Monday, December 12, 2011


I don't get graffiti. It's narcissistic arrogance exalted. That I get. I like bombing stuff, myself. Whether it's a strategically-crafted piece designed to get a particular person's attention passively, or just tagging kids' homework so I can imagine they get a mini-thrill at some new imagery to break up the tedium and monotony of their endless worksheets, or quietly slapping people in the face and imagining who might like or feel stung by the work--I get the thrill of placing art up unprompted, poofing away, and having people gravitate towards the art (and by extension the artist, of course).

What I sharply disagree with and am confounded by is justifying littering public space. Most graffiti is mindless to me. Scribbling your name isn't art, nor is putting up cryptic too-cool-for-school scrawlings that hipsters cheer for being ironically bad. So much graffiti is quarter-hearted draftsmanship or senseless dadaism or just plain juvenile or dim-witted work.

But I get the thrill, of course. Japanese stores have tons of free space on open pads of paper for you to sample their wide pen selections. Today's first image was me trying out a calligraphy brush that floated like a cloud on top of sampler stationary. I also drew on a chalk board to help entertain some kids between classes.

This was fun, an artistically fresh experience, and it's not infringing on anyone's space nor asserting my essential value over some pre-existing thing. It's a statement of me and it's effortlessly removed at no expense to anyone other than what the establishment inherently made clear they accept: the sample paper pad will get rotated out when it becomes too cluttered, the chalkboard will be swiped clean before the next class begins. I take a photo to remember that time I got my artistic jollies in public, I get to ghost-entertain people, and nobody gets hurt. If graffiti were executed in a similar harmless fashion, or at least if it were always beautiful rather than frequently grotesque, I could understand the medium. But as is, I don't get graffiti.

To be fair I also don't get the Beatles.

In fact, I hate The Beatles.



Elle said...

Graffiti feels more like an egotistical way of tagging their own name on someones property. They could at least spray paint a picture and tag their name at the bottom, it sounds nicer. I think the people who tag their names interlink into a street culture and it makes them feel connected to civilization in a bigger way.

I thought Banksy was a great graffiti artist; His graffiti felt more like statements telling the world something about our culture, whether it was politically wrong or right. Until he painted an elephant; He didn't research his paint well enough and it physically hurt the elephant.

Reuxben said...

Right, I know I'm overly introverted but I don't believe my aversion to such radical extroversion as graffiti is out of line as a general code of conduct for artists. Surely street artists can see that they are being too extroverted in their "artistic" pursuits.

I slightly disagree with your point about graffiti artists seeking to connect to civilization, though. In college, we studied why some inner-city kids do graffiti, and a large chunk of the guys interviewed said their motivation was basically just to show off to as many people as possible. They want to get their name "up" which is simply a cry for attention from civilization (or at least the community of those capable of viewing the name/tag), but it's not so much them wanting to connect with civilization in a bigger way. It's like they want civilization to come to them, or at least long for them, but they themselves still wish to be removed from it by being superior or yet disconnected to it.

So in a way they do want to connect to civilization, but it seems only in the most base and brutal way, if connection is indeed what they seek at all. I'm more inclined to discount the "connection to civilization" aspect of their cry for attention and deem it more of a "dictation" to civilization, which is a one-way connection.

I do agree that seeing pictures with a name signed is way more captivating than just a name dumbly drawn on a surface.

As far as Banksy goes, I have to be honest, I don't really get why he is so great. Some pieces are okay, but like much high or fine art, I just don't get why it's so beloved and above all why people would pay so much for it. Some stuff is cool, but a lot of it just makes me think..."Okay then, that's that, let's move on."

In any case, it's a shame to hear he hurt an animal in his efforts to showcase his amazingly unique and phenomenal brilliance. The great thing about doing regular old, non-street art: no animals or buildings are ever injured because of your dragging a stylus or pencil across a tablet or paper.