To the Angry Man Who Hates Graffiti

Angry Man with a vendetta against graffiti

This morning started off like any other Sunday I decided to go to our Williamsburg office, with two exceptions: one, we arrived before noon (a rarity for us on weekends), and two, when I veered a block off our usual path so that I could show Veken a graffiti mural on N10th Street a man walking a dog stopped to ask us if we have spray paint in our bags–we were carrying two tote bags filled with Perrier bottles, papers, books and sweaters.

He was aggressive in his tone but still Veken replied, “no.” He wasn’t convinced. He quickly became belligerent and acted like some vigilante who was endowed with the power to enforce the city’s insane graffiti laws. His tone peeved me off and I told him to mind his own fuckin’ business and keep walking.

The whole incident was a sad reminder about how angry people like him are just plain angry at graffiti. He yelled about being sick of seeing graffiti on the streets, though something tells me he doesn’t harbor the same level of animosity towards illegal corporate advertising.

Among the zanier things he ranted during our run in were accusations of being “degenerates” and not “being from here”and “invading his neighborhood”–he said we were probably from Ohio, LOL. Of course, he probably didn’t realize that “degenerate” was the exact term the Nazis used when persecuting modern art in 1930s Germany, but I’m sure that fact would’ve been lost on him.

I was fed up with his nonsense and I had nothing to be embarrassed about so I stood my ground and told him to get a life. This graffiti-hater then said he was calling the cops–to which Veken repled, “be my guest’–and he proceeded to fake call then snapped our photo with his camera phone. I decided to do the same (well, the photo part, who has time to wait for cops) and captured his image which I’ve posted on Flickr & here (pictured above). I would’ve loved to have waited for the police just to hear this crazy man explain that he thought his paranoid suspicions were enough to have us searched or arrested.

The venom he had for graffiti was borderline insane. He was quickly becoming unhinged and there was no getting through to him. I even tried to explain that I was an art critic and I enjoyed looking at this. He didn’t believe me, people with predetermined notions about people never do.

All I could think about when we walked away after our verbal confrontation were the artists who are persecuted by people like him. Perhaps these nuts wouldn’t feel so empowered if more of us who appreciate good graffiti and street art spoke up and explained it was our city too. What we really need to do is find ways for street art to coexist with the other visual elements of urban life without these type of flare ups.

One last thing buddy, I said it earlier today, but I want to say it again, “Fuck you.”

15 responses to “To the Angry Man Who Hates Graffiti”

  1. MOST Cyber Team Avatar

    He obviously lives in the area and it’s his property values that take a hit with every tag in his neighborhood. If you awake one morning to find your property tagged, perhaps you’ll wish that some concerned old dude would have approached teh tagger/s before the act. Also, would you still consider it art if it was your property to get tagged ?

  2. hv Avatar

    I’ve had property tagged, and I think you would be surprised to learn that most street or graffiti artists are not that inconsiderate and usually differentiate between public and private property, impermanent and permanent space. Generalizing about street artists and who they are doesn’t help.

    The few bad apples ruin it for everyone else but then again I wonder if you’d use the same logic in other things. I’ve had people in my life threatened and killed with guns but I don’t think all guns should be banned. People die every day from cars but they are not banned. This is a selective and discriminatory type of enforcement for a non-violent crime.

  3. ArtNanny Avatar

    I hate ignorance. There is a huge difference between vandalism and murals/writing, and with a proud history of social relevance.

  4. Lawrence Swan Avatar

    I moved here from Ohio. I am not a native born Williamsburger like this guy, so my degenerate opinions don’t count, but i love this picture and I think camera phone shoot-outs could be a new sport or art.

  5. Steve Avatar

    Find me ONE property or business owner in Williamsburg who has not made buckets of money as a result of the artist community moving into the neighborhood. Street art and graffiti are part of the environment that created the cultural boom this time around. This gent may not have been able to appreciate that. Bitter people will be bitter no matter what, even in the face of logic,or reason. It’s his dog I worry about, who is at his mercy.

  6. hv Avatar

    Great point Steve, they profit and then ask for everything on their terms. And Lawrence, you’re hilarious. I posted your comment as my Facebook status message, it’s classic. Next time I run into you on the street can we duel with our cell phones?

  7. Lawrence Swan Avatar

    Middle of Bedford. High Noon. Morricone soundtrack.
    A couple of weeks ago I suggested a video duel to Loren Monk, but I think he’s yeller.

  8. Coco Avatar

    Though I appreciate your blog post, I have to disagree with Steve’s comment because I can admit I’m a bitter person.

    Blaming the people who were in the neighborhood for their discontent is the equivalent of “old timers” not being able to accept the changing face of a neighborhood. Neither party is right or wrong, yet we all must decide which side we are on.

  9. hv Avatar

    Coco, I’m kind of surprised you’d use WashPost to prove your point. That paper isn’t much good for anything but politics–their art critic, for instance, is awful.

    Also, I disagree, there is no “side.” All identities are quite fluid. I’m starting to believe the dialectics of gentrification are to the left what the drug war was to the right, essentially a “battle” that doesn’t lead anywhere. I wish we had a new language to deal with new realities. Gentrification in the 1980s–the era that gave us most of our language and ideas about gentrification–is not the same phenomenon we are seeing today.

  10. hv Avatar

    Btw, I guess I should mention I really hate the WashPost!

  11. s-rock Avatar

    don’t disturb me – i m writing! ; )


  12. libhomo Avatar

    I feel very differently about graffiti than you do. When my house was vandalized with it, I felt violated and threatened. I have no problem with it in places that have agreed to have it, but I think the guy was just trying to protect his neighborhood.

  13. john Avatar

    if u r a graffiti supporter I think u would be suprised at how hated u are.. Devalues property as simple as that.. do it to ur own property scumbags..
    Artists? lol. bullshit artists more like it.. whats the big deal about writing a tag on a wall. losers..

  14. Hrag Avatar

    John, You’re an asshole but you probably know that.
    Anyway looks like the commenters on this post have run out of things to say…time to close this one down. Thanks everyone.

  15. […] my run in with that graffiti hater in October? Yesterday, Brooklyn street artist Ellis G posted a MySpace message on Facebook (yes, […]

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