Tuesday, 9 March 2010
History Channel Slanders Guerilla Garden & Media Misinformation *Update*
Recently we saw formal statement on a great blog we are following called the Guerilla Garden Blog. The Guerilla Garden Studios is a collective of artists from Denver U.S.A. Guerilla Garden Studios claim that their art work, and their image has been associated with organized crime in a slanderous way by The History Channel. We have not seen the show in question, but as working community artists we are deeply concerned, especially as it is by a Channel claiming to be a source of History. Here is what Guerilla Garden Studios had to say.
Recently, national television has misrepresented Denver’s community. On March 5th, 2010 the History Channel aired an episode of Gangland with a segment on North Denver. During the segment the History Channel producers made an erroneous claim against the community art advocate Mr. Jeremy Silas Ulibarri, aka Jolt. The Gangland episode made a heinous association between a gang called North Side Mafia [NSM] and Jolt’s trademark “guerilla-gorilla.” Without checking their informational sources, the History Channel produced a montage that borrows Jolt’s well-known guerilla-gorilla and appropriated it for exploitive, entertainment purposes.
This misinformation threatens local businesses and residents that have commissioned Mr. Ulibarri’s public artwork, who proudly display his guerilla-gorilla. Within hours of airing the Gangland episode at least one local business with Jolt’s work was vandalized . Community members and businesses that support Mr. Ulibarri and his advocacy work are now threatened by slander. But far more concerning is the potential reaction from gangs regarding the misinformation from the History Channel episode.
We are concerned that the History Channel’s portrayal of North Denver could potentially increase gang related activity by falsely associating Mr. Ulibarri’s community work with the North Side Mafia. This letter is to firmly state for the record that Mr. Ulibarri has never been affiliated with gang activity. Throughout his tenure of community advocacy Jolt has worked towards the positive ends of encouraging community engagement through art.
It is unfortunate that Jolt’s work is now being associated with exactly the opposite of his mission statement, which is to “enhance the aesthetics of the urban environment through community projects and public art.” We know that through community support the erroneous claims made by the History Channel in regards to Jolt’s work will be corrected.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. Please feel free to contact us regarding any questions you might have. - found here on guerillagarden.blogspot.com
Recently, there has been a huge trend in cheap Television series focussing on "The Worlds Most Dangerous Cities/Prisons/Gangs" etc. These shows often use Police surveillance and CCTV footage while not only financially preferable as the footage is cheap and dramatic, but also appear to many as excuses to show extreme violence on Television, often justified as "journalism". These sensationalized "Crime Porn" shows, are usually extremely badly researched, as the concept for some new ones add an aspect of Reality Show to it. In the U.K. many of them feature Crime Fiction authors, actors who play "Tough Guys", or Musicians, voyeuristically going around Favelas, Hoods etc talking to anyone who will talk crazy. While on one hand it is very good that a wider variety of peoples experiences and stories can be exposed, there motives are questionable.
In London, a community Art group called Signal Project was "framed" in a similar way. Members of The Kool Skool and several other graffiti writers took part in a series of Art workshops with young people from all over a particular area, and completed a massive community mural in an area well known for street crime and youth murders. We have to our disgust, seen the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 use the mural many times, as the backdrop for interviews with young people (often with their faces covered for extra dramatics) talking about guns, gangs and their crime histories. The day after reading the above statement we happened to change over to a show dedicated to "Girls in Gangs" and there our Community Mural was AGAIN being used as a "gritty street scene"!!! The mural has also featured in a now infamous film about Football violence and numerous Crime dramas... Many of the young people these interviews were conducted with are NOT EVEN FROM THIS AREA! Despite being framed in this negative light, the Mural has actively REDUCED CRIME in this particular area!!!! The local council put lights up in the location, and as many people came into the area to view the mural, became too hot for crime....
As the budgets plummet and competition within the Television industry gets fiercer, we will see (what would seem like any normal person as critical in the documentary/jouranlistic process) Research cut. So it is up to us to pull these Television Companies up, and if, as is often the case independent companies are not "in house", make sure that Television Companies ensure that the Commissions Editors set a standard of correct Research practices.
We hope Guerilla Garden Studios recieve a full retraction from the History Channel, as it could effect the artist financially, future commission prospects, and could risk the artist being put on some "Gang member list", or worse... We wish Guerilla Garden Studios and any other positive Community Art Projects good luck in giving back to their communities.
Peace from The Kool Skool
Local Colorado ABC News has featured the story and interviewed the artist! The History Channel DECLINED TO COMMENT!!!!
Watch it here
Guerilla Garden Studios