Right Place Art; Wrong Place Vandalism
February 28, 2015 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Urban tagging is urban right?
There is a difference between graffiti tagging and street art.
Is urban graffiti a force for good or evil?
But what happens when it moves to the country?
Andre Saraiva aka Mr. Andre seems to have overstepped the mark.
Is Mr Andre tagging in Joshua Tree?
posted by adamvasco (97 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Tagging in state and national parks here is Texas has gotten to the point where it is difficult to take a hike without getting angry.
It's nice to see people doing detective work on crimes like this when they strike national gems like JT.
posted by Seamus at 12:14 PM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Tagging in parks or other protected areas is such a dick move. I can't even. Boils my blood, it does.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:16 PM on February 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


Tagging and carving.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:18 PM on February 28, 2015


Lefty middle-class identity encourages graffiti in urban areas - where the middle-classes don't live - but decries it in "nature". It's not consistent. I think it's wrong in both.
posted by alasdair at 12:31 PM on February 28, 2015 [18 favorites]


On the other hand, urban materials are man-made, and they can usually be painted over and replaced quite easily (and are often meant to be). You can't do that in nature; best case is your paint wears away on its own. Worst case, you've permanently defaced something completely irreplaceable.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:35 PM on February 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


Thank you alasdair. It really is disappointing to see so many people who are otherwise adults fawn over banksy. Maybe once these people have almost gotten into a car accident because a road sign that tells you which lane you need to be in has been vandalized they'll change their minds about graffiti and tagging.
posted by MattMangels at 12:46 PM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I agree, alasdair. In this, as in everything else in life, context is unimportant. Good point.
posted by Myca at 12:48 PM on February 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


Lefty middle-class identity encourages graffiti in urban areas
First world problem and privilege.
Sometimes the street art is the only thing which isn't grey or decaying in the entire neighbourhood.
posted by adamvasco at 12:51 PM on February 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


Painting something colourful and/or interesting on a grey wall for the benefit of some who might not have access to establishment art is surely not the same as tagging something already beautiful? Context matters but so does nuance.
posted by billiebee at 12:52 PM on February 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


Mr. Andre (as well as other people)has tagged murals in my downtown LA neighborhood, and it sucks. Random spray painting someone else's art is a jerk move, tagging in the wilderness is reprehensible.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:55 PM on February 28, 2015 [26 favorites]


Tagging? Wankerscribble, I call it.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:02 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


TOY
posted by hellojed at 1:16 PM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


My friend, a resident of Joshua Tree and expert on desert ecology, claimed that the desert patina of that rock took something in the vicinity of 7000 years to form.

Mr. Andre should be chained to that rock until his tag wears off.
posted by carsonb at 1:18 PM on February 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


CHA
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:19 PM on February 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's no excuse for graffiti anywhere. Don't molest anything that isn't explicitly yours. If you paint your name on your living room wall, that's your business. If you paint your name on a wall that belongs to someone else or to the public, you are a narcissist and I think you should be confined to a place where you cannot do that until such a time when you don't feel entitled to do that. It's just so selfish and gratuitous.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:23 PM on February 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


The last time we had this discussion - it was young lady Casey Nocket, who was on tour defacing national parks and monuments.

Tagging manmade structures is one thing. It is vandalism, sure, and obnoxious on it's own - even when it is an improvement.

Tagging natural areas is a whole other level of asinine. I just don't understand how someone can possibly think that anything they could add to that scenery is an improvement. And worse, this is why places get closed off to access - park funds are stretched thin as it is, and there isn't much of an enforcement budget as a result. Closure is cheaper than supervision.

Andre Saraiva is a bad artist, and a bad person. He should feel bad. Hopefully, he feels bad and pays a hefty fine.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:31 PM on February 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


Today on MetaFilter, I learned that middle class people don't live in urban areas.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:36 PM on February 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


Anyway, I think these somewhat eponysterical comments by DirtyOldTown sum up my remaining thoughts here.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:42 PM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Lefty middle-class identity encourages graffiti in urban areas - where the middle-classes don't live - but decries it in "nature". It's not consistent.

Another inconsistency: conflating tagging with street art.
posted by carsonb at 1:45 PM on February 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


All of this goes back a long, long way to petroglyphs. It is everywhere today in various forms: glass etchers, stickers, tags, permanent markers, street art, murals, to big sanctioned "art" pieces.

Remember the magazines for the street art type stuff on train cars back in the 90s? It's still rare to this day that I see a freight train that isn't covered with tags....

That said, I think *anything* added to any kind of park is where the line should be drawn. I am dismayed that these folks doing it, repeatedly, are not prosecuted. There seems to be ample evidence, but no action taken....
posted by CrowGoat at 1:50 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hopefully he feels bad...

Well, he lied about it, then deleted the image, so he must know he stepped in something he shouldn't have.
posted by valkane at 1:50 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I bet Mr Andre is really steamed when he sees the Modern Hiker watermark on the photos of his tags.
posted by peeedro at 1:56 PM on February 28, 2015


It sure is easy to frown down upon street kids from your air conditioned privlidge. Yes, tagging in Joshua Tree is not excusable, but tell me you have some inkling of what it's like for sectors of our population growing up in a white man's city.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:17 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


It sure is easy to frown down upon street kids from your air conditioned privlidge. Yes, tagging in Joshua Tree is not excusable, but tell me you have some inkling of what it's like for sectors of our population growing up in a white man's city.

