On Culture
Comments 27

A Message for Otis Frizzel at Williamson Ave

Public Mural. Otis Frizzel.
Williamson Ave, Ponsonby.

A MESSAGE FOR OTIS FRIZZEL.

Since you are one of the few “street artists” that “broke out and made it in the art scene” by being one of the few that isn’t a “lazy bum” (your words), and as you are “educated”, you must know a thing or two about context. The hood you are talking about has an average house price of $1.003m. Before Grey Lynn and Ponsonby were brutally and systematically gentrified under Robert Muldoon at the hands of the police, it used to be the hood. Dawnraids happened. Young kids and whole whānau were raided at the wee hours of the morning and thrown out of their homes.

This was a time of revolutionaries. Ngā Tamatoa and the Polynesian Panthers were formed. In response to the continued attacks on Māori and Polynesian youth, the PIG (Police Investigation Group) patrol was formed as an arm of the Panthers. The group’s main objective was to monitor police activity to try and protect young Māori and Pacific islanders from Police brutality.

A similar approach was taken by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, in response to the continual harassment of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers. The Black Panthers openly referred to the police as ‘pigs’ during the movement. The word ‘pig’ refers to officers who targeted young African-American youth and exploited their power in order to oppress them.

The fact that Ponsonby and Grey Lynn have been gentrified should not be a surprise to you. Another thing that shouldn’t surprise you as an “educated” guy is that artists play a key role in gentrifying suburbs in order to maintain a falsity of pre-gentrification in a neighbourhood that has been, in reality, torn to shreds. It caters to the needs of the wealthy for an illusion of authenticity to satisify their fetishisation of what a suburb used to be. The mural you painted may have been a nice mix of people you could find from the area, but in reality is a falsity. Grey Lynn and Ponsonby are now two of the most expensive suburbs in Aotearoa and belong to a very specific demographic. Your mural is a joke. It is offensive to those who remember what those suburbs once were, whose memories remain on the windowsills and street corners of a place they can no longer call home.

The use of the term pig refers to an institution, it is a sentiment. The criminal justice system in this country today reflects one of oppression and racism. The word pig is an intentionally derogatory term for a system that shuts down dissent and silences the voice of the people.

Street art is a voice for those who are silenced by this system. Street art is not state-sanctioned commercially-driven decorations. Street art is about owning spaces that should be public but instead are controlled by elites, land owners and corporations. Street art is about having a voice.
There is an obvious aesthetic to street art and exploiting it for your own commercial gain – as in the work you did for the police – without any recognition of its roots is reckless. You commodify street art, good for you and your mortgage, not good enough to call righteous.
“Have a voice and an opinion, and stand up for what you believe in…”

Although you conveniently forgot to mention the tag scrawled on the other part of your mural while you were busy mending your ego, it says the message loud and clear:
REMEMBER THE RAIDS PONSONBY
This isn’t a coincidence.
There will be no apologies to those who are on their way to Glengarry’s or SPQR for having to be reminded of the roots of the concrete they walk upon.
There will be no apologies to the artist who appropriates the word activist and patronises those who haven’t sold out.
If you intended on disrespecting the struggle, now and then, you succeeded.
If you intended on looking like a toy who doesn’t know his history, you succeeded.
If you intended on offending any artist who has run from, hid from, been beaten up by or harassed by the pigs, you succeeded.

“No compromise, no sell out.” –Malcom X

Anon
#selloutsgetschooled

Photo courtesy of the artist

20130813-102527.jpg

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27 Comments

  1. Pingback: A Message for Otis Frizzel at Williamson Ave | Research Material

  2. robo says

    How quickly the out spoken become the establishment / frigger network !!!

  3. Paora-Daniel Apera says

    why are you anon then if you are so high and mighty against otis and his street art.
    no compromise yet you hide your name. sad guy.
    Paora-Daniel Apera

  4. Local says

    Fair point, but there are better ways to put across a message than to vandalize someone’s hard work.

  5. There are many arguments for using critics name or ‘anon’ – often anon can spur a debate which is has successfully done here, so, complements to this particular Anon. Jim and Mary Barr have previously noted on their blog at some stage that although using ‘anon’ can seem like a cop out in terms of owning your thoughts, it actually can work far better if your interests lie more in revving up a debate or encouraging criticality!

    There are plenty of terrible murals out there and terrible artists, just as many as the good ones. Frizzel Junior is simply cursed with a surname that insinuates that he has the talent and credibility to be or already be a critically renowned artist.

