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Protect the London rabbit
October 28, 2010 1:48 PM   Subscribe

A 3.5m picture of a rabbit is going to be painted over in two weeks, if Hackney council get their way (a slightly clearer picture). The street artist ROA painted the picture with the permission of the building's owners last year, but the local council have said that it's a blight to the local area. ROA has done lots of other pictures of large animals around the area.

The owner of the building has written an open letter calling Hackney council to debate its policy on street art removal. If you agree with them, sign the petition.
posted by DanCall (52 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's the problem with unregulated street art - once they let one stay, because it has some aesthetic merit, or an organized group of supporters - the local authorities have their hands tied, and the "art" starts to multiply.

Like rabbits!!!
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:52 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I have an excellent idea, LETS CHANGE THE SUBJECT. "
posted by radiosilents at 1:53 PM on October 28, 2010


What a bunch of hacks.
posted by mayhap at 1:56 PM on October 28, 2010


"[W]e initially contacted the property owner on an informal basis and offered advice, including what they needed to do if they wished to retain the piece of graffiti. This was followed by a letter and another visit to the property before the removal notice was served. However, we are currently holding our enforcement action to allow the owner a further opportunity to seek planning advice about retaining the piece."

So they told the owner they COULD keep the artwork, but they had to do...what, exactly?
posted by Gator at 1:58 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Curious Artificer, if you start seeing slippery slopes everywhere, then soon all the slopes will be slippery and then where will we be? huh? I'll tell you where we'll be.

On slippery slopes!

Don't let this happen to anymore slopes, Curious Artificer, only you can prevent slippage.
posted by stavrogin at 2:07 PM on October 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


It looks like he's done some work in Brooklyn too - in what looks like a used car dealer's.
I was wondering who the artist was when I saw the Awl piece.
posted by Flashman at 2:08 PM on October 28, 2010


That's the problem with unregulated street art - once they let one stay, because it has some aesthetic merit, or an organized group of supporters - the local authorities have their hands tied, and the "art" starts to multiply.

I am okay with this, since most of the sanctioned street art is currently trying to sell me shitty beer with pictures of photoshopped jerks.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:08 PM on October 28, 2010 [33 favorites]


Fiver warned about this happening.
posted by drezdn at 2:16 PM on October 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is pretty clearly an artistic representation of an animal, not someone hastily scrawling their handle on a wall while no one is looking. It can get tricky when art and tags blend (not exactly a shining example of amazing graffiti artwork, but a handy example). Artists sign their art, but when the art is the signature ... something something bureaucracy.

Also, comparing graffiti to outdoor ads is tricky: some areas have pretty strict limits on advertisement space, limiting signs by a certain area per building and outlawing billboards all-together. But in dense urban areas where advert posters are predominant fixtures (fake New York set-up, again a handy example), or all surfaces are official adverts, graffiti is just a bit more noise.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:25 PM on October 28, 2010


So I take it Anya moved to London?
posted by The Whelk at 2:29 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bummer.

At least fucking kids haven't scrawled on it.
posted by Artw at 2:30 PM on October 28, 2010


well, he's no henry but he's ok....

jk, these images are beautiful and it would be an honor to have ROA's art in my community.

this story is a classic example of a bureaucracy with literally nothing better to do than harass local businesses and artists. it's a twofer
posted by victors at 2:33 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not sure how you call this a "blight." I wouldn't shed many tears over the removal of one of "Banksy"'s hackneyed teenage-political-statement pieces, but this is actual good art.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:33 PM on October 28, 2010


From what little I can gather from the linked materials, they're allowed to keep the painting if they apply for a retroactive permit. Why is that such a huge burden? Don't property owners everywhere have to apply for permits every time they want to do something to their property, whether it's structural or just public-facing? What am I missing here, other than the fact that they "don't think it's fair"?
posted by Gator at 2:34 PM on October 28, 2010


Also, comparing graffiti to outdoor ads is tricky:

Yeah, I live in a dense urban area. At least in my neighborhood, the ads are universally ugly and irritating; the graffiti either blends into the background or is interesting and authentically expressive.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:36 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love that rabbit - it signals the last leg of my bike ride home. Odd that they aren't more inclined to shift the nearby rat, he seems much more sinister. But I'm not sure about fighting to keep them. The council is being typically cack-handed about the whole thing but isn't transience the whole point of graffiti after all?

Hackney street art is just gorgeous and I love how it changes. I'm particularly fond of these wee fellows, popping up at random.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:41 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't property owners everywhere have to apply for permits every time they want to do something to their property, whether it's structural or just pubic facing?

