Where are the new Banksy pieces? The media has been a buzz since the artist displayed two new photographs of graffiti that he created specifically in relation to the Olympics. A search around the web brings up nothing more than a few vague speculations about the location of his latest work and a fury of articles surrounding all street artists under attack from the police to paint over their Olympic pieces. Banksy is wise not to reveal the location on his site and includes very little surrounding imagery which could reveal too much spacial information. Freedom of speech should not be overlooked in order to appease paranoid beliefs surrounding the games.
The Olympic games in London have begun, even though many parts of London struggle to bring tourists into hotels and restaurants. More strange still, public transport runs it’s normal planned engineering routine with only minor delays. Things seem bizarrely normal around the city, a far cry from the years of preparing and stress that have surrounded the presumed influx of people and business, yet the police and several councils around London have focused their attention on quelling a small minority of street artists from creating work that may promote an alternative view of the Olympic games. Rather than suggesting that no graffiti that paints the Olympics in a negative light will be allowed they have seemingly decided to prevent a few artist’s from placing new pieces within a stone or a bottles throw of the Olympic site. This is a mild overview of what is really happening to several of the world’s biggest names in street art. Darren Cullen, who has previously worked for Adidas (a sponsor for the Olympic games), was arrested along with three other artists and told they were not to come within a mile of the Olympic site. The artists were arrest as a “preemptive sweep” to prevent what the police insist would have been criminal damage. Remember, this was a preemptive action by the police, sounding quite a bit like something out of the science fiction film Minority Report, where individuals were charged and prosecuted for crimes that they had not committed, yet were supposedly guaranteed to orchestrate. As it is still 2012 and not 60 years in the future, where the world is run by androids and prophetic criminal predictions, the technology to predict or guarantee behavior is elementary at best.
There is plenty of Olympic opinion to be found on the streets of London. Not all graffiti around London painting the games in a different light is under attack. It only takes a short walk around the East End to see plenty of work portraying the games in a variety of ways. The council and police have taken a very narrow selection of artists to make a grand statement. No disruption or potential threats have arisen and the games carry on in full force. There is plenty to celebrate during this Olympic period, and London has a great deal to offer, including a world class street art culture.
There are no plans to continue arresting artists without crimes being committed, yet Banksy is more fearful than ever to release the location of his latest creations. Banksy who is a British icon and who’s work sells for thousands of pounds, is fulfilling the London Olmypic mantra, he is truly inspiring another generation. He among other artist’s speaks to a younger generation who feel disconnected from the art world, politically and economically. If the police are to continue to discourage street artists from producing new pieces, they should also make an effort to destroy every meteor in the sky which could potentially disrupt the olympic games. They should censor every musician who has written or sung a line which highlights a view of the Olympics that does not portray the games in a politically correct manner. The arbitrary means of suppression the police have imposed on the street art community is disgraceful, and the location of creative and thought- provoking installments should not be heard in whispers but spoken alongside the praise of Olympic gold and glory. The Olympics will continue and street art will remain an important legacy of British culture if any one can find it.
Words by: Portia Pettersen Copyright Artlyst 2012
Image of work created by Darren Cullen: full copyright belongs to the artist