Monday, February 26, 2007


sorry no new words yet, heres an article i wrote for my uni magazine. i love you all

The question "is graffiti art?" has been asked now so many times now its almost a cliche, with the huge following and success of Bansky, and the midlands own Temper being the first graffiti artist to do a solo exhibition in a gallery, as well as graffiti motifs being used by graphic designers to sell everything from magazines to bland fizzy pop, whether it is art or not becomes a moot point.

Part of the resistance to the acceptance of graffiti art comes from the Graff artists themselves. The clandestine nature of the practice leading them to believe the "outlaw" fantasy they have become wrapped up in, or the deathly fear of not being cutting edge – these people don’t want fame, they want infamy.

Another reason for the general publics dislike for graffiti is - Tagging; its easy to look at a six colour Wildstyle "piece" (short for masterpiece) and see from its complexity the skill and flair required to make it. But what about the funny black squiggles that normally adorn bus stops, windows and other street furniture?

Tagging is the process of writing your name or "tag" as often and elaborately as possible, in fact they came first, "pieces" grew out of the desire to make the tag so large and elaborate that it would stand out from the rest. The desire to tag is a complex one to explain, and it's worth bearing in mind that names have been found on walls dating back to roman times.

Firstly people tag to grow a reputation, the more a person is "up", the more his name is recognised in the graff community, and let's face it who doesn't want the respect of their chosen peer group; the other reasons go a little deeper than this. Writing your name on something is a way of recording your presence, even the most restrained people will write there name at the top of a hill or mountain (or at least place a flag on it). It is not only is a recording of your presence not a demonstration of your mastery over it - we write our name on things we own. This is important in a large impersonal city where alienation and powerlessness is not only common in the young but considered normal, we often get little or no say in the way our landscape is grown, but it can be customised.

A tag is often a beautiful thing, something that the writer will spend hours practicing and developing. Tags have there own stylistic syntax and grammar a strict set of visual rules that take hours to master. Within these restrictions the writer is free to play with letter shapes and anti-form evolving the very building blocks of language and therefore by extension, thought. Now, as the viewers of tagging become more sophisticated at decoding there work the artist is also free from the burden of legibility and the tag becomes more an exercise of personal style than communication.

It's also worth noting that the chisel tip marker has the same writing edge as a calligraphy pen and I would argue that the practice of tagging has more in common with a monks illuminating script than petty vandalism. Will it ever be considered art? Probably not, but I don’t think its practitioners would have it any other way.


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