As I struggle with my own love/hate relationship with Nashville, the popular I Believe mural on 12th South was vandalized again.
There is another in of course East Nashville among many murals that dot the landscape here. There are some amazing artistic murals as well and in there is a guide book/site that one should look at in which to find some of the more interesting ones. I think that is one form of public art I embrace here.
In our Main Library right now is perhaps the best photography exhibit on Hidden Nashville that has amazing less than well know publi and private spaces on display right next to the Civil Rights room one of the best curated files with regards to Nashville history.
But as I have said Nashville is not the bastion of liberalism that one would come to think or believe if anything it is contrived and almost duplicitous in ways that I cannot simply explain. So when I read this comment about the recent mural defacement I noted that the writer is well aware of this faux "Nashville Way" that reminded me of the "Seattle Process." Both are euphemisms for ways that you must communicate and demonstrate in order to be accepted and in turn respected. I grew up in Seattle and spent most of my days responding to the query, "Where are you from?" As clearly I never modeled that hand wringing pearl clutching that dominates the discussion/debate process. Here is is faux friendliness masking a judgemental hand and hence here I am asked, "What did you come here for?" Both are extremely passive aggressive questions that means I have offended the questioner and they want to understand why they don't get you (as in the former) or are angry that you are questioning their way of life (the latter). I never understood passive clearly.
But art is information it is commentary it is reflection of the times and murals have a long place in history as a way of storytelling. I think of Diego Rivera frescoes and Banksy as examples of how one uses street art to lead one to stop and think. I feel that way often about much Graffiti as it is a type of art with a purpose. But what does it mean to deface art or that of a building are they not the same? Ah a debate worthy of art.
But in Nashville I walk alone. As even when I told someone about the current crime they went, "Over in East Nashville?" And I think, "Well you are another idiot who knows nothing about your town and the only thing that matters to you is what matters to you." But instead I go, "No the one on 12th." And then conversation is over. This marks Nashville Way more than any tar.
Love/Hate Mail: More Mural Talk
A Scene contributor weighs in on mural defacement
Jul 27, 2017 3 PM
I Believe InDear Editor:
There are arguments to be made in support of the I Believe in Nashville mural as well as against vandalism of a local business. But Zach Gilchriest’s argument ("Hey Nashville, Stop Defacing Murals," July 26, 2017), that someone defaced “art” for the sake of some snarky anti-tourist foolery, lacks rigor and shows very little understanding about the rich history of street art. As a contributor who loves and respects the Scene and its staff, I find it hard to believe what Gilchriest claims: that you have "all seemingly reached the same conclusion: People need to stop defacing art."
I love the “I Believe in Global Warming” edit to the mural, and that's not because I hate tourists. Nashville paints itself as a progressive oasis in a sea of Confederate flag-toting conservative small towns, but it's a sanitized version of progressivism. New Nashville. Old Nashville. Don't matter. Gilchriest says that the vandals have kicked the artist in his teeth, that his “vision” is being trampled upon (and with it, our souls, right?). News Channel 5 said, “When it comes to believing in Nashville, it's knowing the Nashville way.”
Gilchriest doesn’t understand what the alteration does. It’s a criticism of New Nashville’s sanitized progressivism and architectural aesthetic of erasure. The alteration has nothing to do with pedal taverns and everything to do with critiquing the commercialized liberalism of New Nashville’s elite. Nashville progressivism embraces its Old Nashville “be nice or leave” ethos that masquerades as a political statement.
Here’s what altering the mural says: The fact that the president of the United States and many Tennessee lawmakers deny global warming is more important than your hip progressive identity. Yes, the alteration is a “kick in the teeth,” but a deserving one, and not to art.
Adrien Saporiti’s mural is a decoration. You can be pissed that someone vandalized another's property — which is not what I’m addressing here — but don't blame art. The nature of street art is to disrupt. It disrupts the social order and the whitewashed aesthetic that crowds out authentic cultural cityscapes. To go way back to the Bronx when Kool Herc was spinning records, at its very root, street art is the assertion that marginalized people and their ideas exist. They occupy public spaces to make themselves visible because their voices are denied by those who own and operate the buildings and bridges and subway cars that hold up a standard of anesthetized commercial value.
Art does not sanitize. Art does not euthanize. Art is not monolithic. Art does not make us all the same or provide a recognizable backdrop for our lives. Art doesn't reproduce its blandness all over town.
Art loves anarchy. Art loves resistance. I believe in art.