Grand Theft Auto, the video game that has drawn so much criticism for allegedly including sexually explicit scenes and for, in general promoting criminal behavior and sexist ideas (read more here) has been engaging in a bit of "guerilla marketing" in New York.
Putting these stickers on the gritty telephone poles of the city gives the product instant street cred.... Since I find the game pretty sexist, and since I hate it when corporate interests invade street art I decided to take a little guerilla counter action....
I’m just angry to see and AD dressed up like street art. Street artists give away art for free—they spend their money and time making art and making the streets a fun exciting place and don’t get a penny in return. These people want you to buy something and I resent having my mental space invaded by advertising when I’m walking around looking for interesting street art. If you want to put up an ad PAY someone for the space like everyone else. Otherwise I will mock you. And other people might too. It’s a jungle out there.
Low-tech DIY campaigns like this one are small acts of refusal. Although folks might argue about how "effective" they are, they at least help transform the person who does them from a consumer/spectator to a producer and participant, and that's worth a lot. Thanks Susan! Full story and downloadable image file here.
I'm a social worker for Children's Protective Serives here in Pittsburgh PA. I'm also a fan of street art, going through the city, often to the roughest areas, I see a lot of it, some of it very good. The attached picture is one I spotted in Pittsburgh's Hill District, formerly the place to go for jazz and good food, now one of the most blighted areas in the city. I noticed this tag a month ago. There's no real technique to it, some guy with a can of spray paint and an unsteady hand slapped this on a crumbling wall and took off. The fact that they used bright orange for their color, and chose a street that cut right through the Hill, to the downtown theater and shopping districcts put a smile on my face. Soem will see this as a joke; some will see this as serious. I see this as a middle finger to the people who have turned a blind eye to the poison that is flooding our city, and being peddled by pubescent soldiers. I've been stopped more times than I can count by children trying to sell me any type of drug you can think of. It's down today, a coat of red paint washed it away, and a couple more bricks have been knocked out of the wall inthe process. They took away the grafitti, but the kids that are trying to sell me heroin are still hard at work.
There's an update on Todd's flickr page that indicates that someone is making a campaign of identifying alleged crack houses as a way of shaming the dealers or the cops, or both. Reminds me of Dan Witz's brilliant Black Hoodies marking heroin hotspots in the Lower East Side.
I've seen the kind of graffiti Todd mentions a few times in my neighborhood in (mostly poor, definitely minority white) North Minneapolis. It's pretty clear its intent is to shame someone, usually the owner of the house the tag is painted on. But about a month ago, leaving a N.Mpls coffeeshop where I'd been meeting with friends to plan the first annual Peace Games (cooperation and youth empowerment through art and sports), I spotted the attached graffiti. Just as crudely sprayed as Todd's, but every bit as powerful (and I like the site-specificity of it). Another shot here.
VisualResistance.org is back online ,with some changes; most notably a new intro page with quick links to projects we've been involved in. This blog is only a small part of what we do as a group, so we figured it was time to highlight our "offline" existence. We'll be adding to those pages soon, as well as changing the layout of the blog. Stay tuned.
I missed this story when it first came out but it’s been sticking in my brain since I found it a few days ago:
A U.S. Air Force colonel has been charged with painting obscenities on parked cars bearing pro-President Bush bumper stickers, police said on Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Alexis Fecteau, who supervises 41 full-time and part-time reservists at the National Security Space Institute in Colorado Springs, Colo., is suspected of vandalizing 12 cars at Denver International Airport over a six-month period, Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.
Full article here. Think about the sheer incongruity of the story: a 42-year old Air Force colonel spraypaints “Fuck Bush” on cars, over and over again. Think about the aimless fury that implies. The festering rage with no logical outlet. Then think: 42-year old Air Force colonel.
There seems to be this growing antiwar sentiment in the military and among military families. Cindy Sheehan — the mother of Army specialist Casey Sheehan, killed in Sadr City, Iraq in April 2004 — is only the most prominent example. Her story has gained national attention as she and an ever-growing number of supporters camp out in front of Bush’s Texas ranch demanding an answer to the question “How many more soldiers have to die before we say enough?”
She’s not alone, by any means: see here and here and here and here… but you get the point. In a media landscape filled with a rotating crop of empty-vessel experts in nothing, where party talking points masquerade as conventional wisdom, Cindy Sheehan has managed to break through as that rarest of televised things: a real person. That’s why Bush & Co. can’t shake her: she’s not some party hack, she’s not just some loudmouth crank, and she’s not selling anything. She’s a real, regular person, and living proof of the horror that is the Iraq war.
What’s remarkable about all this is that it’s happening in a context where the antiwar movement is, for all intents and purposes, non-existant. There haven’t been any significant antiwar demonstrations since last year’s Republican National Convention. Antiwar voices rarely, if ever, get a hearing in the corporate media. The post-election feeling of powerlessness, combined with the ineptness of the so-called leadership of groups like ANSWER & UFPJ, has produced this remarkable lull in antiwar activity at the exact same time that a growing majority of Americans have turned against the war.
