City officials all over the country are up in arms about how out of hand this so called graffiti is getting. As a supporter of art and especially graffiti, I’d like to finally take a stand and say: It’s not the graffiti itself, that creates the problems– it’s when wayward youth with nothing but time go scrawling any and everything all over the city without proper training or concrete ideas of what they stand for and what message they’d like to convey. Any real graffiti head will tell you that a genuine love of graffiti, the thrill of bombing and throwing up a quick tag only comes after they’ve learned the ropes. It’s not about haphazardly running around with spray paint and covering any empty surface without a thorough understanding of graffiti culture and principles.
I’ll admit that there is a devilish part of me that smiles whenever I see a tag from a familiar graff writer or a beautifully composed peace sprawled across a liquor store or government building. There’s something inherent about wanting to knock down or deface anything created to perpetuate “the man” and anything intrinsically oppressive. Our baser instincts tell us to stand up for what we believe and graffiti is no different than a church sermon or prayer it’s simply an expression of beliefs.
Out of all of the interviews I’ve done, every single artist recanted stories of why they first started doing graffiti: the inspiration, the research, saving money for paint or even stealing it, all for the risk of painstakingly putting up a piece of original art only for it to be covered the next day or hand cuffed/fined for it. The pride is in actually getting away with it, but being willing to pay the cost. What stands out most in every story are the very personal reasons why each artist decided to turn to art for refuge and the lessons they learned from fellow artists or crew members. Each one of them is a talented and seasoned artist who knows the dynamics of street art.
They are not young hoodlums desperately wanting to be part of an outlaw crew or trying to impress the girls. For real graffiti artists, the clout comes after they’ve already proved themselves. In the world of street art, acclaim is organic and not outwardly boastful. In fact, anonymity is the reason for survival and ones ability to stay out of jail cells.
No matter how much city officials try to tame a timeless culture, there is no way to mainstream a form of art whose sole nature is to grow against the grain. Programs such as MuralsDC and other anti-illegal, arts based graffiti initiatives are great and all, but they miss the entire point of doing graffiti in the first place. The very reason why graffiti exists would be completely illegitimized if the only way graff artists could create was through government funded programs with rules and regulations. The point of graffiti is to express those ideas that oppose government in cities that are supposed to belong to “the people” in the first place– it’s a give and take, symbiotic relationship.
There is a difference between vandalism and graffiti…they are not one in the same. Simply put: a mural is not real graffiti and will not abate unrest created by illegal tags…if you sanction it, you’ll kill it.
What are your thoughts?