I don't think that the widespread adoption of street art by viral marketers has killed street art any more than I think that commercials using rock 'n' roll songs has killed rock 'n' roll. But the practice does draw attention to the disappearance of the gap between "art" and "product," which artists like Shepard Fairey still insist is there (even though it was gone before he sold his first OBEY T-shirt). And it might raise some interesting questions about street-art-as-commerce and/or street-art-as-an-advertisement-for-itself, if there were any interesting questions left in that area.
Pink Floyd cofounder and world-class cunt Roger Waters recently hired a viral marketing group to promote his upcoming re-revival of the live Wall experience by wheat-pasting ads, which feature a fifth-rate Banksy knockoff stencil of a soldier and a quote from Dwight Eisenhower, all over walls in New York and LA. Because there's nothing that the young tastemakers who are presumably the target of such a "guerrilla-style" marketing campaign enjoy more than throwing large bills at grandpas performing turgid, self-important rock operas, and there's nothing baby boomers like more than destroying property values with greed-fueled schemes. Great plan. Works on two levels.
Anyhow, one of the walls in Los Angeles that these daring marketers plastered happened to be outside Solutions Audio in Echo Park. It's the same wall that Elliott Smith's standing in front of on the cover of Figure 8, and since his death it's become a shrine to his memory.
After several blogs picked up on the defacing yesterday, Waters apologized in an interview on the Los Angeles Times music blog. "I admit I didn't know his music," Waters says, "but I've talked to people who do and it's clear he was a young man who felt deeply, and any empathetic person wouldn't have an issue with publicizing that quote." (He's referring to the quote on the poster—one of Eisenhower's more powerful antiwar lines.) This is, I think it's fair to say, a dick move: making assumptions about how a dead man you've never met and are only vaguely aware even existed might feel about having a memorial to his untimely death defaced by an ad campaign, and even implying that he would have given a thumbs-up to the campaign itself.
But Waters didn't quit while he was behind. Noting the non-Smith-related graffiti that frequently appears beside the fan tributes that have covered the wall since Smith's suicide, Waters notes, "It's not like this was some pristine monument and Roger Waters is the Big Bad Wolf who covered it up." Which is true. Roger Waters is not the Big Bad Wolf. He's just a terrible person.