Indeed. If you're witnessing the crushing effects of urban poverty, you're pretty much forced to write your name on public surfaces.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:23 PM on February 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


It sure is easy to frown down upon street kids from your air conditioned privlidge.

how many strictly street kids can afford to make a trip to joshua tree?

Yes, tagging in Joshua Tree is not excusable, but tell me you have some inkling of what it's like for sectors of our population growing up in a white man's city.

well, i have this odd idea that a lot of them have to repaint their walls because of assholes in their neighborhood
posted by pyramid termite at 2:37 PM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


It sure is easy to frown down upon street kids from your air conditioned privlidge. Yes, tagging in Joshua Tree is not excusable, but tell me you have some inkling of what it's like for sectors of our population growing up in a white man's city.

My sarcasm meter may be completely off here, but just in case you are commenting in earnest about Mr. Andre, I believe it's worth reading the "aka" link above. According to Wikipedia, "André (aka Monsieur André aka Monsieur A) born 1971 as André Saraiva, is a Swedish-Portuguese graffiti artist living in Paris (France)." He's not a street kid any more -- if he ever was one -- and he's been exhibited at the Venice Biennale.
posted by ferdydurke at 2:42 PM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


CHAKA
posted by chaz at 2:56 PM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, urban materials are man-made, and they can usually be painted over and replaced quite easily (and are often meant to be).

This reminds me of a guy I used to hike with who threw his orange peels along the trailside proclaiming them "natural".
posted by fairmettle at 2:59 PM on February 28, 2015


Urban tagging is urban right?

What the hell does that even mean? Is this something like Property Rights? Like if I am an urban dweller, I have the right to paint on other people's property?
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:13 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is one of those situations where it's extremely difficult to understand folks' decision procedures for getting outraged. Joshua Tree National Park contains a fucking paved road and some scribbles on a rock are the "defacement" that's bothering folks? Anyone driving a car through JTNP (or to it, or, just, driving a car anywhere else) is doing more genuine environmental damage than Mr Andre's graffiti.

So, really, it seems, the source of the outrage is that a bunch of people (who live modern lives and therefore help to despoil nature in ways that dwarf Mr Andre's performance) think that nature is there to fulfil their expectations about what "unspoiled nature" should look like, which strikes me as about as narcissistic, and in a similar way, as the idea that everyone else wants to look at the shit you drew.
posted by busted_crayons at 3:16 PM on February 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Joshua Tree National Park contains a fucking paved road and some scribbles on a rock are the "defacement" that's bothering folks?

There is a spot where the paved road ends. After that, you are a hiker and the general philosophy is "leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs."

So, really, it seems, the source of the outrage is that a bunch of people (who live modern lives and therefore help to despoil nature in ways that dwarf Mr Andre's performance) think that nature is there to fulfil their expectations about what "unspoiled nature" should look like, which strikes me as about as narcissistic, and in a similar way, as the idea that everyone else wants to look at the shit you drew.

Yeah, like how DARE you expect those 160 million year old rock formations to stay standing? They're wobbly and they might fall over in a few more million years. Fuck unspoiled nature.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:24 PM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


think that nature is there to fulfil their expectations about what "unspoiled nature" should look like

That's not why it bothers me. Maybe it's the ownership thing. I get why young people might want to tag things in a space which they feel excluded from or uncared for in. "I exist. I'm here. I'm claiming this as mine." But when it comes to something that has existed for thousands of years before all of us I feel like "No. You have no right to claim it as yours. It belongs to all of us."
posted by billiebee at 3:27 PM on February 28, 2015


Not to mention that Mr. Andre, born in 1971, is neither a kid nor young person and so gets even less of the small pass I might have given someone else for not acting like an adult.
posted by dness2 at 3:34 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think Modern Hiker framed it nicely:
but when street artists as famous as Mr. Andre post photos that even appear like they’re painting in nature without permission, it sends a powerful message that the outdoors is a fine canvas for your street art. And that, we feel, is a message that needs to be stopped.
One rock, not the worst thing ever. One rock that is part of a huge and ongoing problem at many national and state parks, especially Joshua Tree-- a rock seen by thousands of fans-- is a bigger issue. Access to natural areas pretty much relies on the social contract. There is no way to adequately patrol, maintain, or conserve all federal and state lands. But people constantly abuse that access, by damaging natural sites, by looting tombs, by spray painting graffiti. I don't know if there is a solution, but I can't see that promoting spray painting of protected areas is going to help.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:36 PM on February 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


There is a spot where the paved road ends. After that, you are a hiker and the general philosophy is "leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs."

Unless you are driving a four-wheel drive vehicle through the "center of the park", apparently.

But when it comes to something that has existed for thousands of years before all of us I feel like "No. You have no right to claim it as yours. It belongs to all of us."

But you're also, in that very sentence, making a particular claim about it should be treated/approached. I happen to agree, but I don't see that anyone has given a justification that's any more convincing than a weak argument one could imagine for a different position. For example, someone could, from a similar premise, argue: "It has existed for aeons and nobody owns it, so you have no right to tell us how we can and can't use it."

