Art? Intolerance? Banality?

Posted by at 7:56AM

I noticed this the other day, too.
To add a new spin to this, has anyone drawn the connection between the sidewalk writings and the graffiti on the back of the stall door on the first floor men’s bathroom?
The writings are pretty much exactly the same. This was probably a project to replicate what was on the door.

Now the piece makes sense. I’m a girl, I don’t use the men’s bathroom. The project seems to be about replicating the hidden and making it public. It seems to be about asking what the impact of the statements on the bathroom walls would be if it was made public.
Note to authors/artists: it would have been nice to know that. My understanding, from an informal poll, is that the men’s and women’s bathroom are vastly different here at Stanford. For example, not a lot of writing on the bathroom walls going on, so the reference to writing on the bathroom walls slipped past me. Also apparently, women’s bathrooms have more private stalls. Without the context I though the content expressed your views. Maybe next time say what your referencing more explicitly? The comments were offensive and without the context of what you were doing it seemed like a bunch of random comments with some offensive speech thrown in.
Also, to those who say I’m calling for censorship. I was pointing out that, as I perceived it, the art project wasn’t art but merely banality due to its reliance on offensive speech . Never in my writing did I call for censorship. Calling something banal and offensive or sexist, racist, or homophobic is not censorship. Calling a piece of art offensive can lead to a discussion, particularly about art (since this seemed to be an art project) about whether the community feels the art should stay in place or be removed. Also, questioning whether or not something is art (and I originally felt it wasn’t art) is good.
The writing on the men’s bathroom wall – not art, and also offensive. The words and expressions written down are homophobic, racist, and sexist. The replication of the bathroom wall, to, I’m supposing, reveal and expose, this hidden sentiment of vitriol seems to be art (again I would say to the artists, give a context so people know what your intention is). And is actually kinda scary.
These comments are written in anonymity (kinda like internet comments). People writing on the bathroom walls can express their sentiments without fear of being exposed as the author. In the men’s restroom, you can even suppose the authors can write without fear of a fellow female student seeing the comments and jokes.
The writings have been exposed, but the authors are still anonymous.
I apologize to the artists for thinking that the content expressed their views.
Original Post
I’m used to walking through campus and seeing random bits of shout outs written in chalk on the pavement. For instance, today, ROHO is out in force (with a website to boot).
However, what I saw yesterday morning has me wondering about the line between provocation, art, sexism, racism, and banality. When does an attempt at art become vitriol? Are random sexist and racist statements really art?
As I was walking to Meyer from Escondido I encountered the following:
Hungry (with arrow pointing to)
Talk to me
Brandi hearts Justin
My husband flicks his tongue like a dyke

Right there, out in the middle of the walkway, a word often used to silence women and dismiss them. A way of disenfranchising lesbians. An ugly word without context. Was this part of a poem, then which poem? Part of a larger statement somewhere? I had no context in which to judge the statement. “My husband flicks his tongue like a dyke.” Dyke, a lesbian who is noticeably masculine. A woman who has transgressed social gender norms. A way of othering both lesbians and women. A word often used to silence them
As I continued towards Meyer a mangled references to the sound of silence by Paul Simon “the words of the prophet are written on the bathroom stalls.” It sounded like someone was trying to be deep, but the prior chalk outlines (with the arrows pointing me to Meyer) made it just banal. Pompous. Mental masturbation. Someone thinking they were deep because they used offensive language.
As I looked at the writing to I saw references to Andrew Jackson Pollock as a blind guardian of culture and words “ see my face on a $20 Bill Smallpox, genocidal American quilts, etc.” There was an arrow with salad written inside. It looked as if several individuals had been writing quotes and then writing to each other and quotes and responses cover the walkway.
I know this shit isn’t great but what exactly do you get when griffens and Cardinals mate
Well, the bitches at this place are that’s for sure
(arrow pointing to overeducated)

The message: women at Stanford are ugly, overeducated bitches. Bitch. A female dog. Another word used to dismiss women. A way to devalue opinions of educated women. You are an ugly, overeducated bitch. In my mind I hear “…and I don’t have to listen to you.”
Was the intent provocation? If so what were they provoking? Against the context it was just offensive speech.
does she really matter so much?
No, actually your gay
Holy Shit! I’m bi!

Men don’t have feelings, feelings, according to the creators of this piece are gay. The use of gay as a pejorative. Gay as bad. Gay as an identity used to denigrate the original remark. I don’t know what to make of the “Holy Shit! I’m bi!” Is this dismissive of bisexuality? I can’t know everything is out of context and just a random juxtaposition of quotes, which use homophobic statements
Then it seemed political
Obama (with cross through it) Never!
Ok, someone doesn’t want Obama for president. In the context of everything else this stood out. No other political candidate was referenced.

