Tuesday, October 8, 2013
WHO THE HELL IS OMAR ÜZIT AND WHY HAS HE RUINED MY SIDEWALK?
Some idiot named Omar Üzit has been running around uptown New Orleans plastering his name all over public sidewalks in rock-hard globs of yellow epoxy. These sidewalks were recently re-done by the city and were in near-mint condition until Omar started his shenanigans. The crudely executed letters of his name are indelible: even of you chip them off with a chisel, they leave a dark stain on the pavement. I walk on these sidewalks almost every day to go get coffee at the CC on Magazine and Jefferson, so I guess I'll have to live with Omar for years to come.
Omar's ubiquitous moniker makes me think about the whole phenomenon of graffiti-writing. Why do people feel entitled to place their names and tags in public (and private) places, blithely defacing other people's property in the pursuit of some kind of self-assertion? It's true that graffiti is an ancient tradition and some of it is even useful to historians: gladiator scribblings on the stones of the Roman Coliseum, prisoner etchings on the walls of ancient cells, impromptu carvings on villas in Pompeii—all these things shed light on lives and times long past. As for today's spray-paint tags, some argue that they are a legitimate form of urban folk art, expressing the longings and frustrations of the voiceless and unempowered, bringing color and life into their otherwise bleak world. And some recognized artists began as graffiti sprayers—the most prominent example being the late, short-lived Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose paintings now fetch millions. Most graffiti, though, is just mindless, artless drivel, like a bad tattoo that you're stuck with forever.
How does Omar Üzit fit into this picture? Forget any pretension to artistic merit: his scatological, mustard yellow blobs lie on the sidewalk like petrified dog turds. Forget any historic or sociological information one might derive from them—apart from the assumption, based on his name, that he may possibly be a Turkish immigrant or a descendant thereof who doesn't have much respect for his adopted homeland. The only motivation I can see for Omar, like most graffiti-writers, is to affirm his own existence, to glorify his own name in the place of any actual achievement that might merit anyone's attention. Okay, Omar, mission accomplished. Now that I know that you exist, I have one thing to say to you: I do not like you, Omar Üzit.