Michael Bloomberg

In Defense Of Banksy and Guerrilla Street Art

It's more than an act of crime or commerce

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To be a brand name in guerrilla street art is to be in exclusive company. And no one has built a bigger brand imposing his stencils, spray paintings, and sculptures on the world than Banksy. His latest installation, a scattershot, month-long spree of works called "Better Out Than In," proved that to anyone who pays attention to New York City. Every day, across the five boroughs, the secretive artist debuted a fresh piece in a new location, spawning excited Instagrams, an interactive street map, and, yes, grumbling critique: not just from nannyesque Bloombergians, but the kinds of property rights advocates who sometimes cross swords with the Mayor. That is art Banksy style: sticking it to the man, and maybe to you too.

Apart or together, his compositions aren't hard to interpret—meditations on the hypocrisies and opportunities of city life. But inseparable from the art is the nuanced question of how we, the audience, can choose to respond. Here Banksy offers little guidance. He seems fully content to let critics decry him as a criminal, or worse, as a crass commercialist.

From a certain angle, however, we don't get much access to the Banksy phenomenon by confidently consigning what he creates to the realms of rights violations or market valuations. Just as we hesitate to separate ourselves from his art, we might not abstract it away from the public and private space it appears in.

If we don't separate the art from its space, we heighten our awareness of how a few impressive features define his ambiguous installation. First, Banksy really has taken street art to another level. It's not just that he's tossed some sculpture into the mix of sprayed-on illustrations. It's that he's gone beyond the standard of a focused, coherent body of work that the best street artists refine. Banksy has actually curated a collection of artworks, not just in real time but in real space. He's become his own museum.

But a museum doesn't have to be identical to the building it's in, as the Getty, for instance, arguably is. October's "Banksy Museum" is housed in a "building" called The City of New York. Artists have analogized Gotham to a (Gothic!) cathedral for years. You've probably heard the band M83's hit lyric, "the city is my church," but have you done a Google image search on that line? It's a metaphor of tremendous power, especially to the not particularly religious. With "Better Out Than In," Banksy gives us a strange feeling because pushing his art onto the street gives us a more cathedral-like experience of society.

What's that experience like? Well, Christians characteristically imagine the church as the place where you're particularly suited to recognize the presence of grace. There, the never-predictable, always possible gifts of God can suddenly pop into view and into your life. For secular-minded people, that sometimes seems like a trick of the mind, an act of obscurantism or superstition. But we pretty much all can remember a time when a place, a moment, or a person brought on roughly the same situation: there we were, going about our own business, when something, or someone, transformed us. Maybe for an instant? Maybe for the rest of our lives? Either way, without asking for anything in return.

That's grace. And that's the way Banksy operates.

Yes, he's imposing his interests and seeking his pleasures at the figurative, or sometimes literal, expense of others. But these costs are typically so minimal that they place us in a gray area of reasonable forbearance. Someone hangs a picture on the outside of your office. Someone stands on your lawn and tells you a skilled tale about a powerful dream they had. What do you do with these strangers? Sue them? Fine them? Probably not.

In that way, Banksy's unauthorized art invites us to think anew about the place of street art in our lives. Anyone's street art can be something wonderful for us, if we want it to be. And at an adequate level of skill and vision, it can renew Banksy's own offer to reconsider our sense of public and private space.

Particularly in New York (says this Los Angeleno), both public and private space can be lifeless and interstitial—either "empty" spaces or small, unofficial reservoirs for junk or dirt, posters or ads. Street art can disrupt both kinds of lifelessness. Private owners and public officials can stomp on that activity, returning their system to stasis. That's their prerogative. But they're under no real compulsion to do so, beyond the fear that "inaction" will make them lose control of the space they claim as their own.

We might hesitate to bring the bootheel down on Banksy because he's not just disrupting our space—he's transforming its character. But even if we don't really dig his work, and wish it wasn't there, surely we can grasp that his installations can only be as they are in a context of rigorously controlled city space!

That's right. Although all street art might be an act of grace, the uniqueness of Banksy's effect on New York strongly suggests that the grace notes of street art show forth for us when they are relatively rare, surprising, and subtle, the products of deep reflection and hard work.

It might strike you that this is a standpoint that's narrow and generous in somewhat equal measure. It's a combination that acts of grace seem especially apt to deliver. They deliver us—from the burden of opposing or embracing a thing or a fellow human with all our conviction. Just as grace comes free, it leaves us a little more free.

Religion or no, if we can come to see grace at work in our street art, perhaps we can also come to see it at work in one another.

NEXT: Open Thead: Why the Hell Not? Plus: Subscibe or Die!

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  1. Banksy’s art is ready-made for any college freshman’s dorm room wall.

    1. ANDRE THE GIANT HAS A HOPE AND CHANGE

      1. That’s Sherpard Fairy.

        1. Point being: it’s all the same college-freshman-wall-hanger shit.

          1. It’s all the same boring nihilistic garbage you see spraypainted everywhere. Nihilism is soooo playyyyyed, turning your mind into a sewer of neurotic degeneracy is for leftoids.

            1. Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

      1. I don’t even understand what I’m looking at. I was unaware that Walt Disney was responsible for napalming Vietnam.

        1. Not Walt Disney, but rather The Mouse. And Ronald McDonald apparently.

          1. HOW TO GET RICH BEING AN ANTI-CAPITALIST = A SHORT FILM ON THE WORK OF BANKSY

            http://www.openculture.com/201…..anksy.html

        2. Granted that art is open to many interpretations, how about this one – It’s the juxtaposition of 3 images which are iconographic to the 20th century which is meant to be evocative in the viewer’s mind. Perhaps Banksy is suggesting that corporatism can often be the handmaiden of atrocities such as the Vietnam War. Or, perhaps he is suggesting that each of these icons represent the same thing in different contexts – that the girl represents the actual napalming of people in Vietnam as the Mouse represents the metaphorical napalming of art culture, and the Clown represents the same for food culture. But just looking at it saying “this says nothing to me” and attempting to interpret it literally sort of misses the point of abstraction in artistic expression in general – art means what it evokes in the viewer. Maybe it only means “the corporashuns, maaaan!” but that’s just one possibility.

