WASHINGTON -- Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has admitted regret over ordering his Department of Labor to remove a mural depicting the state's labor history from its lobby in the middle of the legislative session. Since he made his announcement, protesters have threatened to form a human chain and the federal government has stepped in.
Inadvertently, the move also made the mural larger than life -- literally. Late at night on April 2, a group of three artists calling themselves "BrokeFix" visited Maine's capitol building in Augusta. Running a projector out of their car, they projected a large image of the mural onto the capitol's edifice for roughly two hours.
A video of their stunt went viral, even making its way to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who called it a "brilliant idea," a "giant fantastic slideshow right on the outside of the people's house."
"The beauty of what we are doing is in the DIY [do-it-yourself] mentality that fuels the project," the BrokeFix members said. "The methods we use to achieve our projects are crude, and we, very much so, are making this all up as we go along. We are hoping that this video acts as something of a springboard for more people to get out there and produce something. Anything."
The artists said they had been experimenting with photo-bombing -- a type of non-destructive graffiti and street art -- and used the mural controversy as a test case. The biggest question, they said, was whether they could properly and safely get the technical pieces right.
Like most appliances, the lamp used to project the mural runs on alternating current (AC). In order to project from the road, the artists had to derive some sort of power source.
"We used a car battery because the projector requires great amount of power and the car battery can also be run in conjunction with a car, using the alternator to maintain the charge," the BrokeFix members said. "So our main challenge was to change DC [direct current] power to AC using an inverter to run the projector."
The trio recently became even more mobile, creating what they call a "photon pack" -- which somewhat resembles the "proton pack" of the "Ghostbusters" franchise -- connecting the inverter directly to the car battery rather than the vehicle itself. They used this method during their most recent photo-bombing in Portland, Maine, which featured the mural along with comments they've received about their artwork from around the web.
Toward the end of the Augusta video, a capitol security officer approached and asked the artists what they were doing. "Putting the mural back up," one replied. The officer said that if that were the case, the Augusta Police Department would be forced to intervene.
While many online commenters vilified the officer for sending BrokeFix packing, the stunt's principals said the officer was actually "pretty cool" about the whole thing, "though we did ask what rules we were breaking, and we've yet to find any."
The BrokeFix members said they will likely photo-bomb more locations around Maine, but they are also scrambling for funding for their next project. Meanwhile, a local gallery offered to set up a similar projection of the labor mural on its grounds, and the artists said they were eager to accept.
"We would enjoy an event where a narrator told the story and history of these events depicted in the Maine labor mural and explained the significance of how those events of the past have fed into the present situation to give us many of the rights we currently take for granted," the group said.
The artists criticized the partisan and ideological divides in politics, but also took a strong stance against the notion that labor unions bear responsibility for U.S. economic problems. "Even if the most severe of allegations against the labor unions were true, the money cost to the taxpayers is negligible when compared to the taxpayer cost of supporting the true parasites of our social, political and economic systems," they argued.
Pointing to recent union protests in Maine and Wisconsin, among others, and the uprisings in the Middle East, the group added: "The weight of futility that our society places upon the individual is a meaningless illusion that disappears as soon as you realize that your own two hands can lift it away. Power exists within you as soon as you choose to use it."