General Question

Jude's avatar

Graffiti.. is it art? vandalism?

Asked by Jude (31966 points ) March 24th, 2009
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

41 Answers

marinelife's avatar

It depends on where it is done.

Bluefreedom's avatar

And it depends on what the content is also (but mostly what @Marina said).

Likeradar's avatar

It is vandalism if it is on property the graffiti-er does not have owner’s permission to decorate.
I like a lot of graffiti art, I just don’t like much vandalism. (I am perfectly ok with my hypocrisy when I smile at “Bush” spray painted on stop signs.)

tiffyandthewall's avatar

why not artistic vandalism?
or illegal art?

but art has no rules

crisw's avatar

At my college, it was most definitely an art form :>) Don’t know if this link will work for everyone…

DeanV's avatar

Graffiti, when creativity is involved, is art.
People scratching curse words into the back of bus, although defined as graffiti, is definitely not art. And idiot can do that.

crisw's avatar

@dverhey – how true. Context and content are everything.

We graffiti artists of UCSD were appalled and aghast when our work was defaced by mindless taggers scrawling their tags and curse words.

Likeradar's avatar

Do art and vandalism have to be mutually exclusive?

@seventhsense- That picture is lovely, and I say it’s art for sure. But I also assume it’s vandalism.

miasmom's avatar

Sometimes it is both, most of the time it is just plain vandelism, and very rairly (when specifically purposed for it) it is art.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Likeradar
Most definitely but Banksy is a legend

Likeradar's avatar

@SeventhSense I don’t know Bansky, but legend or not, now the tax payers or the building owner have to shell out money to have it removed.

Likeradar's avatar

@SeventhSense Yeah, I get it. Graffiti can be really cool. It can be art. It can make me and other people happy.

But graffiti artists (in general) are putting their art in places they don’t have rights to. How is that justified?

cookieman's avatar

You have to seperate the content from the platform.

If you consider the content, seperate from the platform, art – then it is art. If you do not, than it is not art.

Now, if you determine it is art but the chosen platform is private property or restricted space or creates a practical public nuisance – then it is also vandalism.

But, it is still art. It is then both. An inappropriate choice of platform may make it vandalism, but that alone does not diminish it as art.

Ultimately, content should be platform agnostic.

alossforwords's avatar

I think this question largely pertains to chronology. Whomever first spraypainted the side of a building in Austin Texas was a vandal in the eyes of the public. However he started a trend that is now embraced and encouraged. Plain buildings there are no longer considered points of interest so much as the ones that have been “vadalized”. I think art begins as vandalism, a betrayal of emotion, or spirit, of society, or government and by doing so becomes something pleasing.

shadling21's avatar

It’s art! And vandalism. But it’s art!

I think your opinion of graffiti has to do with the what it is, whose property it is, where it is, and who the artist is. Each work is unique, especially since it depends so much on its surroundings to make a statement. It’s impossible to separate the canvas from the work in many cases. And sometimes a part of the art’s power comes from the fact that it is made illegally.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

@SeventhSense that’s a really really great picture.

@Likearadar i guess it doesn’t really have to be justified.

art isn’t only art if it adheres to rules. it’s illegally placed art, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s art. i think i know what you mean, though. but i also think that this art – especially the graffiti that has a message/purpose – would be stifled if it were confined to a canvas. in that case, most of the people who need to see this message aren’t going to go looking for it. graffiti assures that that won’t happen. it’s right out there for everyone to see, and everyone to interpret. it doesn’t make it any less illegal, but it certainly doesn’t take away from its artistic value either.

it’s definitely time for me to go to bed. i feel super incoherent

Likeradar's avatar

@tiffyandthewall You’re perfectly coherent. :)

SeventhSense's avatar

@Likeradar
Yes, it’s Art, yes it’s vandaliism. The art form is itself vandalism. That’s what defines graffiti. There is no stylistic component of it that can define the movement and remove it from public art. The best is very significant and political and the worst is just a mess on payphones. I would rather see the former.

SeventhSense's avatar

And that’s not to mention that the really great pieces that are done in plain sight are just unbelievable as to how they did it And furthermore, fast enough not to get caught. And they are sometimes in impossible locations. How did he do that?

cak's avatar

If it’s just pure and simple tagging, it’s vandalism.

If it’s artistic graffiti, it’s still vandalism; however, it’s also art. Some of it is very intriguing, I just wish they could find a better forum for the art – without defacing someone’s property.

shadling21's avatar

@cak – Nice differentiation.

crisw's avatar

@cak When I was at UCSD, we kind of had a tacit “live and let live” policy with the administrators. We “provided artwork” for the bare stairwells in some of the buildings. We never defaced property outside the stairwells, and we had the support of many professors in the buildings.

