We called this an irregular column so that it’s not a big deal if one doesn’t get published for over nearly two months. In this time a lot has happened so let’s not waste any time with words.
One thing we mentioned in previous columns is a desire to include graffiti that isn’t explicitly political. To quote from the last column:
[W]hile we love explicitly anarchist graffiti, everyone who puts paint where it ain’t is making a contribution to an ungovernable reality … Graffiti tags appear “apolitical” and are generally perceived as a nuisance by vast segments of the population (even some who would appreciate a tagged slogan that “means something”). Yet it is precisely this illegibility that makes them powerful. There is no “meaning” in a direct sense, no message to be heard by those in power to make it stop, just a simple reminder that people will always feel driven to destroy what this society works so hard to create.
We are still experimenting with how to sort the photos, this time we’ll list it by city in alphabetical order. But let’s start with this incredible video, location unknown (or everywhere):
I guess we have to start with some bad news. Someone was arrested this month after allegedly painted tons of anarchist and anti-police graffiti. If there is anyone organizing support of some kind, please let us know!
Minneapolis appears to have followed the example of us and the projects we’re inspired by with the creation of @mnvandalisms. Check out the page!
Last month, subMedia published this incredible video of a crew breaking into a school to cover it in graffiti.
Nebraska also has a new page that seems to be collecting photos of vandalism around the area (but the page is less straightforward than the Minnesota one, so we’re not sure?). Check it out at @newdoom_nebraska.
Things got pretty wild all over New Jersey, with Columbus statues getting fucked up all over the state.
Something we surprisingly haven’t talked about too much is the conflicts between graffiti and street art. Especially as neighborhoods gentrify, murals become a way to keep the area looking “hip” without the crime and ugliness of real graffiti. And while traditional “rules” suggest that going over a mural is frowned upon (the same way a tag shouldn’t go over a throw) a number of graffiti writers have done it anyway.
Some no doubt just don’t care—a wall is a wall—but others see it as a strike against the legalization of graffiti, or as part of an anti-gentrification struggle like Zexor pictured above. Anarchist newspaper Nightfall (from Minneapolis—whoops is this the wrong section?) wrote a short article about this conflict:
At the beginning of the summer, we noticed that a mural painted on the side of a bike shop along Chicago Ave had been vandalized with the words “Freestyle Your Own Letters” and signed by VENSER FYOK. The mural previously depicted an innocuous variety of zoo animals riding bicycles. This happened just across the street from where Frostbeard Studio was vandalized earlier this year in an anti-gentrification attack (which we covered in an earlier issue), so it occurred to us that this particular graffiti tag would be worth examining in a larger context of art, gentrification, and crime. However, it is impossible to know the writer’s true intentions when spray painting those words on the wall—what is contained here could just be speculation.
The words themselves point to the longstanding antagonism between graffiti writers and street artists. While the latter are more prone to imagery and beautification, graffiti writers tend to embrace the supposedly criminal nature of creative destruction. Rather than conceiving of the two groups as artists who use different methods, this understanding places them on opposite sides of a battle for the city.
Murals represent a both offensive and defensive maneuver in favor of development interests. On the one hand, they beautify an area, making it more appealing to incoming residents with more money and less melanin. On the other hand, they are used—sometimes explicitly—to prevent graffiti, as despite the aforementioned antagonism writers don’t often diss murals. Beyond legal murals, even street art that is technically illegal can contribute to the rebranding of an area as hip and attractive. Banksy’s work is a well known example but this could apply just as easily to any street artists whose work is easy to consume.
Tagging can have the opposite effect. The indecipherable lettering and apparent lack of meaning are alienating towards those who desire a sanitized, legible cityscape. Graffiti is essentially a public record of likely-unpunished crime, after all. And while VENSER’s lettering is without a doubt some of the best in the whole Twin Cities, by nature of it’s illegality it will nevertheless come off as appalling to many viewers, especially since the tag’s placement atop the mural means that buffing the tag would destroy the mural itself. Thus, we see “Freestyle Your Own Letters” as an inspiring intervention in our quaint urban warzone. Rather than offering vague artsy platitudes about ‘expressing yourself,’ VENSER seems to demand that we take action against a hostile world using whatever tools we have at hand.
You can’t really see it in the photo, but the white building here is the much-hated Vida condo complex in the Mission district.
Not a bad time to remind everyone that fifty-nine people are still facing charges from J20! Please continue supporting them!
Before we wrap things up, we wanted to share this amazing video from Switzerland. KCBR is a popular graffiti crew that released “Live Life Like” over four years ago. Unfortunately, like many graffiti videos it’s, well, pretty sexist! Now in 2018 KCBR has released a new video: Live Life Like Girls! A vast improvement on the previous video (though not perfect) and make sure to watch until the end… it gets lit.