The subject of graffiti keeps popping up in my mind these days and I’m trying, yet again to sort things out. To say that I’m conflicted is an understatement and I admit to you that my passions run high. What to do then? I consult Wikipedia of course, and see what others have to say about it.
Would you believe that there is documented evidence of graffiti in the excavations of Pompeii? It was perhaps more innocuous than what we generally see in our environment today, often being equivalent to the drawn heart with “ John loves Mary” declaration.
However, some ancient examples were dicey even then and some were blatantly commercial or political. At the very least, ancient graffiti was an expression of popular culture and revealed details that would otherwise be lost to historians. Jump forward approximately two thousand years and we have the quaint example, “Kilroy was here” from World War II. There are several stories about who Kilroy was, apparently none verifiable.
Where my conflict occurs is trying to understand why and where graffiti became for some, an excuse to deface and offend. As far as I can gather, for those destructive folk, there is a complete disconnect between the real power that exists in creating great graffiti and the mindless acts that create hardship for members of a community. As an expression of popular culture, the images and messages can be very powerful and a force for good, or they can scare us all brainless by the creator’s complete lack of ability to attach consequences to their acts.
I understand that there can be a very fine line between graffiti art and vandalism and I understand that part of the culture of graffiti is the excitement of anonymous acts done without permission, mostly in the dark. I also understand that tagging is evidence of gang activities and therefore signs of an unhealthy underbelly in our community.
It has been suggested to me that a possible solution to these occasional attacks of embarrassing idiocy such as the one borne out on the third bench recently could be short-circuited by designating a large outdoor wall for graffiti.
I’m skeptical because that would remove the thrill of anonymity and the ability of the “artist” to keep our teeth on edge.
However, I can also see that it could give an opportunity for the potential graffiti artists to hone their skills and become expert at using colour, form and content in a more meaningful way. I’m also willing to bet that it would foster respect for the buildings and murals in town by creating a connection to the rest of us.
What do you think?