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Oh the hurly burley of art-defacement-commerce-copyright these days. From street art advertising vandalism, to crass consumer commercialism. Let's start somewhere near the beginning, and let's keep it dumb if possible!
Firstly, smart-alecks draw mustaches on images of people and things, so much so that the act was used as a signifier in a confrontational art piece that's now almost a hundred years old (see Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q., 1919.)
And, for decades in New York City people have drawn mustaches on subway posters, so commonly that the defacement action is saluted in a classic Daffy Duck cartoon (see Daffy Doodles, 1946.)
Then things really get going. Graffiti artist and performer Patrick Waldo gained some recent notoriety by writing "Moustache" in nice swirly script on the lips of thousands of people (and things) pictured in advertising posters in the New York subway. The police, the Metropolitian Transit Authority, poster installation companies and their advertiser clients were not impressed by the cleverness or the "adbusterness," they nabbed him and convicted him on vandalism charges.
The very lovely retail clothing brand Zara swipes Waldo's mustache schtick, drops it on a skull drawing, prints up thousands of t-shirts featuring this graphic and thus creates another piece of consumerist disposable clothing, retail $16.95.
Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Waldo presents a one-man show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre called "Moustache Man: Confessions of a Graffiti Artist."
Then Waldo publicly accuses Zara of stealing his bit, Zara apparently removes the t-shirt from their website offerings. By the way, Zara apparently get accused of co-opting inspiration fairly often.
So who's the dick here? Sort of both of them. We at NYD love the defacement and the deflating of super hyped ad-crap, but the griping about someone stealing "mustache" is a bit weinerish. Acceptance of fair use and what exactly is or is not part of the cultural milieu can really get one's zeitgeist in a wad. But on the other hand, a multi-million dollar corporation blood-sucking the life out even the most barely interesting aspects of unprotected creativity, well thats being a multi-million dollar asshole. So until Moustache Man moves up to the Shepard Fairy clout/money level it's Zara that gets the finger wag from NYD.
We congratulate both parties for doing what they can to keep defacement a part of the public consciousness, and Zara, if your listening please consider drawing some dicks on your t-shirts next season, that's an awesome aspect of poster defacement that we're sure your cute little t-shirt buyers would love to get hold of.