You walk behind the faculty club and find a prof smoking pot behind a tree
most likely to be there
1 Cheech
2 Chong
3 Harold
4 Kumar
5 Obama

What does it mean to juxtapose the first African American presidential candidate against characters in stoner movies. Is this code for black men=drug dealers. This would complete the trinity of sexism, homophobia, and racism. But I’m not sure. Election primaries clouds the message. But Obama is the only presidential candidate referenced here.
The blocks of text sprawled across the the pavement seemed like they were supposed to be art, but were merely banally offensive.
I apologize for the crappy photos, it was hard to get them to come out with the glare.
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the signs said, the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.
And whispered in the sounds of silence.

– The Sound of Silence by Paul Simon


14 Responses to “Art? Intolerance? Banality?”

  1. Leigh says:

    Gross hate speech, but wonderfully written post.

  2. aw says:

    I noticed this the other day, too.
    To add a new spin to this, has anyone drawn the connection between the sidewalk writings and the graffiti on the back of the stall door on the first floor men’s bathroom?
    The writings are pretty much exactly the same. This was probably a project to replicate what was on the door.

  3. Dan says:

    Grow up and get some balls.
    You’re calling this racist, sexist, and hate speech? Please. Some kids joke around and write some retarded comments in chalk by Meyer, and you try to equate this with malicious behavior. (omg, am I being offensive to the mentally disabled by my use of that word?)
    “Holy shit, I’m bi!”
    “My husband flicks his tongue like a dyke.”
    First of all, if you think this is offensive to queers, why don’t you meet a few of us and listen to how we talk to each other. Second of all, they’re both hilarious statements. And lastly, anyone honestly offended by these statements is only offended because they are either: closeted and/or insecure (which is actually understandable), or a self-righteous fool with nothing better to worry about (which is not actually understandable).
    Before you go labeling things as intolerant acts, why don’t you take a long time to think about what is truly intolerant: a few misguided jokes, or the absolute censorship of any statements that *may* be slightly offensive to another person.

  4. fd says:

    No one cares, I can’t believe you actually took time to go around and take pictures…please stop spamming.
    Why so sensitive… everything done here at stanford is so offensive… we have to be always politically correct. Any statement uttered can and will always be up for interpretation … it’s what makes us human and enables us with our own thinking minds … however some things need not be searched for hidden meanings. Leave it be.

  5. please says:

    If they’re so offensive, please go erase them.

  6. Katie: says:

    Thanks for this post. The comments suggesting that people offended by this are “too sensitive” or “overreacting” are ridiculous. This graffiti is but one expression of a greater problem with hate and intolerance on campus. Remember the graffiti in the history corner (“rape all Asian bitches and dump them”)? This is just one step away. Free speech, art, provocation, whatever, it’s something we need to talk about. Why do people feel the need to say these kinds of things? Silence on this issue isn’t going to help anyone.

  7. David says:

    In my opinion, it is the intolerant racists bigots that need to grow up and get a set of balls. Is it too much to ask really for them to show a little sensitivity and political correctness after Xhundred years of slavery, censorship and oppression?
    So maybe before certain elite bigoted and privileged persons decide to replicate the art on a certain bathroom wall, they should think about censoring themselves a little, and how they are affecting the feelings and self esteem of those who have been systematically oppressed.  
    Yes, maybe it does require a little forethought and perhaps censorship of “jokes.” But is it really any more difficult than the “censorship” that certain groups have experienced ? Censorship that kept them from sitting at certain parts of the buses and trains, censorship that kept them from drinking from certain water fountains, censorship that kept them from living open and comfortable lives where they were happy with themselves and could express who they were in the world?
    Certain students, in fact MANY students at Stanford have never experienced any kind of oppression, segregation or homophobia in memorable history, and perhaps they think that gives them the privilege, dare I say right, to be insensitive to others because “hey they’re ONLY JOKING” and oppressing people is always funny and has been since the minstrelsy days and the times when people used to bludgeon faggots to death… Oh wait, thats still going on… my bad… LOL LOL
    (Really does the LOL behind it make it any less poignant or true?)
    So yeah, maybe “we” of the oppressed minority communities ARE overreacting, but after so many centuries of not speaking out and silently accepting all the oppressions heaped upon us, won’t you say it was about time???
    And if you think it isn’t FAIR that “you,” the privileged classes, are being “punished” for atrocious and horrendous crimes you did not actually commit (your great grandfathers did) and are merely poking fun at now… and if you think it isn’t FAIR that we’re overreacting to something that “was merely a joke bro,” and if you think it isn’t FAIR that your offensive art should be censored, then WELCOME TO OUR WORLD. Deal with it, we have for the past 600 hundred years (at least).
    So next time you’re going to make a joke at the expense of some other group which you are not apart of and are not even trying to understand, and worse make it public so that umpteen students can also read it and snicker,

