Squeegee people were the one of the many signs of the chaos, disorder and decay of our society in the 1970s - caused by a poor economy and a system of government that was failing it's people — and now they’re making a comeback.
Only this time, the squeegee people are present because of a severe inequality of wealth manifesting itself with inflated real estate prices and the cost of housing and insurance. This time the Squeegee Punks are the artist group known as The Biennial Project, and they spraying your windshields for ‘donations’ in the hope of holding on a little longer in the city of Boston.
Imagine if you will that you have paid $1,500 to get a ticket to the opening gala of the Institute of Contemporary Art's new annex in East Boston. It's in a neighborhood you probably have never been to and only associate with the airport. You put on your best pastel summer outfit and hop into your uber, which delivers you to a foreign location right in your own city. You are pleased with yourself for supporting the arts and looking forward to a really great sunset party on Boston Harbor. You come out of the tunnel and see a lively and pleasant, albeit dilapidated, neighborhood right on the water with beautiful parks and turn of the century architecture. You start to picture the real estate bargain and the quick appreciation it will turn once they clean the neighborhood up and open that Starbucks and Whole Foods.
Then Boom! Your uber is blocked and you are accosted by a merry band of artists dressed in yellow, lead by the renowned East Boston artist group The Biennial Project. They are attacking your windows from all sides with spray wash and soapy water. These yellow bandits are actually washing your windows like you saw in the inner city in the 1970s. They are yelling things like ‘Make Art, not Condos!', ‘Buy art, not hors d'oeuvres!’ They have written slogans such as '$ for Artist Anti Displacement Fund’ and ‘Will paint for food’ on their wash rags.
Oh my, what kind of a neighborhood is this? What do they want? Do they mean to harm you? Do they want your money (well maybe). No, what the Biennial Project wants is to be able to let artists stay in the city they call home. The Biennial Project wants to bring to light that we are losing the soul of Boston to real estate developers and the wealthy. The Biennial Project means to demonstrate this by borrowing one of symbols of urban decay of the past century - The Squeegee Bandits. And yes, maybe The Biennial Project wants you, the wealthy, well-meaning art patron, to feel a little bit uncomfortable in your bourgie ways.
The Biennial Project, whose roots are in East Boston, have been witnessing fellow artists being chased out of our gentrifying neighborhood at a rapid pace. The artists, who have been here for at least a few decades, are one of the many reasons developers have been selling East Boston as the new hot spot to live. How ironic that we contributed to making the neighborhood desirable and now many of us can’t afford to stay here.
Where will we be in 15 years?
SEE THE SQUEEGEE PUNKS IN ACTION HERE!
The Squeegee Punks as performed at the ICA Watershed Gala by The Biennial Project Summer Players - Anna Salmeron, Audrina Warren, Charlene Liska, Emily Jansen, Eric Hess, Michael St. Germain, Paul Weiner, Roman Edirisinghe, and Vicki Schepps. Video by Charlene Liska. Photos by Paul Weiner, Michael St. Germain, and Charlene Liska.