|Banksy tags Detroit|
It seems the Banksy tag was just the beginning of the controversy. The Detroit Free Press originally reported this story in 2010: "Discovered last weekend, the stenciled work shows a forlorn boy holding a can of red paint next to the words “I remember when all this was trees.” But by Tuesday, artists from the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios, a feisty grassroots group, had excavated the 7-by-8-foot, 1,500-pound cinder block wall with a masonry saw and forklift and moved the piece to their grounds near the foot of the Ambassador Bridge in southwest Detroit.
The move -- a guerilla act on top of Banksy’s initial guerilla act -- has sparked an intense debate about the nature of graffiti art, including complicated questions of meaning, legality, value and ownership. Some say the work should be protected and preserved at all costs. Others say that no one had a right to move it — and that the power and meaning of graffiti art is so intrinsic to its location that to relocate it is to kill it."
The Los Angeles Times reported in 2012 that "the parties recently settled the dispute, and the gallery paid $2,500 for the wall art, estimated to be worth $100,000."
Given our studies and interest in street art, I thought I would ask what you think of the Banksy controversy in Detroit. I have mixed feelings about 555's action. I believe the meaning of street art is its context. Will the "guerrilla act" of moving the work to "preserve it at all costs" become part of the context and thus a new part of the artwork's meaning? Or, is removing the graffiti from its surroundings, valuing it at $100,000, and "preserving it" turning it into a neutral thing?
I'm also saddened because there doesn't seem to be anything else in Detroit to care about, much less, to preserve. Why was this Banksy work deemed so worthy while neighborhoods, historical buildings, and city treasures sit in a state of decay? Then again, I suppose you have to know the Motor City to understand the Motor City.
I did not intend to make a connection to Michael Gecan's article, but somehow, that's where I'm going. Maybe I should ignore the media hype surrounding the Banksy art and look at 555's work. Maybe they are fighting to save their hometown, a place that never gets much attention other than making the news for crime and corruption. Perhaps 555 is just one small part of a larger network of organizers that I don't see because I only listen to media hype. I'm blind to the current situation.
Gecan's passion as a community organizer is evident in his writing, but I did not get the sense that East Brooklyn was his hometown, his touchstone, or his native context. Maybe, like Banksy, Gecan's passion is in his work, where ever that may take him. But, his organizers, the people he meets and gets to know, are connected heart and soul to their communities. I wonder, then, how being disconnected from our communities (hometowns, families, roots) turns us into neutral things like the "stolen" art? Do we loose interest in what's going on around us because we are out of our contexts, valuing our lives based on the superficial?
I am left with only one final thought: I wonder if anyone is organizing a raid to return the Banksy work to it's original location? I'll keep you posted. Thanks. Susan