Graffiti

Culture is the topic that interests me immensely, especially everything connected with the culture of my age. That is why I am going to give a talk on this subject.

Culture is the patterns of behavior and thinking that people living in social groups learn, create, and share. It refers to a society or group in which many people live and think in the same ways, it also distinguishes one human group from others, for instance, youth culture.

Youth culture is a very big part of a young adult’s life. The way young adults dress, what they listen to, what they eat and what they do in their free time shows how their youth culture has influenced them. I think that TV and music has a major role in today’s youth culture. Many youngsters today listen to what is mostly «popular». For instance, I think that MTV has a big influence in many of the young people at my school. If they listen to a song on TRL (Total Request Live; Hall of Fame) they’ll immediately start loving that song and listen to it daily.

As for my friends and me, we have become involved in such a trend of youth culture as graffiti. To my mind, graffiti art for teenagers is a ticket to freedom, a big step on their way to adulthood, and the first taste of independence. Graffiti is a component of our real world visual experience, the most familiar form of the youths’ visual culture: we can see graffiti on passing trains, cars, on overpasses and on the walls of abandoned buildings, in urban centers and in the industrial and transportation districts of small towns and rural areas.

Graffiti – its history, its markers, its changing stylistic appearance, and its content also provides classroom opportunities for exploring critical thinking skills and personal expression.

Unfortunately, it is often seen by the masses as a crime, rather than a true work of art. In some instances, this is still the case, but when you truly look at a work of graffiti art for what it is, rather than for what crime the artist may or may not have committed, you can see that it requires skill, a surprising level of physical strength and endurance and truly garners merit (deserves praise) as a reputable art form.

A troubled youth

Imagine the picture. A nice quiet street lined with similar built houses, and a SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) or minivan parked in every driveway. All of the homes are well maintained and the occasional child on a bike rides by or a couple walk their dog. Everyone you meet on the street is friendly and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Now this seems like a nice place to live. Everything seems wonderful at first. According to the Census Bureau, middle-class suburbs are the largest growing communities in America. With the lure of a safe and clean community within driving distance to work, it’s no surprise more and more people are flocking to these “safe neighborhoods.” With the relaxed way of life the quaint (unusual and attractive, esp. in an old-fashioned way) suburb provides, our youth is running rampant (widespread and impossible to control) with less and less adult supervision and control. Parents have a false sense of security, thinking that their neighborhood is a controlled environment for their children. What these parents don’t know is that their children are smarter than they think, and can easily hide what they are doing. Today’s youth are involved in all kinds of activities. A popular pastime of suburban kids is throwing parties when mummy and daddy are at work or painting the walls of private or community buildings with graffiti. And believe me it’s the least evil behaviour in youth.

 

                   

Graffiti: Art of the 20th Century or Vandalism

When discussing the topic of graffiti, the main question most people have is whether graffiti is art or vandalism. Before we can answer this, there are many more questions that must be answered. What is art? What is graffiti? What is vandalism? Is there a point at which graffiti becomes vandalism, and if so, who decides where? Only after these questions have been answered, can anyone accurately decide whether it is art or vandalism!

What is art? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as: art (as painting, sculpture, or music) concerned primarily with the creation of beautiful objects. Within just these three broad categories of art, there are many more subcategories in each. Additionally, there are other categories of art, such as architectural, photographic, and digital art. The main problem with art is the broadness of its scope and the general belief that it is in the eyes of the beholder, which allows for a lot of discrepancy from one individual to another.

What is graffiti? Graffiti is the plural form of the Italian word grafficar. In plural, grafficar stands for drawings, markings, patterns, scribbles, or messages that are painted, written, or carved on a surface. According to Longman Dictionary of Language and Culrure graffiti, n [U] drawings or writing on a wall, etc., esp. of a rude, humorous, or political nature.

What is vandalism? Vandalism is ruthless destruction or spoiling of anything beautiful or venerable. The term also includes criminal damage such as graffiti and defacement directed towards any property without permission of the owner. It is also defined as willful or malicious destruction of public or private property, often random and purposeless.

            

Is there a point at which graffiti becomes vandalism, and if so, who decides where? Scrawling graffiti is seen as a crime in the UK, yet in the US it has become a recognized art form.

