1 Vandalism Versus Brandalism: the Rights to Public Space The distinction between what is deemed as public or private space

progressively blurs due to the influence of the mass media, privatization, and the impending threat of becoming an era of Big Brother-meets-corporate-advertising. The growing invasion of personal space is made worse with the advertisers’ power to dictate societal trends by monopolizing public space with their subliminal enterprise; i.e., they are everywhere and they are affecting everyone. They are the source for one’s choice in clothing, for teen weight issues, that seemingly visceral pressure to live a certain way, and they do it without anyone’s permission. However invasive their advertisements may be, any alteration or destruction of this property is illegal and considered vandalism. In response, artists such as Banksy, a British graffiti painter, introduce the new term Brandalism which is used to describe “the creeping corporatisation of schools, libraries and other public buildings, which are gradually being daubed with company logos and slogans” (“web speak; A new industry … dictionary”). The controversy over semantics that graffiti art has ensued epitomizes the paradox that is the legality of brandalism versus vandalism. Despite the negative connotations that the word vandalism evokes when applied to illicit artwork, the actual use of satirical subvertising in a medium with the universally tacit accessibility of guerilla artfare is the most effective means to oppose the incongruously-permitted violation of individual rights and space caused by societal marketing perversion and the necessary counterbalance that the law fails to oblige. As a result of increased technological development, advertisers may now access consumers based on the individuals’ needs, interests, desires, and sudden urges (“Do Advertisers … Us?”). Many suggest that advertising, like graffiti, can be ignored as the individual is not neces-

2 sarily forced to look. However, there are several blatant fallacies in this similitude, essentially rendering this analogy a joke. The crux of these differences is contingent upon whether an environment should be allowed to monitor those that live within it. According to marketing analysts, one in four American advertisers used behavioral targeting in 2008, and almost half are expecting to employ it in 2009. Companies such as NebuAd and Phorm offer inspection technology to internet service providers that document a user’s traffic to build detailed profiles based on various aspects of their activity; such as browsing habits, media streaming consumption, email communications, instant messaging, as well as Skype messaging. This increase in targeted advertising is not in any way limited to the internet. The Eye Flavor, for instance, is a Japanese all-inone digital signage board that uses facial recognition to regulate the content exposed to consumers based on their gender and age range (Marchetti). There appears to be no limits on what may be collected about consumers. In the words of Banksy, “They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you” (Banksy 31). In 1969, for approximately one month, a New York City pedestrian was randomly selected each day to be followed everywhere that the follower was allowed to enter (Acconci). This incident is called, “Following Piece,” a performance by artist Vito Acconci, with additional help from his involuntary participants. This performance piece demonstrates the ineluctable reality of a legal system’s restrictions in providing the necessary protection of the individuals it operates for. No document of law, notwithstanding objectivity, is capable of faultlessly carrying out the bona fide convictions it serves to enforce. That is, a man who just so happens to be in the same place at the same time as another person may call it a coincidence, and therefore not likely to be prosecuted for stalking.

3 The idea that Acconci conveys can be extended to advertising. Despite being an invading force in a person’s life, advertisers are legally allowed to continue. “Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say whatever they like with total impunity.” says Banksy. These legal factors are only strengthened by the government’s support of privatization. One does not need to be familiar with the technicalities of privatization and corporatisation to have witnessed its effects on society. In fact, corporatisation is demonstrated everywhere; on public benches and buildings, as well as any other thing that, although labeled public, contains properties that can be bought and sold. In 1974, a performance artist named Marina Abramović performed “Rhythm 0”, in which she would lie on a table for six hours with seventy-two objects that the audience could use on her in any way they desired (Abramović). A card on the table listed a set of rules that presented Abramović as the object, where she holds full responsibility for anything that would occur within the six-hour period. The audience split into two groups; those who used the objects on her and those who protected her from them. At one point, a fight emerged as someone held a gun to her throat. With that card, Abramović gave up the rights to control of her own body. In response, the audience assumed that control. The ethical consequences of accepting responsibility for the actions carried out by others without one’s own consent are innumerable. Abramović illustrates the sense of urgency a person must take when their rights are threatened in order to remain in control of one’s own circumstances. Otherwise, can one trust the decisions that others are willing to make for them without their consent? Although the feeling of a gun held to one’s neck is much different from the seemingly obscure presence of advertising, the consequences of tolerating its abuse are just as significant.

