Saturday, February 7, 2009

Free Shepard Fairey! From Major Publicity Coup!

The word is out today that Shepard Fairey was arrested - for the fifteenth time - just before a gig as DJ at the ICA last night. I would, of course, be sympathetic to Fairey except for the feeling that really, everyone involved couldn't be more pleased (whatever they may say). The cops acted their role as fascist oppressors so beautifully - they even collared him outside the museum - that you'd swear they were following a script (details of the warrants are murky, but they supposedly originated from the artist's tagging in Massachusetts, so perhaps they actually derive from the ICA's 'outdoor exhibit,' which gives the museum even more street cred!) . And the arrest neatly pulls the focus off all those pesky questions about the originality of the art itself (not to mention the artist's own hypocritical use of copyright law to silence those who borrow his imagery) and back to Fairey's status as a rebel, which is precisely where the ICA (and, I think, the artist) would like it to be. And needless to say, this all plays beautifully into the promotional activites of local journalists, who no doubt are already silkscreening "Free Fairey!" T-shirts (see above). Of course in a meta sense, the event is itself a fascinating kind of cultural manifestation. It is required, in a way, for Shepard Fairey to be a "rebel," since his artwork is borrowed, and his only real cultural activity is its illegal distribution. Therefore the "art" only "exists" if he is arrested. That this maps neatly to a general cultural meme in which people feel entitled via the Internet to "appropriate" other people's property is simply the larger resonance of the "work." Hence my appropriated tribute to "Obey" (I feel the underlying photo should remain uncredited as a tribute to Shepard). We are all Shepard Fairey now! The only limit on our artistic greatness is the size of the police force.

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