          My 2 cents.

        3. Banksy is bravely exposing the long-suppressed fact that Mickey Mouse and Ronald MacDonald are/were actually S. Vietnamese citizens, since that’s who dropped the napalm.

    2. But then it’s not his art. The art consists of more than just that image. Scarlett Johanssen is a hot woman. If you wave her liver around and yell, “SEE? SEE?? SHE’S BLOBBY AND BLOODY UGLY!” you’d clearly be missing the point of the importance of context.

  2. Regardless of what sort of emotional woody it facilitates deep in the cockles, or maybe the sub-cockle area, of its aficionados, “street art” that marks private property without permission is a property crime. The penalty for which should be restitution to the owner. No special flower is so special as to set aside the moral principle of private property.

    1. Sure, if you can catch him AND if the property owner agrees that it was in fact a crime. Just because you think it’s a criminal act, doesn’t mean the property owner would see fit to press charges.

      1. So I should be allowed to deface someone’s property because they might not mind? Absurd.

        If so many people love street art what is wrong with getting prior consent?

  3. I’m sure Mr. Poulos wouldn’t mind artists breaking into his own personal house and stealing his own personal stuff to include in their art. I mean, wouldn’t doing so “invite us to think anew about the place of street art in our lives”?

    1. Like good art, I think it depends a lot on context.

      Sometimes, if you’re making a point…

      If I remember correctly, this one went up shortly after TARP was passed:

      http://www.google.com/imgres?i…..CC4Q9QEwAA

      If he put that on the side of any of the banks that got bailed out, I have no sympathy for them.

      It’s sort of like the justification for the Glorious Revolution: you oppress the fuck out of my wallet; I get to paint something nasty on your wall. …and if the government is complicit in your theft, then, ethically, it doesn’t matter whether my painting is against the law.

      Hell, given his talent, he may have a duty to paint something on their wall.

      Why would we conflate something like that with burglary or vandalism?

      1. If he put that on the side of any of the banks that got bailed out, I have no sympathy for them.

        Yeah, fuck the entire moral principle of private property when it’s inconvenient.

        1. It’s more like self-defense.

          Somebody punches you in the mouth, is it still wrong to punch him?

          I don’t think so. He did the one I linked, apparently, to AIG!

          And if it’s also the government’s misbehavior that you’re protesting…

          Isn’t this John Locke 101 stuff?

          I can’t believe I’m arguing for THAT PIECE with fellow libertarians.

          Think of it this way: if oppression gives us a right to revolt against power, then why wouldn’t we have a similar right to protest smaller abuses?

          That piece, to me? Is like the original Boston Tea Party. The patriots who threw all that East India Company tea into Boston harbor were doing it because they were protesting the government taxing them to bail out the East India Company. Why would we reduce them to mere vandals?!

          I don’t. I’d like to think I would have been right there with them.

          I see that piece–on the wall at AIG–being almost exactly like the Boston Tea Party. Completely justified. You want to read the justification, go read Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government”.

          1. Somebody punches you in the mouth, is it still wrong to punch him?

            No. You could punch him right back, exercising legitimate self defense. But it would be wrong to go burn his down. See how property rights work?

            1. No one’s burned anybody’s house down.

              Invest in a coat of paint, maybe.

              I’ll put it this way, if I were on the jury when they tried Banksy for vandalism for making AIG feel bad and buy a bucket of paint? Then I’m exercising me some jury nullification, and I’m recommending that the judge force AIG to compensate Banksy for augmenting their property without any remuneration.

              1. No one’s burned anybody’s house down.

                I forgot how much fun it is when you play the “I’m so fucking obtuse you have to spell everything out like I’m in 2nd grade” game.

                The point is: infringing someone’s property is not an act of self-defense; certainly it is not a proper retaliation for a punch in the nose after the fact. It would be equally wrong to burn down the nose-puncher’s house, or spray paint “I Love Cocks” on his garage door, or egg his car, or take a shit on his porch. They’re all property crimes (the arson also rising to the level of a violent crime), regardless of how badly you wish they weren’t or how well-deserved you personally think they might have been.

                Then I’m exercising me some jury nullification, and I’m recommending that the judge force AIG to compensate Banksy for augmenting their property without any remuneration.

                Yeah, you’re a vigilante asshole who doesn’t believe in property rights. We got that.

                1. “I forgot how much fun it is when you play the “I’m so fucking obtuse you have to spell everything out like I’m in 2nd grade” game.”

                  If I’m being obtuse, then what’s equating spray paint with arson?

                  “Yeah, you’re a vigilante asshole who doesn’t believe in property rights.”

                  Oh yeah? Well, women find me irresistible.

                  And what I believe in is applauding people for defending our property rights in public against those who abused them.

                  1. If I’m being obtuse, then what’s equating spray paint with arson?

                    I didn’t equate the two, I just used them as examples of property crime, since that’s what they both are.

                    And what I believe in is applauding people for defending our property rights in public against those who abused them.

                    No. If you believed that you’d be in court or you’d be picketing the doors of AIG. You support vigilantism. Because you’re a vigilante asshole.

                    1. I didn’t equate the two, I just used them as examples of property crime, since that’s what they both are.

                      It’s worth adding that this was also in response to you equating tax dollars going to bail out AIG with the immediacy and physical violence of being punched in the mouth, since the introduction of unrelated property after the fact was the relevant point of the analogy – not the exact crime committed against the property.

                      For the sake of clarity: If a guy comes up and punches you in the nose, you’re entitled to retaliate with equal force. But you aren’t entitled to go paint a peace mural on his garage door.

                    2. “It’s worth adding that this was also in response to you equating tax dollars going to bail out AIG with the immediacy and physical violence of being punched in the mouth.”

                      Actually, I was equating one appropriate response to another.

                      I didn’t say spray painting someone’s building was an appropriate reaction to getting punched in the mouth; I said punching someone back is an appropriate response to getting punched.

                      Oh, and just in case you missed the rest of it completely, too, putting a mural on someone’s building denouncing them for stealing our money is an excellent response to them stealing our money.

              2. Who in his fucking right mind would get rid of a Banksy???? Even if you hate the stuff, it’s worth a lot of bucks.

                1. Who in his fucking right mind would get rid of a Banksy???? Even if you hate the stuff, it’s worth a lot of bucks.

                  The owners of the property are on the hook for removing it or face fines and other penalties from the city. Which is irrelevant anyway. If Pablo fucking Picasso walked into my house back from the dead and offered to make a masterpiece of my drywall, I’d be fully entitled to tell him to piss up a rope if I felt like it.

                  1. Legally, yes. And sometimes I drive faster than 55mph down the tollway in Chicago.

                    1. “sometimes I drive faster than 55mph down the tollway in Chicago.”

                      Run for the hills, Old Man!

                      Before PM rats you out in the name of libertarianism!

            2. “It would be equally wrong to burn down the nose-puncher’s house, or spray paint “I Love Cocks” on his garage door, or egg his car, or take a shit on his porch.”

              Actually, I am okay with all of those things.

              1. Actually, I am okay with all of those things.

                They’re satisfying revenge fantasies, but you can’t possibly think they are consistent with the NAP.

                1. Fantasies? What are you talking about?

        2. “Yeah, fuck the entire moral principle of private property when it’s inconvenient.”

          You understand AIG took money out of your wallet right?

          Not OUR wallet–your (second person singular, genitive) wallet. They opened up you wallet, and they helped themselves to your money…

          And you’re gonna sit here and defend their right to keep their wall free of art that criticizes them for ripping you off?!

          I suppose that’s better than pulling down your pants and bending over for them.

          1. And you’re gonna sit here and defend their right to keep their wall free of art that criticizes them for ripping you off?!

            Yep. I’m gonna sit here and defend their right to do whatever they wish with the property that they own, and that they owned before they took a government bailout. If I have a claim against AIG, it’s for whatever my financial contribution to their bailout was; not repurposing their building for my own personal art studio. AIG doesn’t owe me that.

      2. So, anyone’s property rights depend on whether someone else feels entitled to use their property to make art?

        So long as that feeling of entitlement is based on the artist’s conclusion that . . . this is where I get a little foggy.

        Help me out here, Ken. At what point would you excuse an artist from breaking into your house and stealing your stuff to use in his art?

        1. “Help me out here, Ken. At what point would you excuse an artist from breaking into your house and stealing your stuff to use in his art?”

          Never! That’s his stuff, it’s different!

          1. Actually, if Banksy wants to put something on my property, he’s more than welcome.

            Banksy painting something on your property almost certainly increases its value. That probably shouldn’t be lost here, either.

            If the city came by and tried to force some of the people he’s “victimized” to remove his “vandalism” from their property, the property owners themselves would probably fight the city over it.

            1. Actually, if Banksy wants to put something on my property, he’s more than welcome.

              Sounds like an invitation. As long as he’s got one, then there’s no issue. For the people who don’t want his shit on their walls, it doesn’t matter if it reduces or increases the value of the wall. It’s their wall, and they are entitled to control its use.

              1. At worst? It’s like in basketball…

                You know how each player has so many fouls to give? If there’s a rule against it, then it becomes part of the game.

                But are we talking about the law here, or are we talking about ethics. Sometimes the laws are unethical, and sometimes the laws don’t punish unethical behavior.

                That’s where I see Banksy (and other artists like that) coming in. Sometimes ethics requires to do things that are illegal, and no one should have to tell a libertarian that.

                Honestly, I think some of you are just reacting against him becasue you think of him as a lefty or a hipster or something.

                1. But are we talking about the law here, or are we talking about ethics.

                  This is a rare case where the two are actually in perfect alignment. Because of the supremacy of property rights in libertarian ethics, it is unethical to infringe another’s property. Period. In a rare feat of ethical clarity, vandalism laws reflect that.

                  It’s worth pointing out that your hero for the downtrodden doesn’t just paint his pretty pictures on government buildings and teh evil KOCHporashuns. You have no ethical argument anyway, but even your gossamer justification for fucking with teh evil KOCHporashuns doesn’t hold up when he’s tagging Joe Blow’s XYZ, LLC, imposing costs and possible fines on the owner of the property for his, and evidently your, amusement.

                  1. Joe Blow’s XYZ, LLC was totally thrilled to be graced with Banksy’s paint, and even started charging admission for people to see it.

                  2. “This is a rare case where the two are actually in perfect alignment.”

                    They’re often in alignment. This is a rare case when the two are not in alignment.

                    My moral obligation to respect other people’s property is predicated on their moral obligation to respect mine.

                    If some private property owners, in conjunction with the law, violate my property rights, then my moral obligation to respect their property rights diminishes significantly. Depending on how bad it is, my moral obligation may no longer exist.

                    This is the basis of self-defense. Do I have a moral obligation not to shoot other people? Of course I do! But if they start shooting at me, guess what happens to my moral obligation not to shoot at them?

                    You’re basically saying that it’s immoral for Banksy to shoot back at the people who are shooting at him. What’s Banksy supposed to do–sue AIG for accepting TARP money? The government passed a law and gave AIG the TARP money!

                    And you’re saying he’s morally obligated to sit there and take that from AIG–why?

                    Because the law is the law and we’re libertarians?!

                    Ha! The rest of us should have been right there beside him painting our own murals.

        2. “At what point would you excuse an artist from breaking into your house and stealing your stuff to use in his art?”

          If I were cooperating with the government to oppress people–deprive them of their liberty or property–then I think I would become a fair target for the kind of “vandalism” Banksy perpetrates.

          Painting something on the wall of my house exposing me as an authoritarian or a thief would be perfectly appropriate if I were an authoritarian or a thief.