4 People are made more transparent than ever before; to government agencies, to security services, to advertisers, as well as the companies they purchase from (“You Are Being Watched”). Closedcircuit television cameras are monitoring the public everywhere. “Britain now has an estimated 4.2 million CCTV cameras—one for every 14 citizens,” says Don Butler of the Ottawa Citizen. “People in central London are now caught on camera about 300 times a day.” Butler reports an approximate thirty-million public and private CCTV cameras in the United States. Surveillance expert from the University of Alberta, Kevin Haggerty, comments, “There’s an ability to connect all of this stuff across realms that is just a little unnerving.” People are tracked everywhere from public spaces, to their workplaces, and even on the internet. Personal information is stored in extensive databases and classified into categories of risk, value, and trustworthiness. “We are inadvertently handing over to centralized authorities an infrastructure of visibility the likes of which no society has ever seen before.” Perhaps to some, a lack of privacy still does not feel as lethal as a gun to the neck; however, such tolerance may lead to critical consequences. Many privacy advocates stress the potential detriments of radio frequency identification technology; tiny chips that communicate stored data to a reader via radio transmission. Canadian federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart describes the extent that RFIDs could affect society. “RFIDs may someday be embedded in almost everything, allowing each of us, at least in theory, to be monitored wherever we go.” RFID chips could replace universal product codes within a decade. Every item on Earth would have its own unique identifier, essentially meaning that anything and everything a person possesses could be tracked and monitored. Some even suggest that RFIDs will likely be routinely embedded in everyone alive, possibly within a human lifetime. The degree of power that technology grants to whatever force is in control of it is irreversible: authori-

5 tarianism. “Our governments should be transparent to us, so citizens can hold them to account. Instead, it’s the citizens who are being made transparent.” The relationship between the citizen and the state has been inverted. “We got it backwards.” On Sunday, April 13, 2008, central London postal workers went to work only to find the Newman Street Post Office building’s exterior wall exhibiting the words, “ONE NATION UNDER CCTV,” stretching three stories high (“Graffiti Artist … by CCTV”). Artist Banksy managed the stunt despite a security fence inclosing the Post Office yard, combined with the additional risk involved with working under the surveillance of an actual CCTV camera. The painting is large, conspicuous, and illegal. Nevertheless, it would be inappropriate to categorize it with the tagging typically associated with urban graffiti. The core difference between art and tagging is ambiguous. The difference between advertising and tagging, however, is both defined and enforced by the law. Disregarding the transiency of semantics, labels, legalities, and appearances; every object, system, and event carries an implicit idea. Whether the idea is in the emergence, intent, or internal process; the ethicality is consistent in its effects. The common idea between graffiti art and advertising is communication; the use of public space to broadcast a message. Intrinsically, however, these acts carry two contrasting ideas. The future of advertising is stalking pedestrians in a New York City street. It holds a gun to the neck without taking responsibility for the consequences. It invades privacy, manipulates desires, and it projects identities onto the people it spies on. Graffiti art is a means of fighting this force. It takes control of the variables affecting one’s life. It is painting illegally to broadcast a message so urgent and intolerable that one cannot waste time passively filtering through a paradoxical legal system. “Any advert that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is

6 yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it.” Banksy writes. Satirical subvertising is a necessary crime to fight a force whose potential consequences are irreversible. “Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.”

7 Works Cited Abramović, Marina, perf. Rhythm 0. By Marina Abramović. Naples: 1974. Acconci, Vito, perf. Following Piece. By Vito Acconci. New York: 1969. Banksy. Cut It Out. Vol. 3. Banksy, 2004. Butler, Don. “Do Advertisers Know Too Much About Us?.” Canwest News Service. (04 Feb. 2009). 12 Feb. 2009 <http://www.canada.com/Entertainment/story.html?id=1250021>. Butler, Don. “You Are Being Watched.” Ottawa Citizen. (05 Feb. 2009). 12 Feb. 2009 <http://www.canada.com/Sports/being+watched/1256769/story.html>. “Graffiti Artist Banksy Pulls off Most Audacious Stunt to Date - despite being watched by CCTV.” Daily Mail (14 April 2008). 03 Feb. 2009 <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ article-559547/Graffiti-artist-Banksy-pulls-audacious-stunt-date--despite-watched-CCTV. html>. Marchetti, Nino. “Targeted Advertising from Face Recognition.” TG Daily. (28 Jan. 2009). 04 Feb. 2009 <http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/41233/113/>. “Web Speak; A New Industry, A New Language. Your Weekly Dotcom Dictionary.” Daily Telegraph (London, England) (09 April 2001): NA. Custom Newspapers (InfoTrac-Gale). Gale. DISCUS. 12 Feb. 2009 <http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId=SPN.SP00>.

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