This blog is dedicated to the memory of David Weintraub, who took on insidious astroturfers and won.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Graffiti: Vandalism, Propaganda or Nonsensical Rubbish

An image can say so much without the written word; from fine art in galleries to photos circulating in social media and newspapers articles, you name it!

But what of graffiti? I think I only tried it once on a desk at school! Oh, did I get into trouble, cannot even remember what I wrote but I sure remember the 500 lines I had to write for bad behaviour. Anyone else been there with that one?

I was interested in finding out viewpoints on graffiti, it seems to be everywhere, a sign of our times perhaps? Well in doing a wee bit of background research, I found it is no new phenomena in society at all.

In fact, the term graffiti appears to stem from street art in New York City, USA! According to this article, one of the forefathers was TAKI 183. A Greek-American teenager named Demetrius fed a revolution and new wave of graffiti artists worldwide?  

However, delving further into the past to a time well before photography, I found an intriguing image left by prisoners held for treason in The Tower of London, England. It makes me wonder what hell these people were going through at the time. Was it the thought of death by order of a monarch?

image source: The British Library.

Is graffiti a moment in time, a piece of history, or a thinking point perhaps?

Going back to the first image at the top of this entry, one can see a colourful image of `big brother`. Does that type of image spread propaganda; does it somehow feed into avaricious consumerism or can art possibly make a true difference in our world?

With the widespread ability to view photos and images on the net, if a message is effective in its delivery, or should I say, catches the eye, it spreads like the plague- be it positive or negative.

The above graffiti images are by Banksy and shared from Twitter. They got a heap of retweets, although the official Banksy site claims it does not participate in social media.

What do such images say about today's world? Do they symbolise social decay or social freedom? The so called graffiti artist Banksy has certainly made a name for himself! His work is making huge sums of money and in many places it is protected if on a street wall and seemingly considered as a precious piece of art. This I find confusing. Is it not graffiti which in many countries is a criminal offence? And what of other less well known graffiti artists? Is their work less meaningful than his? What I am trying to get at is whether Banksy is making a positive societal difference through critiquing plunderous politicians and others profiting off of societal issues or is he just out to make money.

I did a mini poll on whether people think graffiti is an act of vandalism, and yes, I know, some of you may say polls are a waste of time and can be biased; but on the other side of the coin, could different cultures, backgrounds and ages provide interesting, varied responses?

Here`s a basic view of what was received:

Ok, so it was a very small poll, but I found the replies interesting!

And here's one more opinion:

"I think it should be viewed as artistic expression. If it is racially motivated or driven by hate, then this is negative reinforcement"

That's a mixed bag of views, but who knows if graffiti is a criminal act and worthy of a prison sentence?
How would you react if something negative was scrawled on your house? After all, it is known that repeated abuse can harm a person`s mental health. One man's graffiti could be another's pain.

(See "Repeated experiences of racism most damaging to mental health" via Science Daily.)

More Images:

Hate propaganda image from Northern Ireland

Homophobia in the USA

Political oppression in South Africa under Apartheid:

image source: flikr 2010

In terms of freedom of speech in an age when censorious oppression was common in South Africa, the above graffiti said so much, don`t you think?

I therefore ask can graffiti help foster positive change. I would like to think so. It seems possible that graffiti can create awareness of what is happening in society.

Here again is Bansky! Is this a factual statement or his opinion? 

These are some of the thoughts running through my head on graffiti: They can be rebellious, heart-breaking, evocative, promote unity or disunity, inspire love and hate, call for war or peace and be cries of dark despair or nonsensical rubbish. One may love or hate graffiti, call it what you will, but I do smile at some of the images I experience through viewing street art.

My attempts at writing have been inspired by this blog, and so I have to say a big