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SLOUCHING TOWARD UTOPIA: Defining vandalism

Wheat pasting gangs? That's just dumb

WHEAT PASTING: Choose your targets wisely. Photo by Joe Malik

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Dear little anarchist wheat pasters.

Thank you for your contributions to several local buildings in the vicinity of my home. For those who don't know, wheat pasting is an old art used for centuries in bill-posting and poster-bombing circles. Most of you probably learned how to make wheat paste when you were in kindergarten. It's made with flour or some other suitable vegetable starch and water. It's an old Marxist gimmick, and it's used with equal fervor by old ladies in decoupage circles.

This particular wheat pasting - in my neighborhood - was of a newer variety. Some of the material came from a kit, and some was handmade. I was immediately impressed with the prose, courtesy of professional writers from Crimethinc. - a loose, pseudo-digital anarchist collective that sells agitprop to bourgeoisie bohemian junior freedom fighters who aren't clever enough to come up with their own shit. But I honor the intention behind the work.  A few things to be aware of, however. ...

Business owners in the City of Tacoma are required to clean up your art, lest they be fined under a recently-updated public nuisance ordinance. This means whichever capitalist pigs you've targeted will soon get a visit from City of Tacoma Code Enforcement telling them they have 18 days to remove your art. If they don't have time or necessary equipment, the city will clean it for them to the tune of about $1,700. I spoke with my friend Peter Song - one of the people whose business you decorated. He said he planned on scraping off your Crimethinc. fodder with a spatula. Peter is a delightful human being - one of the good ones. He's an older fellow. He's always reading, and he always smiles and gives me daps when I buy something at his store. I actually look forward to going to his little mart because he's always so happy. He and his wife aren't capitalist pigs. Well, at least no more than anyone else is. 

When choosing a target, choose a store or establishment that actually embodies what you're railing against, not some poor small business owner who happens to have an out-of-sight wall you can plaster with minimal concern about being caught. These people are victims of the same system your art appears to oppose.

Next, City of Tacoma citizen cleanup crews are under the impression wheat pasting is increasingly a tool used by gangs. I know, I know. Gangs don't post up Crimethinc. Posters or anarchy symbols decorated with colored-pencil swirls and stick-on letters from Office Depot. But this is how many people perceive any sort of public vandalism "It's the gaaaanggggsss. ... " You can't be blamed for that. But consider some sort of seal or stamp that says "This art is brought to you courtesy of local suburban anarchists, not gangs".

Finally, local officials consider wheat pasting in the same category as graffiti. It's usually not as imaginative or aesthetically striking. The Crimethinc. "Crisis as Usual" Poster Kit has some beautiful prose that would be well suited for placement on banks, investment houses or real estate offices.  But know you face some stiff legal penalties if you get caught. Which means you'll have to grow a bigger pair if you plan on bombing an appropriate target.

Or, you can put up letterpress prints and make sure you know the right people. Then it's not illegal for some reason - but that's another column all together. ...

Joe Malik is a jaded, ornery, "power to the people type" that can't help but comment on all the stupid and or questionable stuff he sees within the arts community. The Volcano doesn't always agree with what he says, they just like to stir the pot.

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Comments for "SLOUCHING TOWARD UTOPIA: Defining vandalism" (2)

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hitomi kansaki said on Apr. 28, 2010 at 1:12am

what is the recently updated public nuisance ordinance?

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janemckane said on May. 10, 2010 at 1:03pm

Sad that the way in which this group goes about putting their message out detracts so much from the actual message, which might be valid. A lesson many groups have learned before.
And, if you put out some cool letterpress prints, a whole gaggle of people will rush right out to carefully take them down for you. Now that's fun!

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