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May 10, 2005

Tales calculated to drive you… Is the Los Angeles police department really in the business of closing down exhibits of parodies of corporate logos? And, if so, is this story really being completely ignored by the LA news media?

One would certainly like to discover that the story isn’t true, or that there was some reason for April 23’s raid on the Transport Gallery other than (as police are alleged to have said) the “agressive and offensive” nature of the show’s content. Because if not, one can only wonder how these particular cops would have dealt with the threat to society posed by an average issue of Mad Magazine. [11:46 AM]

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Comments on Tales calculated to drive you...:

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 01:52 PM:

Huh? Forget Mad Magazine, I imagine this particular LAPD squad would have showed up at the factory that made Wacky Packages with billy clubs, rubber bullets and flamethrowers.

Talk about inappropriate police activity.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 02:05 PM:

Larry Brennan:

Officer Krupke, I'm unable to release any of the flamethrowers that you requisitioned. They're all in use by the LAPD 43-man Squamish Team.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 02:11 PM:

Not to split hairs or anything, but these aren't, (or mostly aren't: arguments could be made for some of them ("Horny Potter" as some sort of comment on sexuality in HP, the smoking bunny on the martinis/cigars/dames roots of the magazine), but one is hard pressed to see how "Cockblocker" is a commentary on "Blockbuster") parody protected under Trademark law (setting aside, for a moment the issue of whether they should be -- I think this sort of assault on branding qua branding should count as parody, but so far it's not a settled issued, leaning towards "no").

Of course, that doesn't allow the LAPD to shut it down. A court order from Blockbuster (or whoever), maybe, but at the moment, tarnishment and dilution aren't considered a good reason for police action.

So yes, boo on the LAPD (as if we needed any more reasons to boo that particular entity), boo on the sheeplike silence of Media (ditto), and, I also suppose, boo on my exam-exacerbated pedantry.

[Added during preview]: I suppose that Blockbuster's no-porn stance makes "Cockblocker" a sort of parodic statement. Similar arguments could be made for other changes (Faux for Fox), but not all comedic use of a trademark is parody, and I doubt that actual parody was in the mind of the creator for each logo. The gist of my post stands.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 02:31 PM:

That rather reminds me of Florida cops arresting the 5yo with a tantrum -- what, all the criminal were on strike that day? Do they have an arrest quota or something?

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 02:38 PM:

"When pouiyts are outlawed, only fershlugginer outlaws will slip rozzers on the dropsy in snide."

john ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 02:47 PM:

I don't know, BSD, I think "Newstweek" and "MonsterDebt" count as pretty good comment. I'm kind of fond of "ClearCollusion," too. Wish those pix were larger so my old eyes could see more of the smaller ones.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 03:17 PM:

I personally think quite a few of the parody logos are deeply lame, but good grief.

Laramie ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 03:52 PM:

Some are lame, and some I don't even recognize, but I'd sure like a button or t-shirt of the 'MonsterDebt' logo.

I can't believe they shut down the show, and so quickly, and that nobody seemed to notice. Don't those LA judges know about the First Amendment? Doesn't the gallery have access to legal representation?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 04:11 PM:

From the story as reported I'm not sure judges had anything to do with it.

It does sem strange. I'm posting about it in the hope that someone will come forth to demonstrate that nothing of the sort actually happened, it's all a big exaggeration. Anyone?

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 04:22 PM:

Lame, not lame -- none of it can possibly count as a criminal offense. The police have no business closing the exhibit without a shutdown order from a civil judge.

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 04:24 PM:

Freedom of expression doesn't come with the proviso "unless it's really really lame". Well, it shouldn't. I guess. Sigh.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 04:30 PM:

pericat says precisely what I was trying to, in a much more concise manner.

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 05:58 PM:

but one is hard pressed to see how "Cockblocker" is a commentary on "Blockbuster"

Blockbuster is a company that actually sometimes makes filmmakers produce censored versions of movies to fit with its agenda, or refuses to stock certain features with sexual constent altogether. So they are, at least sometimes, "cockblockers." Yes, I am aware that that word in common usage has a different meaning, but it would in fact seem to apply very well in a more literal sense to Blockbuster.

tavella ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 06:12 PM:

It also seems odd to me that it was only scheduled for one night and that the cops immediately swooped in and "shut it down". Wouldn't someone have to complain first? I'm having trouble seeing someone showing up at a fairly obscure 'art happening', having a sudden moral revulsion at what looks like fairly mild parodies of corporate logos, and managing to track down in the middle of the evening a cop who does not laugh at them and instead rounds up an enforcement squad. This really isn't passing the smell test.

And while I'm no fan of the LA police, I don't recall them having a history of moral crackdown type enforcements in recent years. I'm half wondering if it was a noise complaint that is being dramatized.

Glenn ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 01:22 AM:

And now transportgallery.com is not responding. Overwhelmed by too many hits? Or....

jane ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 06:22 AM:

This SO sounds like an Onion story.

One part of me wants to rise up in Liberal Kneejerk reaction. The other part of me suspects that the gallery hired rent-a-cops for an Art Happening to shut the place down at the end of their one night event.

None of it makes any real sense.


Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 10:54 AM:

Yeah, hard to imagine that the Los Angeles police might misbehave.

Much better to keep our heads down and say nothing.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 11:29 AM:

So Vincent van Gogh, Salvador DalÝ, and Marcel Duchamp go into a Los Angeles Bar.

"It's my birthday," said DalÝ, so I'll have a cava. I was born on 11 May 1904 in Figueras, Spain."

