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Vandalist!

vandalist_rom.jpg
Toronto, we are told, is a world-class city. But Toronto is noticeably absent from the list of major urban centres famous for graffiti and street art: New York, Barcelona, San Francisco, Berlin, LA, Melbourne, and London. Even within Canada, smaller cities like Montreal and Vancouver hold a better reputation for graffiti than Toronto.
Vandalist seeks to change all that.
Toronto has some amazing stuff going on and up onto the walls––we just rarely hear about it. Perhaps it has something to do with that oft-lamented aspect of our national character: we all groan at Canadian content. We don’t make musicians famous here, we wait until others have approved of them before offering them our acceptance. Maybe a stencil really is cooler when it’s sprayed on the streets of NYC than on the streets of the GTA.
But Vandalist doesn’t think so. The work is there. It’s good. It’s getting better. And it’s not just downtown, but out in the farthest reaches of our city.
We want to expand its audience and increase its status. We want to give it an international showcase online. We hope this will enlarge and improve the scene––but we need your help, whether you’re an artist looking for a venue (other than the street) to show off your stuff, or a fan of the genre who likes discovering new work.
All you’ve gotta do to participate is send photos of the piece to vandalist@torontoist.com, along with the artist’s name (if you know it), its location, and––if it wasn’t yours and you want credit for the discovery––your name and website. Every week on Friday, we’ll feature the best stuff we get sent.
Illustration by Marc Lostracco.

Comments

  • iamnotdynamite

    an absolutely wonderful idea!
    (and i can just picture the string of negative comments that will ensue, as so often accompanies any torontoist posting about graffiti. ignore those people.)

  • atomeyes99

    not sure why negative comments should be ignored. that’s pretty….fascist, is it not?
    can you kindly do me a favour? give me your home address and i will gladly come over with some friends and “vandalist” it. and then you can come outside and smile and thank me for painting all over your place (with your permission, unlike other graffiti artists, who don’t have permission) and you can give me free beer for my effort.
    and yes, i understand the difference between tagging and nice-looking graffiti. but i doubt that most graffiti has the property owner’s permission.
    /end negative rant

  • dowlingm

    what atomeyes99 said.
    For me street art != graffiti. I’m all for street art which consults the community and occurs with its consent. Graffiti transfers imposes private values on public space.

  • ronotoe

    ah yes, private property. the mother of all that is good and right in this world.

  • uskyscraper

    Great idea if you are publicizing art that was put up with permission. Otherwise, you are promoting a criminal act. You would be doing a better service for the public if you collected the names and photos and sent to the city for clean up and the police for prosecution. Oh, but your name is “vandalist”, so I guess you’re too cool for that.
    Be sure to remember that 95% of graffiti is crude tagging, and that to encourage the 5% that might be viewed as artistic is to, by default, end up with a lot more of the other crap. I live in New York and don’t really enjoy seeing the subway windows, subway stations, park benches, park walkways, park stairs, mailboxes, building walls, security grates and just about every other viewable surface covered in illegible tags that no urban voyeur would ever consider art. Toronto’s public spaces are slipping as it is – please don’t hasten the decline.

  • Mark Ostler

    What about public spaces (which are, by definition, intended to be used by the public)? Many public spaces could stand a bit of beautification with some nice street art. There’s so much boring grey concrete in public spaces. Why not simply accept that artists can use it as their canvas? (I’m thinking the pillars holding up the elevated walkway at Nathan Philips Square as example number one.)

  • Ben

    mark0: that might defile the unified design of the square.

  • Kevin Bracken

    This is going to be an awesome feature of Torontoist.
    If this goes anything like Gothamist, which frequently features Jake Dobkin’s photography, there will be a pretty even distribution of
    “That is amazing!”
    and
    “You are promoting vandalism.”
    I totally agree with you – Toronto’s graff is world class, and strictly in terms of paint, is much, much better than New York’s for obvious reasons: less cops.
    However, New York does have some pretty clever and innovative street art that falls outside the realm of bombs and throw-ups, see Jason Eppink’s Pixelator and 11 Spring. This is probably because they’ve been forced to innovate in the face of stiff penalties for painting huge murals. However, New York also has a lot more shitty tagging, too.
    Toronto is a graffiti playground and I look forward to this TOist feature :)

