What’s the difference between this:
The first image is from a post over at the Wallyhood blog titled “Wallingford’s Best Traffic Circle,” praising the, um, quirky stencils left on several traffic circles by some unknown brigand.
The other image of the mailbox covered in squigglies is from Flickr.
So, again, what’s the difference? Quite a bit, artistically. But legally? Same thing.
From what I can tell, the street sign stencils are not city-approved—although I’ve got an email in to confirm—but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Wallingford residents.
In his post over at Wallyhood, blogger Patrick praises the stencils, writing that “My wife and I noticed this even before we bought our house [in Wallingford] and loved the whimsy.”
A commenter on the site also writes “Love the whimsy! Makes me smile every time!”
OK, great. So Wallingford loves whimsy. So what?
Well, a few months back, I posted about a prolific tagger in Shoreline, and shared some of my own thoughts about graffiti and tagging (I’m pro, with some exceptions). My post, as is the norm when discussing this polarizing topic, drew a bunch of angry, angry comments from readers, including Wallyhood chief Jordan Schwartz:
Tag your own place Yeah, I totally agree. People should be allowed to spraypaint my property without my permission. I just wish they wouldn’t do it at night, when nobody is around, so I could follow them home and return the favor by taking a dump in their living room. If someone wants to make some art using spraypaint in a public place, great! There are a ton of places that would welcome that. If someone wants to write his cheesy-ass signature in spraypaint on my wall / garbage can / window, I’m tired of it. It makes the city look trashy, not lived in. The guy that did this: http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattle911/archives/154180.asp, I would like to explain my displeasure in physical terms.
I’m all for free expression. Your right to free expression ends where my wall begins.
Is Jordan talking about “whimsical” (and probably illegal) traffic island stencils in his comments? Almost certainly not. And herein lies one of the things that drives me absolutely batshit crazy about the let’s-draw-and-quarter-graffiti-artists-and-taggers crowd.
Anti-graffiti arguments typically boil down one of three ways:
1) “It’s ugly and probably means there are gangs in my neighborhood.” (Crazy)
2) “i don’t hate graffiti. I hate bad graffiti.” (Painfully subjective)
3) “WITHOUT PROPERTY RIGHTS WE ARE NO BETTER THAN ANIMALS!!!AAAAAHHHH!!!! (See: #1)
Now, as far as these traffic circles go, I’d bet if you asked a neighbor in Wallingford why vandalizing traffic circles with cute widdle stencils is OK, but tagging isn’t, they’d answer something along the lines of number 2.
But that leaves us with a problem: Who gets to decide what’s good and bad vandalism?
Personally, I’m not a fan of the traffic circle stencils—mostly because I fucking hate whimsy—but does that mean I want to “take a dump in the living room” of the person who painted these stencils? No. Nor do I want to “explain my displeasure in physical terms.” No.
So why is one form of vandalism acceptable to the good folks of Wallingford while another is not? That’s what I want to know.
So, Wallyhood, where’s the outrage? Why is tagging an offense worthy of corporal punishment. Why aren’t you all out in the streets with pitchforks and torches looking for the fiend who defaced this piece of publicly-owned property?
On a semi-related note, can we all agree that this piece of visual diarrhea is objectively terrible? I mean, c’mon. Look at it: