I’m curious about the line between public art and defacing property. There are those that feel graffiti is temporary public art and there are those (the majority, I think) who find it destructive and damaging to public and private property. I have to say that I have seen some lovely graffiti – way beyond the “Rulez 4 Evar” kind of stuff you see on stop signs and garage doors. But I must also say that such graffiti is few and far between. And even if something is lovely or powerful or thought-provoking, does that make it ok to deface someone else’s property?
Now take this argument a step further, away from spray paint, and into yarn. There is a group in the Houston area that “tags” public places (think stop signs, basketball poles, tree limbs) with knitted pieces of fabric. The fabric is stretched around the object and zip-tied into place. The Knitstas that do this say that they consider it art and temporary. Imagine the pole of a stop sign swathed in multi-colored knit, like a big long sweater sleeve, and you get the general idea.
So is this an art installation? Is this something unique and special because it is yarn and not paint? Are the perpetrators artists or vandals? Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about this. Generally, I’m anti-graffiti, again except when it is provocative and purposeful – I know that is a double standard. But in the case of yarn, I really like the idea. I like the odd mix of ordinary objects covered in knit. How eyecatching to be walking down the street and suddenly notice a telephone pole with a four foot long sock of knit wrapped around it. Eyecatching, puzzling, colorful, whimsical. A few snips of the scissors removes it and nothing is harmed.
But it is still vandalism, right? It is still someone else putting something that doesn’t belong on to something they don’t own. It is the next generation of the TP party, right? I supposed it is. I suppose it costs the city money to remove it, snarls up traffic when people stop to look, possibly harms the environment if the yarn gets all tangled up and into some animal’s way.
But art has been tangling things up for a long time. Art doesn’t have to be safe or sensible. It doesn’t have to have a big message or a big purpose. It can be a simple as some knitted swatches wrapped around tree limbs, tagging the tree with color and pattern. Or can it?
Hmmmm…guess I’m on the fence on this one, a fence swathed in yarn to be sure, but a fence nonetheless.