Sunday, June 27, 2004

A moose with a view

Socially conscious UK graffiti artist 'Moose' came up with a brilliant idea: instead of painting on walls and sidewalks, he applies his templates and scrubs the concrete clean, leaving the desired image in high contrast to the surrounding dirty area, until time and dust eventually reclaim the clean bits. His work has attracted a lot of attention, even in the form of lucrative advertising contracts from Microsoft and Smirnoff, among others.

The City Council in Leeds, where Moose is based (and where his 'Smirnoff' work took place), reacted as you might expect any ordinary politicos to: they flipped out and demanded that he 'clean up' the offending work. What the fuck is he supposed to do, rub dirt back onto the wall?

The source of the trouble has been a rather unfathomable message in 3 foot letters for Smirnoff's Lyriquid perfection campaign, condemned by Gerry Harper, a Leeds councillor, as "sheer vandalism". Moose counters that he should not be prosecuted "for cleaning the walls". But Leeds City Council insists his work is illegal because any advertiser needs a permit. The Crown Prosecution Service says he may have been in breach of last year's Anti-Social Behaviour Act.

Moose fucked up by not just sticking to his art... once he started doing advertisements, he was screwed. Legally he and Smirnoff are complicit in defying the permit issue, but there is a certain amount of irony in getting arrested for cleaning a wall, even if he did clean it in such a way that it conveyed information.

The larger issue here revolves around a glitch that the UK shares with the US: the ever-increasing (and increasingly arcane) body of punitive laws to handle social problems that have been proven to be successfully dealt with using more human methods. (The US is the poster child for this, with our 'wars' on Drugs/Terrorism/WelfareMothers/Reason. For example, where some countries provide needle exchange programs and condoms for high-school kids, we feel that this is 'promoting' inappropriate behavior, so we lock up the junkies, let everyone get AIDS, and reduce social welfare programs for unwed teen mothers. Brilliant.)

In Halifax, Canada, numerous businesses have donated walls to the community for the express purpose of giving graffiti artists a legitimate forum to practice their art. As a result of this program, graffiti all but disappeared from the rest of the city, while these walls have become an ever-changing outdoor art gallery, a cultural benefit. Somehow I doubt that the US & the UK will see the reason in such an approach any time in the near future.

Anyway, kudos to Moose for his creativity... hopefully they don't hit him too hard for it.

[via slashdot]


Blogger krishna said...

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Blogger krishna said...

Interesting! During total literacy campaigns, we used to paint messages on literacy, health and other relevant issues on the walls as a part of a series of programmes aimed at increasing awareness. These messages were also effective as a reading material for neo-literates as they were easy to read and comprehend (short, simple and painted in big letters). Ironically, this idea was inspired by the effective manner in which politicians used the wall writings during election campaigns.
Few years back, our Election commission banned wall writings on Public buildings and made it mandatory to seek permission from the owners, in case of private buildings. However, the menace continues and the local councils have the major task of prosecuting the offenders who paint election graffiti on public buildings and cleaning up the walls. The creative method of Moose conveys information without dis-figuring the walls (and instead, cleaning them up) and the local councils (if their members are wise enough) should embrace this idea. They could insist upon all the advertisers to follow this method -thereby, earning advertising charges and sprucing up the city. Moose’s idea and method deserve to be publicized.
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