University Of Bucharest Master Thesis

Faculty of Communication and Public Relations Master Programme Communication and Advertising

Master Thesis
Scientific Advisor, Lector Univ. Drd. Alexandru Cârlan Defender, Dincặ Alexandra Ioana



University of Bucharest Faculty of Communication and Public Relations Master Programme Communication and Advertising


Graffiti between Détournement and Co-optation

Scientific Advisor, Lector Univ. Drd. Alexandru Cârlan Defender, Dincã Alexandra Ioana



This paper is a cultural study of interactional occurrencethat analyses how the idea, practice and empowerment of visual communication of graffiti have transformed, by taking into consideration the particular case of the mural ‗Slave Labor‘ painted by Banksy in Wood Green London and afterwards stolen and sold for $1,1 million. This case is not the first one that presents this kind of occurrence, but it is a rather new phenomenon, this particular one being the most covered and renowned in what regards the attention of the public and of the mass media. This kind of phenomenon is spreading step by step and soon, it will become part of the normality, as I aim in showing within this paper. In analysing this kind of phenomenon I hope to demonstrate the fact that graffiti has been détourned in order to be co-opted by the dominant culture, therefore extiguished as a countercultural practice. The organization of my paper follows a logical order that confers understanding not only to the reader but to the case itself. The first chapter treats theoretical concepts that have been developed by past generation,in relation to the idea of dominant culture and counterculture. The theoretical concepts are explained, critically evaluated in concordance to the study at stake and afterwards exemplified by linking them to practices, gangs, ideologies and actual historical events of their periods of membership. This kind of infusion is very important from the perspective of how things were, how they evolved and how we understand them now, compared to how they were understood by our previous generations. Chapter one ends with the short presentation and explanation of two concepts that I convene into my analysis as explanatory for phenomenon in question. The second chapter starts with a presentation of the case study, with important data and information gathered from press articles, press releases, declarations, interviews, protests, etc. offering insights and a better understanding of the phenomenon. In the following part of Chapter Two, I will present the methodology of my analysis, explaining on that I rely with this analysis, I will describe the type of the analysis, and will address it with three research questions that will be explained in their turn in order to confer the idea of what I aim at discovering, by perspicuously answering them in the following analysis.


After explaining the methodology and the framework of action, I will determine on what it is based implying a data base content that I will be using in my analysis, as well as an explanation that takes into consideration the reasons on which my data has been established, the criteria of choice and also the efficiency of the chosen material. This is the point in which my analysis will start, by answering the research questions very systematically, in order for the amplitude of the answer to be understood within a certain area of development. The questions will be attentively responded with the help of arguments that are based not only on the theoretical content but rather have more complex ways of occurrence. After the research questions will be answered, I will conclude by outlining what I have discovered in concordance to my case study and the theoretical part by employing the analysis. My paper has as major references the activist and situationist Guy Debord, which I felt that helped me a lot in understanding numerous concepts that I discuss within this paper. He represents an important figure in the countercultural history, and his book ‗The Spectacle‘ is a revelatory book for the subject that I have brought into question. His objective approach on ‗the spectacle‘ reveals an alternative way of seeing things under the sign of attributing a new attitude that takes into consideration life as a bunch of situations that need to be countered or otherwise accepted. Another important book that I found very relevant for my study is Chris Jenks‘ „Cultural Reproduction‟ that helped me in outlining the importance of the cultural reproduction that is suffered from generation to generation through changes that are perceived according to the context of interaction. This cultural reproduction regards the case I‘m concerned w ith directly since it reveals an explanatory reproduction of the factors that influence the character of cultural development. My personal contribution to this paper stands mostly in the part of the analysis where I have developed comprehensive answers in trying to amplify the explanatory nature of my paper. The novelty of this paper is best attributed to the novelty of this phenomenon that is still considered something new and its course has not yet been made obvious, being still under the sign of mystery and confusion.Altogether, I hope my paper will be revelatory to some extend in understanding the phenomenon I aim at elucidating within this analysis.


Chapter 1

1. The Polemic of Dominant Culture &Counterculture The divergence of ideologies and perceptions between the two conceptsseparates the idea of culture into the idea of dominant culture and counterculture. This bifurcation of culture is a representation of the inequalities that separate the world in two sides, the one of ‗the spectacle‘ established on the basis of the power relations and the one based on the experience of living within the fake society of ‗the spectacle‘, in search for the authentic way of living.The French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher Pierre Bordieu(1990) explains in his study this phenomenon as follows―In any given social formation the cultural arbitrary which the power relations between the groups or classes making up that social formation put into the dominant position within the system of arbitraries is the one which most fully, though always indirectly expresses the objective interests (material and symbolic) of the dominant groups or classes‖1 This fixation of a dominant opinion by the holders of power is what rises the first arguments of a counterculture that searches for the authenticity in life, that does not want to attribute itself the opinions of people who don‘t understand or put emphasis on their perception of life but live in a homogenous,cold and narrow way. The transmission of experience, information, habits and cultural background from one generation to another is a reproduced product of humanity and of society. This kind of reproduction can generate non-recognition of the dominant culture, of the ‗system of education‘ imposed by it shaping the ideology of a new type of culture that has been reproduced from the counter ideology of dominant culture since all its characteristics oppose it, coming as a counterculture to the social and historical contextualizing. This reproduction of the social structures is in a continuous alteration as the ideology and context of life are in a permanent movement and evolution, the concepts of generation change in concordance to the dominant culture or in contrary to it, evolving in the context of civilization. ―The idea of culture emerges from the noun ‗process‘, in the sense of nurture, growth and bringing into being—in fact, to cultivate in an agricultural or horticultural sense. Culture, as

Pierre Bordieu,Passeron, Jean-Claude, Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture, London, Sage Publications, 1990, p. 9.


process, is emergent, it is forthcoming, it is continuous in the way of reproducing, and as all social processes it provides the grounds and the parallel context of social action itself.‖2 In this paragraph, Jenks manages to outline four characteristics that define the idea of culture: one is the fact that the act of culture is continuous descriptive historical perception of time and space, secondly it is understood that culture is continuous because it is reproductive, thirdly is the fact that culture is a compass that helps people understand and relate to something that is influenced by the context in which it‘s happening and fourthly it socially influences in its turn ―generating one sense of a causal chain‘.3 The continuous aspect of culture represents the cycle of life, the preparation for a long run, for reproduction and the need to evolve, the need for emancipation, discovery of the individual‘s self at the most higher level he can reach. The possession of a consciousness, ―a cerebral and cognitive category‖4 as Jenks puts it represents the gift of thinking and the power to act and react in a way that is granted by the choosing and judgment in concordance to the established values and perceptions. The superiority given to the human perception is what gives it the sense of an actual aspect of culture, it must grow and reach the individually imagined perfect stature because unlike animals, humans have a wish that overcomes the idea of survival, it aims for something greater, for something more spiritual or an imagined place of happiness that could reach the idea of heaven. ―Culture then, for early anthropology, was the common domain of the human; it distinguished our behavior from that of other creatures and it provided a conceptual break with the dominant explanatory resource of biological and, latterly, genetic determinism.‖5 Culture is also a collective noun that involves the knowledge of human history and it involves the belonging to a group that shares customs, conventions, habits, traditions, gods, ideologies and artifacts. The idea of belonging to a group is a representation of belonging to a culture, to a chosen value criteria/ that is established by the members of the community giving the individual the belonging to origins, roots. This means that culture is an evolutionary tracking device of humanity, something that will give one a sense of membership, it is the main guide and the description of our journey on Earth
2 3

Chris Jenks, Cultural Reproduction, US, Canada,Routledge, 1993, p. 3. Ibidem 4 Chris Jenks, Culture, London, New York, Routledge, 2004, p. 11. 5 Ibidem,p. 9.


passed from one generation to another and adapted to times, places and contexts of civilization from past to present. This representation of values and facts that make humanity remarkable are to be embodied in art, literature, science, philosophy, music; all trying to capture the experiences and understandings that humanity has reached in its evolutionary civilized manner. The distinction between facts and values is to be measured differently, relating at a different level to the real existing world. Values stand for representing human‘s spiritual experience and its interpretations which differ in a matter of perspective and perception, belonging to a more philosophical frame; and facts which are rather material and can be proved through science(technology) or are simply obvious/logical. Inclined in abandoning humanism to a more systematic, homogenous, civilized lifestyle, humanity advances in a more technological level than spiritual. The attribution of this kind of impersonality to the human nature is understood as something unnatural, as standardized and of mass production. The problematic of this characteristic humanity attributes itself is the fact that instead of evolving in their own way – spiritually, the means of technology invade their lives as ‗facilities‘, part of an easier lifestyle that is standardized. The concept of culture emphasis a civilized society that bows to rules, is constrained by boundaries of action and interaction, controlled by patterns and living a predictable lifestyle. The modernist manner of evolution is technological and it foreign the human from his authentic nature and purpose creating a new framework of living where the social status achieved is what matters and is recognizable. This contradiction between dominant culture and counterculture came as an interesting subject for many theoreticians, activists, anthropologists and philosophers who tried to understand the processes of these currents and define their ideologies, their way of influencing the character of life and the ideology of society through history. The theories are not only numerous but also carry analysis, theories or perspectives from within the actual context of action. The defining of these currents helps to better understand the world, the perspectives that are offered within this social frame as well as to understand the fact that there will always be something new waiting to be discovered, something that was never thought of before, something that is awaiting its turn to becoming part of people‘s lives as dominant culture or counterculture. Dominant culture is represented through the technological evolution, by ―This spirit, the mentality of modernity, this shared set of values, establishes equilibrium at every level within the

social system, despite the constant, and allegedly inherent fractures of the material base.‖ 6 This materialistic wish is what sits at the base of dominant culture. The idea of status within society, of possessions, of wealth and differentiation from the rest is what drives dominant culture in the first place. The materialistic wish is the spine that holds together the capitalist culture, the growth of a system of economy, commerce, institutionalization, production, the emergent need of development and the civilization‘s subjection to a system. Guy Debord(2005), a leading member of the Situationist International defines the modernist evolution as ‗the spectacle‘: ―Understood in its totality, the spectacle is both the result and the goal of the dominant mode of production. It is not a mere decoration added to the real world. It is the very heart of this real society's unreality. In all of its particular manifestations news, propaganda, advertising, entertainment - the spectacle represents the dominant model of life. It is the omnipresent affirmation of the choices that have already been made in the sphere of production and in the consumption implied by that production. In both form and content the spectacle serves as a total justification of the conditions and goals of the existing system. The spectacle also represents the constant presence of this justification since it monopolizes the majority of the time spent outside the production process.‖7 What Debord manages to outline here is the fact that these new modern devices manage to create a new idea of reality, an unreality that establishes the new reality, alienating the viewer, ‗the spectator‘ in creating boundaries and a pattern of thinking and living by molding values and behaviors from an unreal perspective, a perspective that is intended to entertain and picture the ‗ideal‘ lifestyle and not something that is realistic but rather imagined and controlled. The means of propaganda, manipulation and control attributed to the new means of entertainment and used through the help of machineries like Radio or TV which establish the modernist behaviors, produce images, ideas, advertising and entertainment that will be consumed by the eyes of the viewer, that will mold the minds of people and will make humanity a predictable force of the system. The idea of a culture that is controlled through the media and manipulated by any means – be it that people should obey rules, consider things taboo, follow trends, act and think in a certain way – and transformed into unreality that gives the impression that ―consumer capitalism has taken

6 7

Ibidem, p. 55. Guy Debord,Society of the Spectacle, London, Rebel Press,2005, p. 8.


every authentic human experience, transformed it into a commodity and then sold it back to us through advertising and the mass-media‖.8 This kind of perspective gives birth to outrageous attitudes, giving the fact that this imagined world is not real, is something thought to be seen in a real manner because at it‘s core inspiration is the humanity itself, not in its authentic, real, unaltered form but in a modified manner, in an alienating manner where humanity is not on top of the pyramid but society is, in the civilized, homogenous, conformed way. Counterculture is born exactly from the feeling of control, from the feeling of being trapped inside a rut where the driver does blindly as he is told, from conformity, exercising the need to escape it. The idea of conformity is the representation of consumerism, of what is sold and bought, from the idea of achieving and maintaining the status within society as ―normal‖ to the idea of ―normality‖ that is understood within the social barriers of civilization. Counterculture is not a representation of abnormality but rather an act of rebellion, a repugnance towards conformity, an attitude of subversion regarding rules, consumerism, and a superficial perception of life. It stands for an alternative way of living, other than the dominant superficial corporatist one. It‘s a search for reality, individualism, identity, freedom and happiness, for the spiritual, for the authentic lifestyle that is not altered, influenced and corrupted but real and natural. Hebdige(1979), a media theorist and sociologist defines the concept as it follows: ―The term ‗counter culture‘ refers to that amalgam of ‗alternative‘ middle-class youth cultures – the hippies, the flower children, the hippies – which grew out of the 60s, and came to prominence during the period 1967–70. As Hall et al. (1976a) have noted, the counter culture can be distinguished from the subcultures we have been studying by the explicitly political and ideological forms of its opposition to the dominant culture (political action, coherent philosophies, manifestoes, etc.), by its elaboration of ‗alternative‘ institutions (Underground Press, communes, cooperatives, ‗uncareers‘, etc.), its ‗stretching‘ of the transitional stage beyond the teens, and its blurring of the distinctions, so rigorously maintained in subculture, between work, home, family, school and leisure. Whereas opposition in subculture is, as we have seen, displaced into symbolic forms of