    Another poorly researched and cultural blunder by Frizzel – the police ads in Chch. Here’s a cynic’s take: http://bud2012.tumblr.com/post/23215931211/copart#notes-container

  6. If you’ve got a problem with the mural , do a better one. Isn’t that the democracy of street art?
    If you didn’t like the Police campaign Otis was involved in .Paint over it. Change it ! All the political posturing (put your name on your post if you think your opinion is worth shit! Frankly I don’t . The tryhard referencing of the history of Ponsonby is just painful because it just exposed how little you know of Otis and his mana.

  7. Teina says

    It’s about time people started talking about the gentrification of Ponsonby and G Lynn instead of putting decorations over it for the wealthy like everything’s fine and our people, and those in economic hardship aren’t still being dispossessed. on another note i checked out this guys art and he’s recently done a piece taking Māori kupu, that he doesn’t even spell correctly, chucking his massive signature over it and then selling it off. Pretty insulting in my book. Check your tohutō before you appropriate a language for your financial benefit I say.

  8. otis frizzell says

    I was asked to contribute a mural to the Williamson Ave wall. It took a while to come up with the idea. I wanted to take a snapshot of Ponsonby Rd, present time. I walked down Ponsonby Rd and took a bunch of photos and chose a culturally diverse selection. It wasn’t a fantasy selection. Those were the photos it took. Even thought it has been gentrified, I still see a mix of cultures making up Ponsonby and Grey lynn.
    We moved to Ponsonby in the early 70s. It was amazing back then. I got stepped out for money most days, but enjoyed the vibe even as a kid. That’s when I started doing street art. I actually did a KCs piece on Tole Bowl.
    In my late thirties my wife and I wanted to buy a house. I couldn’t afford to buy in ponsonby and Grey Lynn EITHER. I’m not a silver spooned, white opressor. I didn’t moan about it. I moved out… Like everyone who can’t afford it did. I managed to find a place in Morningside/Weston Springs right amongst the kind of families I used to live next door to in ponsonby. ie A mix of European and Pacific Island families. And I love it here too.
    Gentrification is a part of city life.
    The raids are a terrible part of history, but I don’t feel responsible.

    After doing spraycan art for 25 years, I don’t apologise for using those skill to pay my bills. They are the only skills I have.

    The police campaign I worked on was about finding community minded people to join the force. The cops are a part of life and if we can have people join the force that arn’t aggressive assholes, then in my eyes thats a positive thing. (like the woman who busted open the peadophile ringe etc etc blah blah)
    Pinning the atrocities of the raids on all police for ever is childish and rediculous.

    “You commodify street art, good for you and your mortgage, not good enough to call righteous.”
    Thats Bullshit.
    My concious is clean. that’s enough.

    And as far as the KUPU show goes… That’s another story alltogether!

    But if I answer the phone and say “Kia ora” is that disrespectful appropriation?

  9. otis frizzell says

    Oh yeah…

    “There are plenty of terrible murals out there and terrible artists, just as many as the good ones. Frizzel Junior is simply cursed with a surname that insinuates that he has the talent and credibility to be or already be a critically renowned artist.”

    Wow. Awesome.

    The name is not a ‘curse’. I’m proud to wear it. It certainly doesn’t insinuate talent and credibility.
    I think dad is quite amazing and has done a lot to open many interesting conversations about art, culture and appropriation. And he is properly educated in the intelectual background knowledge to back himself up.
    I am more naive in my approach… However I try and maintain respect in my art.

    i don’t require you to like my art, my name or my family in general.

    I’ve worked hard over the last twenty years to establish a reputation as an artist. And I don’t call myself a ‘street artist’. just an artist.

  10. I love your dads work bro.

    Your work is on my walls too.

    And I don’t think I would ever be considered a friend of the pigs (FTP!), ignorant to the issues of the raids or lack in cred’ with regard to the “issues” of keeping it real.

    OPTO for Mayor! Supercity & Tacos for everyone!

  11. otis frizzell says

    Ha! just read the hashtag… #selloutsgetsschooled

    You have a high opinion of yourself.

    #anonisaboringmoaner

  12. I know it probably must have been upsetting for someone to vandal a mural that had artist intentions of doing something beautiful and uplifting for the community of grey lynn and ponsonby, and personally being called out must have felt like an attack and well that’s not cool or respectful for those who situate themselves within the artworld where stuff like that doesn’t happen. But Street art/graffiti is different. It historically is one of the four elements of hiphop, and hiphop is a very competitive culture, where you get called out then you respond and it all makes for a very interesting narrative that can often comment on the underlining values of the present time. Otis put up a mural of what grey lynn ponsonby meant to him and anon retaliated by saying what ponsonby grey lynn meant to them (Remember the raids). Then of course Otis retaliated by his post on FB and anon retaliated with this and so on and so forth. What has come from this has been a journey and the dialogue that has come out of it has been great and has so much potential.

