Olympic Mural Rises Again

crying room original olympic mural

original photo by The Blackbird

Have you seen this mural?

Not recently, you haven’t, because it was removed on the orders of Vancouver City Hall, which is apparently in the business of making sure the Olympic Committee don’t get their feelings hurt, rather than in the business of defending the rights of Canadians to the free expression guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The gallery says in 10 years, it has never before been asked to remove any work.

The city issued the order under its graffiti bylaw, but it comes in the wake of a debate over a controversial city sign bylaw that opponents feared would allow officials to stifle anti-Olympic expression.

“It was pretty clear to me that it was because of the context of the work,” says Colleen Heslin, who runs the Crying Room, a small studio focusing on emerging artists.

Ms. Heslin points out that over the years she has hung about 30 murals there, and has never had any trouble. She has also used that space as a giant chalkboard, allowing passersby to write or draw whatever they wanted (which included swear words) and was never asked to remove that either.

In fact, when her landlord, Peter Wong, received a notice from the city telling him to remove the graffiti from his building, he had no idea what they were talking about. “I called them and said I cannot find the graffiti. And they said the sign [the mural] is graffiti…”

Patrick Smith, director of Simon Fraser University’s Institute of Governance Studies, said the removal of the sign is symptomatic of the high demands the “Olympic movement” places on its host cities. He believes Vancouver will be the beginning of a shift away from the modern Olympic era, with communities saying the cost of hosting is too high.

“A lot is asked of communities, and it seems to me this is a perfectly good example of where we’ve gone too far,” he said. “There’s no other way to describe it other than overreaction, but it’s the city trying to protect a brand that’s not the city’s brand. It’s the Olympic movement’s brand.”

Malcolm asked if the one in the bottom right-hand corner was Gregor Robertson.

And there was mourning throughout the land, or at least the Downtown Eastside. Even the revered and untouchable Globe and Mail, which had at first featured the image in its article, got out the virtual putty knives and scraped it right off their website, and the bittersweet little mural was removed from the face of the Earth AND the Googleplex.

But not for long, for over on Facebook a spontaneous, outraged movement started, a movement with sharpie-inscribed samizdat tee shirts and all manner of Olympic Mural as Facebook Profile Pic mayhem, and soon, just like in Peter Pan when Tink is dying and you clap your hands to save her (you DO clap your hands, don’t you? And ring a bell at Christmas, so an angel gets its wings? Of course you do, because you don’t want me to come over there and give your sorry motherfucking ass the beat-down), the heartfelt wishes of the good little boys and girls and the undecideds notthatthere’sanythingwrongwiththat all over the Downtown Eastside were heard and the mural rose again.

Here it is as of now:

Crying Room Olympic Mural Dec 13 2009

And, for as long as it lasts, you can see it in my Flickr stream, in my Facebook photos, on this blog, and at Main and Cordova.

As far as I can tell, it’s the original piece, with a little bit of touching up around the smiley face.

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31 thoughts on “Olympic Mural Rises Again

  1. I’m not sure that IS the same image. It’s hard to say: the G&M image was cropped, and one shot of a mural looks much the same as another. The Blackbird didn’t make that claim, he said he’d look into it.

    I’ll go with whatever he says.

  2. Well done Vancouver. Although your censorship is quite mild and limited. Here in Oz, we are soon to get a “Great Wall of Australia” based on the Chinese, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Burma ISP-based internet filters. It comes complete with a secret list of banned URL’s which, we now know, includes wikileaks!

    In about 18 months I will lose my freedom to surf the intertubez.

  3. Grrrrrrr! Just another kick in the ass delivered by the Owe-lympics.

    Can I use the image in this post for my blog?

  4. Sigh….

    How about clicking on “Wandering Coyote” across from my avatar? That usually works! :)

    I am still getting used to my new WordPress address; what I sent you was a mistake. It’s actually http://coyotewandering.wordpress.com.

    So let me get this straight: the picture currently in the blog post right now is yours, Blackbird? Raincoaster changed it later?

  5. That’s my photo up there now. I don’t have time to look at your blog now. I am late for an engagement but I will later tonight or tomorrow morning and let you know. Thanks for your patience.

  6. Don’t worry, I’m not in a hurry. I am taking a few days off from blogging right now, but I do feel an Owe-lympic rant coming on, and your picture would be a great addition.

  7. Here’s the backstory:

    That top pic is The Blackbird’s. It was stolen by the Globe and Mail and used in a story, unaccredited. It was taken down when the hypocritical theft was pointed out. I stole it from my friend Stephanie’s Facebook profile picture page, with her permission, tho we didn’t know who’d taken the original shot.

    Now I have permission to use the original shot, which is larger and of course credits the photographer, which is as it should be. That I haven’t updated the post is a testament to my own laziness.

    There is a movement to make tees out of the image, but of course we’d need permission of the artist. W2 has the ability to print the tees, and we have five firm orders so far. If you’re interested, drop a comment here and I’ll ask the artist.

    And Wandering Coyote is very cool. For the record.

  8. RC: I’d love a T- shirt, as long as it won’t cost me and arm and a leg!

    I’ll go and update my profile now. I didn’t know I had to do that manually…

  9. Okay, Coyote. I’ve had a look at your blog. Please go ahead and use the photo. Thanks for asking. :)

    Raincoaster, the Globe and Mail believe the matter is closed. They removed the shot, so it’s closed as far as I’m concerned as well.

  10. Okay, I just wanted to put the full narrative of where that came from out there. Also, it’s important because the FIRST assumption of many people (including me) was the IOC had come down on the Globe and Mail as well. Which would have been interesting in its own right.

  11. Similar concept but not quite the same. I like this version better; if there’s ONE thing that’s universally true about this Olympics, it’s that there is a diversity of opinions about it.

  12. Pingback: What did you do today, raincoaster? « raincoaster

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