Graffiti



Graffiti (strictly, as singular, "graffito," from the Italian — "graffiti" being the plural) are images or letters applied to publicly viewable surfaces such as walls or bridges. Graffiti has existed at least since the days of ancient civilizations such as Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Graffiti has changed over time into what are known as "modern graffiti": the public defacing of a surface using spray paint, markers, or other materials. When graffiti painting is done without the property owner's consent, it can be considered vandalism, which is punishable by law in most countries.

Graffiti can be used to communicate social and political messages, and as a form of advertising. It is also considered a modern art form, and can be seen in galleries around the world.

Some of the most common styles of graffiti have their own names. A "tag" is the most basic writing of an artist's name in either spray paint or marker. A graffiti writer's tag is his or her personalized signature. "Tagging" is often the example given when opponents of graffiti refer to vandalism, as they use it to label all acts of graffiti writing. Another form is the "throw-up," also known as a "fill-in," which is normally painted very quickly with two or three colors, sacrificing aesthetics for speed. Throw-ups can also be outlined on a surface with one color. A "piece" is a more elaborate representation of the artist's name, incorporating more stylized "block" or "bubble" letters, using three or more colors. This of course is done at the expense of timeliness and increases the likelihood of the artist getting caught.

A more complex style is "wildstyle", a form of graffiti involving interlocking letters, arrows, and connecting points. These pieces are often harder to read by non-graffiti artists as the letters merge into one another in an often undecipherable manner. A "blockbuster" is a "fill-in" that intentionally takes up an entire wall, sometimes with the whole purpose of blocking other "taggers" from painting on the same wall. Some artists also use stickers as a quick way to "get-up". While its critics consider this as lazy and a form of cheating, others find that 5 to 10 minutes spent on a detailed sticker is in no way lazy, especially when used with other methods.

Sticker tags are commonly done on blank postage stickers, or really anything with an adhesive side to it. "Stencils" are made by drawing an image onto a piece of cardboard or tougher versions of paper, then cut with a razor blade. What is left is then just simply sprayed-over, and if done correctly, a perfect image is left. Many graffiti artists believe that doing blockbusters or even complex wildstyles are a waste of time. Doing wildstyle can take (depending on experience) 8 hours to 2 days. Another graffiti artist can go over that time consuming piece in a matter of minutes with a bubble fill-in that would look just as good as a wildstyle piece.

Many contemporary analysts and even art critics have begun to see artistic value in some graffiti and to recognize it as a form of public art. According to many art researchers, particularly in the Netherlands and in Los Angeles, that type of public art is, in fact an effective tool of social emancipation or in the achievement of a political goal.

The murals of Belfast and of Los Angeles offer another example of official recognition. In times of conflict, such murals have offered a means of communication and self-expression for members of these socially, ethnically and/or racially divided communities, and have proven themselves as effective tools in establishing dialog and thus of addressing cleavages in the long run. The Berlin Wall was also extensively covered by Graffiti reflecting social pressures relating to the oppressive Soviet rule over the GDR.

Many artists involved with Graffiti also are concerned with the similar activity of Stencilling. Essentially, this entails stencilling a print of one or more colours using spray-paint. Graffiti artist John Fekner, called "caption writer to the urban environment, adman for the opposition" by writer Lucy Lippard, was involved in direct art interventions within New York City's decaying urban environment in the mid-seventies through the eighties. Fekner is known for his word installations targeting social and political issues, stencilled on buildings throughout New York.

In the UK, Banksy is the most recognisable icon for this cultural artistic movement and keeps his identity secret to avoid arrest. Much of Banksy's artwork can be seen around the streets of London and surrounding suburbs, though he has painted pictures around the world, including the Middle East, where he has painted on Israel's controversial West Bank barrier with satirical images of life on the other side. One depicted a hole in the wall with an idyllic beach, while another shows a mountain landscape on the other side. A number of exhibitions have also taken place since 2000, and recent works of art have fetched vast sums of money.

