Friday, January 26, 2007

Street Art?

Nick Z left a comment on my Banksy post and called my attention to this story about "The Splasher", an anti-art defacer of street works by genre heavies like Obey and Swoon.

The author of the piece on The Gothamist says that members of the NY Graffiti Art community encouraged them not to report on this.

Several people who we know in the New York graffiti community urged us not to cover the Splasher at all, saying that it would only encourage him to destroy more work-- but his project does raise some interesting questions that seem worth considering. First, to what extent is his basic premise correct-- are most streetartists spoiled children of the (white) bourgeoisie? Is their work just a leading sign of gentrification? And second, can a project that consists of destroying other people's work itself be considered art? After all, burning down a museum would rightly be called a crime. Is this? Before you answer, maybe it's best to read up on the Splasher-- here are some links from around the web.

Often, in the wake of his attacks, the Splasher also leaves wheat-pasted screeds, attacking the streetartists as tools of capital, calling their work a "fetishized action of banality" and "a representation of the most vulgar kind: an alienated commodity"

(The Gothamist article also includes a links of links for additional articles on The Splasher.)

I've always considered the "Obey" series as works of political-social commentary using the graffiti format as a means of expressing messages and perspectives outside of mainstream discourse. As such they are part of an active public discourse. These are not sanctioned pieces of decorative public/municipal art. Given that position(admittedly, my interpretation) they are and should be open and receptive to criticism.

The request of some not to report on The Splasher repositions the emphasis of these works on their aesthetic and decorative merit over their function as discourse. I would be very disappointed to hear the artists take that stance. For me, that would suggest that they are decorative piece's that legitimize themselves through a posturing use of political messaging. (That said, this is America and hypocrisy out greatest luxury.)

I have been taking pictures of the more formalized manifestations of graffiti over the last few years. From time to time I post them under the heading of "Beat on the Street." I've also been taking lots of pictures of bathroom scrawls and graffiti. It's always been my thought that you can learn more about who we are, collectively, by looking at the anonymous and uncensored expressions "on the edges". (A collection of Yellowpage covers with their unconscious scribblings left during phone conversations would be an excellent idea.) Thinking along these lines I've always thought we should identify the things that people do, like tag and leave graffiti and invent ways for them to do MORE of it, socially and publicly.

A desire on the part of some not to see these works of grafitti defaced is as reactionary those who would prosecute graffiti artists, no matter how esthetically cultivated the work it is.

Thank's again for the tip, Nick.

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