  • iamnotdynamite

    ooo the dreaded accusation of being fascistic! i was being, i thought obviously, slightly sarcastic with the ‘ignore them’ portion of my post, as i’ve merely noticed that, and been a tad fed up with the fact that, torontoist posts about this topic descend into the exact same pattern of commenting. some people are all for it, others are against it, and the ones who are against it trot out the same old appeal to emotion argument of “oh yeah, well give me your home address then we’ll see how much you like it!”
    maybe i should’ve mentioned the sort of graffiti/street art that i prefer, as i didn’t and perhaps that gave you the impression that i was across-the-board for any sort of graffiti. i prefer work that is in genuinely public places, or, since none of those exist anymore, places that we are told are public or which should be public, or which are communal in nature. i much prefer graffiti with some sort of message, even if it’s oblique or requires some thought, particularly if it’s a political message. i prefer graffiti that occurs on private property if that private property is owned by a big corporation of any sort (that is, i wouldn’t be happy to see a mom and pop store vandalized, but i’d be very happy to see something on, say, the side of a bank). i prefer graffiti that spruces up ugly parts of the city (e.g. most of it, but especially downtown where it can make a commute to work much more enjoyable). and yes, tagging sucks, period. i don’t even like it when traditional artists put their name on their canvases. however, i understand that not all people like the particular style (i certainly don’t always)and that this can cause problems in appreciation. i often wonder, though, what the reaction would be if, instead of someone putting up your usual graffiti style art, put up something done in the style of someone from the canon of great artists. would it still raise such ire? although, it is art after all, so we can’t expect much agreement. of course, this whole paragraph also raises issues about, not the ethics of graffiti itself, but (if we accept graffiti) the ethics of where exactly it should be put up. but this is a very interesting moral question that, since (i admit) i am not a graffiti artist, i leave to others who are.
    and of course most graffiti does not have the property owner’s permission- that’s part of the point, probably a large part. i immensely enjoy the fact that it completely cicrumvents the traditional methods of visual arts exposure and appreciation, that is, white-walled galleries and cocktail party snobbery. almost the entirety of the art world is based on keeping the wrong kind of people out, and street art is a great way to protest this and to protest more general the lack of non-owned space in cities.
    let me give an example of my favorite graffiti i’ve seen. hopefully i can express my enjoyment properly. it was in reykjavik, in this industrial section outside of the main section of town. so think big ugly warehouses, long empty streets and no shops of any kind. a real wasteland. and on the side of a building, someone had put up a huge stylized viking weilding an axe, with the words ‘why kings?’ on either side. this thing must’ve been a third of the side of the building. now that is strikingly well done, as it not only references back in icelandic history, right to the beginning, but brings that seemingly dead and irrelevent piece of their history to the fore and makes it extremely relevent again, e.g. by bringing up issues of national character, if there is such a thing and what it could possibly mean in the current age, the disconnect between current iceland and its venerable past, and of course, questions of the relation between their history and the bearing that history should have on the kind of political structures they have now (why kings? good question/challenge.) all in all, the sort of graffiti i like. sorry for rambling about that one, but i was very moved by it.
    and no, i won’t be giving you my home address, since i’m pretty sure your graffiti would be hideously unattractive :-)

  • iamnotdynamite

    oh, and i am in general replying to [2], since when i started typing there were no other intervening comments.

  • dmerrill

    So, the vandals’ right to produce art trumps everybody else’s right to not have to look at it. God forbid we should supress the little darlings and their freedom of expression; being unable to litter the city with gang signs and obscenity might warp their little psyches.
    You know what, let’s put it to a vote and let the citizens decide if it’s okay to vandalize, okay? If the citizens decide it’s wrong, we could make it illegal. Oh wait. We already did that, didn’t we?

  • ysdn

    check out http://www.woostercollective.com if you really want some good art
    there is a good graf scene in t.o.
    just most people don’t realize it or don’t appreciate it. but we definitely have some world class. I’d love to see more stenciling/paste ups though.

  • Mark Ostler

    Ben: I agree. The graffiti could potentially disrupt the underlying beauty and unity of grey concrete that is NPS. Which is the greater tragedy? The loss of unified, boring design, or the stifling of creative artistic expression? The choice is ours.
    dmerrill: ad companies’ $$$$ trumps my right not to have to look at advertisements whenever I walk down the street. So because they pony up tons of $$$$, my right to live relatively free of the influence of advertisers is denied. Too bad we can’t suppress their freedom of $$$$. Being unable to litter the city with pointless advertisements for pointless products might warp their little psyches.

  • Kristin Foster

    Switch “vandal” with “advertiser”, “graffitti” with “ad” and re-read some of these.
    My favourite:
    “So, the advertiser’s right to produce an ad trumps everybody else’s right to not have to look at it.”
    Who is the real vandal? I’m not saying graffiti artists are not; I am saying that, just as some are tired of seeing graffiti, there are some who are tired of seeing advertisements.
    Good call on wooster, check out Banksy as well! Beautiful, sharp, thought-provoking work.
    I’m excited to see what comes out of this!

