Wednesday, August 06, 2008

DPM Graffiti Crew Jailed

There is a growing campaign in support of the five members of the DPM graffiti crew jailed at Southwark Crown Court last month. Five men from South London have been jailed for up to two years for painting on trains and stations.

- Andrew Gillman, 25, from St John's Hill, Battersea: 2 years custodial sentence.
- Ziggy Grudzinskas, 25, from Ulundi Road, Blackheath: 18 months custodial sentence.
- Slav Zinoviev, 25, from St John's Hill, Battersea: 18 months custodial sentence.
- Paul Andrew Stewart, 26, from Manor Lane, Lewisham: 18 months custodial sentence.
- Matthew Pease, 24, from Manor Lane, Lewisham: 15 months custodial sentence

Three others received suspended sentences. The organisers of the Support DPM petition argue that:

"-Graffiti is a non-violent crime and these men represent no threat to society.
-Graffiti is a mainstream art form and the messages given in our media and general culture are confusing, these young men sought fame in a way that Banksy is celebrated for, they were incarcerated!
-These young men have otherwise clean records.
-The judge accepted that none of the defendants are at any risk of re-offending.
-Of all of the controversial activities that young men engage in today in modern society, graffiti is at least constructive and creative.
-Graffiti is a wonderful thing and as a society we have to develop ways to bring it into the mainstream rather than ostracising it’s perpetrators.
-Even Judge Christopher Hardy himself said:"It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that some examples of your handiwork show considerable artistic talent, part of what is now known as the graffiti subculture and on the way to being recognised as a valid form of art.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY-These young men have a lot to offer to society. This is not achieved by incarceration. A community order for those who were imprisoned would have enabled them to give back to society and would have been far more appropriate".

Another of those jailed, Ziggy Grudzinskas, a 25-year-old Camberwell College art student, has pointed out the irony that on the day they were sentenced, Tate Modern was holding a major street art exhibition: “I stood there completely baffled for about an hour outside of the Tate to tell you the truth. I quite like it but it really confused me a lot. I know that half, if not all of the graffiti that is on the Tate Modern building is done by people who do illegal graffiti or have done illegal graffiti and have made their name doing that. It is like they’re saying ‘yeah we’re on the edge of the law yet we’re being shown by one of the biggest galleries in London. And it’s sponsored by Nissan!”. Grudzinskas has previously been commissioned by Greenwich Council to run street art workshops for young people.

Meanwhile a New York gallery has held an event in support of those convicted at Southwark. "DPM – Exhibit A", at the Anonymous Gallery Project in SoHo, included photographs of the convicts' work alongside copies of their charge sheets.

It appears that British Transport Police could have stopped the DPM crew earlier on by arresting them when they had evidence against them. Instead they chose to allow them to continue while they conducted a two year investingation in order to secure a conspiracy conviction and the maximum sentence to send a wider message and deter others. You don't have to be a street art enthusiast or agree with people decorating trains to recognise that these young men do not belong in Wandsworth Prison (where they were sent after the trial).

See also: Better Never Than Late for more on the Tate/DPM contradiction; The Ruinist prefers honest old-fashioned vandalism to street art.