Over the past few years, a tiny corner in eastern Paris known as the 13th Arrondissement has become a graffiti mecca, thanks in part to the district’s town hall, which has generally supported artists. Last fall, it sponsored Tour Paris 13, a temporary temple to the spray-can that formed the largest-ever collection of street art. The neighborhood is also home to Les Frigos, a street artist’s squat. Now, it seems the winds may have changed.
TorrentFreak reported on Sunday that city workers have been instructed to remove political messages from the district’s walls and buildings this week — a serious violation of freedom in a country whose credo is “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.” Among those affected is Finnish artist Sampsa, who has painted dozens of works criticizing a French law known as Hadopi around the city. The law, which was revoked last year, threatened to cut French users off the internet who are suspected of infringing on copyright laws. The French government plans to replace it with an automated fine system that will charge upwards of €60 (~$82) for repeat offenders.
One of Sampsa’s works that government employees censored depicted a screaming teenager chased by a giant mosquito with a far-reaching stinger and skeletal arms. “The Blood Sucking Hadopi” — the tomato-red text which previously appeared beside it — has since been slathered over with beige paint.
But rather than neutralizing the territory as the government doubtlessly intended, the move has only brought more attention to the Hadopi issue, as the text’s removal has been heavily criticized by the public.
“Creating street art is simply a tool for activism,” Sampsa told the website. “I am glad people in France are upset about what happened in Butte aux Cailles – it shows at least someone is paying attention to certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed.”
Sampsa himself knows that graffiti is a transient form of protest. Its beauty lies in the fact that it can be created almost as quickly as authorities whitewash it. It’s fitting, then, that since the Hadopi text was removed, Sampsa has already hit the streets with a new work challenging the government’s “all new Hadopi” rules.
It appeared Monday, plastered beside the original mosquito image along with the resuscitated text. Sampsa said the new strategy to fight copyright infringement will only succeed in hurting youth. “File sharing won’t be made extinct by fines, nor by legislation – the French government can waste another few million euros on Lescure and his gang or face the problem head on,” he said, offering his own solution: “Solve file-sharing with direct artist funding. Create a model that the rest of the globe can use.”