Joseph Heath, Andrew Potter,Why the culture can‟t be jammed, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, 2005, p. 8.


resistance, the revolt of middle-class youth tends to be more articulate, more confident, more directly expressed and is, therefore, as far as we are concerned, more easily ‗read‘.‖9 1.a. The Hegemonic and Repressive Cultureof the 1950s and 1960s The concept of ‗hegemony‘ was a highly debated subject between the 50‘s and 60‘s since people were feeling the need to understand and explain the events that were taking place politically, economically and socially. Antonio Gramsci was one of the Marxist thinkers that developed this concept emphasizing on human subjectivity not only economically and politically but also through the control over society and the proletariat. Gramsci referred to the transformation of ‗hegemony‘ defining its political formation as follows: ―it brings about not only a unison of economic and political aims, but also intellectual and moral unity. posing all the questions around which the struggle rages not on a corporate but on a 'universal' plane.'‖10 It is obvious that Gramsci‘s idea of hegemony was of ironic positivism, the domination of the ‗bourgeoisie hegemony‘ left behind the proletariat, aiming for more and more not only economically but also politically since the status quo within the ―political society‖ was greatly appreciated, though creating a unequal development, exploitation and social status hierarchies. This ―internal division of the ruled‖11 made by the government was considered by Gramsci as ―a state without a state‖12 since no evolution was to be made within the entire idea of society, the proletariat was considered an ‗independent bloc‘ and was excluded from the bourgeoisie, damned to a stagnation process. The Frankfurt School was concerned with the same type of questions, having as main preoccupation social philosophy as a study of historical cultural phenomena that offers precious insight to the meaning of social life, of critical theories concerning social sciences ―as the source of important questions to be investigated by these sciences and as a framework in which ‗the universal would not be lost sight of‘.‖13The movement of the Institute was part of a wider movement called ‗Western Marxism‘which was ―characterized on one side by diverse, predominantly philosophical and Hegelian reinterpretations of Marxist theory in relation to the

Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning Of Style, London, New York, Routledge, 1979, p. 148. Adamson L. Walter, Hegemony and Revolution: Antonio Gramsci‟s Political and Cultural Theory , University of California Press,1983,p. 161. 11 Ibidem, p. 168. 12 Ibidem 13 Frank Bottomore,The Frankfurt School and its Critics, London, New York, Routledge, 2003, p. 15.


advanced capitalist societies, and on the other, by an increasingly critical view of the development of society and the state in the USSR.‖14 In this period the neo-Hegelian theories ―were firmly implanted as the guiding principle of the Institute‘s activities‖15influencing German social thought with their ideas of ‗critical theory‘ that later spread around Europe, the United States – the apparition of the New Left. This third period, starting with 1950 was the most prolific with representatives as Horkheimer, Marcuse and Adorno whom influenced intellectually and politically attaining the Frankfurt‘s School height in influencing the 60‘s through the radical student movement. Within the 50‘s and the 60‘s, the leitmotiv of the Frankfurt School was that of criticism of positivism which represents the basic foundation of the Frankfurt school and also a great part of its theoretical background over three decades. This criticism was formed from three main aspects :―positivism is an inadequate and misleading approach which does not, and cannot, attain a true conception or understanding of social life‖; ―the attending only to what exists it sanctions the present social order, obstructs any radical change and leads to political quietism‖; ―it is intimately connected with, and it is indeed a major factor in sustaining, or producing, a new form of domination, namely ‗technocratic domination‘.‖16 These aspects of criticism represent a revolution of thought against hegemonic power, a repression in what regards the hegemonic system that imposes a positive attitude that is in disagreement with the realities of the social context and life since rules are imposed and cannot be changed in concordance to the population‘s needs or wishes. The feeling created by the hegemonic empowerment is one of criticism, of repression, of anarchism against a system that does not understand needs but creates them in order for it to be a powerful force to which people are dependent and cannot live without. In opposition to ‗positivism‘, Horkheimer defines ‗dialectical theory‘ as the world where ―‘individual facts appear in a definite connection‘ and ‗which seeks to reflect reality in its totality‘‖.17 Creating a new historical background on the ideal of reality at another level, at a level of dialectical thought which accentuates the fact that ―Right thinking depends as much on

14 15

Ibidem, p. 12. Ibidem 16 Ibidem, p. 28. 17 Ibidem, p. 16.


right willing as right willing on right thinking‘‖18; claiming that this concept of ‗critical theory‘ presents the world and the idea of society from an objective perspective, breaking away from the patterns that are specific into a social context, instead putting emphasis on thought, experience, purposefulness or spontaneity. The rejection and criticism of positivism and domination was characteristic to the late capitalism that created as a central preoccupation the idea of freedom in connection to a Hegelian perspective: ―from a standpoint, therefore, knowledge of the world and the determination of authentic values coincide, or as Horkheimer expressed it ‗right thinking‘ and ‗right willing‘ go together in a relationship of mutual support‖19 which opens a door to preoccupations like that of criticism of ‗irrational‘ beliefs, attitudes of anti-Semitism within the modern society framework, criticism of ‗scientific and technological rationality‘ perceived as a new form of capitalist domination. These new questions raised the interest in psychoanalysis and the psychology of the individual, representing an elementary basis of any study concerning the relation between social conditions – the working class and movements – the rise of fascist movement. The ‗critical theory‘ was supported not only by Horkheimer, Marcuse but also by Adorno whom repeated the criticism of Horkheimer but also introduced new elements into his critical theory. For Adorno, the critical theory implies aspects of ontology and epistemology; his critical theory is a representation of pure criticism, lacking any kind of positive aspects and his notion of ‗totality‘ ―which was crucial in Horkheimer‘s thought (one of his criticisms of positivism being that it did not situate individual facts within a totality as did critical theory), is now rejected as another manifestation of identity-thinking; in Adorno‘s phrase, ‗the whole is untrue‘.‖20 This concern against totalizing hegemony was not affecting only theoreticians which were rather having an objective perspective but it did put as subjects people in accepting homogenous ideas, limitation and uniformity under the false pretenses of a unification of the world. Still, the level of acceptance was to be decided by the individual himself, so that the countercultural subcultures started finding their own way of living, not by the rules of the hegemonic system but rather by their own rules, valuing their own perception and by appreciating their individuality in defiance of the imposed system of revaluation. One of the first active countercultural representatives were The Beats, a group that was not afraid of living their
18 19

Ibidem Ibidem, p. 23. 20 Ibidem, p. 31.


life however they wanted, despite rules, opinions, status quos, etc. The Beats became the activist counterculture of a generation, fighting for their freedom of expression, for the right of having their own perspectives, individualities, wishes and creative lifestyles that came counter to the idea of dominant culture.  The Beat Generation In the early 50‘s The Beats, a group of young artists and intellectuals became popular for their writings which were considered so obscene that the authorities felt like they had to take action. The group represented a definition of non-conformity, choosing to express themselves through their art and hedonist lifestyle, often questioning the values of society and government. The group was formed, along others from Allen Ginsberg a poet and the writer of the Howl, writer Jack Kerouac and writer William Burroughs who chose to live differently from the masses. The group‘s alternative lifestyle involved travelling, experiencing drugs, pushing the boundaries of their art and sharing their ideas with people. Allen Ginsberg became a known figure of the group once he had launched ―The Howl‖, which came out as a controversial piece of art because of the obscene and sexual language which unveiled unnatural and libertine relations between sexes of the same kind. The book was soon to be banned and removed from the market and the publisher, Laurence Ferlinghetti was arrested for printing and distributing it. William Burroughs‘s novel ―Naked Lunch‖ received the same treatment, his book was also banned in USA only for it to become later an American literature classics along with ―The Howl‖ and Kerouac‘s ―On the Road‖ which represents a symbol of the period. The public viewed The Beat Generation as a controversial one because of their different ideologies and hedonist lifestyle but as much as they were criticized by magazines, publications or public influential characters like ―Herb Caen, a widely read columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle referred to them in 1958 as beatniks. This term, inspired by the Russian satellite named Sputnik, implied that they were un-American, and the Beats themselves thought the term was insulting because it trivialized them.‖21 Even so, the more controversial something is, the more it steps into the spotlight, given the fact that the group gained even more grounds in front of the ones who felt inspired by their art, hedonist lifestyle and ideologies. The public and

Richard Brownell, American Counterculture of the 1960, USA, Farmington Hills, MI: Luncent Books 2011, p. 10.


consumers of their art became even more more obsessed with their newty and started imitating not only the way they dressed, but also they started changing attitudes through their ideologies inspiring future musicians like Bob Dylan or John Lennon. 1.b. The Situationism of the 1970s and 1980s The Situationists, also known by the abbreviation Situscome from Europe‘s organisation the Situationist International that was founded in 1957. The situationists were concerned with what Guy Debord, the leader of the Situationist International calls ‗the spectacle‘ in the context of a society that is dependent on what capitalism has to offer: on consuming, on comfort goods and entertainment, on a false idea of reality and a general aspect of living. The rebellious stand that the situationist took was out of the capitalist menu, was almost anarchic in thought and consisted from a continuous question and search of a reality that was true. Although it addressed to their existing environments, the situationists did not live only in their present time but regarded their experiences as something that must be preserved and shared from their point of view. ―Our conception of a "constructed situation" is not limited to an integrated use of artistic means to create an ambiance, however great the force or spatiotemporal extent of that ambiance might be. A situation is also an integrated ensemble of behavior in time. It is composed of actions contained in a transitory decor. These actions are the product of the decor and of themselves, and they in their turn produce other decors and other actions.‖22 They addressed from their experience, from the decor they lived in but underlining the fact that everything in transitory, the Situationists felt the need to examine their actual situation as transitory and by determining causes that brought them in the place where they were to be found as humans and as members of a functioning society. The ideology of the Situationists was based on the transformation and transgression form of culture and life, avoiding ‗static ideologies‘ which tend to rigidify and become another passively consumed product of the capitalist society. Instead, the ideal of the situationists is based on the idea of a continuous activity within existence, on the actively reality that people are subjected to, on creating and learning through experience, improving through exercise.


Ken KnabbPreliminary Problems in Constructing a Situation InternationaleSituationiste #1, 1958,full article:


Alike many of the previous theoreticians, Guy Debord found himself in front of a problem that spread at a concerning level, the alienation of the masses and re-creation of a new false reality to live by. ―The root of the spectacle is that oldest of all social specializations, the specialization of power. The spectacle plays the specialized role of speaking in the name of all the other activities. It is hierarchical society's ambassador to itself, delivering its official messages at a court where no one else is allowed to speak. The most modern aspect of the spectacle is thus also the most archaic.‖23This description of empowerment offered to governments, to mass-media and television is what alienates the masses and creates these new aspects of life to which humanity adapts by attributing patterns and lining in a hierarchical order, from the top of the pyramid to its very base, to the proletariat.  The Situationist International(SI) The evolutionary progress of technology captured the entire world and started keeping it under the sign of ‗commodity‘. For the working classes which between work and sleep were subjected to this reality of advertising and entertainment, of falsity and consumerism, of this separate sector that―it is in reality the domain of delusion and false consciousness: the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of universal separation.‖ 24This separation from the real consciousness that bounds man with nature, creativity and naturalness is to alienate him from his real path, from the authenticity that was transformed in concordance with the new values attributed to dominate by the ‗spectacle‘. The passive role that is attributed to the modern society as a predetermined cause from which the Situationists try to escape by recurring to activism where ―The situationists set out to devise ‗situations‘, or experimental practices aimed at raising awareness vis-à-vis the general conditions that prevail in a place or society.‖25 This raise of awareness is a trial in establishing human relations in the social context disregarding the social imposed norms, disregarding the system and what it sustains and creating new situations, new perspectives that lack attention in front of the positivism of the bourgeoisie. The idea that there is a history developing in a way in which the core is lost, a history of superficial materialism, of things and possessions, ―an unconscious history that has actually
23 24

Guy Debord(2005),op. cit., p. 24. Ibidem, p. 7. 25 Lucian Leahu,Thom-Santelli, Jenn Pederson, Claudia Sengers Phoebe, Taming the Situationist Beast, 2008, p. 2.


created and altered the living conditions of human groups - the conditions enabling them to survive and the expansion of those conditions.‖26 This idea of subordination pictured by Debord gives the impression that humanity lives in a world of plastic in which one has to work and consume in order to attain a level of happiness since these are the main activities that inscribe in normality. From this point on, everything that is going on with humanity is wrong, the sense of ‗commodity‘ has established, the main value that the emphasis is put on is material, economical, and plastic. ‗The spectacle‘ and the falseness are the point where everyone‘s attention meets, creating a false consciousness that guides the ideal of society. The strategy that the Situationists undertake is the one of experimenting with situations, with the world, giving birth to a new concept of liberation from the monotony of everyday life. ―The dérive was taken up by the Situationists as a strategy for exploring psychogeography, "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals"‖27 This kind of disobedience was to change the idea of culture forever, deriving it from the sense of manipulation of information, misinformation or omission of events to creating it from the core of rebellion. This activism and fabrication of situation of the Situationists‘ was aimed to disrupt the emergence of the ‗spectacle‘ and reveal the real enactment that was going on behind the scene, demonstrating that everything was only a scenario. A tactic that had great significance for the Situationists was that of détournement which represents a form of subversion where mass-media elements are changed and re-arranged in a way that everything captures a new significance, a new meaning that is destined to change the status-quo. The concept of détournement stands in the desire to raise awareness, to be an nonconformist, to change the entire sense of something – like dominant culture – by making a statement, by giving new alternative meanings in support of a critical reflection, to raise awarness of the masses in disregard to the idea of a system. The subversive activism that the Situationist appealed to raisedthe idea of a new consciousness, of a countercultural movement that would oppose entirely the ideology of dominant culture or ‗the spectacle‘ by mocking the mass-media, by reinforcing with activist art that was critical and reflexive regarding aspects that people live by. This innovative

