards and advertising for various weed companies. This particular ad irked me:

ad for the company Eaze

It bothered me that these companies promote the idea that weed has now just “shown up” because the government says it’s finally acceptable to use it. I’d also heard of bad experiences with the company (expensive prices, late, etc) from friends and online. Additionally, there’s the whitewashing of marijuana; it’s now a “cool” and “progressive” designer drug for middle/upper-class people to become consumers of this product once rich white entrepreneurs (instead of POC or the poor) are selling.

I decided on two methods for getting my hijack out, stickers and business cards. Both are relatively innocuous but easy to produce and be seen around campus. I made the cards on Canva, as they have very Basicâ„¢ type fonts and layouts that lean into the commercial sellout weed image. I set a fake number through Google Voice, which was surprisingly easy to do. For the sticker, I first drew it on paper and then scanned it into Affinity Designer to draw over.

For me, the harder part was transforming this very Cali-specific frame to a wider/New England crowd, which is where the business card came in. Weed is on the way to being legalized in NY state (or at least decriminalized for now), and the cards were a way to see how people on campus would react to a more commercialized (though fake) image of marijuana sales, I guess. The two images below are the final designs I created and printed:

First up, I installed cards in places where students would see them on campus, so mainly the library:

I had great fun slinking around the library and putting cards between books, but my favorite part of the install was going to a series of parties Friday night and dropping cards:

In-class critique and conferences really helped me specify the image and clarify it for others. For example, I made this song for the voicemail of the fake number:

Original voicemail

I soon realized this voicemail (while sick) didn’t help my cause, and I changed it to a simple “Hi, you’ve reached ________. You have our card. Leave a message.” This pretty quickly got some more responses. I waited a few days to see if I’d get any more messages, but I only got calls the two days after the party and the night of. When I went back to the library, all the cards had disappeared, either taken by students or taken down by library employees…

I got this text as I was writing this post!!
Audio of a voicemail received, edited to hide the caller’s voice. Hard to tell whether his intentions were sincere or not…

Up next, my (failed) installation of stickers. So, I printed them on sticker paper and set out to put them on smoking spots around campus (Slonim woods, behind the PAC building, Narnia). But I ran into some issues real quick. Because of rain, a lot of spots were very moist and I ruined a few stickers trying to get them to stay, and for some reason, the stickers kept tearing when I attempted to peel them off the sticker page… It was very frustrating to have gone to all this effort to see it fall apart in my hand :(

So overall, mixed but funny results from the cards, and an almost complete failure on the sticker part. But I had great fun during installation and it was interesting to see the calls and messages I got to the business cards, and how people responded to the possibility of a dealer on campus. Perhaps this was closer to a sort of impersonation exercise than a visual hijack.