Phallic Philanthropy of Vandalism?
A mystery citizen in the Greater Manchester, England became annoyed by the potholes that riddled his city’s street after a number of his friends were injured in biking accidents involving the unfixed holes. When the city failed to act upon request, the citizen, who calls himself Wanksy- a more suggestive pseudonym modeled after the name of the popular graffiti artist Banksy- decided to act on his own.
He began a kind of phallic philanthropy that he hoped would drive the city to come out and fix the problematic areas on the roads. In fact, what he decided to do was something that bridges on comedic. Wanksy armed himself with a can of spray paint and went around the region outlining the most precarious areas with penises and other suggestive figures.
Wanksy has said that it was his hope that it would make the situation comedic, but also cause the city to take faster action to repair the potholes. Nothing, he said, seemed better than the idea of a giant, comedic phallus. He wanted to do something that would drive the city to act, and use something that would make people laugh, but could not be easily ignored.
The paint is not actually permanent, and would wash away in about a week if left alone. However the attention that these painted penises bring to the potholes has caused rapid action on the part of cities to cover them up. This thereby causes the potholes that were riddling the streets of Manchester to actually be fixed.
While Wanksy says that the intention behind his artwork is comedic and lightheared, there are spokesmen in various cities who are displeased by Wanksy’s course of action and have gone to speak out against it. One was quoted saying that he thinks Wanksy is failing to be considerate of families or those with small children, and that what Wanksy is doing is vandalism. This councilman believes that the graffiti, despite it’s intention, is part of a very real crime, even if not everyone sees it that way. He even stated, despite pictures with new asphalt that covered both the potholes and the penises, that now the cities and region have to spend more money on cleaning the paint off that takes away from money they have to make necessary repairs. He called the philanthropic phalluses an insult to the cities.
Yet at the same time, many people are hugely supportive of the actions that Wanksy has taken to make the city repair the potholes. The Facebook page entitled Wanksy- Road Artist has over 23,000 likes. On the page are photos of each of Wanksy’s pieces, and there is even a section where fans add suggestions of the next area to graffiti or problematic areas in other regions. There are stories posted by citizens talking about their close calls with injury or areas of their cities that are left unkempt, despite frequent complaints. There is even a video posted where Bill Maher gives Wanksy a shout-out for his art.
Wanksy has done a lot of work that has in fact bettered his region. Potholes that once posed a safety hazard are now being covered and filled in much more rapidly then ever before. While his phallic art may be uncomfortable for some members of the community, is there anything else he could have painted onto the holes that would have made the city come to cover them?
He has made some changes of late, painting large naked women over bigger potholes so that they are encompassed between breasts and stomachs. These are also painted in wide-open areas and in the middle of communities. It is true that these crude paintings could be considered rather obscene and it is likely to cause some people to be uncomfortable as they walk by. But is it any worse than the phallic graffiti that often covers subway walls or is all over the streets in inner cities?
While Wanksy’s works are phallic and obscene, the intention behind them is well meant and comedic, with the goal of getting the city to cover potholes that are actively endangering the safety of members of the community. In some ways he seems to be doing something that no one else was willing to do. It is only because of the obscenity of his work and because of the phallic nature of his graffiti that the city bothers to do anything about it. The likelihood that they would have done anything is proven slim by the stories told by members on the Facebook page for Wanksy’s work. So in many respects, he is the one that is responsible for the city finally doing something that they should have done long before to protect their citizens. Without his pressure on them to take action, they may not have. He is, in essence, holding them accountable for their duty to their people.
Yet technically his actions are vandalism, and it is graffiti art that he is doing, his artwork is not at the caliber of the majority of well-known graffiti artists. It could even be argued that his work is not art at all, just an imitation. A phallic graffiti that offends and discomforts citizens around the region, despite of the good that comes from it.
I think it is up to each individual to decide what they think about the work of this new artist. I personally find it to be really interesting and a little disappointing that it takes crude and phallic art for cities to actually do what they should and fill in these potholes. It provides an interesting perspective on what it takes to make a community take action. In this circumstance it would appear that phallic figures are more important to cover than potholes. One causes discomfort, but the other is actually dangerous. I wonder who is worse: Wanksy, who vandalizes the asphalt with penises and naked ladies; or the city that ignore potholes despite the fact that they’re a hazard. What do you think? Are Wanksy's penises a sort of phallic philanthropy, an art, or are they vandalism?