To mark the one-year anniversary of his death, the tireless internet activist and programmer Aaron Swartz received a tribute from the street artist BAMN — “by any means necessary” — on the walls of ThoughtWorks New York City, the last place Swartz worked before he died.
The work, like much of BAMN’s, is political, with images of guns, tanks, and surveillance cameras, and a quote from Malcom X. One bit of text, taken from an interview with Jim Jarmusch in MovieMaker magazine, resonates powerfully when considered alongside Swartz’s legacy.
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
Unfortunately, BAMN’s art, which ordinarily displays a healthy sense of wit alongside its social commentary, has lost a bit of its bite here. How many times have the stripes of the American flag been repurposed as prison bars? Very many times. I don’t think that’s the kind of inspired stealing Jarmusch was talking about.
Swartz was an amazing human being who fought tirelessly for our right to a free and open Internet. He was much more than just the “Reddit guy.” I encourage people to read about his legacy to understand how important he was towards the movement of hacktivists and whistleblowers.
See some highlights of BAMN’s ThoughtWorks murals in the gallery and the rest on Tumblr.