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“Graffiti is Art, yes. But is it good?”

posterchild_obeyyy.jpg
Yes, Posterchild is at it again, this time remixing “OBEY” for the Stencil Revolution Stencil Challenge, letting a smiling cop with a stencil do the work for him. This, however, is not yet another hey-look-at-this-cool-graff post; instead, Posterchild sent us his graffiti manifesto that accompanied the stencil, a lengthy document “about how we deal with graffiti and Illegal ads, and a proposal for change.” In a city as obsessed with graffiti as we are—for it and against it—Posterchild’s extensive examination of the history of graffiti, its problems, and its potential solutions is an important document, especially, coming as it does, from a street artist.
After the fold, Posterchild’s article in full (without edits but with some reformatting), which we’ve reprinted with permission.


(Note: You can also read this article, including the missing appendices, in .pdf form. Torontoist is very grateful to Posterchild for the permission to reprint his original article.)
It has been argued that fine art and graffiti have the same ancestor: the prehistoric paintings that decorate caves throughout Europe and North America. While it may seem unfair to categorize these ancient records of rituals and teachings as graffiti, they are similar in every way but intent. Indeed, both graffiti and cave art are just marks made on a wall with whatever materials are available. “So what?” you say. “So graffiti has links to handprints on a cave walls and the Mona Lisa. Big deal. By your expansive reasoning, so does my kid’s colouring, so does every drawing ever made- it doesn’t make them good.”
True. Absolutely true! People argue endlessly and fruitlessly over whether a work is or isn’t art, when what they are really arguing is whether or not it is GOOD. The word “ART” is loaded; it comes with the value judgement that “Art is good.” But I think you’ll agree that not all art actually is good. Everyone has heard terrible songs, seen awful dancing, and paid admission to view unmoving paintings. When you see someone in a gallery exclaim “This isn’t Art!” what they’re really saying is “This is Shit!” So let’s all agree to move on from the unhelpful “Art, Not Art” argument.
Graffiti is Art, yes. But is it good?
This is a much better question- but regardless of how you might answer it, you should know that the program that we have to deal with graffiti in Toronto, and many other cities, is ineffective and unproductive. This broken system effects every citizen, and its costs concern each of us. First and foremost, an ineffective system costs money, taxpayers’ money – your money. Money that could be doing other things in your community. This system also effects you as a landowner. As a potential victim of vandalism, you could be re-victimized by a program of mandatory cover-up. If you refuse to clean up the graffiti on your property, you could be charged by the city for them to do it (and face possible criminal charges if you don’t pay). And finally, you should have an interest in the policies about graffiti as a person who values liberty, freedom of speech, and democracy.

History of graffiti

posterchild_pq2.jpgRegardless of its purpose or meaning, graffiti has been with us since people discovered that they could leave their mark. Ancient Romans were particularly famous for graffiti, and it is from the Greek verb graphein (to write) that we get the word graffiti. In our modern times, graffiti is everywhere you look. People from all age groups, races, and socio-economic backgrounds have been known to write something on a wall now and then. Even the most respectable among us will pass by an irresistibly wet slab of concrete in the sidewalk with a pang of regret.
Modern graffiti, as a cultural movement with firm customs and practices, is generally agreed to have started in the mid-70s in New York City. Using spray cans and markers, people scrawled their names, nicknames, and street numbers all over the city. A whole sub-culture developed, and those who did it called themselves writers. You gained fame and notoriety in the writers’ world by writing your name as much and in as many places as possible. This is the simplest form of modern graffiti: the “tag,” a quickly scrawled name. Tags were originally quite unattractive and crude, but writers began to evolve their styles and techniques into something more calligraphic. Different typefaces were used, more colour was added. Tags grew larger until they became “pieces,” (short for masterpieces). They began to cover subway cars from top to bottom, and then from end to end. Soon people were painting whole subway cars. These pieces became more technically advanced, with colours skillfully blending and fading together.
The New York style continued to grow and evolve. Formal art shows were organized in bohemian galleries, and when the city declared a “war on graffiti,” the whole situation gained international press coverage. The best of the early writers have been idolized like outlaw rock stars. The lore, legends, and styles were spread across the world in newspapers, books, movies, music videos, and now, the Internet. Anywhere in the world today, you can still see new graffiti that looks like it was drawn on a NY subway car in the early 80s. It is a testament to the strength and endurance of the graffiti movement that it has travelled across so many geographic and cultural borders and remained so largely unchanged.