"Well, I was born on 30 March 1853 in the small village of Groot-Zundert, Holland," said Van Gogh. "I'll have a genever, but put the fruit of 'Olive Trees' in it, and give me some seeds of 'Sunflowers' on the side."

Marcel Duchamp says "I'll just have a cigar and a chess set."

"Okay, are you the suspect, Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali Y Domenech?" asked an LAPD officer rising from a barstool. "You're under arrest. Mister colorful, you're going for a ride in a Black & White. Your paintings, while technically brilliant, were based on ideas that were not perhaps as bold and new as they seemed (Christ of Saint John of the Cross, 1951, for example, or the Crucifixion of 1954) - more a series of confidence tricks designed to convince the public that you were borrowing from nuclear physics or 'inventing' the anaglyph relief."

Then the LAPD cop turned to van Gogh. "Come on down to the station, Vinnie," he said. "I recognize you by your missing ear, same as in the mug shot. Are you aware that suicide is a crime?"

Finally, he puts the cuffs on Duchamp. "I'm busting you for your role in the The Richard Mutt Case. About that thing you did under the suspicious fale identity Rrose SÚlavy, 'The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even,' well, we've had some complaints about the sexually suggestive title. Also, what exactly do you mean by 'L.H.O.O.Q.?' I've been told it's obscene."

The bartender finally speaks. "Yeah, and about my missing urinal...!"

Pat Lundrigan ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 11:59 AM:

Where can I get one of those "Bush/Chainey/1984" bumper stickers?

DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 01:01 PM:

Aside from the manifest illegality and idiocy, the most interesting question to me would be the background of exactly why the LAPD decided to raid the place and shut down the exhibit.

Their claim was apparently that someone called them to report an "aggressive incident." I wonder who it was? An offended corporation? An offended guest? An exhibitor looking for free publicity? Cui bono?

Of course it had to be someone who knew the LAPD would take the hook.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 04:34 PM:

It's curious that not only have the mainstream media in Los Angeles have completely overlooked this story, but that Indymedia.org is completely silent on the subject as well.

It's also curious that the set of pictures that appears on the Transport Gallery's Web site shows many photographs of the event itself but none of the police raid.

If Silent Tristero can muzzle Indymedia and pull individual photos from a Web site, then we have grounds for genuine paranoia.

One hardly dares imagine what William of Ockham would have said about this situation.

tavella ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 04:20 AM:

Yeah, hard to imagine that the Los Angeles police might misbehave.

Much better to keep our heads down and say nothing.

Patrick, I was not stating a belief that the LAPD is a bunch of nice people; they indeed have quite a history of misbehavior. Just that this particular category of misbehavior is not one that I recall them indulging in in recent years. Unlike, say, beatings and shooting unarmed people.

On its own, this would not make me doubtful of the truth; they might have gone for variety in their misbehavior. On top of the other manifest oddities about the story, it makes me exceedingly doubtful.

Glen Blankenship ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 04:37 PM:

Yeah, as a 27-year resident of LA, I have no particular illusions about the LAPD, but this seems waaaaay out of character for them.

If they wanted to crack down on in-your-face corporate-bashing art that appropriates trademarks for purposes of parody, they'd have to assemble a special task force. It's not like it's a rare form.

I do note that the only local coverage I can find is a couple of LA-area blogs that repeat the same vague, anonymous, "I wasn't there but someone said..." account, along with a pointer to the gallery's page.

Several commenters on those blogs have mentioned being at the show, but seemed unaware of any problem. One mentioned seeing several police cars, but assumed it was just the LAPD enforcing a fire marshall's closure order due to overcrowding - a likely possibility, given the density of the crowd in the photos.

The LAPD does take fire-safety rules in converted downtown warehouse spaces quite seriously.

If you're curious about the LAPD's version, you could always write to them at questions@lapdonline.org - I've found them to be fairly responsive in the past.

But I have to say the whole thing sound about six different kinds of unlikely to me.

My first bet would be the gallery owner or artist trying to gin up publicity for a "controversial" art opening (which, from the looks of it, is far from genuinely controversial), and my second bet would be a crowd-control/fire-safety closure that was somehow misunderstood by the gallery owner.

But I would be curious to see what the LAPD says.

rhc ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2005, 07:54 PM:

warning: this is a tangent on art and wealth.
Apparently wealthy art patrons have avoided paying taxes on their purchases in Washington state and a Dept. of Revenue investigation into same seems to have been killed by pressure from the elite.


Funny thing about art is its intersection w/ money

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 10:16 AM:

Art, Wealth, Power? What can one do, sue the Borgias? Storm the battlements of the Huntington Library and Museum to liberate Blue Boy and a Gutenberg Bible? Pass a law to make it illegal for the rich to have their portraits painted by the leading painters? Tax Shakespeare's patron? Shake down the shaman clad in cave bear skins to cough up a haunch of wooly mammoth as tax on the Lascaux rock petroglyphs? Same as it ever was.

Norman Mailer recently wrote:
posted May 19, 2005 (June 6, 2005 issue)
On Sartre's God Problem
Norman Mailer

"...Heidegger spent his working life laboring mightily in the crack of philosophy's buttocks, right there in the cleft between Being and Becoming. I would go so far as to suggest Heidegger was searching for a viable connection between the human and the divine that would not inflame too irreparably the reigning post-Hitler German mandarins who were in no rush to forgive his past and would hardly encourage his tropism toward the nonrational...."