26 27

Guy Debord, op. cit.,p. 19. Lucian Leahu,Thom-Santelli, Jenn Pederson, Claudia Sengers Phoebe, op.cit.,p. 3.


reinforcement of subversion tactics with strong political, economical and social messages represents the imprint of the Situationist movement that attributed a symbolic power to the people by giving them the right to expression of a new perspective, other than the dominant one.The symbolic power attributed to the people started growing into subcultures(punks, rockers, grungers, rappers, etc.), attitudes, activism, artistic poetry, graffiti, music creating the idea of ‗Hip‘ which represented the new fresh underground movement, the representation of the ‗cool‘ in its most authentic way or, nowadays, everything that itscalled ‗old-school‘. 1.c. From 1990 to Present By the 90‘s, the corporate revolution has settled and established for the long run with small and creative advertising agencies and firms, but this time from a new perspective, ―a new company of creative rebels came to dominate the profession; and advertising that offered to help consumers overcome their alienation, to facilitate their nonconformity, and which celebrated rule-breaking and insurrection became virtually ubiquitous.‖28 This kind of approach differs from the revolution of the 60‘s, as the Advertising Age‘s retrospective claims, ―Baby Boomers, Creative Boomers‖,a perfect fit to the previous problems, the corporate theory expressing the idea of the counterculture experience now integrated into agencies and in charge with the management of the Hip, and a creative way of expressing, better than it had gone down before, in the times of the Baby Boomers;Now, the Baby Boomers expressed their revolutionary ideologies in creating and selling for the corporations. This new era brings a new perspective of counterculture in which ―Advertising people are deeply immersed in the tastes, the music, and the slang of young people, obsessed with the rapid movement of youth culture. And, being an industry that bums out creative talents in an extraordinarily short time, it is a world populated largely by actual young people.‖ 29 The values attributed by the 90‘s generation are determined by the ideas of taste and distinctiveness. The transformation of time, things and the rapidity with which the world evolves has brought this generation in a place of concordance with the system, at least at a level of functionality. Still, like their previous generations that found the need to revolutionize against these ‗commodities‘, the generation of the 90‘s was to change this aspect by working from the

28 29

Thomas Frank,The Conquest of Cool, Chicago, London, University of Chicago Press, 1998, p. 28. Ibidem, p. 35.


inside,―As the discovery of the rule-breaking boomers merely cemented the victory of the creative revolution, so the discovery of their rebel successors in the 1990s has breathed new life (and new imagery) into the basic wisdom established during those years: hip is the cultural lifeblood of the consumer society.‖30 This characteristic of ‗hip‘ is what describes best the imagery of the young generations because no matter what is mainstream, they will always try to find whatever is underground and will try to create their own wave, their own characteristics and identity. Still, the countercultural idea ―served corporate revolutionaries as a projection of the new ideology of business, a living embodiment of attitudes that reflected their own.‖ 31 This is when counterculture lost its entire sense and ideology, being co-opted by the dominant culture and embodied in corporations and advertising agencies. The idea of co-optation is what explains everything and the processes in which it happened. The countercultural idea was co-opted, the Baby Boomers chose to get involved and share their ideas of ‗taste and distinction‘ that separated them from the popular culture and made them special in order to sell it to the ones like them. The 90‘s became a new era of corporations and advertising but it mostly increased the idea of consumerism through the sharing of new values and creativity, offering a new variety of products and attitudes that left behind the ideas of plasticity and homogeneity created by mass production which co-opted the countercultural ideology in order for the system to function properly. The attribution of new qualities and the identification with the consumers gave mass production a new fresh force that gave a new sense of consumption to people. As Chris Jenks observes ―The consciousness, and self-consciousness, of youth were adopted by both cultural analysts (and the mass media) as a vector of instability in relation to systems of stratification but also the social structure as a whole. Any shift in patterns of consumption, lifestyle, leisure and self-presentation by youth might signal a collapse of the old order.‖32, reference the collapse of the world order couldn‘t mean anything else than the birth of a new one, a more rebellious and hip one. Subcultures are the result of countercultural attitudes that resemble in ideologies: stand for the identity of a new generation, a generation searching to define itself in accordance to the world they live in, to the system that offers perspectives, and being co-opted represented a great perspective for every countercultural that could pick his brain.
30 31

Ibidem, p. 234. Ibidem, p. 27. 32 Chris Jenks, Subculture: The Fragmentation of the Social, London, Sage Publications, 2004, p. 122.


The idea of co-optation of the counterculture raised ―Regardless of the tastes of Republican leaders, rebel youth culture remains the cultural mode of the corporate moment, used to promote not only specific products but the general idea of life in the cyber-revolution. Commercial fantasies of rebellion, liberation, and outright "revolution" against the stultifying demands of mass society are commonplace almost to the point of invisibility in advertising, movies, and television programming.‖33 From that moment on, there was no real revolution to take place since the feeling of alienation disappeared, incorporating and integrating common people into the action of production. The market is still a market though so the real rebels chose to transform into anti-consumerists, feeling like everything was a hoax, but once again, as the pattern shows, this was just yet another of the same thing, meaning that the anti-consumerist public was a segment of the market, like any other. The mixture of art and politics brought ahead a creativity that was off charts, constructing and giving a new sense to the meaning of culture. The subversive messages incorporated in art, in pamphlet publications and the culture jam were clear signs that a new attitude was born and unleashed among rebels but also common people.Still, this war does not concern the idea of art itself but it rather takes further the idea of counterculture in that this kind of activism is not concerned with the idea of art but with the nature of life, with the class wars, inequality and injustice in what regards the culture of dominance within society. As the world separates the status of classes into the empowered one who is also dominant and the excluded poor enslaved class, likewise, the idea of art is divided in two, the high culture and low culture. ―High culture has been understood as an expression of exclusion and dominance, an attempt at distinction, the enforcement of true beauty and as forced pretense.‖34 The ideology of highbrow culture sits in the fact that once one gains money and power, that one also gains a certain taste that cannot be acquired by anyone, especially by people with low income. This idea of high culture sits in the fact that it is very hard to attain it, since it is less accessible to a normal public therefore it is exclusive and expensive. The more expensive and unattainable, the better since this kind of high-status taste decide the degree of quality and good taste.

33 34

Thomas Frank, op. cit., p. 4. GiselindeKuipers,Media, Culture and Society, Rotterdam, Sage Publications, 2006,p. 363, full article:


Low culture is represented by the lower-middle class and ―has been interpreted in many conflicting ways, from resistance within hegemonic culture to the expression of false

consciousness, from authentic self-expression to a creative and confident dealing with mass modern culture.‖35 It is in some way a stand of the counterculture, representative for ‗the underground‘, for the unseen part of the picture, of the poor who are rather survivors than art experts. The idea of highbrow culture and lowbrow culture come in opposition to eachother, like the ideologies of dominant culture and counterculture. The brand image and identity became things that separated the idea of kitsch from the real deal. Of course, this does not make anyone feel special with anything because brands are also a mass production, but this kind of mass production is one of taste. The idea of being born with this sixth sense of understanding and separating hip from kitsch, low from high culture, represents what authenticity is supposed to mean. This identity of the self and distinctiveness given by the fine senses one has is understood as authentic, as what people from previous generations were looking for, for something that could be representative and distinct at the same time, something that was in the DNA, that nobody else shared. This sense of distinctiveness and taste is what created the idea of ‗hip‘ in the first place and secondly, put it into practice advertising and production for everyone to share it. Being the launcher of a current and a trend setter is certainly better and much more satisfying than being a conformist, it gives one power and rises the status quo within society, makes the creator recognizable and appreciated, gives the product an identity that identifies with the consumer, establishing a connection and not alienating. The sense of humanity is easily fading away, as Debord speculated, ‗the spectacle‘ not only took over but it developed and became something dependable, which is now viewed in another manner, it addresses to all kinds of publics, managing to attract the attention of a large number of consumers. In their turn, consumers are charmed by the idea that they can create identities, they can be different from other people or even different than they really are. Of course, this is just another ‗spectacle‘ but this time, the feeling of commodity is not considered as a waste of time but rather as socialization, as part of the community, as part of the functionality of everything.




The Hip Generation Hip hop grew into a national and nationalist attitude, the urban African-American music

being inspired from the ―post-civil rights era‖ offered an insight within verses of the culture‘s historical past experiences and wars for civil rights and a decent living. In a very unique and urban manner, the new wave was accompanied by rap music described by the theorist Gelder as ―black talk‖ brought with it new visual forms of expression like graffiti and breakdancing. With a very strong history of its past, coming from the underground, rap music is concerned with ghetto life expressing the thug life from the hood in unconventional manners. With the immigrations, ―the dream‖ of succeeding within USA was bigger than ever but that was a long way to go. They had to catch up with the world since Bronx, their main home was filled with gangs, drugs, junkies and violence. Price describes the importance the lifestyle of gangs and graffiti had in his book ―Hip Hop Culture‖ the connecting the life in the hood with the new countercultural currents: ‖As territorial associations, gangs identified their turf by ―tagging,‖ that is, by leaving written identifiers (usually on public property) demarking the perimeter of their geographical space. Turf dens or meeting chambers were usually held in abandoned buildings taken custody by the gang, often with eventual renovations. Many gangbangers dropped out of high school and then had more time on their hands to strategize, recruit, commit crimes, engage in war with rival gangs, and, most important, get in trouble with the law.‖36 The rules of the local were made in the hood and recognized by their own, the rules of other kind of system applied here. The tagging stood for marking gang territories, proving authenticity in an illegal way while also marking the start of a new form of affirmation and disrespect to the rules of the authoritative system. Graffiti was considered by the authorities as vandalism of public spaces giving people a sensation of being in danger, of crime, dirt and poverty, of low culture and misery. With such an ample background of experiences, activism against law and the system, the black nation had much to outline on the artistic field. Inspired from their Jamaican past of


Price G. Emmett, Hip Hop Culture, USA, ABC-Clio, 2006, p. 9.


experiencing with the massive systems spreading dub, the new beats of rap and hip hop easily assaulted the dance floor with a new and original rang of moves. The new currents were meant to change attitudes and discourage the negligent educational behavior ―Former and present gangbangers and drug dealers would lay down their weapons and drug paraphernalia for a time at Zulu Nation functions and join the burgeoning Hip Hop community. Armed with the motto ―Peace, Love, Unity, and Having Fun,‖ Bambaataa, through his ―Infinity Lessons,‖ not only aimed to offer an expressive outlet but also encouraged intellectual pursuit via study, affirmations, and a systematic process of getting to know one‘s self (ibid., 105).‖37 While in the 80‘s, hip hop and rap had made their way to radio stations around the world with life studio performances, release of singles and interviews with artists, by the 90‘s hip hop was already in ascension. With a new kind of message containing ―explicit content‖, rap music raised interest among young people while parents were outraged because of the ghetto life message it was relating to. This was only the beginning of a new era, since the development of hip hop was now supported not only by locals‘ pride of representing but also by the album sales that were increasing. The new current brought with its‘ new attitude a new style of clothing which highlighted urbanism in a ―cool‖ way and consisted of baggy pants, large t -shirts, caps, etc. Hip hop, rap and gangsta rap had already evolved to numerous artists becoming, from an underground movement popcultural icons. It is to be kept in mind that this countercultural movement was launched as an expression of culture an identity, as Emmett describes it ―One of Hip Hop‘s greatest strengths is that it has ignited conversation around the development of new cultural aesthetics and renewed approaches to the formation and expression of artistic endeavors as a culture. Jazz, rock ‗n‘ roll, and numerous highly popular and tremendously significant genres from the past all had characteristics and elements through which they could have been expressed and presented as cultures.‖38, having no certainty of success and sometimes not even aiming at it, the current spread and became the refuge of a nation. Even the advertising business came to be revolutionary, growing like never before and applying new strategies and techniques like creating product identity or associating the image of mainstream pop stars with their products. One case was Pepsi which brought out stars with

37 38

Ibidem, p. 13. Ibidem, p. 17.


weight like Madonna and Michael Jackson, the real deal of pop music. Still, the product was addressing to a much larger public, coming out with ―defying repressed nerds and stuffy authority figures; and grunge kids moshing on a beach and mocking sedate oldsters under the stripped-down slogan, "Be Young.‖39, a total countercultural message that addresses with actuality to ‗what is in‘ so anyone drinking Pepsi was considered a rebel. 1.1.Historical recovery The period of Hegemony in which the higher class dominated by ruling and manipulating society will never be over. In this world, money is the key to everything and this is what is the main observation of this historical recovery. It‘s true that power can be hold not only by money, as it can be observed in the case of the Situationists who take the problem into their hands and mold it however it feels right, acting in the moment. Still, this type of behavior is a solution only for present times while the future and transformations of the present are still under a question mark that can be answered only by time. It is to observe the fact that the criticism of positivism had opened new perspectives among the thinkers of the 50‘s and 60‘s and had changed attitudes and lifestyles, stimulating the creativity and thinking within the members of society that understood the power that holds them together and the images that are pictured for them to remain like that. The actions took by the ‗New Left‘ through the 60‘s were an attempt for a regain of power, an attempt that gathered together a public consciousness and created the idea that together something else can be achieved, like the stopping the war, social justice, equal rights, etc. This exercise of power represented a class struggle to a system that is in opposition with the ideologies of the people. The revolution managed to establish some new boundaries but this act of co-opting society‘s attitude was not done according to the people but to the system itself, like something was added to what existed already and would change. Still, the system would remain the same, the same subject of criticism for the counterculture. The sense of homogeneity, of need for identity, of unleashing from the imposed values and fake cultural production came to activate in concordance with the ideologies once the Situationists started the revolution of their generation. The countercultural activism was more about finding a purpose, about expressing individualities apart from what dominant culture

