What Makes Graffiti Art Vandalism?
Despite the mainstream appeal of graffiti art, it’s still a controversial topic. There are a lot of arguments about what makes graffiti art vandalism, here are some of our views on the issue.
How do we decide what vandalism is?
This isn’t as cut and dry of an issue as it might seem. There are the obvious things like smashing in windows but even the term ‘destruction of property’ gets thrown around a lot. The idea that painting a picture on something is destroying it is a stretch but there are some situations where it makes sense. Doing something that would disrupt someone’s business, for example.
On the other hand, there are places which commonly get tagged where it’s hard to argue why they shouldn’t. The L.A. River has been a spot for graffiti for a long time and the city spends millions painting over pieces every year.
If you’re in L.A, most parts of the river are eyesores. Very few areas that run along by the river are affluent. In the absence of money in communities to petition to have areas revitalised, cities have a huge problem with citizens changing the look of an area on their own terms.
Paying for something doesn’t stop it being vandalism
One of the biggest hypocrisies in the treatment of street art is how paid displays are treated compared to unpaid ones.
Billboards are created to get in the way but are treated like less of an issue than street art. If respecting the look of a city is a big argument against street art, surely that extends to the skyline.
There’s a valid argument about some street art being vandalism but if you’re more comfortable with the cold uniformity of an industrial estate then you can’t argue that you’re preserving the look of a city by cracking down in it. If you’re calling graffiti art vandalism, there are more common things that should offend you more.
Calling graffiti art vandalism ignores the real destruction
It’s easy to look at an area full of graffiti and equate it to the dilapidation you often find around it. The two don’t go hand in hand. You’re not seeing a place falling apart because everyone’s too busy bombing tags. Low income areas that end up being left to rot away end up as hot spots for street art for a number of reasons.
Nobody likes the place they live to look bad. If your walk home consists of foreclosed houses, burnt out lots and stripped cars, adding art to the mix makes the whole thing look better.
If an area is run down, it’s going to lack the amenities and outlets of other places. Putting people in an area with no support networks means a lot of people and not a lot of opportunities. In the absence of creative outlets, people make their own.
Even if an area is fairly well kept, this doesn’t solve the problem. Housing projects and tower blocks are built as cheaply as possible which means they’re uniform and bland. Putting people into sterile conditions makes a place culturally empty, anyone in this position will attempt to add their culture to the place.
Other things are more important than your art
Just because you think you’re Basquiat, doesn’t mean everyone wants to see your work everywhere. Bringing people your vision might seem great but there are other things that need to be respected. If your work is going to affect other people’s livelihoods then you shouldn’t do it. Tagging someone’s shop or business for example.
Artists should respect other artists. This doesn’t just mean other graffiti artists but architects and sculptors too. Nothing you add to a Frank Lloyd Wright building is going to be an improvement. Nobody is going to a War Memorial to wonder about the mystery man behind your tag.