Anyway, my point is this: every day since Cindy started her vigil I’ve been following the news from Crawford obsessively. I’ve been moved by her courage and her honesty, and faced with the awesome beauty of a lone individual putting themselves on the line, I’ve felt like an unforgiveable waste for not doing more myself to help stop this disaster. So, what can we do? Or, what are you already doing? What new artwork is being produced, what new efforts being launched? The community of friends, collaborators and readers around VR has consistently amazed me with their talent and dedication, so I’m turning to you all for ideas and inspiration. Email visual.resistance[at]gmail.com or use the comments below as a clearinghouse for information on new projects, new artwork, new ideas…
The tech problems we’ve been experiencing for the last 4 days should be cleared up now. The photolog still has some bad amnesia, but the main page (this one) and the Critical Mass page should be up and running. Please e-mail eliotmail[at]gmail.com if you’re having problems viewing the site or if you spot missing files or bizarre errors.
Thanks to everyone who emailed us with tips on good hosting companies; more suggestions are welcome. So, now that everything’s back to normal, check out the highlights from the recent content our host temporarily deleted: Space Invaders Under Attack, “I’m not an art critic, I’m a cop”, Banksy in the West Bank, and interviews with David Lester and Cristy c. Road.
Will at SixSquare.com writes about the recent wholesale thefts of Space Invaders pieces in Los Angeles. He writes movingly of becoming obsessed with and attached to a particular artist's creation --- and then being shocked and hurt by the art's sudden destruction -- in a way that I strongly identified with. One of the great things about being a street art hunter is the way you can be constantly surprised by your city. Invisible strangers plant presents for no one, and you get to stumble across these gifts, witness them, and leave them behind for others to discover too.
Anyway, the story was picked up by art.blogging.la, where the Invader himself chimed in:
STOP THE SLAUGHTER!
I've just learned that in the last few weeks many of the space invaders in the streets of Los Angeles have been removed. I have good reason to think that this is the work of an individual and not done by the city. I would like to ask the person who is doing this to stop for two main reasons :
1– that is very selfish act to steal art that is supposed to be free and for everybody.
2- that is ridiculous. The tiles are not signed then they have no value. You can go and buy some in any tiles shop (like “Opiocolor” in beverly hills where I bought them ) they will be the same but not broken.
This obviously harkens back to the theft/destruction of Revs' sculptures this spring. A related story: Once I was working with an artist friend and a bypasser stopped and told us that she was an art collector, and regularly went around removing art from the street and taking it home --- in order to "preserve" it --- and had taken down a few of my friend's pieces. I knew people did this, but I was horrified anyway. I wanted to say: We put art up, and you take it down. That makes us enemies, not friends.
Today's quote comes from Swedish street artist Hop Louie's version of a standard vandalism-is-a-crime legal disclaimer:
It´s illegal to voluntarily paint something nice on a grey wall just because you want to make it nicer and maybe make people think a little bit. To change anything in your surrounding without paying piles of cash is illegal. If you protest about this without asking the people in power for permission, you´re probably comitting a crime.
In contrary, to brainwash people using advertising wich make women hate their bodies and men get a fucked up sexuality, is legal. To sell products made by modern slaves, that are killing the enviroment, people or animals using ugly and bad advertising that gets thrown in our faces withous us having any chance of avoiding it --- that´s legal too.
Quite simply, if you have economic or military power over people you are allowed to do what the fuck you want.
The rest of us are supposed to shut up, go to work, belive their propaganda and do as they say. Fuck that. I do encourage criminal behaviour.
Hop Louie emailed us a few weeks back and we were completely mesmerized by all the great stuff on his site. Start with the galleries from Sweden and West Africa, and don't miss his section on urban exploring in Guinea-Bissau, or the fascinating backstory to his Chrille P stencil (pictured above). Stop by and say hello.
Man, just when Banksy had you feeling free, the New York Times has a report on the city's new Citywide Vandals Task Force, the merger of the NYPD and transt cops' anti-graffiti units started by Bloomberg's crackdown on graffiti. The article has more details on the structure --- and, most scarily, the goals --- of the task force than any we've seen so far:
The new squad is equipped with infrared and digital cameras, a database with thousands of tags and profiles of those arrested, and a book that contains the 100 or so "worst of the worst" repeat offenders. The police, Lieutenant Mona said, are intensifying their efforts....
Graffiti arrests are up 88.9 percent citywide since January, compared with the same period last year, according to police statistics, an increase that Lieutenant Mona attributes to [the CVTF]....
