Since the birth and development of humanity, people have been looking for different ways to express themselves, their feelings, emotions, render life experiences etc. Everything started with rock painting and primitive sculptures, which then underwent evolution and developed into high art of the Renaissance and succeeding periods in the history. These days, in addition to art in its traditional manifestation, there have appeared its alternative variants, which give rise to heated discussions, and graffiti is among them. For some, graffiti is a form of vandalism, a disease, an injury on the bodies of cities, even an epidemic, which indicates degradation of the society for it is regarded as criminal behavior as it uses people’s and cities’ property without permission. For other people, graffiti is a kind of art due to its expressive nature no matter where it is painted. In other words, today the society’s attitude to graffiti is ambivalent.
The research on the place of graffiti in art and people’s lives is necessary due to the fact that today graffiti is becoming more and more popular in the society and the number of “taggers” (urban graffiti writers) is increasing, which means the issue will not be worked out all by itself. In the current research, both graffiti opponents’ motivation (in addition to what is mentioned above) to claim it is a crime as well as proponents’ motivation to say graffiti is art will be analyzed on the basis of six sources. Overall, as it follows from the majority of the sources, the society is getting more and more supportive the idea of graffiti as art.
The first article under consideration is titled Great Art? The Graffiti of the New York Subway by Chris Summers published on 8th of August 2014 in BBC News Magazine. In this piece of work, Summers discusses the roots of graffiti in the New York Subway, that factors that led to its outburst as well as the measures taken to eliminate graffiti. For this purpose, the author of the article turns to facts from the history of the city, taggers’ personal experience as well as to other articles written on the issue.
Summers describes the economic causes, in particular the threat of bankruptcy of the city, which led to “laying off school teachers, police officers and subway staff”, as the prerequisites of the development of the movement for young people had no other alternatives of how to spend their time; thus “the outlet became our city” (Summers para 5-6). Therefore, in accordance with the author, it is the economic state of the city as well as the decisions made by the authorities that resulted in the development of graffiti movement. From the tone as well as the sources used and experiences described in the article, it follows that the author of the article believes graffiti is a positive notion for it was the way for young people to express themselves in the times they were deprived of any other means to do it.
The article by Ariella Budick titled ‘City as Canvas’: An Exhibition of New York Graffiti Art published in The Financial Times presents an opposite point of view on the issue. More specifically, the author of the article states graffiti is a “crime committed in haste, at night and under precarious conditions” (Budick para 6). Budick uses the facts from the history of graffiti as well as her own experiences as a city dweller to build an argument.
According to the author, graffiti is what changed the spirit of the city and ‘lettered’ it becoming the mark of danger and decay. As a city dweller, she says graffiti made New York look dangerous and depressed and turned it into a source of empowerment for taggers did not accept the concept of property. In regard to an exhibition ‘City as Canvas’, Budick writes that based on its context it may suggest that the graffiti days can come back, and from her tone it is clear she perceives it as a worriment.
In the article titled Graffiti as Art, its author Noel Sanchez expresses an alternative point of view on the place of graffiti in art and the society. More specifically, in this article he presents a range of characteristic features of graffiti that allow saying it is really art.
The author states it is necessary to differentiate between tags (a stylized writing of a name) and more complex paintings. He defines such markers of the fact that graffiti is art as aesthetics, the society’s recognition, and the presence of a style of its own. First of all, Sanchez grounds his argument about aesthetics on George C. Stower’s claim that complex pieces “require planning and imagination and contain artistic elements like color and composition” (para 3). Secondly, the society’s recognition also shows that graffiti is art for today people are eager to pay significant sums of money for some of the pieces. Finally, the fact that there are movements and changes of in style of graffiti proves that it is art.
For the current research, a video has been used as well. In particular, it is a video produced by CBS News, in which Rita Braver tours a museum of graffiti in New York. In this video, graffiti is mostly discussed as an art form. In short, the short history of graffiti is presented as well as the interviews with people who stand at the origins of this movement, in which they talk about their experiences and the essence of graffiti as art; also the opposing point of view on the issue is presented.
The video presents the evolution of graffiti from the so-called tagging (writing one’s name) to real art, for which today people pay great sums of money. As it follows from what is said the video, some fine art expert consider graffiti as art because graffiti writers are constantly working on their techniques and manners of representation. These days, many of the originators of graffiti are regarded as true artists with their works being exhibited and sold for a sizeable amount of money. Despite the fact that the opposing opinion is also taken into account, it is obvious that the author supports the idea of graffiti as art.
In the article titled ‘City as Canvas’ Celebrate the Golden Age of Graffiti published in Metro, its author Mike Dunphy describes one of the exhibitions in the Museum in the City of New York called “City as Canvas”. In this article, the author talks about the works exhibited at the museum as of works of art.
Like other articles under analysis, this one refers to the roots of graffiti as a movement and to those who were the first to leave their imprints on the body of New York City. The author of the article is definitely for talking about graffiti in terms of art; for example, he calls it “a new sprayable voice of the street” (Dunphy para 1). In fact, it feels he is proud of the fact that graffiti was born in New York and that the all “graffiti art around the world speaks with a New York Accent” (Dunphy para 6).
The last source to be analyzed is an article titled Graffiti: Art or Vandalism? Published on British Council website. In this article, its author discusses life and art of the most well-known and successful graffiti artist Banksy. What is more, the author also writes about a new tendency emerging in the society in regard to graffiti.
As it follows from the article, today more and more people are eager to accept graffiti as a kind of art. As an example, the author of the article use the personality of Banksy, a graffiti artist from the United Kingdom, whose works cause controversial discussions in the society and raise interest to graffiti as art. What is more, the article states that Bristol, Banksy’s native town, accepts graffiti but other cities, such as Dundee, Scotland, as well as they allow painting on council-owned wall to promote positive aspects of graffiti and run workshops for kids.
Personally, I think that there is a clear borderland between graffiti as art and graffiti as vandalism. More specifically, I believe that tagging and writing graffiti on city and private property without any permission is illegal and, thus, such activity should be regarded as a crime. Privately, I would not like it that somebody writes something, whether it is letters or a picture, on my fence or wall of my house. At the same time, if there is a permission, why not to make the city more colorful?
I think the problem can be solved if local authorities give some place for graffiti artist to work, just like local authorities in Dundee, Scotland did it. If today’s society does accept graffiti as art, permission to paint on definite walls in a city will do no harm. On the contrary, it will prevent illegal actions on the part of taggers, give them opportunity to create art without restraint and make cites brighter.
- British Council. “Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?.” British Council. British Council. Web. 21 Dec 2014. <http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/uk-now/read-uk/graffiti-art-or-vandalism>.
- Budick, A. “‘City as Canvas’: An Exhibition of New York Graffiti Art.” Financial Times. 21 Feb 2014: n. page. Web. 20 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/16276a8e-940f-11e3-a0e1-00144feab7de.html
- CBS News. Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?. CBS News, 2014. Web. 21 Dec 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/graffiti-art-or-vandalism-2/>.
- Dunphy, M. “‘City as Canvas’ celebrates the Golden Age of Graffiti.” Metro. 17 Feb 2014: n. page. Web. 21 Dec. 2014. <http://www.metro.us/entertainment/city-as-canvas-celebrates-the-golden-age-of-graffiti/tmWnbq—acB8hUwj27Or2/>.
- Sanchez, N. “Graffiti as Art.” Graffiti: Art Through Vandalism. N.p. Web. 20 Dec 2014. <http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall07/Sanchez/art.html>.
- Summers, C. “Great Art? The Graffiti of the New York Subway.” BBC News. 8 Aug 2014: n. page. Web. 20 Dec. 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28638691>.
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