Notes on Muggings and


Vandalism- defined as "the deliberately mischievous or malicious destruction or damage of property"- is an act that is often linked with violence and often associated with the tagger or the gang member. We can expand upon these associations in a larger body, but more so from a categorization constructed by society's moral feedback- that of the 'degenerate.' The pimp, the prostitute, the addict, the homeless, the criminal, the insane; those that convene on society's fringes and converge on it's sublevels. We can extend vandalism's meaning and interpretation to something more rebellious and political, however, we are still left with, at best, a media-driven understanding of actions surrounding 'political vandalism' via violent protest, a set of strategies utilized by groups such as the highly-scrutinized and controversialized Antifa during Trump's early presidency.

The late Stuart Hall wrote about the phenomenon of 'muggings' in Britain during the 1970s in his Policing the Crisis. Hall defines 'muggings' not literally nor within the contemporary paradigm, rather, as a social phenomenon that stems from social causes. "Muggings, as simply a form of street crime," Hall argues, "is less than half of the story. " Criminal culture, an aspect of society that muggings are deemed indicative of, is produced, reproduced, and perpetuated by society's actions and reactions. Moral panic, he exclaims, stems from something much more deeply embedded in society than a simple reaction to crime itself. "It has a location in institutional processes and structures far away from 'the scene of the crime.' " (Hall)

Hall's critical interpretation of muggings as an action weighted by multi-layered social complexities strikes potential for further cultural reinvention and redefinition. It is a concept that can be applied and reapplied, revised and reinterpreted, redefined and re-envisioned.  On this day, August 27, 2019, I propose an expansion and revision of Hall's interpretation of muggings, that under the guise of vandalism, I have named re-mugging.

The idea and action behind the re-mugging falls parallel to an act of vandalism. The difference lives in the choice of vocabulary. Although maybe one in the same, the word mugging within the paradigm of understanding that we wish to examine from forms it's linguistic weight based around the interpretation provided by Hall et al. Social phenomena carried out as a mugging, or robbery, or burglary, plagued forth by actors simply hired or even forced by society's ills and inequalities. So rather, it is society performing the muggings, the actors being it's arms, hands, and legs. Therefore, re-muggings can be thought of as the point when these arms, hands, and legs turn on and mug society, mugging the powers that direct the social, economic, political, and cultural show, for the sake of taking back power. Physically taking back the power from those that hold power, that gaze with power. One method that seems quite efficient for staging a re-mugging may be by way of an act of vandalism.

I am currently writing this from a small beach bungalow in Bolinas, California, a small coastal hippie community across the bay and over the hills from San Francisco. Tomorrow night, I'll venture in to SF, specifically to 1 Post Street, which is the location of the McKesson corporation's west coast headquarters. There I will bring a small amount of silicone to cast a mold of a small piece of the building. I'll then cast the mold in either bronze or aluminum, hence turning this cast into a 'valuable' art object.

McKesson is one of many corporations that have been named complicit in the perpetuation of the opioid epidemic by big pharma. They are a distributor, not a producer, but work alongside producers to distribute the pills out to customers. According to the Washington Post, McKesson is the largest distributor of legal opioids in the US. Between 2006 and 2012, the company distributed 14.1 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, around 18% of the market.

McKesson's specific charges in many of these lawsuits has been the failure to report suspicious sales of opioid medications which they act as a middleman for between producers and customers, one of the most prolific of these companies being Purdue Pharmaceuticals- the creators of OxyContin and under ownership by the Sackler Family. So, McKesson's role has been Sackler-adjacent. Under this pretense, they fall adjacent to the Sacklers' recent controversy. And this controversy, namely the exposure of not only their use of false advertisement, negligence, and fraudulent marketing practices, but also their vast expanse over the art world. Through institutional funding and donorship, the Sackler name has a long standing stake in the art world, exhibited by Sackler-named wings at multiple museums throughout the world. This alone stands as a testament to the role that the contemporary art world can play as a culturally and socially acceptable laundering front, if not for financial capital, then for cultural capital or distraction from more lucrative practices. Through this type of corruption, the Sacklers are mugging not only mugging the sick or the old, but also the artists.

On the other hand, we must look at what art and artists can do and have done. Most notable is to look at the artist Nan Goldin and Sackler P.A.I.N. Nan, an artist canonized through her famous photographs and video work exposing the rawness of domestic violence, drug addiction, prostitution, etc., surrounding New York's seedy underbelly in the 1970s and 80s has publically admitted her struggle with opioid addiction in a direct indictment of the Sackler Family. She started P.A.I.N, her activist organization that stands for Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, in response to the opioid epidemic and it's cultural magnitude. Through direct action over the past two years, some in the form of throwing prescription bottles and staging of "die-ins" on museum grounds, P.A.I.N has influenced the renouncement of Sackler funding from a number of institutions, including The Met and The Guggenheim in New York City and the Tate Museum in London.

So P.A.I.N is engaging in an act of remugging. It can even be said that protest in general is a form of remugging. With that argument in mind, then so is tagging, so is graffiti, so is gang territorialization, so is [illicit] drug dealing, so is credit card fraud, and so forth. By no means am I attempting to condone these types of activities, but I do believe that in the midst of the post-industrial, late capitalist chaos that the Western climate currently is, it is imperative to bring these ideas to the table so that we are able to set them on an even playing field with corporations and the powers that be whom are engaging in similar activities, able to buy their way out of extreme consequences (prison time in particular, which is a common punishment for the listed activities) based on their economic, social, political, and cultural capital(s).

The objects that this writing accommodates are a remnant, a trace, or an indexical mark of a remugging. Molds and casts of the very buildings and architectures that inside, oil the wheels that turn to make Hall's understanding of muggings possible in the first place.