Long before ads hit newspapers, radio, TV, and the internet, there was the sandwich-board man, who Charles Dickens once dubbed “a piece of human flesh between two slices of paste board.” More than 150 years later, human billboards not only still exist — in California, the fringe occupation is spawning an entirely new subset of sign-spinners who are redefining the way these “sandwich men” do business.
Each week in North Hollywood, a group of 21st-century so-called human directionals get together to work on a crazy new form of sign-twirlin’ that’s actually come to resemble street dance more than anything else — an improvised mash-up of freestyle skate moves, acrobatics, and even martial arts.
Daft Signz is a new music video and art project that documents the emerging trend, and as you might guess, it’s scored to legendary French electronic music duo Daft Punk’s new single “Lose Yourself To Dance” (Columbia/Random Access Memories). Joe Stevens and Nicolas Randall of Randall Stevens Industries are the guys behind the mind-blowing video.
“There are actually talented sign-spinners scattered all over the country and elsewhere,” Stevens says, “But the vast majority don’t even come close to rocking it at the level you see in Daft Signz.”
In the video, Erik Argote, Kadeem Johnson, Justin Brown and Ray Rivera are a few of LA’s own AARROW Sign Spinners, a group of men who are turning sign-waving into an art form, from advertising strip-mall churches and strip clubs to transmission-repair businesses and 99¢ Only Stores.
“These guys have taken a profession with so little respect, it’s an off-the-rack punchline for sitcom writers, and they reinvent it — elevate it to something original and amazing,” says Stevens. “These guys aren’t a punchline. They’re the best in the world at what they do. They’re artists.”