sine missione is a load of shit
I went to town today because Rennie’s was closing. Last day. Growing up in Liverpool, this was the only art shop I ever went to. It’s where I first bought oils; it’s where my Mum took me to get a portfolio so I could ship it off to universities for the offline application process. They were in business on one of the most popular streets in the city, Bold Street, since 1991 — but operating since 1965 in other locations across Liverpool, St Helens and the Wirral. (And now I am regurgitating some of today’s Echo article, but that’s an introduction to everyone outside of the area). It was a formative place for me; I loved that it was independent; the staff were kind; and I hate that it has gone. The shop closed for a number of reasons. The pandemic meant people leant into online shopping and carried on even when shops were there to visit again. The pandemic also prompted the city council to pedestrianise Bold Street so that all the restaurants could have outdoor seating. It’d become a food-oriented place, and delivery access had become a problem.
I picked up some oils in orange, purple and pink. I said thank you and goodbye to the woman with blonde curly hair who has been there for as long as I remember. Bad, weird day. We left. The street outside was loud. I haven’t been into town much since Long Covid lifted enough for me to even get there… because I don’t really want to. The noise, the amount of people, the smells???, and this constant decline of independent and genuinely interesting shops. What’s the point. Frost Burgers is closing too now. It makes me want to call a taxi and leave as soon as I get there.
But we carried on. Errands to run. We walked further in and went through Cavern Walks. And there, I saw something that felt like a really, divine and personal dig after the Rennie’s goodbye.
Cavern Walks is a ‘boutique shopping centre’ — or it was. A glass, round, bright, white space, I found almost every shopping unit empty, lights off, including the hole where the Vivienne Westwood store used to be. Another weird moment. Like, I’ve never had the money or the want to shop at these boutiques but I also don’t want them to close? I was looking at broken mirrors on the floors, the stray legs off a mannequin. I was thinking about a news article I’d read earlier in the day about how 70% of pubs could close by the end of the year because of the gas and electricity price rise. 70% sounded ridiculous when I was reading the number at home, but now it didn’t seem ridiculous at all. I was looking around thinking, yeah, there’s already so little left.
Except one thing. As we were leaving through the ground floor of Cavern Walks, there was one shop still open. A Sine Missione shop. Fucking Sine Missione AKA a hangnail of a man called Kevin Hilton, whose artwork gives me second-hand embarrassment. I have been meaning to write this guy down for so long but for a while I convinced myself to not give further attention to people who don’t deserve it. ‘Any press is good press’ sort of deal. I was happy to deny people like this existed.
For anybody not in the city, Sine Missione is a ‘street artist.’ His ‘art practice’ involves stencilling free love and bullshit inspirational quotes by religious figures and musicians on lecky and telephone boxes wherever and whenever he can. That’s it, sort of. ‘When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace - Jimi Hendrix, 1942.’ But the Live Laugh Love aesthetic has more heart than whatever it is he makes. And these stencils are everywhere, all over Liverpool — a city that is awkwardly proud of its famous architecture and troubled heritage, no wonder our UNESCO rank has been pulled when it is tagged with some white man’s mindless celebrity-piggy-backing appropriation. Not a single original thought here, only a process of googling and regurgitating on repeat. I just find it so patronising, and ugly. It’s the kind of easy trick that thinks itself above criticism because it’s only promoting good vibes. But there’s more to it. Isn’t it… telling that every single quote comes with Sine Missione’s own logo plastered right next to it? This isn’t about inspiring people, this is about getting attention. This is about getting attention by interrupting the look of an entire city with shitty plastic decal advertisements for himself that NOBODY asked for or agreed to.
