Bloomberg Censors Atari Game Promotion
Following criticism by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, his Office of City Affairs revoked a permit granted to Marc Ecko to host an August 24 "block party" to promote a new Atari game called, "Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure." The game features characters who graffiti a city in defiance of corrupt government officials. The event was to center around graffiti artists tagging models of old New York City blue-bird subway cars. When Bloomberg caught wind of the promotion, he said, "Look, there is a fine line here between freedom of expression and going out and encouraging people to hurt this city. Defacing subway cars is hardly a joke. Encouraging people, kids in particular, to do that after all the money we've spent, all the time we've spent removing graffiti."
Certainly, the city does not want to be bombarded with un-approved graffiti but here we have an event created specifically for the artistic expression of graffiti where nothing other than sponsor-paid props are being used as canvas for the artists. Not one bit of city landscape is involved. Sure, it's all about marketing a promoting a game that involves encouraging graffiti. But it's a game. Not real life. There's a difference. Atari and Mark Ecko have provided talented artists with a legal, sanctioned channel through which to create and celebrate graffiti as an art form. Is it really any different that Time Magazine's hiring of COPE2 to paint a sponsor-paid billboard? We think not.
Art seems to express itself whether it is given a canvas or not. In this case, the smart thing for Bloomberg to do, in the long run, is provide that canvas.
UPDATE: Marc Ecko has written an open letter explaining his position in the Comment section.