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The Art of Gentrification

The Art of Gentrification

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Published by JFARROW
a brief description of the process of street art disappearing during the process of gentrification in North Brooklyn, with examples. ©justin farrow 2007
a brief description of the process of street art disappearing during the process of gentrification in North Brooklyn, with examples. ©justin farrow 2007

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Published by: JFARROW on Apr 24, 2008
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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02/01/2013

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The Art of Gentrification

Too bad art can't create itself. Then it wouldn't be so damn annoying.
If you've lived in North Brooklyn for at least 3 yrs, you've witnessed first hand the dynamic relationship
shared between gentrification and the art of the streets. They not only co-exist, but rather share an
elaborate contingency that cannot be ignored. In the past five years, I've come to realize that the rate
at which graffiti (and street art) changes from day to day and that its directly relational to the speed
and scope of real estate development within neighborhoods of rapid gentrification. This situation is well
documented and debated elsewhere and will not be exhausted further here. Rather, I would like to
discuss just three ways in which street level art willcycle in relation to the pace of property
revitalization. As you will see through examples provided from my lens, you are never far removed
from this process-in fact, you may even get a glimpse of an image from a walk home from the past.
There are countless ways in which our streets change, but for the sake of brevity, I've narrowed this
discussion to just three. First, I'd like to show you how street level art will change due to the covering
up or destruction that occurs with new markings-i.e. new art. Secondly, you'll get a chance to see how
art and messages of the street will just disappear due to development and demolition of existing
properties. And finally, we will explore the situtation of street art destruction and collection. It is my
goal to demonstrate in brief the vast connections that exist between gentrification as a process and the
constant revision of street messages and art during times of rapid neighborhood transmutation.

First it is important to realize that there is a markedly huge difference between those who are referred
to as "street artists" and individuals who consider themselves to be "graffiti writers." Quite simply,
graffiti writers express the "Fuck You," while street artists say "look at me." Each have their own
reasons for doing so and their validity will not be challenged here. What is most important to
understand is that both types of artists have an inherent need to both battle others within their class
and challenge those of the opposite type. In other words, a graffiti writer might tag the wall of a
building which has already been hit by a member belonging to a rival crew, but for our purposes lets
explore a situation where the work of a street artist gets challenged. Art takes over the space of other
art...most times, just placed on top (such as in the case with Roebling and Metropolitan IMAGE#)It
happens everyday, in North Brooklyn and everywhere else on the urban landscape-the newly wheat
pasted giant duck or row of paper penises will all of a sudden, one day you'll walk by and it will have
been covered up with huge, indecipherable black spray painted scribbles with arrows the maybe the
words "fuck" or "white boy" somewhere in there. Even in the recent case of the "Splasher" (a street
artist posing as a writer), you have an individual expressing beef [IMAGE#]with his own peers. Often, in
the midst of his "splashing"[IMAGE#], the Splasher will leave behind some sort of wheat-pasted
manifesto that attacks the street-artists as "tools of capitalism," calling their work a "fetishized action of
banality" or "a representation of the most vulgar kind: an alienated commodity." Gentrification brings
unwanted change for some and "art beef" is an inevitable product. The fact of the matter is, graffiti
writers (for the most part) are annoyed with street artists because of several reasons. For example,
almost never will you find a puerto rican native new yorker wheat pasting pee wee herman cut outs
down Kent Avenue, because in their eyes, that shit is stupid and why would they fuck their
neighborhood up like that? At the same time, why would a frustated graphic designer with a college
education scribble his mother's initials outside of a bodega. He wouldn't because his mother lives in
Providence Rhode Island and has never even been to his new loft in Williamsburg. New residents with
no native relation to a neighborhood brings unwanted change for those who have grown up in an area
and will be soon forced to leave due to skyrocketing property values. This is one of the main reasons
why street art gets destroyed by graffiti and/or graffiti becomes covered up with street art. Neither
artist has much respect for the other because they do not understand one another's intentions.

now

In the second case, those who watch the streets closely notice all too often the case where a truly
terrific piece of art which has lasted many years will all of a sudden disappear along with the building
that it was attached to. Real estate development demolishes street level messages along with
buildings and their history. Developers and artists do not share similar interests, however it could be
argued that they have the same agenda. Developers aim to distribute their products in as many places

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