• February 10, 2007
  • Posted by Marc

Responding to Criticism

As we wait for our flight to return to New York from London, we’ve been catching up on emails and compiling what we want to post on the site come Monday. 

The reactions we’ve received and read about two recent posts - regarding Julian Beever and the Boston incident - have been really interesting.  Those posts have compelled a lot of people to tell us how much they either agree and respect what we wrote - or how angry they are that we wrote it at all. 

We’ve always been a fan of Stencil Revolution, so when we were asked to respond to a negative thread about the Wooster blog, we began writing our thoughts and realized that it covered more ground then what the thread was addressing. 

Knowing that a lot of people have opinions about our opinions - not just on Stencil Revolution - we thought we’d post our response to their comments on our blog as well. 

Here’s the thread - and here’s what we responded by email so that it can be posted later today:

Sure.  I’d be happy to respond.

At the end of the day, all the Wooster site is really, is a personal blog of Sara and mine. We’ve always treated it as just that and have never changed that attitude or approach since the day we launched it. And so while we understand that because it’s become somewhat popular and at times influential, at the end of the day, all it is, and all it has ever been, are the personal feelings of Sara and mine. All it is are little things that we want to say and share. Sometimes we share our opinions with just photos, and sometimes we share them with text that includes our opinions in written words.  And because we are passionate people, our opinions are quite passionate. (just like our commitment to the site itself and to the movement.)

Because we don’t need (or want) to make money from the blog, and because we don’t want to be influenced in what we want to say, we have carved out a lot of freedom. We’re learning that this freedom motivates and inspires most people, but also threatens and confuses others. In Western society most people don’t have the freedom and an audience for their opinions like Sara and I have.  But it’s this freedom we see in street art and that’s why we love it and why we love blogs where people share their passion. The true rewards of the site for us are the inspiration it gives us from the incredible emails we receive each morning and the ability it allows us to meet amazing people around the world.  We don’t seek out anything from it.  All of the incredible good that it has given to us has come to us, not us seeking it.

When we launched the Wooster site five years ago, there wasn’t things like Flickr and Streetsy where people could easily post their work.  The only thing that existed at the time was Fotolog. There was also Ekosystem, Stencil Revolution. We liked these sites a lot - and still do.

So five years ago we felt a bit more obliged to the community of street artists (mostly sticker artists) to post as much of their work as we could. We put up a lot of stickers and a lot of photographs that we didn’t feel all that passionate about because we felt that it was important to show as much as we could because we wanted to show that there was a real global movement out there.  At the time, most people didn’t know it existed at all.  We did, and we wanted to share that fact.  We felt obligated to recognize that there were street artists in places like China, Singapore, Russia, etc.  What was important at the time was that the work existed, not that it moved us.  But now the movement is “on the map”, we don’t feel an obligation just to report that it exists. Now, with Flickr and Streetsy, we don’t feel like the street art community needs us to be human conveyor belts that put up photos all day from every email we receive.

Maybe it’s important to remember that Sara and I have been doing the Wooster site for over five years. It’s only the two of us.  Each and every day for five years we do it. We don’t have “editors” that change each year so we can take a break, or new writers that allow us to do other things.  And in the last five years, we’ve learned a lot, experienced a hell of a lot, and quite frankly our opinions have changed. We’re not stuck in one way of thinking or seing. Our opinions continue to evolve and we are quite willing to show and share the grey areas as well as the contradictions.

I’m 42 years old.  Sara is 37.  We feel that we’re very open and exposed on the site. But at the same time we don’t feel like we owe it to anyone to tell any more or any less about ourselves then we want to.  We don’t hide anything, but we also don’t feel like we need to respond to each and every request for information just because it’s made.  We have day jobs and lives to attend to.

So when we read things on Stencil Revolution like - “wooster has gone to shit” sure it bothers us a bit. But we also understand why it was written and where it came from.  We think the person who says that Wooster is shit isn’t actually unhappy that the Wooster site has gone to shit, but rather, they say that because they want the Wooster site to be something that it isn’t.  The truth is that if you agreed with the Wooster site each day, then it would really be shit.  Because it would then be predictable, boring, and ultimately stale.  Everyone has a different opinion.

We feel that very rarely do we use the site to criticize people or bring them down. It’ not in our personalities to criticize people. In the case of Julian Beever, it wasn’t about him as a person. We actually tried hard to show the respect we have for the people who like him. And actually we respect his skills a lot. What we did was to use a discussion about why we won’t post his work to to share our opinions about the importance of having passion in the art you create.

In regards to the Boston incident, we knew we were strong in our language in saying that the two guys who put up the ads weren’t artists when they did it.  Some people got angry that we said things like - “Fuck these guys”.  But at the time we wrote it, that’s the passion we felt and still feel. They’re big boys. They can handle it.  We don’t think that by saying what we said we were betraying the street art community. We didn’t say that they weren’t artists in life, we said that they weren’t artists when they put up the ads and weren’t artists when they spoke to the press.  They were employees.

Our opinions haven’t changed.

So to make sure that this email doesn’t get to be two miles long.  Here’s some quick explanation:

—We don’t think the site needs to be only about street art.  It’s a personal blog that has become popular.  Sometime we like to post personal pictures and things that aren’t for everyone.  We use the blog to communicate with our friends as much as we do to communicate with people we don’t know.

—Comments are never going to return to the Wooster site. While we understand that people want to use the site to share their opinions, and we want those opinions, comments in which people can talk shit without exposing who they are will only take away all of our reasons for doing it.

—Getting 400 emails a day is not only impossible to respond to but impossible to read.  All we can do is do our best.

Here’s some what the Spring Street experience taught us:

1.  That we only want to be around passionate people in our lives.
2.  That if you put all your heart and soul into something, you can achieve anything - absolutely anything.
3.  That it’s not possible to please everyone.  That the more people you please, the more people will want to take you down.
4.  That you must trust your instincts.  Don’t let people tell you that things have to be done a certain way. They don’t.
5.  Share things with others.  Don’t make it all about you. Make it about “us”.
6.  Keep listening and keep learning.
7.  Take criticism seriously, but don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do.
8.  Be true to yourself.

Getting on a plane now to go back to New York.  Hope this email was of value to the discussion.