Veteran Street Art Defaced by Black Eyed Peas ads, Religious Intolerance

Originally published on Chicago Art Magazine here, and I thought I would repost it for some additional love. Hah!
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Some time over the weekend, the Iraq veteran street art in Lincoln Squarewas covered over. The original work was of a printed paste featuring Rodney Watson, a veteran “seeking refuge in Vancouver, Canada” who refuses to return to Iraq because of the rampant racism he saw there. Rodney Watson was covered up by a Black Eyed Peas poster promoting their new album, and by “God Bless America” lyric print-outs.

The act of covering another artists work in the street art community is an insult, and I am hard pressed to not view this act of defacement as anything other than that. As evident by the photo on the left, there is plenty of space on the wall for everyone, however, this person chose to cover up Rodney Watson completely and with the correctly sized materials. Why go to the trouble of finding pastes the correct size? This was no accident.  The veteran paste-up was promoting a museum exhibit, while this new paste-up is promoting an album.

Had the covering only featured the Black Eyed Peas, I would speculate this was  an innocent mistake. The pretense of a naive BEP employee vanishes quickly once you consider the lyrics to the “God Bless America” song placed next to the Black Eyed Peas poster. The paper plaque  on the original artwork told the story of a veteran so traumatized by the racism he witnessed Iraq, that he would rather be in jail, or away from his “home sweet home”,than return to the war. Let us not forget too, the religious implications behind the wars in the Middle East. The irony of the  ”God Bless America” lyrics  over Watson’s story is almost overbearing.

The act of silencing this veteran through pop culture and religion ( “God” is always a debate-ender, one cannot continue a rational discussion once someone claims God did it, or… God is protecting our troops) is endemic to way we treat any negative coverage of our current wars and/or the veterans involved. Sure, Daley has been praised for the amount of attention given to Chicago’s veterans, and there is a “plaza” now dedicated to Iraq and Afghanistan vets  in an O’Hare parking lot, but why is no one outraged over the fact that we still have forces in Iraq, and will have forces in Afghanistan until at least 2014 (only the Taliban makes a fuss), or that our veterans are committing suicide at alarming rates?

If I was thinking as a performance artist, I have to give props to this defacer- this act of covering up Watson is almost, if nor more, poignant than the original work. I have to wonder too, about the timeline and whether or not my media coverage is  partially responsible for this defacement/performance piece. To clarify, I consider thoughtful trolls performance artists- people unaware of the internets, consider yourselves warned.

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