Wheatpaste (also known as Marxist glue) is a liquid adhesive made from vegetable starch and water. It has been used since ancient times for various arts and crafts such as bookbinding and papier mache. It is also made for the purpose of adhering paper posters to walls and other surfaces (often in graffiti). Closely resembling wallpaper paste, it is often made by mixing roughly equal portions of flour and water and heating it until it thickens, or by smearing cooked rice into a paste.

The words paste, pasta, and pastry have a common heritage, deriving from the Late Latin pasta (dough or pastry cake), itself deriving from the ancient Greek pasta, meaning ‘barley porridge.’ In English, paste is used as would be ‘dough’ in the 12th century, or ‘glue’ in the 15th century.

Activists and various subculture proponents often use this adhesive to flypost ( place advertising posters or flyers in illegal places) propaganda and artwork. It has also commonly been used by commercial bill posters since the nineteenth century. In particular, it was widely used by 19th and 20th century circus bill posters, who developed a substantial culture around paste manufacture and postering campaigns.

In the field of alcohol and nightclub advertising, in the 1890s, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters were so popular that instructions were published on how to peel down the pasted posters without damage. Until the 1970s, commercial poster hangers always ‘cooked’ their own paste, but since then many have bought pre-cooked instant pastes.

It is applied to the backside of paper then placed on flat surfaces, particularly concrete and metal as it doesn’t adhere well to wood or plastic. Cheap rough paper, such as newsprint, works well, as it can be briefly dipped in the mixture to saturate the fibres. Due to danger of being apprehended, wheatpasters frequently work in teams or affinity groups. In the USA and Canada this process is typically called ‘wheatpasting’ or ‘poster bombing,’ even when using commercial wallpaper paste instead of traditional wheat paste.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.