I’m wrong but Verizon still isn’t right

So Verizon’s graffiti is washable chalk, not spray paint, as I originally thought. But its not easily washable chalk – it took me a good 5 minutes of scrubbing just to take off a “F” and it’s the actual act, more than the paint, that should piss us off.

Here is Verizon, a multimillion dollar company, defacing public property for its own marketing purposes. Defacing public property as it will take DC’s Graffiti removal team (and my taxpayer dollars) a good power-washing to remove their blatant ad from what should be a ad-free public space.

Where does this differ from bOrf or even Cool Disco Dan?

19 Comments so far

  1. Illusioned (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 9:56 am

    If you look at it from a marketing standpoint, graffiti on the sidewalk, normally that it’s not a great marketing technique – just cheap and not effective if the people you want to reach ignore graffiti. But if they were looking at reaching people like you, it sure got your attention, ‘cos here you are, talking about it on MetroBlogs. I think it’s done its job.

    Unless, they are paying you to talk it up…

  2. wayan (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 9:59 am

    It’s done it’s job alright – I dislike Verizon even more now.

  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 10:15 am

    Even though I hope they die in a fire, I really still want their damn FiOS service…

  4. jen m. (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 11:25 am

    i think it’s intended to wear off slowly, like semi-permanent hair color.

    they don’t care if you dislike them more now, they just want the (nearly) free publicity. i agree with illusioned that blogging about it just plays directly into their hands. as a blogger i try to be conscious of being a tool of these kind of marketing tactics.

    i don’t understand why you ask how this differs from borf or cool disco dan. the differences are obvious, the biggest one being that graffitti art is a controversial art form and this is a marketing tactic co-opting a controversial art form to sell a commercial product. reprehensible, but not innovative.

  5. Stacey (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 12:08 pm

    Tom: You very well may get your wish, per yesterday’s telecom legislation.

    I guess I don’t love the graffiti – I’m much happier that it wears off, than if paint, of course. Wow – I’m feeling neutral right now. That’s a new feeling for me…

  6. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

    I can only hope. I don’t so much want the TV service, but I sure as hell want 15Mbps down into my apartment instead of the crappy 768kbps I’m getting now.

    The bigger question is do we treat people who do graffiti as artists? No, we jail them for property damage. Just ask b0rf.

  7. Don (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 1:05 pm

    “crappy 768kbps”

    You kids today. I remember being excited when 9600 baud (actually bps but you argue with a marketing person…) modems dropped to a price near $200.

  8. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 1:17 pm

    Hey, I remember the internet in the days of the 9600 baud modem, but I prefer the present.

  9. jen m. (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

    being jailed (for property damage or for a variety of other reasons) and being an artist are not mutually exclusive. in other words, just because we jail them doesn’t mean they aren’t artists.

  10. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 1:41 pm

    Yeah, but the label artist comes with it a set of glorified power relations, and I’m not comfortable giving that label to one who just destroys.

  11. chris (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

    It’s a funny word, “destroys.”
    Hanging at the National Gallery right now is a reproduction of the Mona Lisa with a bit of hair added to her smiling face. That’s called DADA, a very important art movement in modern art’s history. I’m sure a lot of people at the time of its creation were appalled at the destruction of the Mona Lisa, even if it was just a copy of it. Many years later, people just love the humor and rebellion of it all. It’s funny that time will do that to us, that reprehensible creation just won’t be as offensive tomorrow.
    I’m not saying Borf is on the same level as the DADAists, but I’m not saying he isn’t either.
    Forty years from now, some of the people that called for Borf’s head, may be looking at some of his work in a museum and telling their grandchild about the good ol’ days where you could walk through the city and see his artwork on display in its natural setting. I’m not saying that’s how it’s going to play out, but stranger things have happened.

  12. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 3:08 pm

    I really hope that we don’t reward b0rf’s vandalism with a museum display. That would be definitely unfortunate.

    I understand and have studied the DADA movement, and if you haven’t yet, you should go see the Ballet Mechanique, but that doesn’t mean that the destruction of public property by spraypaint is art or anything like it.

  13. jen m. (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 7:23 pm

    a) just because you say graffiti “just destroys” doesn’t make it so. some think it beautifies or gives meaning to an otherwise banal object or has any number of other creative purposes. what if a property owner gave cool disco dan permission to paint on her wall? then you wouldn’t say it was destructive, would you? so basically, you are saying graffiti is destructive merely because the artist doesn’t have legal permission to use that surface as his canvas. but how can whether something is creative or destructive depend on the legality of it? destruction is not a legal concept. vandalism and art are not mutually exclusive.

    b) there is nothing that says that destruction cannot be itself an act of artistic creation. creation and destruction are not mutually exclusive. indeed we see in nature all the time that things are destroyed in order for newer, better things to be created. forests are destroyed by wildfires in order to maintain the health of the ecosystem. we see it in our culture as well. ramshackle townhouses are knocked down to build overpriced condos. i can imagine the possibility of a compelling work of art that involved the destruction of an everyday object like a mailbox. of course, that act might also be a criminal act of vandalism, but again, crime and art are not mutually exclusive. it’s not up to our legislators to determine what is art according to what they choose to criminalize.

