If you happen to have spoken to me in the past few weeks (ok, fine, the past few months) you have probably noticed that I am SUPER PUMPED FOR THE LONDON OLYMPICS. I really have no explanation for why I love the Olympics so much… it’s mostly made up of sports that I pay very little attention to for 3.5 out of every 4 years, but never the less: my Olympic enthusiasm is arguably unparallelled (I’m seriously considering wearing this for the entire duration of the Games). Adding to my usual Olympics-induced mania is the fact that this year’s games are being held in London, one of my absolute FAVORITE places… as you can imagine, I’m insufferably excited.
Today is a day full of sadness however, because I found a link to this article in my inbox… first thought was “Banksy is making London Olympics street art? BEST THING EVER!” Second thought (upon actually reading the article) was “London is likely erasing his work because they’re banning All The Street Art? NOT the best thing ever!” For reals, though… I’m not saying that everyone should be running around the city of London, spray paint in hand, marking up all the buildings and statues and busses that they see, but London is inarguably a street art Mecca. Erasing this work is an attempt to erase or cover up a significant part of London’s culture and modern-day artistic scene; it’s stifling these non-traditional artists’ ability to express themselves and create. I like to think (perhaps a little naively) that the Olympics are at least partially about sharing and embracing the vastly different cultures of participating countries, not about policing them. This extends further than Banksy, FYI… many pieces that have been around for years are being painted over; though Olympic organizers say that there are no official guidelines on removing graffiti, street art that is critical of the Olympics is being quickly removed (in this article, artist Mau Mau mentions an Olympic-themed piece he painted on the side of a privately owned warehouse (with permission from the owner) that was painted over in less than a week). It is worrisome that artistic expression is being sacrificed so that the London Olympics can maintain such heavy handed control over its public image.
So… come on, London/Olympics, it’s not too late! Leave Banksy alone, and show us that you’re capable of allowing and possibly even embracing subversive street art. And while you’re at it, it would be great if you could stop policing gender as well… kthxbai.