March 25, 2006 06:24 | Culture


from the excellent excellent Banksy "Wall and Piece" book:

People abuse you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you're not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They're on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

However you are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say whatever they like wherever they like with impunity.

Screw that. Any advert in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It's yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep the rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. You especially don't owe them any courtesy. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don't even start asking for theirs.

Banksy - Brandalism


hear hear hear… and when I argue about some the companies which are rising on the net, slicing our life by pieces, we tell me that I'm just overdoing it… sigh.

i'm liking this attitude. and the piece you chose - seriously brilliant work. i want to create relevant art like that.

Hmmm..... so how do we fight back, exactly? It's one thing to say that we don't have to take it, it's another to say what steps we could take to stand up to advertising bullies with all their trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright laws.
"Graffiti artist Banksy decorates streets, walls, bridges and zoos of towns and cities throughout the's great museums (unbeknownst to the curators, of course)...on farm animals (yes, ON them)."

Bransky fights back by spray-painting private properties animals? Cages at zoos? Where monkeys are exposed to toxic spray paint? Seriously, if someone spray-painted toxic chemicals on my pet, I would sue the shit out of that motherfucker. Regardless of whether it's art or not. Same goes for any private property in my name or any public properties that is paid for with taxes that I and every other hard-working citizen contributes. I would have demanded that Bransky pays back every single penny and find another form of protest.
And if that same "artist" spray-painted public properties that we paid for with our hard-earned tax money, that means we have to spend more money on taxes to clean it up. Spray-painting museums that contains the world's most revered and precious art - hmmm... as a visitor to a museum - I would have been horrified at such destruction. Bransky's message would have been lost on me because of the ruination of his "art" on nature, animals and properties.

er, Caroline...
1- figure it out for yourself. that's part of the message. ;)
2- property created crime.
3- he's spraying mostly on public "property".
4- i'm not gonna argue about the toxicity of spray paint (even though I am not convinced he used spray paint on the animals.)

Your sense of outrage is misplaced in my opinion. Also, "desperate times call for desperate measures" no? This is war, war for your mind, war for you culture, war for your freedom of thought and expression.

As such, I say, as he does, Screw That.

Julien, it is my opinion that one does not "create art". One expresses one's experiences/observations, via one's self, in whatever means one has... and shares that. If it is relevant, the community will value it and it will enter into culture.

And that, my friends, is how the advertisers have rearranged the world. They bypass the natural process of culture development by using mass-communication technologies into which they have easy access to drop their "creative product" into, bootstrapping consumer advertising into the culture mechanism. It's VERY simple and VERY effective and it feeds itself.

5- caroline Weynerowski

Oh boy, I can't even post a response here - what I have to say about property creating crime won't fit on one single page. I just have to laugh because I was about to say that if there were no "properties" - idealists would view utopia and rationalists would view dystopia. I'm on the latter side, and I am speaking from a survivalist point of view - as well as from a history major's point of view.

Could it be that you are an idealist? A romanticist? ;)

I don't see how idealism and rationalism are mutually exclusive? I also find very distasteful the negative connotation self-professed "rationalists" and "realists" give "idealism". And in any case the whole "ism" and "ist" thing is silly no?

Is your point of view any more valid or "grounded in reality" because you count yourself a "survivalist" (I'm one too.. I'm still here right?) and a "history major"?

And as long as your are identifying yourself as such (by the way, did you read the post on Orwell's Notes on Nationalism? You really should...), I charge that it is precisely because you claim that you have a historical perspective grounded in realism and survivalism that you SHOULD be angered all the more by advertising and consumerist culture.

Or are you just being a difficult contrarian? ;)

Take a look at the bottom right corner of your blog.

As far as Orwell is concerned - I got an F on my paper about 1984 because I said that the book was not about communism but about controlling thoughts, which I derived directly from Orwell's essays and interviews on that book. I had to go back to the library and borrow the books and bring them back to show my teacher that the F was wrong. She changed my grade to a D to avoid an argument with me but still didn't agree with me even though I quoted Orwell verbatim! How Orwellian is that?

I do understand about advertising controlling our thoughts from an Orwellian perspective very well.

I am always a difficult contrarian. In elementary school, the outside teacher (what we called the person who walked around making sure kids are not fighting during recess) told me that either I should a lawyer for I argued too much.

I argue because nothing is ever black and white and that's the point I am trying to make.

That's all very fine and dandy, Caroline... but it has no bearing on the discussion at hand. ;)


Whether Banksy is spray-painting walls or cows (McCows?), the object is the same - to highlight the discrepancy between the rules (or lack thereof) that apply to corporations and the rights of individuals to control their environment.

It is not idealistic to endeavour to preserve ones surroundings from the stain of corporate intrusion, nor to express ones dislike of the status quo. Furthermore, labelling someone as an 'idealist' is a simplistic response to an argument that does not fit within ones preconceived notions of society (akin to the recent misuse of the term 'liberal' in the USA).

Banksy is simply fulfilling his role as an artist in representing visually and contextually his point of view. The fact that he subverts the techniques used in advertising to get this point across allows him to reach a wider viewing public than a traditional gallery and adds an extra layer of validity to his work.

Boris is someone making a difference in a different way. He works on technology that empowers individuals and groups to get their voices heard and noticed globally. He is actively pursuing his own ideals in a positive manner and as such (and like all of us) he is an individual, not an '-ist.'


