It’s Only Stealing If You Get Caught by Eddie Colla
1xRun: When you first created the image for “If you want to achieve greatness” it gained quite a bit of traction through social media and Tumblr, what was your initial feelings a the positive feedback?
Eddie Colla: Initially I felt good that I had created something that seemed relevant to people. My second thought was something along the lines of “Shit, why do so many people feel subjugated in our society”. I think I was just surprised at the number and types of people who gravitated to it.
1xRun: It’s been a few years since you create this image and slogan – did you ever think it would be hijacked by Walmart and labeled a BANKSY?
Eddie Colla: That’s the irony, isn’t it? I made a piece about individuals controlling their own fate and not making their success contingent on the approval of others. It then gets adopted by a neo-feudal corporation like Walmart. A corporation whose employment practices have created a 2 million person underclass in this country. That’s where this becomes an issue of conviction. Walmart waves American Flags, kowtows to a hypocritical right wing Christian ideology but that’s merely a marketing strategy. If Walmart actually believed in any part of that ridiculous rhetoric they would certainly never put work by an artist like me in their stores.
First off, I’m a vandal, (although I prefer the term “graphic criminal”) and the piece they are selling encourages that kind of behavior wholeheartedly. Politically, I am anti-military, anti-gun, pro-choice, pro same-sex marriage, pro immigration reform. I could go on. So why would they sell work by someone who stands in opposition to their most strongly held values? The answer is simple, it’s all bullshit, a facade to appeal to a gullible consumer base. My favorite example of their hypocrisy is a Sheryl Crow CD that Walmart banned in their stores. The CD was banned not because of explicit language because of lyrics that made reference to Walmart’s sale of guns. The CDs were taken off shelves, the guns stayed. In the eyes of Walmart, the criticism was dangerous not the assault rifles they sell. In a corporate landscape void of ethics, values and steered by greed Walmart is right up there with the biggest douche bags in the game. Pick any problem our country faces. At some point it will intersect with Walmart. Whether it’s gun violence, a widening economic gap, environmental issues, outsourcing manufacturing, lack of health care access etc. Walmart is right there on the wrong side of history.
As far as the Banksy thing, that’s just ignorance. It’s common when a group of people try to cash in on something they know little or nothing about. All they see is an opportunity to exploit something and make some money. They see a stencil and call it a Banksy. I’ve seen Dolk, Blek le Rat, Above and a bunch of other artists pieces labeled as Banksy’s.
1xRun: You mentioned to us that just a few days ago you started getting email and calls from friends telling you that your art was on Walmart.com – what was you initial reaction, feelings and thoughts?
Eddie Colla: I had a vision of a 400 lb white women in bike shorts holding a 2 gallon jar of ranch dressing in one arm and an Eddie Colla canvas in the other.
The second and more frightening thought was this: “What is the potential impact of a company like Walmart dipping it’s toe into the art world?” That’s what companies like Walmart do, they constantly move into new markets. If you look at the effect Big Box stores have had on music and film it’s pretty discouraging. It may seem unlikely that a retailer like Walmart could have any real effect on the visual arts, but if you look at the growing market of reproductions, ink jet prints on canvas and vinyl toys it’s possible. The fact that they have 5 pages of street art knockoffs on their website indicates that they think it’s a profitable market worth exploring, or um… exploiting.
1xRun: Now that the cat is out of the bag per se – what does this say about consumerism and the fact that major corporations steal from artists every day for their shareholders profits?
Eddie Colla: We live in a capitalist society. If your sole criteria when purchasing goods and services is price, you’re going to inevitably end up giving money to some very unsavory interests and those interests will become more powerful. I think we need to look at the bigger picture when spending our money. We vote with our dollars.
1xRun: When you place you art in the public domain on walls and murals when does it stop becoming wholly owned by the artists or does the public take some ownership of the image and therefore the idea.
Eddie Colla: To some degree it takes on a life of it’s own. It gets photographed, posted on social networks, and people share it and that’s all great. Where I draw the line is when a 3rd party multi-national corporation comes along takes what they want, mass produces it and sells the work for profit.
Getting ripped of is one thing. Getting ripped off by the wealthiest family in the country is inexcusable.
1xRun: What’s next with this issue, what type of recourse do you have at this time?
Eddie Colla: These things can be expensive to fight. All the money from this release will go directly towards legal fees. This is just getting started. Wish me luck.
You drink beer and watch the NFL because it mirrors your approach to conflict.
You over-consume and under achieve.
You think you are this nation.
You think you are the heir to this nation.
You have traded our legacy for mitigated fear and complacency.
You distrust intellectuals and aspire to stagnation.
You rent spaces to store things you never needed.
You elect simple men to guide you through a complex world.
You cry to mandate a language you haven’t mastered.
You’re afraid of everything.
You watch TV.
You let men with lapel mics tell you why you’re angry and who you’re angry with.
You fly by, drop bombs and expect to leave freedom and democracy in your wake.
You feed your children crap food, crap information and crap entertainment.
You think you represent all we stand for, when in fact, your arrogance and ignorance will be our ultimate failure.
You’re lazy and distracted.
You blame as if blaming is a resolution.
You veil your fascism and xenophobia under the righteous indignation of patriotism.
You feel entitled.
You carry signs and wave flags and pump your fists.
You chant USA like baboons fighting for a female.
You cling to that remaining DNA.
You pull history from it’s context and twist it into some malformed quasi platform.
You preach patriotism and freedom and spend your money on goods made under totalitarian regimes.
You vote with your dollars.
You abandon your values and ideals in exchange low low prices.
You preach Christianity in a manner that ignores it’s very tenets.
You stand as an impedance to progress, as if you could hold back a world that is moving past you.
You scream and roar like a dinosaur amidst plummeting temperatures.
and if anyone owes anyone an apology
you owe me one.