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Shepard Fairey On TMZ

You know you’re mainstream when…

you appear on TMZ. This is actually an awkward video; Shep sort of snipes at his wife, right in front of the camera. There is nothing less attractive than domestic disputes, in my opinion. In this case, he is pissed and she is stunned to be called out in front of the TMZ guys.

(Sorry about the link; it won’t let me embed).

Banksy Sponsors Free Mondays At Museum

Banksy, who has expressed disdain for museums, is sponsoring free Mondays at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The LA Times says:

The British street artist known as Banksy will sponsor free Monday admission for all visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art for the duration of the exhibition “Art in the Streets,” which highlights the history of street and graffiti art and features works by Banksy, Shepard Fairey and other genre notables.

The museum said Thursday that admission to its Geffen Contemporary space in Little Tokyo will be free on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 13 through Aug. 8.

Banksy likes to stay under the radar in terms of public exposure, eluding the press and generally shunning the spotlight. But MOCA provided a quote from him: “I don’t think you should have to pay to look at graffiti. You should only pay if you want to get rid of it.”

Banksy Doc No Hoax, Thierry Guetta Lawsuit Suggests

This is one of those exciting moments of synchronicity. I was just about to publish an essay on why not only is Exit Through The Gift Shop a hoax, but the entirety of Thierry Guetta/Mr. Brainwash, when I saw this article.

Some have considered its central story too wild and fanciful to have genuinely been drawn from real life, especially since the name next to the director’s credit happened to be that of arch-prankster Banksy. But further evidence has emerged that Oscar-nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop was not a hoax after a court ruled against its subject, street artist Thierry Guetta, in a high-profile copyright case.

Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles obsessed with street art, starts out as the purported maker of the 2010 film and ends up being its central figure after he reinvents himself as artist Mr Brainwash and puts on his own show. One of the pieces, displayed as part of the latter’s Life Is Beautiful exhibition (which provides the film’s dramatic twist), landed Guetta in court.

Glen Friedman, a well-known photographer, successfully sued Guetta for breach of copyright after a federal judge ruled that a photograph of the rap group Run DMC, which Guetta manipulated for his piece, could be protected by copyright. A further hearing will decide the extent of damages.

Guetta downloaded Friedman’s photograph from the internet, altered it and projected it on to a large piece of wood. He then proceeded to paint the resulting image on the wood, and also glued on 1,000 pieces of vinyl records for good measure. The artist had argued that Friedman’s shot was similar to many others taken of Run DMC in the 1980s, but California federal judge Dean Pregerson dismissed his argument, also ruling that Guetta had no defence under a transformative fair use law.

“To permit one artist the right to use without consequence the original creative and copyrighted work of another artist simply because that artist wished to create an alternative work would eviscerate any protection by the copyright act,” said Judge Pregerson in his ruling. “Without such protection, artists would lack the ability to control the reproduction and public display of their work and, by extension, to justly benefit from their original creative work.”

The decision could impact on other artists working in the US, because it appears to limit their ability to freely use manipulated images in art. The transformative fair use law had previously been seen as a strong defence against copyright claims in such cases.

Merely because a judge rules that the art in question violates copyright, how does that in any way suggest it wasn’t a prank? The central thesis of my Exit Through The Gift Shop essay is that it must be a hoax because Banksy’s distaste for the entire art world is encapsulated in the movie, and he would never respect the art that MBW creates. In fact, the joke of Mr. Brainwash is that all of his art is just crap. It is derived from other pieces of art, with no originality. In fact – and I am just realizing this now – the fact that it was shown to violate copyright would argue more for the fact that it was a hoax than against.

I’m curious to hear whether anyone else really believes that MBW is a real entity.

Property Rights and Free Speech: A Capitalist Defense of Street Art


The drama of humanity plays out upon billboards, walls, and street posts – not to mention shop windows and airwaves. In any city on the globe, We walk through a foam of societal admonitions on every block. It is simply unescapable.

The right to express yourself, to get in everyone’s face and demand they buy your product or tolerate your stupid political views is enshrined in our Constitution. Courts give miles and miles of latitude on this point. Want to piss on a flag and call it free speech? Be our guest. Want to dance naked and call it free speech? Sure, why not. But the minute you take a spray paint to even public areas, your free speech is subjugated to the right of everyone else not to have to see your free speech.