I was pushing B's button - (and by the way, I've nothing but respect and admiration for him). If the objective is to protest corporations' control over the environment - why not target them directly? And what about my individual right to protest over graffiti marring the landscape of my environment or my indvidual right to protest over spray-painting animals who are not personally responsible for their owners?

And secondly, we do have control over advertising - by simply exercising our control over whether or not to buy their goods and services. We are not mindless robots so easily controlled. We complain endlessly about the influence of the media/advertising corporations on our mindsets - one simplistic example being fashion magazines and the self-esteem of young women but it ends there. Why not go one step further and simply not buy? But no, instead we like wearing our adidas and puma's, we like wearing calvin klein underwear and juicy couture jeans, we like our Sony home entertainment system, because it lends us status and because we think it's the best, as implied in advertising. And lastly, where do we draw the line? If I hadn't seen the advertising for Miss Sixty jeans, I wouldn't have gone to look for a pair that ended up being the best fit jeans I've ever worn.

We do have control - that's ultimately my argument. I protest that one would think that we don't. We are not living in a fascist dictatorship, at least not in this country. Change can only be instigated by action - so the more individuals refuse to respond to advertising by consuming their products, the less power advertisers have. I do admire Bansky's philosophy but I don't agree with the medium he's using to express it. We buy his book, we read it, we talk about it and then what? We continue to consume anyways. And then what has been accomplished? Hypocrisy, evidently.

/me has heard that a lot of bacterias have been killed by Van Gogh and Rembrandt painting as well. We should be more careful about our environment. hmmmm I feel I will go eat Ramen with pork tonight.

Ok I admit bad humour. But Boris' post is still right on tracks. There's no one way to fight. Boris in this post and the artist in his work don't claim purity, It's not about religion, it's about "engagement" (french? maybe involvement), participation.

The text of Orwell "On Nationalism" says also that you can't escape "to choose" as in there's no such things as an immaculate truth, but at least you have to be aware of your own choices of nationalism. The word being stretched to more than a political view.

As for your teacher, and your F score, your teacher is just dumb. Because "1984", as you said, has been written against Churchill and the control of mind happening during and after the war in great britain. :)

PS: This weblog is improving day by day.

Caroline, how much control do you have over the billboards on the street, in bus shelters, in "public places" everywhere? And over the product placements in television and movies (Ohhh I know something about that I will write about some time... products are no written INTO scripts. Nastiness), not to mention just plain old commercials?

You CANNOT control advertising individually, because advertising is woven into society and culture. And so yes we must act collectively.

Is the side-product of your rationalism a totalitarian view? Where it's all or nothing--in sharp contrast to your own arguments earlier. As karl says, no one can be perfect. No one can be a total ascetic and fight the fight alone. It is ONLY by keeping a close eye on our preferences and our habits and our actions that we will not slip into just idle consumerism.

I am brand loyal, just like must of us, to a handful of brands. I've responded to their lifestyle advertising. But at least I am aware of it, and I can keep it in check, and most importantly I can question it AND deride it.

Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions (B.U.G.A.U.P.) - (server seems to be down -

In the mid 80s a wonderful tribal activist living in a villabe along the Narmada river in India, gave me a B.U.G.A.U.P. poster which included instructions on how to rig spray paint cans on long window cleaning handles. She happened to be in Japan to speak against the WB & JICA funded Narmada Dam projects, and well she figured we might put her literature to work!


Ohhh nice! Thanks Tracey! ;)

Hey Karl,

yeah, never managed to persuade my teacher otherwise. Her teacher's handbook had all the answers all so I gave up.

Boris - Totalitarian? Nah, you got it right the first time - contrarian.

"I like him."
"Yeah, I like him too. He's cool."

so let's all get together and say "yeah, he's cool man, I like him."

And? That's it? Tell me more, tell me WHY, tell me HOW he affects you. To use an analogy - if someone came up to me and said Rothko is a brilliant painter, then walks away. I would be thinking "Wait! Why? Tell me more. Why is this man so important that you had to tell me about him?"

Let's be Orwellian and use our words.

And truth be told, I like graffiti. I've seen some brilliant work around here in Montreal and think that they should be conserved somehow for cultural and social reasons. And even for historical reasons for they mark a period in time. Archaeologists have learned alot from graffiti - quite a valuable insight.

In Iraq, a Shiite sprayed painted "Shiites for freedom" over a billboard of Saddam's face on the highway. Had he been caught, he would have been shot to death. But I'd imagined when I saw it, that it must have given so many this little spark of courage and hope. I'm sure it was torn down soon thereafter but for a little while at least, anyone who drove or walked past it would, in their minds, raise a fist for victory and draw strength from this solitary soul who was brave enough to be willing to die in order to speak up and protest.

hihihi. Can I be contrarian for a minute? ;)

Why should we keep the graffiti?
Is it in the goal/culture of graffiti to be "ephemere"?

I'm always careful with the idea of destroying or keeping something. Specifically since I have read an article about Shanghai architecture and architecture in general in Asia. Western world have a tendency to keep things, to have a fear of losing old things (I do), but at the same times, you can imagine an environment which is more dynamic and where we can create new things, experiments.

The common trade between Perpetual Creation or Keeping Creation.

Recently resistant having defaced public billboard were condamned to a symbolic fine of 1 usd around .
its a good trend ,cant remember what was the topic of the bill board , but in someway the lawyer managed to made is way on the mental abuse the billboard create on the viewer as an offense on its own , with a symbolic fine the judge managed to keep the basics fundament of private property by requesting the symbolic fine to the offender.