Graffiti often has a reputation as part of a subculture that rebels against authority, although the considerations of the practitioners often diverge and can relate to a wide range of attitudes. It can express a political practice and can form just one tool in an array of resistance techniques. One early example includes the anarcho-punk band Crass, who conducted a campaign of stenciling anti-war, anarchist, feminist and anti-consumerist messages around the London Underground system during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The developments of graffiti art which took place in art galleries and colleges as well as "on the street" or "underground", contributed to the resurfacing in the 1990s of a far more overtly politicised art form in the subvertising, culture jamming or tactical media movements. These movements or styles tend to classify the artists by their relationship to their social and economic contexts, since, in most countries, graffiti art remains illegal in many forms.

Contemporary practitioners, accordingly, have varied and often conflicting practices. Some individuals, such as Alexander Brener, have used the medium to politicise other art forms, and have used the prison sentences forced onto them as a means of further protest.

The practices of anonymous groups and individuals also vary widely, and practitioners by no means always agree with each others' practices. Anti-capitalist art group the Space Hijackers, for example, did a piece in 2004 about the contradiction between the capitalistic elements of Banksy and his use of political imagery.

On top of the political aspect of graffiti as a movement, political groups and individuals may also use graffiti as a tool to spread their point of view. This practice, due to its illegality, has generally become favoured by groups excluded from the political mainstream (e.g. far-left or far-right groups) who justify their activity by pointing out that they do not have the money – or sometimes the desire – to buy advertising to get their message across, and that a "ruling class" or "establishment" control the mainstream press, systematically excluding the radical/alternative point of view. This type of graffiti can seem crude; for example fascist supporters often scrawl swastikas and other Nazi images.

Both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland produce political graffiti. As well as slogans, Northern Irish political graffiti include large wall paintings, referred to as murals. Along with the flying of flags and the painting of kerb stones, the murals serve a territorial purpose. Artists paint them mostly on house gables or on the Peace Lines, high walls that separate different communities. The murals often develop over an extended period and tend to stylisation, with a strong symbolic or iconographic content. Loyalist murals often refer to historical events dating from the war between James II and William III in the late 17th century, whereas Republican murals usually refer to the more recent troubles.

Graffiti art is now on exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum as a "contemporary art" form that began in New York's outer boroughs and reached great heights in the early '80s with the work of Crash, Lee, Daze, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

It displays 22 works by New York graffiti artists, including Crash, Daze and Lady Pink. In an article in Time Out Magazine, Curator Charlotta Kotik says that she hopes that the current exhibition will cause viewers to rethink their assumptions about graffiti. Terrance Lindall, noted surrealist artist whose works for Heavy Metal Magazine and Creepy and Eerie have inspired many of these artists, goes further:
“ Graffiti is revolutionary like the surrealist art I represented in my show Brave Destiny," he says, "and any revolution might be considered a crime. People who are oppressed or suppressed need an outlet, so they write on walls—it’s free... However, people also have a right to protect their property. It is a human dilemma. ”

In Australia, art historians have judged some local graffiti of sufficient creative merit to rank them firmly within visual art. Oxford University Press's art history text Australian Painting 1788-2000 concludes with a long discussion of graffiti's key place within contemporary visual culture, including the work of several Australian practitioners.

Groups that live in industrial or poor areas may use graffiti for various purposes, especially if many groups populate one specific area or city. The main use is to mark either territory or "turf" by tagging a space such as a wall on building near or on the boundaries of a gang's turf to inform other gangs of their presence. Usually, this type of tag will have the name of the gang. They are also used to communicate with other gangs, usually to warn them of a coming assassination of a certain member, by either writing the member's street name and crossing it out, or by finding tags by the member and crossing them out.

If a gang overwrites another gang's tag, it is also the symbol of a takeover of a gang's turf or a sign of aggression toward the gang. While most cities now take measures to prevent this, such as washing or erasing tags, it was much more common in the mid 1980s when crime waves ran high.

Currently, The Public Animals, a graffiti group founded in late 1976 to early 1977, has assumed the role of a federation of sorts. TPA or The Public Animals is at the forefront of unifying former rivals between crews, cliques or gangs. Under the TPA umbrella, many graffiti artists from all over the world and from different associations have found the ability to peacefully unite and perform their art form without the obligatory allegiance to a particular group of individuals whose philosophies may be limited by territories, nationalities, or personal viewpoints. The leader of The Public Animals, JOEY TPA, maintains a simple yet effective philosophy in that the global aspect of art is evolving and that as artists, there is more to be had in unifying rather than dividing.

