Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chicago Street Artist Chews Gum

I was just trying to watch an episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia on Ninja Video (because I don't have cable), and I was interrupted by this advertisement for Orbit gum. (And hey, watch the last Sunny episode if you haven't already. It's crazy hilarious. Frank wears skinny jeans.)

Okay, so it's that graffiti with the big lips that we see all over Chicago. You can't escape Goons in this city, they're everywhere. But I never thought I'd see those lips on a gah-damn gum commercial. I know it makes demographic sense: cool gum, cool graffiti of big lips, big lips chew cool gum, cool kids inspired to chew cool gum, etc. etc. and so on and so on. But now I'll never be able to look upon those big lips at Grand and Halsted with the same sort of intrinsic appreciation. I used to see this graffiti as a pure statement of visual rebellion. Those lips were ugly, and they didn't make me think of chewing gum. But that's all over now baby blue. Those lips now belong to Orbit, and all of that graffiti in Chicago has become just another advertisement (pretty brilliant move by Orbit actually: find the monetary-neutral image that's already all over town and link it to your product. yup...).

But this is what the world has come to. OBEY doesn't make us question capitalism anymore, it persuades us to take part in it (vote Obama?). Street art isn't counter culture these days, it's an internship for future commercial opportunities.

Maybe art is for the masses after all. Maybe the ideals our bright-eyed artists plaster onto the brick walls are only pleadings for attention and fame. If you can throw a Camera Obscura song behind a stop-motion urban landscape and mix in some social consciousness themes, apparently you'll get the contemporary recipe for a marketing opportunity. But, Orbit, Goons, check this out: I'm not going to buy the gum. I'm a Chicagoan, and I see your images on the street every day, and I even like having fresh breath as often as humanly possible... but I really just don't like being pandered about.

Can't anybody do anything for art's sake in this country anymore? Are we so engulfed by our sins that we can't create something unless it's being consumed by a mass audience? I hope all of your years of guerilla work have been worth it Goons, because it's all come down to Orbit gum. This is what you've been working towards... I hope they gave you a life's supply, because you're gonna have to chew on this one for a while.

I'm gonna move to Berlin. I swear. And I'm going to become a graffiti artist who isn't interested in selling personal integrity. I can't do it here. I'd be run out of town by the rich graffiti artists taking up prime wildstyle space with their latest "young urban" demographic blitz of a new product promotion.


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