  • Kristin Foster

    go mark0! great minds, eh?

  • Ben

    mark0: unified, boring design must be protected at all costs.
    http://torontoist.com/2008/01/tile_over_subst.php

  • x_the_x

    (1) “…and the ones who are against it trot out the same old appeal to emotion argument of…”
    I don’t think you know what appeal to emotion means. The suggestion that you provide your home address is not an appeal to emotion, it is a test of moral equivalency – if you don’t respect the property rights of others, you should be equally satisfied in they don’t respect yours. This includes public property, which belongs to the public body as a whole and is governed by laws of use that apply to the public. Graffit promoters often make the mistake of identifying public property as “theirs” because they are a member of the public body, but that just ignores the rules we have adopted as a public body as to use of property which is “ours”.
    (2) “i prefer graffiti that occurs on private property if that private property is owned by a big corporation of any sort (that is, i wouldn’t be happy to see a mom and pop store vandalized, but i’d be very happy to see something on, say, the side of a bank).”
    Weak-kneed and spineless relativism. If your urge is to protect the mom and pop store, you are admitting that graffiti causes harm. You don’t hold the right to harm others based on your delirious political views via other means (e.g, the rules of physical assualt are indifferent to the economic means of the victim). You have endless legal mechanisms to express your political viewpoints within civil society and democratic institutions.
    (3) “oh, and i am in general replying to [2], since when i started typing there were no other intervening comments.”
    It took you an hour to write that?
    (4) “Switch “vandal” with “advertiser”, “graffitti” with “ad” and re-read some of these.”
    This is a silly argument that is repeated endlessly. The key difference between advertising and graffiti – legality. You may not agree with the distinction the law makes between the two, but you cannot assume it away. Through democratic institutions we have decided one is justifiable and the other isn’t. If you don’t don’t like that consensus, again, you have endless legal avenues in civil society or within democratic institutions to work to change it.
    With respect to so-called “illegal” ads, they are an infringement of those considered decisions and should be treated appropriately. The logical extension of your illegal ads=graffiti argument is that both should be banned/punished/subject to sanction, not that both should be allowed to proliferate.
    (5) yes, these comment threads are tiresome. Of course, the mandate of the page is to increase viewership, which is likely why the column was introduced and so titled.

  • uskyscraper

    Has anyone noticed that the ad displayed on this page above the comments is for markers from a “graffiti shop” in Montreal? That’s some pretty effective (and borderline shady) advertising, Torontoist.

  • Patrick Metzger

    I think x the x covered it pretty well, but if I were going to be succinct about the issue, illegal graffiti on public property is just a way of saying “My aesthetic sense and my ego are more important than than anyone else’s.” The personal motivation behind graffiti is far more Fido at the fire hydrant than Da Vinci at the easel, and it usually shows in the results.

  • iamnotdynamite

    [17], first, i’ll deal with the insult.
    “It took you an hour to write that?”
    your implication that my reply was so sub-intellectual that it shouldn’t have required so much time is very charming. perhaps though, i wasn’t working on it that entire time, but rather, on and off as i also attempted to finish my phonological theory homework (which, sadly, still languishes in a state of half-completion).
    “Weak-kneed and spineless relativism”
    firstly, you say relativism as though it’s a bad thing, as if different situations didn’t call for different evaluations. i don’t think graffiti-absolutism is appropriate. secondly, i fully admit, and clearly did admit in my previous post, that part of my enjoyment of graffiti is due to what i see to be its liberatory potential, and part of this comes from the fact that the property which is affected is corporate/state owned and not someone’s house and is massively urban and dominating . this is, however, a point you might not agree with, since you might not share my background assumptions about these issues related to the ownership of space and the dulling horror that is our rigid urban landscape.
    “You have endless legal mechanisms to express your political viewpoints within civil society and democratic institutions.”
    it is clear to me that we don’t, and that is, again, precisely one of the reasons for graffiti. we can only express what we’re allowed to express. which is not the same as what we might desire to express. (note: do not try and reply that some people might wish to express themselves by murdering other people. i mean expression in the artistic sense, and we all know what we’re referring to by this phrase, even if precise definitions are elusive). and, i feel like a parrot for having to keep saying this, but it’s a fact that i think people continually neglect, which is that if graffiti did ever become legal it would lose much of its power. hence the reason why good graffiti, seen in it’s proper environment is much more affecting that corporate sponsered, legal, nuit blanche could ever be (excepting carsten nicolai’s white line light which was beautiful).
    i must say that i find the vehemence with which some people object to graffiti to be very strange. i mean, no matter what someone’s stance on public/private property is, i find it baffling that we just can’t admit that “grafitti-art loan[s] some grace to ugly subways & rigid public momuments.” oh well.
    i look forward to talking past each other next friday as well!