  14. jen m. (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

    oops, i forgot my “c”…

    c) borf has already been rewarded by inclusion in an art exhibit. part of the wallsnatchers exhibit that just closed in georgetown paid homage to borf. other (and in my opinion much better) graffiti artists have seen their work hung in art galleries and museums. a few years ago i visited an art gallery in georgetown that had an exhibit of grafitti art. in addition to pieces done specifically to be shown in a gallery, the exhibit included photos of illegal graffiti.

    obviously, practical considerations make it extremely difficult to preserve and transport illegal wall art to museums and galleries. but if not for those practical considerations i have no doubt that we would see many of these acts of vandalism hanging in the world’s art museums.

  15. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 11:47 pm

    Legislators represent the people, and through their laws, legislate what is art and what is crime.

    To my knowledge, b0rf never got permission for any of his scrawlings, which have cost the District significant amounts of money to undo. This isn’t about permission, it’s about vandalism, which is the destruction of private (or public) property by a third party. I don’t care if the destruction is pretty, or if you think it’s art, society says it’s a crime that bears a specific punishment that’s been created by the legislatures empowered by the people of the area.

    There’s a dichotomy here that’s important: the artist’s needs as a creative person and the needs of society for order and functionality. Certainly society needs artists, but it doesn’t need them at the expense of public and private property, the destruction of which becomes a “creative statement.”

  16. jen m. (unregistered) on March 29th, 2006 @ 10:26 am

    “legislators … legislate what is art”

    ok, that is simply ridiculous. there are so many things wrong with that idea that i don’t even know where to start. if that were true, the same painting could be considered art in the U.S., but if you transport it to france where they have different laws it’s not art anymore. that’s insanity. i don’t even think i can have this conversation anymore.

    by the way, many reknowned works of art were considered to violate the law at the time they were produced. at least two of the works currently on display at the dada exhibit at the east wing landed their creators in jail for defaming the military. and now they are on display at the national gallery.

  17. cameron (unregistered) on March 29th, 2006 @ 10:53 am

    Wow. This is a very difficult argument to enter and I think all of Jen’s points are right on the mark. To be honest, I think that saying that “Legislators legislate what is art” is the very ideology that makes Borf’s work and many other graffiti artists’ work “art”. For centuries art has been used to comment on society and push it to change and grow. Some of the most profound social movements of our time have been precipitated by an artistic movement. In fact, if you look very broadly and how historians classify cultural eras (romanticism, modernism, post-modernism), the classification of artistic movements have always been one era ahead. “Modern art” was “modern art” before our society was truly considered to be “modern”. Music has had a similar impact throughout history. There was an interesting piece in the City Paper a few weeks ago about how so much classical music that we think of today as “high art” was in fact incredibly dangerous and controversial when it was first performed.

    Without rambling much more, I would also like to emphasize the fact that the illegality of graffiti art is so integrally tied into what makes it art to begin with because it is about peacefully resisting the very structures and institutions in our society with which we disagree. Not only can you not dichotomize crime and art, you CANNOT separate them.

  18. jen m. (unregistered) on March 29th, 2006 @ 11:40 am

    i’d also like to add (as a lawyer) that as a legal matter, tom is wrong. U.S. law does not support tom’s bold statement that the law determines art. the first amendment protects art, as it does all expression. no U.S. law, whether criminal law or defamation law or any other, attempts to regulate when art ceases being art.

    rather, the law recognizes that sometimes expression is more than just expression; sometimes it also involves conduct. grafitti isn’t just art, it’s also conduct, i.e. vandalism. according to the supreme court, expressive conduct (such as graffiti art) cannot be restricted by law, unless the law furthers an important or substantial governmental interest unrelated to the suppression of expression, and the restriction on expression must be no greater than necessary to protect that governmental interest. See U.S. v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).

    obviously, D.C.’s anti-vandalism laws will pass muster as a constitutional restriction on free artistic expression. that is not the issue. the point is the mere fact that this standard regulates when the government can constitutionally criminalize art. the supreme court, unlike tom, does not disqualify art from being considered expression simply because it violates a law. rather, it anticipates that some expression (including art) will sometimes be illegal. thus, supreme court precedent supports my allegation that conduct can simultaneously constitute both artistic expression and illegal conduct.

  19. chris (unregistered) on March 29th, 2006 @ 3:10 pm

    I caught back onto this thread a little late, but wanted to add in that legislators defining what “art” is. That all sounds a little too Weimar Republic for me.

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