Posted by: cedarsurf | March 4, 2010

Blogging Graffiti

Banksy painting over Robbo

Here at Sports Crap World Headquarters there was a discussion a few days back over  were the Olympic’s worth it? Values of art, hockey players and other intangibles discussed. For me -and I may have not been clear on this point, the question of worth is a thorny one -especially when -and this is a key point -all sense of proportion has been lost when we talk about things like six billion for Olympics , Six million for Luongo etc.

Several friends and respected commentators pointed out to me that it all boils down to supply and demand, the market place etc.

Frankly some of this logic just flies over my head. Anything that I’ve ever done that has had meaning for me usually ended up costing me money- I usually called this art, or a labour of love – and the idea of money seemed an enormous compromise. Money so the great Cyndi Lauper sings Changes Everything. It explains how I’ve become the well rounded loser I am today.

This idea came up again with a couple of stories linking art/sport and culture in today’s news.
As I mentioned in an earlier post  What is Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal worth?
When Crosby threw his arms up in the air over said goal his gloves and stick went flying. As of last night Sid the Kid’s stick and one of his gloves were nowhere to be found.
Hockey Canada has launched an investigation int o the whereabout’s of Crosby’s equipment. The Hockey Hall of Fame wants the equipment. Someone apparently is hanging onto the equipment. What’s it worth?
Elsewhere I read of a street artists showdown between legendary London graffiti artists Bansky and Robbo as reported in the Wall Street Journal (again the world is only interested  in art when it involves money) .

“In the predawn hours of Christmas morning, a 40-year-old shoe repairman who goes by the name Robbo squeezed his 6-foot-8-inch frame into a wet suit, tossed some spray cans into a plastic bag, and crossed Regent’s Canal on a red-and-blue air mattress.

Robbo, one of the lost pioneers of London’s 1980s graffiti scene, was emerging from a long retirement. He had a mission: to settle a score with the world-famous street artist Banksy, who, Robbo believes, had attacked his legacy.

The battle centers on a wall under a bridge on the canal in London’s Camden district. In the fall of 1985—just 15 years old but already a major player in London’s graffiti scene—Robbo announced his presence on that wall with eight tall block letters: ROBBO INC.

The work, written in orange, red and black on a yellow background, had been in good shape for nearly 25 years and was considered a local icon, surviving long after Robbo himself vanished from the scene 16 years ago.

But recently, Robbo’s work was dramatically altered by an unlikely rival: Banksy, the stealthy Bristol-born artist who has made a lucrative art of graffiti. The work of Banksy—who, like Robbo, doesn’t disclose his name—sells for big money and is widely merchandised. His first film, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January and is due out in U.K. theaters this month.

In early December, Banksy did a series of four pieces along the Regent’s Canal’s walls. Inexplicably, one of them incorporated Robbo’s piece into Banksy’s own work, painting over half the Robbo original in the process. The resulting work, in Banksy’s typical stencil technique, shows a black-and-white workman applying colorful wallpaper that is, in essence, the remnants of Robbo’s piece.”

Bansky released a provocative statement through a spokesperson: “I didn’t paint over a Robbo piece. I painted over a piece that said mrphfgdgf,he said. “I find it surreal when graffiti writers get possesive over certain locations. I thought that having a casual attitude towards property ownership was an essential part of being a vandal.”

Very cheeky Banksy boy!

What was surprising to me was that graffiti art actually was being sold at auction. As the WSJ reports the battle between a lost legend and  acclaimed artist highlights, a larger rift in the art world. On one side are old-school graffiti writers who ‘Tag” or “bomb” their names in as many places as possible and seldom , if ever seek compensation for their work. On the other are street artists, who aim for a political or cultural resonance and –here is the key part, the money part -also create portable pieces they can exhibit and sell. Their prototype is Bansky, who exists in the art world as both renegade and establishment darling. His 2007 work ‘Keep it Spotless’ sold for $1.87 million.