          Like I said, according to my read of Locke, Banksy may be morally obligated to do some of the things he does.

          And it isn’t all just personal property. I really like this one that he put up in Israel…

          http://www.google.com/imgres?i…..CDQQ9QEwAQ

          How is somebody supposed to overcome that wall?

          That’s awesome stuff! That’s mocking the state without saying a word. No arguments required. That’s street theater.

          Is that okay with you so long as it’s on public property?

          And if it is okay on public property, why isn’t it okay to put on the property of people who are collaborating with the government?

          1. How is somebody supposed to overcome that wall?

            Get a passport?

            1. I’m not sure, but I think some of those walls may be within Israel.

              Regardless, it makes the viewer think about what it takes to get over a wall like that.

              That’s an awesome piece of art, there, that depends on the context of where it was placed.

              If you take that slab out and install it in MoMA, it won’t have much meaning at all–even if you put a placard next to it explaining from where it was taken.

              Its meaning depends on its context, and within that context, it means a lot. It almost becomes like a freedom or expression thing–on public property.

          2. why isn’t it okay to put on the property of people who are collaborating with the government?

            Kulaks, hoarders, and wreckers, you mean?

          3. Painting something on the wall of my house exposing me as an authoritarian or a thief would be perfectly appropriate if I were an authoritarian or a thief.

            Uh, no. Calling out out publicly as an authoritarian and thief, publishing newsletters calling you an authoritarian and thief and dropping them from helicopters over every major city in the world, even standing on the curb outside your property and telling you straight to your face that you’re an authoritarian and a thief would all be perfectly appropriate. Defacing your property would not be appropriate. Assholes don’t lose the right to their property because they are assholes.

            1. “dropping them from helicopters”

              Is this not littering? LITTERER!

            2. “Defacing your property would not be appropriate. Assholes don’t lose the right to their property because they are assholes.”

              Using the government to violate other people’s property rights alleviated his moral obligation to respect the property rights of the people who robbed him.

              If I robbed you, and the government helped me do it, your moral obligation to respect my property would be severely diminished.

              Isn’t this the basis by which judges force convicted thieves to compensate the victims of their theft?

              Once it’s been established that the aggrieved party was robbed by the thief in question, it has also been determined that the thief in question willingly gave up his property rights insofar as it’s necessary to compensate the victim of his theft.

              You wouldn’t call on a judge to respect the property rights of a thief–in regards to compensating the victim of his theft, would you?

              Well, if there is no judge in the AIG case, because the government is a legal accomplice in that theft, then that may speak to law–but my moral obligations are another matter.

              Our legal obligations and our moral obligations usually work in tandem but not always. No one should have to explain that to a libertarian.

              We are not morally obligated to respect the property rights of the thieves who robbed us.

      3. “If he put that on the side of any of the banks that got bailed out, I have no sympathy for them.”

        And that’s what raises the Left’s attitude to the banks to the level of artistry;

        The Left convinces society to tell the banks they have to lend money to people who aren’t going to be able to repay. They shout down anybody who points out that this is inevitably going to lead to a crash. And when the crash comes, they blame the banks WITHOUT actually instituting the investigation?.which would inevitably lead back to their hypocritical behinds.

        1. I blame TARP primarily on the politicians who voted for it and signed it into law. I blame TARP on the politicians who orchestrated its distribution. I blame TARP on the politicians who refused to use the money, when it was returned, to retire debt or slash taxes.

          I don’t blame TARP on some of the investment banks who were forced to participate against their will, but AIG wasn’t one of those. Neither were Fannie or Freddie.

          …and I don’t understand why anybody would think I’m from the left, but that does reenforce my idea that a lot of people react to Banksy’s work the way they do becasue they associate him with the left and hipsters or something.

      4. The only reason you don’t do so is because he didn’t paint something you don’t like on the side of your house. Were he to paint something glorifying some idea you disagree with I suspect you would see him hanged.

        1. I’ll never want to see anybody hanged for spray painting anything.

          You’re right that I prefer people spray paint things I agree with, but that’s evidence of nothing.

      5. If I’m acting hysterically in the midst of a crisis, ad you slap me in the face to snap me out of it, and I say “thanks, I needed that,” did you commit assault and battery or did you do me a favor? I think the context means everything, including what the property owner himself feels about it.

        And to R C’s point, Banksy didn’t steal anything or break into anyone’s home as far as I know. So a more apt analogy is, if someone without your knowledge painted something on your garage door. Whether you the homeowner considers that a crime or not is highly dependent on whether you like what was painted.

  4. Banksy’s unauthorized art invites us to think anew about the place of street art in our lives.

    Just as the administration’s unauthorized art invites us to think anew about the place of political art in our lives.

  5. What’s the point of being a libertarian if you’re never breaking the law?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L397TWLwrUU

    1. What’s the point of being a libertarian if you’re never breaking the law violating other people’s prperty rights?

      I’m struggling with this. While libertarians can certainly make an argument that certain laws are illegitimate and thus can and perhaps even should be broken, I don’t see any libertarian basis for violating other people’s property rights.

      1. I don’t see any libertarian basis for violating other people’s property rights.

        Seeing as how property rights form the entire backbone of libertarian ethics, that proves you actually understand libertarian ethics.

        1. Do you or do you not think the Boston Tea Party was ethical from a libertarian perspective?

          1. From a strictly libertarian perspective, no, not really. The only way in which it could be spun that way is by nature of the relationship of the property to the unjust tax and enforcement thereof by the government.

            We’re kind of into “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” territory here though, since Banksy is not protesting an oppressive tax on the buildings he’s tagging.

            1. From a strictly libertarian perspective, no, not really.”

              In regards to the Boston Tea Party?

              You’re getting pretty far out there on that limb.

              “Since Banksy is not protesting an oppressive tax on the buildings he’s tagging.”

              So, it wasn’t okay for him to spray paint something on their wall, but it would have been okay for him to steal all those physical mortgage notes and burn them?

              From a net damages perspective, that doesn’t really make sense.