And I wonder what our Kevin might want to do with all that attention? Well, I have a feeling he wants to spread hate and make some money along the way. He uses his social media channels to share posts with anti-trans sentiments, antisemitic ones, anti-BLM captions, pro-life shit, and more recently anti-lockdown and anti-mask pleas too. You can also check boxes for flat earther stupidity and other conspiracies, including QAnon. You’re probably well aware of his type. He once told his followers to buy sunflower lanyards so that they could avoid wearing masks during restrictions. I was looking at buying one of those the other day because my disability means I can’t queue up, and I don’t have the experience yet to ask for what I need, so that spun me. Sine Missione has also led anti-lockdown protests where his cult held up signs saying ‘NO MICROCHIPS,’ etc. They’re all shit scared of 5G and so on. In Liverpool, we call this kind of person a cosmic scouser or cosmic scally, meaning someone who believes anything they read online because they are in dire need of a personality and think this kind of chat will make them seem edgy and above everyone else. There is an excellent essay about the term here, so click that because I can’t bear to get closer than my own description — the embarrassment is too much.
And yanno, he’s just trying to make people happy, isn’t he. It’s just about freedom, isn’t it. It’s about Bob Marley and Che Guevara and most importantly our VIP Sine Missione, king of the people-who-still-use-facebook. Someone once tagged over one of his works and he got a pen and wrote ‘why would you do this? All am trying to do is make OUR city a better place a put a smile on people’s faces.’ Why would you scribble over my scribble, I’m only trying to scribble everywhere so people know my name and follow me on the Internet so that I can brainwash them into inflating my follower count. I’m so happy that Reddit users and other forums keep track of this man’s beg behaviour – and I’m so glad that other people in this city who are equally annoyed about his woke front have taken it upon themselves to install fake Sine Missione’s on the same electric boxes — see ‘Gardening is the best antidepressant’ - Fred West 1941-1995, alongside the murderer’s face and Sine’s classic logo. THAT is art. THAT is subversive. THAT is inspirational. See, now, I’m glad his logo is in use. All press is good press, or whatever.
I have 1 second’s worth of understanding here: in a city that is underfunded, to people who are socially maligned by governmental support and media opinion, I understand why some might be suspicious of governance and truth and care where there often is none. Out of those vulnerabilities, men can make themselves known – think themselves thought leaders – even convince themselves that they are doing the right thing by sharing conspiracies, even believe them. But what Sine Missione is doing is cashing in on that fear for social and financial capital. He organises some litter picking, of course, to artwash his image. That is funny. Cause, you know, I’m going to share posts that frame Black Lives Matter as another one of these evil conspiracies but, don’t worry, I’m allowed to say these things because I get other people to pick up crisp packets and cans and sometimes I pick them up too. Oh and I’m also going to do graffiti that supports Black Lives Matter because I am hollow inside and I just want people to like me. I’m multi-dimensional like that.
Whichhhhh brings us back to the lone shop in the basement of Cavern Walks where Kevin sells t-shirts and hoodies with the Vitruvian Man on under his artist name. These designs, lol. There’s also a feather, a lightning bolt, and a skull; designs as equally un-inspired as what he is best known for. In his continued dependence on appropriation, there is also a black and white image of a Black soldier in a white blood splatter that has been split into the Peace symbol. I mention appropriation here because I wonder what percentage of Sine Missione’s decals use Black and Brown men’s faces and words for that extra bit of cultural cachet? That design in his shop is called ‘Vietnam.’ I’m just saying.
And I know Rennie’s and this dickhead’s businesses are not connected in a literal sense, but it was punishing to witness their shop close down while his lives on. The two are connected by the day’s whiplash, and the local arts community — who gets to be a part of it and who doesn’t. I despise that Sine Missione’s success is based on this hollow artistic practice. I feel guilty that as the critic in this city with the biggest readership (I think?), I haven’t done more to counter his rhetoric. He is following in the footsteps of a million male artists who are obsessed with themselves; who are absolutely desperate for the attention of an audience; and who are reliant on shoving their agenda down the throats of people who never agreed to be a part of that audience in the first place.
I hope nobody buys anything from him. So many other people deserve the space he has claimed. If everything is closing down, I hope Sine Missione goes down with the ship.