No, actually. As long as you don't have restrictive covenants on your deed and / or live in a historical preservation area, in most of the USA you can do whatever the hell you please as far as painting the exterior of your home is concerned. Know why? Because that's what private property is. The right to change the color of the tiles on your roof without having to beg a bunch of cretins for permission. The right to not fit in.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:42 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fucking council's a blight.

Those animals are beautiful—I wish I had one in my town.
posted by domnit at 2:45 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm writing these bastards a letter and telling them to leave the bunny alone!
posted by cjorgensen at 2:53 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jerks. The same thing happened to a really sweet mural of a bear saying "Hello!" in LA recently. I used to say, "Hello!" back to the bear every time I passed by him, and it's sad going by that blank wall now.
posted by queensissy at 2:54 PM on October 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


Me again - I'm the original poster of the thread.

I'm glad to see support rallying a bit for this case on the blue.

What I perhaps should have added, to add some context, is that it seems crazy to me, in the year that - 1) Banksy was commissioned to create an opening sequence for The Simpsons, 2) that an Eine painting was given to Obama by David Cameron, and 3) that street art in London is becoming a tourist attraction in London, that an artistic piece that is not offensive and was sanctioned by the owner of the building is likely to get painted over because of an intransigent policy.

Yes, I take the point about retrospective planning permission, but that is supposedly complex and expensive.

15 years ago busking on the tube was illegal. Now it's sanctioned and regulated. No one really objected to the busking and policy changed to accomodate this. The same should happen with street art. It's long overdue.
posted by DanCall at 3:17 PM on October 28, 2010


Give me a break. It's not graffiti. It's a MURAL. The owners of the building gave permission.

LEAVE THE BUNNY ALONE.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:26 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


1adam12, the town where I grew up, and where my parents still live, has strict permit requirements for any sort of public-facing work on a property. The town is in a middle class area of New York's suburbs, and from what I understand, that sort of thing is pretty typical, at least in that area.

I guess the thought is that, yes, the property is yours, but rocking the boat for the comfortable community causes the property of others to lose value. So, no giant rabbits.
posted by gnidan at 3:28 PM on October 28, 2010


Technically, graffiti is not necessarily vandalism, though that's the connotation the word has nowadays. (I was surprised to read this, too.)

And I don't think it's remotely true that property owners can always do whatever they want. City ordinances and deed restrictions are very common things that property owners have to deal with all the time -- and they usually agree to such restrictions at the time they move in to an area where such restrictions are in place.

I'd like to know more about how supposedly onerous and expensive these retrospective planning permissions are. Yeah, permitting always takes forever no matter where you live, but it would allow them to keep the bunny AND keep the council off their backs according to the local regulations.
posted by Gator at 3:33 PM on October 28, 2010


I think it's a terrrrific Rrrrabbit!
posted by snsranch at 3:36 PM on October 28, 2010


Just another money grab in the form of a permit.
posted by GrooveJedi at 3:43 PM on October 28, 2010


Admittedly Philly has a little bit of an obsession with murals, but I wouldn't have expected anyone anywhere to confuse something like the rabbit with blight-graffiti. That's really sad, I'd love to have something like that around here.
posted by sepviva at 3:57 PM on October 28, 2010


At first, I was expecting the councillors of Hackney to be elderly and screaming "GET OFF OF MY LAWN YOU BLOODY KIDS!"
But to my suprise, they look a lot younger than expected.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:07 PM on October 28, 2010


Cool, I've walked past the weasel(?) a couple of times and I wondered who did it. It's slightly sinister, but some great art nonetheless.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:12 PM on October 28, 2010


It's not an age thing, Mister Fabulous, it's an extreme stupidity thing. At least now the whole world knows how amazingly stupid Hackney Council are capable of being, under the likes of Jules Pipe, Karen Alcock and Feryal Demirci, for what very little that is worth.
posted by motty at 4:30 PM on October 28, 2010


I just wanted to say that I also really like the rabbit and would be pretty happy to have it crop up anywhere I live.
posted by brennen at 4:44 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is unwarrented.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:04 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm largely OK with our planning laws, but I think the rabbit should stay. And there's not much danger of the situation Curious Artificer predicts, as most councils aren't short of regulatory officers to enforce this sort of thing, hence someone having the time to pursue this for no good reason.
posted by Abiezer at 5:29 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because that's what private property is. The right to change the color of the tiles on your roof without having to beg a bunch of cretins for permission. The right to not fit in.

This is more about freedom of expression than private property.
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 5:37 PM on October 28, 2010


I read that as "3.5 mm" and was wondering what the issue was...
posted by cozenedindigo at 5:56 PM on October 28, 2010


I'd love it if this rabbit lived on my house
posted by arnicae at 6:30 PM on October 28, 2010


Curious Artificer - I live in a street that has been declared a non-graffiti removal zone (well, the council try sometimes - but they are met with very vocal resistance every time they come near, so they've given up). I love it - almost every time I wake up there's something new on the street, like this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or even this.
posted by silence at 6:45 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


I kind of understand when a local community gets together and decides it wants the right to approve the aesthetics of buildings in its area by a vote or something. It bothers me a little, but I guess people do have an interest in their surroundings, not only psychologically but also tangibly in the form of property values.

What bugs me is when the idea of a community voting that they dislike the aesthetics of some building becomes instead a small, dictatorial body with some ridiculously inflexible rule to determine what stays and what goes. It's like the tail wagging the dog. Those councils and rules should just be ways for the community to express its preferences. Doing things against the community's own wishes just for the sake of upholding the rule seems backwards.
posted by Xezlec at 6:49 PM on October 28, 2010


You guys know I only made the anti-art argument just to make the "multiplying like rabbits" joke, right?
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:37 PM on October 28, 2010


Hackney is invoking the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, which appears to put the issue of what is graffiti and what is a defacement or detrimental entirely in the hands of the local authority. I imagine this is normally their first line of attack because it's quick, sweeping, and not subject to any kind of appeal or second opinion.

However, there's also planning law. You'd normally require permission for an advertisement or similar more than (I think) 0.3 metres square: but Hackney Road is also in a Conservation Area, where things are much more difficult. The Council is asking for an application for planning permission; this is a non-trivial and possibly lengthy undertaking, but whereas the council can just change its mind instantly about the graffiti aspect, it perhaps hasn't got much legal room for manoeuvre under planning law.

Banksy's Law, anyone?
posted by Segundus at 2:29 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Curious Artificer - I live in a street that has been declared a non-graffiti removal zone

omg, I love that. Wish it was more like that round here (actually having said that, I love the Cassette Lord stencils on cable junction boxes in Brighton).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:14 AM on October 29, 2010


may i echo
LEAVE THE BUNNY ALONE
posted by dprs75 at 5:45 AM on October 29, 2010


"The graffiti ... is clearly visible from the road and, whilst it is not the council's position to make a judgment call on whether graffiti is art or not, our task is to keep Hackney's streets clean.

Then STOP CALLING IT GRAFFITI! And leave it alone.
posted by limeonaire at 5:49 AM on October 29, 2010


No, actually. As long as you don't have restrictive covenants on your deed and / or live in a historical preservation area, in most of the USA you can do whatever the hell you please as far as painting the exterior of your home is concerned.

I question this. I know of many towns with municipal codes that govern signage, paints, acceptable fence heights and materials, etc. (not to mention the various HOAs and their futher restrictions). You can usually do what you like out in the country, but living in the cities I am familiar with really does limit what you can do with your own property.
posted by Menthol at 6:17 AM on October 29, 2010


may i echo ... LEAVE THE BUNNY ALONE

That'd make a great band name.
posted by ericb at 7:12 AM on October 29, 2010


I think it's clear, the permit stated rabbit, but the painting is a HARE! Thus, it must be removed.
posted by Laotic at 7:24 AM on October 29, 2010


Also, DanCall, when I saw the Simpsons Intro recently, I thought it was the best in the whole history of the Simpsons. I actually like Banksy so it's nice to see he was involved.
posted by Laotic at 7:35 AM on October 29, 2010


One of the biggest battles of a street artist is enduring the constant insults and easy assaults. Because graffiti is illegal, people feel justified in their negative opinions. But there is a simple beauty in street art that puts emphasis on public space. Living in a city means sharing space, looking at what others have to say and not having complete control over your surroundings. Graffiti may not be permitted, but it is worthwhile.
posted by experiencehunter at 9:48 AM on October 29, 2010


I live on this street and see the rabbit daily. I don't particularly *want* Hackney to paint over the rabbit, but I'm also not that bothered about it going. The art round here is transient; something new will come along and replace it in time. This Eine piece was on the building next door to me for a while and now we have the bunny nearby instead. That the art is ephemeral adds to its beauty.
posted by Lleyam at 4:10 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Update: the rabbit is safe. Repeat, the rabbit is safe. Looks like the stick and carrot approach worked in the end.
posted by motty at 6:57 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I am taking credit for this. Fine, some small tiny bit of credit. I wrote the fine people of the Hackney council and pointed out they were a being a bunch of bunny hating bureaucratic thugs and should maybe drop the whole thing before they made themselves look more stupid.

It cost me nearly a buck to send that letter. It was money well spent.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:12 AM on November 8, 2010


A news story about the council u-turn

"A council spokesman said that, after reviewing the case, it had decided not to take action because the rabbit had been in situ for some time and had not provoked complaints."
posted by DanCall at 4:24 AM on November 10, 2010


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