Art Terrorism: Graffiti

In art|BOOK on November 10, 2009 at 4:53 pm


By Leanne Chapman

Graffiti is to many a lens through which one views the world. It is through ‘art’ that graffiti ‘artists’ show their fundamental disgust with what society sanctions and condemns.

This year, the Bristol Museum allowed Banksy, a well-known graffiti artist to exhibit many of his new works, replacing their regular artifacts. He stated: “This is the first show I’ve ever done where taxpayers’ money is being used to hang my pictures up rather than scrape them off.”

Banksy shot to fame due to his cutting edge and often controversial art.  His stencils feature striking images which are occasionally combined with slogans; the messages of which are usually anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment.

Society’s main issue with graffiti art is that it is illegal, though what many don’t reflect on is what is also legal.  It is legal for clothing companies and designers to instill billboards of size 0 models, looking adolescent in either age or appearance; this is despite knowledge that such advertising can encourage bulimia or anorexia. However it is illegal to paint murals in celebration of line, colour and beauty on a dull grey wall.

Public property becomes a contradiction because society is expected to observe advertising, which has proven detrimental effects, but they are forbidden to use it for themselves as a means of expression.

Civil disobedience is one of the ways by which graffiti artists have reacted to the misuse and under-use of public and private property. Graffiti artists have been met with such unreasonable resistance that it is inevitable that graffiti is also an outlet for destructive urges as much as the creative.

Some think that graffiti being sanctioned takes away the meaning of the art itself. As the function of graffiti is purely to react against a system that restricts the artists level of expression, legalising graffiti would somewhat strip it of its worth. Many, if not most artists, will say that they know full well that what they do is illegal and in some cases wrong, but are doing it anyway because it is a good time at the expense of people they dislike; going for theirs in a world with an already skewed set of priorities.

Graffiti artists do not use coercion to affect change. Instead of such action, he wields the power of the vote, the Media, and the Internet as weapons against tyranny. Instead of violence, it is free speech, freedom of assembly, their labor, their sweat and their money that they use as tactics to cause change.

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