              1. In regards to the Boston Tea Party?

                Yes.

                You’re getting pretty far out there on that limb.

                Not really. The East India Company was not actually owned by the government. They received a lot of favorable treatment along with their charter, but the actual ownership was private. With that in mind, destroying their tea could easily be seen as a violation of the NAP. Due to the quasi-monopolistic control of the market by the government though, it’s not cut and dry.

                So, it wasn’t okay for him to spray paint something on their wall, but it would have been okay for him to steal all those physical mortgage notes and burn them?

                What good would that have done him? It would have been okay for him to try to recoup the actual damages he could attribute to himself from the bailout of AIG. If he didn’t have a net tax burden, technically he really didn’t experience any damages.

                1. “They received a lot of favorable treatment along with their charter, but the actual ownership was private. With that in mind, destroying their tea could easily be seen as a violation of the NAP.”

                  The ownership was convoluted because of the Regulating Act of 1773, but if we want to assume it was private for the sake of argument, that wouldn’t change the fact–one iota–that the colonists had no moral obligation to respect the East India’s property rights to its tea.

                  You want to use the police (and the army!) to force a legal obligation to finance a bailout of the East India Company on me–and not only do I have a moral right to throw your tea in the harbor, I might be morally obligated to do so.

                  Let me ask you this: while the East India Company was acting as the de facto government of India, do you think the people of India under their control had a moral obligation to respect the East India Company’s property rights?

          2. Did the tea that was thrown into the harbor belong to the people doing the tea throwing ?

            Was John Kerry’s act of throwing some other veteran’s medals away while acting like they were his really constitute a war protest ? Not in my mind, as he gave up nothing. I consider it a hoax and a stunt, not a protest.

    2. Well, see, there’s this thing called the NAP. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

      1. Are you suggesting that the mural he put up on AIG’s wall, for instance, was somehow a violation of the NAP?

        Because I think AIG’s actions (in collaboration with the government) were violations of the NAP–and were directed at me (and Banksy).

        What is a good example of an appropriate response to that kind of aggression?

        I can think of one right off the top of my head! …it involved taking a company’s property and throwing it into Boston harbor.

        1. What is a good example of an appropriate response to that kind of aggression?

          Usually proportionality is taken into account. And in the case of AIG, since the original violation of the NAP was a quantifiable financial taking, there’s not much ambiguity there. That a judge won’t give you rightful recompense from AIG doesn’t entitle you to go damage their buildings, or to bust out the glass on the CEO’s car.

          1. That a judge won’t give you rightful recompense from AIG doesn’t entitle you to go damage their buildings, or to bust out the glass on the CEO’s car.

            Then you have made morality contingent on legality.

            1. “That a judge won’t give you rightful recompense from AIG doesn’t entitle you to go damage their buildings, or to bust out the glass on the CEO’s car.”

              Yeah, he’s apparently having a problem separating moral obligations and legal obligations.

              They seem to be just one big mishmash in his mind.

      2. NAP? Yep, in cultural diversity education camp they said that was one of the words we couldn’t use!

  6. But inseparable from the art is the nuanced question of how we, the audience, can choose to respond.

    Blah, blah, blah.

    Hell is a room full of Art Critics.

    1. nuanced

      Ugh. I’ve gotten to the point that I hate that word. It is so very rarely used appropriately, and the people who use it are nearly always full of shit.

      1. That’s because the word is almost always used in a political context these days. And in a political context it almost always means “there’s a difference between the odors of the excrement of different breeds of bull.”

  7. The thing I like about unauthorized street art as a statement is that often you’re not allowed to art up your own property.

  8. You’ve probably heard the band M83’s hit lyric, “the city is my church,”

    Err…no?

    1. Dude, you don’t listen to obscure French electronic music? What are you, some kind of other? I was listening to M83 when they were still L82…

      1. Daft Punk counts, right? They obscure their identities by wearing motorcycle helmets.

      2. Personally, I prefer the 1.5 edition rules to Bunkers and Baddasses. Too simplified for mass appeal in that crap Wizards on the Coast put out.

        1. BUTT STALLION 4 EVER

          1. Just got around to playing Tiny Tina and IT WAS AWESOME!!!

            1. That’s because Tiny Tina is the best. I finally finished the DLC (main story line; I still have some side quests to finish) a few days ago. I also bought Torchlight 2 and the TK Baha DLC on Steam for $10 total yesterday. I just realized I’ve been playing the same game–Borderlands 2–for over a year now. That’s a lot of game time. I’m approaching 300 hours according to Steam.

              1. I played Borderlands 2 last spring, got into the first games DLCs over the summer, then did a run up to Tiny Tinas. If I started from scratch on BL2, I would definitely have saved the side quests for the 2nd run through. Holy shot did the game find more ways to kill me than any ten other games combined. I was once punched into a Buzzard copter by a goliath then fell on to train tracks.

                1. I finally burned out on the DLC’s. They just got too fucking hard and weren’t any fun any more. Unless you had grinded up the very tippy-top most gear, it was IMBA, and I wore out on trying to score that 5% chance of the loot drop that I needed.

                  1. I happen to have some really killer gear, so it’s been much easier. I have an insane shield that makes me a serious tank, and a corrosive E-tech SMG that–when combined with a SMG boosting mod (I’m a Siren) and a boosting relic–it’s almost like I’m sporting a Bee shield without the low shield numbers. I can do a fuckload of damage. And I still have over 100 Golden Keys to waste.

                    1. I’ve got a ten rank on Helios with the bullet witch augment, and when I finally grabbed the all elements contribute damage bonus ability I was seriously roasting some bitches.

                    2. 10 Helios? Damn. I have my Cataclysm tree completely loaded and my Ruin and Reaper are jacked up. I can put a serious hurt on anything that isn’t resistant to corrosive, and if they are, I just switch to my incendiary SMG that’s almost as good. I’m super pissed because I had an Apt Crit that was absolutely devastating to anything that had a static weakness, like skeletons, but I lost it because of its 10% chance to slip out of your hands on a reload. It dropped out and then I got killed. I was unstoppable with that thing. I need to get another one.

