Welcome to VANDALISMS, an irregular column round up of, obviously, vandalism. We’ll collect photos and stories of all sorts of graffiti across so-called North America and share them with you, perhaps inspiring you and others to contribute (indirectly) to the next column.
This sort of project has precedents. Some years ago, we loved following MKE Vandalisms, a tumblr page that collected photos of tags, stencils, scribbles and much more seen in Milwaukee. We also enjoyed Plain Words Bloomington’s “Around The Town” posts earlier this year. We think that, while tagging, wheatpasting, or stickering doesn’t often warrant the effort to publish some fiery communique about smashing the state, these minor interventions into the urban landscape are worth sharing nonetheless. While the state works tirelessly creating the illusion of total control, every act of vandalism is a testament that this control is indeed an illusion. To quote A.G. Schwarz:
As authority increasingly manages us at the nano level, the can of spray paint, the rock, the molotov, deserve the same significance as the AK-47. (Signals of Disorder)
We’ll get right to the action, then, but we do hope to continue expanding our thoughts around the use of vandalism in future columns.
In early October, while anarchists in France awaited their sentencing for the torching of a police car the year before, the walls of Chicago were lit up with the names of some of the imprisoned, including Kara Wild a transwoman from Chicago herself.
Later in the month, some yuppie businesses in the Pilsen neighborhood were tagged “GET OUT” and similar messages. Graffiti as a tool against gentrification will be a theme we will no doubt return to.
Lastly, a sticker reading simply “BARRICADE MATERIAL” was spotted on a Divvy bike in Chicago. It’s not quite the way that the Bay Area handled a new bike-share program over the summer, but it’s something.
Speaking of “BARRICADE MATERIAL” stickers, several more were spotted at a bike-share rack in Minneapolis.
— BRI (@belliresearch) October 13, 2017
Elsewhere in Minneapolis, vandals claimed credit for tagging outside the police union offices as well as splattering the walls of yuppie businesses and bench ads (that last communique has me cracking up!).
— MIDWEST UNREST (@MW_Unrest) November 4, 2017
Before we move on from Minneapolis, it would be a mistake not to mention the UMN College Republican’s mural getting repeatedly vandalized again this year within hours of being first painted.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police conference took place last October in Philadelphia, and in addition to street protests, it was marked with a slew of graffiti. Some of which is collected by Philly Anti-Cap here:
After the conference, a communique was published explaining the desecration of police memorial plaques across the city as well. It stated:
There were reports of vandalism of memorial plaques to dead cops during the weekend the IACP was in Philly. There was attempted media spin. But that spin doesn’t capture the essence of the message they sent: “The Only Good Cop” written over these memorial plaques celebrates the people’s power to rewrite the stories about who has the right to be in charge or have power over life and death. The police have lost that right, if they ever had it in the first place. They have no moral authority. The people must take it back. The message for the International Association of Chiefs of Police is: The people are waking up to your lies and the lies of those who pay you. Your story’s days are numbered. We call for police abolition. The only good cop is a dead story.
The only good cop is a defaced memorial plaque. They’re all over Philly. We’ve all seen them. Even though the police state seems insurmountable, a million angry fires can burn it down, one tag at a time. What are we waiting for?”
Copwatch Santa Ana has graciously shared a few recent tags in their city:
Sactown Vandalism Appreciation (@streets_of_sacto) is following in the footsteps of MKE Vandalisms, except this time in the city of Sacramento. Here’s a handful of their posts, but the whole account is beautiful.
The Hamilton Institute shared a poster that had been wheatpasted against the rise of far-right groups ahead of an anti-immigrant rallies across Canada. Since we’d like this column to be thoroughly educational, this seems like a good time to link a guide on how to wheatpaste, provided by Plain Words Bloomington.
Too many attacks on colonial statues took place around Columbus Day in the so-called United States to account for here, many of which were cataloged elsewhere on It’s Going Down. However, we will highlight a communique published by Montreal Counter-Info claiming the spray painting of the John A. MacDonald monument with anti-colonial slogans.
Also of interest to this column, and hopefully this will be more prominently highlighted in the future, is the graffiti that isn’t so targeted and isn’t always explicitly political. Anyone who picks up a spray can or marker and decides to leave their mark on the cityscape is taking some sort of action against state control. (Yes, we know nazis can write graffiti too—hopefully you get that we aren’t talking about that.) Just because someone writes their name in some “illegible” style instead of a slogan doesn’t mean that it is less of an intervention on the visual space of the city. Somewhere in the middle between these two types of graffiti are crews like KHY (Keep Hoods Yours—primarily based in San Francisco) and the lesser-known NTFA (Montreal). They combine an explicit political analysis with the traditions of graffiti culture. Here’s a recent NTFA piece:
Finally, check out these amazing videos from Europe:
That’s it for this first installment of VANDALISMS! Hopefully the next one will be bigger and better. But that much is really up to you.