Ibidem, p. 173.


meant for the social context, they were searching for happiness in a spiritual way, in a way that is progressive and helps one find the moment in which to act; it was about finding a new Consciousness and theorists of the movement supported this point of view, Charles Reich theorized it ―The counterculture had given rise to no less than a new "Consciousness," a way of envisioning the world that was utterly at odds with the prevailing mores of the over-organized society. Under the "corporate state," Americans had been trained in the ways of what Reich calls "Consciousness II": they became automatons, thinking of themselves in terms of their duties as workers and consumers. They endured "a robot life, in which man is deprived of his own being, and he becomes instead a mere role, occupation, or function." But unlike their parents, the young of the 1960s retained a "capacity for outrage," a sense of "betrayal" of the "promises" made by the postwar society of abundance, the vast gulf between the official talk of "freedom" and "liberty" and the dreary, conformist lives of their parents. The youth counterculture was thus the historical bearer of "Consciousness III," which encourages people to pursue their own liberation from the imposed values of the "corporate state," to choose liberation and self-direction over the conformity and otherdirection of the mainstream.‖40 And since the mainstream was a representation of cultural hegemony, the Situationists started jamming their culture of domination. Still, by creating all these situations and communicating all these messages, the Situationists managed to demonstrate their freedom, power of expression, of action, of thought and also managed to transmit their message publicly, creating a new kind of consciousness, a group consciousness that opened the perspectives to regard the world with different eyes. Still, this new Consciousness, based on all these different views of a paradise world that lacks control and empowerment seem rather utopic and unreal but open new horizons creating patterns which helped to establish the new world order. The fight for individuality transformed itself into a reaction of classification of the masses, succeeding only to create a new views in the advertising world. Since there was only a kind of ‗brainwash‘ that addressed the masses, the new improved world gained the insights of rebellious attitudes and behaviors that were ready to be created and put into new advertising products. The hip culture was to be known by everyone through the countercultural sell out that took place around the 90‘s when everything was to be changed forever. Countercultural representatives joined the Dominant culture in a fight that had no winner but the system who was

Thomas Frank, op. cit., p. 14.


never even endangered to losing. This transformation was to change entire ideologies, behaviors, lifestyles, patterns, culture, production, advertising, etc. ‗The spectacle‘ had just took new, larger dimensions by co-opting the countercultural movement and by doing this, it showed that dominant culture was never headed in some exact place but it ripped the sense out of any sentence it touched with a style that mocks itself only to be productive. The co-optation of counterculture enlarged the vision of dominant culture and got the chance to create not only patterns for the new co-opted categories but the production, marketing and advertising were prolific and addictive even for people that held anti-consumerist attitudes. This was a new segment of customers that had just landed exactly where they were needed. Creating new products, new needs, and adopting the creative and imaginative attitudes of the countercultural activists represented a gold mine for mass production. It‘s true that the attitude of the counterculture are still surrounding but nowadays, after we sold everything, everything is sold back and the feeling of authenticity became to be just a myth. The globalized production of goods does not have the problem of expressing identities because nowadays, the complexity of things is for sell anywhere you look. People are not concerned with the idea of identity and domination anymore, people want to possess in order to gain domination and to reach a status quo that signifies their identity. ―Beyond the comfort and leisure having lots of stuff affords, men soon found that the accumulation of property could be a source of both status and domination, and so the pursuit of wealth became a means of acquiring prestige over others.‖41 This sense of empowerment by possessions is still present today and establishes the status quo that one gains within society. Humanity has not changed but its ways since the dominant class is still in control of establishing values, beliefs and perceptions, now more than ever before, it dictates what the trends are, what colors should one wear this summer,etc. People are still protesting because of government or system injustice since everything is going downhill for some time now. The economical crisis had people enslaved working for poor money that would not be enough to make a living out of. Production of goods is imposed by the state, people are addicted to whatever poisoned foods, beverages, clothes, and so on and so fourthare produced.


Andrew Potter,The Authenticity Hoax, USA, Harper Collins Publishers,2010 p. 60.


Technology has absorbed every inch of attention people have, with new devices, new products, new offers and hip usages that nowadays seem indispensable. People do not care about the aspects of culture, about the realities of life but had become self-involved and selfish, leaving behind any touch of humanity they had. All in all, humanity has reached the exact point of which the previous generations were talking about timorously. This is the evolution process of things and the direction in which they have grown little by little. 1.2.Co-optation and Détournement The term détournementhas been invoked once the Situationists came into the picture, creating new situations that raised awareness of the ones that felt ‗asleep‘ in the middle of ‗the spectacle‘ of an unreal reality, a reality pictured by consumerism and entertainment meant to alienate the masses from their purpose of living. The concept of détournement ―aims neither to give voice to the impoverished life lived in pseudo-cyclical time nor to speak from the perspective of historical time. Instead, détournement takes place in the gap between the two; it attempts ―to take effective possession of the community of dialogue, and the playful relationship to time‖ (§187).8‖42 This relationship seems to be the victim of a state of commodity instigated by needs that are unreal and unnecessary since ―there are only needs because the system needs them‖43, in other words, the system needs the people to need it, to be addicted to what it produces, to obey the rules and live a lifestyle that is imposed and pictured in a way that diminishes the freedom of the people living by it. The ideology of détournement spread quickly and soon became a new way of expression, the culture jamming and the dominant culture became a mixture of art, politics, social and economical messages that would make people put a second guess before conforming or reacting in a way that was predetermined. This new device was to show the un-shown part of the culture, the ‗underground‘, the poverty, the experience of true reality, the injustice of the system and attitudes that have been hidden for too long; all in all, it became a strong part of the countercultural movement, a part that became a competing ideology for the already established one. Therefore, since the cultural heritage of humanity was used for propaganda purposes and now was negated through an act of interference of another type of reality.

Patrick Greaney, Insinuation: Détournementas Gendered Repetition,The South Atlantic Quarterly, Duke University Press, 2011p. 76. 43 Joseph Heath, Andrew Potter, op. cit., p. 107.


There are two main types of détournement: minor détournements and deceptive détournements. ―Minor détournement is the détournement of an element which has no importance in itself and which thus draws all its meaning from the new context in which it has been placed.‖44And ―Deceptivedétournement, also termed premonitory proposition

détournement, is in contrast the détournement of an intrinsically significant element, which derives a different scope from the new context.‖45From these two types and definitions of détournement one can understand that in its pure sense, détournement means to distort the sense of something by giving it a new, totally different meaning from a new perspective. ―The distortions introduced in the détourned elements must be as simplified as possible, since the main force of a detournement is directly related to the conscious or vague recollection of the original contexts of the elements.‖46 The main context in which the act détournement takes place is the one in which the sense of something already existent is changed, picturing the discovery of new aspects, new perspectives on social, political and economical conventions. The purpose of détournement is that of a gun that attracts everybody‘s attention because it‘s so loud and could kill atanytime, in the case of détournement, it could only kill ignorance and ―it cannot fail to be a powerful cultural weapon in the service of a real class struggle.‖47 The act of détourning phrases in posters, radio broadcasts, films, records, writings, paintings, and so on and so fourth became a powerful innovative methods of subversive expression against masses, against the established ideologies, against a culture that is predetermined by only one world although there are so many other worlds, only one world gets to be in history, excluding all the others, and all the other aspects, ―Détournement‘s goal is communication, which is not the transmission of a message but the simultaneousappropriation of language, historical time, and community.‖48, therefore, détournement treats everyone the same, with the same distribution of attention and historical power. Debord regarded the act of détournement as a―mutual interference of the two worlds of feeling, or the bringing together of two independent expressions, supersedes the original elements and produces a synthetic organization of greater efficacy.‖49 Re-creating dominant
44 45

Guy Debord, Wolman J, Gil: From Les LevresNues #8, 1956 Ibidem 46 Ibidem 47 Ibidem 48 Patrick Greaney, op. cit., p. 77. 49 Guy Debord, Wolman J, Gil, op. cit.


culture in a subversive way carries indeed a strong message, giving a new sense to a an already established cause and showing aspects that naturally are hidden by the public eye. This was a threat to dominant culture which was redirected in ways that was not supposed to, in ways that unveiled the unseen and created a new consciousness. And what was the solution for such a cause? Co-optation. The co-optation ideology stands beside the phrase: ―If you can't beat 'em, absorb 'em.‖50 Which manages in defining a concept as it is pictured in reality by past historical events and present situations. When the countercultural movement started rebelling against the system, against capitalism, against the idea of a society of ‗spectacle‘, against status hierarchies and a general aspect of living, dominant culture co-opted counterculture. This was the beginning of a new era, of an era of technology, of the people that were willing to change their views and get on the other side of their worlds, of the ones who ‗sold out‘ in exchange for a decent living, for a more satisfactory workplace and a place within society, it was the time to chose the destiny of the world. The mixture of the wanted world and the already existing one happened in the frame of co-optation of counterculture, so détournement became the new fashion since ―Co-optation is the process of absorbing new elements into leadership or policy-determining structure of an organization as a means of averting threats to its stability or existence.‖51 The acceptance of the jamming of culture became its own irony, it would have been ‗criticized by others‘ or ‗let them know whatever we want them to‘ once again. Therefore, the act of co-optation does not unleash counterculture in freedom as it should be, but rather it becomes one with it, it adopts it to its own ideologies and system giving it the idea of power while creating a pattern for it to function after. ―Co-optation reflects a state of tension between formal authority and social power. The former is embodied in a particular structure and leadership, but the latter has to do with the subjective and objective factors which control the loyalties and potential manipulability of the community where the formal authority is an expression of social power, its stability is assured.‖52 Therefore, by co-opting the idea of détournement the dominant culture is no longer endangered

50 51

Thomas Frank, op. cit, p. 7. Philip Selznick,Foundations of the Theory of Organizations, American Sociological Review, Volume 13, Issue 1, 1948 p. 34. 52 Ibidem, p. 35.


but it makes the subversive message no longer subversive, changing its belonging only makes it part of the system, part of the propagation and manipulative messages that it fights against. The simultaneous occurrence of détournement and co-optation is not accidental but it is a transcendent moment in the history of culture since ―Co-optation remains something we vilify almost automatically; the historical particulars which permit or discourage co-optation or even the obvious fact that some things are co-opted while others are simply not addressed. Regardless of whether the co-opters deserve our vilification or not, the process by which they make rebel subcultures their own is clearly an important element of contemporary life.‖53Consequently, the apparition of subcultures, of groups that did not share the exact feelings of dominant culture but rather functioned against them. This representation of a subversive group was pictured by producers and corporations as a new kind of public, a public that needs to be co-opted, that they need to produce for. Eventually, that is exactly what happened. This change, the idea of co-optation within history makes one wonder about the provenience of everything, about the roots, about the authenticity because the idea of co-optation creates this difficulty in understanding what is the real authentic counterculture and what is the co-opted one? Since it has been co-opted, the counterculture was no longer understood as counterculture but became dominant culture, imprinting the ‗mass homogen eity‘ tag on the ideology of the counterculture, only to make it for sale. And since the counterculture was coopted, corporations had to make new products and new departments for their new segment of clients. Including rebels in the act of creativity and advertising was part of the question and really it hold a very important role in what just happened. 1.3.The place of graffiti in the binominal Dominant Culture – Counterculture The word graffiti comes from Graffito which stands for ―a drawing or writing scratched on a wall or other surface‖54 but it changed its form to plural due to contemporary language and its usage. Nowadays, graffiti stands for any kind of unofficial painting/writing on public property. At first, graffiti was not conceived by the idea of making art; it stood for marking territories by ‗tagging‘ walls to make people know where they stand, and usually, if they should run or not. Being born in the ghetto, graffiti mostly gave the impression of insecurity and underground,
53 54

Thomas Frank, op. cit., p. 8. Alice Burns, Art as a crime – Does Crime Pay, a dissertation submitted to the University of Ulster, Faculty of Art, Design and the Build Environment, 2009, p. 7.