                    3. The augment is corrosive based that has the helios moddy, but I keep a back up in the pack with a high incendiary damage addition. I haven’t used the SMG moddies all that much with Borderlands 2 as I did with the first. I don’t like the addition of negative accuracy.

                    4. My mag sizes are stupid huge (I have a static assault rifle with a mag size of 270, and my corrosive SMG has a mag size over 60 or 70), so I don’t care so much about accuracy. I can burn down a Super Badass anything with one mag, especially if I Phaselock them. And since my Phaselock drags everyone towards it, I can then crowd control with my child-grenade spawning grenade mod. Damn it’s fun. Now I want to play, but I have to lift first.

                    5. I forget what the reflect skill is called that cause bullets to second target bounce, but during phaselock it was always a beautiful thing to see. I have a unique SMG with a 21 burst fire speed, and a 1.1 second reload. It RAINS bullets.

                    6. 21,162dam/sec bones, did I just read that right? Holy shit, on an SMG, how did even the Warrior have a chance? You probably clipped him ten times for unique loot drops before you got bored toying with him.

                    7. I was farming the Warrior for Eridium. The Apt Crit would kill him in less than one mag when paired with a Bee. It took a few seconds. I’m so, so, so fucking pissed that I lost it.

                    8. I need to go back and see how I match up against Terramorpheus. I completely forgot about him since the first run through, and he splattered my ass against the scenery. With the DLCs out of the way (except for the two recent ones), he’s likely a piece of cake.

                    9. I’m pretty sure the raid bosses completely scale with you, so you are never going to have an easy time with them. Yeah, you can go back and crush them in a prior playthrough, but that just becomes laughable like my takedown of the Warrior, which I was doing solely for Eridium, because the XP from it is nothing.

                    10. Ouch. I was hoping with the level cap from the main game it might have been more trouble than it was worth for the devs to scale him passed it to account for the expanded augies from the DLCs. Breaking games is what I do, but Borderlands is a different sort of beast than, say, Half Life 2 (too easy to fuck with their intended scheme. I have high respect for the level design, but not much else) in that respect. Its almost as if they use experienced play testers or something!

                  2. In the main game second run through, I developed the strategy of whenever there was a leveling up at Moxxi’s slot machines, I’d gamble away most of the money I would loose to reconstructions anyway. Two hundred or so runs at them and I always came out ahead with three or four slots of much better augmentations and weapons than I was wearing.

      3. I was listening to Air before Sophia Coppola!!!

        1. I always knew you listened to Air!

            1. Speaking of hipsters and 8 track, the guy who wrote Children of a Lesser God used to park his Porsche convertable in our dorm parking lot. He had an eight track installed in it with Meatloaf inside. This was the early nineties.

  9. I saw the “banality” thing he just did. I thought it was excellent.

    I wouldn’t pay $600k for it, but I’m cheap.

  10. Over thinking Banksy is a new low for Reason writers. Beneath human dignity itself. Banksy is like a mini state on a warpath, ungoverned by the fundamental principles of human interaction (since some of you in the chain of command here seem to be confused about what those are, here’s a pleasant refresher — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt_q6YR5Ugo — though as a romantic comedy, its just terrible).

    1. PEOPLE DON’T TALK LIKE THAT!

      1. For latter day Percy Shelly and Asperger Girl that dialog is pretty natural.

        1. Yeah, there was something “Byronic” about the male lead.

  11. That’s cool James, and very open minded of you.

    Now give me your address, so I can come and piss paint all over it, then write an anonymous op-ed in your local paper about how where you live is a pile of shit anyway and doesn’t even deserve being graced with my wonderful free scribblings.

    For the record, I liked Bankseys stuff. In London. When he kept his stupid fucking piehole closed.

    1. Vandalizing London is never immoral.

  12. HERE IS THE TRUE GREATNESS OF BANKSY’s WORK REACHING ITS APOTHEOSIS

    “Banksy Tags Street In East New York (aka ‘Thugville’). Hipsters Flock To Ghetto. Ghetto Residents Cover Silly Painted Spot With Cardboard And Charge Hipsters $20 to Fucking Look At It.”

    or, as Gawker says = ” Gawker.com ? East NY’ers charging hipsters to take photo of a beaver.”

    http://diehipster.wordpress.co…..advantage/

    1. Property rights, bitches.

  13. Get a job, buy some canvas. Or ask permission, because that wall? You didn’t build it.

  14. Que l’enfer?

    If Banksy likes painting on walls, he can go to the owners and say, “I’ll be happy to put great art on your boring wall, and all you have to do is pay a reasonable fee, etc.” That would certainly involve artistic chutzpah, but it would respect the owner’s property.

    Or *he* could pay a fee.

    Or he could find one of his admirers to sponsor an art exhibit.

    All these options!

    1. Bingo. And those options are why you can’t make an analogy to the Boston Tea Party.

      Remember “no taxation without representation”? That reflected that the colonists, who weren’t represented, had no options other than a violation of the property rights of the East India Company in retaliation for the violation of their rights.

      I don’t see a comparable violation Banksy’s rights, or a comparable paucity of options.

      1. “Remember “no taxation without representation”? That reflected that the colonists, who weren’t represented, had no options other than a violation of the property rights of the East India Company in retaliation for the violation of their rights.”

        I don’t see the right to vote as being the crux of the matter–but I’m not sure the ones that threw the tea into the harbor thought that was the crux of the matter either.

        It wasn’t not being able to vote that made them throw that tea in the harbor–it was being taxed to pay for the East India Company. That’s why they threw the tea into the harbor.

        They did other things to protest not having representation in parliament. They had representation at the state level–more than is generally appreciated.

        1. “They had representation at the state level–more than is generally appreciated.”

          [Colony level], you know what I mean.

    2. Nope. Owner of said wall must obey several city ordinances about what owner can do with owned wall. Murals are usually not allowed and graffiti must be removed or pay a fine.

