Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Buff - RIP Graffiti and Street Art in Shoreditch

all photos Nolionsinengland except where stated


Shoreditch is a colourful, artistic furiously beating heart within the borough of Hackney. Among many forms of creative and cultural excellence, street art within Shoreditch is significant on the global scale if not even world leading. Visitors come from far and wide specifically to see the street art and graffiti, indeed the Graffoto inbox is often filled with emails from overseas visitors looking for advice and information prior to their visit. The actions of the local council, Hackney are exposing the ridiculously confused and inconsistent practise over the control of graffiti and the development of the area.


Blatantly Criminal


Returning to the streets after a few days outside London this week, probably the most notable new piece of street art was this painting by Neonida on the side of The Foundry, a legendary decade old arts and social space on Old Street.


Neonita


This piece is more notable for the politics of its’ existence than its’ artistic accomplishment. This spot spent a long time hidden behind builder’s scaffolding though that provided a suitable canvas for various quasi political artistic statements.


PMP

After removal of the scaffolding a series of beautiful pieces were executed at the invitation and permission of the owners of the Foundry Bar.


The Krah/FORS (2008)



Inkfetish (2008)


Then to everyone’s horror, about three days after another masterpiece the council’s contractors came along and without so much as a “may we” obliterated the masterpiece using a semi glossy black tar.


mmmmm - Thats better (Dec 2008)


The council’s view seems to be that this commissioned public art is graffiti and therefore vandalism and must be cleaned up. Hackney Council’s stance on graffiti is summarised on their website, regarding private buildings which means almost any wall not owned by the council, this is what their policy says:

“The Council has no authority to immediately remove graffiti from buildings that it does not own or manage.
When graffiti is reported on one of these buildings, we will notify the owner/occupier and can undertake works by default if they fail to act.”


From conversations with the staff at the Foundry, no notice to remove graffiti was served on them and there is no record of anyone ever making any kind of complaint. The manager’s at the Foundary even protested that the work had their permission and was neither racist not offensive but to no avail. The council and their hired chimps have a penchant for taking matters into their own hands and ignoring their own required process.


Council contractors vs 10FOOT (10FOOT won, container relocated with 10Foot intact)


Frankly the council are making themselves look ridiculous with their feverish effort to purge the un-licensed creativity from the area. There is a derelict un-occupied eyesore in a prominent position, located just a short distance from the Foundry on Great Eastern St. It looks like a burned out bombsite, the smashed windows let the pigeons in, interior walls and ceilings have collapsed, the outsides are grubby and decrepit from years of neglect.


61 Great Eastern St


The Council do nothing that has any effect on the state of this building but the moment a bit of street art appears, their buffing chimps attack. Before Christmas, after creating a gorgeous substantial art piece 50 yards away (with permission), Israeli artist Know Hope created a small marker pen piece only for it to be promptly buffed by Graffiti Solutions.


Know Hope - photo Slaminksy


The shittiest building in Shoreditch vs the most beautiful and lowest impact art from an internationally recognised street artist – which would you prioritise?

Back to The Foundry, those who have been there will know of the Foundry as an arts centre for creativity, outsider art shows and refreshment with like minded souls, it is a notable social lightening-rod for artistic minded creatives as well as a meeting place for cyclists. This is due to go very soon though as last week Hackney Council giving planning approval to the demolition of the building it shares and its replacement by an art hotel. In a move totally inconsistent with its zero tolerance of graffiti, it has ordered the preservation of a very large Banksy on the outside wall to the rear of the building.


Banksy - Eat The Rich

Weird the Council should choose to have this Banksy preserved, as it is crap. Predominantly a roller job, it is very poorly executed its meaning is a tad obscure to the average passerby. Relocation somewhere else within Hackney would sacrifice any slight shred of meaning. Incorporation within the fabric of a hotel whose design is driven by a signature art theme would be bizarre, there's a huge disconnect between a piece of street art and hotel art.

The Council's behavior is totally inconsistent with its actions on the street. Any fresh and vital art, which includes the Sclater St graff, is purged immediately yet they keep this piece of shit?

Also, There have been many far superior Banksy’s within a hundred yards of this piec,e from the Happy Chopper across the road over the chippie to the Pulp Fiction and Ozone pieces at the roundabout to the various happy copper pieces across the Old Street railway bridge. It makes no sense.


Happy Chopper - photo Shellshock


Further sensless irony lies in the protective hoarding that has been placed over the Banksy rat, presumably by the building owners who Graffoto believes to be the property developers. This Banksy hasn’t been visible to the public for a couple of years. When Burning Candy did one of their signature illegal skull/teef jobs on the wooden hoarding protecting the graffiti - it got buffed. Twisted.


