The Splasher: Caught?
June 29, 2007 5:14 AM   Subscribe

The Splasher: Caught? (bugmenot) The Splasher(s?) has defaced graffiti in NYC for the last seven months, focussing on graffiti artists who have found commercial success often posting pieces of a growing Manifesto. The Manifesto calls for a new radicalism in graffiti and art in general, apparently inspired by Jeanette Winterson, Guy Debord, and Sixties anarchists. Is Cooper the Splasher? Now that he's caught, is this the end, or is there more yet to come?
posted by rottytooth (29 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The 'Manifesto'...yawn...
posted by From Bklyn at 5:34 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is Cooper the Splasher?

For Cooper's sake he should hope at least they can't prove it, because the whole "shards of glass" thing kinda ads a few years to a sentence, and I really don't see a jerkoff art prat coming in with a lot of though-guy cred at a New York state prison.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:03 AM on June 29, 2007

Art in New York has grown so spongy and flabby, it would be kind of nice for it all to literally devolve into warfare for a while.
posted by hermitosis at 6:03 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

tough-guy cred, that is.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:04 AM on June 29, 2007

Art in New York has grown so spongy and flabby, it would be kind of nice for it all to literally devolve into warfare for a while.

Yes, because what we need in this world- especially in New York City- is more violence over inconsequential bullshit. Those drawings on a brick wall are just a giant Puma waiting to be stepped on at the movie theater we call life.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:06 AM on June 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

The NYMag article is particularly fun. Thanks for the post!

On Winterson: meh. She's writing about The Man of industrialism. It is precisely this "love your job" which she so desires which has diluted political activism into t-shirts, paypal buttons, and blog posts, which also corresponds with a greater committment to global capitalism. Capitalism thrives when potential reformers want to love their jobs. Pixar and Google don't demand less of you. They demand more. And the whole love your job thing can only occur because we're exporting unlovely jobs elsewhere. Florida identifies this problem in The Rise of the Creative Class. But he tends to suggest local social liberalisation rather than global economic liberalisation. His message is, "be nice to gays and artists, get rich."

On closer look at the manifesto, they're not actually agreeing with Winterson; they're responding to the economic and political implications of antiradical statements by people like Winterson. They're also responding to unradical "radical" art by state-approved street artists. From the NYT:

The authors wrote that street art was “a bourgeoisie-sponsored rebellion” that helped pave the way for gentrification, and called it “utterly impotent politically and fantastically lucrative for everyone involved.”

This is not far from the truth, whether or not you think it's good.

But on further perusal of the manifesto, it's pretty clear that they are less excited about goals and ideas than they are excited about that very unique rhetorical wordplay common in Marxist writing. Although this sentence is a gem; it belies their assuredly bourgeoisie preoccupation with anti-bourgeoisie rhetoric:

"We do not want a world where the guarantee of not dying of hunger is paid for by the certainty of dying of boredom"
posted by honest knave at 6:22 AM on June 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

As long as it's inconsequential violence over inconsequential bullshit, then I'm not bothered by it. Stink bombs? Paint splashes? This is pure tree-fort warfare, and as long as that's the extent of it, then let the artists duke it out.
posted by hermitosis at 6:23 AM on June 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Although this sentence is a gem; it belies their assuredly bourgeoisie preoccupation with anti-bourgeoisie rhetoric:

"We do not want a world where the guarantee of not dying of hunger is paid for by the certainty of dying of boredom"

That's just an old Situationist slogan: "Down with a world where the promise that we will not die of hunger has been bought with the promise that we will die of boredom."
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:24 AM on June 29, 2007

fandango_matt: Wow, I bet no-one else caught that.
posted by mendel at 6:30 AM on June 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Mr. Cooper was charged with third-degree arson, reckless endangerment, placing a false bomb, criminal possession of a weapon, harassment and disorderly conduct.
Arson? Planting a false bomb? Weapons charges? The charges are ludicrous, and obnoxious.
Although the paint splashings have been viewed with a mixture of aggravation and amusement, Mr. LeVine said that the attempt to light an incendiary device during a crowded art show was foolish and reckless.