      Context does matter. But yes, it is all about property rights.

      1. True, ordinances will be violated, but those are the kinds of laws libertarians can violate.

        You just contract for the risk. Banksy and the building owner decide among themselves who will pay to have the wall cleaned (if ordered), who will pay any fines (if levied), etc.

        Still has options.

  15. What was the point of an open weekend thread if they were just going to put this up?

    Anyway, I don’t think I want to call the protection of private property, one of the legitimate functions of government, “The Man”. If this guy were to, I don’t know, ask permission to put art on the brick wall of a business, well that would make things a lot easier and less douchey.

    I don’t get why people think breaking the law in of itself is cool or hip or whatever. Some laws exist for a valid purpose.

    1. I don’t get why people think breaking the law in of itself is cool or hip or whatever. Some laws exist for a valid purpose.

      Don’t libertarians also disapprove of theft, rape and murder? And don’t libertarians get upset if the government breaks laws?

  16. They are getting the opportunity to rake Bernie over the coals one more time. The state never forgets:

    Goetz Busted in Pot Sale

    http://nypost.com/2013/11/01/i…..d-to-cops/

  17. Forgive the sound of boner-slurping here…

    . There, the never-predictable, always possible gifts of God can suddenly pop into view and into your life. For secular-minded people, that sometimes seems like a trick of the mind, an act of obscurantism or superstition. But we pretty much all can remember a time when a place, a moment, or a person brought on roughly the same situation: there we were, going about our own business, when something, or someone, transformed us. Maybe for an instant? Maybe for the rest of our lives? Either way, without asking for anything in return.

    That’s grace. And that’s the way Banksy operates

    Wow.

    Whereas the black kid who actually *lives* in East New York, and has no outlet for expression except maybe violence and drugs, and decides to tag a local bridge instead? He can go to fucking jail and no one peeps. But if a white fucking art student draws a beaver on a brick wall? FUCKING TRANSFORMATIONS, MAN! Let’s write editorials in libertoid magazines about how #@(*$@ unappreciated this shit is.

    Plus, hey, NY? Banksy thinks your city is some boring shit that “Canadians Might Build”. Pay attention, this guy is transforming you!

    You like that Canada? You’re more boring than *Americans*. You just lost points on the Banksymeter. Who knows cool and we just don’t get it.

    Fuck you Paulous = post your own street address and embrace some transformation.

    1. I actually agree with him about the Freedom Tower. The twin towers should have been rebuilt instead of some massive monument to remind the terrorists that they made that happen. Fuck the terrorists.

      1. I always thought the WTC were ugly and utilitarian from an architecture perspective.

        I’m fine with a redesign, but I agree there should be two towers serving the same function as last time.

        1. I thought they should have just left the spotlights pointing up to the sky. That was truly inspired and inspiring.

          1. Actually, I like this idea. I really like it.

          2. Well in all reality, the property should have been repurposed to whatever function some private entity decided to use it for. And I’ll bet a dime that nobody would have considered building a giant, gaudy commercial tower that will sit 75% vacant for the entirety of its useful life in that location after the twin towers got knocked down.

            1. I agree. Whatever the owner wants to do with the property should have been what happened.

              But that was never going to happen with the emotional baggage attached. NY’s wouldn’t let it happen.

              1. Yeah, no doubt. I’m just saying, in libertopia…

        2. They were ugly but they became part of the NY skyline. Rebuilding them exactly or at least 2 similar towers would have been a much bigger middle finger to the terrorists. “You want to attack us? We will kill you and rebuild. You are of no concern to us.”

          Of course, all of the authoritative legislature was really the lasting damage the terrorists gave us on 9/11. But the building just gives visual evidence of how much they affected us.

          1. edit: visual reminder of how much they affected us.

          2. I stayed in a hotel in central China last week that was a miniature (40 floors or so) replica of WTC 1 &2. I thought it was an interesting, if odd, gesture.


      2. reply to this


        Smilin’ Joe Fission|11.2.13 @ 1:25PM|#

        I actually agree with him about the Freedom Tower. The twin towers should have been rebuilt instead of some massive monument to remind the terrorists that they made that happen. Fuck the terrorists.

        I agree with him too = they’re fucking ugly and were built by a combination of a committee of corrupt Lefty NYr shadow-government commissars and the garbage left behind by a retarded Danish architect.

        That doesn’t give some punk ass graffiti artist license to anonymously lecture the whole fucking city on its aesthetic failings. Fuck him, you have an opinion douchebag, say it to our faces, you limey pussy. Go decorate some bomb craters in Baghdad and save your faux-avant-garde shit for the hipster magazines, the general public doesn’t give a flying fuck for your transformative opinionations.

      3. The twin towers should have been rebuilt

        I was dead set against the idea, not because the Towers were ugly but because the totalitarian 60’s neighborhood at ground level was so awful. About 10 years in I’m tramping through that damn construction site every day and thinking they should have just rebuilt the damn thing from the original plans and been done with it.

        But OK he’s right, the new Tower is ugly. Otherwise, I am strongly opposed to every other aspect of him, his vandalism, and his mostly incoherent claptrap.

    2. It’s 2013, I don’t respect anyone who would call themselves an artist who can’t script a proper GLSL shader. The entire field of academic art and art criticism like in the article above sounds like reactionary noise to me coming from a century long left behind.

  18. “But inseparable from the art is the nuanced question of how we, the audience, can choose to respond.”

    Here’s how I choose to respond. His stuff is juvenile crap which makes the already-ugly even uglier. It looks more dorky than the dodgy glasses worn by the hipsters who admire it. The fact that Banksy has fans who babble about “nuance” doesn’t make his stuff any more interesting.

    1. Not all those who cry “nuance, nuance” shall enter the kingdom of non-assholeness.

  19. Street art is awesome, especially when it defiles public property or sends uncomfortable messages to sheltered pussies who can’t handle it.

    1. uncomfortable messages to sheltered pussies who can’t handle it.

