Graffiti has always been invisible to me. Growing up in Boston, graffiti just seemed like a product of boredom and aimlessness. I thought it was bad that kids spray painted for fun. However, watching the documentaries Infamy and Murals made me realize that graffiti artists use the streets as an outlet for creativity. It did not occur to me that this could be the only way the young misunderstood could express themselves or people who do not have access to education to construct their own forms of art.
Graffiti and street art bring color, meaning, and life to sometimes dim and gloomy cities. They allow people, especially youth, to express themselves in unique and imaginative ways. However, there is an ethical difference between graffiti art and vandalism (Mural, NYC Arts Cypher 6:04). The former is meant to passionately influence people, but gang and tagger graffiti bring no inspiration or constructive incentive for youth. The latter merely supports the roles of gang violence in unsafe neighborhoods and incite children and teenagers to believe that gang related art is okay to have and appreciate. Toomer in Infamy, who creates murals himself, views them as beautiful and people appreciate the radiance and emotion behind such effort. The photos below highlight the key difference between beautiful art and unpleasant tagging:
But tagging mailboxes, signs, and doors solely for people to know you were there or just to spite police is pointless, obnoxious, and inane. For example, in the documentary Infamy, Earsnot saw tagging as a “signature”, staking his claim on mailboxes and other random places because he thought it was fun. People like him, egotistical and big-headed bring bad reputations to true and dedicated graffiti artists because people will always associate street art with vandalism, as the public would consider both as being acts of delinquency.
In the first documentary, everyone but Earsnot had an ethical and empowering incentive to their graffiti art creations. Claw did it for women empowerment and they truly wanted to influence the community’s thoughts on women’s worth. Saber took time into creating his designs and portraying his message through his art, and that is something that I also appreciate. On the other hand, Earsnot, who’s a thief and a criminal, tagged mailboxes, doors, and other objects just to be malicious and vindictive. Most people can’t even read the signatures! So what is the point of this mindless and childish behavior? He vandalized because he saw it as an entertaining game of cat and mouse with the police.
This is why it makes sense why people like Joe Connolly, the Graffiti Guerrilla, make substantial efforts to remove vandalism off of street signs, walls, and other parts of the city. Meaningless and illiterate scribbles just ruin property, unlike artistic and creative murals that become sources of admiration and guidance for people who pass by them every single day.
Infamy Documentary - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3WUXA3V7nY
Mural Documentary - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVFQidPEw8c