“They could’ve killed someone,” he said. “It’s not O.K. to jeopardize people’s lives.”
Frankly, the idea of a bunch of Graffiti artists pissing and moaning about having their work defaced and a little harmless chaos is just pathetic.
posted by delmoi at 6:45 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Pope Guilty: Sigh. I thought it sounded familiar.
posted by honest knave at 6:45 AM on June 29, 2007

Their manifesto reads as someone who is annoyed that Lindsay Lohan's cooch gets more attention than their mundane antics. There is no rebellion in either the splasher or the artists he targets - there is just a bunch of quarter-life trust fund crisis masked as art.

I'm with hermitosis. Seeing them fight each other is the only way that either side could redeem themselves.
posted by Stynxno at 6:51 AM on June 29, 2007

Can you deface graffiti? Isn't that like contaminating shit?
posted by signal at 6:55 AM on June 29, 2007

There's a graffitti wall in North Philly at 5th Street and Cecil B. Moore that's proven to be a fascinating study in the ephemeral nature of street art during the last year or so that I've been driving by it a couple times a week. It actually spans three full blocks, one north/south, one east/west and a parallel north/south block, sort of like a big U shape. I've seen some of the most amazing shit up on this wall but the fact is that none of it lasts for more than a few weeks. This piece was my favorite and a I really struggled to get up there with a camera before it started getting tagged over but as you can see didn't quite make it. I particularly like the sickle crossed with the paint can.

When I first saw this it was pristine and it stood about head high, a magnificent work, a real unexpected punch in the face that stopped traffic on 5th Street. The whole span of the wall is actually pretty fucking good but right now the wall is completely different then it was and has turned over once again recently with a whole new selection of work.

There's another wall like this deep in West Philly at 49th and Westminster that I almost choked at the sight of on my way to a client's house one day. I mean, completely stunning and immense. I need to go get some snaps of that still but I'm not even sure what I'll find now since that was more than a month ago. But I think that's part of the draw, each of these pieces are able to repel for a period of time the tags and scribbles but not forever. Then the scribbles come and once the seal on tagging is broken the whole thing gets devoured in a couple days. Then the kids with real talent come back and reclaim the wall with eye popping awesomeness and it starts over again. I noticed that the really supreme pieces are the last to get tagged, like there's data here for the power of beauty to repel destruction.

All of this is completely divorced from SOHO and marketing deals and $30,000 gallery sales and angry radicals with manifestos packed with fifty cent words. These kids paint here precisely because they don't have galleries they can show in, the emphemeral nature of the work echoes the decay of the world surrounding their work and there's a real tension between the power to create and the power to destroy at work in the kids who paint here. There was just a triple murder one block away from the wall last week, all young boys.

From the article:

“Street art is a manifestation of the life of a vibrant city,” he told me.

See, that's funny. I don't think street art started as a manifestation of life in a vibrant city. It started as a primal scream from the desolation. That kind of street art is still happening, and it's really fucking amazing, but it's not in SOHO.
posted by The Straightener at 7:01 AM on June 29, 2007 [10 favorites]

The Straightener: You should really get a mini cam and carry it with you all the time. I live in bores-ville and I carry a cannon SD-450 with me a lot, probably 50% of the time. I've taken something like 7,800 pictures since January of 2006. I'd have no problems taking pictures of graffiti during the day.

(I couldn't even see the peice you thought was so great for like 30 seconds in your pic)
posted by delmoi at 7:31 AM on June 29, 2007

Their dissent commodified
posted by dbrown at 7:39 AM on June 29, 2007

i think the weapons charges for the stinkbomb attack are the most interesting thing here.

perhaps we should start talking about "aesthetoterrorists" just like the "ecoterrorists."

of course, i think home and car sales are bigger business by the dollar than art so the punishment fits the crime...

that spray can and sickle is really mindblowing. i like it, but i'm not sure what is being communicated. i can interpret it lots of ways... i guess that's why i like it.
posted by geos at 8:01 AM on June 29, 2007

"Down with a world where the promise that we will not die of hunger has been bought with the promise that we will die of boredom."

my mother always said that if you're bored, it's your own fault
posted by pyramid termite at 8:05 AM on June 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

Good post, The Straightener.

"Street art is a manifestation of the life of a vibrant city" sounds like something a spokesmen from the mayor's office would say to justify giving (now) 'Frank' Shepard Fucking Fairey a commission to wheatpaste some corporate-friendly iconography onto the side of some trust-fund baby's pied-à-terre south of Houston.

