I've written an OPEN LETTER to all artists involved in the upcoming ART IN THE STREETS show at the Museum of Contemporary Art-Los Angeles. In this letter I've asked the artists (as many as I could get contact info for ) if they had any comments on the recent censorship of Blu's anti-war/pro-consciousness mural that he painted on the museum as an advertisement for the show. Not an unreasonable request I thought?
Before posing this question in the letter I first stated my concern that this act of censorship was actually a public execution of the anti-war element of street art and thus hoped to have a chilling effect on the rest of the artists, not only in the show but in the artist community at large. I stated my position to try and let the artist know that I wasn't just trying to start some graffiti beef but that I had legitimate humanitarian concerns (as all readers of this blog know to be true).
In my humble attempt to reach out to these artists I made sure to first and foremost extend my congratulations to them. I have been a fan to many of these artists for a long time. Seeing them succeed is very cool. In many ways they are setting the tone of the conversation between main stream and the underground. Its for this reason that I thought it all the more relevant that they all be weighing in on this matter of censorship.
It's been a few days, multiple emails, a couple afternoons worth of twitters since this initial attempt to contact them and although the responses have been limited they have also been quite telling. Espo, obviously tight on his PR game was quick to respond. When asked if he thought Art In the Streets was Graffploitaion or Respectable Exhibit he said "Both". When responding to the issue of Blu's piece getting buffed he said "graffiti gets buffed, big deal. controversy is another word for marketing." This statement I agree in and of itself is true, but can it be applied to this situation? Blu's piece didn't buffed because it was illegal. It got buffed specifically because of its message. This was an intentional form of censorship/media blackout.
Revok didn't seem to be to impressed with my timing on the matter tweeting earlier today "@hamblogggerman -that's old news, with so much amazing stuff happening within this show... Talk about something worthwhile." While its true that this particular event happened a few months ago, and in today's world of 24 hour news feeds stories get old quick, the struggle of artistic freedom will always be an issue that in my opinion is something worth talking about. In fact we should all fear the moment we stop talking about it because that will be the moment art no longer makes people think. I would have thought that Revok would have felt me a little bit more on the subject being that he often has blogs that deal with the oppression and tyranny of the state. Recently focusing in on police brutality. Is this act of censorship not just another form of this tyranny? Something else worth talking about is why ELI BROAD, the worlds 45th richest person worth 3.8 billion, is the one financially backing this whole GRAFILTHY show. Anybody got any thoughts on this? Please comment!
Askew1, who himself has recently suffered a brutal act of censorship was also cool enough to share his point of view. When asked what he thought of the matter he said "the censorship of Blu's work was sad but still the MOCA show will be amazing-with that line up how could it not be?. I know it's a simplistic view but I'm happy some people I rate are getting the chance to shine." I replied that if censorship found its way deeper into the show how fresh it was would not be left up to artists. Instead it would be left to the curators.
Askew and Blu have alot in common. They both got buffed and then given an offer to repaint under certain conditions. Askew said that he wouldn't work with those people and that "Principally I have to consider it working with the enemy." I'm sure Blu felt the same way. Shit who wouldn't? So when Askew gives this morally bankrupt museum a pass because his friends are getting a chance to shine I, with total respect, have to say that is a double standard and implies that as long as his friends are getting chipped up working with the enemy is ok. YES MOCA IS THE ENEMY. Lets remember here folks that BLU's mural was an ANTIWAR mural and we just happen to be leading at least 4 wars where milllions of innocent people will die. EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS. The only people fronting like thats not the case are agents of the military industrial complex aka THE ENEMY of free humanity!
Anyways Im not really buying into this idea of a pass being given so that folks have a chance to shine. One of the beautiful things about graffiti is that it needs no museum, no internets, no magazines in order to shine. It shines wherever it wants to. These museum curators should be honored to have people, who have risked their lives for art, preforming at their place. Instead they are trying to set the limitations.
KNOW FREEDOM!! KNOW ART!! NO FREEDOM!! NO ART!!
Now!! I know there had to be some voice of dissent coming from the streets. And who better to articulate this then THE PHANTOM STREET ARTIST himself. In a recent critique put out by him he said "These factions and their cohorts present the age old argument that any release of information and or expression will lead to threats of national security or cultural, economical and political loss in place of discursive knowledge and expression." Apparently he shares some of the same sentiment of mine when it comes to what the implications of the BLU buff saying "What was significantly revealed through its censored act was that the Wall Street speculators and the Art world culture of speculation are all cut from the same patterned ilk. Both worlds resemble underworld seedy RICO backroom trading enterprises. In affinity both markets revolve around mercantile speculators who through clever inside trading, marketing and publicized means and objectives exist to inflate and hype the prices of so called blue chip commodities." Is the Phantom far off in his appraisal of the situation?
Now as we approach the end of this article I want to make something very clear. I don't believe that Espo, Revok or anybody in the show, who didn't reply to me, was happy to see BLU's mural slaughtered. I think they have too much emotionally invested in the show to talk about how they really feel. Just today we saw another horrific attack on the art community when a recent MSK wall was censored. Within minutes twitter was blowing up with SABER saying "The irony is too thick. We are being honored @MOCAlosangeles as graffiti artists while other testicles of the city are removing our murals." He goes on to thank the museum for putting on the show, but if the show is just becoming a safe place for graffiti to go when its removed from the streets then isnt it more like a GRAFFITI RESERVATION? Revok requested that"if your in the area throw rocks." but by this logic we should throwing rocks at MOCA? I just hope they dont expect anybody from MOCA to stand up for them in their own battles with censorship, because obviously inclusion in this exhibit does not insure that your ART IN THE STREETS will live on. There's just way to many haters!