In response to Liz Armstrong’s article “Citizen Ed” in last week’s Reader [June 3], I posted the following letter to Elisa Harkin’s Web site, which is affiliated with Edmar Marszewski, Matt, Heaven and Buddy galleries a few doors down, and Lumpen magazine. Please see their video clips of their black paint vandalism and blog comments at Ad-Blasters.

We are seeking prosecution and filing suit for damages. Unfortunately, Ms. Armstrong did not bother contacting me, and my phone number is clearly posted on the storefront in question. Any good journalist would have done so in trying to be at least somewhat impartial. This is all about “look at me, look at me, I’m in a video on the Net and in the Reader, we’re so cool and famous and need attention!” Obviously this whole affair was staged, and they enlisted their buddy Liz and the Reader in their vandalism efforts. I’m glad you give space to Liz so she can show off her friends and say “look at me” as well. I once thought the Reader had some standards and a responsibility to the Chicago community that it serves.

One person’s art is another’s garbage–it’s a matter of opinion. Who are you, God? Who the fuck are you to decide what’s what to the point of destroying someone else’s property and someone else’s hard labor and creativity? This is not your property. You committed a crime; all should be prosecuted and held liable to pay for your actions. As part of the art community and the community in general, I can only hope that you are rejected, and I believe that it is happening as I write this.

By the way, as a young artist I was one of the charter subscribers to Adbusters magazine well before you knew anything about it (you were probably still sucking your thumb) and decided to steal their anticorporate idealism. I am also anti-Starbucks, Gap, Blockbuster, McDonald’s, etc, but would not waste my energy in negativity ruining someone’s art when I could use that time positively creating my own. Yeah, the world sucks at times. Yeah, the big corporations suck, brainwashing the general public’s mind with corporate ads for corporate greed. Get over it and grow up! You want to make a political statement? Run as an independent with a party created by you challenging the status quo. The community could vote or not vote for you in this fucked-up but still the greatest democratic nation in the world. You can then challenge the corporate control system like a freethinking liberal adult instead of some fucked-up kiddie juvenile delinquents.

Go be a politician and not an artist. And where does politics belong in the art world other than getting people to question everything about the world or a particular subject through great art–not destruction and violence, which your outrage seems to invoke? You want to shove your political views down everyone’s throat like dicktators do in fascist regimes. I suggest you move to a third world country. Supporter of the arts? You’re a rapist of everything art stands for. Yeah, smoke another bowl and actually try to think about it. Let me know when you figure out that you’re the hypocritical assholes.

. . . Graffiti is subject to opinion. Many of the artists are extremely talented, while others are wannabes with some invented political crutch, in my opinion. But everyone can decide on a case-by-case basis for himself or herself. In any case, if it’s on a wall without permission it’s graffiti and vandalism, and they should take their art to wood, canvas, or other means and to galleries, even if they have to start their own, as you already know. There is quite a difference between this and what you defaced.

Obviously you don’t get this. Maybe when you get older and more mature you will. Anarchy? Hell, I was at the original Exit partying to Black Flag and GG Allin before some of you were even born. Being anarchist artists, you know who they are, right? Everyone wants to change the world, especially in their 20s, but relieving your angst this way is simply wrong.

Axe supported this instead of doing a bullshit corporate ad and was not that prominent in the painting versus a traditional ad. I would not have approved otherwise. And where do you draw the line? Why not paint over what you call graffiti on the side of the Silver Room a block down the street? At what business level is it OK or not OK? And I guarantee that you depend on hundreds of large corporations directly and indirectly. You’re like the animal-rights activists who wear leather shoes. Get over it or be 100 percent pure. To be in between is a joke. Sexist? Yes, sex sells. So what? There’s sex selling everything. Perhaps you could destroy every ad and commercial displaying sex, including guys for girls, girls for guys, girls for girls, guys for guys, and so on. This would include every ethnic and socioeconomic background. While you’re at it, be sure to attend the next 1,000 rap concerts and get onstage and get them to stop singing their songs and doing their videos in the name of art, oh, I mean politics! Be sure to gather the females back to Amish country, where you can be a slave to the farm and they can labor in their handmade shoe long gowns. Sorry, no MTV, but Home Depot is now catering to the Amish. You’ll feel right at home.

Michael Black

An artist and owner of the building property in question

Liz Armstrong replies:

Painting over the ad wasn’t staged for me. I talked to a Critical Massive employee who told me he’d “powwow” with everyone involved–his partner, the artist, the building owner–and then have someone call me back to give an official statement. Later I spoke to company owner Noah Shapiro under the assumption the powwow with Michael Black had taken place. My bad.