I for one would be quite happy if guys like Fairey, Hirst, Blaine and any other of our jejune art-world superstars were publicly subjected to some Up Against the Wall Motherfucker stunts, just to make them slightly less boring, slightly less serious, and perhaps more interesting.
posted by inoculatedcities at 8:24 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

fandango_matt writes 'I love how artists who deface buildings with their art are all up in arms about an artist who defaces their art with his art.'

If the flickr gallery that's linked to is any indication, all the 'defacing' that's going on seems to be pasting up posters, while the protester seems to be splashing paint on/defacing these posters.

While the splasher is clearly a moron, the stuff that he's splashing seems to be less like graffiti, and more like a corporate advertising campaign for 'artists'.

Hard to give a shit about any of it to be honest.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:28 AM on June 29, 2007

what I have heard is that the dude was turned down by Swoon romantically and that started the whole thing...
posted by cell divide at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2007

Interesting observations,The Straightener.

I have to disagree from the "completely divorced from SOHO" part, though. I think this is all an ecology from the dumbest tag to the most ambitious wall paintings... to Web galleries.

Painting any kind of sign on public spaces is ephemeral. It won't last. I have been observing and photographing a lot of them for a long time and the only ones that survives beyond a few years are those which are cared for, repaired and repainted. The great majority of them decay and vanish, whether they are painted over or erased. What the Splashers do is accelerate their ultimate fate, apparently to make a point.

They can. This is ephemeral public space. Anybody can do anything.

But they don't only splash, apparently they write. And from what I have read so far, their point is pretty stupid. Some of the signs painted on public spaces are made by artists. A few of these artists are good. A handful of them want to live from their art and graduate from the streets to art galleries. What's wrong with that? Street cred is as good as any art school diploma.

Only stupid rich kids can preach that artists must remain poor and work for free forever.

My favorite observation is how all of this is intricately linked with digital photography and the Web. Wooster Collective maybe about street art, but it is made of pics. And each time any of us take a pic of a street painting and post it on the Web, we make this small clandestine space covered in paint at night in a back alley by crazy kids a part of the global conversation. About what is art and what is not art, about what is public and what is private. I love it.
posted by bru at 10:36 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

cell divide: The NYMag article goes into that a bit, but it's all a bit inconclusive, especially if it's a group, not just an individual.
posted by honest knave at 10:37 AM on June 29, 2007

I for one would be quite happy if guys like Fairey, Hirst, Blaine

Blaine?! Um, Blaine is a magician and a very talented one. His stunts are very strenuous, if a bit strange -- I don't see why you're mentioning him in context with "art-world superstars".

I saw the ending of the underwater gig, btw. It was very interesting -- I felt what he was attempting was humanly impossible and he did in fact fail to pull it off -- and he wept and apologized to the crowd. It was strangely moving.

He might be a weirdo but he's no art-world poser.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:35 AM on June 29, 2007

honest knave: You're right about Winterson. I included her more because they borrow her language (such as here).
posted by rottytooth at 12:17 PM on June 29, 2007

Chopper rules, ok
posted by Smedleyman at 2:06 PM on June 29, 2007

He might be a weirdo but he's no art-world poser.

it's not much of a stretch. he's basically pulling a frilly chris burden (who was ridin' that train in the 70s). Personally, I think Burden's work is a lot more interesting. Blaine's stuff is a little less commentary and a little more LOOK AT ME.. XXXTREMEEEEE.
posted by fishfucker at 5:22 PM on June 29, 2007

Why don't they (Swoon, Fairey, et al.) beat the details out of him? Sounds like a lot of aggression deserves to be placed on the tender-looking head of Mr Asshole Cooper. Sounds like he needs to sing like a fucking bird. Even if he's not one of the bitches behind this toddler-tantrum bullshit, then he needs to be held accountable for the seriously fucked up shit he was about to put the artist and public through. I hope he gets the fucking book thrown at his petulant little face.

If the ruined pieces were merely street art, then the transient nature of graffiti would make any attempts at complaining moot, but when they started targeting shows and instigating fear on private property and acting like fucking babies, then they need to be taken care of. Fuck them.
posted by dozo at 5:22 PM on June 29, 2007

"The Splasher" reminds me of some of the websites I visit...
posted by Tube at 7:35 PM on June 29, 2007

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