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Graffiti vs. "Contemporary Street Art"
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TurnpikeGates



Joined: 30 Jun 2003
Posts: 517
Location: Bay Area
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crash wrote:


Thatís the beef between writers and street artists.




Didn't want to quote your whole deal, but that's really the kind of response I was hoping for... I'm sure some will disagree with your first part about "reclaiming space" vs. pure ego, but I often wonder how much that political veneer is just ex post facto rationaliztion. There's also the broader collective meaning of a phenomenon that transcends the motivations of individual participants. Graffiti can be done without any deeper intent by lone writers, but can still constitute a reclamation of space nonetheless...and that can still be political; a similar case was made for the London riots.


I get the impression that a lot of the animosity is about A) risk and B) basic gatekeeping...not necessarily for artistic reasons. A toy is at least on a path to somewhere respected within the milieu, right?
Post Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:57 am
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crash



Joined: 07 Aug 2003
Posts: 5457
Location: the chocolate city with a marshmallow center and a graham cracker crust of corruption
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I really hate writing, so please forgive my awkwardness with the English language. This is the best I can explain it:

Graffiti culture is exclusive by definition. The risk and illegality prevent most people from seriously participating Ė and those same difficulties create a sense of entitlement for those who overcome them. Every counter-culture movement is defensive about its identity and will react negatively to cooption by the mainstream. This defensiveness of course extends to the condemnation of those who fail to ďkeep it realĒ. That sort of defensiveness is exaggerated in graffiti because of the risk and inherent competitiveness involved.

Graffiti is the only major counter culture movement I can think of that remains fundamentally pure because of its inherent illegality. You can put it in galleries, you can teach it in classes, you can use it for advertising, but you still canít water down or commodify its essence because if itís not illegal, itís not real graffiti. Itís like Tomer said in Infamy Ė (very liberal paraphrasing here) you can take the lion out of the jungle and put him in a zooÖ but itís just a lion in a zoo.

So writers are generally very dismissive of anything that coopts graffitiís aesthetic (as legal eagles* do) or encroach on their territory** (as street artists do). I canít speak for other cities, but I know in DC if you want a mural to not get ragged you need to make sure itís painted by a crew that has some rep in the city or some solid rep of its own. Crews might have beef but lay off each otherís commission walls because they know thatís bad for business. Thereís a certain level of respect there. But if some no name from San Diego paints some half assed mural on the side of his Uncles Ice Cream store, itís not going to last long.

You hit the nail on the head concerning reclamation of space. Itís mostly unconscious, but as a mass movement it does serve a greater purpose. I just get annoyed with liberals and art types that romanticize it into something itís not. Itís not disenfranchised poor kids with no hope for the future that would quit writing if they just had something better to do. Itís all sort of kids. Kids who grew up rich, kids who grew up poor, black, white, asian, latino, kids in college, adults with kids of their own. The most laughable thing is when people promote murals as a way to keep them off the streets Ė give them a legal place to practice their art. How long does it take to paint a mural? One day usually. I love seeing them but donít kid yourself, that mural isnít going to save your garage door from being tagged up.

*someone who paints more legal walls than anything else

** I mean this in a more conceptual way than literal. Writers donít like seeing street art over their shit, but they also resent people thinking of street art when they hear the word graffiti.

Hereís Pear and Inca over some bullshit Pepsi mural in DC



Keeping graffiti pure for the next generation.
Post Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:53 pm
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Jesse



Joined: 02 Jul 2002
Posts: 6166
Location: privileged homeless
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Crash you just banged it out. I mean you don't need me to tell you this, but I want to anyway, because I try to have this conversation all the time with people who think they're throwing graf a bone by ratifying the "street art" angle and the awareness that it isn't graffiti if it isn't a crime does so much to heighten the significance of the whole enterprise. Talking about the "reclamation of space" as unconscious is also super astute - just because it's an unintended result that only comes with mass practise and has nothing to do with an individual's action doesn't mean that it doesn't happen at all, but it does undermine that concept as an apologia for the habit of writing on things.

It's so patronizing to talk about graffiti as anything other than the quest for notoriety and visual ubiquity.

(I say this as someone who doesn't categorically hate the stuff that can be called "street art," or any other derivative of graffiti... I just find it nauseating when the derivatives are cited as the TRUTH about the source.)

Basically if you kill somebody and you don't get charged, you aren't a murderer. You just killed somebody.
Post Thu Aug 25, 2011 2:40 pm
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crash



Joined: 07 Aug 2003
Posts: 5457
Location: the chocolate city with a marshmallow center and a graham cracker crust of corruption
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yeah. i'd like to say that i love a lot of street art. i did stencils for a couple years (most of which i'm embarrassed about today). when i was stenciling i looked down on graff. i mean, i liked some of it, but i thought it was mostly boring and uninspired.

eventually i gave up on stencils and started following graffiti, taking pictures, reading about it, meeting people. eventually i found myself appreciating traditional graffiti more than street art. there's plenty of great street art, but when it's bad, it's really awful. bad graffiti on the other hand is still cool to see. even the shittiest scribble still tells an interesting story. you see people develop their hands over time. crews form and often fade away. beef heats up and is eventually squashed. when out of towners come through, it's obvious who they're painting with.

it's like bird watching but less nerdy.
Post Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:29 pm
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ber lerac



Joined: 21 Dec 2003
Posts: 230
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thanks to jesse and crash.

i don't read this forum often any more because i've little cultural/arts taste/philosophy in common with the main contributors, leading to a great deal of head shaking, face palming and frustration.

your posts in this thread have massaged my soul a little. bless.
Post Sat Aug 27, 2011 11:47 pm
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TurnpikeGates



Joined: 30 Jun 2003
Posts: 517
Location: Bay Area
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Jesse wrote:
just because it's an unintended result that only comes with mass practise and has nothing to do with an individual's action doesn't mean that it doesn't happen at all, but it does undermine that concept as an apologia for the habit of writing on things.




That's a fine distinction, and really well put. The generic liberal attitude toward graffiti is so twisted...really exposes the convoluted and contradictory logic that goes into certain kinds of lockstep "progressive" thinking.
Post Sun Aug 28, 2011 2:48 pm
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Reggie



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 5765
Location: Queens, NYC
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Jesse wrote:
It's so patronizing to talk about graffiti as anything other than the quest for notoriety and visual ubiquity.


This sums it up. And while citizens wrestle with the conundrum of street art vs. graffiti, writers are out there ragging your shit.
Post Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:12 am
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Neuro
A champion of Kurtis SP


Joined: 19 Jul 2002
Posts: 7801
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its all pictures all on the wall either way

stfu and enjoy it
Post Wed Sep 07, 2011 11:36 am
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crash



Joined: 07 Aug 2003
Posts: 5457
Location: the chocolate city with a marshmallow center and a graham cracker crust of corruption
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pretty good article on the legalization of the DC scene:

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/41451/dc-tagging-rights/full/
Post Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:45 am
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Confidential



Joined: 23 Jan 2004
Posts: 2040
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Banksy vs. King Robbo video pretty much tells a story about street burners versus street art

http://vimeo.com/28015806
Post Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:48 am
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