Friday, March 18, 2011

So fresh, so clean.

Following the controversy surrounding the painting over of artist Askew’s mural on Poynton Tce by Auckland Council contractors, TVNZ show Media7 decided to take a look at the issue. They opened with a prerecorded interview with Askew about his legal mural and what happened with it being painted out and the aftermath. (Watch it here)

The opening piece with Askew included shots from a NZ Herald video with Rob Shields, Auckland Council's graffiti prevention officer... he describes tagging as low level urban terrorism....

The next part was a studio interview with Mayor Len Brown. Len discussed what had happened, admitted the Council was at fault and wanted to put things right.

Len talked about wanting to make sure Council followed due process, and that ultimately it was the owners decision about what goes on their wall.

Russell asks Len what is the role of these people (graffiti prevention staff Rob Shields, Tony Crampton) and do they get to decide what art is? Len says that “when you get people out in the workplace who are passionate about their job, and Rob certainly is, you’re going to make the odd mistake, and he sure did on this occasion”.

Russell – “Has he acknowledged that to you, that he made a mistake, even in getting involved?”

Len: “Look, Russ, this is a new job. I’m trying to get to meet 8 and a half thousand employees, as well as 1.4 million people, so I haven’t had the hook up with him on this issue as yet”. Len kept returning to saying it's up to the owners what they do with their wall, and "we have to follow due process".

So, Len admits that he had not talked to Rob Shields about what Shields told the owners. So how can Len claim to follow due process if he doesn’t even know what happened with his own staff?

Russell asks Len several times during the interview why Rob Shields got involved talking to the owners about the replacement mural, and Len never directly answers the question.

Rusell – ‘I wonder if this hasn’t exposed a wider issue. You’ve set yourself up as the hiphop mayor…’

Len laughs and says ‘I didn’t set myself up as the hiphop mayor..’

Russell ‘Well you allowed yourself to be…’

Len, ‘aw, look at me…do I really look like the hiphop mayor?’

Len, every time you jumped onstage with Savage before you became Auckland Mayor, we thought the same thing.

Len is big on being anti graffiti, it was a pitch that served him well as Mayor of Manukau city, and it’s an issue that many people feel strongly about. So when he talks about the Poynton Tce mural as ultimately being up to the owners to decide, what he is saying is this: property owners pay rates. Artists don’t. Property owners have money. Artists don’t. Property owners vote. Artists don’t.

Feeling disenfranchised yet?

All through the interview. Len addresses his interviewer Russell Brown, as Russ. He does this because he knows it makes him seem friendlier to viewers, never mind he doesn’t know Russell from a bar of soap. And while Russell mentions Askew by name several times, the Mayor chooses not to. He refers to ‘the young fella’ ‘the person’ or ‘that guy’. He chooses not to use his artist handle Askew, because Len knows that using his name gives him legitimacy. And making graffiti artists legitimate is not an election platform. Demonising taggers is though.

But where does that lead? The Council’s own report on graffiti spends only 3 of its 28 pages on education,. The rest of it is devoted to eradication. The education aspect is played down, as the report says it is very costly.

So, today’s teenagers running round with a spraycan in their hands are criminals and vandals, because trying to educate them instead is seen as not cost effective in the short term.

And let’s face it. Len Brown is only interested in the short term. Because he wants to get re-elected. In the long term, criminalising a generation of teen taggers from poor backgrounds will overcrowd our jails in 10-15 years time. But that doesn’t bother Len Brown, because by then he will have another cushy job. His empathy with the poor doesn’t extend to spending money on their plight.


component said...

Yeah very well said Peter the interview showed lenny's real side i side i wish i had not voted for now !

Anonymous said...

All he did was bypassing the real questions by bringing up the issues surrounding tagging while protecting his team of numb nuts. He's missing the point of the interview with no real answers provided and showed no respect for the artists!

the owl was poncing By said...

That clip is just slightly worrying,
buy a baseball cap and suddenly you're out tagging - lol And the Guy doesn't distinguish between random tags and legal walls - And Lennys no better

Unknown said...

Thanks Peter for summing this up. It was amazing to watch, Len Dog (I'm sure he doesn't mind if I call him that) just danced around the questions like any other bloody politician. No answer was given to why Rob Shields had any right to step in on this issue. And what exactly did he say to the building owner? If Lennie knew he was going to be on the show to talk specifically about this why on earth did he not meet with Rob Nob (that's what his mates call him I think) and find out the full story. All he cares about is saving face, not saving our artistic freedom.

baruk said...

i know i'm being annoying bloody sunshine, but am *quite impressed by the ruckus this has kicked up, enough t bother the big wigs. aar i say.

Joe said...

It's a shame to see Len side step the numerous questions that were asked of him. After voting for him, I thought he would continue his grass-roots attitude during his time as mayor, but it's fairly obvious that he has performed like a typical politician in this situation.

Props to Russell Brown for asking all the right questions and pushing for the right answer. He definitely tried his hardest on this one! It's refreshing to see the media not taking their usual anti-graffiti perspective on this.

Disappointed in you Len, I thought you were better than this brosef.

Anonymous said...

The people people thought they were electing someone who stood for them.

But instead they got another corporate fucking puppet on strings.