My intuition is also that such a position would be reprehensible, but on the other hand my whole standard of living -- and that of everyone in a tizzy about Mr Andre -- is based on the fact that we take, and others have taken, exactly that attitude, toward other bits of "unspoiled nature". In other words, outrage at Mr Andre seems somewhat inconsistent, or disproportionate.

I wonder what MeFi's reaction would be to, say, a news story about the ELF burning down a hypothetical subdivision full of McMansions-under-construction, in the name of protecting nature from the arrogant incursions of narcissists. I bet it would be inconsistent with the current prevailing reaction.
posted by busted_crayons at 3:39 PM on February 28, 2015


I should have written "rightfully owns it" in the hypothetical quotation in my last comment.
posted by busted_crayons at 3:42 PM on February 28, 2015


"It has existed for aeons and nobody owns it, so you have no right to tell us how we can and can't use it."

god forbid that anything exist in this world that isn't seen through the lens of being useful to humans

this is what's wrong with us - IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT US AND WHAT WE FIND USEFUL
posted by pyramid termite at 3:48 PM on February 28, 2015


Unless you are driving a four-wheel drive vehicle through the "center of the park", apparently.

So the existence of unpaved roads makes it OK to paint the rocks ?

That's a curious logic.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:53 PM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT US AND WHAT WE FIND USEFUL

Precisely! Consistent with this is the view that "unspoiled nature" -- the idea of which is a human construct -- is there to be enjoyed recreationally in a particular way, is an arrogant, anthropocentric idea.
posted by busted_crayons at 3:54 PM on February 28, 2015


I mean:

"Precisely! Consistent with this is the view that the view that "unspoiled nature" -- the idea of which is a human construct -- is there to be enjoyed recreationally in a particular way, is an arrogant, anthropocentric idea."
posted by busted_crayons at 4:00 PM on February 28, 2015


Fine- you want to tag a national park? You'll have to fight Zombie Teddy Roosevelt first.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:02 PM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


As a social construct society has decided that access roads and picnic tables in preserved (or "preserved" if you prefer) areas are ok and tags aren't. Parks can be about nature without being 100% as found.

I guess street artists can be of the position that they are striking against the establishment by violating these norms (though at least in this case I can't see him making this claim considering the artist is in full disallow mode) but if that's the case they have got to expect a lot of push back and maybe the occasional beat down by vigilantes.

Also parks are lands held in trust for everyone (or arguably at least those not so poor as to be unable to access them); private property tagging is a crime against a much smaller number of people.
posted by Mitheral at 4:07 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you feel you have no stake in society and that all the nice parts are for people who can afford it, your relationship to "nature" is that it's just another expensive vacation you're not taking. Tagging Joshua Tree is no different than tagging Disneyland. It probably says more about urban environments encroaching on "nature" than anything about taggers specifically. It's kind of the opposite problem of having bears in your swimming pool.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:15 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


the view that "unspoiled nature" ... is there to be enjoyed recreationally in a particular way is an arrogant, anthropocentric idea

When discussing this issue, it is helpful not to confuse people's beliefs on public land management with their beliefs on the intrinsic purpose of the natural world.
posted by compartment at 4:21 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Precisely! Consistent with this is the view that "unspoiled nature" -- the idea of which is a human construct -- is there to be enjoyed recreationally in a particular way, is an arrogant, anthropocentric idea.

That makes no sense. Yes, "unspoiled nature" is a human construct, that serves human needs. And of course it's an anthropocentric concept. But calling it "arrogant" requires arrogant anthropocentrism. The concept exists for human purposes, there is nothing inherently arrogant about that.

We have the idea of "nature" in order to promote a conceptual difference between what we directly create and what exists minus our creations. Parks do that. Yes, it's an artificial and diffused delineation, but it exists for real and practical purposes.

Tagging in the wilderness obviously fails to pass the sniff test here. Besides incredibly narrow and forced theoretical high concept uses, there is nothing special about tagging in the wilderness and a good deal wrong with it.

Compare that to offroading as mentioned above, which while being (IMHO) objectionable and bad for parks, is at least there specifically to take advantage of the delineation that parks provide. There is thus an argument (however flawed) to be made for offroading in parks. Tagging does not have one.

I've yet to hear a good defense of tagging. "There are worse things" and "don't blame the disenfranchised" are the closest, but those are at best reasons not to be too angry at taggers.
posted by tychotesla at 4:24 PM on February 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


On a cave tour in the Appalachians, the guide had just finished telling us how it took millions of years for this rare feathery mineral deposit to form, and then this chubby little kid sticks his finger right into it. His parents defended him by saying they should have put up a glass barrier.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:25 PM on February 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


your relationship to "nature" is that it's just another expensive vacation you're not taking.

The prevailing attitude seems to be exactly this.

The idea that there is such a thing as "nature" -- defined as such by specific people -- that can be subjected to the whims of what certain people assert is a social contract, and that anybody has the right to declare that the land is theirs to "hold in trust" for everyone else (how magnanimous!) to use for a few specific, culturally acceptable purposes (even purposes that also damage it), is pretty arrogant, even compared to tagging.

