When I was getting on the train for my interview this morning, I noticed a peculiar piece of graffiti on the station wall. It said “NIGHT TIME CRIMINALS @ groups.yahoo.com”. So I looked it up when I got home. Check it out. It’s an actual group for the “urban artists” that display their “work” (i.e. graffiti) throughout Sydney. Personally, I’m of a mixed mind on the whole graffiti issue. I’ve seen some beautiful murals that I really do think qualify as art. But for every one of those, I’ve seen a hundred instances of brainless “tagging” that do nothing but make the community look shabby. What do you think?


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  1. Some graffiti does look amazing, but let’s not forget that they’re still scrawling on other people’s property. No matter how cool it looked, I’d be pretty pissed off to find a mural all over my office/shop/house. It’s damn expensive to remove or paint over!

  2. I like graffiti. But then again, I’m not so big on private property, so that aspect doesn’t bother me much. 😉 While I agree, Pants, that some of it is crap, I think that’s true with any art form. To me, it’s like the difference between hip-hop and gansta rap. Most people choose to lump it all in the same category as crap, and the ‘flip her over and dig her out’ variety of rap is just that. But real hip-hop is more of an art than most other stuff out there, in my opinion, and if we choose to focus on the few lame sellouts, or those just in it for shits and giggles/money/the thrill, whatever, we do an injustice to the true artists. I don’t know a *whole* lot about the graffiti culture, but I’m sure it has a lot of sociological/cultural value. My 2 cents, anyway.

  3. Hmm. I’ve rarely seen good graffiti art. Most of it I’ve seen — whether I was in Fort Wayne or in the DC area — is damn ugly, and shows little in the way of artistic merit. Usually what I see is a tagger’s name repeated on every other building, gang symbols, vulgarity, etc. Some of the schools and shopping centers in DC have commissioned graffiti-style artwork to be painted on the sides of their buildings, and that’s okay. I like that a lot. There are plenty of opportunities for taggers to legitimately practice their art — it’s just that most of them choose to do it illegally, and damage other people’s property.

  4. What are the ‘plenty of opportunities to legitimately practice their art’?

  5. Like I said, here in DC there are schools, shopping centers, churches, communities, and other building owners who’ve allowed taggers to contribute artwork. Hell, taggers could could spraypaint their own houses and no one could say or do anything about it. I agree that there’s wonderful sociological/cultural value to the artwork, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should just be able to go up to someone else’s house or property and spraypaint all over it. And as much as I recognize that tagging is a valid artform, I DON’T want it on MY house, or MY car, or MY property, period.

    Tagging isn’t a violent crime, and I don’t think that anyone should go to jail if they’re caught tagging, but I DO think that they should be held responsible for their actions. They should pay for or take care of the cleanup costs if the building owners require as such. It’s a matter of respect and courtesy.

    I’m not lumping all graffiti into the crap category, all I’m saying is that I’ve rarely seen good graffiti art. When I used to park in Silver Spring and ride the Metro downtown, I saw a LOT of graffiti on the way. There was one tagger who did some AWESOME work with his spray can. I mean, the-cover-of-Limp-Bizkit’s-second-CD-cover AWESOME. But the rest… There was no thought behind most of the others, no different colors, no clean lines, no beauty, nothing added.

    So, anyway. All I expect from others is that people treat each other with respect, and that should be extended to private property. Ask permission, do something constructive with the skill, start a campaign to beautify the neighborhoods in more way than one, get permits and hold a streetside art show, make people aware of the art form, turn people onto the style, the practice, the culture… There are a lot of ways to address the issue of illegal tagging.

  6. Great discussion, guys. I agree with your points, Little, but I think the ratio of “good” to “crap” graffiti that I’ve seen is about 1:100. Like Moire, I do like the murals that I’ve seen on buildings. There’s a really great huge one of Martin Luther King Jr. looking down on the planet Earth here in Newtown. Somebody’s even written on it: “Show respect. Don’t paint or poster here.” And nobody does. But everything else is fair game, which I think is wrong.

    It’s like little kids who can’t resist scrawling their name on any blank space they can find: steam on the windows, a bathroom stall door, the back of the bus seat. I don’t think it has anything to do with “private property”, really. It all comes down to respect. Even if everything belonged to everybody, you’d still try not to trash shit because you wouldn’t want to ruin it for everybody else.

    Also – the difference between crap graffiti and other crap art forms is that I can choose to avoid the other stuff. I don’t have to listen to sellout rap. I don’t have to watch bad movies. These things don’t *invade my space*, but graffiti does. And let’s be honest – that’s a major part of the appeal for the people who do it. Not just that everyone sees it, but that it’s forbidden. Like on that website I liked to. The guy points out that City Rail doesn’t like the graffiti and has to constantly clean it up, but he does what he does anyway. He’s actually driving up the cost of public transport for everybody else in the city! Again – no respect for anybody else.

    I can tolerate an annoying public art installation (like the fiberglass cows) because it’s only temporary and the artists have permission to do it. Now, if graffiti “artists” would put their stuff up, sign it with their real name, leave it there for a while, and then come back and paint over it, I’d have a whole different opinion of them. Until they start showing respect to their viewing public, I don’t think anyone in the mainstream is going to take their art seriously.

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