Back to Top

Long Live Borf!

July 14, 2005

The big news in the street art world this morning comes from Washington, D.C., where three people, allegedly Borf and two friends, were arrested early yesterday morning. The Washington Post, which had been working on a story about Borf for several months, rushed the story into print after the arrest. The article is fascinating for its portrait of a smart, audacious, impulsive kid who’s made a huge splash in D.C., and provides answers to many of the mysteries that Borf himself cultivated so well:

The man primarily responsible for Borf is, it turns out, an 18-year-old art student from Great Falls … according to D.C. police inspector Diane Groomes. He was arrested along with two other young men in the wee hours of yesterday morning after officers received a tip that graffiti artists were spray-painting at Seventh and V streets NW….
Borf was the nickname for a close friend of her son’s who committed suicide about two years ago. The Borf face featured in his graffiti — which many who’ve walked through Dupont Circle would recognize, and which looks somewhat like TV actor Jerry O’Connell — belongs to that young man. Murphy suggests that for her son, the Borf face and moniker came to stand for all that he felt was wrong with the world….
Over and over, the man who wanted to be known simply as Borf said his identity was not important. What was important was his message — an earnest though sometimes muddled mix of progressive politics filtered through a lens of youthful optimism….
Once upon a time, Borf said, he was “just, like, some liberal, like anybody,” but then he started reading, and found out he really wanted to be an anarchist. He decided he doesn’t believe in the state, capitalism, private property, globalization. Most of all, he doesn’t believe in adulthood, which he considers “boring” and “selling out.”
“Growing up is giving up,” he said. “I think some band said it.”

Read the whole thing here. Like most mysteries belatedly solved, finding out the real story is a little bittersweet. We interviewed Borf a few months back and our interactions were great. He’s one of the most prolific, inventive, and funny stencilists working; his impact on D.C. over the past year has been huge.
The three kids who were arrested are being charged with misdemeanors for defacing property. One of the them told the reporter “Borf is Dead.” Let’s hope not. Long live Borf!
Photo at top from Michael Oliver’s flickr photoset: Finding Borf. Post edited for clarity.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

16 comments on “Long Live Borf!”

I know the two guys that were with BORF when they got caught….in fact I know both of them very well…..BORF may disappear for a lil while but be on the look ouyt for LAZE……he’ll take over where BORF left off……

everyone that enjoyed borf while he was free
should consider supporting borf while he’s
locked up/under surveillance. if you’re a
tagger or not pick up a can or a marker and
write “borf” everywhere. it will be hard for
police to determine how much property
destruction to charge him with when it becomes
obvious that he’s not responsible for the
borf that continues to pop up. viva borf!

The cops job was to catch him. Borf’s job was to not get caught. He failed. Who’s going to squeeze into his shoes?

just to clarify, i thought the article was poorly written and sloppy, and like most corporate media articles about graffiti artists it was extremely condescending. but if you ignore the reporter, borf shines through as a fucking great kid.
borf has had a huge impact on d.c., as the most prolific vandal in the city, with tags that were everywhere and massive pieces in prominent locations. word of his arrest has spread far and wide (he even was the subject of a whiny tirade on the conservative national review) in a way that few street artists could hope for. he made people think, even people who don’t care about street art. i’ve been impressed by his audacity and humor since the first time i saw his work.
so, much love to borf in what must be a hard time. anyone with info on how people can support him, let us know at visual.resistance [at]

I live in DC but am out on the west coast for the summer. BORF seems to have been killing grownups, not only on the Key bridge but also in downtown Berkeley, CA. The scope of his work is as impressive as it is expansive. I wonder if the tags out west are by the man himself or just an admirer? Either way I’m looking forward to his triumphant return.

Borf’s messages are hallow. There is no manifesto behind it – as he calls it the “borfesto”. I am tired of seeing talent wasted on meaningless messages which ib reaity would never never produce real change.

For the man who suggested BORF is “hallow,” I can only reccomend reading some of the work he suggests as inspiration. Just as you are tired of seeing talent wasted on a message intended on producing change, BORF was tired of seeing talent wasted on a society which changes only to produce profit. BORF’s motivations are anything but hollow to those who understand them.

hal·low ( P ) tr.v. hal·lowed, hal·low·ing, hal·lows
To make or set apart as holy.
To respect or honor greatly; revere.

remember, borf didn’t get arrested. three kids from virginia did. they can’t prove anything unless you help them…

play is right! let’s think about maintaining a security culture here. eliot: can you take down your article? it’s importaant to
stop saying and discourage people from saying “borf was caught”. Borf was not caught. Some kids were arrested for graffiti,
the cops have not even proved that they did any – yet – and they certainly have not proved any of them were BORF.
So let the post and cops say what they will say but let’s not help them by supporting it as fact. The kids arrested need support especially the one they are trying to pin BORF on and one way we can support them is by using good security culture and not making matters worse. I’m a little disapointed that eliots writing was even put up on this site. We all should know better!

1) I am super down to be as security-culture concious as
possible, and i want you to take a look at the language here
and in the news articles.
Allegedly, is what the articles and site states.
I would like to hear a position and tactics that VR could take
to “protect” the identities of ALL the artists that appear on
the site. Im not exactly sure how I can stop the Washington
from printing the alleged artists name, which is much more
problematic than us bringing this information to the
attention to you, the viewers.
2)Also this thread of comments has provided some clever
suggestions on tactics, so maybe Borf is still at large and
maybe they are writing “Borfisms” on the wall right now, all it
takes is a marker
3) another thought is a possible primer on security culture, its relation to the streets, andgraf might be a valueable thing to have up on the site. Next to the how to page.
Any advice and suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

oh so yeah im in support of this post and until i hear a convincing argument opposing it im in support of it staying.

Rancor is a monster! Tru Skool is a vibe! Rituals are practiced though sometimes clandestine! Free yourself of all possesions and you are BORF!

I agree that BORF needs to become a horizontal conspiriacy: The more people we can get to start randomly putting up “Borfs”, the more confused The Man will be. Decentralize it.

BigMan, you say you know BORF? I’m just wondering will he be back if he was caught? They did just say they caught a couple
of kids doing graffiti…But as Alex suggested the more people doing BORF graffiti the more
they’ll be confused. But wouldn’t that be kind of disrespectful? If it comes down to it, I will
though. Actually, now that I think of it.
Everyone go print
that and go make some stencils. Or go get a marker and write BORF around town.
After all, we’re a group of annoymous friends bound to help eachother. We can share the love
of one another to help us get out of trouble. Why not? I think we can all get him out of trouble
if we try…

More from the Blog

More from the Shop