Mark Ecko painful choice for commencement speaker
When I read in The Daily Targum that fashion designer and (pseudo) Rutgers alumnus Marc Ecko would be delivering the commencement speech at the 2009 Rutgers College commencement, I could not believe my eyes. Upon further reading, when I discovered he would also be receiving an honorary degree, I was pretty sure that I was reading The Mugrat. No such luck; a brief Internet search confirmed the story.
That clinched it — I'm boycotting my own graduation. Not in protest against being lectured to by a Rutgers dropout, not because he is being legitimized by the honorary degree, not even because I'm jealous of his success, although admittedly all three of these played a supporting role. I'm boycotting graduation because I feel that everything Marc Ecko stands for is wrong.
In one of the many videos for his Web site, stillfree.com, Ecko stutters through a painful four-minute diatribe about the artistic value of graffiti and its analogs, while simultaneously taking a stance against the "destruction and vandalism of other people's property." To me, graffiti, to the extent that it can be called graffiti, is by definition illegal. It began as a way for gang members to communicate territorial boundaries to one another, and has since gained legitimacy as designs have become increasingly sophisticated, but the fact remains it was born out of a subversive act, and most of its profundity stems from its taboo standing. As a result, the art form is devalued the minute it is incorporated into a T-shirt or sweatshirt design and mass-produced to be sold for huge profits.
Ecko changes the subject from art to Constitutional law, reminding us, "no elected official has the right to distinguish between what is art and what is trash." Following that line of thought, he waxes nostalgic about the Founding Fathers, saying that "they dreamed about what could be rather than what could not," arguing that this is what makes America such a great country. He continues without any transition whatsoever, "The president has the responsibility to protect our freedoms, and the first among those is the right to speech. And that's why I tagged the president's plane."
What? Somebody forward this video to University President Richard L. McCormick. I know the University is hemorrhaging money, and Ecko was probably pretty cheap to book as a commencement speaker — provided he did not ask for further compensation aside from the honorary degree — but there has to be someone better. People call him a revolutionary, one of the first people to blur the boundaries between what has been classically considered "white" and "black" culture, respectively, but I just don't see it. True hipsters agree, aside from a few of his jackets, his designs are tired, clichéd and would be a lot better if they had been painted by David C. Peters.
By the way, Ecko did not actually spray paint Air Force One, as he so cavalierly claims and another video purports to prove — it was all a hoax. He and a few of his buddies rented a 747 jet, painted half of it to look like Air Force One, and videotaped themselves sneaking into the hangar to scrawl "Still Free" on the side of one of the engines with all of the dexterity of a five year old — although I'm sure we could have figured that out based on the fact that he is not in jail or was not killed in the process.
Boycott Marc Ecko: Go naked to graduation.
Michael Stuzynski is a Rutgers College senior majoring in English literature. He is a former Daily Targum opinions editor and is currently the editor-in-chief of The Johnsonville Press. His column, "No Simple High Way," runs on alternate Fridays. The Johnsonville Press (www.johnsonvillepress.com) is updated weekly on Monday mornings.