Tagged: street art

more needs to be said on yarn-bombing, apparently

From there’s our catastrophe.


just because people don’t like a form of art you perceive as worthy doesn’t mean that you should degrade another form of art. That doesn’t make other people see the value in traditional tagging/graffiti, it doesn’t draw attention to art as a creative force, all it does is handwave people’s efforts.

Graffiti is art. Mural painting is art. So is yarnbombing, seedbombing, etc. It’s something that draws attention to the landscape and the ability of beauty to exist anywhere; sometimes it’s a statement about nature’s existence in urban spaces, or political situations, gentrification or development, and sometimes it’s just an expression of self – let’s not pretend every tagger or yarnbomber is doing anything more than ekeing out a spot for themselves. Who are you to quantify what art is based on the income level of who creates it? Moreover, who are you to DECIDE who creates it?

Yarn is not the sole domain of twee white kids. ANYONE CAN KNIT. Anyone can grab a ball of pretty cheap yarn from Walmart. …Does it make ANYONE feel better for you to say yarnbombing is worthless because white kids do it? Does it make anyone respect graffiti the way it should be respected? Because I don’t think it does. Art is art, and we should appreciate ALL of it, even if lawmakers don’t.


I have such a super major problem with this. Because, I fully agree, there’s a HUGE and EXTREMELY PROBLEMATIC difference between how things like graffiti are treated by lawmakers and police and how yarn graffiti and seed bombing are. But I think being like, “Oh, white hipster middle class people blah blah blah,” misses the point entirely and means you don’t have enough familiarity with the subject to actually be ranting about it.

First, knit graffiti, pasting, and seed bombing are meant to make public art and reclamation of space CHEAPER and MORE ACCESSIBLE for anyone. It may or may not have been embraced by POC and their communities, but it was never INTENDED to be exclusionary.

….Seed bombing, especially, is not gentrification. A person, any person, seeing an unused and empty space and trying to beautify it and bring nature back into the neighborhood, is not racially or financially motivated. I could see the argument w/ knit graffiti, possibly, because who has the time for huge ass projects like that if they’re working to make ends meet. But throwing packed seeds and soil into an abandoned lot isn’t gentrification. It isn’t making it easier for rich white kids to move it. It’s just trying to make the space nicer for the residents, end of story.

okay, I’ve addressed this before in more conciliatory terms, but it appears I’m gonna have to say it again because a whole string of you are making various defensive YES THANK YOU responses to these two posts (which I’ve edited for space).  this will probably be the last thing I have to say on the topic.  please read my earlier response before you respond to this.

1.   it is flat-out untrue that everyone is at equal risk of arrest and incarceration for doing illegal things, and if you think it’s even relevant to bring up that white middle-class-and-up people are theoretically subject to the same laws as everyone else you are so far out of touch that I don’t know what to say.

2. if you think that “there is no formal barrier to PoC and working-class people picking up yarn” means that there is no association of a particular aesthetic with particular groups of people then again, I don’t even know what to say to you.  This is not about the theoretical individual identities of street artists, who are in any case usually anonymous or pseudonymous.   this thing of “yeah street graf is black but the kind of graf I like is not racially categorisable” is super disingenuous.

3.  my main point: NONE OF YOU have addressed the issue of the potential negative effect this kind of public art has on the communities it is found in.  It is aggressively gentrifying.  that’s why I hate it, not because I think it’s dorky or because white and/or middle-class people do it.  and yeah, “just making the neighbourhood nicer for the residents” can be/precipitate gentrification — who decides what “nicer” is?  who controls the project that’s making things “nicer”?  it’s actually not much good making the neighbourhood “nicer” if it’s the kind of “nicer” that’s so appealing to a higher-income group that they move in and push all the original residents out.  there are other factors at play here, of course, but this is totally a thing.  wholesome-sounding shit like community gardens and local craft markets has historically been a factor in gentrification.  if this sounds defeatist and circular, well, it kind of is, because gentrification is hard to fight.  but I think the main point we can take from it is that if you want to make a neighbourhood better, you need to figure out what the most marginalised original residents want, not impose your own aesthetic and agenda.

3.  I fucking love art.  I also hate art but you know, I believe in its power to affect the world around it.    Especially public art, because that is what it is for, more directly than perhaps any other form of art.  If I didn’t think that then sure, I’d roll my eyes and think “that looks dorky” and try to keep to it to myself and get on with my life.  But as it is, I take art seriously, including its potential negative effects.  That’s what respect for art looks like when you are a grown-up.


A Year in the Life of the Anti-Displacement Movement

Key events in the anti-displacement movement in the Mission district of San Francisco in the late ’90s. Extracts from the full article.

