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Entries in mustache (3)



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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.



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The above example of advertising in a fake real/gritty style shows that the circle of life for cultural memes is part snowball effect and part turd polishing effect. 

We at NYD love rude ad defacements including all flavors of beard and mustache mockery, but when the ad itself tries to yuck it up with us with canned defacements it's just smug and annoying. Like your uncle Herman showing you his mad beatboxing skills, it's not really an honest homage, he just sort of thinks you're an idiot. 

Ad agencies are always on the look-out for ways to "relate" to the "real" and "gritty" if they think that their market might be turned on by that. For more cleverness take a look at this ad tarted-up by a faux penis defacement, ahh the brilliance! To see a few examples of real mustache defacements (and get some info on the end of the career of "mustache man") take a look at this NYD site entry.



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Last week the energetic poster defacer known as "Moustache Man" was arrested by officers of the NYPD. The inscriber of the ubiquitous swirly tag "moustache" that lately has adorned countless upper lips on advertising posters is now known as "Joseph Waldo, perp." Moustache Man is sadly in the same art/speech/legal purgatory that the much noticed then quickly arrested Poster Boy recently visited. Keep your head down Dick Chicken, the state security apparatus has its eye on you.

Gothamist reports that under pressure from authorities Waldo clearly stated his new position in relation to street art and unsanctioned anti-hype speech; "I'm sorry for my actions and have agreed to fully cooperate and never do it again." Very reasonable under the circumstances, sir.

Moustaching is not a very dickish defacement, but New York Dick is always interested in poster modifications that attempt to reclaim part of the visual culture. So even if drawing a silly stache isn't really as shocking and dicky as poking a penis doodle in someones eye, NYD seeks to document anything that is enough of an affront to make you stop and think, or get you arrested.

Whether spelled moustache or mustache (not the concern of NYD) or not spelled out at all, lip hair defacements are very common in the NYC subway system. As Marcel Duchamp showed us when he dickishly defaced a post card of the Mona Lisa, lip hair supplied against ones will is a great way to steal somethings mojo. 

Moustache Man will probably not be doing many more defacements in the New York subway system, but NYD is positive that thousands of New York's dickish denizens will continue to make graphic counter statements to ad culture. Penises, mustaches, beards, zombie eyes, devil horns, busted teeth; all seem like proper visual comments to make on an advertising poster that is just a little too much in your face. But be careful New York, don't make a spectacle of yourself, be ready to run, and if caught be really ready to apologize.