Politics of Graffiti

Graffiti has never been respected, but it has been particularly vilified in modern times. Even as its style and aesthetic has been incorporated into mainstream culture to a staggering degree, it is considered a serious criminal offence in most cities. Tagging is seen as especially offensive. While it is generally done by individuals, tagging has nevertheless become linked with more severe crime and gangs. A lot of people don’t make a distinction between gang signs and tags, and this is a line actively blurred by the popular media. It’s true that a gang will sometimes use spraypaint to mark the edges of its territory, but gang signs, unlike most tags, tend to very unrefined. Gang members have little interest in aesthetics; they are more concerned with marking territory. Furthermore, serious writers tend to distance themselves from gangs, because it limits their movement around the city. (Gang members can be attacked, killed, or start gang wars by tagging in an enemy gang’s territory.) Writers actually tend to look upon themselves as doing the city a public service. As Banksy famously said, “Graffiti writers are not real villains. I am always reminded of this by real villains who consider the idea of breaking in someplace, not stealing anything and then leaving behind a painting of your name in four foot high letters the most retarded thing they ever heard.”
In addition to the gang link, studies have been published establishing graffiti as a gateway crime to theft and other more serious crimes, and not without good reason. The underprivileged youth who comprised the largest demographic of early writers usually did not have the financial means to buy their paint, so they would steal it. Even writers who came from very wealthy families would steal their supplies so they would have street-credibility. It was considered a faux-pas to buy your paint.
But these are all secondary issues. The biggest issue for cities and governments is that the average person who sees graffiti feels that there has been a loss of control. They associate graffiti with drugs, gangs, prostitution, violence, and an overall dissolution of society into anarchy. Cities obviously want to limit this feeling, in order to attract tourists and new business to their areas. Which leads us to the “war” on graffiti.

War on Graffiti

Since the early 70s, when modern graffiti became an issue for the government of New York, not much has changed in public policy or perception. The “War against Graffiti” cost the New York government millions of dollars and is even thought to have cost the Mayor his Presidential candidacy.
The problem was that graffiti suggested a loss of control, making subway passengers feel less secure. The city’s answer? Clean the graffiti. But the clean-up process was slow and expensive. To clean one car required the work of 20 labourers and over $1,800 in labour and paint, not including the loss of income due to interruptions in service. Also, it simply did not work, as cars that were painstakingly cleaned were returned to service to be almost immediately re-covered. In 1970, subway graffiti cleaning costs were estimated to be at $300,000. One year later it doubled. In 1973 it had reached 2.7 million, still with “unsatisfactory results.” In 1974, a new $10-million-dollar program designed to finally eliminate graffiti was unveiled. This program included special graffiti task forces, known as “Czars,” and German Shepherd attack dogs. Again, it failed. The writers continued to take incredible risks. Climbing around subway tunnels was never a safe environment: writers have been electrocuted, hit by trains, horribly burned when sparks from passing trains ignited spray paint cans, and so on.
posterchild_pq1.jpgThe “war” continued, tactics changed, and the subway company unveiled special trains coated with a paint-resistant sealant. This coating allowed the train to be driven through an acid shower that removed the graffiti, but left the base coat of paint intact. It took two showers to fully remove graffiti paint from a car, at $80 a shower, and $9 million to coat all the cars with the special sealant. This project also failed: the graffiti artists reacted by spraying a clear base epoxy first, spraying their image on top of that, and then finishing with a coat of clear shellac. Such a tag was almost impossible to remove. One worker said “You’d need a hammer and chisel to get it off.” They had spent millions of dollars on research, but the artists stayed ahead of them. Then, stubbornly, they tried simply racing the taggers, repainting the cars (at $3000 a car) quicker than the taggers could re-write over it. Of course, this too failed. The public became very dissatisfied with the programs. In addition to the programs’ ineffectiveness, people were more concerned with muggings and violent crime on the subways and wanted more money directed towards those problems. Finally, the graffiti programs were scaled down to “normal graffiti maintenance,” costing approximately 6 million dollars a year. It should be mentioned that, during these years, approximately 1000 writers were arrested per year, which also had a limited effect on the amount of graffiti. Little to no effort was made by the government to study or understand the issue, instead they just threw money around to try and simply eliminate it.
The City of Toronto also has an aggressive graffiti policy, which seems to be based largely on the failed policies of New York. We have a graffiti “Czar,” plenty of punishments, and even more promises of total graffiti removal, but little change on the streets – except, of course, the creation of a lucrative graffiti-removal business.
(See: “http://www.businessedge.ca/article.cfm/newsID/9593.cfm)
Here are the Bylaws:
(See: “http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/municode/1184_485.pdf)

§ 485-3. Graffiti prohibited.
A. No person shall place or cause or permit graffiti to be placed on property or on a
wall, fence, or other structure or thing in a highway or other public place not
included in the definition of property in § 485-1.
B. The owner or occupant of property shall maintain the property free of graffiti.
C. The owner or occupant of a wall, fence, or other structure or thing, in a highway or
other public place not included in the definition of property in § 485-1, shall
maintain the structure or thing free of graffiti.

