Graffiti Vs. Billboards

In last week’s I Heart Street Art, we heard from a street artist called Eddie with an interesting take on why he does what he does:

It’s a matter of public space. Whose space is it? That’s a big issue for me. You walk through the city and it’s more and more dominated by advertising. It’s getting to a point where there’s no blank space. You go to take a piss in a bar and there’s an ad. So you put a sticker on it. There’s a conversation going on out there. Most of it is talking at you; it’s not a dialogue. So whether I’m invited or not, I’m gonna participate in the conversation.

I’ve been thinking about that all week, so this week I talk more about the dialogue, and I make fun of Davis:

I Heart Street Art: Street Art Vs. Corporate Advertising

25 Responses to “Graffiti Vs. Billboards”

  1. Wade M says:

    Legally you’ll get in a lot of trouble for trying to have a conversation. It’s put up as a broadcast, changing that, interacting with it, jamming it, that shit is all illegal. And they keep it that way so the sheeple stay in control.


  2. zinzin says:

    davis is famous for its strict adherence to a stepford-like cleanliness and homogeneity. i dunno if i would go so far as to call nazi, but they’re pretty serious about it. lovely spouse grew up there, and i’ve been there a lot.

    pretty sure that’s the first city in CA where smoking in line outside a movie theater was banned. also famous for one guy winning a law suit against his loud-snoring neighbor (kept the first guy up…OK that one might be urban myth).

    and your average davis middle-age-dude-on-a-bike makes sf bike-nazis (whoops) seem cuddly…though they all follow the rules, and strict.

    davis is a funny place. and pretty much the polar opposite, in many ways, of the mission.

    but hey, they like it that way, and it’s been that way for 40 years.

    • mark roquet says:

      “also famous for one guy winning a law suit against his loud-snoring neighbor (kept the first guy up…OK that one might be urban myth).”

      davis is my hometown! this is partially true; he didn’t win a lawsuit, but she did get cited for snoring . . . then sued the city ( this happened around the corner from where i grew up.

      allan and zinzin are both pretty spot on. but it’s also a pretty nice place in its own way. it’s a college town, and you can’t really compare it to san francisco (it’s more like little berkeley but out on its own in the valley) . . . the bicycles and the cars get along there, at least.

  3. tea says:

    If someone’s music bothers you, you can try to play your own music louder, but in the end it will be one loud mess. Which is exactly what SF looks like – a loud visual mess. If it’s really the billboards that bother you, then why not try to reduce the number of billboards? You guys can prevent stores from opening but not billboards from going up? By assuming that others too dislike a clean environment or that others too agree that keeping your city clean equals a nazi attitude, and go ahead and paint and sticker whatever you please wherever you please, you are no better than those who put up the billboards, forcing others to see your opinions, your aesthetic preferences and your “conversations” on them. I enjoy some good street art, but let’s be honest a lot of it is just crap and ugly, and this rationale for graffiti is just plain wonky.

  4. brian says:

    @ tea:

    I don’t really get what you’re saying. So, you should just be quiet and listen to the music that’s bothering you? You can’t just ask them to turn it down.

    Here’s a link for you:

    • Eddie says:

      I’m not trying to be better than anyone, I am trying to participate and be included. It’s funny how people only are bothered by the opinions and aesthetic preferences of “street artists” but they quietly tolerate the advertising which out numbers it 10 fold. I’m not interested in living in a sanitized environment, if I were I would move to Mountain View or something like that. I agree there is a lot of crap out there, but certainly it is no where near the amount of crap advertising. My statement wasn’t a rationale, it was in response to a question. I don’t need to rationalize it, I’m not asking for your permission or your support. Your seemingly blind adherence to rules seems a bit wonky.

  5. SFDoggy says:


    If you don’t like places that have ads in the bathroom, then don’t go there. If you don’t like billboards, lobby for restrictions on them. That is what responsible adults do.

    However, vandalizing the bathrooms of a small business is not cool. Vandalizing the walls of someone else’s property is not cool.

    I know that you think that what you have to say is so damn important that you have the right “participate in the conversation” but frankly there is no evidence that anyone wants to hear what you have to say. You are just rudely interupting.

    You can make up fancy political theories to support your actions, but the bottom line is you obviously care only about yourself and not about the people who are forced to clean up after you.

    • Allan Hough says:

      I hate to play devil’s advocate, but Village Voice Media cuts me a check every week to write a blog post about street art. I’d say that’s evidence somebody wants to hear what Eddie has to say.

      • SFDoggy says:

        Interesting though that graffiti vandalism is illegal and I suspect any attempt to repeal that law would go down quicker than Prop 1A. As I say it really comes down to a matter of respect for your community — which the vandals don’t have.

