| Graffiti Rules – Graffiti Under Fire |
by Dr. Doug Frayn
( January 2005 )
Graffiti is a whimsical illustrative form of underground language and suppressed sentiment and as such can have artistic and social merit as well as being nuisance and at worst – a graphic eyesore defacing our communities. It has been around in various forms as long as communities have existed, going back to man’s primitive caves as seen in France, China and Africa as well as discovered in its more extensive artistic forms from about five thousand years ago in the pyramids of pharaohs. Secretive personal inscriptions were made by the workers in and around these tombs as well as counter-culture remarks! Even Roman gladiators had people artistically publicly lauding them just as we now see “Go Leafs” emblazed on the streets surrounding Air Canada Centre cheering the Toronto professional hockey team.
To make sense specifically what you mean one shouldn’t just say “graffiti” without describing what kind or form you are speaking about.
The following are some of the graphic forms that Graffiti may take: 1. Actual art using, public walls instead of canvas and spray paint instead of watercolours or oils. E.g. landscapes and portraits
2. Personal messages, painted primarily to express oneself rather than to influence or advertise. E.g. “Marsha Loves Me”, “I came for gold and left in poverty”
3. Graphic communication to the community a) political : “Star Wars Starts Wars!” or “Palestine Awake!” b) social commentary: “1 in 5 of Us, Cracks Up” (on Mental hospital outside wall), “Work to Rule”, “Billboards for the Rich – Spray cans for the Poor” c) religious statements: “Jesus will Save You Now” or “Satan Rules” d) gang signs: “King Boys Rule Here”. d)advertisements: “See Styx - El Mo till Aug” or “Heineken Dreams”. e)sexual commentary and rhymes.
4. Destructive tagging and nuisance names sprayed primarily to deface property such as “Fuck You Eaton’s” or “Forest Hill Sucks”
Having said all this, some of the very people who want harsher penalties for spray painting - such as the municipal leaders, corporate sponsors, and even the police – erect on our roads, street signs and billboards, commercial “messages” of their own – sometimes far more exploitative, annoying and ugly than the worst of the amateur “taggers”. Next time the politicians propose to go out to whitewash our local graffiti lets have a vote on what stays and what goes!
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