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

Vandalism is described as destructive or damaging. But does the artistic statement not overrule the ‘damage done’? Does it not seem peculiar that people are threatened by a tag on a wall, thinking it ugly, than the blankness of the wall itself, unaltered since its construction. It’s almost like leaving a guestbook out and hoping that no one signs there name inside of it. For someone to call something vandalism, to see an act as destructive or damaging they must either feel as though their domestic sphere is being invaded and potentially abused, that there is danger involved, that someone has no ‘right’ to do what they’re doing, or the peacefulness and harmony of a neighbourhood, town, city is being disrupted.

To challenge the first instance, the capitalist world that criminalises tagging (and graffiti) interferes with the domestic sphere in every possible instance. Of course it’s much less ostentatious and works subliminally, as mentioned in the second section. The intrusion capitalism has on our lives is much more insidious, but less noticeable therefore we don’t complain about it or take action to see it removed. To claim that tagging is dangerous is only so because we make it out to be a dangerous thing, either because the person uses the urban backdrop as interactable obstacles to reach spots that transcend ground level. Taggers see excitement in this, as have artists through the decades. Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth, after digesting opium (their choice of vice where ours are a combination of processed foods that damage our body, television and the internet which corrupts the mind and enslaves the creative spirit within), would choose a direction in which to venture, and simply follow it. All obstacles in their path were overcome through interaction, be it climbing over rooftops or under fences. It was, and still is, a simple means of tackling the world around them, and not letting it stop their journey. What constitutes a ‘right’ is another question of philosophy, but a term thrown around constantly to lay claim to something, or to assert that someone owes you a particular duty, to do or not do something.

Who really owns the places we walk and live, and why should it be that only those with the most amount of money are able to advertise there? Wouldn’t it be better argued that advertisements are the real vandalism in the city, holding no individualistic relevance, as opposed to a tag, that is done by hand, by an individual, with real human and artistic relevance.

Tagging may be different from graffiti, although it is inextricably linked. It might wrong to say that a tag is a piece of art, but nonetheless it’s artful, and the message a tag embodies is one of artistic rebellion that lies deep rooted in all creative endeavouring that sought to change the fundamentals of traditions that are obsolete. And when people say that tags are ugly, that only colourful murals are real graffiti or art- it seems as though they are missing the point a little.

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