holding back the entire history of ‗the hood‘. Even so, the cultural mark quickly spread and it even became an art since graffers started developing distinctive styles and which took sometimes hours of practice in order for the name to look as they pictured it, wearing masks and acting against the law, since graffiti is considered a crime. Still, graffiti never ceased to exist and it continued developing in contrary to the opinions that needed it to be ceased but it didn‘t. Instead, it continued as a form of protest expressing wishes to change the existing system with political, economical and social content messages. The countercultural phenomenon developed its own mark that stands for representing the counterculture symbol of CND which is still used and it is the symbol of peace. In the late 60‘s, during the revolution, graffiti was heavily used by the Situationists in order for them to deliver messages whereas ―graffiti like ‗Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible!‘ were painted on the walls in Paris. Students and academics took over the print workshop at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and produced posters and notices that were printed on a daily basis then pasted on the streets of Paris. We can see from these early examples of Graffiti Art that graffiti was often associated with counter-culture.‖55 And indeed it stood representing counterculture, acting against the law, not demanding but voicing opinions, injustice and free will. The early 70‘s were prolific in what regards the development of graffiti and its expansion. Subway trains began to change colors, becoming the art platform of graffiti artists who wanted their works to be seen, and now it had become something more than just writing your name, the number of competitors had grown and so did the styles; so if one wanted to stand out, his art needed to be something special. Developing your own style was something that would differentiate one from the others and would make the design memorable. So begins the history of graffiti as an art. Graffers started mixing their names with designers developed by themselves, leaving their prints and imagination behind along with their art. So, by the late 70‘s new styles and new methods had flourished. JennyHolzer‘s street art was constructed from posters consisting messages pasted on buildings. Some of his messages are controversial and contain powerful ideologies with countercultural substrate like ―money creates art‖56.The identity of the designs resembles the ideology that is now used in branding but graffers were not selling anything; they just wanted their art to be seen and if it was memorable, they

55 56

Ibidem, p. 9. Ibidem, p. 12.


would become familiar to the place in what regards their art and style since they would keep their identity anonymous. By the 80‘s, graffiti phenomenon had already gone to the sides of Europe accompanied by Hip Hop rhymes and making a big entrance into the scene. ―In Bristol Robert Del Naja, aka 3D, was a major force in writing and bringing crews to paint in the UK. Writing is still very strong in Bristol today and this tradition has had a major influence on Graffiti Artists such asBanksy. ―When I was about 10 years old, a kid called 3D was painting the streets hard... I grew up seeing spray paint on the streets… (8Swindle 2006)‖57 From locally and internationally, graffiti startedexpanding from the subway trains to the streets spreading the idea of urbanism and underground, creating styles, imagery and art in the imagery of a whole new perspective for people to see. Graffiti had already gone in different ways, different styles and addressing different causes, transforming the environment completely from advertisings and billboards to art for the people, free and unleashed in the eyes of the world. ―Many different styles and genres have developed during the last 30 years including cake graffiti. The great cake escape is the brainchild of cherry bakewell and fondant fancy, who when asked why they do this reply ―taking the space and changing how you perceive that space‖ (11Bablegum 2009)‖58 Even so, regarded from other perspectives, graffiti is still a crime that is handled in different way across the world; for example, ‖In the United Kingdom the main laws that deal will graffiti offences are; 12 The Antisocial Behavior Act 2003 and the Criminal Damage Act 1971.‖59,―in the US a Georgia statute involving criminal damage states: ―(b) A person convicted… shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years."( 2008).‖60 Therefore, every state has the right to establish what to do and how to take action with this kind of behavior. Some states come to accept graffiti but to actually do it, one needs approvals or special arranged spaces; but in some states, with time, people started even loving the idea of graffiti and perceive it as an art. ―In 2005 Bristol city coun cil let the public decide if a piece by Banksy should remain. The Bristol public voted overwhelmingly to keep the piece. Since then other Graffiti Art has been the subject of this public vote most
57 58

Ibidem, p.10. Ibidem, p. 13. 59 Ibidem, p. 14. 60 Ibidem


recently a piece in Croydon. (15Guardian 2009). Bristol City Council defines this change in policy on ―Graffiti as Art” in its 2009 Policy with Legal document. Of course this only applies to a small number of graffiti works, the majority are removed .‖61 Even though theauthoritiestake measures and have lawsagainst graffiti, the current was never abolished successfully, rather it developed and grew larger and larger. The idea of graffiti is communicating a message to the world, visually and that gives it a great power that holds it up even though sometimes it‘s erased or people pay for it by being caught. It‘s worth it. The concept of power is very important throughout history and it shows that whoever holds the power, that one can exercise it on other individuals, on nature, over space and that can change or determine the ways and meanings something is understood. Of course, power can prioritize interests or a difference of ideas(that might be cultural) but ―it also raises the question of the forms of resistance (again often cultural) which contest the exercise of power.‖62, most commonly in governments or in a relationship of hegemony where one holds the power and leads an entire population. People who do graffiti have this kind of power, the power to influence a community or to raise awareness in what regards a political, economical or social cause. This kind of power represents a social and cultural construction where ―Power is involved in constituting identities (including those of the individuals or social groups who are understood to ‗hold‘ power), social relations (such as the relationships between men and women), and cultural geographies (such as the definition of national identities, or of ‗East‘ and ‗West‘ in Orientalism). Most analyses of power in cultural geography combine these senses of power to make arguments about how the active cultural construction of places, spaces and landscapes are part of relationships of unequal power between social groups.‖63 This unequal attribution of power is usually expressed through forms of graffiti and street art and this expression creates a social relation within a group or community which feels involved, understands and identifies with the situation that is presented. Most often graffiti is a power that expresses many aspects of the world as it is and sometimes its too straightforward, fact that can lead to altering attitudes or outputting problems that could easily amplify. This kind of power is what makes graffiti a counterculture, a
61 62

Ibidem, p. 16. Alison Blunt,PyrsGruffudd, Jon May, MilesOgbord, DavidPinder, Cultural Geography in Practice, Edward Arnold (Publishers) Limited, Great Britain,2003, p. 9. 63 Ibidem, p. 9.


subversive ―act of subverting existing advertising‖64, of recreating something by giving it a new sense, a new attitude, ideology which not only changes the initial sense but criticizes it and ―operates as critical public pedagogy‖65, exercising it‘s power.Culture jamming is a practice that has been around forever, building up the idea that everyone should have the power and opportunity to express opinions and individualities alike and as an answer to corporate advertisements. This kind of culture jammingcannot be understood otherwise, it provokes thinking and the power of identity within a world that is in control by a larger idea of behaviorism, it ―(1) fosters participatory, resistant cultural production; (2) engages learners corporeally; (3) creates a (poetic) community politic; and (4) opens transitional spaces through détournement (a ―turning around‖)‖66. It is a strong weapon of articulation of the freedom of the individual, of the power of thinking and expression by its ways of activism within the cultural history of the counterculture, by leaving a personal imprint of creation in concordance to society and context, by creating the idea of a community that is not based on the angular definition of society but by a feeling of empathy and exchange of perspectives, by turning the phrase around and making it real instead of accustoming to an idea that is imposed or created through means of manipulation and propaganda. This mean of expression represents the pattern of counterculture and its vigor reinforces the idea of counterculture in its every sense. From the beginning of the movement, the place of graffiti was set in the sphere of counterculture, of bringing out an attitude that is not in concordance with the imposed ideals and lifestyles. This need of improving relations, of communicating, of identity and evolution at a level of community startles generations in exploring and creating something powerful and substantial to determine the fact that people are independent, free and have their own power of expression, of individuality and perspective. This consciousness is never forgotten and it is the core of the countercultural ideology that re-creates with every generation in different perspectives, styles and contexts. The representatives of this current stand for an alternative counter corporate form of media, with denominations as AdBuster, a non-profit magazine through which activists, pranksters, entrepreneurs and rebels altogether manage to express an alternative way of thinking
64 65

Ibidem, p. 25. Jennifer A. Sandlin,Jennifer L. Milam,Mixing Pop Culture and Politics, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc, USA, Oxford, p. 323. 66 Ibidem


and acting within the parameters of society. AdBusters succeeds in alternatively creating a new perspective and consciousness by launching international campaigns as Buy Nothing Day and Occupy Wall Street, celebrations that have a subversive character and come counter to the imposed ideologies of the dominant culture. This kind of publicizing targets a public that lives by countercultural ideologies, that is against consumerism and the idea of mass production in exchange for profit generally.

Chapter 2: Case Study
1. Introduction

As a case study I have chosen to examine the case of Banksy, the anonymous graffiti artist and his controversial piece of street art from London, the ‗Slave Labor‘(‗Bunting Boy‘) mural taken from the Poundland store wall in Wood Green, London, a property firm ―owned by Essexbased businessman Robert Davies, 60 and Leslie Gilbert,49‖67. After being taken off the wall the mural was put on art auction in Miami Florida on the 24th of February 2012, on a website, valuing about $500,000-$700,000. ―Speaking to The Sunday Times, the pair refused to confirm or deny whether they were involved in removing the work or even whether they owned the building.‖68 The Banksy ‗Slave Labor‘ depicts a child sewing the British flag at a sewing machine and it appeared on the store wall last May just before the only second Diamond Jubilee‘s celebration in the country‘s history, being seen by the public as a social and political criticism of the gala and a protest against sweatshop usage and manufacturing for the Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics. The mural disappeared in the same month in mysterious circumstances, later appearing for an auction in Miami and being withdrawn at the 11th hour for no apparent reason, although there have been registered protests of the Haringey Council and of the locals of Wood Green.

Huffington Post, UK: Banksy „Slave Labour‟ Mural sells at private London auction for '£750,000‟ , full article: 68 Ibidem


The apparition of the mural generated excitement as it appeared on the wall not only for the locals but also for people all around the world who traveled to see it. The mural was covered with a protective screen so that it would not suffer alterations. BBC News article about the apparition of the graffiti reports interviews of the locals who declared: “Jason Cobham, 44, from Wood Green, said: "I definitely think it's a Banksy. It keeps you thinking about the plight of child labourers." He added: "I'd pay more than a pound for it. If I could get it off the wall I'd pay a lot of money for it. Haringey should celebrate it."; Tim McDonnell, retail director of Poundland, said: "We are fans of Banksy and we are proud supporters of the Queen's Jubilee.”69revealing the fact that the mural signifies and symbolizes a lot for the London community. After the mural was stolen, locals became furious and started going on the streets to protest as they felt that the mural was a gift for their community and it should have remained in its apparition context. Still, since the property was not a public one, the police enforcement declared that the removal was not reported as a theft. The Haringey Council Leader, Claire Kober declared that “it was "a true credit to the community" that their campaigning seemed to have "helped to stop the sale of this artwork from going ahead". "We will continue to explore all options to bring back Banksy to the community where it belongs," she said.”70 After being withdrawn from the Miami auction in February, on June the 2nd the ‗Slave Labour‘ appeared once again for sale at an auction made by the Sincura Group in London‘s Convent Garden at the Film Museum as an private, members-only event. The work was sold for over $1,1million and the silent auction lasted 3 hours and a half, closing at 9:30 p.m. During the auction, the ―invitees sipped Taittinger champagne and listened to house music as they admired the newly-framed mural flanked by a pair of security guards.‖71 The people of Wood Green considered this new auction as a chance to bring back into their community the Banksy mural or at least keep it in London where they felt that it belongs, therefore the locals did not only re-launched their campaign for the return of the mural but they had also petitioning to remove the it from the auction. The Sincura Group did not reveal who is the mural‘s owner but Tony Baxter, a representative of the Sincura Group stated that ―The

BBC News,Banksy boy worker image on Poundland shop wall, 2012, full article: 70 BBC News,Banksy artwork taken in north London withdrawn from sale‟, 2013, full article: 71 Scott Reyburn: BloombergDisputed Banksy sells for more than $1.1 million, 2013, full article:


Sincura Group do not condone any acts of wanton vandalism or other illegal activity, however after carrying out extensive due diligence with regard the works provenance and ownership we are entirely satisfied that the mural was legally salvaged and that its current owners and its representative are acting in good faith by consigning the piece to us to act as the centerpiece of our forthcoming art show 'Banksy at the Flower Cellars'.‖72 The work of art will be displayed at the art show in UK for the first time since it was stolen, after which it will be returned to the US where it will be part of a private collection of Banksy street work. The case highlights the idea that the general public lacks the ability and power to keep for its enjoyment street art which was designed in the first place to be public and in the context of the streets. The tendency of the art collectors to make these works of art private contradicts their actual meaning, value and subversive message since the art is not public and its capacity of influence it‘s diminished. The mural Slave Labor lacks Banksy's ‗Pest Control‘ certification, a system the artist devised to root out fakes — but that's likely because the service refuses to verify Banksy works that are ―removed from their original context."‖73 Except not validating the mural, Banksy did not make any kind of declarations to the press or publicly but after the mural was stolen, a little graffiti typical for Banksy with a rat asking ‗Why?‘ appeared next to the place where the graffiti used to be. It is unusual for a graffiti to receive this much attention since normally it would be a domain of interest for the authorities. The illegal aspect of graffiti is what transports this case to another dimension because as it can be seen, this particular graffiti artist is in progress to change the rules of the game. He manages to step out of the line that has been settled by the authorities into a whole new world that sees the idea of graffiti very differently than it has been seen in the last century. This dimension of indifferenceto rules, of immorality, of money and the acceptance of a re-negated current is what makes this case dignified of an analysis. In this analysis I question as détournement the fact that the piece of graffiti was removed from the wall only to later be sold for money, as the idea comes counter to the ideologies of graffiti, changing its actual sense and gaining not only a new sense but a new way of

capitalizing in the market context. This transformation of the perspective and ideology can be described as détournement in order for this countercultural current to be co-opted by the
72 73

Tony Baxter, The Sincura Group, full article: Joshua Kopstein,The Verge, Missing Bansky Slave Labor mural sold at private auction, 2013, full article:


dominant culture in the idea of production and profit. In this framework, I will try to understand if this is what happens and determine if the process is of détournement and co-optation takes place in the particular case of the ‗Slave Labor‘.