Writings on the Walls

The posters of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project (MYEP) was one of the visible signs of opposition in 1998. Below, left, we see the first of several posters MYEP — advocating vandalism of expensive cars — wheatpasted around the neighborhood. On the right, social commentary on an abandoned Mission district factory wall.

blight2 myep

July 27th: Party Crashing at the Armory

armoryEikon Investments, the firm that proposed a dot-com office remake for the Mission Armory, staged a party for the Internet business set, served by white-coated parking valets, and addressed by Da Mayor. Activists from MAC and the Digital Workers Alliance crashed the party.

September 21st: Occupation of BigStep.Com Offices

bigstepThe first influx of dot-com office development had been in the Northeast Mission Industrial Zone. The Bay View Bank Building was the first major incursion into the heart of the Mission — the Mission Street corridor. The Mission Street and 24th Street corridors are the main commercial and cultural heart of the Latino community in San Francisco, and many of the small businesses in these commercial strips are marginal. For example, produce markets are a common site in the Mission. A study of these markets by MEDA showed that only 16% had enough revenue to qualify for mortgage capital to buy their buildings. This puts them at the mercy of the current rental market. The incursion of high tech firms into this commercial district threatens to drive rents through the sky, as landlords drool at the prospect of much higher revenue per square foot.

The first major invasion of high-tech firms into the Mission was the takeover of three floors of the Bay View Bank Building by BigStep.Com — a firm that provides e-tailing services and tools for small businesses. The Cort family, who had bought the building, used asbestos abatement as the excuse to evict two dozen community serving entities from the building — immigration lawyers, nonprofits, etc. Luring BigStep.Com was the sign that the Corts needed that their strategy of “flipping” the building would work. MAC maintains, however, that this takeover is illegal. Zoning for Mission Street limits any one entity to no more than 6,000 square feet — the equivalent of one floor. This is to maintain the office space in the Mission for smaller community-serving entities. To “enforce the law” (which the Planning Department has failed to do), MAC activists occupied the offices of BigStep on Sept. 21st, to present their case directly to employees. About 20 activists were arrested by police. A banner was also draped on the outside the building (photo at right).

November 30th: Zing.Com Blockaded


Richard Marquez, left, and Renee Saucedo, speaking, are among the MAC members blockading the doors to Zing.com.

At 11:30 AM Mission Anti-Displacement Coaltion members “moved in” at the live/work building illegally used as office space by Zing.Com (an online photography firm), at 17th & Bryant Streets. Furniture and padlocks were used to block all the entries to the building. After more than two hours Zing management finally signed a complaint and the police arrested a dozen MAC members blocking the doors. The blockaders were enthusiastically supported by over a hundred people from the Mission Anti-Displacment Coalition and the Day Laborers’ Program, which has its makeshift hiring hall one block away.

As with the BigStep occupation, MAC was demanding that the city enforce existing laws. By converting a 48-unit live/work building to office space, the city loses out on the fees that office developers are required to pay for affordable housing and childcare, as well as losing the 48 units of housing.



The Perverse Effect of Street Art on Neighborhood Gentrification

From Le Monde.

The most memorable graffiti and wall murals are often demolished by the force of urban real estate development projects.

The Perverse Effect Of Street Art On Neighborhood Gentrification

Graffiti in Paris’ 19th arrondissement

PARIS – In the New York City burough of Queens, 5 Pointz is considered a graffiti mecca. An open-air museum where urban artists can paint freely – but only for a couple more months.

5 Pointz is scheduled to be demolished next September, to make room for two 40-story high-rises with breathtaking views across the river of Manhattan. Swimming pool, yoga room, pool tables… Gentrification at its most luxurious.

The list of mythical urban art sites (mosaics, graffiti, stencils, collages…) that have been demolished keeps growing. Berlin’s legendary Tacheles squat, a former mall occupied by artists for over 20 years, was closed last summer. The same thing happened in 2011 to Paris’ Piscine Molitor, an abandoned swimming pool complex nicknamed the “white ship” that became a popular spot among Parisian graffiti artists.

All these freewheeling artistic sites are doomed for the same reason: urban areas are the perfect candidates for lucrative real estate transactions.

Paris’ Piscine Molitor

Street art has always represented a dilemma for municipal authorities. On one hand, they make a point of fighting against graffiti-related “vandalism,” while on the other hand encouraging “artistic” practices. The difference between vandalism and art is not always easy to tell…

In Paris’ 20th arrondissement, “the city created a specific training course for staff in charge of cleaning the walls, to teach them to distinguish between random tags and graffiti art,” explains Bruno Julliard, deputy mayor in charge of culture. But most of the time, cities don’t bother with the distinction and simply ban what they consider to be an illegal appropriation of urban space. In France, spray-painting a wall is punished by a fine of up to 1,500 euros – more if the graffiti is on a public building. It costs cities a fortune to remove tags and street art works  – 4.5 million euros a year in Paris.

