Final Thoughts

Leaving the scene of the Crime

After more than a decade of transmitting seditiously confrontational artistic communiqués to the Valley, the rabble-rousing raconteurs of Thought Crime received a pretty disturbing reply on their doorstep earlier this month -- an eviction notice instructing them to get the hell out.

Despite what you might expect, the reasons behind this expulsion of the local artist collective (which draws its name from the subversive thinking oppressed by the totalitarian government in George Orwell's 1984) from its venue wasn't because of some midnight raid by the Thought Police or even Big Brother. Property owner Gus Theodoropolous simply sold the building located near Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street (also home to studioARCHITECTURE and Arthur A. Holeman Photography) for an estimated $700,000.

And even though their lessor is giving Thought Crime czar Michael 23 and his kooky collaborators the boot, there aren't any plans to stage a real-life version of Dead Kennedys' "Let's Lynch the Landlord."

Up against the wall: The Thought Crime posse prepares to vacate its venue.
courtesy of Thought Crime
Up against the wall: The Thought Crime posse prepares to vacate its venue.

"Losing this space isn't a big deal. It doesn't diminish the book you're reading because you reach the end; you can read it and relive it again and again," says Michael 23. "So much happened inside this space in the past 10 years, and I don't think there's anything ending, really. We're closing one chapter and opening another, and we're not disappearing from the scene. There's still other things we need to do."

The agitprop artist says the collective's future -- which includes spreading its influence around the world and continuing to publish a self-titled magazine documenting its efforts -- will be addressed during a farewell party, "Thought Crime Is Dead, Long Live Thought Crime," on Saturday, July 30. (The location will also remain open through August's First Friday.) While he's pretty tight-lipped about the exact details of the event, Michael 23 promises a potluck dinner, performances by local bands, DJs, spoken-word artists, fire-spinners and others during what he hopes will be a "cozy send-off or burial."

Although the idea of a multipurpose art space serving as more than just a place to hang pretty pictures is hardly a new concept, Thought Crime displayed a rare longevity. Having relocated in 1995 from an artist collective and commune dubbed "Little Guiana" based out of a Tempe residence, Thought Crime served as a gallery, store, coffee house, studio, workspace, and home to a rogues' gallery of Thought Criminals -- including names like Mattoid, Cleopache, Rae Sin, and Catblack -- since the heyday of bygone venues like Metropophobobia.

The downtown location also housed the voluminous Anarchist Library, containing thousands of books, pamphlets, fanzines, CDs, videos, and other publications. Its curator, Phil Freedom, says he's grieving for the venue's demise, and not just because he'll need to dig up a new location for the collection.

"It sucks, of course, 'cause it was where people went to create, learn, hang their art, or just hang," says Freedom, who's considering moving the library to Counter Culture Cafe or another venue. "Michael didn't know if it'd be open forever, so it sort of had that edge of people not knowing whether things would last, which may have fueled our art in some ways."

 
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