2. Methodology

2.1. Case Study

The case study that I have chosen is a paradigmatic one since it represents an example of a phenomenon that is extracted from a context of social interaction, since the case is an isolated one it can be revelatory of key elements for the phenomenon considered. The case manages to illustrate how street art, the derivate of graffiti, which until recently meant vandalism and crime transformed its meaning intobecoming so appreciated that people actually steal walls and auction them for big money. The phenomenon is unusual and immoral since the public and the authorities put the concept of graffiti under the sign of illegality and crime. The sudden disregard of these two aspects is what made me refer to this case into the context of research, by attributing it two concepts that are exercised in the actual case study. In order to do so I must refer to the theoretical framework and concepts when deliberating and analyzing the phenomenon. Within the research study I seek in exploring the paradigmatic status of this case taking into consideration the positive and negative connotations that follow a well defined structure in the venture ofunderstanding whether there are signifiers that make the case one of détournement and co-optation. The ‗Slave Labor‘ case manages to outline general ideas upon the phenomenon in question whereas the theoretical framework can show how and if the scientific paradigms operate as reference pointing to the concepts and theories attributed. In order to demonstrate the probability of the case study, I will attribute it many directions and points of view, from the one that relies on the theoretical account to the ones that rely on social interaction, database collected on the phenomenon and an analysis on how do all of these blend together into a real social occurrence. The main problem concerning the case study is the fact that the phenomenon is not only of social occurrence, but it also takes place within the framework of social networks affecting not

only the community, the advertising business, the mass media but also the authoritative part of it since the problem concerns laws, legality and more of all, morality. The drastic change that took place in what regards the perception of this countercultural current transformed not only the mass opinions but also attitudes towards this kind of art manifesto converting it into something entirely new and giving it a whole new sense and value. The research questions that I have formulated in relation to the case study are of explanatory nature discussing the problem from many angles and different perspectives,by conveying assumptions on the idea of arriving at a consensual point in which the understanding of the case would be disclosed by answering the research questions and bringing a very elaborate explanation of this new existent phenomenon. By doing this I aim at understanding how the ‗Slave Labor‘ phenomenon has evolved and explain the magnitude it has taken in disregard to rules, morality, the idea of community and even legality. The understanding of how the phenomenon came to exist and what is the significance of this kind of occurrence within the street art/graffiti phenomenon, if it is a problem of détournement or/and of co-optation is what I am concerned with showing and demonstrating by choosing this particular case study. I have employed an in-depth objective analysis of the case with the help of the theoretical framework I will endeavor tointroduce concepts in order to apply them on the practical social interaction and explain the actual case that regards this paper. The analysis is developed within the established grounds, within the concepts that have been mentioned in the theoretical part, but at the same time, in relation to other factors that have influential and manipulative empowerment in order to better understand what is the size the case took, what is the pattern of this kind of incident and how did it came to happen. 2.2.Research Questions: 1. What countercultural characteristics hasBanksy'sstollengrafitti? Since the idea of graffiti belongs to the countercultural dimension, I will analyze the countercultural characteristics that define the ‗Slave Labor‘ mural so that afterwards I will be able to determine if and how has the current been détourned and co-opted by the dominant culture.


As understood previously, in Chapter I, the ideology of détournement is explained through changing the entire sense of something only to give new understandings, new perspectives, new values and new meanings in order to raise awareness of the masses in disregard to the dominant ideology that is perceived. To understand if this is what happens in this particular case, I need to understand how is the graffiti perceived, what are its meanings, how is it understood and at what point does it all change. 2. How was the material and symbolic value of the graffiti affected by its steal? In order to demonstrate that the idea of graffiti is détourned by its theft, I will have to show how the symbolic value was changed in order for the mural to gain material value, which in this particular case is a sign of not only détournement but also of co-optation. The changing of the ideological sense is made in order to set new boundaries on not only the significance but also on the new value of the current which changes in concordance to its new discovered ideology. 3. How did the mediatizing of the case affected the commercialization of the stolen graffiti and Banksy's reputation, more generally? Since Banksy is the one artist through which dominant culture manages to détourne and cooptate the idea of graffiti, he has a great significance in my analysis. Not only he manages to gain the notoriety of an artist by excluding the illegal aspect of his actions but also since he became so re-known through the media channels, he manages to help in the commercialization of his own graffiti which helps the current to be co-opted more easily.

2.3.Data 2.4. Press Articles My analysis data is based mostly on press articles released by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) News since it is the world‘s largest broadcast news organization, representing a trusted source not only locally but Internationally. The news provided by the BBC on the subject I‘m interested in are the most comprehensive, explanatory and come from reliable sources, not

only because the area of interest is covered by the UK News but also because it is a subject of prior interest in the UK. The range of articles launched by the BBC News presents the case of Banksy‘s ‗Slave Labor‘ from its beginnings, introducing the reader into the actual context of the theft, providing currency in the evolution of the case, in the protests of the locals, in the context of the auction and of the actual selling of the mural. 2.5. Article Choice Criteria I have chosen these articles because of the fact that they are the most conclusive on the case providing more information than other news departments. The reaching objective in this case is done with more ease since the area of interaction is strongly connected with the area of interest. The BBC News bulletin provides the most accurate information about the case with insights that connect the reader to the actual incident, to opinions of the locals on the subject and as well, to other important opinions that have strong connections to the case. The facility with which the BBC News suffices the subject is what determines the importance of the sources and also the efficiency in helping me chose from many other sources that presented the subject of interest. Still, other sources would present the case with information quoted from the BBC News bulletin so I went straight to the best actual source.


1. What countercultural characteristics hasBanksy's stolen graffiti? 1.a. Contextual and Situated Character Banksy‘s ‗Slave Labor‘ carries a very strong social and political message that hit with all its power through the walls of Wood Green‘s Poundland, a shop where ―Everything‘s £1‖. The mural depicts a barefoot child sewing the Union Jack bunting at a sewing machine shouting national criticism that portrays the labor inequalities that have been covered up by celebrations like the Diamond Jubilee or the Olympics.

The mural appeared just before the 2012 Diamond Jubilee which celebrated The Queen‘s 60 years on the throne, being considered a historic occasion since this is only the 2nd time in history that it took place. The event was set to be celebrated together with the people, just weeks before the London Olympics. The First Secretary of State Lord Mandelson underlined the importance of this event and declared that "People across the whole country will want the chance to recognize this remarkable achievement"74, in order to do so, the UK government ―would ‗work closely‘ with the Scottish Government ‗to ensure that people across the United Kingdom can celebrate the jubilee together‘‖75. ‗The remarkable achievement‘ was recognized with medals that were given off to mark the event and also as a symbol for the ―‘tremendous service‘ to the country.‖76 In concordance to these celebrations, the ‗Slave Labor‘ raised awareness of the falsity of the appearances that media shows, and dug deeper into the realities and injustices of everyday life. The countercultural character of this mural has various complex aspects that start from the fact that the exploitation of child labor has been going on for decades in Britain and is part of the country‘s historical background during the British Industrial Revolution when in order for the factories to attain a maximum level of production at a cheaper price, manufacturers hired children to work in textile mills and as miners. This exploitation of children is part of the evolutionary process of Britain even though there is no recognition given to those who wasted their youth and childhood working as grown ups regardless of their age. Despite the fact that their innocence was taken and sold for the good of producing and profit, many of the children were exposed to dangerous situations that even an adult could hardly handle. Not only were the children put to work but they would be brought from foreign countries to be enslaved and still are. ―A 2003 UNICEF study reported that 250 child trafficking cases had been uncovered in the UK since 1998. It made clear, however, that this was just the tip of the iceberg.‖77So, even though Britain was the first to pass laws regulating child labor, the problem did not stop since nowadays children‘s rights are not taken seriously. Put in front of the idea of profit and business development, childhoods are sold for cheap money and hardwork while the problem is still being ignored. The UNICEF ‗End Child Exploitation‘ campaign reports from a

BBC News, New bank holiday for Queen‟s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 , full article: 75 Ibidem 76 Ibidem 77 UNICEF: End Child Exploitation - Child Labour Today, Hobbs and Printers Ltd, 2005, p. 37, full article:


case study that covers UK that ―What is certain, however, is that the child employment laws in this country are not adequate and that thousands of children are exposed to levels of risk which should not be acceptable, either here or in the developing world.‖78 The exploitation of children is not the answer to productivity questions nor to the undeveloped countries that try to evolve but it is the answer to the fact that the world has no control when it comes about money; money and power. The ignorance that is attributed to such a serious problem is worrying but since children are naive and malleable creatures, they are more likely to become the victims to this kind of enslavement. The ‗Slave Labor‘ manages to remind people, just before England‘s great celebrations the fact that the emphasis is put on things that matter less but are easier to handle, unlike the theft of childhood and slavery. This kind of realities are refused and replaced with celebrations like the Diamond Jubilee or the Olympics by the dominant culture, transforming a mural such as ‗Slave Labor‘ into gaining the characteristics of the counterculture. The countercultural fights seem to go on forever, against the winds of dominance that establish the state of the weather. Against the fact that even though The Queen reigned for 60 years, she did nothing to change the world, she did not suffer for the greater good and she does not appreciate the fact that others did. The ‗Slave Labor‘ is a celebration of the fact that people did not forget where they stand, and who made those grounds for them to stand on; is a celebration of those who worked against the nature‘s course, is a celebration in order for the people to remember them, be thankful and not let that happen again. 1.b. Iconography This silent visual protest was to awaken the memory of those enslaved children, in a subversive manner, in the eyes of the public, without any kind of curtain, but one of protection, the mural stood greatly telling the story of a generation. Remembering the fact that life is hard for many and they should be considered, they should be thanked and never forgotten. Against all odds, the mural was one of the few symbolic monuments that recollected the memory of the children‘s slavery creating a mass conscience for the locals and not only. This call of awareness gathered many people to recollect the children who spent their childhoods inside factories, working to produce for the masses in exchange for little money and

Ibidem, p. 38.


aexploited life. The impact of their lives stays forgotten in the past even though it represents the base of a culture that tries to evolve without looking back, and without being grateful, living in a world that abandoned its roots for a comforting living. The symbolical nature of the mural succeeds in constructing a countercultural imagery of the world we live in today; of the dominance that manages in creating positive perspectives from negative foundations, manages in bringing people to ‗the spectacle‘ of the Diamond Jubilee and the sweatshops w hich make cheap Jubilee decorations to celebrate the great life the Queen who lived in prosperity and wealth gained on the back of 7 years old exploited children that should have been playing with their dolls not working as hard as their parents. This kind of perspective strikes in the eyes of the world and knocks down dominant culture along with the sense of conformity and imagery of happiness that it offers. This kind of visual communication is real vandalism on the assets of dominant culture, it denies it, it unveils it for all the dark spots to be seen by the entire world openly. This kind of strike stands for the definition of what subversive means, opposes the dominant opinions and values, creates new concepts and an alternative way of thinking, an alternative lifestyle, an attitude that concerns more than appearances, that it‘s concerned with change and with matters that are not superficial but are embedded in reality, in experience and enhancing of the quality and characteristics of life. In exception to the subversive message and the actual statement, the form in which it has been delivered has its roots in the countercultural ideology, the form of graffiti has always been considered a sign of poverty, of vandalism, of crime, relating to a past of hard living, of inequality and enslavement. This aspect gives an even stronger meaning to the mural itself, in succeeding to send the message clearly to the people, since the public aspect of a graffiti assumes the fact that it‘s free, it‘s made in order to communicate something and it‘s empowering allowing one to express other perspectives than the dominant one, to create parallel realities in which the emphasis is put firstly on the people, on the idea of community, on the idea that people hold the power and are not conforming to whatever they are said but instead, hold their own opinions and their own realities. 1.c. The Temporary Character