  • rek

    Vandalist is not the best title for this column.
    Vandalism is the malicious destruction or damage of property, which doesn’t describe the majority of graffiti and certainly not the kind of street art this column is going to celebrate. Despite what certain commenters here think, spray painting a wall doesn’t damage it. And while maliciousness might be the motive for most bathroom scrawls, I doubt it describes how Posterchild, Fauxreel, Roadsworth, WK Interact, Dalek, Miss Van, Banksy, Blek Le Rat, Above, The London Police, Neckface, Pez, Swoon, Faile, Buff Monster, Space Invader, the folks at Graffiti Research Labs, (et cetera) feel when they’re putting up a piece.
    Is Torontoist going to promote graffiti? Like it or not, street art and graffiti are becoming more and more publicly accepted every year. Look at Banksy; look at the designer vinyl toy industry. Torontoist is a small stone in an avalanche that started decades ago.
    atomeyes99 – Ignoring opinions is fascist? Really? That’s what fascism is in your mind? Not institutionalized racism, not autocracy or dictatorship, not belief in manifest destiny for your nation/race?
    dmerrill – Why does money make it right? Somehow paying someone for the privilege to put up a poster makes it acceptable, but if I were to just put it up without their consent, I’m selfishly infringing on the public? The “the public has a right to not see it” argument is utter bunk and you know it.
    x_the_x – (1) It’s also an appeal to emotion, the variety known as argumentum ad consequentiam; (5) I hope that means this is the last we’ll hear from your on the topic.

  • x_the_x

    I don’t think you know what argumentum ad consequentiam means.

  • ronotoe

    I would have to agree with Tyrannosaurus, in that if the purpose of this post and its weekly segment is to further the cause of graffiti, calling it vandalism (Vandalist) right off the top, is probably not a good way to go.

  • spacejack

    I think graffiti was more interesting when it wasn’t mostly done by idle rich kids doing “the big-city thing” for the first time.

  • rek

    x_the_x – Then you’d be wrong. Challenging someone to reveal their address so they can experience graffiti first hand and “see how they like it” is an appeal to emotion. It attempts, weakly, to argue that graffiti is bad because you wouldn’t want it done to your property. It’s the negative formation of argumentum ad consequentiam — something is bad because it’s not desired, rather than good because it is desired.
    It’s also a stupid challenge; the graffiti that would result would be malicious politically-motivated defacement (vandalism) and not generally the kind of graffiti or street art being talked about by its proponents here. Besides which, unless you live in an actual house with a pitched roof and driveway and yard, one of the few urban buildings that don’t usually get covered in graffiti, your property (home or business) is likely already a candidate for taggers and the like.

  • Ouimet

    I’m a great admirer of posterchild’s work.
    This feature is going to be a lot of fun, and I’m really looking forward to it.
    Also, “Vandalist” is a great name. What’s wrong with some of you people?

  • dmerrill

    dmerrill – Why does money make it right? Somehow paying someone for the privilege to put up a poster makes it acceptable, but if I were to just put it up without their consent, I’m selfishly infringing on the public? The “the public has a right to not see it” argument is utter bunk and you know it.
    Money has jackshit to do with it; it’s an issue of permission, of control, of who owns public space? I’ll tell you who owns public space – we all do. I dislike property that I partially own and I partially pay for being used in ways I don’t get the slightest bit of say in. If you want to use public space for your graffitti – ask. I’m sure some brain-dead council will gladly throw thousands of taxpayer’s dollars in grant money for your edgy, in-your-face street art. At least that’s subject to some form of citizen’s oversight.
    But what about advertising billboards, you ask? What about them? Perhaps some of the wealthier members of Toronto’s arts scene could pony up and rent you all your own billboards, walls, bridges, etc., so you can express yourselves on your own dime, instead of somebody else’s.
    Sure, advertising is ugly and hateful and full of images that make your little fists quiver with rage. How DARE these businesess advertise their goods and services? The nerve of some people! Why not deface them? Go crazy, I love a defaced billboard as much as the next guy. I just don’t pretend that it’s some kind of superior moral statement.

  • dmerrill

    By the way, leaving engineered pamphlets on the TTC is “vandalism” I can totally get behind, as it’s not permanent, doesn’t deface public property, and helps keep Kinko’s employees busy and out of trouble. Peace out!

  • rek

    dmerrill – Money is obviously a representative of permission; Astral Media doesn’t get paid, and doesn’t pay the landlord in turn, as compensation for clean-up or inconvenience. They get paid for the right to use the billboard and space.
    Morally superior statement? I didn’t see anyone make that argument. I have in the past said they’re basically equal, that street art and graffiti are the “reply” we counter with in the same publicly visible fashion.
    (Do you think Posterchild got permission from the TTC to use their logo?)
    Anyway I was replying to this:

    So, the vandals’ right to produce art trumps everybody else’s right to not have to look at it.

  • EricSmith

    Despite what certain commenters here think, spray painting a wall doesn’t damage it.

    Of course it does. What planet are you from? That’s like saying that a wine stain doesn’t damage a white shirt.

  • rek

    So you’re saying I just spent the day damaging my walls by priming and painting them.

  • Kevin Bracken

    The law on the books in New York requires that you intentionally decreased the value of something by drawing, painting, marking, scratching or sticking something on somebody’s property.
    Which is a very silly law – I don’t really think that’s what the average graffiti writer has in mind.

  • ve3sre

    Is this vandalism…or art?
    http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/292821
    I’d say that it falls into the category of vandalism even though it isn’t the typical “tagging” that commonly takes place in Toronto.
    Someone (obviously without permission) painted some historic Toronto subway cars located at the Ontario Electric Railway Museum near Rockwood. These subway cars were painstakingly “restored” to original condition by the volunteer labour of the folks who work for the museum.
    In Toronto, I’ve also seen murals painted over by “taggers”.
    “Community Art” I think is art that enhances the community. Vandalism is “art” that doesn’t.

  • rek

    Oops. I was going to email a few pics in for today…

  • friend68

    notable vandalism? i nominate Libeskind.

  • friend68

    if you want to recognize grafitti as art, i would suggest that in the case of each nomination, you get the opinion of the person who owns the wall.

  • chenyip

    Food for thought. Here’s a graffiti artist that is a vandal and world-recognized contemporary artist that has even shown and been published in the Fondazione Prada.
    Graffiti = vandalism. Sure. But Graffiti = art? They seem to think so.
    http://www.vbs.tv/video.php?id=1509866020

  • rawmaterial

    Somehow I can’t believe that we are having this discussion – graffiti vs art vs vandalism – it all seems so 80s – it is all of the above of course – life is messy

  • http://undefined Venk

    I agree with Rek about the titling of this feature. Vandalism is recognized as an intentional depreciation of value of property. Graffiti artists don’t seek to desecrate buildings but add artistic value, granted its entirely subjective. Having lived in New York I can tell you it goes both ways, there are some truly amazing works of graffiti which even the most hostile opposition accepts it as adding to the “culture” and “appeal”, especially to a city like NY. The flip side is amateurs tagging random street signs and sides of buildings with the illusion they are part of the underground subculture.
    Personally I’m a huge advocate of graffiti, it adds a lot to my environment and give me a general feeling of culture and liberation to the city. That is, if it’s done properly, like the murals outside Keele station or the backalley of the HS near Castle Frank. Stuff like that is art, it deserves an audience, it deserves recognition.

  • http://undefined GRAFFITIisART

    Shut up. Graffiti is art. People like YOU who hate need to be ignored. Retard.

  • http://undefined GRAFFITIisART

    Shut up. Don`t hate. And taggers do NOT hit peoples houses. I think we are smarter than that bud.

  • http://undefined GRAFFITIisART

    I`m pretty sure the reason we have SOOO much illegal graffiti is because there are not enough walls with legal graffiti ART murals to be done on. And also because too many idiots hate on graffiti/remove it. Think about this. Graffiti haters fight against us, then we fight harder back at ya… You cover up a tag, it is gonna be back the next day. I guess what I be saying is that if you had more graffiti art murals in the city you would see a decrease in illegal graffiti. Why you might ask? BECAUSE TAGGERS DO NOT TAG THESE WALLS! They see good graffiti is there, so they will not go over it at all most times.

  • http://undefined GRAFFITIisART

    Its art.

  • http://undefined GRAFFITIisART

    I love the nice graffiti murals you see on freight train cars and under overpasses/bridges and along trackside walls. Thats art. It makes an ugly plain car of metal look more interesting…