This morning at the Gothamist mailbox, a small package was waiting, containing three copies of a small newspaper. On the cover were the words "if we did it, this is how it would've happened" -- a tribute to the recent unpublished OJ Simpson book-- and a picture of a defaced Shepard Fairey piece in Williamsburg.
Inside the newspaper we found 14 pages of total insanity-- part revolutionary tract, part interview, part photo essay, part critical exegesis, and part sophomoric, college-style pretentiousness. In short, the Splasher revealing himself (themselves, really-- as they claim repeatedly be to be a group composed of both men and women.)
Below, we've included a photo set showing all of the pages of the Splasher's newsprint memoir. If you'd like to actually read the text (there must be 30,000 words of it), you can find high resolution pictures here. At our leisure, we'll update this post with some excerpts from the various texts inside the newspaper-- and add any comments we receive from the Splasher group, which has included its email on the last page.
Our previous Splasher coverage:
Against Streetart: Tale of the Paint Splasher (and debate), Swoon's response, Splasher in MSM, The Brusher, and the Stink Bomber.
UPDATE: this thing is a book, and not an easy book-- more like Gravity's Rainbow meets Das Capital. We're going to try to pull out some of the more interesting bits from the labyrinth of weird grammar, circular reasoning, and leftist politico jargon, but it's going to be tough-going. We need an American Studies PHD in here, stat!
Excerpts after the jump:
1. From page 1, "The Point is to Produce Ourselves, Rather Than Things That Enslave Us": "In New York City, during the summer of 2006, a group of co-conspirators and provocateurs began a program that confronted a cultural realm which revealed a content of commodity recuperation behind the facade of pseudo opposition. By challenging what the experts term 'street art', our actions have, in turn, uncovered an alliance between the coercive force of the state and the "creative class" of the artist. We began these series of actions as a critique of rationality. The present and banal methods of confronting the prevailing social order through street art have become rotten and rigidified into methods of commodification. We identified certain works that we felt emphasized the basis of our criticism and subsequently destroyed them with splashes of paint. Alongside the remnants we left wheat pasted texts that offered no more than a vulgar and audacious insult that was never meant to be anything close to a thorough critique. To further exemplify the disrespect we felt for the work and its creator, we arrogantly mixed the wheat paste with shards of glass... we disturbed their cozy little scene (they) denounced us for our "negativity" and "elitism"... it matters little if our opponents mock us or insult us... the essential thing is that they talk of us and preoccupy themselves with us... To be honest, our work was never forseen to receive as much recognition as it did... we can assure everyone that not only are we in larger numbers than you think, but we are comprised of both men and women."
They go on to say that they're not interest in dialog with street artists, that they didn't do the recent Astor Place splashing, and that in the future, they will adopt "entirely new targets and tactics." They conclude the introductory essay with "We do not want a world where the guarantee of not dying of hunger is paid for by the certainty of dying of boredom."
2. Excerpts from "Interview With Myself: On the Subject of Street Art and Its Destruction"
"Q: why did you choose art as the field to attack?" Answer: a long story about going to museums with his mom and not liking the art on the walls there-- a feeling that continues to this day. "The (many) art openings I've attented feel like a mix between a cattle auction and a middle school dance." But he did like the Surrealists. Then he got interested in street art, through the local anarchist scene, but felt "there seemed to be no acknowledgment whatsoever that street art is a bourgeois-sponsored rebellion." He also resented that some artists were making "fantastically lucrative" livings off their art. He also disliked the alliance of the streetart and hipster gallery/sneaker/clothing-brand scene, and the co-opting of streetart by advertising. Overall: "it allows over-educated middle class kids to feel a sense of purpose and danger without exposing themselves to any real risk or unpleasant work." By targeting streetart, the Splasher wanted to "take the wind out of some peoples' sails"-- especially rich streetartists, and brands like Vans which sponsor them. He closes the interview with a promise: "don't worry, you'll be hearing from us again."
3. An exegesis on their signage: "When a Wise Man Points at the Moon, The Fool Looks at The Finger."
The Splasher resents that people didn't understand the signs and thought he (we'll just keep using the singular) has bad grammar. And they don't like that the signs have been described as "manifestos", "communiques", or "critiques." Then there's a few paragraphs of bullshit about the use of language in politics. And he explains his impenetrable prose thusly: "Our language is difficult only to the extent that our situation is. The path to simplicity is the most complex of all." Nope, we don't understand neither.
Pages 6 and 7 contain full scale annotated versions of their screeds-- the following comes from the copious footnotes. Mostly he just insults streetartists: "we are really giving you much more historical credit than you deserve... you truly pioneer nothing but your own decay... your work is cheap feed for grotesque swine." They claim that "we actually did put glass in the wheat pastes which were unreasonably removed with relative speed without any evidence of bloodies hands." He also hates all the bloggers out there who misinterpreted the message: "every DIY journalist (a horrific crossbreed indeed)..." The rest mainly insults the reader. Reading this made us think of Faile's critique-- that the Splashing was cool, but all this intellectual bullshit would have been better left unsaid.
4. Pages 8 and 9 contain a long essay entitled "Gentrification: Let's Give the Artist a Hand." It accuses the artist-class of being a tool of property establishment-- a tool used to redevelop a neighborhood before it's given part and parcel to the rich, at the expense of the poor residents who lived there in the first place: "An art school degree is a choice; eviction usually isn't." Streetartists, according to the Splasher, play a signaling role in gentrification: "by creating a public display of their work on the walls of impoverished areas... (they) advertise to real estate agents that an area is ripe for the picking." They cite other examples in the East Village in the 1980s and LES in the 1990s, and say that Banksy's mural in Williamsburg "might have shifted the (neighborhood's) gentrification into overdrive... We certainly relished destroying it."