This kind of expression re-creates the idea of community consciousness and not only that it opens the eyes of those asleep but it brings together the people against the systems of governance, it raises question marks on what‘s the emphasis put on when it comes to leading the humanity. Of course, nobody brought out the fact that Britain was build on children labor since such a thought comes so disturbing to one‘s mind but it‘s true, it‘s reality and it‘s part of history. So, what‘s more disturbing? To have happened and mention it, be grateful and be concerned with this kind of problem or to have happened and hid it from the eyes of the public, bury it deep behind invented celebrations? The fact that children labor it‘s part of the history is something well known, it could be as well accepted and used as an example of something that should not be repeated ever in the history of mankind. Monuments to sit as symbols in sign of respect would not hurt either since those children wasted their childhoods working and got nothing in return but a part of their life that will never be returned to them. This should never happen to anyone again so it should be remembered that it‘s wrong to enslave, and exercise power over those who are weaker, in case someone gets any ideas of how to run their business profitably would. The ‗Slave Labor‘ mural successfully manages to mention once again the fact that people are only tools in the hand of the empowered, tools that are easily handled with the right set of skills. Money and power are the values that are imposed in this century and as we can see, this is not something new. It‘s always been about the money, about the evolutionary road that‘s build on money, no matter what the consequences are. Banksy‘s ‗Slave Labor‘ is a very interesting piece put in a context where its meaning grows more and more with every look it receives. The flag‘s symbolic power put into the context of the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics distracts the nationalism out of the celebrations raising important questions regarding the morals and values of the dominant culture. The exploitation and labor should not be celebrated in such a way, a way that disregards the substance of human life and purpose in favor of figures that could change these aspects but instead is too superficial to even be considered. The lack of importance to these kinds of inequalities and dysfunction of the system establish a disconnection between the human rights and the value system on which life is governed. People get born in a world that exploits them in the name of evolution, for the good of the country‘s imagery, not population since the population is treated in such a regardless way of their rights, needs and identities only for a greater idea of

civilization to be reached. But since the idea of civilization has been exchanged for the idea of luxury and wealth and not for the people and the future generations, the concept concludes in defining the irony itself. The criticism of society, of the politics that dominate life is a strong subject, specific to Banksy‘s street art. It‘s not only just paint on a wall but it resembles to a declaration of war that should not be seen as a individual threat but as a countercultural act and movement that stands out in the eyes of the public, showing ‗behind the scenes‘ footage of how history was made, if anyone was wondering about something more than what was the Regal family doing at the time or when will the London Olympics start. The mural was something to strike at the heart of Britain‘s nationalism, at the roots of their ancestors who have been forgotten in favor of the present, in the lap of commodity, celebrations without 2. How was the material and symbolic value of the graffiti affected by its steal? 2.a. The material value First of all, never before was granted so much importance to a graffiti piece, except for when it was too large to be removed. Indeed, this case became to be something special since the theft became immediately a popular subject discussed by the mass media and largely debated within the locals of Wood Green. The fact that the graffiti became so attractive was to put on it even price tags by the people talking about it. Not only did the mural become so much more renowned internationally but it also gained the notoriety of a art collector piece, of something that was to set the first trends within a new sort of appreciated artwork. The mass media started even speculating prices in order to set the starting price of the mural and put it in the top must-haves of the moment. The first auction helped at raising the price of the mural since people were bidding for it but the fact that the auction stopped made the price grow even more and the media started again speculating how much the mural is worth, for how much was it auctioned and probably that if it will be sold again, it will cost much more than the already set price. Of course, these were not exaggerations but it did represent a new ‗trend-setting‘ current set by the media. The fact that the media is such a decisive force in influencing not only new trends but also values and the system of needs, leads to the fact that, as Thompson pointed ―ideology is

viewed essentially as a kind of social cement which circulates in the social world via the products of the media industries, and which integrates and incorporates individuals into the social order, thereby reproducing the status quo.‖79 This ideology is what mass media inserts in all it‘s imagery, in those carefully chosen words, introducing these concepts that represent the ideal attitude that people must have in concordance to what should be going on, not what does actually happen. The continuous aspect of reproducing the status quo is evolutionary, transitory and influential. If something changes entirely, as graffiti in this particular case, it means that a new status quo has been obtained within the social ladder and that the rules have changed for the moment, as they will change again and again following a road of acceptance and cooptation by détourning actual ideologies, values and criticism and by incorporating it into the old aspects of the world. Of course, people are what make this circle spin and practically, they represent the circle and they do the spins according to the rules of the game. ―The idea of the public sphere does retain some value today as a critical yardstick; it calls our attention, for instance, to the importance of a sphere of social communication which is neither wholly controlled by the state nor concentrated in the hands of large-scale commercial organizations.‖80 Indeed, Banksy‘s criticism stood for representing his own vision but it was a vision that concerned the social norms after which people live today, without being concerned about the past or if what should have changed actually did change. His graffiti is a social communication of criticism, of satire, belonging in the eyes of the public, reminding people what should matter and invoking their community consciousness, their humanity and their awakening from the slumber. This triggered the alarm of the public sphere, of symbolism and of ideologies inspired from real life. 2.b. The symbolic value The implication of graffiti has a very strong symbolism in this frame of co-optation since graffiti has always been something that manages to expresses the empowerment of having an opinion, the freedom of speech, of public space, of sharing content within the public sphere, with people on the expense of one‘s act elaborated and projected in a public manner. The whole idea
79 80

John B. Thompson, Ideology and Modern Culture, California, Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 117. Ibidem, p. 119.


of graffiti is to express private opinions, criticism and powerful messages in order for people to open their horizons to new perspectives, to be subjected to other types of messages than those send by the mass media. The public sphere is to be classified somewhere between the domain of public authority and the civil sphere of social privacy, fabricating a new kind of outlook, combining private individualities within the public sphere, therefore creating a new dimension, a dimension of debate that puts emphasis on the civil society administration and the state‘s contribution. This active criticism of the civil society and state authorities usually carries very strong messages that succeed in raising many questions and problems for people to reflect on, realize or consider. Therefore, alike the concept of media messages destined for consumers, the active participation and the sharing of a content with individualistic characteristic which concerns a nation of people can be understood as being characteristic for the sharing within a public sphere as a critical debate and involvement in the problems that society is concerned with. Once removed from the context, the symbolic value of a graffiti decreases in a considerable manner, since its main feature has been changed and it no longer accomplishes its main purpose. Still, there are to be considered the limitations that this mass communication offer us today. ―As Habermas shows, under the conditions of a relatively restricted circulation of printed materials and the discussion of them in public for such as salons and coffee-houses. The original idea of the public sphere was thus bound to the medium of print … the media of print have increasingly given way to electronically mediated forms of mass communication, and especially television; and these new media have transformed the very conditions of interaction, communication and information diffusion in modern societies.‖81 This diffusion is to be noticed in how the mass media forms the opinions regarding the ‗Slave Labor‘, transforming the graffiti artist Banksy into one of the most famous artists of the 21th century, and one of the best known artists of graffiti. The devices of the new media do not limit people‘s right to reply since people can activate through the virtual platform and express their opinions but does succeed in spreading and creating a new subject of debate for many people, developing a starting point of the conversation by creating a frame for the subject by designing a pattern for it to conform to. This influence used by the media is ―the second reason why the idea of the public sphere is of limited relevance today is that the idea is linked fundamentally to a notion of participatory

Ibidem, p. 119.


opinion formation. The idea of the public sphere assumes that the personal opinions of individuals will become public opinion through, and only through, participation in a free and equal debate which is open in principle to all … is far removed from the political realities and possibilities of the late twentieth century.‖82 Even though there were many opinions on the subject, the notoriety of the subject and the main opinions created about the value of the mural and about its importance were just speculations of the press in order for the mural to be sold for a big sum of money so that the détournement of the current would be co-opted by the dominant culture and graffiti would be attributed a totally new sense and posture, and will be viewed as another form of art, would be produced on a large scale, commercialized and sold for money, instead of being full of meaning, personalized, individualistic, free and subversive. The ‗Slave Labor‘ case was chosen wisely by the mass media since there is a much larger problem at stake, a problem that calls into question the morality of attributing a materialistic value to something that is considered free speech, while decontextualizing it and restructuring its value. The social historical character of the mural was to be embedded in a certain context for it to symbolize something. The context in this particular case includes also the strong idea of nationalism, since the mural its addressed to a specific public, with a specific subject that is best understood by the people from the certain contextualization. The fact that the ‗Slave Labor‘ was received with enchantment and pride by its public shows the importance that the mural has gained in its natural context, assuming a major role within the public sphere by creating the conception of community that it had offered. Since the message of the mural was a subversive one and hit at the base of the nationalist‘s conceptions, it was perceived as an important symbolic feature that stood up for the civil rights, recalling the fact that people come before money and regaining the society an old feeling that has been forgotten, the feeling of belonging to a community. Still, the symbolical character of the graffiti stands not only in the message that it distributes but also in the way that it was made and the attributes of a graffiti are the fact that if it‘s written in stone, or sprayed on a wall it will be more durable; that it is allowed for the graffiti to carry a symbolic form of reproduction and that it is an active participation in molding new points of view, opinions, values. All these aspects have been changed in the case of the ‗Slave Labor. The piece of wall was taken so it will last long but not where it was supposed to; the symbolic of it

Ibidem, p. 120.


was ruined once it was removed from its actual context and it did succeed into molding opinions, but for such a short time that it did not count, in comparison to the fuss that it was made after the theft by the mass media who took into its attribution the manipulative and creative employment. The interference of the mass media will always impact the ways in which interaction happens at a social level, determining the limitations in which the reciprocation takes place, settling new boundaries, constructing new forms of interaction and transforming old ones, therefore reorganizing existent social relations. This new possibilities offered by the media are new forms of living and perceiving life. Leaving behind the old symbolism, sense and value of things changes their entire sense for the future generations and re-invents concepts in a way that is rather superficial, commodification and as Debord calls it, a ‗spectacle‘ in its entire sense. The devaluation of the symbolic character of graffiti, of its authenticity through its illegal manner, brings into the problem the superficial valorization of money, the question retrieving the old polemic between counterculture and dominant culture. Once the symbolist devaluation has happened, the materialistic one can intercede and establish a new functionality of things. Of course, this kind of co-optation is what people have fought with over the years but even though they could not stop it, there were people who rather helped it advance in the sense in which, if the people of Wood Green had not made such a big case from this graffiti, the case would have not received as much attention as it did. In other words, the symbolic value of the graffiti was reduced to zero from the moment in which the graffiti was removed from it‘s context where it was carefully located. The problem of public/private property is irrelevant from the symbolic point of view since it does not matter who owns it but how it is preserved in that exact spot. This depreciation of symbolic value made the idea of graffiti for sale, for mass production, for art collectors and from free, public and illegal to expensive, private and highly appreciated. 3. How did the mediatization of the case affect the commercialization of the stolen graffiti and Banksy's reputation, more generally? 3.a. Banksy‟s reputation before Banksy is the best known graffiti artist of all times and he has managed to create a well known style, with specific characteristics which distinguish his art and has a large public of supporters. He is known for his political and subversive messages that criticize the world we live

in and as Sarah Benet-Weiser outlines in her study of the Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture, ―His work challenges hegemonic institutions such as the military and state practices, exposes hypocrisy in advertising and marketing and questions the fundamental premises of advanced capitalism. Yet while he critiques the world in advertising and branding – calling such practices as ‗brandalism‘ – he is clearly a brand in and of himself.‖83 This brandalism that Sarah Banet-Weiser brings into discussion is used by her as if Banksy would try to make a brand of his name. Still, brandalism stands for the defacement of corporate iconography having as a purpose the mockery, vandalism, protest, parody or even just a social commentary not typically used in the benefit of marketing purposes. This kind of brand is rather an act of corporate and advertising vandalism, and of course anyone is able to make himself known through this kind of activism, coming as an irony to the concept itself.

His messages do have strong political and subversive messages but although he is a master of political and social criticism, he himself is the product of a society that has co-opted him and made him be the imagery of street art and graffiti. Being such an iconic figure, Banksy‘s artwork is sold somewhere between $10.000 and $200.000 therefore the ‗Slave Labor‘ is not the first graffiti piece that has been stolen or sold. Banksy refused to authenticate the graffitis that were put for auction supporting the idea that street art should remain on the streets, as the spokesman for the auctioneers declared in an article by BBC News, ―Banksy hasn't said they are fake. I don't know why he's not authenticated them ... He's saying that street art should stay on the streets."84 Still, it is one the first which managed to create such a sensation around it. This is due not only to the fact that Banksy has gained so much notoriety but also to the fact that he is from London, he is a very loved and appreciated artist within his community and also, the ‗Slave Labor‘ has social, historical and nationalist content that created the impression of belonging and contextualization of the mural to the community. Therefore, the ‗Slave Labor‘ became a substantial subject for the mass media and also for the locals which were very proud of their new Banksy, since they did consider that the mural belongs to their community. 3.b. The local protestors


Sarah Banet-Weiser,AuthenticTM. The Politics of ambivalence in brand culture , New York and London, New York University Press, 2012, page 94 84 BBC News, Banksy refuses to back artsale, UK, 2008, full article at:


Because the feeling of belonging was so strong, after the mural was stolen people of Wood Green launched a campaign to get the mural back in its place of occurrence. The people took the problem to the streets and protested with placards that said ―Bring our Banksy back‖ creating even more excitement for the mass media. Still, the locals believed that they own the Banksy and as Council Alan Strickland declared that ―Banksy gave our community that painting for free. Someone has taken it and plan to make a huge amount for themselves, which is disgusting and counter to the spirit in which it was given. No doubt Banksy will be horrified.‖85 Indeed, graffitis are made to be public and for the public but in this particular case, the property on which the graffiti was sprayed was not public property but private and as the police authorities declared, there wasn‘t any theft reported which allows one to understand the fact that either the owner did not care or he took it and deliberately wanted to make it profitable for himself. Frederic Thut, a representative of The Miami Fine Art Auctions offered a hint about who the owner of the mural was, but refused to give his name saying only the fact that it was offered by a well-known collector who ―signed a contract saying everything was above board.‖86 Still, Alan Strickland of Haringey Council claimed that carelessly of who owned the property and whether it was taken legitimately or not, ―This is an area that was rocked by riots less than a year before this mural was painted, and for many in the community the painting has become a real symbol of local pride."87as for the locals, he described them as ―residents are understandably shocked and angry that it has been removed for private sale‖88 The Haringey Council insisted that the Art Council would intervene in th e case as ―it was ‗wrong‘ to export a piece of ‗local and national significance.‘‖89 But the Art Council could not intervene in the instance, arguing that ―as the mural is less than 50 years old and excluded from Export Control under current rules‖90, chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette also added the fact that ―It


