Friday, May 28, 2010

All that was once directly lived now moves into representation

This evening was eventful. I met up with my friend on the train and we went to MOMA, then we went to White Walls, a gallery on Larkin between O'Farrell and Geary, a stones throw from the home bums and massage parlours of the tenderloin. The urban gallery was showing a collection of art by Blek Le Rat and Above, both street artists. Blek Le Rat is a predeccessor to Banksy and uses stencil graffitti to promote his message, which has a situationist slant.
"The spectacle says nothing more than 'what is good appears and what appears is good.'"

With price tags at a rock bottom price of $600, and ranging up to $45,000 (with the average costing $15,000) the once subversive movement of street art, stencils, and the social commentary that they implicitly carried has been caught back up in the order of things. This has been pointed out before by the "splasher," a new york city vandal who caused a ruckus by defacing the street art of Shepard Fairey, Banksy, Swoon and others, validly. [More on the splasher here.]

Blek La Rat posted one of his infamous stencils of a homeless man lying on the street on the outside of the building, inside on a piece of canvas the piece cost $39,000, his advertising of homelessness as an aesthetic makes it acceptable, and quite expensive! I could pay for my college loans with that profit margin, or 8 years of my current rent. I wonder if his model got a stipend!?

He should certainly be praised for having turned abject poverty into a gratuitous money making enterprise, a spectacular feat! The image on the outside of the gallery doesn't speak of irony- that the homeless could be sleeping across the street, or in front of the building, but rather is a marker of safety. This style of street graffiti, while originally being a detournment of public space, has now been recuperated and serves as a marker of gentrification - the dislocation of people in the interests of capital. It tells the population that the area is now aesthetic with the beauty of refined low brow art. The kids in tight pants can feel okay walking around late at night! Finally!

First came the street artists with their stencils, but I wasn't a street artist. Then came the galleries, but I wasn't a hipster. Then came the bourgeoisie but I wasn't bourgeoisie. Then came the increase in rent that I couldn't afford anymore!

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