Writing On The Walls Of Public Property: Part 1 – Art

Brighton-based writer Andrew Finch discusses the purpose and meaning of art in the first instalment of his forthcoming zine “WRITING ON THE WALLS OF PUBLIC PROPERTY IS NEITHER DONE FOR CRITICAL ACCLAIM NOR FINANCIAL REWARD – IT IS THEREFORE THE PUREST FORM OF ART. DISCUSS”.

The question of what defines art is a long and drawn out philosophical investigation that seems unanswerable without considering the historical properties of art that are embedded in religious, propaganda, and ceremonial art. Art that represents, art that informs us and art that serves to express are the constant running modes of investigation. What makes graffiti ‘art’ has long been discussed by the writers of graffiti and those that vehemently refuse to see any artistic significance in the form. The crux of the discussion often concludes that street art with conceptual ideas, often of sociopolitical importance, hold artistic relevance but tagging, or throw-ups remain vandalism. Many are unable to understand how a tag can accepted as art, however often the tagger and the street artist display their work for overlapping reasons that coincide and amount to rebellion and a feeling of necessity – the art is in the doing, the road taken to create it.

Kant’s definition of art lies in his idea the art exists for the purpose of representing, while also further exercising the power of social communication we can express in the artistic form. The communication that graffiti expresses has always been varied. Writers have found themselves able to tell the world how they feel by anonymously writing a statement upon a wall, to awaken people to ideas or messages that they so highly believe, but feel unable to tell in any other way. In illegally writing upon a wall you are committing an act of rebellion, which holds a level of social communication in itself, for it tells the owner of the wall, as much as the people who see it, that there comes a point where the modern world in all its emptiness and superfluities, swallows up individual truth and expression so venomously that there is sometimes no alternative to simply writing how you feel, and hoping that someone else will read it and feel like they are not alone in their anxiousness about how the world is. Otherwise what is literature? Or film? Or music?

The art is in the doing, the road taken to create it.Plato believed that art has the power to corrupt, as it blurs the truth for people. Considering the progression and development over the thousands of years since Plato was writing, it is questionable whether his theory can be applied to graffiti art, for one may argue that it has the power to corrupt the mind, but again it is also possible to lay the claim that it saves the mind from corruption, it allows us to be momentarily free from manipulation. The exposure to something raw, something direct from the imagination of a single person is freeing, and releases thoughts free of impulsive desires to eat, shop or procreate. This allows graffiti to be separated from advertisements and imperatives that are so commonly littered in society, and makes it pure in its form, for what is purer than an escape from the mundane, and a forming of complete expression of individual imagination. Often when we are exposed to a large-scale piece of graffiti we are momentarily unable to grasp what is depicted, or even what it conjures up in our mind, so we have to step back from it and consider, using our innate faculties of creative imagination which are slowly being numbed.

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