Written for a public exhibition of "Subversive Graffiti" organized around a "non-art" premise.
Breaking the Law - A Manifesto
1. The use and demarcation of public and private space have never been straightforward or self-evident. There is no lasting consensus among the public, the state, the militia, and economic institutions, about "rights" of use which is not temporary, relative, or riddled with holes. The whole terrain is mediated by inherited norms with clearly arbitrary stipulations, changing community values, apathy, and overt struggles. One cannot refer to a consensus as a source of moral authority unless one is willing to mislead and lie.
2. If you were to tell "the man on the street" repeatedly that corporations and the city government owned rights to all the public space, there would eventually be an uprising. That is exactly a meaning which cannot be followed through. This parallels so-called 'economics'-where people are subject to a system they would violently reject if its precepts were clearly articulated and understood, yet are quite effective and totalizing if sold with a certain obscuritanist flair.
3. Social discourse is always a biased, inconsistent system. That is to say, it can never culminate in a meaning which it must not deny at some other, more crucial level. Fatal contradictions are sustained by illegal invocations of sentimentality, by short term fixes of crassness and conformity with are not lucid. The mental breakdown of society is endlessly postponed by quick fixes, without it ever making any sense. The social dialog on, say, law, can never be exhaustively explained. This is a deep paradox, which reveals that we are all participating in something as ill-defined as a dream. From this perspective, would-be pragmatists are revealed as hallucinating mornons.
4. When one takes over public space for unauthorized purposes, one engages in a dance with chance and the police, and in a debate with the law. In one sense, public actions are like mass media, the anonymous projection of messages to large groups; advertising. "Poopee loves Peepee" seen by thousands driving home under a certain bridge. But in another sense, they have an added character-in that the audience confronts the realization that someone did this, risked themselves to do it, and might meet them on the street. 'No man's land' areas can become charged with unexpected ideas or ideologies. Political groups have often played upon this, using graffiti as a way of creating an exaggerated social presence-The Thousands, ready to rise up and take the city.
5. When one sees the law for what it is, not breaking it 'on principle' becomes psychologically incoherent. One shoulders the ethical questions posed by society-without one iota of society's tools remaining in good order to solve them. One is forced to judge practical hazards and values from contradictory sides of a myth, and to do so in isolation. Perhaps the ultimate questions of morale, of personalization, or depersonalization, come into play. But last of all, one must remember that, as they haul you away, they are unlikely to understand anything you have thought or felt about the world they have made.
6. All this should be old hat by now, but isn't.
Luther Blissett, 1996
Po. box 22142 Baltimore, Md. 21203
410 523 8028 | Fax 410 462 3546