We Are Doing It Right

"Guerilla movements are a people's response to an invading, alien, or
occupational military or administration." Guerilla warfare implies
clandestine techniques, stealth, remaining unseen. The most visible
resistance techniques include sabotage, terrorism and subversion.
Guerrillas themselves have to remain unnoticed, so that citizens cannot
report them. But do artists have to go unnoticed by occupied people? I
would like to discuss this 'invisibility' that partizans are supposed to
possess.

Russia has known periods of heroic activists who fought against occupiers – the French in the 19th century, and the fascists in the 20th century. My grandmother's family, for instance, were activists: they hid Jews in a cellar just over a meter high, dug beneath the earthen floor of their hut – saving them from concentration camps. At the age of fourteen, she herself stayed there for half a year.

"Guerilla movements are a people's response to an invading, alien, or occupational military or administration."

Unfortunately, apart from such honorable and respected partizans, there is a more prominent phenomenon, which is well-known in today's urban life. So-called "guerrilla marketing" – illegal advertising placed on the walls and, especially, on the asphalt of our cities, by graffiti artists who want to earn extra money.

These are the two poles, two different meanings of the word, between which the current "urban re-planning” movement must balance. The first pole is notable for its
heroism, and, thank God, in today's reality is hardly imaginable, and most likely unattainable. The second one is disgusting, miserable, questionable, and as easy as a ravine to slip in to.

Advertising guerrillas hide under the cover of night, placing their stenciled
inscriptions on the sidewalks of our cities. They are hiding. Just as those who have stayed for many years in their cozy luxury apartments in the Central District or suburban residences behind their three-meter fences – traveling between their home and prestigious jobs, fashionable restaurants or posh clubs in their expensive cars – are also hiding.

They must hide from politically conscious citizens, because their decadence and and neglect of the environment has pushed people to a state of beastly bitterness.They are also hiding from their own conscience, realizing that they have lost the city and the right to live in it. They are ashamed of their own isolation and outrageous individualism. They are correct to hide. The average man who feels comfortable, he too feels guilty before the city; and that is why he sits at home in front of a computer screen, preparing gifts for family and friends under a fir tree.

The average man is anonymous. Anonymity is a nice thing in order to avoid liability.
Tricksters are anonymous, saboteurs are anonymous, thieves are anonymous. Slobs who do not flush after using the public toilet are anonymous.

The fact that today tens of thousands of Muscovites – 'intelligent average people' – go to rally in the square, willing to reinstate their political rights, induces some hope. The main thing is that they have woken up to reality. It is necessary to control life around oneself and be accountable for one’s every day actions – not just succumb to mass euphoria.

It is almost like a dream, only a little more colorful. Coming to a rally – instead of going shopping or out to clubs or exhibitions – to scream about stolen votes on a Saturday after the long and hated working week.

Apart from such honorable and respected partizans, however, there is a more prominent phenomenon, well-known in today's urban life. So-called "guerrilla marketing" – illegal advertising, placed on the walls and, especially, on the asphalt of our cities, by graffiti artists who want to earn extra money.

Why are we encouraged by the definition of 'guerrilla activity' to be discreet and anonymous? From whom should a man hide when deleting graffiti, which is colored and visually aggressive in its form and shallow in its content?

The majority of today's graffiti have a subcultural character. They are based on the author's name and done in his personal style and technique. Is there anyone who likes the advertisements, which are everywhere? Or are they legitimized (or pseudo-legal; just because they are paid for does not make them legitimate, I insist), protected by the fact that someone paid so much for that it is shameful to tear them up in broad daylight, in order to save people from obsessive appeals to buy another car or take a loan with covert conditions and crushing interest rates?

Who do street artists – that impart new meanings to this inhumane environment, who ironically comment on it, or decorate the city, eventually humanizing it – bother? Community services? Or the police? Do not be ridiculous – I would rather dissolve the former and the latter for neglecting their duties and overwhelming corruption.

The inhabitants who are harming the city or its population have enclosed themselves with security guards and adding to the already inflated staff of adults who suffer from involuntary idleness, and show their civilized rudeness – they have to hide.

These are the people who pollute the air with their car exhausts and block pedestrian zones with their vehicles; who deface the façade of buildings with tasteless advertising; who uncontrollably acquire ever more consumer goods, indulging in their own fetishism only to discard them when they go out of fashion, or, in case of minor damage – increasing the monstrous amount of garbage produced by the current consumer drive urban civilization.

"If I am not able to cope with the conflicts arising from my activities, then they are
worthless. It means that they are unfair, and I have no inner confidence to
protect me from the citizens who are not satisfied with what I have been doing."

I suggest partizans be guided by this, rather than hiding behind guerrilla activities or imitating those who are ashamed of what they have been doing.

We street artists have nothing to be ashamed of. We are doing it right.

Translated from Russian by Shriya Malhotra