not all those who wander are lost

Metro Times cover story this week – BANKSY in DETROIT !

Cover photo and wide shot by detroitfunk.

Great story about the Banksy paintings, broken by the good folks at Metro Times. I just walked into the middle of it already in progress and showed what I saw. In my original post, I was applauding what 555 was doing – and I still am. I can appreciate the many arguments against what they did, or how they did it. All valid arguments, for sure.

On WDET during the Craig Fahle show, (Click HERE to listen) Travis from Metro Times, and some guys from CPOP got on to discuss graffiti in its proper context, and the ideas behind putting such a thing in a gallery context. Again, many good arguments raised by Travis, but since 555 is not yet available to discuss their views on the situation – I felt that this conversation lacked any advocacy for 555.

So let me throw out some things just to balance this discussion a bit. From an art world, and art history standpoint. I believe what 555 did was valid, and important. (legalities and otherwise are a different topic) The people who did the Craig Fahle show never saw the actual Banksy or the location that it was installed.

This painting was not done inside any building. This painting was not on a wall of a building. It was actually done on a mostly demolished wall in a demolition site. The painting was viewable from Bellevue Avenue which is a public street, without entering any buildings.

This installation was not on an abandoned building, or on any building. It was painted on rubble in a demolition site. Now look at the above photo. Do you see demolition perimeter fences, signage or any EPA air quality measurement devices around this demolition site ? Neither do I. The Banksy was in the middle of that wide open area to the right.

This is “Big Slumpy”. 6 stories of collapsing steel re-enforced floors, all sliding down by the rail road tracks running along this cemetery. This is part of the Packard. The people who own THIS are the ones who presumably own the demolition site where the Banksy was saved.

Had the Banksy not been removed, it would have been demolished to retrieve the scrap metal beams attached to its bricks. It would not have been “tagged” or “blown into the wind” like a “sand castle”. It would have been gone in a few days to the land fill.

The CPOP fellas said that taking a Banksy was like capturing a “wild animal” which makes it not right. Well, the CPOP guys need to visit a zoological park and do some reading about how they really function. Captive breeding in zoological parks is what keeps most endangered species from being extinct. And it allows for education and study of creatures the average person would otherwise never see.

So yes, for that exact reason – just like a wild animal – a Banksy can be caught and preserved in captivity to avoid extinction.

And yeah, CPOP, taking a wild animal and stuffing it for people to learn from DOES have an historical precedent, check out a guy called “Audubon“. His studies are what modern bird-life preservation is based on.

If nothing else, who here has not captured a firefly in a jar just to stare at it for a moment ? Even though you know you should not.

As for the assertion that some young aspiring tagger might find the Banksy and be inspired to higher levels of social commentary……well, now that can DEFINITELY happen, since the Banksy is preserved along with photos of its original context. Not just to two or three stumbling through demolished rubble at Packard, but countless people can see it and be moved by its importance.

Behold the Temple of Dendur in Egypt. Swallowed by the floodwaters of the Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam. “Saved” by the Egyptian government, and given to Jackie Onassis Kennedy to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

Do you think Jackie Onassis Kennedy would have turned this down, because it betrays the intention and context desires of the original designer ? Do you think the original intent of this temple was a lighted backdrop for cocktail parties and fund raisers ?

Did we steal this ?

I am willing to put 555 on that level with Jackie O.

If they are both thieves in your mind, so be it.

As for “artists intent” and “context” issues – please show me how many things in the Detroit Institute of Arts were designed by the artist with the explicit intent of being preserved in a museum. Oh, yes, there is Diego Rivera and such. But how about all that other stuff ?

Check out this charming little dragon from the Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylonia, now at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit.

Should we really “own” this Sirrush ? Hanging a chunk on the wall in a greatest hits museum in Detroit could not be what the artists and patrons who created the Ishtar Gate had in mind.

Should’nt we give this back to Iraq so they can take it out in the desert and throw it in the sand ? Because that’s what would have happened if people let it take its natural course.

Or we could learn from it, and inspire centuries of generations of people ?

I say the actions took by 555 to preserve the Banksy have precedent in the art world, and I believe that in the final analysis what 555 did was a very good thing. There are obviously some details to be worked out on their end with whatever legal issues, but from an art standpoint I say they are legit.

If MOCAD can be a museum with temporary installations like a gallery, is it so far fetched to have a gallery with permanent installations like a museum ?

No, it is not.

Oh – here is a P.S. below:

Anybody remember the “Eggs Money” phase back in about 2005 ? Well here is an original piece by “Eggs”. It was a nail up thing, stuck to the side of the now cremated Studebaker Plant in Milwaukee Junction on Piquette Street. I took it down and “saved” it before it was tagged or burned. It is now preserved here in my dining room – although this particular “saved” piece has the blessings of the artist after the fact.

Keep y’alls banksys and what not from out of town- of all the stuff out there in Detroit, this is the one I have in my home and live with. I have a couple smaller pieces by Rodeo and Fars, but they had never been actual installed graffiti.

I dig Banksy, and I get the hype. Im just saying, this is the one I have on my wall – and its a hometown writer.

No – it’s not as cool as when it was screwed to the side of Studebaker, but it IS around for people to still see. It does not have all of its original value and power as a contextual piece. But it has different, and more sustainable positives now – here in captivity. This is my firefly.

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