Political Art vs. Bird Poop

As my partner and I walked out of Rose Hall this morning, we were greeted by the jarring presence of a white Ford F-150 parked just off the loggia, along with an aggravating whir coming from some sort of device attached to the truck. As we continued on our way, we noticed some men using a power washer – the source of the whir – to scrub something off the floor. We quickly realized that the stencil art displaying the names of Tamir Rice and Jamar Clark that had been painted on the floor of the East Campus loggia was experiencing the same fate as the art that was on display in front of the JRC some time ago. The college had hired someone to come remove the political statement from our space.

Later in the day, as I was walking from South Campus to the ARH, I felt the crunch of dried bird droppings beneath my feet. For a number of weeks now, a murder of crows has decided to make one specific tree their home, painting a bird shit Jackson Pollock on the sidewalk for all to view. Unlike the stencil art on the floor of the East Campus loggia, this naturally occurring piece makes no political statement. Its value lies in its aesthetic alone; however, being literal shit, its aesthetic is honestly quite shitty. As I continued on my way after taking a moment to observe the patterns created by the fallen avian excrement, my mind returned to the events of this morning. Why has the college not cleaned up the sidewalk the same way they have the loggia?

It must be that Grinnell places a higher priority on removing students’ important political statements than on removing literal shit from the ground.

One could make the argument that the birds would just keep laying more abstract art on the ground if their existing work was removed, but the same could be said about students’ art. Grinnellians do not simply stop doing graffiti because some of it is removed. It seems like new art pops up every day – take the prolific and enigmatic “help i’m a worm” artist as an example.

People will continue to make art just as birds will continue to make shit. For whatever reason, however, the college refuses to clean up the shit but springs at the opportunity to clean up art. Grinnell is simply too afraid of possibly controversial statements being made public.

Please, let our voices be heard. Or, at the very least, clean up the bird shit.

4 Comments

  1. concerned student

    December 15, 2015 at 4:18 PM

    not only that, fm tackled a student artist who was graffitiing political statements & that student got arrested. administration is silent. should students be punished for expressing concern while a school claiming social justice as its mantra stays silent?

    • 1.Tackled? Somehow I doubt that. Prove me wrong.

      2. The student was breaking the law, so the student was arrested/charged. Seems pretty cut and dry, so I don’t see why the administration should feel the need to comment.

    • Tenantinthisprivateproperty

      December 16, 2015 at 9:55 AM

      Why are the owners of this private property say nothing when this student gets arrested for doing “wrong” to their property? Please show mercy and go to the police and do something about it? The student will be going to court and paying fines and have to go through emotional burdens.

  2. How is the political conversation supposed to grow and change when it is permanently installed in public/shared space? These works often just drop the proverbial mic. Let’s pretend for a moment that the college decided to embrace these stenciled artistic political statements:

    1. What happens when one of these pieces is covered, altered, or otherwise “defaced” by someone else? Is it just part of the political/artistic conversation, or is it now vandalism/censorship of the original statement?

    2. Where does the college draw the line for what can or cannot be said in permanent ink/paint in a shared space?

    3. Who is allowed to contribute to these unmoderated works of permanent political art? Students? Staff? Faculty? Community members? Prospies? Summer visitors? Visiting athletic teams? How could a rule on participation possibly be enforced?

    These are just the complications that I could come up within a few minutes. I’m sure there are many many more that I’m not aware of. If you feel strongly about these permanent artistic political statements, propose some answers to these questions.

    Lastly: Do you really think that cleaning up bird shit would be a good investment of FM’s resources? The bird shit will come up when the salt goes down and the plows come out with the next snowstorm.

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