    I think there were a few problems however that almost shut down the discourse completely. The personal attack on Otis has somehow overshadowed the message of the raids being an important part of ponsonby identity and one that needs to be remembered. I don’t put that down to anons actions completely as it was Otis took a photo just of the part that had his name on it and left out the whole story. I have to say I was pretty shocked at the horrific comments on Otis’s FB page that he left on there. Things such as assuming that anon is a teenage male kid from south auckland who is a dole bludger. What horrific stereotyping that is. Why is it that someone with an opinion and a spray can is a coward and an idiot and POOR? I think anon is educated and knows what they are up to. Anon is creating dialogue about the function of art. Art can be used for political and social commentary, can anyone else see that as exciting? I think that this mural has been used as a platform for the forgotten voice of the ponsonby dawn raids, racism in nz, police responsibility, stereotyping, art and critical thinking. If we could just stop being so offended and defensive and stop pointing fingers, maybe we could see this as a community issue (rather than otis vs anon, who’s side are you on?) and really begin to talk about the important things that this whole narrative has addressed.

    • Umm.. There WAS street art BEFORE hip hop…
      Also someone vandalised some street art when they could’ve left the msg anywhere.
      Anon thought he could “school” Otis. He replied.
      That is MY interpretation of the “discourse” so far..

  13. I know it probably must have been upsetting for someone to vandal a mural that had artist intentions of doing something beautiful and uplifting for the community of grey lynn and ponsonby, and personally being called out must have felt like an attack and well that’s not cool or respectful for those who situate themselves within the artworld where stuff like that doesn’t happen. But Street art/graffiti is different. It historically is one of the four elements of hiphop, and hiphop is a very competitive culture, where you get called out then you respond and it all makes for a very interesting narrative that can often comment on the underlining values of the present time. Otis put up a mural of what grey lynn ponsonby meant to him and anon retaliated by saying what ponsonby grey lynn meant to them (Remember the raids). Then of course Otis retaliated by his post on FB and anon retaliated with this and so on and so forth. What has come from this has been a journey and the dialogue that has come out of it has been great and has so much potential.

    I think there were a few problems however that almost shut down the discourse completely. The personal attack on Otis has somehow overshadowed the message of the raids being an important part of ponsonby identity and one that needs to be remembered. I don’t put that down to anons actions completely as it was Otis took a photo just of the part that had his name on it and left out the whole story. I have to say I was pretty shocked at the horrific comments on Otis’s FB page that he left on there. Things such as assuming that anon is a teenage male kid from south auckland who is a dole bludger. What horrific stereotyping that is. Why is it that someone with an opinion and a spray can is a coward and an idiot and POOR? I think anon is educated and knows what they are up to. Anon is creating dialogue about the function of art. Art can be used for political and social commentary, can anyone else see that as exciting? I think that this mural has been used as a platform for the forgotten voice of the ponsonby dawn raids, racism in nz, police responsibility, stereotyping, art and critical thinking. If we could just stop being so offended and defensive and stop pointing fingers, maybe we could see this as a community issue (rather than otis vs anon, who’s side are you on?) and really begin to talk about the important things that this whole narrative has addressed.

  14. otis frizzell says

    Hi APW. I hear you. This is about the most level headed comment yet. As far as the comments on FB go. i left them all there… the only ones I deleted were the true hate ones… ie. The only good cop is a dead cop” etc. all others I left up. There were a few people who needed to let off some steam. I actually think the person who wrote on my mural is aducated and white… “Suffering from honkey guilt”, i think I said somewhere. but yeah..this could go on and on back and forth for ever. It’s an interesting discussion, but i’ll certainly not apologise for using my learned skills to make a living in my adult life, and I’ll never assume all cops are PIGS. I hold my line on that one. Tarring all cops for ever with the Dawn Raids brush is childish idealism. there are good cops out there, and I support their work. And I’ll state that, with my name attached, publicly.

  15. Pingback: Blue Oyster Talks | 10 weeks. 2 towns. 1 intern.

  16. I have an idea! How bout someone does a continuation of the theme of the murals, but going back in time with faces from now till back then, like community leaders, panthers, musicians, artists, local families etc.. I think that would be choice. And would educate the young and who only know ponsonby as a snooty middle-upper class wank fest it has become… On something permanent, not just a temporary construction fence. I witnessed the change from 1984 onwards and would love to see some of the old faces up.. Get the council to pay Grey Lynn/Ponsonby OG artists to do it in collaboration.. that would be mint

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