You'll have to fight Zombie Teddy Roosevelt first.

"My immediate predecessors just finished stealing this land, and, although I'm continuing the whole myth of land ownership and fundamental human separateness from "nature", I'm giving it to all of you, but only as a place to play, and only in certain ways that a few people specify!"

When discussing this issue, it is helpful not to confuse people's beliefs on public land management with their beliefs on the intrinsic purpose of the natural world.

The very phrase "public land management" presupposes particular beliefs about something like the intrinsic purpose of the natural world, or at least particular beliefs about some of its fundamental properties.

I don't necessarily dispute any or all of these beliefs, I'm just annoyed at the arrogance with which their consequences are expressed.
posted by busted_crayons at 4:26 PM on February 28, 2015


The idea that there is such a thing as "nature" -- defined as such by specific people -- that can be subjected to the whims of what certain people assert is a social contract, and that anybody has the right to declare that the land is theirs to "hold in trust" for everyone else (how magnanimous!) to use for a few specific, culturally acceptable purposes (even purposes that also damage it), is pretty arrogant, even compared to tagging.

Again, the fact that "nature" is a concept created by humans for humans does not mean that it is a valueless and arbitrary concept. It was created by humans because it helps humans understand the range of things that exist beyond our immediate lives. That is not arrogance.
posted by tychotesla at 4:34 PM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


The very phrase "public land management" presupposes particular beliefs about something like the intrinsic purpose of the natural world, or at least particular beliefs about some of its fundamental properties.

I believe that it is reasonable for land management policies to prohibit graffiti. But I can say with certainty that I do not believe the natural world has any intrinsic purpose. According to your reasoning, that leaves only "particular beliefs" about "fundamental properties."

Can you give an example of some particular beliefs you believe I am presupposing about fundamental properties of the natural world? Are there any land management policies that you do not find arrogant and anthropomorphic?
posted by compartment at 4:45 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The only arrogance I see here is that people feel so separate from the world that we feel we can do any damned thing we want to to the land, water, and air. That's arrogance... but global warming will give us a hubris check.
posted by kokaku at 4:54 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gotta come down hard on this kinda stuff with the full weight of the state and society. Nothing better about this than the jackasses that knocked over the rocks at Goblin Valley.

The national parks are a great example of forbearance as a virtue. Millions of people post proudly Instagram pictures that show they contributed to the great project by not wrecking the park. If this is just basic jackassery then it diminishes their contributions, if this is a statement then it denigrates their efforts as well.
posted by ethansr at 4:57 PM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Many cultures have a notable reverence or respect of nature. Present-day Western power structures are the result of an evil history, but the anthropocentrism of their natural husbandry seems low, perhaps not even on, the list of terrible things to blame on that past. Is it sometimes ironic in view of our past, or trivialized in our increasingly shallow/consumerist/corporatized culture? Yes... but all the more reason to defend it and the fact that it is a precious and dwindling view into the depth of natural history and not to say, "let's turn it to shit."

If I make a cake for my niece's bake sale tomorrow and someone smashes it with their fist because it's a stupid anthropocentric notion of "baked goods" filled with arrogance, I will be pissed. Enjoy cake, enjoy nature.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:43 PM on February 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yeah I'd like to see the jerk prosecuted for this - and very publicly - to help deter others from the same kind of vandalism. He obviously knew it was not on private land given the way he took down images and posts about it when he got tagged for doing it. Public lands are special and fragile. They're used by millions of people and if we aren't diligent in protecting them they will be permanently altered in ways that seem to me to absolutely contradict precisely why we preserve them.

I was just at Joshua Tree a few weeks ago and it's a really special place. It's used very hard by a huge range of people and is pretty accessible. That puts it more at risk than a more remote location.

I disagree with those who think this is akin to urban tagging. I think it's far worse. Vandalism of a built environment is crappy but generally repairing/removing it isn't going to destroy a surface that took thousands of years to develop. It's just not comparable in terms of the damage. That said, there's also a difference between tagging and sanctioned street art and that whole debate is a side issue to what we're discussing here.
posted by leslies at 5:43 PM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


about fundamental properties of the natural world?

The word "management" drips with metaphysical and political assumptions. In what sense, if any, is the rock that Mr Andre painted a proper object of anybody's managerial purview? From where do the people managing the land (and its "resources") derive their authority to do so? Whose goals are supposed to guide the management of the land resources? People who are into outdoor sports? Energy corporations? Bears? Which land is subject to the type of "management" we're discussing, and which land isn't? (Some land, evidently, like "private property", does not seem to be conceived of in this way; where does the distinction come from?)

Again, I'm not disagreeing with it or condemning it, I just think that if people are going to express Internet Consternation about some asshole with a can of spraypaint, they should first recognize their basic assumptions and argue that they are preferable to whatever attitude supposedly justifies the graffiti.

Are there any land management policies that you do not find arrogant and anthropomorphic?