    • Eddie says:

      There is quite a bit of evidence that people are interested in what I have to say. I could cite the 6 books in which my work will be featured this year or a talk I gave a UC Hastings school of Law in SF or just the occasional passer by who tells me they love my work. I suspect you’ve never even seen one of my pieces. You are apparently one of these knobs who thinks, if you don’t know about something than it doesn’t exist. I don’t think what I am doing is rude, when I get up in the morning open my window and stare out at the 60 foot cool ranch dorito that dominates my view, I think that’s kinda rude. I am Happy you think my theories are “fancy”. I thought they were just kind of obvious but I like the certain panache of having fancy theories. Also I generally work on publicly owned surfaces not private property. So before you jump to conclusions check out what I do first, you might like some of it.

  6. jane says:

    finally – i heart street art finally gets it, albeit from the mouth of someone else. this is what street art is about.

    it is all a dialogue with public space, especially for and by people who are disenfranchised from the traditional forms of expression afforded to those w/ privilege and money. if you don’t get that then you don’t and you might not ever get it – that doesn’t mean you’re right in hating street art.

    • zinzin says:

      i’m not sure i agree with the notion of “people who are disenfranchised from the traditional forms of expression afforded to those w/ privilege and money”.

      i’m guessing a lot of “street artists” in sf are college educated white kids from the burbs.

      not all, but still. sweeping generalizations are lame in both directions.

      • jimbeam says:

        EVERYONE is disenfranchised unless they’re sitting atop an ad budget.

        Everyone keeps saying, “lobby against billboards.”

        Do you realize who owns pretty much all outdoor advertising? Not some piddly company like American Apparel. CBS or ClearChannel. They have the market pretty much cornered. Lobbying to get billboards removed is about the same fight as lobbying to restore the airwaves to the hands of the people. It’s an Adbusters dream.

  7. zinzin says:

    personally thought about this a lot over the last couple weeks & couple posts.

    seems to me, it’s unrealistic for one to expect most artists – and i use the term in its broadest sense – to think about anyone but themselves. it’s simply an artist’s nature to be self-focused…it’s the only way the work gets done.

    i’m not qualifying eddie or anyone else as an artist, or as a non-artist. but i know a MANY people who are artists of one kind of another – visual, musical, dance, writers, poets, it goes on & fucking on in my world – and most of these folks are totally self absorbed in one way or another. again, not a critique (these are my family members i’m talking about)…just an observation.

    so, if an artist takes “street art” as their mode of choice…there’s NO WAY they’re EVER going to see the reason behind the “other people’s property” argument, or the “i’d rather not look at it” argument.

    i see it. many others see it. but they probably won’t. and if they do, they’ll never admit they do, because why would they?

    just my $.02

    • SFDoggy says:

      You may be right that these people won’t change. Just like gang members won’t stop killing others. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t point out that there is something wrong with it.

    • Eddie says:

      I strongly disagree that artists are all self absorbed. There is a strong tradition of political art and art that cultivates social change. These are not selfish endeavors. Look at any major political or social movement and you will find artists participating, with no expectation of personal gain. To say that artists are self absorbed highlights a certain amount of ignorance about art history. While it may be true in your experience it is important, when forming opinions, to realize there is a very big world out there, outside of your experience.

      • zinzin says:

        yeah….i guess everyone’s world experience is their own.

        my own personal small-worlded experience involves over 20 years of working with, living with, being related to, collaborating with, patronizing, supporting, bailing out of jail, drinking with, being married to, traveling the world with…all sorts of artists. dozens of em.

        i myself have found it in my own personal experience to pursue an artistic endeavor or two. though i would never call myself an artist.

        so you can call me names all you want pally, and make any sort of snide comments about me & my exposure to “the world”…because i deign not to laud your every hallowed artistic step….

        but in doing so, you’re just proving my fucking point.

        also, when i said “self absorbed in some way”, i actually meant it as a compliment and a defense regarding artists in general. and you in particular.

        so there ya go.

  8. sangroncito says:

    I’m on the side of the street artist…..If corporate America can riddle my environment with billboards and ads, then I want equal space for a public response.

    • SFDoggy says:

      Well then please post your address so the graffiti vandals can tag where you live. Otherwise you are just spouting nonsense.

      • mark says:

        this discussion always degenerates into someone saying “why don’t you post your address then?” or “how about i come spraypaint something you own?”

        do you think people that defend graffiti or street art don’t in fact know what it is, or have never had their building tagged? they are not at liberty to discuss the topic until they put their address on the internet?


      • jimbeam says:

        It’s true. This sort of response completely avoids the actual argument and instead is just an ad hominem. Not really surprising, though.

  9. Jonno.N says:

    @Wade, the sheeple are not in control, that’s what makes them sheeple. I’m on the side of the street taggers. Also, what is with that top image? I don’t see how it’s anything but a picture of a billboard, am I missing something?

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