Fabricating Authority:

Personified Anonymity in the Work of Jim Joe

Visual and Critical Studies, OCAD University

Thesis Advisors: Ryan Whyte and Julian Haladyn

2019

Dallas Fellini’s thesis research centers on graffiti writer Jim Joe, who over the past decade has earned themself a devoted group of followers through their witty and elusive statements, disorderedly scrawled across the streets of New York City. Despite being completely anonymous and including a minimal amount of visual and contextual information in their work, they have become an acclaimed figure in certain communities and have managed to carve out a style and a voice that is distinctly recognizable. While Jim Joe seemingly refuses an identity and instead presents themself as an anonymous figure, the overtly recognizable characteristics of their work contradict this and cultivate what Fellini terms a personified anonymity. This personified anonymity is carefully constructed through Jim Joe’s rejection of stylistic adornment, as well as through their interactions with site, which both draw from graffiti’s history as an anti-establishment practice. Their personified anonymity is furthered by their engagement with written language and linguistic forms—namely the aphorism and truism forms—that are traditionally tied to anonymity and work in order to emulate and simultaneously deconstruct ideas of power and authority. Fellini argues that Jim Joe maintains a personified anonymity in order to appropriate tools for the cultivation of power, and performs both an enactment and a subversion of authority in doing so, continuing a practice that graffiti writers have been concerned with since the emergence of the medium.

Jim Joe, ALL COPS ARE GOOD AT BEING BAD, ?-2014.

 

Photo: Tumblr, “JUST PAINT — ART IN THE STREET,” posted May 14, 2014, https://justpaint.tumblr.com/post/79547555821/art-in-the-street.