Robbo now works as a  shoe repairmen. He emerged from London’s working-class districts, a teenage skinhead and footballwho had more than a few run-ins with the law.

I really like what Robbo had to say about his retreat from the scene ” I had achieved what could be achieved. I was quite happy to take the backseat and live another life.”

Robbo has never sold a single piece of art. But as he’s drawn back inito the limelight he’s getting curious. On a recent Friday evening he and a friend attended a contemporary art auction at London’s chichy Phillipe de Pury & Co. where a Bansky was on the block alongside two Basquiats and a Warhol.

Arriving late-his shoe repair store doesn’t close until 7 pm -Robbo made his way through the gallery, wearing a grey hoodie and sweat pants, black shoe polish still staining his hands. A security gurad was quickly on his tail.

” It’s all right,mate, we’re artists,” he said.

Speaking of the art of theft and tying our subject of the day -what’s it worth ?-into a great big bow- on March 8 on the South Coast of Vancouver Island  Timberwest aided and abetted by the former Minister of Forests Rich Coleman. a former real state agent and brother of Stan Coleman a Western Forest Products executive will put a giant chunk of land for sale. Land in the traditional territory of the Tsooke.

I had the opportunity to write about this for The Globe and Mail (I’d link but the Globe mysteriously charges for archived articles), The Tyee, and SBC Surf. Find here the article I wrote for SBC on the topic and check out the Dogwood Initiative for more info on this historical rip-of. What is the future worth?

Jordan River is Mine?

By Grant Shilling

SBC Surf Magazine

Access to choice surf spots on BC’s south coast are under threat and it will take a wide range of concerned citizens to ensure that the beach remains free for all to enjoy with both surfers and First Nations leading the charge.

Western Forest Products was given permission by the BC Provincial Liberal government in 2007 to remove more than 28,000 hectares of private land from tree farm licenses on Vancouver Island, including about 12,000 hectares from License 25 near Jordan River.

The move sent shock waves through the surf and recreation community, which quickly organized several town hall meetings, lobbied the federal and provincial governments and formed a Facebook group named “Make Jordan River a Park.”

“I was very happy when I went to the public meeting that so many young people were concerned, especially surfers who are concerned about their access,” says Dorothy Hunt, Band Manager of the Pacheedaht First Nation (located near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island). “ One young man who got up to speak asked for a show of hands of surfers and at least 60 people put up their hands. They are concerned about access, the need for permits and the area being developed the same way that Tofino has –making it unaffordable for some.”

The waters and lands are the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht, Dididaht, Nitinaht and T’sooke.

“The logging companies and the government came and said you don’t need all this land,” Queesto (Chief of Chiefs) of the Pacheedaht told an interviewer in 1976. “So they took it.”

The Pacheedaht (meaning Children of the Sea Foam) claim traditional territory from Jordan River to Port Renfrew, about a 50 kilometer stretch, and have been pushed back into a reserve beside the San Juan river. They are fraught with poverty, unemployment, and suicides.

The land they claim has been planted and re-harvested again and again and again by Western Forest Products. WFP signs are marked “Harvested 1959, Planted 1967, Spaced 1978” — and now must include: “Subdivided 2007.”

The locals, including aboriginals and surfers, have been sounding alarms about the deal for months.

For some the need to make noise marks a necessary about face or as a post on coastalbc.com noted: “I find it amazing that we are talking about JR, because in the past if you had mentioned JR and surf in the same sentence you would have upset some surfer who wanted it all to himself. Now that they maybe excluded from their sacred spot, they want the entire web to know about it, and help save their not so secret spot for them.”

Planted in front of a sauna and clubhouse on a 4 kilometer stretch of waterfront park land provided by Western Forest Products is an innocuous little sign, a declaration of territory that reads: “Jordan River is Mine.” The sign was put there by a group of surfers known as the West Coast Surfing Associates better known as ‘the clubbies.’