Still, graffiti and street art are inseparable. Both are created in a “highly codified space” where “transgression is a driving force,” explains Tarek Ben Yakhlef, an artist and author of one of the first books on graffiti in France, published in 1991. Urban art uses people’s emotions and imagination to convey universal messages.

“Street art must interact with the public in a natural, spontaneous and creative way,” explains Nicholas Riggle, a philosophy PhD candidate at New York University writing a dissertation on the intersection of aesthetics and moral psychology. The forms of street art we know today are the legacy of different movements, including graffiti, which emerged in the 1960s in the United States.

Marginalized at first, it made its appearance on American subways in the 1970s, before arriving in Europe ten years later alongside hip hop music. Famous artists emerged in Paris: “Jerome Mesnager, Mosko et associes (Mosko and associates), les Musulmans fumants (the smoking Muslims), Miss.Tic or Blek le rat – who inspired Banksy. They were very present but at the same time buried in the mass of graffiti that invaded the city,” says Ben Yakhlef.

But little by little, the gentrification of urban areas gained momentum and “broke the social fabric,” says graffiti artist Da Cruz. Luxurious buildings flourished everywhere, driving rent prices through the roof. The arrival of rich people caused the poorest residents to leave. Part of the street art scene denounced these urban transformations.

In Berlin, rents in the eastern part of the city have increased by 90% between 2000 and 2012, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel. The reason for these huge price hikes is “properties sold to an international clientele,” says Bastian Lange, a consultant for the Berlin research center for urban development, Multiplicities.

A vibrant avant-garde culture

This is where street art comes into play: “It helped show that gentrification isn’t always a good thing that the neighborhood should accept without protesting,” says Winifred Curran, associate professor of DePaul Chicago. A point of view shared by graffiti artist Da Cruz, a staunch defender of the working-class identity of Paris’ 19th arrondissement, which he had to leave five years ago. “When I was spray-painting, I tried to raise awareness, or at least to accompany the changes. What else, aside from color, can bring people together better? You can’t fight against bulldozers, but you can have an impact on what people are thinking before, while it’s happening and after.”

Although street art mostly denounces gentrification, it also sometimes plays a role in it. Artists have extensively used poor neighborhoods as a space of expression. The problem is, when a neighborhood attracts artists, it quickly becomes trendy and popular because “it’s the sign of a vibrant avant-garde culture,” says Nicholas Riggle. Who wouldn’t want to live in such a creative place? Against their will, by their mere presence, these artists have unwillingly transformed these neighborhoods … And indeed the rich did flock to these neighborhoods – in Berlin, and New York’s Soho or Chelsea. “But there are also new arrivals who come with an open mind and a good energy,” says Da Cruz.

Berlin’s Tacheles squat

This is why, at first, municipal authorities and real-estate developers are not opposed to artists taking over working-class districts. To the point of actually helping them financially, “provided they can attract a certain class of population,” says Winifred Curran – allowing them to “sell” the neighborhood later.

“It’s the same problem all over the world. People tolerate us, people are happy for us to come in during this transition period before a neighborhood is rebuilt.  We are the city’s colorful Band-Aids,” says Da Cruz.

Street art is an efficient way to bring “cultural assets to a neighborhood that didn’t have any,” says Curran. But things can go south quite quickly. Authorities prefer to have a Guggenheim Museum instead of a graffiti squat. They are reticent to finance street art, but they change their mind when an artist becomes famous. The situation becomes schizophrenic when there are “laws that punish street art severely,” while at the same time “the cities commission artworks to these artists, museums expose them and galleries sell them,” says Ben Yahklef.

Other cities have understood, however, that they could use street art to their advantage. First in line is Berlin, which has become a major tourist destination in Europe. “We work for the system, let’s face it,” Da Cruz admits, although he says he has “realized over the years the importance of explaining what we do.” This is why last summer, together with fellow graffiti artists Marko 93 and Artof Popof, Da Cruz decided to organize street-art themed walks in the working-class suburb of Pantin northeastern Paris.

Unfortunately, sources of funding are few and far between. “It plays a minor part in financing contemporary art,” Julliard confesses. “When we do commission street art, we need to negotiate with local residents first. It is not always easy to get them to understand that we are talking about work of art – some are downright hostile.”

But things are changing. In 2009, thanks to a petition, a giant rabbit painted by world-famous street artist ROA was saved from being erased from a wall in Hackney, northeast of London. And in 2015, a new project is slated for in central Paris: a 1,500 square meter space dedicated to hip-hop urban cultures to include recording studios, dance battles and street art.

Belgian street artist ROA’s rabbit in Hackney