§ 485-4. Notice to comply.
A. An officer who finds a contravention of this chapter may give written notice the owner or occupant of the property, structure or thing, as described in § 485-3, requiring compliance with this chapter within the time period specified in the notice but no sooner than 72 hours after the notice is given.

§ 485-5. Failure to comply; removal by City; costs.
A. If an owner or occupant fails to comply with a notice given under § 485-4A or is
refused an exemption and fails to comply with the second notice given under § 485-4E(7), the Commissioner of Urban Development Services, or persons acting upon his or her instructions, may enter upon the lands at any reasonable time for the purposes of doing the things described in the notice.
B. Costs incurred by the City in doing the work required to be done by the notice may be
recovered by action or adding the costs to the tax roll and collecting them in the same manner as taxes.

§ 485-6. Offences.
Any person who contravenes any provision of this chapter is guilty of an offence. 2
(2 … a person convicted of an offence under this section is liable to a fine of not more than $5,000.)

Basically, you get 72 hours to remove to graffiti, or the city sends a company to do it and then sends you the bill, or just adds the charge to your taxes. If you refuse to pay, you become guilty of a criminal offence. However, the streets of Toronto don’t reflect the severity of these rules. (Just go through my archives and look at all the graffiti.) This foolishness has been going on since 2000 – they arrested 122 taggers in that year alone, but there seems to be just as many tags on our streets as before. So, predictably, and like New York, they’ve damaged lives and wasted money, but made no visible impact on the streets. Nevertheless, they’re calling it a success and continuing with the program.
From their website:

“Our officers’ enhanced awareness of graffiti issues resulted in the arrest of 122 graffiti “taggers” and significant intelligence leads regarding street gangs.
“This highly successful program has since been presented to members of other local police services such as Peel, York, Barrie, Hamilton and the CN Police.”

From the graffiti removal article I link to above:

“Bowman’s optimism is bolstered by a new Toronto bylaw that came into effect in February and requires property owners to clean up graffiti within six days. If they fail to comply, the city will do it for them at a cost of $500 or more for large defacements.
“People are understandably very frustrated because they end up being victimized twice,” Bowman says. “We are sympathetic toward that, but there are a lot of absentee landlords who, as long as their rent cheque is coming in, may not care what their building looks like.
“They believe that even if they pay to have it removed, three days later they will have it again, so what is the point?” he says.
Bowman says the most effective deterrents to new graffiti are consistency and the speed of removal.”

That might be true, but I’m sure Bowman also realizes that “consistency and the speed of removal” is also the most effective way to make money. Also, if the landlord, absentee or not, doesn’t care about the Graffiti, isn’t that his right? Under these laws, an owner couldn’t make his property open to any artist that wanted to paint it, even if he wanted to. He could have a mural painted, or sell it to advertisers, but absolutely no graffiti allowed! If a landowner insisted on making his wall a free wall, he would be charged as a criminal, but if he installed an ad, even an illegal ad, no one would care.
Speaking of which, check out the number of illegal ads in Toronto.
And, of course, there are no government-legitimized clean-up squads who profit from removing all of these ads – the illegal ads stay up. And most of these ads are huge billboards and wall-sized vinyl hangings. But an artist can be arrested for putting an 8 x 12 stencil on a wall.
It’s clear that little has been learned from the lessons of New York or Toronto. The same old ideas appear again in Detroit (See appendix A and B: Two short articles from Detroit News): waging a “war” on graffiti, linking it to gangs, drugs, even terrorism. The media seems to eagerly reinforce the negative image of graffiti: “Graffiti artists use concrete walls, freeway overpasses and any other flat surface as their canvas for profanity, bigotry and social commentaries.” And the officials concur, “If you allow graffiti, the next thing is the neighborhood goes, the schools go and then you have crime and drug problems.” These articles, just like the graffiti style they criticize, look like they could have been written in New York during the 1970s. It’s time for an updated attitude. As another example, I used to live in Windsor, a much smaller city than Toronto. I knew from local writers that the police had a zero-tolerance attitude towards graffiti. They would harshly penalize any kid they caught, and use McCarthy-era tactics on him to flush out any other writers he knows. The result? Writers in Windsor do not have the time or the confidence to do large pieces in public spaces. But this does not stop them from covering the city in quick tags, which are perhaps the least visually-appealing graffiti of all. The large and wonderful pieces go up in alleyways and under bridges, where the only people who will see them are other taggers and perhaps the homeless, drunk, or curious urban explorer.