       

Not long ago eight graffiti gang members were convicted of causing £5,000 worth of damage on the London Underground. They are among more than 70 hard-core graffiti artists thought to be operating in London today. Most are aged under 20.

Graffiti artists, or ‘graffers’, operate in many British towns. They often work at night, covering walls, trains and railway stations with brightly painted murals or scrawls in spray paint and marker pen.

Some people regard graffiti as a form of vandalism and a menace. London Underground says that railusers find it ugly and offensive. It spends £2m a year dealing with graffiti, and has even introduced trains with graffiti-resistant paint. «We don’t think it’s artistic or creative — it’s vandalism. It’s a huge nuisance to our customers, and it’s ugly and offensive,» says Serena Holley, a spokeswoman for the London Underground. «It creates a sense of anarchy and chaos,» says Richard Mandel, a barrister who prosecuted the graffiti gang. «Passengers feel as if the whole rail system is out of control.»

British Transport Police has a graffiti unit designed to catch graffers in the act. It spent five months tracking down the recently prosecuted gang.

Graffiti art can also be a dangerous pastime. The London Underground says that some teenagers have died in accidents during nocturnal graffiti ‘raids’.

              

However, others say that graffiti at its best is an art form. Art galleries in London and New York have exhibited work by increasingly famous graffiti artists. «Of course graffiti is art. There’s no question about that,» says David Grob, director of the Grab Gallery in London. Even some of those who think graffiti is wrong admit that graffers are talented. «It’s just that their artistic talent is channeled in the wrong direction,» says Barry Kogan, a barrister who represented Declan Rooney, one of the gang members.

There is a difference between ‘good graffiti’ and vandalism, says Dean Colman, a 24-year-old graffiti artist. «I’d never spray private property, like someone’s house. Some graffiti are disgusting. There’s a big difference between that and graffiti which can brighten up grey walls.»

Dean makes a living as a graffiti artist. His days of illegal spraying are behind him, he says. He has worked on a television programme about graffiti, designed a series of government posters, and decorated nightclubs. He has exhibited his work at Battersea Arts Centre in London, and he has taught graffiti-spraying in youth clubs.

      

Dean sees himself as an artist, and thinks that graffiti art does not get due recognition. «There’s no graffiti art in the Tate Gallery and there should be,» he says. «Graffiti is a valid as any other art form

Banksy (no one knows his real name) is a British street artist who is famous for his graffiti that has appeared on walls and buildings in cities around the world. He also sometimes holds ‘shows’ of paintings, usually in warehouses.

In February 2007, Sotheby’s auction house in London auctioned six of Banksy’s works, fetching almost £400,000 altogether. Later that year, Banksy won an art award, but he didn’t turn up to collect it — he prefers to remain anonymous. Despite Banksy’s ‘success’, there are many people who see his work as vandalism rather than art. They see graffiti as ugly, irresponsible and childish and they say Banksy encourages more people to do it. Many city councils remove Banksy’s works from their walls but they cannot do anything when it is on private property. In fact, many people want to keep his work on the walls of their building as it adds value to the property because it is considered by many to be a valuable work of art. Street artists usually want something to bring to the people and expressed in figures attitude to events that happened in the world. Banksy is a King of street art. This man knows nothing, but his works is very familiar to many people around the world. His drawings have a lot of sense and ridicule many evils of society.

           

These guys are part of a street culture that had started much earlier and played an integral role in the history of their art. One thing is for sure: graffiti is not new. Examples of this art form date back to ancient Greece and Rome where graffiti was often simple images and messages declaring love or simple ideas. In modern times, the preferred tools used to create graffiti are colourful markers or spray paints. The messages are now different and often express political and social ideas. And it is up to the individual to make up their minds whether it is vandalism or work of art.

History

The first demonstration of graffiti was rock paintings of primitive people like this. They did it as a sign of worship of the gods.

        

«Graffiti» is applied in art history to works of art produced by scratching a design into a surface. A related term is «sgraffito«, which involves scratching through one layer of pigment to reveal another beneath it. This technique was primarily used by potters who would glaze their wares and then scratch a design into it. In ancient times graffiti was carved on walls with a sharp object, although sometimes chalk or coal were used.

