Mean Streets: Just Got Meaner

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It wasn’t bad enough that guerilla marketers ripped off street art ideas to panic the whole innocent city of Boston. Now the New York Times is reporting about another development that’s had street art people buzzing in New York for a while. Somebody is going around Brooklyn and lower Manhattan and trashing their work with paint splatters. Worse, the point the vandalizer seems to be making — it’s hard to be sure — is that street art is now just another stepping stone to the corrupt world of galleries and museums or to marketing franchises like Shepard Fairey’s spin offs of his pictures of Andre the Giant.

If you’ve devoted your life to running around pasting up home made posters and stickers in ratty ass parts of town, that hurts. But whoever is doing the vandalizing — and yes, yes, we know, there’s an irony involved here in the idea of vandalizing work that already qualifies in the eyes of the law as vandalism; ok, noted — needs to keep in mind what Herbert Marcuse explained long ago. Of course street art can be re-absorbed back into the system it supposedly resists. There is no escaping the system. There are no “transgressive gestures” that a market economy can’t turn into merchandise.

Including paint splatters over somebody else’s street art. Note to street art splatterer: call your agent.