  8. George Xander Morris says:

    God evilbunny, fucking grow up. you think that you need to be put in a room with cushioned walls for the rest of your life? well fucking grow up. do you think the world is a giant kindergarten, where the ideal world is censored by people like you?!
    You’r the fucking reson there aren’t great artists at stanford you’re the reason kids rebel violently. Go talk to Oprah about how much this traumatized you. The words on the grownd ARE 100% Art and the words you write are too, just bad art. The words on the groun ARE EXACT COPIES OF THE WORDS THAT ARE WRITTEN ON THE MALE BATHROOM STALLS OF MEYER LIBRARY. STOP FUCKING POINTING FINGERS AT EVERYONE ELSE and look at yourself. the kind bubbly stanford students you so wish to protect did both the writing on the bathroom walls and the chalk. Your offense offends me.
    So that gives me the right to take away your rights? you are demented in every respect of the word. Go waste your time photographing REAL offensive things. Art is offensive because it it shows truth. This art shows the truth that the source of our hatred IS TRUE. It is in bathroom stalls all across AMERICA. AND THE WORLD. Stop pretending that HATRED is best Repressed, that it’s fine on bathroom walls. STOP SILENCING OTHERS and GET A FUCKING LIFE.

  9. Dan says:

    Katie, I agree with you when you say these are important issues for us to discuss, and silence is not the answer. Silence is never the answer.
    Honestly, there are countless other cases that would be more appropriate to consider if you really wanted to talk about discrimination/hate crimes.
    My original post was not to say we should remain silent on this issue. My qualm with this whole situation is that people would even dare to consider the chalking as “intolerable” or a “hate crime.” That’s terribly ignorant to equate this chalking with an event such as the Jena Six, Megan Williams, or any ACTUAL hate speech.
    Hate crimes are defined by their intentional targeting of a specific group or individual, and by their malicious intent. I’m willing to bet that these chalkings were not as such.
    And no, it’s not ridiculous. You ARE being way too sensitive if this sets you off. There have been so many other significant events that should have set you off; the offensiveness of the chalking PALES in comparison to these events.
    As a final note: there is some much needed discussion on the issue of intolerable acts/hate crimes, especially for us as students to truly understand what a hate crime is. Mainly, we don’t want to be throwing these heavy words around. However, a blog or email list is NOT the correct medium to hold this discussion.

  10. Dan says:

    I’m sorry, I HAVE to respond to this.
    So yeah, maybe “we” of the oppressed minority communities ARE overreacting, but after so many centuries of not speaking out and silently accepting all the oppressions heaped upon us, won’t you say it was about time???
    -Posted by David
    Wow. You self-righteously claim that you feel the pain of centuries of oppression done to your people?
    If you want to talk about oppressed minorities, I’m a gay, somewhat straight-acting (I’m sorry, I’m trying to be more gay but it’s not working right now) Vietnamese Canadian who is a Baptist Christian attending a liberal university in California, and also the son of a Baptist Reverend. That makes me what, a quintuple minority? By your logic, I should feel the weight of a millennium of oppression. I’ll tell you right now – you don’t feel shit from the oppression of your “peoples” or “ancestors” unless you let yourself.
    It’s why you’re here, getting an education and experiencing mind-blowing things (at least I hope you’re having a good a time as me). You’re learning how to make your own mark in this world regardless of your background. Your actions will define what the outcome of your life is, not the fact that your grandfather may have been disadvantaged because he was a foreigner to this country.
    You’ve got to get past your own insecurities and be able to laugh at yourself too. Don’t take yourself too seriously, because if you do, no one else will.

  11. Chip B. says:

    Bathroom graffiti seems like a bad place to start a cultural dialog.

  12. s says:

    how does that relate at all?
    and Gunjit Singh, you are my idol.

  13. TruXter says:

    Couldn’t read half the crap on the ground, can you put captions below the images? and $^$%^ the vulgar parts ?

  14. Leah Madison says:

    I agree – please show some additional graffitiimages or print some more captions.
    Many thanks for this awesome article!


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