Rebels without a Cause: Anonymous & Yellowism


Above: Members of the 'Anonymous' group travel on the London Underground system between Scientology's Queen Victoria Street and Tottenham Court Road offices. Below: A Mark Rothko painting defaced in the name of Yellowism.

Time was, social movements stood for things. But now, from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street, they define themselves by what they're against. In 2012, the online hacktivist collective Anonymous crashed the Department of Justice website to protest the U.S. crackdown of the file-sharing site Megaupload and defaced the Boston Police Department's website in retaliation for a raid on an Occupy encampment.
The 2013 equivalent might be Yellowism, an obscure two-year-old art movement that had staged just three small exhibitions before cofounder Vladimir Umanets scrawled the words "A POTENTIAL PIECE OF YELLOWISM" on a Mark Rothko painting in London's Tate Modern in October. He was trying, he explained, to strip the painting of its old meaning by placing it in a new context (think of Marcel Duchamp signing the urinal), an act Umanets claimed would make the work more valuable. "I am a Yellowist," he said before being arrested. "I believe in what I am doing, and I want people to start talking about this." Well, people are talking. Their main question: "Why would anyone do such a thing?" Perhaps the next exhibition of Yellowism can explain.