Miscellany. 07.22.11.


Gore-B, protecting today’s perishables for tomorrow. (Image courtesy of Gore-B.)

American Graffiti

Eric Thayer's photo of L.A. graffiti in the New York Times.

The New York Times has a story about the oh-so-scary rise in graffiti. I’d love to spend more time dissecting this, but unfortunately I’m slammed with work. Thankfully, Joerg Colberg pointed me to this vey smart essay over at No Caption Needed, which does just that. In it, Robert Hariman argues that the main issue with this story (and in so many others like this) is that it throws the problem at the feet of the culture industry, without bothering to examine any of the other causes that might lead to an uptick in graffiti:

In what may appear to be sophisticated coverage, the Times reports that ‘The upturn has prompted concern among city officials and renewed a debate about whether glorifying such displays — be it in museum exhibits, tattoos, or television advertisements — contributes to urban blight and economic decay.’ And there, in a stroke, we have it: The Times channeling Fox News. The leading explanation faults culture, not economics or politics, and suggests that a culture war is underway and the rightful center of public debate, and that the real danger comes from curators and other liberals who promote transgression in the arts…

The essay is all kinds of excellent, so please click through and read it. But I will add a couple of thoughts: One, we live in a period where there is less arts education ever. Where we choose to spend our funds on grotesquely punitive measures against graffiti, rather than providing people with alternative outlets for art. We also live in a time in which our public spaces are wallpapered with advertising (a lot of it illegal). In other words: the corporations get to talk to us, but we never get to talk back. Most irritating is the fact that the story’s accompanying slideshow features legal graffiti-inspired murals — but fails to identify them as such. (The photos also fetishize graffiti to the max.) Lastly, the story provides absolutely no historical context: the urge to paint walls is as old as civilization and, perhaps, even predates it.

The fact is, that as long as people have something to say (even if its for blatantly commercial reasons — like getting a sneaker deal), then people are gonna paint on walls. I agree, graffiti is not always aesthetically pleasing. But maybe, just maybe, we should simply learn to live with it.

Strange Tech
A collar that chokes, a menstruation machine and bacteria that colors your poops. I have a piece up at Techland on the five most bizarre piece at MoMA’s new tech show, Talk to Me. (Which, by the way, is all kinds of excellent.) Please click through!

Random Linkage

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