Editorial: Focus on the Aerosol 7 Trial
I have been looking back at what people have written, on this site and others, and while I agree that there is need for debate, I’m getting frustrated with how futile the debate can feel, and how freely this incident is debated AT ALL with the detachment which online spaces bring.
Until it is clear that these arrests are not an issue of taste or opinion, the conversation is useless. The awareness and enthusiasm and solidarity is nothing more than empty hype unless we open our mouths and speak up, and speak with purpose, on wrongful punishment.
There has been some pretty important, and some pretty banal conversation since word about the arrests spread. Many of us have developed relationships because of it, from no commonality besides being pissed off on their behalf. Some, particularly those juiced up on the vitriol of Facebook, have voiced their suspicion of the whole affair, that vandals are vandals and art in public property needs a different set of standards and rules, it’s not all free-the-artist and let-love-rule. Some have said we’re making martyrs out of graffiti writers and called it laughable.
The Aerosol Seven should not be charged because they had permission to paint that wall. It’s too obvious, this oppression of innocent people issue, when it comes to people holding cans. We have so much more to worry about? Not if you’re one of them, though. Not when you’re watching money swirl down the legal-fee-bail drain. Not if you’re waiting for September 14th and considering the consequences of a criminal charge on your record.
This doesn’t seem to be an issue of policing or misspent municipal funds. I already knew about that. I questioned our police the first one, two, three occasions I felt a gun in my back or met a burglar in my home and met either no, or indifferent response. I questioned municipal transparency and efficacy each time I read about accounts (mis)management debacles this year. Have you attempted to use a municipal helpline? Don’t.
We know all this is happening. Are we really so surprised it’s happening here? It doesn’t surprise me that they want to lock up people with paint on their hands while people wearing blood walk free. We all know. It’s so easy to theorise and roll eyes and talk about how things should be better. I guess it’s not the same, throwing a few words together, rolling eyes, when you’re sitting in a holding cell. When you’re caught in the gross reality of a farcical situation. For another easy line- blood and paint don’t mix in cells.
I don’t feel like this is an issue about graffiti art, either. As an aesthetic or philosophical preference, I find it understandable that people would have problems with ‘street art’. If it’s a conversation about art we’re having, we’d be stupid to try and reach a singular conclusion. But everybody knows that we aren’t having that conversation. Because everybody knows that there is a large faction of individuals discussing this issue who are choosing to ignore the fact that the people crying for support of these seven individuals, are not people who are advocating vandalism. There is a difference.
It’s interesting, that media consumers are willing to accept the divide between say, paparazzi photographers and photojournalists. We’re willing to accept the idea that a person making a career of stalking and recording another person because of their celebrity status, is a person turning a pretty cheap trick. We’d hardly call it art. We understand why it’s needed because popular culture means consumers have a vested interest in celebrities; we say things like, “they should understand that when they become famous they sign their lives away, they become public property.” We condone it – not in theory, in consumption – but we’d never align this kind of photographer with the photographer who captures moments on the frontline, or the photographer who exhibits in a gallery. Why, then are we so unwilling to accept the difference between graffiti vandals and graffiti artists? And on this, why are we so quick to applaud individuals who make right their past actions by sharing their new life choices with the public? Why do we allow ex-addicts to give drug awareness talks in schools; why do we make novels about criminals-turned-clean bestsellers, but we aren’t capable of lending the same applause to a vandal turned artist? It’s insane to make these comparisons. Everything about this is insane. If we’re so quick to accept change and education in one area, why aren’t we willing to accept an individual’s attempt to turn a background of vandalism into a future of art?
There are double standards at work and the problem here is that the double standard is harder to expose because it is being imposed on a misunderstood culture. There was a kind of jargon hovering over the initial coverage of these arrests, which made many of us uncomfortable. Language sways opinion, that’s another thing we know. Strong opinion sells newspapers. Outrage is the strongest of opinions. It’s not a complicated equation. I’ve heard countless versions of the story now, in which the seven men are referred to as vandals, boys, youngsters and their behaviour deviant, and speculation replaces fact in almost all of these versions. A reporter’s ability to turn a phrase, or to colour a sentence with adjective and hyperbole, becomes – perhaps unconscious, perhaps not – a weapon against these men. Because let’s face it, it is likely only the people who stand behind these guys who have visited this website. The rest took in the mainstream report and shook their heads, made up their minds and forgot about it. Because we are consumers, we ingest and regurgitate; the mainstream do not produce or create.
These writers aren’t martyrs. They’re victims of a kind of corruption. It’s corruption which shouldn’t be overlooked simply because it doesn’t sit way up in the hierarchy of issues the mainstream cares about.
This is the week of the trial for the Aerosol 7 and Gangs of Graffiti is looking for your voice.
Please send your opinion through to Gangs of Graffiti: