‘No Pipelines’ tag causes distress and hassle
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
Recently there has been some anger and criticism regarding an unknown individual tagging “No Pipelines” over a large blue mural on Commercial Drive. The scene is no doubt unsightly, but it also raises questions in the conversation on the validity of tagging as a method of self-expression.
Although graffiti has often been used as a form of political protest and a medium for challenging the establishment, there has always been a standard of artistic quality and integrity within the form. The discussion of whether or not the form is art or vandalism is one that has been going on since graffiti entered into the public eye.
“A while ago ‘Anoy’ was the tagline that we removed thousands of,” says Jane McFadden, executive director of the Commercial Drive Business Society. “And now we’ve removed hundreds of the ‘No Pipeline.’”
McFadden says she has about 10 reports of graffiti every week. There are about a dozen murals on Commercial Drive funded mainly by the Commercial Drive Business Society and the City of Vancouver.
“The city will pay for the paint and we’ll pay for the artist. So about $5,000-10,000 is what we end up paying for them just depending on what the artist charges,” says McFadden.
These murals are expensive, so you know that when someone vandalizes one, more money is going into restoration. The vandal is either senseless or purposely tagging over someone else’s commissioned work (as opposed to a blank wall).
There is also a common suspicion that provocateurs from oil companies are the culprits. It’s baffling to think of the extent corporations will go to to sway the public opinion. At least this way people could wrap their heads around the stupidity of such a move.
“I think it’s dumb as fuck!” says Drive resident Kayleigh Hatch. “It’s so disrespectful. That’s artwork that somebody’s put a lot of energy into.”
Since its origins, tagging has been used to mark a gang’s territory, although in Vancouver it seems more like a hobby. This tag, however, isn’t just someone’s pseudonym scribbled onto a bus stop. It’s an expression of a serious opposition to the various pipeline expansion projects that have been proposed to the government. This statement sprayed on top of a commissioned work not only opposes the pipeline projects, it also opposes the establishment of the many businesses commissioning the work, and the idea of judging art by its monetary value or public recognition.
In a culture where youth are almost never in your face about issues, I think a little rebellion is healthy. On one side, the tagging is unsightly. It’s crude and there is absolutely no artistic merit. It’s also a complete waste of taxpayer’s money when it’s painted over several times. But there is something tactful in its placement. Although everyone who looks at the writing will most likely judge the tagger as an idiot, the work of the individual is not going unnoticed.
The Drive could very well set up a wall dedicated to graffiti, as McFadden is suggesting. However, this tagger is making a point by placing the writing where it’s not supposed to be. The idea of having a special wall for graffiti makes me think of the International Olympic Committee’s ideas for setting up specific “protest areas” for protesters of the Sochi Olympics. Naturally, protesters might see this as another form of control, of oppression. But in a community that is characterized by unity, arts, and a lower environmental impact, I’m not sure this particular protester is in the right place. The fact is (a) This tag is not art, and (b) Commercial Drive is not traditionally a place where people who support the pipeline project hang out.
“If you’re trying to get a message out about a positive cause, do it in a positive way and have integrity about all things, not just one cause,” says Hatch.
If the concern of the tagger is environmental, as the issues concerning the Enbridge Pipeline proposal generally are, they might consider environmentally friendly mediums such as charcoal, dirt, or saps to paint their message. They may even consider planting their message in moss on the wall. But the point of such vandalism is to oppose and to make their opposition permanent.
At the end of the day, the tagger has reached their goal. They’ve got us thinking about the topic they wanted. Someone is showing us a reflection of the ugliness they see in the world. For those of us who see it too and are looking for other ways to deal with it, we’d rather not see a pretty mural desecrated.