The Problem of Graffiti

So, the current anti-graffiti program is ineffective, but what’s the answer? The best place to start is with this kind of discussion. There is very little public understanding of graffiti, what artistic heights it is possible of achieving, or what is to be done about the problem it represents. There can be a great deal of artistic merit in the work of graffiti artists. (Who are often untrained and very young kids who show a great amount of boldness and tenacity for 14-year-olds.) But the pieces they do can represent a great amount of property damage. One suggestion I have is to create scores of free walls for use by graffiti artists. Not mural walls, since a mural only closes that spot to writers and forces them to other walls, but open walls where anyone can express themselves in whatever fashion they choose. Freely, and without risk. There are many potential walls in Toronto that could become free walls. Their owners should be approached for their consent, and if they give it, the wall could join a publicly accessible, frequently updated list of free walls. It could be a great online resource, for taggers and tourists alike, organized in a similar fashion to the map of illegal ads I linked to above, with clickable locations that bring up a photograph of the wall in question, perhaps with marks to show where the wall begins and ends. These free walls will also encourage self-regulating controls, limiting things like hate messages, for example, that go against our values as Canadians.
The only barrier to a free wall program is the bias of the area residents and property owners. Promoting graffiti is seen as promoting crime. To that, I would argue that this “Broken window theory” is largely an effect of conditioning, a matter of perspective. Watson’s Rabbit and loud noise. Given the media’s portrayal of graffiti, it’s not surprising that the negative ideas about graffiti are so pervasive in our culture. But it is changing! As I mentioned, Graffiti has been embraced by the popular culture and devoured voraciously by advertisers and designers. Advertisers have even begun hiring taggers to paint ads on the streets. Graffiti, good graffiti, is more a cause of gentrification than degradation. It won’t be long before areas start actively encouraging the best artists to visit. Indeed, if Toronto was the first major international city to launch a large, well publicized free wall program like the one I’m suggesting, it would do wonders to promote our city and enhance its cultural reputation. In addition, it would likely save us money! We may even tempt a few fine artists to come out of their studios and make some work that isn’t precious because it’s scarce, or immortal, or made without any consideration to an audience – but precious because it’s common, fleeting, and made to be shared.
Ultimately, the best defense of graffiti is the many fine works that represent the practice at its finest. To that end I would recommend taking a look at the works of Roadsworth, Banksy, Mark Jenkins, Jace, Adam Neate, Swoon, or David Choe. There are many more excellent artists out there. The website, www.woostercollective.com, is a good place to start, but it certainly doesn’t represent the entire street art world, so keep exploring, and you’ll be rewarded.
And when you encounter graffiti on a website, or better yet, on the street, ask, “Is it good?” not, “Is it Art?”
Thanks for reading,
-Posterchild

Comments

  • guest

    This is an excellent, Toronto response to the Splasher Manifesto, just released yesterday
    gothamist.com/2007/06/26/the_splasher_sp.php

  • guest

    If he’s so purist and ‘in’ with what’s going on in the graffiti world… why would he go over alot of old tags and throwies of artists who’ve come and gone? Even legends.
    He’s gone over alot of history in multiple places allover the city. I just don’t buy this wikipedia essay on something he seems not to respect or understand.
    just a thought.
    F.

  • rek

    [1]: The Splasher is an interesting case. I haven’t read the entire manifesto, just the excerpts at Gothamist, but I can understand — even agree in places — with the gist of what they say. And I’m a fan/supporter of (good) street art. I’ll admit at first I had a very kneejerk reaction to the Splasher’s activities, but it has since occurred to me that people don’t react so negatively to the idea of buffing. Yeah, it’s a shame, but it’s something fans of street art and the artists have pretty much accepted as par for the course. It’s the intent that bothers people, not the end result.
    As for the intent, who will argue that there isn’t a class of started-on-the-streets (of the suburbs, in cases) artists turning their style into cash with vinyl dolls, video game tie-ins, limited edition books, gallery shows, and original pieces selling at auction? Is the Trendy Artist -> Gentrification property development model unproven? On that point I can understand the Splasher’s motivation.
    (I don’t agree with mixing glass into wheat paste, or setting off smoke/stink bombs in confined places, and I think they are assholes for putting others’ health and safety at risk.)
    [2]: Graffiti is and always has been ephemeral; a tag or a piece or a throw up shouldn’t be expected to remain in place forever. Eventually it will be buffed away, splashed, or someone will cover it with their own. That’s how it should be, I think, or we’d have quickly run out of locations (and driven artists to really inappropriate spots) if there was a ‘dibs forever’ sentiment in place.
    Re: Posterchild’s article
    I think I’ve said pretty much the same things here in a dozen or more posts going back over the past year; public walls and pillars, harsher treatment of illegal signage, etc. However I think he’s preaching to the choir here. It’s quite obvious graffiti hasn’t disappeared, and that it remains a villainized and criminalized form of personal expression. He’s skipped the next step.
    Banksy and artists in his class don’t make the papers because of their style, but because of the monetary value of same. The media, and therefore the public, and therefore the government, aren’t going to change their minds on street art that hasn’t yet been legitimized. Before we can ask city council for Free Walls we have to make street art — the majority of it that doesn’t appear in galleries and on shoe boxes in skate shops — legitimate. That means looking into the cultural value of it, its value as personal expression to be protected under the Charter of Rights, its place and function in the context of omnipresent advertising, urban aesthetics, etc. Once achieved, the benefits of Free Walls and Posting Pillars will be more apparent to them and the requests easier to sell.
    Ultimately, naturally, there are and will be detractors to any attempt to make graffiti easier for the middle class to be involved with as anything but a passive viewer, but they’re not likely to use Free Walls anyway and will continue tagging and bombing wherever they can.

  • guest

    Are people going to tell me that the “Mike was Here”, “Call Jenny for a good time.” “Bush is evil. Shave for the good of the world” signs in public restrooms are art?
    Do you think most of these taggers think their work is art? It has absolutely nothing to do with art.
    I refuse to show respect to any taggers that cause thousands of dollars in damage, just so they can leave their version of a “Mike was Here” sign.
    If this was a simple matter of tags spray painted in back allies it wouldn’t be that much of an issue. But when people start tagging subway interiors, business storefronts, street signs (the list goes on), it can cost people thousands of dollars to repair.
    Torontoist is always bitching about how the TTC doesn’t have enough money to run properly. Have you been to Old Mill Station? Have you set foot on a subway recently? There’s a new trend for taggers to leave their mark, not using sharpies or paint, but with something sharp enough to engrave their tag into the subway car or station windows.
    There is TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars in damage to Old Mill Station alone. These taggers simply don’t give a shit who has to pick up the bill for their ‘Mike was Here’ signs. That money really needs to be used elsewhere. Over the years the cost has risen into the millions of dollars.
    And you wonder why there’s no respect for graffiti artists? The ones that destroy property deserve none.

  • rek

    [4]: Engraving (or scratching, if you prefer) isn’t exactly a new form of expression. Perhaps you’ve never been anywhere that had picnic tables.
    Regardless, nobody anywhere ever has argued that it’s all beautiful and good — that was in fact Posterchild’s point. It’s art, but is it good? no, quite often it’s not. Personally I think tagging (including scratching it into plexiglass windows on the subway) is the crudest and least respectable form in the domain of graffiti. That said, it has nothing to do with that wheatpaste in the alley or the spraypainted mural under the overpass, anymore than Piss Christ has to do with The Archer or a Velvet Elvis with Guernica.
    Can you imagine closing art galleries and museums in reaction to all the crap people put on DeviantArt, bad tattoos, and mud flap silhouettes? Why should all of street art be condemned for the actions of relatively few jackasses, and overtures made to crime gangs! and terrorists!?
    As for Old Mill Station, isn’t that an argument for the aforementioned public walls? I’ve argued previously for TTC stations to host walls and pillars dedicated to noncommercial personal postings/etc.
    (I’ve more or less taken your assumption at face value [that bathroom scrawls and such are being included as forms of street art/graffiti] but that’s only for the sake of argument. ‘Call Jenny for a good time’ isn’t really “art” as far as I’m concerned, unless there’s something in the execution, but it is still a form of personal expression and as such should be examined as I mentioned in my first post.)

