Graffiti: Art Or Vandalism?
The way I see it, graffiti is art.
I think that the small percentage of the things we see such as “Karl woz 'ere” isn't graffiti. That's vandalism. Graffiti is a visual representation of hip hop, but hip hop is hard to define. Take a walk down the side of Newport Road to the left down the alleys facing away from Cardiff and see some of the outstanding work that adorns its walls. One time they painted over these, and later that day the same graffiti artists came back to reclaim their space.
I view it as rebellion and claiming back what was always ours. It's a strong movement. In my opinion, many things throughout the ages were monopolised by the rich.
A good example of this is religion in Latin America. In Rio De Janeiro the statue of Jesus, Christ The Redeemer, has its back on to the favelas of the city. Jesus' back is towards the poor while he is facing the rich. On the Sermon Of The Mount, also known as The Beatitudes, chronicled and written in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus stated "Blessed are the poor. . . woe to the rich." The Bible claims that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven".
Consequently, Catholic Latin Americans have gone back and reaffirmed their identity. They view Jesus in a liberation theology. They view him as a coloured poor man in line with the struggles of poverty and the suffering of the poor. Let's face it, it's more realistic than the other image of him we're given.
This is similar to what's happening with art. For hundreds of years, art was only available to the rich. Hogarth opened up art to the normal people of England with his The Harlot's Process yet even now, with young British artists like Emin and Hirst, it's still only a few people who really get to decide what is and isn't art. What goes into the galleries and museums, and what doesn't. It may not be monopolised by the monarchy and the aristocracy but it's still, more or less, being run by the rich.
That's where graffiti comes in. It's art, but it's not in a museum, it's not in a gallery where only a privileged few will see it. It's out in the streets, it's staring right back at you as you walk through the city. You can't escape it.
It's everywhere; it's reclamation of art by the people.
IMAGE: pat badger
For info on the visual arts in Cardiff have a butcher's here.