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The Problem with Rob Ford’s War on Graffiti

The Problem with Rob Ford’s War on Graffiti

Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford declared war on graffiti & street art. The problem with governments declaring war on concepts (for example: drugs, graffiti, terrorism) is that a concept is undefined. Where does art end, street art begin, where does graffiti turn into street art, and when does street art become tagging?

(photo by: Peter J. Thompson)

“It’s going to be spotless. You go downtown now, you see all the graffiti — you aren’t going to have any graffiti there.”

That’s a quote from March 2010. You tell me Toronto, how’s the downtown area – any graffiti?

The problem

The more you clamp down on accepted (albeit illegal) walls where graffiti thrives and artists spend hours perfecting their work, the less time (more…)

Admirers Call It Art, Police sweep it under the rug

Admirers Call It Art, Police sweep it under the rug

Recently (okay, not so recently, this took me a while to finish), the NY Times posted an article (yup, it even made it to physical paper form) entitled Admirers Call It Art, but the Police Call It a Problem.

Oh, is that so?

The fact of the matter is graffiti is a blanket statement. Where you draw the line is different from where I draw the line. In fact, take all other parties out of the picture, and difference exists: Where you draw the line differs on a case-by-case basis. This has huge implications when discussing graffiti, and plans for how to tackle or tame the wild best.

… And a Wild Beast it is!

The fact of the matter is graffiti’s been around a long time. Cornbread — accredited (at least by me and many others) with inspiring the whole “graffiti moment” as we know it knew it — can claim what he wants, he wasn’t the first guy to think up writing on walls.

In fact, neither was I. Nor you (come on, who didn’t write on their mom’s wall?). Writing on walls has been around a long, long, long time. How long? According to some the oldest art was created by humans during the prehistoric Stone Age (between 300,000 and 700,000 years ago, source) and guess what? It was carvings on a wall. Whose wall?

“Graffiti is so yesterday.”
– Jack Richter, a senior lead officer with the Los Angeles Police Department

Sorry Jack, but it’s not just yesterday. It’s hundreds of thousands of years ago, present, and will continue into the future. Graffiti is Today in every sense of the word.

Rob Ford’s war on graffiti

This isn’t just about a Graffiti war that’s being waged with Ford. This goes beyond that: this is about the system that we live in and recognizing we have a voice to speak up about it’s injustices.
– Char Loro

Toronto graffiti documentary Goodbye Graffiti documents different graffiti artists, different graffiti ideologies and plays with the concept of demanding your voice be heard. Watch ti and let me know what you think!

Goodbye Graffiti, from Char Loro. (source)

Cops Bust the World famous SGK Crew

Yo but for real, when it pans to the Cops paint-work, check that shit out and tell me it isn’t the funniest shit you’ve seen in a while. Every time I watch this YouTube video I burst out laughing. That is some straight up garbage.

“I told you he was a cop!”

The Life we Choose: Cans, Markers, Beer

The Life we Choose: Cans, Markers, Beer

Cans, Markers, and Beer

This image was stolen from Flickr. I just wanted to post the photo because I loved it, but the young woman graff writer I stole it from writes, “You Don’t Know What Being a Graffiti Artist Is, Little Girls” which hit home for me, and a post was born.

I’ve almost always been a solo graffiti writer. When I first started writing there were friends who gave graffiti a try. Most of my old photos are either beside a toy who’s out writing for their first time or of old friends who no longer paint.

Cavemen used to paint scenarios on walls with berry ink. To assume the stories held a more significant meaning than the paint physically being on the wall is short-sighted. We’re human, we like pretty things. Tagging is an age-old hobby.

Graffiti’s alluring. The illegality draws in many fringe sub-cultures to try their hand at defacing a bathroom wall, building or street sign. But once aware of the culture surrounding painting your name over and over — the aggressive nature, the competition, the ‘rules’, respect that come with the territory… All but the most motivated minds fizzle and sputter to a stop. And that’s graffiti — you pay your dues or you fall off. Period.

The Art of Selling Out

The Art of Selling Out

There’s been a lot of talk of selling out this year — Banksy sold out with Exit Through The Gift Shop and more recently Shepard Fairey siding with Deitch in regards to MOCA choosing to buff BLU’s mural the day after it was finished. So let’s talk about selling out a little bit…

The concept of selling out — or not — is an invisible line that people have invented to define when it’s cool to like something and when it’s cool to dislike something. Chances are, if you choose to partake in the discussion of selling out then you, yourself, are a sell out.

Art is the expression of emotion — through music, walls, canvases, poem, film, sculpture or any of the infinite other media through which you can express yourself. Once you start incorporating things like supporting a family, eating, buying a house, galleries, shows, selling your art, (ad nauseam) you introduce ‘industry’ which extends far beyond the artist, and far beyond art.

If your definition of selling out is when an artist becomes popular, garners a following, and has people willing to pay them for their efforts, then I don’t know how you expect artists to live off of their passion. If your definition of selling out is when you’re in it strictly for the money and don’t believe in the art, then I say you weren’t an artist to begin with — you’re a marketing campaign mixed into the culture.

So what is a sell out? I say selling out is when you actively go against the very people who helped you get to where you are. In that case the only way Shepard Fairey sells out is if he starts a graffiti clean-up firm. The only way Banksy sells out is by smashing pieces at the Bristol Museum.

In the end we need to cut the gossip and let people live their lives and do their thing. Selling out happens far less than the local hipster coffee shop will have you believe and when it does there’s often some sort of reaction/outcry from the people affected. Leave the people trying to establish their mark/brand alone.