Surfing the Spectacle

That Which Blights the City


Something terrible is happening to our cities.

Our public space is a numbing ecology of standardization and dilapidation, of bleak façade and banal design, of endless advertisement, shrill and asinine.

All of which is fine, and as it should be.

What’s terrible is that certain people are contaminating our social realm with surprise and invention and mystery and the affirmation of life.

They must be stopped.


For instance, there is a particularly treacherous man in Richmond, Virginia. He paints images on wood and affixes the wood to city street signs.

Where does he get the nerve? How dare he?

He’s ignorant. He never went to art school, so he doesn’t understand there is a place for art. That place is called an art gallery. There art can be bought and sold. If enough wealthy people purchase the art to decorate their large homes, the artist gets money and is a great success.

It’s all so simple and beautiful.


But this ignorant man does not hope to make money with his paintings.

He says, “Money turns everything good, sour.”

He sees them as a gift.


Naturally, he’s unstable.

And he’s breaking the law. Big time.

A local official calls the paintings a “safety hazard” that could “distract” motorists. Yes, these paintings are extremely dangerous.

But we would go further than this.

These works are an abomination. A terrible danger in our midst.


It’s not just that some of the signs are explicitly political.

Which is highly distressing to see in a public place.

It’s that all of the signs are full of radical and disruptive messages.


They threaten the public realm as we know it. What’s next? Allow people to speak to one another? Sing songs? Tell stories? Smile and stroll?

It’s awful to imagine.


I have communicated with this Richmond man who hides his face from our criminal justice system.

I have asked him questions. And he has told me this:

“I want ANYTHING to break the mundanity of everyday life….I really hope to inspire people to make stuff and put it out there regardless of what the city wants. To participate in the urban landscape instead of having it dictated only by developers and business groups and city government and other boring/evil institutions.”


The ravings of a madman.

[For more images created by this criminal, you can go here.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *