Graffit-Self Expression or Vandalism

Topics: Street art, Graffiti, Banksy Pages: 8 (3363 words) Published: August 28, 2013
"A painting tells a story on paper, and graffiti tells a story too," said Steve, a 22-year-old Vancouver-based street artist who asked that his name not be published. "People just don't see past where [the story is being told]." Societal conceptions of urban graffiti are all over the map. While some view graffiti as the flourishing of urban art and expression, others view it as a sign of generational decay or a lack of respect for others' property. After all, the people forced to view the graffiti didn't ask to see public displays of expression. According to the City of Calgary website, "Graffiti is an eyesore that ruins the natural and architectural beauty of a city." But has the city ever considered a difference between racist remarks scrawled on the side of a train and a mural portraying a dove flying from open hands? The city's website asks for citizens to call 9-1-1 if they see an act of graffiti or other vandalism in progress. While this may seem extreme, Constable Dave Laddick, the graffiti coordinator of the Calgary Police Service, said otherwise. "Any crime in progress you should be calling 9-1-1. It's a criminal act, you don't want to let that just slide by." He continued, explaining that adults caught could pay up to $5,000 in fines, or even face jail time for up to two years. "What determines the scope of [the charges] is how prolific the vandal is." Surprisingly, unlike what was implied in MOCA's exhibit of the New York subway cars, gangs do not do the majority of graffiti, at least in Calgary. "We have very low gang graffiti in Calgary," Laddick added. "Most of our graffiti has been referred to as hip-hop graffiti." Hip-hop graffiti is famous for its identifiable font. Most graffiti of this type spells out messages or tags. The art form's correlation with hip-hop culture began with the controversial expression of rap artists. Graffiti as a form of art has always had a history of controversy -- a controversy based on location as well as content. It's always a matter of artist versus shop owner, rebels versus police, or creative expression versus conservative citizen. To some, graffiti is art. To others, it's simply a colourful form of vandalism. In places like Belfast, Northern Ireland, murals depicting historic Irish as well as worldwide struggles mark the sides of buildings. The art is supported, financed and completed by the community. Conversely, Calgary doesn't see a large distinction between the two. On the city's website, the administration defines graffiti as "Words, figures, letters, drawings or stickers applied, scribbled, scratched, etched, sprayed, or attached on or to a surface." It's nearly identical to the dictionary definition of vandalism. Vancouver artist Steve has a different definition of street art. "Graffiti is art when it's put there with a purpose, when it's put there for other people to enjoy it, or question it." For Steve, the difference between art and public disturbance is the intent behind it, whether it's done for others to enjoy or to stake out a territory. "Tags can really annoy me. Haven't we moved past that? I think tags are what give graffiti a bad name," he added. Dean Michaud, a 23-year-old business student from Mount Royal University, feels differently about tagging. "To see the same tag, stencil, or print in multiple countries, I feel is very symbolic of globalization and our seemingly growing societal unionization. Because street art holds no real boundaries, the experience and its effect can be the same from country to country." "It's a liquid form of culture," he continues. "Street art is mobile in the sense that it can be done anywhere." Tags are considered the birth of urban street art. Starting in New York in the 1960s, writing your name or a clever version of it in or on the subway started to gain steam as a movement and it has yet to slow down. While urban graffiti still includes tags under its umbrella, it has expanded to include meaningful, possibly political...
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