No, but for very general reasons (there are no "people management" policies that I do not find arrogant, either). That doesn't necessarily mean I disagree with them, or even know enough about them to disagree or agree with them. However, to be slightly more specific, I'm fairly suspicious of rhetoric one sometimes hears about "preserving 'nature' for future peoples' enjoyment". The Bureau of Land Management has this type of rhetoric built into its mission statement, for example. I may well support some (maybe most, I would guess) concrete actions in service of the promotion of which such rhetoric is deployed, but the rhetoric itself seems problematic. A clock that's not known to be right doesn't become right just because it has a record of telling you the right thing to do.
posted by busted_crayons at 5:49 PM on February 28, 2015


Whatever did happen with Casey Nocket? There was all the hullabaloo and she was apologizing then...crickets. Or did I miss it? Was she ever held accountable at all?
posted by mkim at 5:52 PM on February 28, 2015


the anthropocentrism of their natural husbandry seems low, perhaps not even on, the list of terrible things to blame on that past

Well, the official land management policy of the US provides for the use of public land for grazing (privately-owned) livestock, whose methane emissions have a potentially significant deleterious effect on the climate, so maybe the attitudes that underlie that policy should be on your list.
posted by busted_crayons at 5:59 PM on February 28, 2015


Sure, that is busted. Climate change is perhaps a somewhat anthropocentric concern, but I'll allow it.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:02 PM on February 28, 2015


Also, I should clarify: if Mr Andre had written NO MOAR COW FARTS, I might vaguely support him, but as it stands, I am not in favour of Mr Andre's scribble; I'm just trying to explain why I find the reaction to it weird.
posted by busted_crayons at 6:06 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whatever did happen with Casey Nocket?

This article seems to be the latest info. That page links to comments from a National Park Service spokesperson. The short shrift: NPS cannot give any details of an ongoing investigation. Also they said this very interesting thing:

"The Park Service is asking all media outlets to blur the pictures and to stop sharing unblurred images so as to not give the vandal publicity for these destructive works."

I wish everyone would do the same with this vandalism incident.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:07 PM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Whatever did happen with Casey Nocket?

Modern Hiker asked this question last December. It's the latest update I am aware of.
I emailed the Park Service’s Chief of Public Affairs and just asked if there were any updates, or whether or not he could say if Nocket had been cooperating. Initially the investigation was also looking for a second person although I don’t know what the results of that were. The response was succinct. The entire email read simply “No update.”

Looking for more of an explanation, I reached out to some law enforcement officials who had worked on similar cases and they assured me there was no reason to worry. They said in general, if all the evidence is there and everything works perfectly, a case like this can still take a minimum of three months to wrap up – and that’s not accounting for the addition of lawyers that can significantly add to that timeline.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:13 PM on February 28, 2015


I can kind of see where broken_crayons is coming from. To me it can sometimes feel like people are mad because the tagger "ruined their view" by bringing signs of human life into the park, that it makes it difficult for them to think that they're having an authentic experience of pristine nature when, in reality, the whole point of the park is that it's for human enjoyment in prescribed ways. It's not like any 'real' damage was done to the rock itself, or to the park's ecosystem, it continues to be a rock functioning in all the same ways as before, the damage is mostly to the image of the rock as far as it's representative of this larger, kinda problematic idea of unspoiled nature.

On the flipside I definitely see why people should respond so strongly, not for the sake of the rock necessarily but for the sake of the contract that keeps people from doing other careless destructive things with real environmental consequences.
posted by taromsn at 6:40 PM on February 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


So in otherwords, nothing. sigh.
posted by mkim at 6:41 PM on February 28, 2015


I don't think tagging as a whole is necessarily un-artistic; I know there are certainly some tags I've enjoyed stumbling across. Leaving a tag is arguably self-promotion of a sort, but, I mean, the urban built environment is already completely saturated with advertising, a lot of which I find more objectionable -- this is at least advertising something more personal and idiosyncratic. (It can certainly also be part of gang activity, which definitely sucks, but I think for pretty separate reasons.)

Obviously none of this is intended to defend tagging a National Park, which I agree is beyond shitty, just to push back a bit on the idea of tagging as 100% bright-line separable from other types of illegal street art.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:07 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


In what sense, if any, is the rock that Mr Andre painted a proper object of anybody's managerial purview? From where do the people managing the land (and its "resources") derive their authority to do so? Whose goals are supposed to guide the management of the land resources?

Don't be obtuse. The hubbub over this incident (and the prior Casey Nocket one) concerns National Park Service lands. These natural, historical, scenic, and cultural areas are our national treasures; the National Park System is one of our nation's crown jewels. If you'd take the time to learn a little about its mission and history might help clue you in on why some people find vandalism of this sort particularly transgressive.
posted by peeedro at 7:12 PM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Many humans are simply lazy slobs who think they can do whatever they damn well please with nature. This attitude burns me up.

My ultimate example is the Morning Glory pool at Yellowstone. I was there in the early 70s and I swear there was not a bit of orange present. We took a pic, I'll have to try and find it. (There are better pics of the damage elsewhere, but I thought that was the best article.)

Some people are the worst.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:19 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Everything is a human construct
All morality is relative
This guy's a jerk
And I know it when I see it.
posted by bq at 8:23 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Don't be obtuse.

This guy's a jerk
And I know it when I see it.


