The normally peaceful – let’s not have a conflict – Stockholm has been suffering from a wave of protests this week about a so-called art project by Magnus Gustafsson, former student of Konstfack: Sweden’s University College of Arts, Crafts and Design. For his graduation thesis, he carried out an art project, which consisted of a two-minute film of a black-masked person (himself) defacing the interior of a train compartment by spraying the walls with spray paint. He then smashes a window and jumps out to carry on spraying the walls of the tube station. All in all, he managed to cause 12,000 dollars’ worth of damage.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I understand that graffiti is a sub-culture and I’m not totally against it as an expression of art. But the actual act of spraying paint in a carriage full of passengers and then smashing the window is … well, against the law.. and it’s usually called ‘vandalism’ in other contexts.
How can it be that what is vandalism in one context is art in another? Mr. Gustafsson, who goes under the name NUG, is doing very well out of this controversy, thank you very much. His film is called Territorial Pissing (and yes – it is a Nirvana song -quite right!) and the copies he has sold have raked in about 13,000 dollars so far – half has gone to him, and half to the gallery owner who sold them.
The whole thing whiffs of: we are all equal, but some are more equal than others. I’m betting that if a young immigrant had made a film of himself defacing a train, then he would have been carted off to jail faster than he could have said, “But officer — it’s art!”