Thursday, December 29, 2005

And now, from the "But is it art?" files and Yahoo! News

Sudiegirl sez: I’m one of those people that likes graffiti, although I do see the problems it can cause with urban blight. But, as Rodney King says, “Can’t we all just get along?” I mean, isn’t there a way to blend graffiti into the urban scene so it lends its own unique sensibility to the world? If Keith Haring can do it, other people should be able to.

Or am I just an overly-idealistic white girl from a small town that doesn’t know her ass from a hole in the ground…I will comment…you should read!

PlayStation Graffiti Ads Spark Controversy
Associated Press Writer
Thu Dec 29, 6:23 AM ET

Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE - news). scouted out an unusual place to advertise its PlayStation Portable before the holidays: the side of an abandoned building in a gritty North Philadelphia neighborhood. (Interesting choice…did they ask permission? How does stuff like that work? Help me out here…)

The black-on-white graffiti shows wide-eyed cartoon characters riding the PlayStation like a skateboard, licking it like a lollipop or cranking it like a Jack-in-the-Box. (Other than licking the PlayStation, nothing weird so far…)

But there's no mention of the Sony or PlayStation brands — nor any hint the wordless display is an ad. (Well, jeez…there are plenty of commercials and print ads out there that are like that…what’s the big whoop?)

The stealth marketing campaign has popped up in San Francisco, New York and other large U.S. cities.
"It's all about hip-hop, urban and all that. They're just trying to get into the teenagers' minds," said Eddie Torres, 29, who works at a nearby furniture shop. "I think it's sharp." (I’d have to say I agree on that point, and pretty ingenious…subliminal, almost!)

Anti-blight advocates think otherwise.

"They're breaking the law," said Mary Tracy, who runs the Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight, a watchdog group that fights illegal or ill-advised billboards in Philadelphia.

Tracy said Sony ignored the zoning process that regulates outdoor commercial advertising in the city. (OK, I wanna know how they did that…did they stick their fingers in their ears and go “La, la, la – I’m not listening – la, la, la”?)

Philadelphia Managing Director Pedro Ramos on Wednesday faxed a cease-and-desist letter to Sony Computer Entertainment's U.S. division in San Mateo, Calif. He could seek modest fines allowed by city code or sue to recover any profit the ads produced. (Well, that answers the “Whether they asked permission” question previously posed. As the old saying goes, “It’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.”)

"My fines aren't going to scare Sony," Ramos said. "What will worry them is what the parents and their users will think. This really flies in the face of everything we've been trying to do with our anti-blight initiative." (The users probably won’t care either way…the parents – well, it depends on whether the graffiti affects them personally or not. It’s not the same as finding crack in your kid’s underwear drawer next to the condoms and a copy of The Advocate.)

The Sony division did not immediately respond to the letter or to a telephone message left by The Associated Press. However, Sony spokeswoman Molly Smith told an Internet news site earlier this month that Sony was hiring artists in seven cities — Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago were the others — to spray paint the pre-drawn designs. (OK, that’s cheating! They should have free-lanced it out to local artists to begin with…this is just TRACING! Now I’m mad.)

"With PSP being a portable product, our target is what we consider to be urban nomads," Smith told Wired News. (Now I’m hearing – in my head – Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” as sung by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and imagining people riding around NYC on camels. “Night…and stars above are shining bright…”)

In San Francisco, the ads were defaced soon after they appeared as word spread that Sony was behind them. "Get out of my city!!!" and "Fony" were written on one. (Was that before or after “Paco Rules” was spray-painted on them in green spray paint?)

"I thought it was sneaky. Not cool," said Zan Sterling, who works at a bar near one of the ads, which has since been painted over. "I hope that they paid for the cleanup and removal." (Yeah, right…big corporation…paying for damages…that is going to happen about as fast as Brad Pitt comes to my home with the hot oil massages and his copy of the Kama Sutra.)

Critics and supporters agree the campaign is designed to crack through the clutter of marketing that pervades daily life. Others have criticized its visual appeal. (And the wheel of life keeps turning – amen. Can we go to lunch now?)

"They hired artists to just copy this same figure over and over, which isn't too creative," said 29-year-old Jake Dobkin, a New Yorker who writes for the blog (I’d have to agree with that…again, it’s tracing. Now if you’d actually work with the folks that create graffiti, treat them like artists, PAY them, and let them design things of their own, wouldn’t that be better? It gives them a sense of purpose, and it looks good for Sony because they’re using local talent to actually CREATE something instead of TRACING. But who the hell is going to listen to me?)

That matters little to North Philadelphia resident Leslie Griggs, 39, who said the Sony ad is an improvement over the handbills and scrawls it replaced.

"I don't think that's graffiti," Griggs said as she paused beside the PlayStation ad. "That's art."

Sudiegirl’s final opinion?

I think this is one of those arguments that isn’t going to be solved in one day, but look at it this way…Keith Haring was a graffiti artist, and his work speaks for a generation of people. Maybe – if Sony is forward thinking enough – it can happen again.

I realize it’s wishful thinking, but why the heck not wish once in a while? We deserve to be able to do that.

Sudiegirl the ever-optimistic (yet vaguely cynical)
On the Net:
Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight:

PS: artwork from,,,, and