  • guest

    Defining what and what isn’t art is incredibly subjective. You may consider tagging art, but I would think the vast majority would disagree.
    With your vague idea of what is considered art, anything, anywhere is art. Maybe you’re right. Maybe all that is needed for something to be considered art is for someone to do something with some sort of intent (Vague enough?). In which case, if everything around us is art, what do we call the paintings in the Louvre?
    So, let’s not do anything at all. Lets just all sit at home and stare at the ceiling for fear of interfering with someone’s ‘art’. Lets completely disrespect the time, effort and feeling that goes into real art and forms of expression.

  • rek

    [6]: So if it’s in a museum or a gallery it’s art, but if it’s on the side of a bridge, stuck to my refrigerator door, or sprayed in a subway tunnel it’s not? Because it’s… what, not popular? by someone famous? in a frame? Or do you just assume the artist didn’t put any time or effort into learning how to wield a spray can (can you?), how to make layered stencils (can you?), photography, mixed media, colour theory and design, etc etc etc? I’d really love to hear your definition of “real art” because right now it seems like nothing more than parochial status quo elitism.
    The fact is the most famous and infamous street artists have been doing it for years, even decades. They do take the time to learn the tools of the trade; the only real difference is they do their practical learning in alleys and tunnels instead of studio lofts over second hand record stores in nascent-trendy neighbourhoods.
    Let’s not do anything at all? That’s not what Posterchild suggested. It’s not what I’ve recommended. Again, you’re hung up on the ‘art’ aspect but can’t quite grasp that not all of it’s good or worth preserving. Street artists and bathroom scrawlers already know their stuff is temporary.
    The issue isn’t “we can’t touch it, it’s sacred now”, it’s “there has to be a solution that makes both sides happy”.

  • guest

    I was clearly referring to the tagging done with sharpies and etched into windows. The issue isn’t the stencil and traditional graffiti art. Yes, I said art. I never once said they weren’t. The issue is the people who scrawl their names on subway windows, street signs and bathroom walls using sharpies and the like.
    Do you think they are making a statement? Is this a form of expression? They don’t give a shit. They just want to leave their mark on as many different places as possible and don’t care how much work they are giving people who have to clean it up, or the cost involved. Not everyone has the budget of the TTC or city. What happens when this tagging is done on private property? Sometimes people either have to live with it, or spend money they really can’t afford to in removing it.
    The people who actually care about their work and put time into it aren’t the issue. They’re not stupid enough to put it such places where it would get removed so quickly. And frankly (now this is an assumption), I think there is little desire for the people who actually care about their work to cause any sort of damage.
    There are two very distinct groups of people we’re talking about here. Those who do it because they’re making artwork. The ones that put time and effort into it. The ones who put their art in out of the way places so not to cause too much trouble for people. Then there’s the ones who instead of putting time and effort into it put their marker scribbled tag every place possible. For them it isn’t about art, it’s about vandalism. Their tagging is only done with speed in mind. Often it is completely illegible. They’re the ones that cost people thousands of dollars in repair bills with etched window tagging.
    If it wasn’t for them, I don’t see there being any sort of problem.

  • rek

    [8]: You weren’t nearly as clear as you think. Tagging goes beyond sharpies and keys on plexiglass, and then you switched gears to “vague art” in general so I replied to that.
    One needn’t do something “to express themselves” while expressing themselves. It’s not about making a statement, but it’s a statement — free speech, if you will — nonetheless. This is why I’ve talked about walls and pillars here in the past, to give people a outlet for that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so naive to believe painting a section of wall white and saying “have at ‘er” will stop the casual vandal from idly scratching his nickname into the back of a bus seat, I don’t think there’s any way to stop that sort of behaviour save for even more expensive materials and omniscient security. In short, there are jerks and you can’t stop people from being jerks by treating jerkiness as a graffiti issue.
    People generally approach (all) graffiti as a problem that needs to be solved instead of acknowledged as one aspect of a free speech issue. That’s how it has to be framed if its to be considered a legitimate art form outside of galleries and magazine ads. My own interest in the issue isn’t to cheerlead for street art or defend my own attempts at it, but to put it in the context of modern free speech. Corporations are given the right of way to speak to us but we have no legal way to reply in kind: buying billboard space and commercial airtime is expensive, and they can still reject your message for whatever reason they want. We need our own free billboards to hold up our end of the conversation.

  • Babygirl

    it didnt answer my question

    • dani

      same thing it didnt answer my question