The unit is among the most expansive antigraffiti efforts in the country, says Lieutenant Mona. Police lieutenants from each of the city's precincts, housing projects and transit districts are now assigned to report their monthly progress in combating graffiti.
Lieutenant Mona's goal is for the streets of the city to be scrubbed nearly as clean as its subway trains - and, he hopes, to stay that way. "Success would be just that people can say, 'I remember when,' about the streets, like they do now with the subways," he said.
The reporter interviews a few graffiti writers, who have different reactions to the new crackdown, from paranoia, to more careful planning, to disdain. The article frames the new crackdown in a one-sided manner --- a "cat and mouse game" of graffiti writers vs. the vandal squad --- and fails to open any intelligent or constructive debate about a myriad of relevant issues, especially ones concerning public vs. private space.
Bloomberg's remark about how graffiti is "an invitation to criminal behavior," is left unchallenged. No mention is made of the cost of the new vandal squad. Of course, no alternative vision to Bloomberg's whitewashed, surburbanized goal is presented. Growing arrest numbers and "broken windows" policing go unquestioned.
In Chicago, new anti-graffiti laws were challenged by the God Bless Graffiti Coalition, an imitation evangelist campaign with the slogans "Keep America Colorful" and "Give Graffiti the Thumbs Up." The stencil above is a first attempt to spread their message in New York City.
Banksy recently made a trip to the West Bank, where he painted massive images of escape and freedom on the 25-foot high "seperation wall" the Israeli government built to divide Israel from the Palestinian territories. The pieces themselves --- scissors cutting the wall, ladders, windows that look out at idyllic scenery, a girl floating by clutching ballons --- are astounding. They're huge in scope, many of them are mixed media, and their vision of simple, joyous human freedom and possibilty is almost heartbreakingly beautiful, especially as they have Banksy's characteristic humor. The fact that they're painted on the "apartheid wall" --- a much-condemned symbol of hopelessness and oppression --- is an act of bravery and generosity. Banksy says:
The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin wall and will eventually run for over 700km --- the distance from London to Zurich.
The wall is illegal under international law and essentially turns Palestine into the world's largest open prison.
It also makes it the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers.
This is Banksy's greatest work. It shows the best that street art can offer: a clear, direct, challenge to forcibly enclosed space, and a vision of a better world. Pictures and a brief report are available on Banksy's news page. Wooster has more pictures, too. See coverage in: BBC & the Guardian.
Hey everyone --- We're in the process of updating our how-to zine with some new information and photos and I was wondering what you all would like to see in it. (If you haven't checked the zine out already, click here). We're going to add more legal info (especially on the 2004 sticker laws) as well as new sections on "3-D" street art. Hopefully we'll do a larger run of the print version, too.
But in the meantime, what would you like to see? Remember that the zine is meant as a general resource for people who love street art but think "How did they do that?", or "I could never do that!" What's missing from the zine? What's incomplete? What would be helpful? Do you have techniques or experiences that you want us to include? We'd really like to expand Version 2.0 to include more people's experiences than just our own, so if you've got something to share, drop us a line.
Take a look and let us know, either in the comments below or by emailing us at visual.resistance[at]gmail.com.
This is a little last-minute (deadline: August 5), but we just received a call from SF-based gallery Start Soma for a follow-up to their 2003 Propaganda show called Propaganda 2.0: "They Hate Our Freedom". Anyone with work ready should e-mail them ASAP, as the previous show looks like it was great and the call for this one is fantastic. Even if you can't participate, the call itself is interesting for the stress it places on artistic freedom:
A few years ago, a rookie curator in San Francisco could put together a political art show, and tilt at windmills on the left, the right, and in between. It was all good fun.
But times have changed.
A few weeks ago, police in Los Angeles shut down an art show in the middle of the opening, on the grounds that it was "offensive and aggressive in nature." The offending works were culture-jammed corporate logos. Last month, the Secret Service dropped in to investigate an art show in Chicago. The FBI recently seized equipment in New York from a renowned artist collective who produce multimedia work examining the role of technology in modern life. And a portrait by artist Christopher Savido created such a stir at the Chelsea Market, that the market's managers shut down the 60-piece art show that was scheduled to stay up for the next month.
Even 'ultra-lib' San Francisco has not been immune. Last year, a gallery owner shut her doors permanently after receiving death threats following the exhibition of an oil painting depicting torture at Abu Ghraib. Our own Hotel des Arts just received a CEASE + DESIST letter from a global multinational, demanding that we destroy one of the dozens of murals in the art hotel because it featured a corporate logo.
There is definitely a chill in the air when it comes to FREEDOM OF SPEECH + ARTISTIC EXPRESSION.
The show will be sales-free; you can email sample jpegs to john[at]startsoma.com. Full details are here. Check out samples from the 2003 Propaganda show here. And be sure to check out the other great work Start Soma does, especially their gallery of featured artists. Image at top from Start Soma's Propaganda show.