Rat trap; Burning Candy


The underlying motivation of the council is not improving the living quality of the Shoreditch media-arts-cool village for its “stakeholders”, it’s a cultural cleansing of the most vibrant contemporary art movement in the World today in preparation for the Olympics. OK, so not everyone appreciates graffiti but there are enough residents, workers and visitors in this area that do (check the requests for shutter jobs and wall paintings) so its about time the mish mash of elected and un-elected busybodies in the council gave some thought to a balanced policy reflecting the balanced and varied views rather than this scorched wall approach.

Graffoto bumped into a number of hard working car mechanics today who were intrigued by us taking this photo of a new CEPT on the side of their garage.


CEPT - Love Will Tear US Apart


They told us that the Council had ordered them to remove the previous Cept at this location as it was offensive and there had been complaints, £5,000 removal costs if it wasn't buffed. The guys asked them what was offensive and to show them the complaints - no reply! See, even rude mechanicals get it. The threat issued to them amounted to £5000 cost of removal. THey are taking the piss.


Offensive Superhero!

An innate part of the colour and character of Shoreditch that ensures the whole flourishes is being mindlessly strangled. Bring back the graffiti and bring back the soul to Shoreditch.

This post has been prepared without the cooperation or even awareness of anyone mentioned like the council, The Foundry, the developers and the buff monkeys. Banksy contributed sod all as well.

LINKS
Grafflondon on the strangulation of even legal graffiti spots here
Save The Foundry here

23 comments:

ARTBLEAT said...

Linked you up on artbleat. Great piece, explains a lot.

Mya.L said...

The Hackney waste collection can't even do its job properly. Some of their guys seem to be unable to pick up what's fallen off the recycling boxes, I witness that every week on my street. My council tax is extortionate, I wonder why when I see the poor services we're offered (probably too much money spent on the black tar paint!)...

hookedblog said...

The Cept piece has been there for as long as I can remember, and I doubt very much that there have been any complaints about the piece. I suspect it is more to do with the opening of other ugly East London line station Hoxton which is to open across the road from the Cept piece in a few months.

And what's with the £5000 removal fee, seriously how can they justify that cost. Tin of shit gloss paint can't be more that £10 and the the cost of labour what £4,900 for all of half an hours work if even to paint over it!! Madness.

stevie said...

To see this attack on art, is shocking, no wonder so many people just say "fuck it, lets just tag EVERYTHING""

If this happened anywhere else in Europe, the artists would have won already.

fuck the narrowminded toff's.
and especially fuck Bansky, a true waste of space!

NoLions said...

Thanks all, its reassuring to find that when the posts get this long and clumsy people are still prepared to read to the bottom.

Hooked - you are right, the garage also believes the same thing about it being due to the shiny happy station opening opposite.

The £5,000 "fee" is the disproportionately large enforcer, no small commercial business in this area has the financial might to take the council on in the courts over this particular issue. It is legalised bullying.

hookedblog said...

I imagine if this is the case for the Cept wall then no doubt Sclater Street and will beyond will be buffed clean once the Great Concrete Wall of Shoreditch which is doubling as a train station opens in June.

They seem to have stepped up a gear again as well, all along Hackney Road is far too clean as is Shoreditch but I guess with the station opening soon and all the money pouring into the area ( Shoreditch House, their Pizza East Restaurant and the soon to open Shoreditch House Hotel! and not forgetting Terrance Conran's Boundry building I guess it was inevitable

Annie said...

My favourite place to watch (in Tower Hamlets, not Hackney) is the old railway bridge on Brick Lane - tagged/buffed/tagged/buffed/tagged/buffed on a daily basis- an entertaining, endless, futile battle. Someone should film it over a month then speed it up, it would be hilarious.

M. Flohr said...

Great post, it is quite interesting to see that such a debate (as one-sided as it may be) is even possible in some places, as opposed to the rest of the world where illegality is the order of the day and buffing the standard. Hope that this turns some heads and someday in the future facilitates a real appreciation of the cultural contributions made on the streets.

Btw anyone know what the deal is with the foundry these days, is it being demolished?

Daniel said...

Depressing depressing .... There are so many wonderful pieces of work under the depressing black paint ... What right do they have ... ??? If it's private property it should be up to the property owner ... Please start a campaign of debate lets see what the residents of hackney truely want .... Depressed ,,,,,,

NoLions said...

M.Flohr - thanks for your comments, I think the situation is the same here as everywhere else - buffing is the standard. THe Foundry is definately being demolished.

http://www.hackneycitizen.co.uk/2010/02/16/banksy-art-saved-but-future-of-foundry-uncertain/

The most significant sentence in that report is "The council will also receive around £1 million in contributions from the developer to pay for additional public works.". There's the motivation.

