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September 28 2015

A Victimology Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Hipster "Artists" Versus Race-Card Playing Activists

Charlotte Allen

What's worse: hideous hipster "art" or raucous race-card playing victimology?

That's question raised in the story of London Kaye, a transplant from Malibu to Brooklyn who glue-gunned a 15-foot-high crochet "mural" to a building in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood that didn't belong to her. Nor did she or anyone else ask permission from the owner, a Salvadoran lady who happened to live in the building as well. Bushwick is gentrifying, but not fast enough for some Brooklyn hipsters.

Kaye, 25, is a self-described "yarn bomber." Yarn-bombing, to judge from Kaye's productions, consists of festooning walls, chain-link fences, subway entrances, and anything else that looks like a public space with amateurish crochet work that looks like antimacasser rejects from your great-grandma's sofa arms. A female specialty, it's literally the distaff side of graffiti (a male-dominated metier) and just about as attractive.

Kaye's 15-foot-high "Moonshine Kingdom," evidently inspired by Wes Anderson's 2012 flop, Moonrise Kingdom, depicted a Boy Scoutish-looking boy holding the hands of the twins from The Shining. The building to which Kaye glued it abuts a vacant lot on which Brooklyn resident Rob Abner, a transplant from Queens, runs a flea market. It was Abner who OK'd Kaye's installation.

Now this was an obvious open-and-shut property-rights matter. You don't glue-gun your art, no matter how arty and meaningful, onto other people's property unless they give you the go-ahead. It's called trespassing.

But enter the Salvadoran lady's nephew, Will Giron, self-described "tenant advocate" who decided the actual issue was "privilege" and "entitlement." He launched a Facebook tirade against Abner:

After Giron spoke with Abner last month about taking it down, Giron said Abner was rude and yelled at him, displaying an attitude common to "hipster transplant" gentrifiers in the neighborhood, according to a lengthy Facebook post Giron wrote about the situation Tuesday.

Giron claimed Abner also responded by saying "we've just raised your property value" and that he threatened to call police on Giron's aunt for selling Salvadoran food from her front yard, "something she's been doing for years and is well loved in the community for doing," the post said.  

"Now consider the sense of entitlement, privilege, the blatant lack of self awareness, and condescending attitudes towards people of color," Giron continued in the post. "Consider the fact that it's art when white people put up murals on private property but when we create our own art in Bushwick it's considered 'vandalism.'"...

Abner admitted in an interview that it didn't occur to him to ask the property owner for permission to put up the work.

He assumed the owner didn't live in the building, and since the crochet work wouldn't permanently impact the property, he didn't think it would matter to either the property owner or tenants, Abner explained.

"I honestly didn’t think anyone would care," said Abner, who noted that he grew up in Queens and is not a transplant.

He also denied yelling or cursing at Giron.

A disappointed Kaye, who had spent two months crocheting the mural, has promised to remove it.

But that hasn't stanched the flow of outrage:

Now, Giron feels better that his screed is spreading the word about gentrification, he said.

"I felt powerless, like there was nothing I could do," he said. "Me posting on Facebook was a means of venting and expressing not only what I see in the neighborhood, but in my work every day."

Both Abner and Kaye were bombarded with negative comments online after the post was shared, with people calling them "white b---hes" and "hipster garbage."

And on Sept. 26:

A small group of protesters gathered at Bushwick Flea yesterday to harangue customers, vendors, and owner Rob Abner over the crocheted artwork Abner arranged to go up on a wall without the permission of the building owner—they came, in other words, to protect the property rights of the Salvadoran neighbors against what a Facebook recap of the protest described as "the brutality represented by this crocheted artwork."

The activists' group, the Brooklyn Solidarity Network, is calling for a boycott of the Flea. In the Facebook post, the group says the Wes Anderson-inspired artwork by London Kaye is emblematic of "a city where difference is removed with armed violence, and savage eviction." Bushwick native Will Giron's mid-September Facebook post decrying the knit takeover of his aunt's wall as a symptom of rude, colonial-minded gentrification drew widespread attention, and Abner has since said he will take it down.

Yarn-bombing comes and goes, but victimology is forever.

"I explained to him a bunch of things," Abner said. "I said that there was a junkyard there. We cleaned out the junkyard. There were rats living there. We cleaned it out."



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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