The sign now stands as an ironic joke as the land has been sold by Western Forest Products to Ender Ilkay, president of Ilkay Development Corp., a West Vancouver developer that already has a subdivision project underway in Sheringham Point, in nearby Shirley.

When Minister Coleman announced the deal he stated it was “to bring stability to the company.” Western Forest Products is one of the provincial Liberals’ biggest corporate donors. NDP forest critic Bob Simpson has accused Coleman of bailing out the firm without getting fair value for taxpayers.

The failure of the Provincial Liberal Government to consult with The Pacheedaht First Nation over the decision to allow private lands to be withdrawn from the Tree Farm Licenses (TFL’s), sub-divided and sold to private developers is likely to result in court action.

Dorothy Hunt, Band Manager of the Pacheedhat First Nation asserts that the Provincial Government failed to respond to their concerns and letters after being notified by the government that they were considering allowing lands to be removed from the TFL’s.

“We sent them a letter clearly stating our concerns and we received no letter and had no further discussion. One day I started getting calls from band members on the reserve saying –‘what is going on, we hear chain saws cutting down our trees’. The first we heard of the sale was on the news that same day,” says Ms. Hunt.

As a result the band is considering court action.

A Band lawyer is gathering case studies in the province where other First Nations felt they were not treated fairly in treaty negotiations. In those cases the Provincial government was taken to court. Something the Pacheedhat will consider once all the facts are in. The lawyer is also asking under the Freedom of Information Act access to all correspondence between the Pacheedhat and the Provincial Government.

“There was indeed correspondence between the Minister and First Nations and any concerns they had were addressed,” a spokesperson for the Provincial Government told this writer. When asked by this writer to locate this specific letter addressing those concerns the spokesperson was unable to provide it.

“If this had been negotiated we’d have asked for other land to be put on the table so we would have the same amount of land to negotiate. We are very worried that if the land continues to be sold at this rate there will be no more land or resources to negotiate over,” says Ms. Hunt.

A little over a year ago Timberwest sold approximately 360 acres of land, within the Township of Port Renfrew, to Three Point Properties without disclosing to the buyer, the fact that the lands were involved in treaty negotiations and that there are traditional use sites within this parcel of land.

Around the same time Timberwest sold approximately 350 acres of land to Bob Macleod Industries. This is a parcel of land that abuts the reserve lands and was used by the Pacheedaht as a spiritual place to cleanse before and after whale hunting. Band members go to this area to gather cedar bark, build canoes, hunt and use the sites for other cultural purposes.

The reserve shares a bridge over the San Juan River with Port Renfrew the two villages share economic impoverishment and youth at risk.

Is it an issue of money?

“We like to joke –because we need the money- that we would never refuse cash,” says Ms. Hunt with a chuckle. “But that is not our first concern.

“We want environmental impact studies done-we are concerned about sustainable water supplies we have really shallow wells on the reserve and we need to make sure that our rivers and streams are not polluted by logging activity,” says Ms. Hunt. “What we also want is Archeological Impact Assessment’s on each site before any sales take place, we are also concerned about access to our sacred sites, the ocean and our traditional hunting and gathering territory.”

Ms. Hunt points out that the work done by Bob Macleod Industries on Brown Mountain has resulted in most of the trees on the parcel being cut down. The mountain looms over the reserve and with all the rainfall in the area there are concerns of mudslides, soil erosion and damage to rivers.

After Band members met with Mr. Macleod that were apparently told by him that “he answers to no-one, he bought the land and can do what he wants with it.”

Now it appears both the logging companies and the Provincial Liberal Government will have to listen to a growing wave of concerned voices. B.C.’s Auditor General has been asked to examine the deal brokered by B.C. forests minister Rich Coleman, a former real estate agent.

“ Jordan River was a galvanizing moment, says Ms. Hunt. “All of a sudden it felt like the concerns we had been trying to address for some time had reached a lot of people, most notably the surfers. They have an important role to play in this.”

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