I would be stupid to say that I am not afraid.
But I am.
Even though my intent is to go into a public space with public art, I am afraid. My intentions are peaceful and my desire is only to make people question Art and their own place in a narrative being spun out of control.
I am a teacher. Everyday I teach children to use their words instead of their fists. I teach children that in order to be listened to, one must listen. Tonight, I sincerely hope that instead of coming out in force the LAPD listen.
So here is the question. If my intentions are peaceful, and my actions just, then why am I afraid?
Last month at Art Walk, I was apart of peaceful protesters. I went down there because I was taught to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I was also taught by my College, that Art is ultimately subjective. One person’s chalk scribble is another person’s piece about personal expression and political expression.
Art does not need to be confined to a canvas, but often it is. Your body is art. Your words are art. Your entire life philosophically speaking, can be considered art. Whether you or your God is the creator is purely up to personal belief.
But enough esoteric talk.
I am afraid.
Last time I was repeatedly shoved and hit with a baton because I would not clear the sidewalk. However it was never my intention to block the sidewalk. I was taking pictures of a woman being arrested for chalking a bunny/dog. The Officer in question, Officer I, if you will, pulled out his nightstick with his fellow officers and began to slam it into my forearms while pushing me into the street. The other officers began to push the few people that were there from the site of the arrest as well. I repeatedly kept my cool, stating that I was a preschool teacher and I would gladly move but there were many people behind me and I had no place to go. I repeatedly asked him to not hit me. He didn’t listen. Instead he repeatedly slammed the nightstick into my arms, causing bruises. In the end I got moved maybe a foot and the sidewalk cleared on it’s own as people just scooted.
That is why I am afraid.
But enough about that. Let’s talk about why I’m doing this even though I *am* afraid.
Public Discourse and Political art have always been received with disgust. Los Angeles does have a long history of challenging what art is by using public spaces and public art. I hope this piece continues in this vein. When I personally think of chalking, I don’t think of graffiti, which in itself can be described as it’s own art form that is used to mark territory in worse forms and celebrate culture in its best. No, I don’t consider chalking and graffit the same. I thinkof the serious notion that by picking up a piece of chalk in the city of Los Angeles, you are breaking the law.
But what happens when you remove the chalk from the sidewalk and put it onto canvas? Is it now legitimized by it being on canvas? Does it become art because it is in a more accepted media? It is no longer city property. If one were to chalk on canvas it couldn’t possibly cause arrest, and if it did why would it? Why is a sidewalk vandalism, and a canvas art?
I invite you to come talk with me about Art and Public Art in general tonight in Pershing Square. I also invite you to be apart of a collaborative art piece that begs to ask these questions and many others: “At what point does freedom of expression become vandalism? At what point does a marginalized people’s words become appropriate to be consumed by the Art Media? Is it possible to enjoy a city where children must buy canvas to draw rainbows and hopscotch boards?”