Adam Faulkner and Polland Chris, The Sun News, Banksy Robbers, 2013, full article: 86 HaroonSiddique, The Guardian Weekly, Banksy mural torn off London Poundland store for Miami auction, 2013, full article: 87 BBC News, Arts Council urged to intervene in Banksy mural sale, 2013, full article: 88 Ibidem 89 Ibidem 90 Ibidem


is a shame that a piece of street art that is well loved by the local community has been removed for auction.‖91 Yet, the protests that took place for the regaining of the Banksy did not stop there but succeeded in stopping the first auction that took place after the theft, in Miami. In the 11 th hour of bidding the auction stopped with no apparent reason. The press speculated that it had to do with the fact that people were protesting to get their mural back or at least keep it in London where it belongs. The spokesman of the Fine Art Auctions Miami confirmed the withdrawal and declared that ―Although there are no legal issues whatsoever regarding the sale of lots six and seven by Banksy, FAAM convinced its consignors to withdraw these lots from the auction and take back the power of authority of these works."92 In the same article about the theft, the Leader of the Haringey Council, Claire Kober declared that ―‗a true credit to the community‘‖ that their campaigning seemed to have ‗helped to stop the sale of this artwork from going ahead‘‖93 and in the same optimistic atmosphere she also said that "We will continue to explore all options to bring back Banksy to the community where it belongs."94 The ‗Bring Banksy Back‘ campaign proved to be efficient, at least apparently since the people got another chance in June when a new auction was programmed, this time in the UK. The news gave the locals new hopes of regaining their art piece and bring it back where it belongs, in the lap of their community and of its symbolic value. This time in the hand of the Sincura Group, people have once again been informed of the fact that the selling and ownership is done on legal grounds and that if it will not be auctioned for more than £900,000 within the UK, it will disappear completely as well as it will never again be seen in a public space. Ms Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green declared ―So now I make this direct plea to the owners of the Banksy piece: You have this one last chance to do the right thing. You have deprived a community of an asset that was given to us for free and greatly enhanced an area that needed it. I call on you, and your consciences, to pull the piece from both

91 92

Ibidem BBC News, Banksy Artwork taken in North London withdrawn from sale , 2013, full article: 93 Ibidem 94 Ibidem


potential sales and return it to its rightful place.‖95 Still, no one heard these voices of despair and the mural was sold at the London auction for $1,1 million to a person that is unknown for the large public but it is said that the mural will leave London for the US after it will be once again exposed within an Banksy art exhibition organized with the help of Sincura Group. It is immoral for the piece to have been sold for so much money since it was destined to be free and for public displaying, supporting a strong message, with nationalistic roots that would enhance the spirit of community within a place of appreciation and symbolism. The fact that this came became so famous is not unusual for a piece of news but it is unusual for a story of graffiti. This is the start of a new current, the story is from an old chapter of co-optation of counterculture since people were shown once again that their opinion is irrelevant and things are done in ways that could not be affected since they are legal and unreachable. The commercialization of the ‗Slave Labor‘ was driven not only by the media but also by the public restlessness of a common wish and unification for a cause. The war between the people and the capitalizing of money and production is an old debate causality. The advertising and notoriety gained for Banksy comes in contrary to his anonymity as well as the fact that he‘s created his own brand of himself. Still, this aspect is what made the artwork be sold for so much money, his notoriety put him on to of the new trends and made him a most wanted not only for people that appreciate high art but also by people who appreciate graffiti and art in general, art that carries a deeper sense and a meaningful message. 3.c. Banksy‟s reputation after Banksy‘s creativity and self-advertising is what made him this recognizable and appreciated figure that is in the same time unknown and mysterious. ―The recognizable anonymity of Banksy is an important, if not the crucial element in his self-brand. His work is supported by brand culture and the creative economy, even as he critiques these cultures. In his critique of advertising, he is establishing his own brand using similar strategies of recognizable images and slogans, catchy phrases, his name featured as a brand itself.‖96 The Banksy name brand could stand representative for a team of people for what I‘m concerned since his hoaxes, his art pieces and his advertising are done at such a high level. It could be possible that Banksy stands only for

BBC News,Banksy‟s Slave Labour mural auctioned in London, 2013, full article: 96 Ibidem, p. 95.


the image that it is to be understood by a public that appreciates graffiti as an art and is concerned to the idea of illegality and endangering of one‘s freedom. Since Banksy is such a known figure, I wonder how is it that nobody ever caught him or that nobody is tracking him, on the strength of his strong messages and their subversive well-known characteristic. He has became such a familiar figure of the graffiti world that it‘s peculiar as yet he continues in keeping his identity hidden from the public eyes which seem to always be driven in the right direction since he is always disputed and discussed by the mass media. He could as well be one of the ‗sell-out‘ of the countercultural movement or just another product that has been attributed just a more personal and empowering identity than others, since he stands representative for such a controversial character. It‘s a well known fact that ―Street art is a brand culture that is mobilized by the ethos of morality of anti-branding. As branding becomes part of an everyday lexicon in all cultural realms, expressed in creative production and dynamic play within and between residual and emergent codes of capital and aesthetics, street art becomes its own definition of a brand: it associates with graffiti not just aesthetically but in terms of the ethos of vandalism, secrecy, illegality, risk.‖97 And since it started selling so well, Banksy is a successful concept and product of the industry that comes gathering a brand new public, attributing new characteristics to an old current, re-establishing it‘s rules, denying it‘s symbolic character and making it an immoral cause. The anonymous character of graffiti permits one to change the rules of the game but does not succeed in not creating doubts on the public view. Even though the people of Wood Green were not concerned with this peculiar problematic, it is not excluded that they just wanted their nationalistic artwork on the wall for their community and for their city to carry this symbolism of London in its touristic attributes. Therefore, the problem is one with complex sizes in which the truth is untold, unknown but it is just a matter of time before it will be unleashed completely.


Ibidem, p. 96.


2.2. Case Study Conclusions

1. To what extent can we talk about the concept of détournement in the case of the „Slave Labor‟? The matter of how the world is viewed depends on the filters it‘s looked through and in this particular case, it depends on how much money one‘s determined to pay to look and see in the first place. The ‗Slave Labor‘ case carries with it indications to the concept of détournement and co-optation since its controversial manner of action has generated so much fuss around the idea that it was stolen in the first place and secondly that it was sold. The way in which the detourning of graffiti happened seems to have been predetermined in the first place but this is just a way of looking at things. Although this perspective is not something that is easily excludable, taking into account the timing in which the graffiti appeared, the curiosities that it aroused after so much time from its occurrence among the locals and tourists that travelled only to see the mural is questionable. The symbolic force of the mural brings it into another problematic that is concerned with not only the idea of nationalism but also with the idea of community, unity in what regards a common interest or in this case appreciation and empathy. ‗Slave Labour‘ is probably the only graffiti that undermined all the characteristics of an actual graffiti. It‘s not about the actual art, it is about the fact that a piece of graffiti succeeded in attracting this much attention and in creating this new sense and this new perspective that denies all the rules and values that it‘s attributed. This kind of behavior towards a countercultural current represents the actual détournement and process to co-optation of one more of the countercultural aspects. The problem of illegality takes the idea to another dimension since something that is illegal is becoming part of the production process, of the market, it obviously negates the actual sense of the word illegality. How can something be illegal if purchasing it is legal? This kind of circle denies the idea of logic, denies the rules that people respect, and denies the idea of morality, of a moral system of living. This transformation and new value attributed denies the actual sense of what graffiti means at a larger level, at a level of ideology that is perceived by the public and actual creator, reinventing not only its meaning as expression but also the benefits, taking the whole problem to

a new level, to a level of production that can deliver profit and therefore introducing the current to a public that is bound to accept it, otherwise consume it in its new form. And why would things not function under this new form? It is not the first time that a countercultural current has been détourned by profit passionate and therefore it is not the last. Corporations have always had the need for novelty, for a new product, for a new concept and for something new to deliver in order to remain above and keep the line straight. The act of détournement had always new publics to gain, new perspectives to unleash, not only in the case of corporations but also in the case of counterculture. So who is détourning the concept of graffiti by changing its ideology? This can be considered a matter of exclusion by taking into account who would have gain from this. One on hand, it could be an act of détournement of the dominant culture, in order for cooptation to be considered and money could be made, whereas the countercultural aspect of the concept would disappear and the matter of cleaning walls would be perceived as past. On the other hand, it could be an act of détournement of the actual author of the mural who tries to establish new rules, and from where he sits, it is something that can be easily done since he would have to benefit more than if he would otherwise. Since the problem of anonymity is under the veil of mystery, this person could do anything, from painting it on the wall to display it, as a form of advertisement and after it had gained enough publicity stealing it and than sell it for a whole lot of money. 2. To what extent can we talk about the concept of co-optation? This is the reigning of the dominant culture, of the idea of homogeneity, of the simple production and institutionalizing capital for the sake of money, wealth, inequality and reaching a higher status quo into the pyramid that settles the rules of the game and this is a representation of everything that co-optation stands for. The idea of prioritizing the needs of the people is no longer on the menu, it is a concept that is easily being détourned in its turn by all these senseless, meaningless and countless actions of attaining a new level of commodity, a new level of living within ‗the spectacle‘ which is determined to take control of the world and change everything in its benefit. This is a problem of empowerment that it is not balanced, the entire control sits in one part, in the production department and the other in the consuming one, being the subject of this system of operation.

Commercialization is the new way of interaction and communication within the social platform, and in this particular case, as Thompson depicts it, ―the commercialization of mass communication progressively destroyed its character as medium of the public sphere, for the content of newspapers and other products was depoliticized, personalized and sensationalized as a means of increasing sales.‖98 This is the best way of détournement possible in the case of visual art, getting the sense right out of the sentence for it to be changed into a pointless illusion of a message. This depoliticizing, immorality and the sensationalized perception that has been released into the eyes of the public is what labels the idea of graffiti as détourned only to be reinvented as something else, as something commercialized, as a product that is designed to be wanted and bought, to be changed into a real marketing device that will bring new publics, new ideas to be exploited, produced and sold back from where they came from. The mass production and consumption of a message that is seen strong by the eyes of the public destroys its meaning entirely by transforming it into something dull, homogenizing it instead of letting it distinguish only to be seen as something else. This co-optation is not surprising taking into account the image Banksy has build along the years, the notoriety he has gained from tabloids, scandals, hoaxes and wars within the graffiti world. He has managed to construct himself a real brand to rediscover new senses in the world of graffiti, to establish new perspectives of this disputed subject that has been rejected for over a decade by authorities and the public. Banksy managed to become addictive in the old fashioned way, advertising himself creatively, under the sign of the countercultural ideology to gain authenticity in order for him to impact the public in a genuine manner.


John B. Thompson, op. cit., p. 113.


General Conclusions

After an in-depth analysis of the positioning of graffiti between the two concepts of détournement and co-optation, I have arrived to the conclusion that the phenomenon is not totally elucidating since some aspects of it remain under the veil of mystery and will be able to be uncovered only as time passes by, as they will continue or stop at the point of being just particular phenomenon. Still, the matter is to be taken into consideration as it follows particular patterns that have been uncovered in Chapter I through the historical incursion that shows how the reproduction of culture takes place from generation to generation changing the context of social interaction by creating new values and even re-creating the old ones. This kind of transformation happens not only due to the need of novelty but also due to the fact that the continuous reproduction takes placein a context of an evolutionary society which permanently presents a new frame that is to be understood in new ways and changed in its turn. This kind of behavior does imply the détournement of certain aspects of life, of values, ideologies, by adapting them to a new framework which attributes them new perspectives and new meanings. By their functioning within these new frameworks, their malleability increases, since they are the ones that are adapting to the framework, reacting within the context of social interaction and being understood in different manners by people who altogether absorb them into their rutine and make them part of their everyday life. Therefore, the co-optation of innovation comes naturally not only to the context of social interaction but also to a system of authority which must adapt to new frameworks, new phenomena and new currents that are continuously developing in all directions. Due to the this reproductive device that is exercised continuously, the world‘s transforming character will never cease to stop the evolutionary process which continuously develops and changes taking different shapes and dimensions, like it has been noticed in the case of counterculture and dominant culture. The countercultural movement not only did re-negate all aspects of dominant culture but it also adopted a contrary position to all its characteristics and attitudes towards the character and quality of life. Still, after some time of fighting against the winds, dominant culture managed into absorbing currents that stood representative for the countercultural movement, by adapting them to its own definition, to its own way of action.

This kind of example can be traced back to the countercultural activists that became part of corporatist agencies of advertising or to those countercultural believers that stroke publics with strong messages put in hip hop lyrics that were supposed to raise awareness towards injustice and inequality but fell into the trap of dominant culture, giving in their rights to choose their own destiny and values, in exchange of money and fame. This is how dominant culture operates, it seems to do whatever is best for the people but in fact it forces its power to do whatever works best and brings profit.Taking into consideration the characteristics that describe dominant culture, it can be easily understood the fact that by being dominant implies full control driven by a great deal of power. As it can be seen in my analysis, this power can be gained by many devices that are put in use, devices that come helpful in establishing new trends, values, and altogether, an imagery that should embody the idea of normality.

The phenomenon I have chosen for my analysis follows certain patterns that attribute it to the dimension of countercultural ideologies that are easily being transformed through the perspective of a new kind of visibility since their status has transgressed from illegality to a new way of producing profit. This kind of phenomenon attains the particularities of concepts like détournement and co-optation but their process is still at its first more serious occurrence, and has not developed entirely. The fact that the case has some unanswered questions like who is the one who stole the graffiti, who bought it and why would anyone steal it in the first place are indistinctiveness that put the case in a place of debate and assumptions that cannot be proven neither right nor wrong. All in all, my analysis cannot be a defining one in what regards this new kind of occurrence, this case can be a particular one, something that will never happen again or something that has only just exploded but did not have time to spread and take real dimensions.



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