Daniel - thanks for your commetns as well, and I agree, depressing.

The Council's policy is apparopriate, un-representative, heavy handed and killing the character of the area. How can a 43 story hotel be in keeping with this being a conservatoin area, which I think is what English Heritage said.

NoLions said...

sorry - 18 storey. Same difference.

Sara said...

if the council paint over graffiti/art that is clearly been done legally. then they are committing criminal damage.
there may be a case for suing if the piece is commissioned/paid for.

NoLions said...

Commerce. the council and The Olympics, a posionous combination of ulterior motives and not unique to London - thanks to Xylo for this link:

http://www.straight.com/article-280338/vancouver/antiolympic-paintings-appear-where-beatty-street-murals-once-dispalyed

Banksy said...

Just came across this now, fair play to you for documenting this, it seems like the heady days of free(ish) graff expression in East London pre-2012 are something we're going to look back on fondly one day.
Bristol went through something similar last year - their council was as inept as ours:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/bristol/hi/people_and_places/arts_and_culture/newsid_8162000/8162484.stm
Fuck the buff

Banksy said...

^seems blogger has registered my name as Banksy because our site uses his name as part of the domain (twitter.com/banksyprints). So to clarify what you knew already, I'm not Banksy.
Peace

BEST EVER said...

excellent article... the whole thing is beginning to smack of a pre-olympic london police state.

one does have to wonder why the aforementioned garage owners removed the cept piece simply because they were threatened. threatened with what? as far as i'm aware there are no laws against having your property vandalised by someone, and no laws in place which hold the property owner responsible for its removal if somebody does.

the property owners in this area (and i suppose all of us) need to remember that we, for the time being, are only held accountable according to law. you are not required to follow orders or respond to threats by the authorities unless an actual criminal act has taken place. blind subservience is a very, very dangerous thing

right on

NoLions said...

Yo BE

Consider yourself appointed legal counsel to the graffoto blog! Never occured to me that perhaps the COuncil's stated anti graff policy might in parts be illegal.

To avoid confusion, the garage owners didn't remove the Cept SuperVillan - they let him do the new piece over it. As hooked points out, the supervillan was over a much older Cept letter piece

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nolionsinengland/2176763638/

eddiedangerous said...

nice article nolions. so whent he council say "so and so graffiti artist has caused over half a million uin damages" what they mean is the guy has painted about 100 pieces, and at a cost of 5000 removing ech one, yeah he has run up a bill of half million. But if you're realistic it more like a removal bill of £1000. Yet when I try and warp the figures on my tax return like that I get wrapped knuckles and a stay at her majestys pleasure. What is happening to the city is a real shame all for this friggin athletics match.

Delete said...

Don't give up the day job BE!

Sections 12-14 of the London Local Authorities Act 2004 enable a local authority to serve a "graffiti removal notice" on the occupiers of premises which would enable them to recover the expenses of graffiti removal. The graffiti has to be able to be seen from a public road before they can issue one of these notices.

It's not a case of a "criminal" act (that's done by the writer of course!). This is about "civil" law which carries no power of arrest, but does have the power to fine you. Not all London councils use these graffiti removal notices, but Hackney does. Bromley Council (for example) just buffs everything on private property and hopes no-one sues them (and so far, no-one has).

I think that getting CEPT back in to go over the piece is a genius idea that compltely undermines the council's approach.

NoLions said...

Cheers N - lol @ don't give up day job.

If the building owner has given the writer/artist permission what crime has the writer committed?

so no crime is committed, we all like the result (at least,anyone reading graffoto does) but somehow the council gets all twisted about it. Wish they'd do a job on Bloomsberg across the road polluting every bloody lampost with their shite banners, they pay for them so no crime commmitted there except against common decency and our freedom to enjoy the lasnscape free of their corporate bullshit.

Delete said...

You're right about it not being a criminal act if you have permission, I was just being cheeky!

Unfortunately, the London Local Authorities Act 1995 gives the council the right to decide if graffiti is "detrimental to the amenity of the area or offensive" and if so they can charge you for buffing it. The owner of the building can appeal that in court - I'd like to see someone actually do that for once, but I guess the legal costs are massive.

The ironic thing is that advertising is specifically excluded from the legislation. They can plaster that shit everywhere.

Erni Vales said...

What an exiting art life in the neighborhood! Great pieces!
if u ask me, its good that Bansky pieces stay, they will bring more traffic, so everybody wins.
Hopefully the council understands it someday too.

Mya.L said...

Just read the article about the Foundry which makes me very sad and upset. Hackney Council and pre-Olympics London really really stink...