Tag Archives: graffiti

Is Graffiti Art? Crime? And Response to Recent Proposal for Permit to Create Graffiti Inspired Art on Private Property

there is a proposal to make it mandatory to get a permit (costs 100$) in order to put up a mural on private property. The gov has to ok the mural first too. go here to check out the full story.

I understand that some murals contain “writing” that resembles the most popular form of graffiti. But I believe its not graffiti because it’s not illegal. And this is the only thing that is possibly “bad” about graffiti—that it is illegal and visually “ruins” the surface that it is on. Yes some people will make references to violence, gangs and “negative” behavior, but the image (not the act) remain a reference. People will whine about how it references gangs. Well so what? An image is an image and even a gang symbol can be aesthetically pleasing not to mention I couldn’t even tell the difference between a random tag and a gang tag unless someone points it out. And only a fraction of graffiti is gang related. And not everyone associates graffiti with something bad, so it must be a perception thing. Sex is not necessarily porn because the difference between making love and porn is that porn is all about sex and the genitals and making love has love involved. But they may look absolutely identical in action.

On one hand this proposed application process will create jobs and stimulate the economy, but in terms of free expression, regulating which murals have the right to existence on private property obviously goes against the idea of free expression. The thing to note here though is its private property in legal terms, but that doesn’t mean it should not be regulated by the public if it is exposed to them in a public place such as a public street. Perhaps we need to re-look what is considered private and public property. I’ve never seen an offensive mural and if it is offensive it probably will be regulated anyways. Either way it’s just a mural, not a loaded gun.

On the idea of whether it is art or not: Carter Ratcliff, an art writer, historian and art philosopher, came up with a very clear effective definition for art. It’s the best I’ve seen. And basically his definition goes as follow: Art is that which has infinite interpretations. In other words design, illustration, advertising and all these genres are not art, because their whole goal is to get across a clear message, or two. Or 10, (but that wouldn’t be a clear efficient advertisement). But it doesn’t matter how many messages they convey, if they contain a finite number of messages then they are not art. There is no doubt about the meaning of a successful Russian socialist propaganda poster. However, watch a Vito Acconci performance and your mind will be filled with more questions than messages. You can take a masterpiece artwork and never cease to come up with interpretations for it and so will it not contain simply a message. Now graffiti is a bit tricky. But I asked him about it personally, and he thought and said that he would say it’s not art, because it has a finite number of interpretations or messages. Now we must not confuse graffiti and mural. They are different. Murals can be art because its basically another name for a large painting (I define painting here as any image or texts made with paint) on a public wall done legally. But graffiti is not art. Illegal murals can be art. Also, the act of making graffiti I believe is more interesting and artistic than the actual image. Its raw and done from releasing primal internal urges. The moment it becomes legal it’s this fundamental quality of graffiti that would be lost. Graffiti generally seems to convey the feeling of, “this is me, I was here, expressed myself, and it’s my territory.” So although I respect graffiti as a form of expression I do not believe it should be legalized.

On the other hand its been long established in the art world that if an artist (creator) declared something as art then it is art. Or at the very least if the art community declares something as art, then it is art. Duchamp called a set of regular snow shovels “art,” and it is now considered art. But there is absolutely no difference between the 10 or so he declared as art and the ones available at the stores at the time (he did not make them, he bought them). It could be argued that in this case his declaration is the actual art, and the shovels are just artifacts kept to symbolize or document his declaration. Andy Warhol also played around with declaring things as art. Basically if someone says its art then its art and there need not be any proof behind it.

We live in a world of declaration. We declare what is what without really thinking about the objective definition of the label we assign to that thing. For example, every fucking photographer calls themselves a professional photographer whether they ever got a degree in photography, are verse in Photoshop, have professional lighting equipment, a professional camera, experience and make very good work etc. So yes, you can say that graffiti is art, but really you are just not using the right word to describe graffiti. You are using your definition of art to describe it, and outside the scholarly and political world there is nothing wrong with that. And since we live in a democratic society rather than a scholarly one, then the definition of art should take into account what the masses think whether its right or wrong. And I don’t even believe in the previous statement but since the masses do, “long live democracy!”

If graffiti is art then if I post a collection of letters and words as a comment it will be art. But it won’t be art because it will basically be spam/graffiti

The fundamental aim and essence of graffiti is to mark your territory and let the public know that you were here. The powerful act actually diminishes the content of what is written. Graffiti is trying to say the same one thing in different forms. Hence it is not art. Otherwise if I wrote absolutely anything whether it relates to this post or makes sense at all in a comment, it must be accepted as art. The interesting thing is to think about whether we should regulate online space the same way. Advertising is not art, but I often see it pop up. Should this be allowed on my personal computer?

The reason people classify any genre as “art,” such as design advertising, architecture, and graffiti is for political or power purposes. Art has become like a tagline or brand. My dentist’s card says “dental art” on it. everyone these days wants to call their product or service “art.” I mean it’s like trying to call automobiles a house, a weapon, a musical instrument, or a discotheque. All these things are great, but they are not cars, no matter how much you love automobiles. Look, why would you want to call one thing by another name? Art has a sophisticated and overall positive implied image, when in fact it’s not necessarily so. Part of the reason people want to call graffiti art, is because graffiti carries a negative or low-culture perception in the society’s mind. Whatever. Fuck what society thinks. That’s the spirit of graffiti anyways and that’s one of the beauties of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making a value judgment between any of these genres such as art, design and graffiti, I’m simply saying that they have a fundamental difference.

Oh and people who pose this dilemma in terms of is it crime or is it art don’t really know art history very well. If they did they would know that illegal substances have been used in masterpieces so that makes the question irrelevant because even if its crimal, it can still be amazing art. Think Rob Pruit’s “Cocaine Buffet” made out of cocaine that viewers were let to snort or Fred Tomascelli’s works that incorporate marijuana leaves. Both are crimes and art. I don’t understand why people think that all art is or must be moral, positive or “good.” Some of it is, and some of it is not, and is very dangerous for people to experience. It can promote very negative messages. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist.

But if I can be the regulator and get good money and health benefits doing it then I’ll vote yes, cause I really need a job!

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