Writing On The Walls Of Public Property: Part 3 – Vandalism

Often, people see taggers are cowards, choosing night to lay down their tags across the cities in which they live. Obviously, tagging in daylight is a sure fire way to get arrested, and nonetheless, although it’s still possible to tag in the day, there is something completely right in tagging at night. At night the city comes most alive, and it’s the act of tagging, the experience of going out into the night, that holds its appeal to so many artists. The city’s character comes out most when the offices are closed and the light that powers the monitors has been switched off, for the night is often uncontrollable and breaks free from the mundanity of the day.

Tagging is not just as a form of expression, but a statement to mark the wall as yours. Once meeting a skinhead punk in the city, laying his tag over the posters of an upcoming festival or promotion for a new restaurant, when I asked him why he was tagging there, in that spot, he replied that the wall is covered with things he doesn’t want to see, words that he doesn’t want to read. And were most people would ignore this, maybe choose to look down while they walk or turn off the radio is an advert is playing that they don’t want to hear- it must be remembered that responses like this never did anything, never changed the world around us. Even a reaction as small and rebellious as writing over something you don’t want to see- that where change happens, where art gets made. No one would paint or write or draw if they felt as though everything worth saying has already been said, or if they just plainly didn’t care about their surroundings.

Tagging is political and an assertion over property control. The deeper and complex relevance of tagging goes far back in history, before graffiti was recognised as an art form, to demonstrate power citizens have over the state.

“They hang the man,

and flog the woman,

That steals the goose

from off the common;

But let the greater villain loose,

That steals the common

from the goose.”

– Anonymous, 17th century

To digress onto the notion of property itself, especially as a means of justifying tagging, it’s necessary to think back to when the notion of ‘property’ first came about. As citizens born ‘equal’ onto the world, we should be able to have equal share of the worlds resources, and to use the land available to us to subsist, to share ad to cultivate beneficially. The idea of a state owning the land is a criminal one, and putting all political affiliations aside, is a product of allowing a system to rule above you, dictating your life, implementing rules and standards for you to live by to achieve maxim harmony and social cohesion. By using artistic materials, and creative means to access parts of private property, to write your name on, is a direct response to those who claim the property as their own.

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