Spraypaint has electrolytes. It's what our National Treasures (TM) crave.
posted by busted_crayons at 8:25 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


its [the National Park Service's] mission

If you weren't being so obtuse, you'd have realized that it's exactly the:

provide for the public's enjoyment of these features

bit of the NPS's mission that I'm irritated is going unexamined. The idea that "nature" is our "national treasure" to be squeezed into the confines of our preconceptions for our enjoyment is narrow-minded and hubristic, even if it has some positive results. This attitude also seems kind of dangerous from the point of view of environmental issues that are more serious than whether or not a hiker has to see some bullshit on a rock. The outrage about Mr Andre therefore has a deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic vibe that is kind of depressing.

(The bullshit on a rock, it's true, is not as well-executed as some other transgressive defacement of nature. Oh, I see -- those caves weren't, in some antediluvian decree by a fur-clad Flintstonian high-school civics teacher, deemed More Spectacular Than Other Caves, so the Paleolithic street art is okay.)
posted by busted_crayons at 8:57 PM on February 28, 2015


Oh, I see -- those caves weren't, in some antediluvian decree by a fur-clad Flintstonian high-school civics teacher, deemed More Spectacular Than Other Caves, so the Paleolithic street art is okay.

thanks, obama
posted by pyramid termite at 9:03 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The bullshit on a rock, it's true, is not as well-executed as some other transgressive defacement of nature. Oh, I see -- those caves weren't, in some antediluvian decree by a fur-clad Flintstonian high-school civics teacher, deemed More Spectacular Than Other Caves, so the Paleolithic street art is okay.

You're being really disingenuous here. The Lascaux art has a social and environmental context that is orders of magnitude different from this one, and is in addition a source of great scientific and cultural information about human prehistory.

As for the NPS mission, yeah, it's flawed. But the catering to public use by way of paved roads and campgrounds in order to provide for enjoyment is necessary in order to continue political support for funding and protecting these sites at all. I can guarantee you that the Bureau of Land Management is far less committed to preservation (however ill-defined) as a primary goal. In fact the BLM is obligated to allow extractive industries and off-road vehicles and the like on their lands.

Among other things, the issue I have with tagging is that public land management is a public process: the park plans are workshopped and reviewed and commented on by members of the public, politicians, and interest groups. They go through an extensive and highly political planning process before they are finalized and uses (and restrictions) approved for various areas. Mr. Andre's tagging is not only defacing property of the people of the United States, but is in violation of a plan that was, functionally, agreed to by the people of the United States.

It's all very well to claim to be a guerrilla artist, or whatever, but there are 350m people in this country, and the public lands are under siege as it is. Fuck the philosophical objections to how we manage them: I just want them protected, or we're doomed.
posted by suelac at 9:09 PM on February 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


But the catering to public use by way of paved roads and campgrounds in order to provide for enjoyment is necessary in order to continue political support for funding and protecting these sites at all. I can guarantee you that the Bureau of Land Management is far less committed to preservation (however ill-defined) as a primary goal. In fact the BLM is obligated to allow extractive industries and off-road vehicles and the like on their lands.

I only brought up the BLM because someone else used the term "land management". I didn't know much about the BLM and I know only a little bit more now; certain very basic aspects of that organization's mission and function seem pretty weird, and I certainly didn't intend to make any comparison at all between BLM and NPS.

As for the NPS mission, I don't, in general, like to condone activities that I agree with when I don't agree with the justification, because the same dodgy justification could be used to justify some nasty thing, also, at the whim of whoever is in control.

I think national parks are excellent and should be protected vigorously, and I'd like to see this done for strong reasons that have to do with the welfare of the actual stuff supposedly being protected, not for reasons couched in language about "enjoyment" that could just as easily be about exploitation, depending on who is interpreting it. (This holds even if that language, and some of the compromises it entails, is deemed best from a PR perspective.)

public land management is a public process: the park plans are workshopped and reviewed and commented on by members of the public, politicians, and interest groups. They go through an extensive and highly political planning process before they are finalized and uses (and restrictions) approved for various areas. Mr. Andre's tagging is not only defacing property of the people of the United States, but is in violation of a plan that was, functionally, agreed to by the people of the United States.

This argument (and many other "it-was-the-will-of-the-people" arguments) is as disingenuous as my bullshit with the cave paintinings, no? If you replace "functionally" with "in principle" or something, it will make more sense, but will lose most of its force.
posted by busted_crayons at 9:45 PM on February 28, 2015


Mod note: Busted_crayons, it's probably time to step back and let the conversation move on a bit. Everyone else, you know the drill. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:59 PM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


how many strictly street kids can afford to make a trip to joshua tree?

Not that Mr. Andre is a street kid, but all it takes is a slightly working car and some gas. Bored city kids driving out into the deserts, canyons or mountains around LA and fucking some shit up has pretty much been a thing since there were cars, city kids and LA together.

And Joshua tree is just a few hours drive away from most of LA, and a few hours or much more in a car is normal to people from LA.

I've seen legit fully inked and color-wearing gangs out in the middle of nowhere just drinking beer and plinking at cans and listening to music on car stereos.

I know this is a thing in other big cities, but it's practically a rite of passage and even something you can practically earn a merit badge for in LA with the extensive driving culture and massive freeway and highway system, and a vast network of fairly navigable dragged and maintained dirt roads leading to most of Southern California's deserts.

