Sunday, August 12, 2007

Graffiti: What’s it for?

I just saw a couple short documentaries on graffiti. In both artists were posed with questions of why they do it and whether it should be/is legal. They almsot uniiversally cited graffiti as a form of expression that benefits themselves and the onlooker (AKA everyone). To the second question almost none of them questioned the illegality of the act. "it should be illegal. I mean we're putting posters on other people's shit [paraphrase]," commented one unidentified artist. While some even reveled in its status for the thrill-factor. Somehow, these two ideas seem incongruous to me.If this public art is so rewarding to the artists and the community then why should it be illegal, and why not do it through legal channels (as none of the artist did for a majority of their work)?

I think the fundamental aspect of graffiti's allure is as a form of protest. By purposefully breaking the law your action becomes a protest of that law. Most people only do things they personally believe should be allowed. Vandalism of corporate advertisements, especially corporate-sponsored graffiti, in a way rejects the notion that public visual space can only be sold to the highest bitter. It's a statement that the public space belongs to the public at large, not just dollar-powered private entities.

Graffiti culture asserts that evolution of the public space in the new millennium shall operate by survival of the most creative rather survival of the richest. Why should we bow to the elite who write anti-graffiti laws to protects the advertising interests? I say that all public visual art should be legal, and that if people don't want the public facades of their property reface should make that surface so visually enjoyable that no one would feel the need to cover it.

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