While graffiti advocates perceive graffiti as a method of reclaiming public space, their opponents regard it as an unwanted nuisance, or as expensive vandalism requiring repair of the vandalized property. Graffiti can be viewed as a "quality of life" issue, and its detractors suggest that the presence of graffiti contributes to a general sense of squalor and a heightened fear of crime.

In 1984, the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network (PAGN) was created to combat the city's growing concerns about gang-related graffiti. PAGN led to the creation of the Mural Arts Program, which replaced often hit spots with elaborate, commissioned murals that were protected by a city ordinance, increasing fines and penalties for anyone caught defacing a mural.

Advocates of the "broken window theory" believe that this sense of decay encourages further vandalism and promotes an environment leading to offenses that are more serious. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch's vigorous subscription to the broken window theory promoted an aggressive anti-graffiti campaign in New York in the early eighties, resulting in "the buff"; a chemical wash for trains that dissolved the paint off. New York City has adopted a strenuous zero tolerance policy ever since. However, throughout the world, authorities often, though not always, treat graffiti as a minor nuisance crime, though with widely varying penalties.

In 1995 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York set up the Anti-Graffiti Task Force, a multi-agency initiative to combat the perceived problem of graffiti vandals in New York City. This began a crackdown on "quality of life crimes" throughout the city, and one of the largest anti-graffiti campaigns in U.S. history. That same year Title 10-117 of the New York Administrative Code banned the sale of aerosol spray-paint cans to children under 18. The law also requires that merchants who sell spray-paint must lock it in a case or display cans behind a counter, out of reach of potential shoplifters. Violations of the city's anti-graffiti law carry fines of $350 per count. Famous NYC graffiti artist Zephyr wrote an opposing viewpoint to this law.

On January 1, 2006, in New York City, legislation created by Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr. attempted to make it illegal for a person under the age of 21 to possess spray-paint or permanent markers. The law prompted outrage by fashion and media mogul Marc Ecko who sued Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Councilmember Vallone on behalf of art students and legitimate graffiti artists. On May 1, 2006, Judge George B. Daniels granted the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction against the recent amendments to the anti-graffiti legislation, effectively prohibiting (on May 4) the New York City Police Department from enforcing the restrictions. A similar measure was proposed in New Castle County, Delaware in April 2006 and was passed into law as a county ordinance in May 2006.

Chicago's mayor, Richard M. Daley created the "Graffiti Blasters" to eliminate graffiti and gang-related vandalism. The bureau advertises free cleanup within 24 hours of a phone call. The bureau uses paints (common to the city's 'color scheme') and baking-soda based solvents to remove some varieties of graffiti.

In 1992, an ordinance was passed in Chicago that bans the sale and possession of spray paint, and certain types of etching equipment and markers. The law falls under Chapter 8-4: Public Peace & Welfare, Section 100: Vagrancy. The specific law (8-4-130) makes graffiti an offense that surpasses public drunkenness, peddling, or disruption of a religious service punitively with a fine of no less than $500 per incident.

In Europe, community cleaning squads have responded to graffiti. For example, in the year 1992 in France, the Protestant youth group Éclaireurs de France took their graffiti-scrubbing equipment into the Meyrieres Cave near the French village of Bruniquel in Tarn-et-Garonne, where they carefully erased the ancient paintings from the walls, earning them the 1992 Ig Nobel Prize in archaeology.

In September 2006, the European Parliament issued the European Commission to create urban environment policies in order to prevent and eliminate dirt, litter, graffiti, animals' excrement and excessive noise from domestic and vehicular music systems in European cities, along with other concerns over urban life.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 became Britain's latest anti-graffiti legislation. In August 2004, the Keep Britain Tidy campaign issued a press release calling for zero tolerance of graffiti and supporting proposals such as issuing "on the spot" fines to graffiti offenders and banning the sale of aerosol paint to teenagers. The press release also condemned the use of graffiti images in advertising and in music videos, arguing that real-world experience of graffiti stood far removed from its often-portrayed 'cool' or 'edgy' image.

To back the campaign, 123 MPs (including Prime Minister Tony Blair) signed a charter which stated: Graffiti is not art, it's crime. On behalf of my constituents, I will do all I can to rid our community of this problem. However, in the last couple of years the British graffiti scene has been struck by self-titled 'art terrorist' Banksy, who has revolutionised the style of UK graffiti (bringing to the forefront stencils to aid the speed of painting) as well as the content; making his work largely satirical of the sociological state of cities, or the political climate of war, often using monkeys and rats as leitmotifs.

