New Social Art School Projects - Free Daze Variant

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photo: Merz
text: Vykoukal & Mr French

New social art school, FREE DAZE! – an illegal fly-poster seeking the release of Glasgow graffiti artist Daze (Gary Shields) who was jailed for 28 months on March 20th 2008, the longest such sentence handed down in Scotland... amidst a prisons overcrowding crisis and yet further calls for reform of the penal system. Graffiti, as in the case of Daze’s eight instances of malicious mischief perpetrated on the public transport system, is prosecuted both under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2004) and as vandalism: “the wilful, wanton, and malicious destruction of, or damage to, the property of another person”. With both the most common forms of graffiti, and the most frequent strategies employed to suppress it, firmly established for decades, the effect of Shield’s incarceration as an example, as argued by the judge in the case, or the long-term benefits of clean-ups are a little doubtful.

Deputy leader of Glasgow City Council, James Coleman, quoted in the Evening Times, responded to the Free Daze! campaign: “I’m glad this has been brought to our attention and we will be dealing with it as a matter of urgency. We will be trying to identify the people responsible – and hopefully they’ll be locked up like Gary Shields. Graffiti destroys the environment we’re trying to create of a clean Glasgow. It just goes to show you the mentality of these people who have no respect for the city.”

The inconclusive claims about the relation of graffiti to actual crime, or the ‘fear of crime’ which sustain and possibly increase this ongoing ‘battle’ between writers and the arm of the law, are, unfortunately, never matched by an enquiry into such salient questions as whether the public are in favour of the huge expenses incurred in policing and cleaning – such as the whopping £270,000 apparently required to remove traces of Daze.

Neither is the continuing increase of legal and commercial messages up for scrutiny. Coleman as deputy leader is himself responsible for the recent billboard-erection spree fouling the city, including the strobing LED displays blaring out sound pollution into ‘pedestrian zones’ for the likes of military recruitment. According to the BBC, from May 2008, new powers in the Commonwealth Games (2014) Bill, alongside the compulsory purchase of land, will give Glasgow City Council additional rein to censor and suppress “unauthorised advertising”. The excuse for this intensified criminalisation of the ‘misuse’ of public space is to protect the interests of private sponsors. Trading Standards officers are to be given powers to cover billboards and signs and, under warrant, search premises where they suspect ‘offences’ are being committed.

The good news is that, on 12th May, Daze was freed on ‘interim liberation’ while on appeal.

VARIANT - free arts & culture magazine