Graffiti was the term originally used for sepulchers or ruins, as the Roman catacombs and ancient cities, such as Pompeii. The graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, preserved by the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius, provide examples of everyday Latin, insults, magic, and love declarations. These examples provide insight into the street life of Pompeii.

The only known source of the Safaitic language, a form of proto-Arabic, is from graffiti: inscriptions scratched on to the surface of rocks and boulders in the predominantly basalt desert of southern Syria, eastern Jordan and northern Saudi Arabia. Safaitic dates from the first century BC to the fourth century AD.

            

Modern-style graffiti

The ancient Romans carved graffiti on walls and monuments, examples of which also survive in Egypt. The satirical Alexamenos graffito is believed to be the earliest known representation of Jesus.

                   

 

                

It was not only the Greeks and Romans who produced graffiti: the Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala also contains ancient examples. Viking graffiti survive in Rome and at Newgrange Mound in Ireland, and a Varangian scratched his name (Halvdan) in runes on a banister in the Hagia Sophia at Constantinople. These early forms of graffiti have contributed to the understanding of lifestyles and languages of past cultures.

Graffiti, known as Tacherons, were frequently scratched on Romanesque Scandinavian church walls.

When Renaissance artists such as Pinturicchio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Ghirlandaio, or Filippino Lippi descended into the ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea, they carved or painted their names and returned to initiate the grottesche style of decoration. That displayed some similarities.

                  

There are also examples of graffiti occurring in American history, such as Signature Rock, a national landmark along the Oregon Trail.

Later, French soldiers carved their names on monuments during the Napoleonic campaign of Egypt in the 1790s. Lord Byron‘s survives on one of the columns of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion in Attica, Greece.

               

Graffiti often is seen as having become intertwined with hip hop culture and the myriad international styles derived from New York City Subway graffiti, however, there are many other instances of notable graffiti this century. Graffiti has long appeared on building walls, in latrines, railroad boxcars, subways, and bridges. The example with the longest known history, dating back to the 1920s and continuing into the present day, is Texino.

During World War II and for decades after, the phrase «Kilroy was here» with accompanying illustration was widespread throughout the world, due to its use by American troops and ultimately, filtering into American popular culture.

    Engraving of Kilroy on the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Graffiti as a modern form originated in the late 1960s. It first appeared as an “underground” form of expression, but eventually was recognized by the art community and migrated to art galleries and museums. It was considered to be vandalism and was rejected by the dominant society, until the art world embraced it and made it more acceptable.

Early examples of graffiti “tagging” existed in Philadelphia in the 1960s. Later, graffiti was exported to New York City where it gained popularity. Graffiti developed a more extravagant artistic role as a result of its popularity in New York City subway system – the style of graffiti expanded from tags to full-blown “pieces”.

            

During the early 1970s, artists and art critics began to view graffiti as an independent aesthetic, an expression of art in the urban culture. During the early 1980s, the combination of a booming art market and a renewed interest in painting resulted in the rise of a few graffiti artists to “art-star status”.

New techniques in the 1980s and early 1990s led to a new form of graffiti, labeled Post-graffiti or also known as Street Art. The participants used stencils, posters, stickers and installations to spread their art illegally in the streets.

Corporate America became aware of the public appeal of graffiti art and made an attempt to incorporate this ideal communicative convention into ad campaigns. During the early 1990s graffiti art became commercialized in advertisement of “Nike” and “Sprite”.

To be or not to be: Art?

In conclusion, I would like to point out that the question “To be or not to be: Art?” is as eternal as the Shakespeare’s question. And I presume: “Graffiti art is an art form.” The reasons as to why it is an art form far outweigh the criticism of its illegality and nonstandard presentation. The purpose of this paper is to explain how graffiti art overcomes these concerns and should be considered an art form. Suppose that Leonardo, Monet, Picasso, or any other recognized artists of Western European culture were alive today and decided to paint a masterpiece on the side of your house. Would Picasso or Monet’s markings be considered art or vandalism? People’s answers may vary, but I would classify those markings as art in the form of graffiti. Their markings would qualify as vandalism only if they appeared on private or public property unauthorized. Graffiti art originated in the late 1960′s and still isn’t accepted as art like museum or gallery works. Graffiti art is not denied the status of genuine art because of a lack of form or skills, but is mainly due to its location and bold, unexpected presentation.