Property Rights

Companies are allowed a bigger voice in our society because they pay for it. They can afford real estate, billboards, trains, and other mediums from which to tell us to buy pest killers, discount pine furniture, Apple computers, demand we watch the CMAs or the Oscars, tell us which clothes are stylish, and which mascara will never leave us humiliated due to flaking and smearing. They even tell us about their feminine products with the most insulting demonstrations (blue fluid? That is a very sick woman.)

They come into our homes in our televisions and internet explorations; they never leave us alone.

As a capitalist, I accept the onslaught; it is part of the price of living in a healthy society. But I can relate to the feeling of helplessness and frustration that comes with not wanting to see a “Rick’s Topless Club” billboard on the way to the airport. How is that ad culturally valuable than its defacement by graffiti artists? The only objective way to measure it is by defaulting to the property owner. It is his, so he can put his bikini girls on them, forcing four year olds to ask if that woman is hiding balloons in her swimming suit.

Fighting back with your own messages, or just trying to blot out the junk with your own art, is a perfectly reasonable response. It is an effort to reclaim your own mindspace.

What about public property, such as parks and streets? Since we all own those, just as we all own part of the American flag, we should be able to wheat-paste and spray paint all we want. Undoubtedly there would be a lot of ugliness – but there is ugliness anyway. There is ugliness on the private property, such as the topless bar example. Free speech is often messy. Crunchy liberals think the Tea Party is a hate group while Tea Partiers think liberals are communists; we have to hear their complaints every day. We have to tolerate Fred Phelps and his “God Hates Fags” paranoia and protesting military funerals. All of this societal static is, if not embraced, then at least tolerated because we have consecrated Free Speech as an American value. It is not as if we live in a perfectly pristine place where one touch of spray paint will turn our communities into garbage dumps.

By allowing graffiti, we will get better graffiti. The culture is brutal and aggressively masculine; it is a culture where you’re actually expected to perform: to do good art, dangerous art, get some good tags. Good art covers bad art and, importantly, most street artists are pretty honest about their own abilities. That means no two bit name-writer is going to cover a Banksy with “FUCK DA POLICE.” This means that we’ll get more good art and less of the garbage that plagues our city walls.

Sanctioned Art

One thing I rebel against is the notion of “permitted art”, designated amnesty areas where artists are “permitted” to create. Art doesn’t work that way. It can’t be rebellious or interesting if its done under the largess of a government. If they can allow you to do it, they can also stop you. And if you allow that to happen, you’re not much of an artist anyway.

It’s Legit

Banksy, Swoon, Seizer, Shepard Fairey, Blek le Rat, Neckface, Sweet Toof, Cyclops, Rowdy, Discreet, Kurt Wenner, Greg Brown, Moose, Mrzr, Deuce 7, Zevs, Saber and hundreds of others are doing serious work that improves communities and the world with its presence. Shepard Fairey is the most “legitimate” of them because he did the Obama posters; he’s sort of set for life based on that. Fairey is also a DJ so I hope he works on the DJ stuff and doesn’t get lazy. That would be a shame. Anyway, these people are legitimate artists doing very cool things. They’re not just scrawling their names on walls. These people should be respected, and they’re worthy of being role models. Why not nurture the instinct of uncomissioned art in children when they see the works of these artists? There are worse things to be when you grow up, like an ACORN representative or a tampon designer. Being an artist is a noble (and very difficult) job. It’s a good instinct – and one that should be nourished, even for those children who can not afford art lesson or who never step into a museum.

UK Prosecutor Charges Tox For Not Being Banksy

This article is short and to the point and quite funny:

Earlier today, Daniel Halpin, aka TOK [sic], aka “king of taggers”, was found guilty of seven counts of criminal damage (or graffiti attacks) all across England. Prosecutor Hugo Lodge told a jury, “He is no Banksy. He doesn’t have the artistic skills, so he has to get his tag up as much as possible.”

I love the fact that the prosecutor used some graf language there (ie, “tag”) and that Banksy was used as a standard against which all other street art is judged.

You Don’t Do It For Girls

This is said to be the NYT’s first article about graffiti, published in July 1971. It discusses a young man named Taki 183, who says, “You don’t do it for girls; they don’t seem to care. You do it for yourself.”

Amen, Taki.

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