5. Excerpts from "A Case Study on the Recuperative Abilities of Capital Through Street Art"
This one is totally impenetrable-- something about aesthetics and the means of production. Try this on for size: "with the process of production dialectically connected to social relations, culture, as an aggregate of tradition, values, institutions, rituals, customs, and typical activities conceived of as separate from the realm of economic subservience..." Maybe they threw in one nonsense essay just to see if you were paying attention. The rest of the essay appears to be about Swoon-- the Splasher examines some apparent contradictions in her work-- for instance, the apparent conflict of putting up portraits of the poor and impoverished, while participating in the capitalistic art scene. He also criticizes her for glamorizing and exploiting poverty-- "nowhere (in her work ) to be found is the necessary disgust, nausea, and repulsion that occurs when one is forced to view the ramifications of the impoverishment of city life. Instead we are rescued by the aesthetically pleasing portrayals of the poor... (she) has succeeded in making even abject poverty... into an object of enjoyment." He also accuses Swoon of using these depictions of the poor to advance her own career. That seems rather off-base-- if there's any artist who seems to have a genuine concern for the interests of the oppressed, it seems like it's her. Anyway, they seem to be accusing Swoon of being an agent of the oppressive social regime.
6. Almost done! Some excerpts from "Crime is the Highest Form of Sensuality or How Graffiti Never Was"
This is a "review" of the Brooklyn Museum graffiti show from last summer. In a head-note, the Splasher claims that the person who dropped the fliers at the Swoon panel in November was not "this Zac character that the media was so certain of." The Splasher did not like the show, calling it "regurgitated vandalism gone mad with territoriality." The rest is total Splasherese and impossible to understand. At the bottom of the page, however, there's a weird Ms. Pacman ad, where Ms. Pacman is criticizing female graffiti artists, saying "These women are becoming men. But in the end it will only mean a few more men. The difference between the sexes is not whether one does or doesn't have a penis. It is whether or not one is an integral part of the phallic masculine economy." Oh Ms. Pacman, you're always talking such crazy smack!
7. Excerpts from "The Corrupted Poets", another "review"-- this one of the recent Faile show that got disrupted by the Stinkers and their incendiary device.
In the essay, the Splasher seems fairly gleeful about disrupting the show-- "tonight's event is indeed, cause for celebration." That should put to rest any doubt about the connection between the Splasher and the Stinker-- and also end any speculation that the stinkbomb incident at the Obey show on Saturday was not connected to the current story. The Splasher repeatedly refers to Faile as "Failure"-- and at the top of the article, there's a recaptioned Faile piece, criticizing Faile's representation of women. The rest of the piece is just negative crit of Faile's art-- "the artist as a process of fetishization can be nothing other than the bedmate of the businessman."
8. On the penultimate page, there is a Faile piece captioned "capital sucks from the teat of idols", with the heads of Marc and Sara from WoosterCollective superimposed over each naked breast. At the bottom, the page reads: "Your compromises with capital are not some side deal you make to support your art; it is essential to it, capital is woven into your production. This makes you specialists, role players in the market of commodities, capable of producing only alienation and more commodities, shot through with technique and acres of pretense."
9. On the back cover, there is a picture of a boy with a paint spray gun connected to a backpack reservoir of paint-- not too dissimilar from the "SuperSoaker" theory we suggested a few months back. Also, an email address: email@example.com.
Some final thoughts:
A) Why are anarchists always so verbose? These "criticisms" could have been boiled down to five bullet points-- or just left out entirely. This much verbal production suggests a certain insecurity-- a certain fear of being shut out and ignored. That feels a little sad.
B) Is this the end? Is there anything more to this story? Would it matter if we knew exactly who the Splasher was and where they lived? Does it matter if they splash more pieces? And barring a serious escalation in their game, is this an appropriate place to stop writing about them?
UPDATE: The Splasher is a villain in the latest video from The Burg.
UPDATE: someone sent in a link to the 2005 Clamour Magazine piece on Swoon mentioned in the New York Magazine article. It was written by one Zach Dempster. A little more googling led us to his MySpace page (he also has a Facebook account, which seems revanchist), and from there, to his Flickr account, which contains a Splasheresque quote:
Art is a prisoner of its phantasms and its function as magic; it hangs on bourgeois walls as a sign of power, it flickers along the peripeties of our history like a shadow-play--but is it artistic?... I have discovered nothing here, not even America. I choose to consider Art as a useless labour, apolitical and of little moral significance. -M Broodthaers
His Flickr account also contains a picture of a splashing, and a picture of a Splasherese manifesto. Here is what appears to be a self-portrait of Zach-- as well as a Myspace video featuring him.
The Flickr quote and photos, combined with the testimony of a few people who say that they have intimate knowledge of Zac's role in the project, leaves us little doubt about the Splasher's identity. Barring any new evidence, we're going to declare this mystery solved-- the Splasher is Zach Dempster (or a group of friends, led by or featuring Zach Dempster), with anarchistic and revolutionary leanings, a penchant for verbal loquacity, and an appetite for streetart destruction. Where should we point this Magical Mystery Van next?
UPDATE: One of our diligent readers has found a link between James Cooper, the kid arrested in the Shepard Fairey stinkbombing last week, and Zach-- they're friends on Myspace and have left comments on each other's pages. Here's James' Myspace profile. While not rock-solid evidence, it does suggest the Splasher is the work of a small group of friends, mainly living in Brooklyn.