In the UK, city councils have the power to take action against the owner of any property that has been defaced under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005) or, in certain cases, the Highways Act. This is often used against owners of property that are complacent in allowing protective boards to be defaced so long as the property isn't damaged.

In an effort to reduce vandalism, many cities in Australia have designated walls or areas exclusively for use by graffiti artists. One example is the "Graffiti Tunnel" located at the Camperdown Campus of Sydney University, running between Science Rd and Manning Rd, and is available for use by any student at the University to tag, advertise, poster and create "art".

Advocates of this idea suggest that this discourages petty vandalism yet encourages artists to take their time and produce great art, without worry of being caught or arrested for vandalism or trespassing. Others disagree with this approach, arguing that the presence of legal graffiti walls does not demonstrably reduce illegal graffiti elsewhere. Some Local Government Areas around Australia have introduced "anti-graffiti squads", who clean graffiti in the area. Many state governments have banned the sale or possession of spray paint to those under the age of 18 (age of majority).

Graffiti in Asia is less seen because of harsh punishment. Yet, a graffiti artist with the name "PURE" has graffiti painted on almost every Arab country. Authority says that he is a Palestinian born in Bethlehem.

Graffiti made the news in 1993, over an incident in Singapore involving several expensive cars found spray-painted. The police arrested a student from Singapore American School, Michael P. Fay, questioned him and subsequently charged him with vandalism. Fay pleaded guilty for vandalizing the car in addition to stealing road signs. Under the 1966 Singapore Vandalism Act, originally passed to curb the spread of communist graffiti in Singapore, the court sentenced him to four months in jail, a fine of 3,500 Singaporean dollars (US $2,233 or GB £1,450), and a caning. The New York Times ran several editorials and op-eds that condemned the punishment and called on the American public to flood the Singaporean embassy with protests.

Although the Singapore government received many calls for clemency, Fay's caning took place in Singapore on May 5, 1994. Fay had originally received a sentence of six lashes of the cane, but the then President of Singapore Ong Teng Cheong agreed to reduce his caning sentence to four lashes.

Graffiti in Shenzhen is getting more and more prominent. Punishment would usually require a $1000 fine, and to clean up the wall, which, as one chinese graffiti artist said "it's a piece of cake". The local authorities in Shenzhen don't really consider graffiti as problem.

* Stations of the Elevated (1980), the earliest documentary about subway graffiti in New York City, with music by Charles Mingus
* Wild Style (1983), a drama about hip hop and graffiti culture in New York City
* Style Wars (1983), an early documentary on hip hop culture, made in New York City
* Quality of Life (2004) (Canadian title Against the Wall), a drama shot in the Mission District of San Francisco
* Piece By Piece (2005), a feature length documentary on the history of San Francisco graffiti from the early 1980s until the present day. Called the west coast Style Wars
* Bomb the System (2006), a drama about a crew of graffiti artists in modern day New York City
* NEXT: A Primer on Urban Painting (2005), a documentary about Quebec graffiti
* Infamy (2007), A feature-length documentary about graffiti culture as told through the experiences of six well-known graffiti writers and a graffiti buffer.
* Sprayed Conflict (1994), a documentary about Melbourne graffiti artists featuring well-known Australian graffiti writer Duel.
* Jisoe (2007), a documentary on Melbourne graffiti artist Jisoe.

Graffiti art nowadays is more and more contaminated with other arts and technologies. Graffiti Research Lab for example, is dedicated to outfitting graffiti writers, artists, and protesters with open source tools for urban communication. The goal is to technologically empower individuals to creatively alter and reclaim their surroundings from commercial and corporate culture. G.R.L. agents are currently working in the lab and in the field to develop and test a range of experimental technologies for the state-of-the-art graffiti writer. Regenerative Graffiti from the italian artist Kaso is another example of experimentation with abstract shapes. The experimental project is about create new shapes of Graffiti from previous Graffiti artworks. This mutant process starts with the idea to keep alive the previous Artist's soul, otherwise completely deleted, and it would like experimenting new figures from recycling and reinterpreting Graffiti.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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