Whilst I have fully come to terms with the fact that I will never understand everything (the Higgs Boson malarkey tends to escape me), negative public opinion regarding street art and the laws that surround it, generally comes as somewhat of a surprise.
I always think of my Mother when it comes to old fashioned thinking. The kind of people who still find it shocking when they see men holding hands and who insist that girls should be chaperoned after dark. Madre deeply mistrusts any hooded, young person with a spray can, assuming they were up to no good and tends to shudders at the word “graffiti”.
She’s been hailed the “female Banksy” at 10 years old. My Mum would probably give her an ASBO
It seems like there’s a team of graffiti whistleblowers, who rule the streets across the world, whacking Perspex over every Banksy paint speck and clearing off everything else. In Sao Paulo, the authorities also went so far as to wash away the work of a “reverse graffiti” artist who had cleaned skulls into a dirty underpass. No one owns the dirt! The artist, Alexandre Orion was trying to highlight the shocking pollution and when push came to shove, the authorities only washed off the part of the underpass Orion had been working on! You’ve got to question what the actual problem is; it seems less about vandalism and more about power and government ego.
And the legalities! We could bang on about the legalities forever. I won’t, but I WILL point out that the maximum sentence going for those “caught in the act” of graffiti is ten years; similar sentences go for drug trafficking and sexually assaulting a Chihuahua. True story.
But even when permission is granted, pieces have been created and landmarked, street art still has no rights.
Two years ago, Belgian artist ROA came to town, saught permission to paint and proceeded to create a 40 foot crane. Originally intended to be a heron, ROA’s design was swayed when he found out that cranes are sacred in Bengali culture. Since then, people flock (no pun intended) to Brick Lane to take photos of the fantastic painting that ROA gave to the community. In short, it’s a fantastic piece, it’s well loved and it is has a special place in the hearts of those who live and visit the area.
However, last week someone thought it would be a great idea to install a 10x10m corporate banner right on top of the painting declaring “Banglatown, Brick Lane, Curry Capital 2012). They did not wait for permission (the decision won’t be finalised until 29th May), they’ve covered the crane and it’s a bloody ugly banner. Talk about obnoxious! Plus, once you’re up that end of Brick Lane, it’s pretty obvious that there is a lot of curry to be had. There are 52 restaurants there, for Christ’s sake.
Do you reckon they’ll get ten years in prison for this shameless vandalism? As if.
There’s an online petition put forward by Alternative London which needs 5000 signatures to make the council take notice. So what are you waiting for? Let’s unite and set the crane free! Authorities can’t just bung up corporate advertising willy nilly and especially not over fine pieces of art. Who do they think they are? Art not advertising; let’s get talking.