Tagging While (Not Quite) Anonymous

By Jay Ray / @jayrayisthename

A SAMO tag on a Manhattan wall

"SAMO" - 

If you're somewhat familiar with the legend of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the SAMO tag is well known. Interestingly though, early on, anonymity was important to the collective that created the poetic phrases that began popping up on Manhattan walls in the late-1970s. 

The origin of "SAMO" didn't stay buried forever as Basquiat and Al Diaz (co-creator of the SAMO tags) emerged (er ... were outed) in 1978. Once that happened, less than a year later they disbanded.

Public art, unless commissioned, is the source of much consternation for every city all over the world. You see, public art symbolizes a loss of control for the powers that be and freedom of expression and liberation for the creator. When I think of my own personal experiences - seeing a piece up on a wall that was completely bare, less than 24 hours before, provided my childhood mind with more questions than answers "When did they do this?," "How did they get up there?," "Can I do that?"

It's that last question that is the source of the most concern, no doubt.

Shepard Fairey's OBEY with the Andre the Giant face

It was no surprise that when Shepard Fairey's wildly popular "OBEY," with it's Andre the Giant face, image appeared on at least 18 sites in already heavily tagged Detroit that he'd be targeted for arrest. Fairey, who was actually invited to the city for an official commission took to the city to make more art. The issue ... "OBEY" is an already iconic imaged tied to an artist already on commission in the city. 

What's the point here? I'd never say to not create public art, because I love public art! If you are going to create it though, assess your brand identifiers and act accordingly if you want to remain anonymous.