Activities include off roading, drinking, shootin' things, burnin' things, blowing shit up, smashing some old shit, bringing couches/mattresses out and camping on them then burning them, and, yes, spray painting or carving rocks.

I've seen sandstone boulders as known BLM/public/whatever lands that were known crossroads and party spots that had so much graffiti carved into them that there wasn't any surface left, just scribbles and scratches, with the oldest tags maybe being decades old and very eroded and softened.

It's not even an inner city kid thing. Yeah, tagging rocks at Joshua Tree is crap, but all kinds of people go out into those deserts and do damaging things. Heck, even really smart kids from schools like Harvey Mudd or CalTech organize group trips to go out there and play with chemicals and explosives and fire and rockets and stuff.

Even all the desert dance party stuff I did was plenty harmful in terms of impact and footprints. Indirectly these activities supported the local economy and development in small ways, still doing more damage than a bit of spray paint.

Not defending his awful actions, either, but I think people need to separate the aesthetic desecration and outrage from the actual objective scale of impact.
posted by loquacious at 10:04 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


On a cave tour in the Appalachians, the guide had just finished telling us how it took millions of years for this rare feathery mineral deposit to form, and then this chubby little kid sticks his finger right into it. His parents defended him by saying they should have put up a glass barrier.

Kudos to the parents for acknowledgeing their mistake. A few air holes and that kid won't damage anything else.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:57 AM on March 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


For a few years I've worked on graffiti art projects as a member of a mental health outreach team. We invite the community to add to our piece, then it stays on-site after our team leaves. I am white; my colleagues are almost always white; and we all have public health specialties. Our intentions are rarely questioned. Our pieces are almost always well received. But a couple of things we've noticed over the years:

-White administrators more frequently require an explanation of the value of our project. Administrators of color are more likely to see our work as a health-positive.

-I've rarely been asked to "defend" the inclusion of graffiti/street art in our outreach, but when I have, it has been by white community members. The concern is usually increased vandalism in the community. Note that our project is self-contained, commissioned by an administrative body, and shown to improve mental health outcomes.

-When we invite community members to help us complete the project, persons of color more quickly interpret the project as therapeutic. I have so many thoughts on this part, but for brevity: effective therapy must acknowledge stigmas associated with different types of self-expression.

Most of the comments above focused on rural graffiti and defacement of the natural world, which are completely legitimate topics and interesting to think about. But graffiti and street art are not only rural phenomena. They aren't even primarily rural phenomena. I think making this discussion largely about parkland defacement really narrows the topic unnecessarily. Because, yeah, Mr. Andre messed up and should be punished--but no one here is seriously defending him.

Meanwhile, graffiti and street art have all these powerful intersections with race and privilege and class that we sort of gloss over when we focus on one dude's poorly-conceived exploits. And maybe that's part of privilege, too? The ability to mostly gloss over how graffiti and street art get interpreted in urban policy and law enforcement and popular discourse, since the harms of these things primarily target the underprivileged?

I'm thinking about how white taggers can translate their arrests into artistic cred while persons of color without bail money or a better lawyer spend time in jail. And how these facts necessarily skew the demographics of graffititowards white taggers, even while political discourse deploys graffiti as a dog whistle for black youth vandalism.

I'm fairly certain our graffiti/street art component would not be possible if our team wasn't white. Administrators and communities would extend too little benefit of the doubt. We would likely be forced to drop the component entirely. And doing so would sever one of our strongest connections to young people used to hearing that their opinions don't matter, their feelings aren't worth sharing, and their modes of self-expression are invalid.
posted by Avarith at 8:59 AM on March 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


Note that our project is self-contained, commissioned by an administrative body, and shown to improve mental health outcomes.

Show me. Do your measurements include mental health outcomes in the community around the graffiti walls, or just the people applying the paint?
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:47 AM on March 1, 2015


Andre claimed this piece was “created with love in a friends privet [sic] backyard.”

I splooge on you (Joshua Tree) with love?
What an idiot.
posted by nightshift at 12:14 PM on March 1, 2015


"Not defending his awful actions, either, but I think people need to separate the aesthetic desecration and outrage from the actual objective scale of impact."

Does "objective scale of impact" include the normalization of defacing communal property and the incidences of copycat behavior that will occur because a famous artist did this AND posted pictures on the internet?
Or do we only include the direct impact on the one rock and ignore the potential outcome?
posted by Seamus at 12:28 PM on March 1, 2015


fairmettle: This reminds me of a guy I used to hike with who threw his orange peels along the trailside proclaiming them "natural".
Well, he was not wrong. Of course, even though they're natural and biodegradable, it's still rude towards the other human users of the trail. But nature itself won't mind a bit.

Personally, I throw apple cores into the bushes sometimes. I'm sure some critter will find and enjoy them.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:51 PM on March 1, 2015


Yeah if I'm eating a banana and I'm passing some trees I'll leave the skin at the foot. I figure better a snack for an animal or bird or at least a mushroom, rather than being transported to landfill from a bin.
posted by billiebee at 2:00 PM on March 1, 2015


By that logic, you can throw cigarette butts into the bushes because they're biodegradable.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:11 PM on March 1, 2015


Ed Begley, Jr. once told me that the filter is the biggest problem, so if you're determined to litter with your cigarette butts at least snap off the filter.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:43 PM on March 1, 2015


By that logic, you can throw cigarette butts into the bushes because they're biodegradable.