      You Know Who Else sent uncomfortable messages to sheltered people who couldn’t handle it?

      1. Its street. You can’t handle street. Go back to your suburbs, you Justin and Britney cows. Moo all day in your cornfields safely tucked away behind your white picket fences where you don’t have to think and you wont be challenged by whats real. The street is whats real and it will eat you alive.

        1. Slow

          clap

          1. Are you sure you possess the savior-faire to get away with a slow clap?

    2. Nothing this banal and tame is sending an uncomfortable message to anyone. The same tired faux-transgressive shit isn’t impressive; to the extent people can bother to have an opinion about it, it’s one of utter boredom.

  20. Wait so Reason is writing an article dismissing property rights? Uh what?

    1. Yeah, it’s one of those things libertarians don’t all agree on like abortion and religion.

  21. Taggers are scum, regardless of the size of their delusions of grandeur.

    1. As far as a property crime, its not on my list of shit to care about. It makes statists nuts. And that Giuliani broken windows crap is wrong too. There is only room for one broken windows anecdote.

  22. I’ve never interpreted the NAP as limiting a response exclusively to defense, which is to say, to countering the immediate threat. I’ve always interpreted it as permitting a wide variety of proportional retribution – which could include, failing other avenues, vandalizing an offender’s property. I’m not saying that idea applies to any specific case, just that I could see it being justified.

    1. The non aggression principle is a sound basis for the consistency of laws- all property crimes should be punished as such. The non aggression principle does not always answer the question of what actions an individual should take, though it is mostly a good guideline for that.

      It is not necessarily wrong to shit on somebody’s porch, though the government is incapable of determining that, therefore it should always be treated as a property crime.

      1. And in a legal system that affords people the opportunity to reliably redress wrongs against them, I have little problem with the government criminalizing freelance vengeance. Whether such a system is in place is usually an open question, though.

        1. No. Such a system is not currently in place.

  23. Sometimes man, you jsut have to roll with it.

    http://www.PrivacyRoad.tk

  24. yes, yes, Banksy is an artist and as such *should* be exempt from the petty mores of bourgeoisie society – sort of like Polanski.

    Sure the guy does good stuff and I would be tolerant of his shit if all he did was spray up sidewalks and other, genuinely, public areas. This spray-painting people’s buildings is just vandalism though. And as good as he may be, it encourages a bunch of other mediocre (or worse) taggers with inflated self-opinions to continue to do the same thing.

    Or worse, how long before local and federal governments start trying to tax the value ‘added’ by his work? Or, gods forfend, ‘protect’ these buildings for their new historical value?

    1. Now, I’m not against using a little vandalism to retaliate against wrongs perpetuated against you.
      But banksy and his ilk aren’t just ‘sticking it to the man’, they like putting this shit up on small businesses and other such places – most of which are less ‘the man’ than ‘oppressed by the man’.

    2. “Or worse, how long before local and federal governments start trying to tax the value ‘added’ by his work? Or, gods forfend, ‘protect’ these buildings for their new historical value?”

      Quiet you fool… they’ll. hear. youuu…

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  26. This article is absurd. The writer finds Banksy to be a great artist, but that is his subjective opinion. Art becomes art when someone calls it art. I don’t find what the guy does particularly interesting, his reputation is a media creating really.

    Defacing property without prior consent is a violation of property rights and getting paint off of a building is neither cheap or easy. There are real costs involved.

    By the writer’s logic, anyone can call themselves an artist and go around spray painting the hell out of everything, at least until someone beats their ass.

  27. Are you guys seriously complaining about banksy violating property rights? Jeez. You’re reinforcing the stereotype of libertarians as aspberger-nerds.
    Yeah technically he’s violating property rights, but he’s not doing any real damage. His spraypaint can just be painted over like any graffiti. Hell, I’ll offer to do it for free if it’ll help Banksy out. That or apply paint thinner for brick walls where you want to see the brick. Out of all the real stuff real vandals do, along with the litany of graffiti and flyers NYC has, is it so bad that one artist does his art this way with the boon that his art is awesome?

  28. I think it’s one of those things libertarians don’t all agree on like abortion and religion.

  29. From my point of view, this is a question of control over my private property: I simply don’t want anybody to make any unauthorized alterations of it, no matter how many people think it’s “art”, “valuable”, “amusing” or “cute”. Regardless of my opinion that what Banksy creates is not “art”, i.e. any kind of meaningful esthetic insight into the general human condition, but just primitive political propaganda akin to Soviet and Nazi murals, my private property certainly isn’t any “public space” open to defacing by some commie freak, but something I paid for with my hard-earned cash and, besides, I happen to think that the less “public space” for commie freaks to deface there is, the better for the society, if such a thing actually exists. After all, if they feel an irresistible longing for the “artistic expression” of their gentle Vandal souls, they can always buy or build some walls and houses of their own, and disfigure them to their heart’s content. I think that the public adoration of the vandals-turned-street-artists is just another sign of carefully orchestrated and planned degeneration of the Western society, another totalitarian and collectivist cuckoo’s egg hatched and over the years of media manipulation firmly embedded into the mainstream cultural patterns by the liberal pseudointellectuals acting as the lackeys of the socialist/bureaucratic State and its corporate cronies.

  30. To make things completely clear and avoid being accused of advanced paranoia, not as any kind of organized “conspiracy” (I doubt that there is, as yet, a direct secure link to Banksy’s cellphone from the Oval Office), but simply a shared purpose of weakening the individual freedoms and property rights in any conceivable kind of way, including the quasi-artistic ones. So it’s quite depressing, or, rather, symptomatic of the above-mentioned degeneration, to read a panegyric to this perfidious corrosion in a self-professed “libertarian” magazine.

  31. The articles on Reason are interesting, but the comments are juvenile and idiotic. The comments on this article take the prize.

  32. my co-worker’s sister-in-law makes hourly on the laptop. She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her payment was just working on the laptop for a few hours. pop over to this web-site…….. http://www.works23.com

  33. Christ, bank-sy fans are idiots.

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