Shecky_Johnson's avatar

I dig Graffiti. In ALL it’s glory. I do agree that just putting up a “dirty” word is not very clever, But it IS an expression of self. And that is always a beautiful thing.

Shecky_Johnson's avatar

I forgot to say…Art. Oops.

rooeytoo's avatar

I love graffiti personally. But listen to this, in Sydney a teen age girl was just sent to jail for 2 months for putting graffiti on the side of some building (first offense) but a guy who broke into someones home in the middle of the night and sexually assaulted a 7 year old sleeping girl in her bed was let off because the judge said it was his first offense and he promised not to do it again. What a screwed up world we live in. Anyhow if you want to know the secrets and heart of a city, check out the graffiti, it is like the window to the soul of any place.

shockvalue's avatar

Here’s what I answered LAST TIME this question was asked… And the TIME BEFORE THAT:

——
As a graffiti ARTIST myself, I have to say, I’ve seen my fair share of rubbish. to all you “taggers” out there, please, grow up. I’m sorry your allowance isn’t big enough, but being a cool rebel isn’t going to do anything but negatively impact your environment. Graffiti can be beautiful. With placement and thought, graffiti can enhance any landscape. I know banksy was already mentioned, but he is a prime example of street art done right. Also, look at some of the work in Brazil and São Paulo, drab impacted communities are brought to live with vivid colours and bursting imagery.

Also, check out the Wooster Collective , and the incredible work of Alexandre Orion

Also, artist blu is one of the most innovative out there, with a new short film called MUTO. check it out

benseven's avatar

I’ll weigh in on this simply to say that there is a surprising amount of artistry behind the calligraphy-rooted base of graffiti known as tagging, and a well executed ‘handstyle’ most certainly is art – but like previous posters suggest you have to view it objectively rather than letting your moral standing influence whether or not it is art. The form doesn’t change, so simply moving a piece from an illegal to legal context doesn’t make it, objectively, any more or less beautiful.g

Cardinal's avatar

vandalism

drClaw's avatar

I grew up in a area outside of Seattle known for its gangs (blah, blah, we all know the story of being in a bad neighborhood) and I remember seeing gang tag on our school. It was always done in thick black marker and looked like a bunch of scribbles on a wall.

I also remember walking past an old vacant building on my way to the bus stop that always had colorful new designs that 9 times out of 10 were also positive in their message. So “yes” tag is pure vandalism but “graffiti” is beautiful and communities that embrace it are always better off for it.

benseven's avatar

@drClawCheck out this tag. It reads ‘Thanks, People’. As a proficient designer and graffiti writer I can tell you there’s a lot of artistry to it, with groundwork in calligraphy and a beautiful amount of movement.

That’s a clear example of where the line is blurred between tag / handstyle and ‘art’ – I’m sure the ones you’ve seen probably don’t match up to that kind of quality, but I’m always intrigued to see people who can’t / won’t read ‘scrawl’ dismiss it instead of assesing it purely objectively. Ironically, it’s the facet of graffiti that pisses the public off the most, and it’s generally the one a writer works hardest at to refine.

cak's avatar

@crisw – I think that’s great. There was a space provided, by all means, use it! I find a lot of graffiti truly amazing, I just feel bad when some small business have to deal with the regular removal of graffiti. a friend of mine owns a small bakery and it’s a monthly process for her.

cak's avatar

@shadling21thank you.

drClaw's avatar

@benseven I guess I should have said “gang tag” having spent so much of my life sketching pieces even my own everyday handwriting looks more and more like tag (pic of notes from a meeting). I didn’t mean to perpetuate a stereo type that all tag is bad, I was referring to this type stuff: Gang Tag which in my opinion is shit.

jamzzy's avatar

bahahaha this is the 23948 time someone has asked this. and i guess i change my answer. i do draw graffiti and recently i was in some trouble for tagging a desk in my school. not cool, but i do love it….there are some people who re payed to do it on walls….and black booking is awsome….but defacing property will give you a nice big fine.

alossforwords's avatar

I think I’m going to stop believing in property and limit my belief in possession to the things that I can call my own based on proximity. I will respect other people’s notion of property, but only in regard to the purpose of that property. If I can paint a picture on a wall without affecting the purpose of the wall in a negative way or if my paint improves the aesthetic quality of the wall… that should be allowed. If I offend or due harm with my art, it is still art, but is an extension of an act that is disrespectful in nature… that is vandalism and there should be consequences.

Glow's avatar

Its art that vandalizes! :)

Anything can be art, but that doesnt mean every one has to respect it. Those whose properties were covered by graffiti may not respect it, but other observers do.

kerryyylynn's avatar

Graffiti is just a form of self expression. Just because graffitiers dont have a certain respect for the law, we shouldnt condemn their work as vandalism.

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