Cig filters are made of cellulose acetate - which is plastic. They don't degrade well, and aren't bio-degradable at all - because nothing eats them. Drop a butt, and odds are good it will still be there years from now.

Orange peels and apple cores on the other hand...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:04 PM on March 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Some problems with leaving food remains along a trail are that it is unsightly, often it dries out and last a lot longer than people would expect, and if an animal finds them the animal can get habituated to human food and become a pest.
If you need to leave it, your best bet is to treat it like poop and bury it in a cat hole in the top few (biologically active) inches of soil.
posted by Seamus at 3:35 PM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Orange peels and apple cores on the other hand..

the idea that these will be eaten or degrade is simply not true in many, many locations.

first idiots defending vandals and now this.
posted by rr at 3:35 PM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]




I cannot believe someone is seriously comparing a vandal scrawling O X on a rock in a National Park, with some political graffiti that allegedly started the Arab Spring.

So in response to such a stupid link, I will repost a very serious link, to a story of a client of mine who was almost killed, almost bled to death because of graffiti "artists."

I love the story that link is attached to, Swiss graffiti artist to be caned in Singapore. I wondered what happened, so I decided to follow up and see if the sentence was carried out.

He appealed his sentence for trespassing, arguing it should have been served concurrently with his sentence for vandalism, instead of consecutively. The judges agreed, but added two more months to the vandalism sentence, so he ended up serving more time than he would have, if he had just kept his mouth shut. Serves you right. The Singapore authorities carried out the sentence of caning, and applied three permanent graffiti marks to his buttocks. Then he was deported back to Switzerland where he was immediately arrested upon arrival, for previous graffiti vandalism in his homeland. I was unable to determine if he received any further applications of justice in Switzerland.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:00 PM on March 1, 2015


I'm not comparing them, I was merely offering up two links about "urban" graffiti which was in the original post and which people were talking about.
posted by gucci mane at 11:46 AM on March 3, 2015


NPS covered the graf.
posted by carsonb at 5:52 PM on March 3, 2015


I heard that the standard practice is not to paint over it, but to cover it with mud or clay in a matching color, so at least it looks somewhat like a natural surface. And that is more of a temporary measure until they can figure out a proper restoration. You can wash off the clay and do repairs later.

I believe this came up with the Casey Nocket vandalism, they told people that if they encountered them, don't try to remove them, don't scrape them off or whatever, just note the location and smear some mud over them as camouflage, and let the Park Service know the location.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:19 PM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apparently the guy is now threatening the Modern Hiker journalist Casey Schreiner with a lawsuit (seen from a mutual friend's FB so no link. Charming but not much in the way of grounds but will likely cost Schreiner money. Meanwhile there's a puff piece on Saraiva in GQ with rather interesting comments.
posted by leslies at 5:02 PM on March 4, 2015


OMFG there are like 8 updates on Casey Schreiner's article, with a photo of another one of those scrawls on a rock in an unknown location. Damn that was a beautiful rock formation, before he crapped all over it. And he was so proud of it, he put the pic on his website.

I hope the NPS will press felony vandalism charges, so if he ever tries to re-enter the US, he gets arrested at the border by US Customs agents.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:07 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


And more yet - the guy's lawyer sent Casey Schreiner threats and Schreiner's lawyer responded with a thing of beauty.
posted by leslies at 5:56 PM on March 10, 2015


Ooh, I've been waiting for the lawyer letters to drop! That is, indeed, a good smackdown from Schreiner's lawyer. I'm glad he wasn't advised against posting them.

Saraiva's lawyer claims the paint was water-based and that his client washed it off "a few days later." Anyone have confirmation of that?
posted by carsonb at 6:43 PM on March 10, 2015


No confirmation according to Chris Clarke - not at all clear that NPS didn't smear some mud on top of the paint. I'm sure he or Schreiner will update if they find out.
posted by leslies at 6:56 PM on March 10, 2015


I just asked Chris directly via FB what he thought the cover-up he photographed consisted of.
posted by carsonb at 7:14 PM on March 10, 2015


And more yet - the guy's lawyer sent Casey Schreiner threats and Schreiner's lawyer responded with a thing of beauty.

Oh yes, that was beautiful. As I was reading, I was wondering where the coup de grace would come, it was building up to a great argument for anti-SLAPP. And then BAM there it was. That was beautiful.

Saraiva's lawyer claims the paint was water-based and that his client washed it off "a few days later."

From the photos, it looked like the rock was painted over, or scraped down. Either one, done without Park Service permission, is still vandalism. I recall from the Casey Nocket case, the NPS said absolutely do NOT try to scrape off paint or paint it over, you will ruin the natural patina of the rock. Contact the Park Service and let them deal with it, at most, cover it with mud so it's not an eyesore. Look at this story for an example of how serious the NPS is about vandalism in Joshua Tree. They said it just started with a little vandalism and then it was overrun and they had to close it to stop it from destruction.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:19 PM on March 10, 2015


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