Is grafitti really that bad?

Damn… I just realized that you never said it was correct. I apologize.

hmmm… i happen to like graffiti on the bathroom walls… as long as there are no expletives. it makes for an interesting sit…
actually, i don’t know. i kinda like it, but i wouldn’t want it on my property, or anyone else’s (as in private property). on the whole, i agree with marvel.

No expletives??? On bathroom walls? :confused:

Otherwise, I agree with those of you who would differentiate between “tagging” and artistic grafiti. The latter in the form of wall murals and the like in otherwise drab and dreary locations might even be a good idea at times. I have heard of some municipalities actually supporting projects like that.
“Tagging” on the other hand is a selfish form of visual pollution. No one else wants to have to see the illegible garbage. We actually used to live in a building where idiots broke in and “tagged” all over the entry area and our mailboxes. Great art!

betenoir, 187 is the Califorina penal code for Murder.

Yeah, you see hear tht 187 all over hip-hop. Typically with a dose of irony. As in:

187 on a mutha-fuckin cop.

To use a cops own term for killing after you’ve killed a cop (presumably cause he fucked with your rights), is the irony part. Punk music is mostly about rising up against authority (and abuses thereof). So that tag was pretty anti-establishment to say the least. Then again so is tagging by it’s very nature.


I like graffiti and wish there was more of it in the town where I live. I do think it’s an important form of self expression, and that this is true regardless of its location. Public Roman bathrooms 2000 years old have graffiti not that different from today’s, about which there is little new or novel, except perhaps paintballs.

Lots of graffiti is infantile or self-righteous, but the same could be said of the majority of art displayed today or during most otehr periods. I don’t distinguish between graffiti and “mural quality art” on the mere basis of the media.

While I don’t personally tag or vandalize property, many of the nicer or thought-provoking works have seen are in locations that involve some risk in accessing. Ther fact someone did so is often a component in the message the graffiti communicates. Is graffiti a crime? Yes, but this is independent of it’s artistic merit. Is it that bad? Crashing against a plate glass window can cause it to break regardless what has been done to it; tagging is essentially egotistical and I would hesitate to call some of it “art”. But some tagging is undoubtedly art. And much graffiti is more than mere toilet reading. A town without graffiti lacks character. That doesn’t mean I want to see it on every subway car either, though. Good art can make fun of sacred pigs while still respecting the rights of others, too.

I won’t go into the legal issues; they’re pretty clear and a matter of fact, not opinion.

As for the aesthetic question, for me, it has a couple of factors: the significance of the message, the quality of the artwork, and the quality of what was painted over.

Political graffiti (assuming it’s not racist or whatever) rarely pisses me off. There’s a big crossed-out-swastika near my house that makes me smile when I pass it.

High-quality graffiti I also enjoy. There’s an underpass nearby that’s quite thoroughly decorated with lots of beautiful artwork that I enjoy whenever I go to the supermarket. I don’t know whether it was a sanctioned work or just what.

As for the last, I’d usually rather see graffiti than cement, on things like highway ramparts and whatnot.

Here’s the counter-example: I was rather pissed off the other day to see that one of my favourite metro stations, Georges-Vanier, had had its walls (whch are tiled in beautiful slate-gray and ultramarine glazed brick with decorative patterns) covered in simple tags from end to end. That, to me, showed a lack of consideration for the existing work and a definite overestimation on the part of the taggers of their talents and the aesthetic value of their work.

If it had been a work done with more care and artistic skill, and/or if it had been done in a station with less interesting stuff on the walls (Beaudry metro, say), I would have been less annoyed. Remember that subway graffiti is where Keith Haring got his start! (Of course, he bypassed the walls altogether and went for the advertisements, a sentiment with which I heartily concur.)

No it can’t. During the student riots in the sixties, someone detonated 3 sticks of dynamite across the street from my father’s store, which had 10ft high plate glass windows. The storefront was destroyed, the metal frames bent backwards 6 inches, but the glass was undamaged. Plate glass is tough. And there are building codes that require the use of tough plate glass in commercial storefronts. But if you etch it enough times with a diamond tipped glass cutter, it will shatter if you just fall against it.

You’re probably right. I’m sure that scribed glass is weaker than unscribed. I’m less convinced plate glass would never break if one pushed hard against it, but your anecdote certainly implies this would be rare.

I work in an art supply store where a number of people we hire are artists on one level or another.
One new employee asked me why we didn’t cater to taggers. I replied that, since tagging is illegal, we weren’t going to promote it. He said that we were stiffling his and others’ right to creatively express themselves and resented the fact that we didn’t support their art.

I said: “Fine. We’ll sell spray paint and permanent paint markers and such…but with every purchase, we’re going to give out your address and instruct them that if they wish to practice their “art” they should feel free to do so there.”

He replied: “…well, no…not my house…”

“How about your car then?”

“uhhh, no…that wouldn’t be right.”

“why not?”

“well, it’s my car, man…”

what an idiot.

I’m coming to this one a bit late, but in Sheffield (England) where I used to live, one guy was given a five year prison term for tagging. Here and here are a couple of appropriate links. His sentence was reduced to two years on appeal and he’s out of jail now, promising to be a good boy.

It did seem an extreme measure at the time, but the problem had got out of hand - we had thousands of examples of his tag all over the city, there was no attempt at any decorative content or political comment. Without either of these last two things, I’d be inclined to say it’s not art IMHO.

Personally, I don’t object to people making worthwhile statements, or decorating public places like concrete highway supports, but if a place is already being used for something else or is private property I think marking it is anti-social. There are plenty of examples I could quote, but the freshly painted, cream-coloured wall of my local Chinese restaurant didn’t seem an appropriate place for a guy to scribble his name in three-foot-high letters, but that’s what he did. Or the long boundary wall to a TV studio that was decorated by a local community art group and was immediately tagged over (two times). We also have a problem with glass etching, especially on the Underground in London. Spray can stuff is generally cleaned off the trains very regularly, but at enormous cost.

Generally, the graffitti situation here in the UK seems to be both better and worse than in the US (from what I can tell). It’s worse because the work is generally much poorer quality, and better because there’s less of it.

I can’t be bothered to look for cites on this (sorry), but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that many people find it intimidating, especially the elderly, and I don’t think that’s a reasonable price to pay for taggers to personally mark stuff that belongs to everyone.

I almost never see any artistic grafitti. All I see in the city is “no more prisons” scrawled in plain black, and some sloppy marks that I guess are supposed to be gang symbols.

Out here in the country the only grafitti consists of people’s nicknames on rail road bridges.

How are gang tags and statements that “Chico RULES!!” art? I’m sorry but grafitti looks like shit. When I see a neighborhood with spray painting all over the buildings it leaves me with an impression that there is no rule of law on that street. If the cops can’t even keep kids from defacing the buildings, why should I expect that my home or car would be an safer from theft or vandelism?

Lets face it, 99% of grafitti is not some beautiful mural that the artist created in a Ghetto style using spraypaint. Most of it is chicken scratch written by some 15 yr old who wants the world to know that he “rules”. I can piss my name on a wall too. That don’t make it art.